Other than the two trips taken earlier this spring I haven’t been out fishing much. One reason is that the wife has got me doing some serious landscaping – or should I say torture. I’ve already dug up about 300 square feet of sod, dug 50 feet of ditch, hauled gravel, patio stones, and raked the entire property. Sadly, this is only the beginning.
So when the wife excused me from my chores the other day, I jumped at the chance to hit some water. With 5 weight in tow I set out for some of that good old fashioned trout fishing. You know the kind – delicate dries and tiny nymphs tossed at hungry trout. Fortunately for me I have a lot of choices in relative close proximity to the house. I can hit any one of the local ponds or set out a bit further to fish some flowing waters.
It didn’t take me long to figure out that not much was going on at the local pond. So I hopped back into the truck and headed for another. Same story there. A lot of people but no fish. What gives? By this time last year there were risers everywhere and a well placed Adams or Hare’s Ear guaranteed a fish on every cast. Maybe Fish & Game didn’t get to these lakes yet? Not wanting to go home empty handed I decided to try my luck at one of the urban flows. A bit out of the way but better than heading home to do more landscaping.
Urban flows at first glance are always lacking in my book. I don’t mind casting in any one of the local lakes because there is at least a hint of nature’s beauty. Ducks, loons, and grebes are always nearby. Urban flows on the other hand are always tucked in neighborhoods or industrial districts. They meander their way through town and cross under streets and bike trails. Hence the fact that I seldom fish them.
Although they don’t have the charm of more remote flows, they do have some. Nothing spectacular at street level or whizzing by in a vehicle. They are better appreciated closeup. If you can block out the urban noise you can have a good time. I’ve only fished urban flows a few times in all my years of living in town. The fish are few and far between and not much sport on a 5 weight. I’ve been lucky enough to pluck a few fish out of them but nothing enough to keep me wanting to fish them over and over again.
That is until the other day.
My typical routine when fishing urban flows is to scope things out first. Why waste time fishing when there is no sign of fish? After searching the water for a few minutes something caught my eye about midstream. I left my polarized glasses at home but I could distinctly make out a shape of a fish and then later, red along it’s side. It took me a while to believe what I was seeing. Not only was it a rainbow, but a HUGE one at that. My guess was very high teens low 20s.
I checked around me to see if anyone was watching and made like a madman back to the truck. I tried to be as sneaky as possible so as not to tip anyone off. With fly rod in hand I quickly made my way back to the spot where the rainbow was last seen. It couldn’t have been more than a few minutes that I was gone but so too was the fish. So many things flashed in my mind. Maybe I imagined it all…maybe it was just a shadow? Why didn’t I bring my polarized glasses?
I scanned the water again moving in and out through the trees. After desperately looking for 10 minutes I finally saw it again. The fish had moved upstream and was sitting in the shadow of a clump of trees. Still midstream I was able to see it much easier now. The urban flow is barely 15 feet wide where I am at and maybe a few feet deep. The current is steady and you can easily track a fly with your eyes.
Not wanting to spook it, I tied on a tiny midge pattern with a gold bead and wire body to match. A long leader and light tippet promised to have it down on the bottom in no time flat. You can’t really cast here. It is more of a flip or an underhand toss. A dozen casts and I haven’t spooked it, but the fish is ignoring the midge. I can clearly see the gold bead and confirm the fish wants nothing to do with that fly. Thinking maybe the fish wants something bigger I tie on a large gold bead rubber leg stonefly nymph nearly ten times the size of the midge. Two casts later and the fish spooks. Game over.
Feeling like a complete loser I stand back a bit to assess the situation. Why in the hell did I chuck that out there? Standing there I stare blankly into the water. My head naturally begins to scan the water again and downstream about 10 feet away I spot something hugging tight to the far cutbank. Could this be the same fish or is it another HUGE rainbow?
I’m debating now whether to tie back on the midge or chuck the big stone out there. The midge didn’t spook the first fish but it didn’t do anything to entice it either. I decide to stick with the big stone and just pray this one takes.
Not wanting to spook this fish I cast far enough upstream to get the stone to sneak up on the rainbow. I can clearly see the fly land well upstream and drift steadily towards the fish. First cast…nothing. Slightly off course. Second cast…way off course. Third cast…right on target…nothing. By this time I can only see the fish’s mouth and it’s red cheek. Everything outside of that is a blur. The fish is holding steady, but I know I only have a few more casts before this fish spooks too.
Sixth cast…slightly off course but not by much. As the fly drifts nearer I watch as the rainbow pushes forward and slightly to the left. I’m watching both the gold bead and the fish. I see it before I feel it and quickly raise the tip of my fly rod. It’s flexing under the weight of the fish and my reel starts making noise. The fish boils on the surface and turns downstream, reel screaming. I can only watch as it jumps twice. Each time further and further downstream. There is no way I can chase this fish unless I dive into the water. The bank is littered with trees right up to the water. My hesitation is met with slack line and it’s over.
For a moment there, all I can do is watch my slack line wave in the current. Light green fly line waving back and forth in a lazy ‘S’. I’m replaying the whole thing in my head over and over again. I start to reel up line and I start to laugh. First in my head then out loud. WOW…that was insane.