The wading was difficult in my sandals. It had rained the night before, and that smokeless day on the river was the first I had seen in weeks. Consistently catching fish, but nothing big yet. After a short break, I was looking for a fish to end the day with.
When I set the hook I knew I had found a good one. A second after the fish found itself with a hook in the corner of its mouth, it flew out of the water, traveling several feet through the air. Even mid-flight, I could see it was a big brown. The dark back and yellow flash gave him away long before he was landed. The fish jumped once more and when the hook still held it tried another tactic: it swam down to the bottom and parked.
I stood in a foot of water, looking over the drop-off the fish headed toward. I saw nothing down there. My rod was bent to nearly to its cork and I couldn’t move the fish. For several seconds I watched the rod tip; it was motionless.
A Hawaiian hotel worker had taught me about “plucking” years earlier. It’s a tactic used in ocean fishing to get fish out of snags or holes underwater. When a fish stops moving, the angler can pluck their line above the reel like a guitar string. I remembered this strategy and began plucking, moving the line enough for the fish to feel it but not so much as to lose tension.
The fish shot off to the middle of the river, pulling out the line under my control finger and onto the reel. It didn’t stop until it was mid-river and downstream of me. I chased it down, reeling as I walked.
I coaxed him back to me and he swam towards the bushes of algae on the bottom of the shallow, slower water. A turn of the rod tip corrected his path, pulling his head around to where I wanted him to go. His spot pattern caught the sunlight and as he came closer to me I observed every inch of that fish.
The fish was tired. It felt itself being held by the tail, cradled behind the head and moved into shallow water. It was lifted out of the water and held up to a camera. Then it was placed back into the water, and as I cradled it I took a look at the fish I had just landed. A perfect brown. Flawless fins, kyped nose, thick brown spots and a tail the size of my palm. Nothing detracted from his beauty. As it caught its breath, more pictures were taken, and after a few seconds it shot off.
I walked back to the car with a stupid grin on my face. A perfect fish to end a beautiful day in Eastern Idaho.
Ryan Rintala | Social Media @mattheronflyfishing