It was 7:15 p.m. and 3 deer stood in the middle of the road on my approach to River Falls proper. They seemed contented to engage my truck in a stare-down rather than getting the hell out of the way. When the largest of the three began the leg stomp on the pavement, a behavior I have seen before when deer are alarmed, uncertain or getting ready to charge, I decided to call the four legged’s bluff and moved slowly forward. I figured with 265,000 miles on the F-150 and little time left before dark to make a few casts, I would be allowed to pass or I would procure some extra fly tying materials. From past experience it is best to always take a truck to a deer fight. As I inched forward, the fluffy suburban varmint who initiated this stand-off took a step forward. In the final second before the three white flags went up and the trio slowly sauntered off through the rain gardens at the edge of town, I swear, I swear that the largest one cracked a smile and winked at me. She was no farther than 3 feet from the hood of my truck and I was clearly watching for facial expressions. Later I would take this as a sign:)
I had three errands to run before I could proceed to my
fishing relaxation destination. Pick up my Mother’s perscriptions at Wallgreens, Check Ace Harware for deck stripper and stop at the first National Bank to make a deposit. The deer had cost me some time and I was a bit anxious. Martha and I had spent the day working on stripping the stain off our deck. This process for those of you who have partaken know that it does not move the needle on the fun meter. I was feeling like my bride and I had achieved a significant goal for the day and of course I like to reward myself for a job well done with a bit of fishing relaxing. My 82 year old Mother, who has lived with us since last October, has now been trained to call it relaxing instead of fishing. I like that. I often now hear her ask if “I am going relaxing”. The bank was closed. Ace had no stripper and the perscriptions took a bit of time to fill.
It was almost 8 when I parked my truck by the tennis courts and started down the long stairway as I had done many times over the last 3 decades. I would get an hour and a half before I could no longer see. As I stepped off the bottom stair I could see there was another angler on the far side of the dam throwing the dry fly at numerous fish that were rising. I asked him if it would be OK if I fished the close side where I was standing. He kindly said yes. He was young and was making his best effort at drifting flies down stream to the trout showing their lips to him. I watched him while I nymphed the current tongues closest to me. I observed him change pattern after pattern, later admitting he had thrown his entire fly box at those fish. I could tell he was paying attention to me as well, as his head would slightly turn each time another trout would flop around on the surface attached to my hook. I had been in his shoes before, we all have and when he left the dam pool for the evening we chatted. I gave him the fly pattern that had worked for me that night and offered a bit of advice on the techniques I had been using. He reminded me of myself
just last week so many years ago.
The river was mine now and the comfort of dark and familiarity of place was relaxing. I struggled to see my indicator as it drifted down along the the flat slow seam in the middle of the dam pool. Good fortune deemed I would not need my eye sight for the next trout that took my fly. As my fly line darted, I instinctively set back. The set was tight, but I was not ready for the next play. With rod tip high, the trout jerked my rodtip back to the water. I would like to say I calmly bowed to the fish as would be correct technique written in so many publications, but I am not certain this would be entirely true. For the first time in 32 years a trout was stripping line from my reel. The dam pool on the lower Kinni is the widest section of water in the lower river and this fish headed for the deep cut across the river where the young angler had thrown so many casts earlier in the evening.
As I relive the fight it was everything I would have expected from a wild brown trout born in the river I love. There were two exits from the water. One at distance where I could only feel the weight of the trout and hear the splash as she belly flopped in the flat water pool and one last burst ten feet from me just before she came to hand. I remember my conversation with myself and the repeated plea for the chance to just hold the prize for a moment. Besides a peck on the cheek and reverant thanks the trout did not leave the water.
Photos rarely tend to do justice to the beauty of the moment, at least mine. The auto-flash of the camera at night reflecting and dissolving the colors of the quarry into shades of one, the anxiety and the angles of the quick composition, the effort of the lone angler to document his catch. The beauty is in the memory of the moment and they say fish get bigger and better as time goes on. All will be true of this photo. I finally broke the 20″ mark with this fish, and I marked my rod with the stubby grease pencil I have carried for years. Measured at home the fish was just over 22″. There was no tail pinch because fish do not swim with their tails pinched nor do they like it. The size is not of importance to me except that it is the largest fish that I have ever caught from the Kinni in over 3 decades. I knew it the first time I saw her. Upon release, she swam away like a bolt of lightning.
An ironic twist to this story;
One cast before I landed this brown, I landed a 14 3/4″ male brook trout(no tail pinch). I was going to end the night on a high point since this was the largest brook trout I had ever caught on the Kinni. I preach and try to practice this kind of ending to an outing but couldn’t help but to put the “one more cast” rule into effect Go Figure!