The Jackpot Fish

Like anything, it takes a while to learn fly fishing. You have to commit to learning a plethora of skills. Knots, fly selection, and casting come to mind. Then, later, reading water and casting angles.

As you go further down The Rabbit Hole, you may eventually skip the bobber and begin focusing on dry flies. This introduces you to a new game. You’ll buy different flies and soon may find yourself wondering if you need another fly rod specifically for dries.

Later, over time, you may even dabble in Euronymphing, wet flies, and streamers, each niche introducing you to different techniques, ideal lies, and flies.

And, you may begin to tie flies, buying a vise and rudimentary kit of materials to make up a few of your go-to patterns, convincing yourself that this is economical and will be much cheaper than buying flies. In short, you may find yourself forgoing that abstemious route and, instead, finding yourself with bags upon bags of hooks, fur, and feathers, a mini-zoology site around your fly-tying work area.

As you watch your materials collection grow, you may shake your head and wonder how it all happened, almost like someone waking up groggy and with a headache after a long night out. “Geez, what happened?” you ask yourself.

You don’t even want to think about the number of fly rods you’ve purchased over the years. When you want to buy yet another one, you wonder if you should ask permission first from your life partner, or if you resolve to ask for forgiveness after-the-fact instead?

This is fly fishing.

For me, 2020 is my Articulated Streamer Year. As much as possible, it’s what I’m throwing these days.

Yesterday, in 33 °F weather in the morning amidst snow and freezing rain, chucking a big bug definitely kept me warm. It was a consolation prize. We were supposed to be out of town for a family holiday, but the virus had other plans for us.

I paired a fast-sink polyleader to my floating line and added an unweighted streamer and proceeded to rotate among various patterns. After a few hours, though, this got old, not to mention that my shoulder and wrist were starting to ache.

Seeking a change, I switched to a bobber rig. When this was fruitless, I moved to wet flies and caught a few browns. My theory was that immature Hendricksons were in the water and already starting to get active. I’ve read that they practice rising to the surface and then head back down. Underwater, I imagined a large dance of bugs.

For no good reason at all, I decided to work the same runs again with an articulated streamer. I wish I could state that there was a moment of brilliance or insight that drove this. Not really. I was just getting bored and wanted to mix it up. I took off my wet-fly rig and added a 0x leader to my floating line to fish a weighted streamer.

This is a fun way to fish. I was targeting decently-quick water and wanted to swing and hop the streamer towards the quiet seams below. So, I cast across, threw an upward mend, and waited for the streamer to sink. After a few seconds, I periodically raised the rod tip and pulled in slack to “hop” the streamer up and down.

I’m testing out Rich Strolis’ Headbanger Sculpin. I love how it moves and enjoy fishing it. I fish it with confidence, as the hooks are pointed up, making for fewer snags. It is a great way to work some water efficiently. And, it’s easy on the shoulder.

 

I started at the top of the run, hopped the streamer down-and-across, and then took a few steps down and repeated the whole process. At the edge of the current, there was a square spot of slack water due to a pile of underwater rocks. I hopped the streamer around there.

Bang.

I felt a thud and strip set. A brown jumped many feet above the water. It was massive. I got tight right away, thankfully, and the brown jumped again. I saw it very clearly this time, contorted and a brilliant constellation of brown, orange and yellow. A real beast.

I put the wood to the fish, confident that the 0x leader and my Orvis 3D seven-weight would do the job. And, soon, I eased the fish to the surface and let it boil the water as I placed a net below it.

What a fish.

 

 

The coloring and spots were a marvel to behold. It taped just a touch under 20″.

After, I got take-out from Better Half Bistro, which had a ridiculously delicious Reuben Special for St. Patrick’s Day. (During this virus period, I’m making an effort to frequent local businesses. The chains will survive, but I’m concerned that the non-chains are vulnerable.)

I fished more afterwards and didn’t get any more takes. But, I hung in there with the articulated-streamer game for hours more, hoping and hoping for that Jackpot Fish.

That’s what articulated streamers are about: a binary outcome where you either see a good fish or you go home empty-handed, which is usually the case. I’m fine with that. Admittedly, I will sneak in some wet flies along the way, too.

Best wishes to you and your families as we ride out the coronavirus….

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6 thoughts on “The Jackpot Fish

  1. Like the narrative. I would add that once you start tying for bass, stripers, steelhead, and trout, you have accumulated a ton of materials and hooks.
    Nice looking fish. Love the take of a swing fly.

  2. NICE fish! Does the technique I detailed in my “Problematic Back” post help the shoulder any to keep stress off or is the rod too big and heavy for casting no help?

  3. Great story and great fish! Reminds us all that NOW is a good time to hit the water and try to enjoy ourselves!

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