On the fly: Bushwhacking for trout
September 28, 2009
How a crystal-clear mountain stream can conceal trout, even decent-sized ones, has always been a mystery to me.
Those speckled beauties disappear into the mosaic of colorful stones on the bottom of a streambed like, well, their life depended on it, which it probably does. It feels like a bit of magic, pulling one out of a small pool in a cascading stream only to return it to the water and watch it dart into invisibility.
A friend and I hit the trail during a recent fall getaway (yeah, I could be more specific, but isn’t it always more satisfying to find these gems on your own?), intent on fishing the upper reaches of a creek just to see what might surface. The plan was simple: pass by all the enticing water that was close to the trail and focus on a ridiculously tough-to-access stretch.
At best, we figured we’d catch small, but gorgeous rainbows that rarely, if ever, find themselves bending a fly rod. At worst, I figured we’d come up with some 5-inch brook trout that might not be considered worth the treacherously loose rock, jumble of deadfall and considerable tangle of underbrush we’d have to fight through to maneuver along the creek. Then my companion had to offer, “If we find a bear in here, we’re screwed.”
OK, we didn’t have to deal with a bear. Everything else was right on, though, particularly the bushwhacking.
Every cast into a pool required a battle with the landscape. I think we spent 15 minutes squeezing around a giant boulder after I promised I’d be ready to abandon the effort after just a peak around bend.
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There, we each caught just one of the kind of trout that makes it all worthwhile. I guessed they were cutbows – a cross between a cutthroat and a rainbow trout – but I don’t really know. Trout in high streams sometimes seem to be a species unto themselves.
As tempting as it was to keep following the stream around yet another bend, we figured we’d be out after dark, given the glacial pace of our advance, so we fought our way back upward to the trail.
“I don’t know that I need to do this one again,” I said, digging twigs from inside my shirt as we began the trek back to the car in the lengthening shadows.
“I might,” I think I heard her reply.