When targeting large trout, the ritual and the pursuit can be almost as memorable as catching them – almost. The plans are set, the truck is packed, and the what-if scenarios are flying around. As excited as you are to spend the day on the water, the thought lingers in the back of your mind, “what if I get skunked?”.
On my favorite piece of what I call “hero or zero water”, the threat of being skunked and enjoying a long day of casting practice is real. Difficult wading situations and long casts to sighted fish are the norm. The reward is a heavy, photo worthy cutthroat trout; One that’s big enough to keep you coming back to test your mettle time after time.
Not long ago I set out for exactly such a day with a few friends. We were on the water at daybreak and the three of us worked our way methodically down the river, knowing exactly the hunt we were getting ourselves into. Noon passed, and with no success we half-heartedly enjoyed our sandwiches in somewhat silence on the riverbank. We traipsed back to the flowing water and resumed the seemingly endless searching and casting. In a split second the mood shifted and my friend had a nice trout on the end of his line. Morale was boosted, spirits were high and we continued to land about eight fish over the next few hours. By “we” I mean that I ran over gleefully each time and helped net my friend’s fish. I myself, so far had zero eats and continued to cast blindly, hoping to share a bit of that same success. Time passed and eventually the acceptance began to set in; I was skunked.
We reluctantly started our hike back to the truck, no longer scanning the water for sipping trout. As I trudged along staring at my wading boots with each step, I flinched at a frog leaping off the grass and diving into the river. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed a splash in the water a bit downstream. My friend and I both stood like statues, looking at one another needing assurance that we weren’t the only one who saw it. Finally, I stated the obvious, “I think that frog just got eaten.” Neither of us were positive, but I decided to make one last futile cast in the direction of where we had last seen the movement. Perhaps the shortest cast of the day, a 45-degree angle downstream about 10 yards off the bank, and we watched the fly drift down while holding our breath. A beautiful cutthroat engulfed the fly and my typically composed, and not easily excited, friend let out a yell that took us both by surprise.
I was able to land the fish and just like that the weight of the possible skunk was lifted. We captured a few photos, enjoyed sighs of relief, and ended the day on a high. It’s not often that I can say my day was saved by a frog.
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