Monday, September 22, 2014

The Maryland Unicorn

Fly fishing offers an excellent case study in intermittent reinforcement. Your next cast might connect you with The One and at some level you always expect it to. But that only ever happens once if you're lucky. It's for the same reason that we cast and expect that causes some poor people to check their phones, email, Facebook or whatever hundreds of times a day. Sometimes there is a ping, but most of the time there isn't. Occasionally something awesome pops up, and that's more than enough to keep us coming back.

My brother and I had camped for a few nights in Western Maryland and were fishing one last section of my favorite river before calling it and starting the long drive home when something awesome happened. While probing an upstream seam with a size-14 Comparadun Emerger that had, over the course of the weekend accounted for more fish than any fly can hope to account for, a good-sized fish rose to the fly and slurped it.

I set the hook into what we thought was a 14" rainbow but it soon became clear that this wasn't a rainbow. The sunlight glinting off its fins was wrong, and other things looked off, as well.

Mark netted the beauty and while it recovered in the net we noted the red fins, fine spots and red slash under the jaw. It was a perfect cutthroat trout. In Maryland. 

We know that in the past they've been stocked as fingerlings in the North Branch of the Potomac but this wasn't the North Branch. With this cutthroat and the browns, bows and brookies landed earlier in the day, I was able to complete a Grand Slam on one fly. It was a beautiful and extremely unexpected surprise to cap off a weekend of great fishing and even better time spent with my brother.

This is a fish I'll never forget. Having the chance to admire and release it here reinforced my love for this stream and reminded me of some of the reasons I love fly fishing in the first place.


Anonymous said...

Snake River Fine Spotted Cutthroat, taxonomicly the same as a Yellowstone cut, but visually different. Cool, I didn't know they even existed east of the Rockies.

RM Lytle said...

Huh. Ain't that something. I'd say that's the holy grail of East Coast trout.

KevinB said...

looks to a be a nice example of a Fine Spotted Snake River cuttie