I was ready for the end of trout season in October.
Well, I don’t think anyone is really ready, so maybe mentally prepared would be a better way to articulate the feeling. There are rivers open year-round, but the close easy trout water is shut down or snowed in. It is because of this that people like me start to get a little sad because trout time as we know it is over until 2012.
Fortunately, I was granted a two week reprieve as I was directed to the Middle Fork of the Stanislaus River two weeks ago – a length I had never fished, but that closed two weeks later than my usual spot on the Stanislaus. The Middle Fork season runs into November, so I made two trips this past weekend to delay the increasing brunt of closure.
The first trip was Friday to honor my family and friends that are in the military, and I don’t mean that lightly. My brother has been stationed in Guam for the past two years and been to Iraq twice. He’d rather be fishing so I went and told him all about it.
After a day of hooking wild, heavy trout that know how to throw a hook, I went back Sunday morning. I waded out into the current.
It didn’t take long for me to hook up, but it wasn’t what I expected. The fish just seemed to float, not fight. I brought it in easily and saw it was an old gnarly Kokanee. It was alive, but its tail had rotted down to a nub.
That would explain the pathetic fight. It looked at me and smiled in the crooked, wasted, haggard way only a spawning fish that is about to soil your net can.
As I unhooked it with my forceps it sensed I didn’t want to touch it, so it sloshed around and slapped my hand with its leprotic tail. I’m not germaphobic, but I tried to make a conscious effort not to touch my face after that.
I know I probably failed, because after another Kokanee, I got into a brown that put a few feet between it and the water as it tried to shake my nymph. I instructed it sternly to stay hooked.
It did, but when I had it played into the shallows and close to the net, it made a sudden run right at me just as I was about to scoop and the rod arc became too much. I heard a snap. Everything started moving to the past tense. It was almost in the net. It was beautiful.
But when I looked down and the line ran again. It wasn’t the leader that had snapped, it was the rod itself. I looked up at the two feet of rod hanging pathetically but still attached to my fish. I was back in present tense.
That is a beautiful, big fish that just broke my rod.
I took a few extra seconds with that fish once I landed it. It was a solid 18 inches, mean and beautiful. I kept it mostly in the water and it didn’t try to escape, as if to let me etch its olive, yellow and brown flanks deeper into my memory to haunt me during the stretch of little fishing I will endure for the next month and a half.
I will get out trout fishing between now and 2012. There is talk about a trip to the Truckee and of course there are lakes, but things are moving toward the off season.
If Sunday does end up being the last great trout trip of the year, the season sure ended with a bang. Or should I say, snap.
To contact Jeff Lund, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.