I CAUGHT A TROPHY TROUT.
That probably means something different to many of us. Is it a pre-determined size fish to qualify for that title based on a club rule or some regulation from the wildlife commission? Is it a “Personal Best” (PB) for the angler? Is it just a momentous fish that instantly finds a permanent place in your memory? I suppose all are solid considerations for what qualifies as a trophy fish.
I was lucky enough to have lived in Watuaga County, North Carolina in the heart of our “High Country”. The 6 years we were there were special for my family for so many reasons. We missed our time there still. One benefit for the angler in me is that I was surround by 100 something miles of excellent trout water. We have Hatchery Supported, Delayed Harvest, Fly Fishing Only, and Wild Trout designated waters coming off every hill in every direction.
My favorite destination was getting down into the Wilson Creek watershed. This drainage of 16 small creeks feed into Wilson Creek, which is designated a Wild & Scenic Stream. It is special for sure. I really enjoyed all the wild trout hiding in the thicket that provided cover on the side of the mountain. Most of these streams had open stretches where I could wield a tenkara rod and enjoy my day.
One particular stream I had been fishing for the six years has rainbow and brown trout naturally reproducing in it. These are wild trout. Most of the catch are small rainbow and browns in the 6-8″ range. In a few hours of fishing there, maybe 1 in 10 are sized up to that 8″ mark. On a typical day I’d catch 10-30 fish in less than two or three hours as I worked every hole and riffle and rock through the 500 yards of water.
One particular outing I saw a nice brown holding the bottom in 24″ of clear water on the sandy bottom, behind a sloped rock. I sent my fly to him and he came up, stopped short of the fly and rolled over with a silver flash to get back to the bottom. I waited three minutes to let him get comfortable before I cast again. He ignored the next nine casts.
I switched focus to work the rest of the small pool and the currents near the rocks. I dropped my fly into the riffle and let it guide my fly into the rocks that forced a turn to the current. My fly was pushing along the rock face for about five feet and then the current peeled off the rocks and toward the chute out of the pool.
As soon as my fly came off the rock, a dark shadow came out from beneath it. Wham. This fly got hammered by a fantastic brown trout. Shocked. I was caught flat footed and was not prepared for this fish in this stream. I knew quickly it was a serious catch. I carefully double set the hook and work the fish through the riffle back to the next pool so I could find stable footing.
He was fatty. You know that kind of belly fat that is soft and healthy. His color was deep. He was big. I was so excited that I didn’t measure or gauge him very well. I’m telling you right now that this was a trophy trout. This fish was the king of this small mountain stream coming off the side of Grandfather Mountain. This was a grandfather fish. Trophy.
I snapped off a few photographs at water level and handled him ever gently. He was eased him back into the cold water flowing past my feet. He paused and maybe even smiled at me before he slowly swam back into the dark shadows under that long sloped rock. Bested, but not beaten. I’ve caught hundreds of fish in the small feeder streams in that drainage creek over the years. This one will be remembered forever. It was amazing.
Do you have a story to tell? A photo to share? A fly recipe that’s too good to keep secret? If you would like to contribute content to Tenkara Angler, click HERE for more details.