Most fishermen I know have a favorite place they like to fish or perhaps a short list of favorite places. As I have explored my local streams, I've developed an affinity for a few select streams, most of which are within an hour or so. A few trips have led me further afield. Some ended up producing good fishing while others were largely a bust. Back in the old days, exploring would often start by staring for a while at a map followed by daydreaming of the possibilities. Technology has changed that. Now I cruise the landscape on Google Maps, switching to the satellite view when I'm ready to hone in on a particular spot. Further research happens as I search for every little bit of information the internet contains on a potential destination. The ones I like most? Anywhere that has very little information available.
When my buddy Joe McGroom was planning a trip out to visit, I naturally wanted to show him a good time. Favorite fishing spots were reviewed and new ones contemplated. After a bit of research, I started to develop a hunch about a certain piece of water. We both have a soft spot for meadow streams. Choosing to fish them in an unorthodox manner using techniques that can produce large fish, prowling grassy banks are one of my favorite things to do. Recently this has been resulting in trips up to Moraine Park, but for Joe I really wanted to find a special piece of water that wouldn't be crowded.
When I informed him of my hunch, he was all in. "David, you know me. If you say 'meadow stream' and 'brown trout' in the same sentence I'm in." That was what I wanted to hear. Joe is a good sport and will enjoy fishing a piece of water regardless of how fast we are catching or not catching. He is always willing to hunt for that one big fish that can make not just your day but even a whole trip. The stream is quite out of the way and not the first place most people would think of to hunt big browns. After considerable effort and time to find the stream, we were finally there and rigging up.
We both knew the routine. Joe headed for the far bank so we could work upstream by leapfrogging. The first couple of bends were sadly lacking in fish, but soon thereafter Joe hooked up with a little fish of maybe 13 inches. Chuckling at how most people would be thrilled with a fish of that size, we continued hunting. My hunch was now being tested, and I hoped it would prove correct.
The next hole was interesting. Joe snagged his fly on the far bank but did not want to spook any potential fish. He called me up to fish the head of the run before he waded over to unhook his fly since he didn't want to break it off. My second cast was perfect and a larger trout hammered the fly. After one good jump, the brown (yep, leaping brown trout!) threw the fly, but we both were pretty happy. The hunch seemed to be confirmed. The fish was in the 17-18" class and super chunky.
Moving very purposefully now and really working the water, Joe was the next to hook up. We finally had our first photo-worthy trout. You can judge for yourself. Not a bad fish eh?
In the meantime, I caught a couple little 16-17 inch fish. I did not want to waste time photographing little fish so quickly unhooked them and kept on fishing. Joe was again in line for photo worthy fish. As soon as he hooked up I could tell it was a nice one and hustled over with my net and camera. This fish had a weird growth or old would under his jaw. You can barely see it in the second picture below...
Continuing on up the stream, it was finally my turn. Joe returned the photo favor, and after a couple of shots, I let the fish go.
The next fish was also mine as we finally broke the twenty inch mark. This fish came out of a rather unusual spot that was the perfect reminder to NOT ignore any water. I was definitely thankful I fished it. The best part was watching the take as the big brown slid out from under the bank and eyed my fly, drifting back in the current lazily and then slowly inhaling my offering.
Catching big fish can really work up an appetite. Despite the good fishing, we decided to try a different spot over lunch. After a quick relocation upstream, we were back on the water. Joe was working the far bank when a big fish again materialized from under the undercut bank and the fight was soon on. We had the fish in the net pretty quick, and I snapped pictures of another 20" fish. This fish was particularly beautiful with that rich buttery brown color and a bright blue dot on its gill plate.
I found a couple of dinks but this spot was getting owned by Joe. The camera came back out, and I just enjoyed photographing the moment.
The crazy thing about this trip is how many quality fish we caught. We both caught more 14"-17" trout than we knew what to do with. The camera did not even come out until we hit at least 18 inches and not even for all of those.
My hunch had paid off more than either of us had hoped or dreamed for. Sadly, when we got back to camp, Joe received some bad news from home that would lead to a late night drive back to Denver so he could fly home the next morning. I still believe that day was a special gift for both of us since his weeklong trip was cancelled. I'm sure that we'll fish this great place together again sometime but am not sure if it is possible to ever match our first encounter with this piece of water.