If you fly fish a particular water enough times, you usually get to know the specific spots where fish hold. And, you might even get to know a specific fish. He’s always at the same spot, and can often be tempted with the same flies. You might even give that specific fish a name, often out of respect for the encounters you’ve had with it. Such is the story of Willie.
I first met Willie in early July of last year at one of my favorite spring creeks. I was fishing under a bridge where I’ve often found a number of decent cutthroats in the 12″ to 15″ range. I never pass up the opportunity to fish under bridges. It’s where you often find some of the largest fish in the stream. They seem to be attracted to the shade and deeper pockets along the bridge supports. On this particular day, I was throwing an assortment of dry flies in vain, as no fish were coming up for the numerous bugs that were flying around. As I had turned to move on to another spot, I heard an enormous bowling ball sized explosion in the water from behind me. I looked back, just in time to see another huge swirl as a large nose of a trout emerged from the water taking something on the surface. It’s here that I came to know Willie’s trademark….huge explosive attacks at flies on the surface. I tied on a #18 ant pattern and gently cast it under the bridge shadows. Instantly, Willie engorged my fly and put up a great fight on 6X tippet and my 7′ 6″ 5 wt. bamboo fly rod. When I got him to the net, the big rainbow measured out at 19″, dwarfing the smaller cutthroats in the stream.
I encountered Willie several other times during the summer last year. He was always in the same location under the bridge, occasionally showing himself with aggressive surface takes, and sometimes venturing out in the sunlit stream. I hooked him two other times last summer but he came out the victor, breaking me off both times.
Yesterday, I hit this spot on the stream again for the first time this season. Decent midge, mayfly, and caddis hatches were happening but no fish were coming to the surface. The nymphs that I cast only yielded whitefish, and at 1:00 I took a break for lunch. Half way through my sandwich, I heard the distinct aggressive surface take from Willie. Two more surface rises, and I was back into the stream in pursuit. I tried to imitate the various surface bugs but got no response. I then tied on my favorite #18 ant pattern, and got a rapid take on my first cast. I was again in battle with Willie, which I won about 5 minutes later. I gently released Willie after snapping a couple of photos, knowing that I’ll be back to do battle with him later this summer. I hope you have your own trophy trout that continues to challenge you in your fly fishing adventures.
Willie, the Rainbow Trout