Each and every time you pack the car up to go fishing, you know it could happen. The best fishing of your life could be today. Experience tells you that it’s ridiculously unlikely. But still, it could happen.
You have lengthy conversations with yourself, self-soothing the skunked days out and the slow sessions that felt like they would be fantastic. That’s part of this sport. No guarantees. A million variables. Science and art. Rules and exceptions.
Then it happens.
What transpired that day is not notable for some, but for me was simply incredible. A dozen fish including four browns over 20″ and a new personal best at 26″. 93″ across four fish isn’t something you even think is possible. At least I didn’t.
It interests me that as fish mature, they take on certain behaviors when hooked. Of course temps and season play a role, but fish in the 15″-21″ range will frequently run on you, acting frantic from the hook-set. The true beasts in this river will typically not take off though. It’s as if they understand that they have the advantage and you are the one who should be concerned.
If I set the hook on a fish that feels serious, and then watch the line slowly move into deeper water…that is indicative of a mature and hefty fish.
This was the case with the 26″ brown pictured above. He was in water I would consider hardly worthy of a courtesy cast. The kind of stuff you don’t even bother with if you’re on the move trying to cover a lot of territory. When I felt the grab, my hook-set was fashionably late and I watched the line lumber to the middle of the river. At this point my rod began to bear the weight of what was on the other end…and I knew it was something gnarly.
I’ve learned that when hooking big fish, you have to have a plan before the hook up. I had already mapped in my mind the fighting route if this happened. I knew where I would wade to get to the bank quickly. Every time he paused behind a boulder, that was my 3-5 second window to get my duff downstream. And so we exchanged movements; he would move downstream 10 yards, and I would do the same. Repeat.
Eventually I got a peek and once I realized he was over 20″-22″ I committed to not haul him in but wait until he was ready. This is the toughest part of any fight for me. Between too soon and too long is the perfect timing and every fight is different.
This time, it worked out.