|A mysterious place at 4:30 AM|
For the last detail, I enlisted Greg. A tough Norwegian with no waders, but aqua socks.
I put off going after the 20 incher until Sunday morning. Friday night, we got our first campsite in Rockbridge. We did some fishing in the last hour of useful light on Melancthon Creek, up Hwy 80.
|Melancthon Creek near dark|
I used my 7wt rod. I've never used it before and I wanted to be ready with it for the day of the mission. I was instructed to use it for the mission. It lobbed my size 8 wooly bugger and "thingamabobber" strike indicator with much more authority than my 3wt creek rod. I landed one fish, a 12" brown which I had for dinner. The new rod was broken in!
|12" brown trout from Melancthon Creek|
|Camping in Rockbridge. A large, loud plane flew over us and a few chips from the wall landed on my tent. I will not be camping in this spot again.|
After the drunks migrated to the other side of the park, we broke camp and headed to Willow Creek. I got more familier with the 7wt but neither of us caught a thing.
|Skunked on Willow Creek|
Our next stop was Plum Run, a fork of Knapp Creek. Plum had a prairie-like look and in some places, high banks. Not a lot of deep areas, but some small pools, riffles and deep narrow areas.
|Plum Run area|
|Day 2 fish from Plum Run|
Mid-day, the temperatures this weekend peaked into the 90s. And it was humid. The rest of the day yielded a couple more strikes and a lost fish before the atomic energy of the sun cooked our sense of resolve.
We got back in the car and cranked the A/C. It was around noon. Time to scout tomorrows destination and get some lunch. Part of our instruction for Sunday's mega-trout hunt required us to arrive at our creek an hour before first light. I've never been to this area before so if we got a look at it, getting there in the dark would be easier. Our research revealed that it would be a significant hike to the creek from the car with a fair amount of bush whacking and soupy piles of cow dung. Remember, Greg's wearing aqua socks. I searched his face for signs of impending abandonment, but he was still on board.
Kickapoo Burgers at the Kickapoo Inn with cold Spotted Cow eased our sun cooked minds. Next, we needed to stake our claim at the next campground. One that was closer to our Sunday destination. I'm getting vague here because I'm, of course, sworn to secrecy about the destination.
We didn't make it back out to any streams that day. Too hot. Instead we drank beer at our campsite and talked before getting to sleep as early as possible.
My cell phone alarm went off at 3:30 AM and I felt charged. I geared up at my car and woke up Greg. We rolled out of the campground at 4 o'clock. Next, we arrived the the secret location and were on the creek by quarter to 5.
|It's time. Looks like I forgot to roll down my left gravel guard.|
The first pool immediately showed boils and rises. I would hook up for a brief time with one fish. We moved on. The next hole showed even more activity. Had a couple of brief hook ups, the second ending with a lost fly to the fish. The frayed, curled end revealed that it was snapped, not just me tying crappy knots half asleep. Still no fish to hand. The critical part of this mission was at a bridge and it was getting much brighter at this point. I didn't want to miss a chance if these fish shut down during the day.
I and my sturdy Norwegian b-lined it for the bridge. Like bridge holes I've seen before, it was wide, deep and intimidatingly still. I started casting. First just ahead of myself, and then further out. Too much disturbance on the water, I thought. A distant, faint outline of a fish swiveled away from me. Then I noticed that my leader was only about 6 feet long. Must had lost some with the last break off. I tied on 3 feet of 2x tippet and tied the bugger back on. Scooting up closer to the bridge, my casts were landing under the bridge. After a few more casts I connected and stayed connected.
This fish casually paddled towards me in a way that made me think I should lift my rod and have a look at the little guy. The line pulled tight and cut side to side in the water getting closer to me. Then it did a 180 and bolted back to the bridge. Line that I'd just been stripping in slid rapidly through my fingers until the slack ran out. The fish reacted by launching up out of the bridge's shadow, the outline of its body silhouetting against the illuminated water on the other side of the bridge. This image is hopefully seared into my memory for the rest of my life. It re-entered the water with a KER-SPLOOSH that echoed under the bridge and left Greg and I looking at each other in awe. The fish would make a few more runs like that, pulling line back out of my reel.
I played the fish for maybe a few minutes and Greg netted it with the large blue bass net that he'd carried all the way here. I wouldn't have gotten the fish without Greg's help. I laughed for a minute, thinking of how this all worked out so well. Greg took some pictures and we measured it. 19" on the button. It didn't break the legendary 20" mark, but I was hardly disappointed. This fish was so big and fat that it seemed like a different animal. My biggest trout on a fly rod ever. Not wanting to kill the fish, I revived it until it pushed itself out of my hands.
Having caught a "big fish", I immediately wanted to stop fishing for the day and head home. Shivering in the cold creek water, Greg agreed.
|The hand off|
|Fish #3 on day 3. 19" chubby brown trout and a very happy Dan|