It was a quiet morning, very much like the classic opening to a Buggs Bunny cartoon where Elmer Fudd says, “Shhhh, I’m hunting wabbits.” Only instead of hunting wabbits, I was hunting twout.
Instead of wearing a goofy red and black plaid shirt (which I do own two of) I was wearing a goofy technical fly fishing vest/pack from — insert the name of your favorite mail order fly fishing outfitter here. Mind you, my wife bought the pack/vest. I’m not sure it is something I ever would purchase for myself, but when a wife buys a guy a piece of outdoor gear, he smiles, says thanks dear its perfect, and sets about the dutiful use of said gear. But generally speaking, anything that requires a slash to be identified, such as the pack/vest and can’t be identified by one word, means you probably don’t want it. Does anyone want to adopt a dog/goat? What about a chicken/quail or a cow/pig? I think not. So I’m inclined to steer away from items such at these. However, my wife was very thoughtful and I’ve been happily using the wonderful pack/vest for a while now.
This pack/vest thing is encrusted and bejeweled with every little shiny, dangly, bojagled clipper, tippet spool, and fly patch hanging off of every plastic d-hook and strap. So its a lot of work to keep this rig quiet. For the most part I end up sounding like I’m carrying a Christmas tree and going for a horseback ride. With an outfit like this one must be careful to maintain stealth, move deliberately. And stealth was the name of the game.
I was fishing skinny water. Some might call it a spring creek, others might call it a former drainage ditch, but I call it skinny, and in need of stealth. Twout are naturally shy and wary creatures. In water like this twout spook at the slightest movement or sound. I left the car at the pull off and slowly made my way to the first likely looking run. The snow under my feet made the distinct crunchy noise that snow makes in the morning after a cold night. I made sure to keep my profile low so as not to cast a shadow on or even near the water. I fished the run from downstream. I fished all the proper seams, the deep part of the run a little off center of the thalweg, the boulders, all the likely holding water. The run produced no fish. My stealth was not rewarded.
I quietly made my way down to the next likely looking water downstream, this time a deeper and quieter pool. I was focusing on making my movements methodical. I was sure a stealthy approach to the pool would lead to a twout on my line. With every step the snow creaked and squeaked under foot. The sharp winter made every sound hang in the thick air for what seemed like an eternity. However, the laws of physics dictate that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. So in my methodical zen like fly-fishing-ninja state of mind, I managed to ignore all the stuff hanging from my vest and the 9 foot fly rod in my hand. In the blink of an eye I snagged my fly line on a briar, poked my self in the eye on honeysuckel branch, spun around, and stumbled backwards into the pool. So much for a stealthy entrance. I fished the pool anyway. Why? Because I was there. I managed to hook and land one dink about the size of my hand. Maybe twout weren’t so weary afterall, or perhaps this one was especially dumb? I’ll never know for sure. That was the only fish I would raise from that pool, so it was probably the dumb one. I moved on.
The third likely looking water was a run with a bend, back upstream from the first run I fished. I made my way up there through the tall grasses and winterized twigs. Now I was more in tune to the brambles and their interaction with my pack/vest and fly line so as to avoid another stellar entrance to the fishy scene. I worked slowly up the bank, and peered over the knoll that blocked my view. The tall prairie grasses were stiff, frozen and caked with snow and ice. I pushed closer to the edge of the water, careful not to let my shadow fall on the stream. Edging closer I tried to figure out how to get a cast down to the outside bend that likely held fish. I moved around the outside bend, looking up stream. As I drew closer I realized a cast over the brush would be impossible. I gave up and decided to cross a little more up stream. I walked with a little less stealth now, tromp tromp tromp, through the brush toward the crossing. I looked back down to the outside bend. Just as I looked I saw a fierce flash of golden light swim out from the bend. I large brown twout had been hiding in the lunker bunker built into the bend in the stream. I had tromped right over the biggest hole in the neighborhood and spooked the biggest baddest twout in the stream.
Of course my first thought was, with a little stealth and a proper approach, I could have hooked him. Now he was spooked. I headed back to the car. But next time you can bet I will be quieter and a little more mindful. Because – Shhhh, I’m hunting twout.