For more than 70 years, I have had the privilege of hunting and fishing across the United States, and the adventures have taken me to virtually every state. This lifetime of enjoying the bounties of nature has frequently presented challenges of one manner or another, but none had rivaled the challenge of the single cast I was about to make!
My son, my nephew, and I, along with our guide, Dan Anthon, were floating the Lower Deschutes River in central Oregon in search of native rainbow trout. We had already made several stops to fish pools and channels where Dan’s previous trips had revealed great locations for trout that were willing to take a fly if properly presented. The technique we had been using was bouncing a nymph along the bottom and using a small indicator on the line to spot a strike when it would occur.
Our casting and drift control had improved as the trip progressed, and now, I was about to be presented with a new challenge.
We had been having success catching 12–14-inch rainbows, along with the occasional 16-incher. Now, Dan was about to up the challenge and put me to the test! He knew where several larger fish lay along the river’s edge and, in fact, had taken a select number of clients there in past trips. He was very selective in whom he took there and did not fish the spot often in order to protect the big trout that were there. I felt quite privileged when he described what was about to happen.
Just a couple feet off the river bank were three 18-plus-inch rainbows that hung out in the same spot all the time, and downstream of them, several feet was the fish we would target — a 20-plus-inch lunker of a native rainbow. We anchored the boat 20 yards below the fish and began the upstream wade in the 56-degree water. We eased to within 10 yards downstream of the target trout and then paused to access the surroundings and the challenge of the upcoming cast to him.
Dan had tied on my leader a single dry fly, which imitated the current hatch of flies and appeared to me to be a size 14 spent-wings Adams. The trio of large trout was a mere 8 feet upstream of the one I was hoping to catch, so the fly had to land just downstream of them and be able to drift naturally down to the target fish. The water was flat where the fly would need to land, but then it would pick up speed as it swirled around an exposed rock just off the bank and slightly above where the lunker was lying. There was also the matter of a matt of floating brush at the edge of the bank, under which he held his position against the current. It would be a tricky presentation indeed, and there would be only one chance to make it.
I made one cast further out into the river to judge whether or not I had let out enough line, and the fly landed at the length that was needed. After the line and the fly straightened downstream, I glanced at Dan, took in a deep breath, let it out, and made the cast. The fly just missed the overhanging branch and lit gently just downstream of the trio and in the exact spot needed to create a natural drift downstream to the lunker. I held my breath as it floated naturally down the slack water, then picked up speed as it swept by the exposed rock.
The lunker’s broad back broke the surface as it lunged for the fly, and in one quick swirl, the fish was on! I raised the rod tip to set the hook and instantly felt the weight of this great fish.
He raced upstream, then headed out into the main body of the river, then dashed downstream. NO……………!
The line went slack, and in an instant, we realized that he had circled the exposed rock and had thus broken the leader. My heart sank. And yet, I was thrilled that the fly had been properly presented, and I was able to witness the huge rainbow slash across the surface as it took the fly! He had chosen his holding spot for good reasons.
The chute of water often carried insects, and the exposed rock gave him the opportunity to break a line if he happened to get hooked!
We continued the float down the 10-mile stretch of river, with numerous stops to successfully fish for rainbow trout, but I couldn’t shake the image of that monster taking the dry fly! I have relived that moment every day since!
This was an extremely memorable trip, in great part because of our outstanding guide, Dan Anthon. If you are interested in such an adventure, I highly recommend contacting Dan at http://www.justaddwaterflyfishing.com.