This story begins like most of my exciting fishing stories with a little bit of booze, an old smelly RO skiff, and my trusty Orvis Superfine Touch 904-4. How this tale plays out is both unexpected and unforgettable.
The Missouri River (MO) is the Disney Land of dry fly fishing. I was lucky enough to spend 5 summers living only a few hundred yards from this trout and insect haven. Every day I was not working entailed getting in the smelly worn-down skiff that was briefly featured in “Sipping Dry” with my good pal, Dorn, and a case of beer.
Wolf Creek to Craig. Easily our favorite float for stalking elusive rising trout. This particular calm May evening consisted of the typical float, a decent BWO hatch, beer, and the addition of Jake with his plus 1, a bottle of whiskey.
Have you ever heard of TINCUP? If you haven’t, I wouldn’t look into it. I like whiskey. Nearly all whiskey. I would not wish TINCUP on my worst enemy. The worst part about TINCUP whiskey is that it actually includes a small tin cup that holds about 2 shots worth of this putrid liquid.
Flows were rather high, and the wind was rather low. Time was spent fishing to pods of risers in the higher section of the float. We probably covered about two miles in roughly 8 hours. Typical. Many fish were caught but nothing notable. The amount of beer consumed was approximately equal to the number of fish caught. This was alarming due to the high number of trout that made it into the net this warm day in May. After burning the majority of the day in the top 1/3 of the chosen section of the MO it was time to burn some mileage before light dissipated.
Cruising the middle of a small side channel we noticed a small disturbance just to the side of some cattails. The tiny dimples looked like just another rising rainbow trout. The fish was consistently sucking down blue winged olives on the soft side of a small seam. The seam was coming off the cattails the fish was hiding behind. This presented us with a difficult current to cast over and still get a drag free drift. Achieving said drift meant that you would have a surplus of slack line on the water by the time the fly reached the riser. We did not think too much of it and parked the boat about 50’ above the riser at about a 45-degree angle to the fish. The first few casts landed short, in the seam, and the fish did not even consider moving from his lane to take the fly. The two subsequent casts landed right where I wanted. I fed and fed line as the fly slowly drifted over the trout. Cast number 1 had bad timing as the fish munched a BWO right before my #18 BWO Spinner. Cast 2 was purely a denial. I covered the fish with what seemed like 3 more perfect casts and let my buddy jump in for a few. He covered the fish a handful of times with a drag free drift and never tricked the target. That #18 spinner had been working all day and I knew that I could feed it to this picky fish. After about 6 more good drifts I was about to give up on this challenging fish. It was 15 minutes after the sun had set and finally the trusty spinner pattern was engulfed by a plume of water and disappeared.
I set the hook. I did not see the fish’s initial jump due to the overexaggerated set I was forced to make (slack line acquired during the drift). My back was nearly turned to the fish as I struggled to control my fly line. After I got my shit together, I knew I had this fish on for a fight.
Jake was screaming, “that looked like a carp”, as my back was turned which queued me into the size and likely the species of the fish hooked. The other more obvious tell was how rapidly the fish was hauling ass down river. I knew then I was in for a battle. After what seemed like the time it takes to watch a 3-0 final score NFL game, I finally got the fish into netting distance and saw what was attached to that tiny dry fly. My nerves were through the roof. My heart beat out of my chest. My Stomach dropped. I felt like I blacked out as the net found its way beneath the fish. My anxiety worsened, this is a point where I have lost many large fish before. The net rose from the water and I still had a bend in my trusty Superfine. Dorn had successfully scooped the fish.
I’m sure at this point a few expletives slipped from my mouth as I peered upon the fish in awe. This fish still marks my biggest brown on a dry fly. We snapped the shitty photo you see below in dying light and set this incredible salmo trutta back to the depths.
Jake pulls his plus 1 from next to the rear seat and fills the tin cup to the brim saying, “it’s time to celebrate”. I take the cold tin in my already shaky hand and do my best to down the whiskey; a task that required 2 full gulps. I sat down. Quickly, I shot to the side of the boat and projectile vomited. I will never drink TINCUP again. We rowed out in the dark victorious.
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