It’s a hot day on the water in the Gunnison Gorge. My friend Will works the oars as I look to cast to the far bank. Will steadies the boat and I cast a big foam hopper towards shaded water under the tall reeds, hoping there is a trout resting by the shore, trying to stay cool. The hopper sloppily lands six feet short of the shade. A small panic sets in, and I quickly jerk the rod back to re-cast. The second time, I let out more line and land the hopper a foot off the shore, directly under the reeds. The hopper now looks like a grasshopper pushed into the water by the wind.
My heartbeat picks up, but I keep my rod and line motionless as to not generate any unnatural ripples in the water. I hold for five seconds and then see a trout take the fly and turn around to run. I wait for a half-second and then raise my rod to set the hook. This is the third hit I’ve had today, but the first two were unsuccessful due to the timing of the set. Too early and you pull the hook out of the fish’s mouth. Too late and the fish realizes it did not score a meal and spits the hook out.
Miss-timing the set is a sign of rust. It’s been months since I’ve been on the water. This time, the hook is properly set, and I feel the taut line bend my rod. I lift the rod above my head to begin the fight, quickly reeling in slack line. The fish is strong and jets downstream. It jumps out of the water and flails, attempting to spit out the hook. I can see its brown spots flickering as it moves. It’s a decent sized brown trout – probably 16 to 18 inches long. I keep the line taut as it falls back into the water and tries to make another run. I let it fight the rod. A few seconds later, it makes another jump. This time, it successfully spits out the hook and my line slingshots behind me. The trout splashes back into the water and speeds away. My heart sinks for a brief second and I turn around to Will, who is elated and says, “that was a cool fish.” I agree and turn back around to try it again.