Monday, September 9, 2013

That Gratuitous "Fish That Got Away" Story

my friend Zach awaiting the Hex hatch

There's always that one fish that haunts you.

It was the end of June well into the Hex season, one of those warm, humid, and calm June evenings that scream "Hex!". I called up my friend Zach Ginop to see if he was ready to go. We met on the river an hour later.

We waded up to our chosen spot. As the sun dipped below the horizon the fish began to feed, and we even hooked up briefly on a couple decent fish, but after awhile we just stood there, watching the glowing dusk and the fireflies, waiting for darkness.

As soon as it was dark we could see Hexes stirring, flying up the river forty feet above. We stood there, listening to the river come alive. Two rather large fish started feeding well above us; we nodded to each other and began moving upstream.

We had barely started when a small fish fed 25 feet above us.

"Hold on Zach, let me feed him some Hex" I said.

He stepped out of the way and I made my cast. There was a loud "Gulp" and I set the hook. There was no hesitation or head shaking- the fish took off immediately taking half my fly line with it. I looked at Zach and said "This is a big one", while reeling down as hard as I could, holding my rod sideways and perpendicular to the fish, trying to turn its head. It responded immediately, and despite my efforts to palm my reel it took off even faster, knocking my knuckles in the process and peeling off the rest of my fly line plus a generous measure of backing with it. I looked at Zach and said "I think we're going to have go after this one", laughing in the dark.

We have big fish where I live. Most guys fish the Hex hatch with a 5 or 6 weight rod; I use an 8 weight coupled with a Ross CLA reel and 12 pound tippet. When I'm fishing kings or steelhead I'm ready to start chasing the fish the moment I hook up. Most browns however will only make short runs and are content to duke it out in the hole you found them in. Their number one trick is to crochet themselves into a log jam and bust you off, not make a run for it. My mistake, my thought process was "It's a brown, what could it possibly do?"

I found out. As soon as Zach and I started upstream, laboring against the waist deep current, the fish took off again and broke me off. I stood there breathless and reeled in 150 feet of line and backing.

That fish made our summer.

this photo tells a tale. Smaller fish caught on a mouse pattern. Notice the Hex on the water.

My friend and local guide Zach Ginop is one of the fishiest guys I know. You can book trips with him in Northern Michigan by contacting Boyne Outfitters.

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