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Making up for lost trout
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I know you’re not supposed to get too personal when it comes to fishing, but there was something about that silver brick flashing right before it threw the hook that made me want to go back to that trout’s riffle the next morning regardless of the winter weather warning.

I had established Angels Camp as my base camp for the fishing trip, but by the time I made the drive from where I brewed my morning cup of coffee to Arnold it was evident there would be a legitimate chance my truck would end up in the ditch or body would be hypothermic by lunchtime. When I was plowing the road for the snow plow heading east it seemed like a good time to turn around and execute my contingency plan of investigating Camp 9 road.

My buddy Kurt recommended Camp 9 when I told him I was heading to the Angels Camp area to fish the North Fork of the Stanislaus.

Camp 9 road is a path so patched it almost looks paved and meanders back to where the Middle Fork of the Stanislaus River becomes New Melones.

The river was filthy with Kokanee salmon that had left New Melones to spawn so I started with an egg pattern. Trout like to follow the spawning fish and get fat slurping up eggs but my imitations did nothing.

I recalled fishing with my buddy Steve on the Thorne River in Alaska.

Alaska fly fishing kits are largely made up of pink, red or orange patterns but Steve fishes prince nymphs. He would fish for halibut if there was a prince nymph big enough.

Kurt also uses the prince as his default pattern.

So I clipped off the specialized egg pattern and went back to the bead headed prince, one of the most popular patterns for trout, because it just works. I want to say that my first fish had a great story, but all I did was foul-hook a Kokanee in the back. Whoops.

I moved down river a bit and noticed two dudes that were magnificent fly casters throwing from the opposite bank. They looked like an instructional video, throwing tight, elegant loops every time. I was a little insecure because I am self taught in every respect when it comes to fly-fishing.

I’ve never had a guide and never had a lesson. I guess since the fish don’t care I shouldn’t, but the competitive side of me wants to look like I know what I am doing.

I drifted my prince down river and the indicator dove below the surface. A rainbow that had to be close to two feet peeled off line then jumped from the water. I tightened the drag. It jumped again, ran right at me, jumped a third time and spit the hook in my direction.

I put my hands on my head, communicating the universal, “Did that just happen?” reaction that the professionals down river saw. One shrugged as if to say either, “That’s what you get for being such an ugly caster,” or, “Sorry about the fish bud, it happens.” 

I moved down just past the master casters. They were older than I had originally thought, but they were even more impressive up close. I hooked another rainbow, fat and bright. This one stayed on and I landed it, took a picture then released it.

One of the guys squared and got serious, the other shook his head and smiled.

I moved further down river almost immediately after that fish. Once I was out of sight in the bushes I pumped my fist and suddenly forgot about the ones that got away.

To contact Jeff Lund, email