Early on a crisp December morning, I was walking down the river bank passing many stretches of good water to get to a favorite spot. The banks were covered in fresh white snow, with even more piling up. Like any fisherman, my eyes were glued to the water as my feet stumbled and slid over the slick rocks and bank. You get the picture—not a whole lot of grace or stealth. 

A trout jaw from an eagle meal.

Well before I got to my favorite pool, I caught an orange torpedo out of the corner of my eye. Darting from a shallow pocket into the darkness of a deep run. Before I could even grasp the enormous size and vibrant color of that fish, he was gone. Unsettled and disappointed in myself for not being more watchful and observant, I moved on, knowing my only chance at this beast would be later in the day, after he had settled down. 

Many hours and fish later, I made my return back to his lair, and there he was—near the bottom on the slack-water side of that same deep run. I checked my knots, calculated my approach and made a cast. An underwater current moved my flies, a heavy stone to get down quick and a size 18 RS2, out of the seam they needed to be in. Adjustments were made, and the next cast was perfect. My flies drifted right into his zone. 

RS2 Fly.

In what felt like real life slo-mo, his mouth opened, my indicator ticked forward, and my rod was instantly bent. He was on the line, but only the beginning of the battle. He had taken the RS2, which had 5x going to it. I knew I’d have to be careful. 

He hardly moved at first. I was shocked. Gradually moving up into shallow water, I pulled out my net—foolishly thinking he might just be cold and lethargic, and I could just scoop him right up. Two steps forward, then everything changed. 

In the blink of an eye my entire fly line was almost off my reel as the orange giant turned and stormed downstream using the swift current to his advantage. I would not be able to stand my ground and stop him with such light line and a small fly. 

There was no time to grab my trekking pole. Channeling my inner Paul Maclean, I took to the races after the giant trout. The fight was swift, but intense. This fish obviously had intimate knowledge of the river. He knew just where the fast currents were and how to use his massive fiery flanks as a sail. So down the river we went, one run and rapid after another. 

At one point I managed to steer him into a soft edge of a seam and thought this was it. I reeled up a little more fly line, pulled out my net, and went for the scoop. The angry old brown knew better—he looked me square in the eye, gave one flick of his tail, and the chase resumed. I did, however, eventually get the best of him. Three river crossings, two wet sleeves, and one hard fall on the snow covered rocks later…he was in my net. A few pictures, a prayer, and off he went. Thankful.

Angler Story of the Week from Addison Cornell, be sure to follow Addison on Instagram at @hikeflytie. 

Check out the articles below:

Top 6 Flies for Winter Trout Fishing

Fly Fishing Tips: How to Catch More Trout in the Winter Months


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