Written by: Christine Penn
Last year, on the last weekend of the season in Vermont, I invited myself along on a fishing trip to a river in Northern Vermont with my boyfriend Tyler and his good buddy Kyle. Kyle had been up there recently and got us all pumped up over the prospect of a fresh landlocked salmon on the line. We left Saturday morning around 1a.m. with a thermos full of coffee and arrived at the river before sunrise. We geared up by headlamp and we bolted for the section of river Kyle had scoped out on his last trip. The first snow flurries of the year drifted around us and we hunkered down on some boulders on the bank waiting for sunrise.
Kyle was eager to get started and he pointed out a nearby slot to me while wading through the quick current to cast nymphs from a rock in the middle of the river. The slot he and Tyler so graciously left for me was right up against the bank. Before I even had a chance to dip my line in the water, Kyle hooked up on a nice male with a ton of spunk. Kyle fought him for a few minutes as he ran and jumped, but eventually the fish shook free and took off. Since Kyle’s fish had just churned the water up, we figured we’d let the pool settle for a bit.
I checked my rig while watching for activity in the water. I was using a 10-foot 5-weight to help me mend line and get a drag-free drift through the pool. The boys helped me pick out a couple of nymphs, and I suspended them below a large indicator. Having friends who’ve already explored the water and experimented with flies, presentations, etc. comes in handy. It’s a great advantage to have, and I pick such friends’ brains as often as I can.
Soon, we all noticed a flurry of activity in the slot near the bank. Fish were cruising through and some of them set up to look for drifting food. Kyle went back out to his perch on the rock, and I cast upstream of the opening to the slot and let the nymphs drift through.
After a few casts (okay more than a few), I finally hooked into a little guy. Tyler was watching over my shoulder and started to get amped up as he watched a large male dart after my little fish from the tail end of the slot. Tyler started clipped off his nymphs, pulled his streamer box out, and picked out a double bunny to tie on. He stripped the streamer through the slot and across the pool with no luck. Kyle came back to the bank to check out the activity (since I kept hollering about all of the big fish in plain view and he was frustrated after losing his fish) and Tyler took over Kyle’s abandoned perch.
From his rock, Tyler started swinging the streamer and a beautiful fresh hen nailed it. She took off in a run, tail-walked, and back flipped, but was unable to shake the fly. Tyler held his breath as he kept tension on her and eventually brought her in to the bank to land her. Tyler posed with his well-earned fish, resting her in the water between shots as Kyle and I snapped photos. Then he set her up in the water with his rod and reel for some artsy shots.
I was a little bored watching Tyler re-position and re-shoot his fish and gear, so I popped back over to my slot and drifted my nymphs through. As I was preparing to re-cast to the top of the pool, I watched my indicator go under. I strip-set and put tension on the line, but didn’t feel much activity on the other end. Figuring maybe I’d hooked up on a rock at the end of the drift, I tried re-positioning myself to look for the hang-up.
All of a sudden I saw a flash as this huge male landlocked started rolling underwater. He swam toward the center of the pool, in no big hurry, and did a few alligator death rolls in attempt to lose the fly. In a rather unexcited voice, I said “I’ve got a big one over here.” Kyle heard me and came over to investigate. Then he started yelling at Tyler, telling him to drop his fish, quit playing with his camera, and come over to see the honker I had on. My fish made a few attempts to run, and I was able to reel him in closer to the bank so Kyle could net him. We popped the hook out – he’d taken a golden stone – and Kyle handed him over to me to take a few photos. My fingers were frozen from the ice cold water and he nearly slipped from my grasp as I struggled to support him, his big belly sagging between my hands. He was gorgeous and had a huge hooked jaw!
It was a fantastic day, a fish of a lifetime, and a memorable experience. I’m glad they let me tag a long, but I’m guessing the guys won’t let me invite myself next time!