The trailer eased down into the river, slowly releasing the jet boat into the high emerald green water. The sun was ascending over the mountain and illuminating the river's path between hills of leaveless trees. In the distance an immature bald eagle dove off a limb and swooped down over the water only to miss the intended target. We were after the same quarry, armed with an entirely different set of weapons to take our aim.
As we eased off into the flow, the trolling motor was frozen in place, a product of the really low temperatures. We fired up the propane tank on the bank and dumped steaming coffee to disengage the motor from winter's icy grip. From there we drifted into a lane along the bank. With the high flows and a half dead trolling motor, the current moved us at a brisk pace making it difficult to keep the flies in the zone for the necessary time period. However, we made the most of the situation and had one hell of a time in the process.
We pounded the banks with large streamers and intermediate sinking lines looking for something big. Throwing streamers and stripping lines back to the boat, the ice accumulated quickly and our fingers paid the price in the early morning cold. Another obstacle, was the water clarity at about 10-16 inches. This meant that we had to get the flies in front of the fish's face and hope that in the low temperatures they'd be willing to give chase.
The moment came an hour into the morning. I had my flies running deep and I used the current and a deep belly in my line to swing six inches of articulated awesomeness close to bottom. The reward was the largest resident brown trout of my life. To the tune of 26 inches. I thought I easily had the fish of the trip. I knew we would catch some other nice fish, but I wasn't expecting for 26 inches to be beat. Awhile later, I was proven wrong. My buddy Tyler Nonn, Alaskan Guide and owner of Tidewater Charters in Elkton, Maryland, caught another hoss brown estimated at 27-28 inches. Quite the haul.
As the eagles struggled from above to find quarry in the difficult conditions, we casted endlessly below. We were occasionally rewarded with a nice fish or a tantalizing follow to the boat. Every now and then, a large brown would explode from below only to miss the intended target. We left with some nice fish and the images of the ones that got away are seared into our memory, until the next time we get a chance to go back. You can bet, we will.