Pick and Choose...
As the day wore on at nymphing mecca, we found the sun at our backs gave us an excellent view into the water column. Fish were stacked up along the bank gorging on midges. We decided to bust out the 5wts and do some sight-fishing from the elevated river bank for a change of pace.
We tied on small dry-dropper rigs with something like a caddis suspending a size 20-24 midge 2ft beneath and the game changed from watching an indicator to trophy hunting.
We would watch a dozen fish feeding happily and pick out the biggest, most colorful or active one in the group. Then, dead drift a midge straight at them. It usually only took a few drifts, if not only one, before we would hook up with our chosen target. The fatties started rolling in. Big redsides with hooked jaws became our chosen targets. It was like shooting fish in a barrel.
The two of us walked down stream and took turns spotting or drifting a midge. Our view into the water column was extremely interesting and we could watch bigger fish dominate feeding lanes, chase competitors, pick out prey items and pack on the pounds.
A few particularly memorable fish came this way. Two gorgeous red-sided bows in the 20" range were landed within 10 minutes of each other. Shortly thereafter, another hook-jawed flame-colored 20" fish was spotted resting in the slack behind a submerged rock. Mark drifted a fly and had it eat on the first look but pulled it straight out of its mouth. We let that fish rest and moved downstream a bit before returning to him. I was up to fish and he took my caddis dry fly on the first pass.
Further downstream came a section we started to call 'the cliffs' because of the steepness of the bank and their elevation above the river. From this higher vantage point we spotted a school of 4 bigger fish. Fat 20"+ fish, actively feeding towards mid-river. After watching for a while we decided it was my turn because I spotted them. Mark gave me advice on how to achieve a dead drift from the cliffs and, somehow, I was able to actually do what he said on my first cast.
Sometime a drift is so good that you just know it's going to hook up. As my fly drifted towards a 4lb football I knew what was about to happen. The fish ate and I set into its upper lip. As the fish tailwalked out past mid-river the adrenaline of the moment made me loudly voice my happiness, to say the least.
Each fish in this river fought well but this was the only one that took me to my backing. I stayed up high for the fight and Mark waded in on net duty. After what seemed like a long time, the pig was in the net. My hands shook as I removed the fly and cradled it for a photo.
That fish would not have happened if it weren't for my brother's advice and guidance. Hell, most of the fish I caught on this entire trip were because of him telling me what to do, or me watching and emulating. It was the largest resident trout I'd ever caught but is a fish I'll never forget for more reasons than just that.