Sometimes the Stars Line Up and the Big Fish Cooperate

As a rule we don’t lead people to expect they will catch big fish or even a bunch of fish. We always want them to come away from a guide trip with some knowledge they can use on their own later and make sure they have a good time. The fish almost always come but we try not to make a big deal about it. Over the years we’ve seen how folks just do better when there’s no pressure.

(Stick with us a few more paragraphs. Big fish pictures are coming!)

The truth of the matter is that we take our job seriously. You might even say we obsess over it because we REALLY want our anglers to catch fish, but we also realize we have very little control over the weather, water flows, hatches, and other factors that affect fish attitudes. We absolutely love it when we start the day by advising our angler the rod will certainly cast better if they hold it by the fat end and they catch more trout than they can remember. Yet, we want to slash our wrists or wrap the drift boat anchor around our neck when we have skilled and experienced fly fishers who have a tough day.

That’s why it’s a really big deal to us when someone has a really good day. It’s great when someone really figures out the whole process and catches a bunch of fish. We’ll grin for days when someone lands a really big one. In fact, I think we’re probably as proud or even more so than the angler who caught the fish. We’ll usually print a copy of the photo and tack up in the fly tying room or tape it to the refrigerator next to our daughter’s Kindergarten art project. I have a few photos of customers holding bigger trout than I’ve ever caught. I take a lot of pride in those.

Last week the stars really lined up. One of my regular and most experienced customers was in town for a couple of float trips. He even told me to just take him wherever the fishing would be best, regardless if that was for trout or smallmouth bass. We went to a section of the Holston where I anticipated a morning hatch then planned to float a little bit further downstream and fish the deep, slow runs for smallies. The caddis hatch was better than I anticipated and fish were up. Jim didn’t land a ton of fish, but hook ups were regular. Neither of us were very concerned. He was hooking them and most were managing to come off just before coming to the net.

Then I saw better fish rise. Jim was consistently into 12″-14″ fish but I figured this one was probably closer to 18″. It was a steady riser so I repositioned the boat so Jim could make the cast and get an easy drift. I’m on the river a bunch, but I’m not always right…

Holston River brown trout

… it was much bigger than 18″ long. I have a 20″ ruler decal on the gunnel of the boat and it was easily longer than that… and ate a dry fly.

We picked up some smallies that afternoon, but honestly, I can’t tell you anything about it. Not much registered after that brown trout.

The next day we headed for a dedicated day of smallmouth bass on the Pigeon River. I was surprised to see the river off color. It had been a few days since there had been rain and I was pretty irked about the situation. Jim had a few taps on various streamer patterns, but nothing much. I think he caught one sunfish on a Clouser that morning.

Around 11:00 we decided to switch to a popper. There wasn’t much happening and maybe fish would hear the popper. Jim couldn’t have made more than five casts with the popper…

… and it looked like a harp seal came up to slowly eat it. This fish cracked the 20″ decal with a little bit to spare. We stuck with the popper for the remainder of the day. It didn’t exactly set the world on fire, but he probably boated another 10 bass under tough conditions.

I’ve got to say Jim has fished with me on some superb days and on a few duds as well, but two career fish in two days, both eating on top, is pretty special. It might even mean as much to him as it does to me.

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  1. Outstanding Ian. Congratulations! I know it made your day.

  2. Ian, Nice fish! I am heading over there for a few days to the SOHO and hope we get some blanket hatches. Been wanting to make that trip for a while now. Good read. Cheers, mac