The last day of the trip had finally come and I was now standing on the piece of water that for two years had been the source of discussion about coming to Idaho with fellow SAO guide Ben Barger. I had seen photos, heard the stories, and thought it would be cool to go some day, but really wasn't serious about getting a trip on the books.
As it turned out, this was the summer for the trip and I was finally here. The story begins just a day earlier.....We were heading back to Don's place after a huge 1000+ mile sweep through Idaho and Wyoming and conversation turned to this last piece of water (left nameless on purpose).
This river is known to locals as an amazing Brown Trout fishery....but it is also known for fish that take a lot of very small offerings (18-24's). In fact, according to the guys I had spoken to, most fish that are taken on or just under the surface come on these small flies. Catching big fish on small flies is always a rush, but after talking to these guys, I was left with a nagging question. That question was do they hit hoppers....I mean, this is "out west," so they have to eat hoppers. Sure this was my first trip out west, but anyone who knows anything about big Browns out west is that you can't complete a sentence about Brown Trout without saying "hopper!" Well, that is what I thought...am I right? So the question finally came out of my mouth and I was shocked by the answer.
Upon asking the question, I got a resounding "NO." NO? Did they really just say no? I was a little taken back. Despite my shock, I have always been one to follow the ideology of when in Rome do as the Romans do. So, I quickly dismissed the hopper question and began to mentally prepare for small flies on light tippets.
Fast forward back to the following day and you'll find us cruising along the river...What a beautiful river in an awesome red rock gorge....WOW.....I was taken back by the high desert rock and flora. It was all so beautiful and truly captivated your mind and eye.
In short order, we pulled into the parking area and I opened the door. This was the next WOW moment. As I opened the door, I was hit by a wall of heat that I haven't felt in a very long time. I walked toward the back of the SUV and met Ben coming from the other side. When I looked up at him, I scowled and said, "Did you really bring me all the way out here to fish in this absolutely horrid heat? I mean really Dude, you are not serious!" I was almost angry...I mean really, it was almost 100 degrees. I'M A STEELHEADER MAN.....ha, ha.
So, after getting slapped by the heat, Ben and I both made our way down to the river. On the way down though, that nagging question about hoppers came back and hit me square between the eyes. I had just walked from the parking area down a trail 25 ft long to the rivers edge and kicked up no less than fifty grasshoppers. Seriously, can you feel my inner turmoil? Fifty hoppers in less than half the distance and my head was spinning. Two plus two was not adding up!
Nevertheless, I tied on my size 18's and headed up river to the first section of water. When I got there I was in a complete state of denial, but quickly started to fish. In short order, I was seeing some really BIG fish moving in the slot I was fishing. I watched as a few came up and took things off the surface, but they wouldn't even look at my flies. I kept watching and evaluating and watching some more. Within a few minutes I was distracted by a bunch of boisterous banter coming from a group of fisherman up river who had apparently landed a nice fish. I couldn't make out all that they were saying some 200+ yards up river, but when the wind blew just right, I thought I heard them say hopper. YEAH, there was that stinking word again. I looked up stream at Ben and said (with quite an attitude), did they just say hopper? I started fishing in a state of denial and now I was going to fish in absolute defiance of what I had been told about this place and these fish.
I immediately cut my leader and with it the small flies that these big fish apparently didn't want. I quickly grabbed for my hopper box and perused the selection with a critical eye looking for just the right one. There it was. I grabbed it, tied it on, and couldn't wait to launch it into the air. As soon as the fly box was put away, I targeted a nice fish that had been working the far bank. I put the first cast right on the money and watched as the fish moved up to take a look....my heart beat paused....OHHHH MAN I said as he nosed down. I picked up the line and put another cast right in his lane....eat sucka, eat (yes a redneck who is fluent in ebonics) I said under my breath. As the fly approached, he didn't move to take a look at it....HE SLAMMED IT! The fish came rocketing out of the water and I immediately shouted at Ben. "I thought they said they don't hit hoppers....Woohooo!" I am a fanatic at times and this was definitely one of those times.
SAO guide Patrick Robinson enjoys a nice
smile put there by a very healthy Brown Trout.
A close up of the first nice Brown landed
As quickly as the first fish came, so did many others. I added to the big hopper a nice dropper and now it was as insane as any fishing situation could be. I have never had so many fish so willing to play. I was on fire and was loving life. In fact at several times throughout the day, I had Ben laughing so hard that he couldn't keep the camera still...and it was all due to my expressions of excitement! I love days like this.
So, the obvious theory of western Browns that don't eat hoppers was now a fallacy of monumental proportions and based on my performance, Ben couldn't cut his leader fast enough. As soon as he was able to get a hopper on his line, he had huge fish 20"+ rising to his flies as well. It was a hot day that was getting hotter by the minute!
SAO guide Ben Barger with a nice Brown Trout in the net
An awesome fish comes out of the net!
Ben and I continued throughout the day switching back and forth from filming and fishing and I can tell you I would still be there if it weren't for the fact that I had to catch a flight super early the next morning. We caught tons of fish in the 20" range and some bigger. Other fish were seen that we couldn't coax into a fight, but that was ok. This day was single-handedly the best day of Brown Trouting I had ever had!
Another healthy Brown Trout brings memories to the day
I always find myself in awe at the beauty of the spots
As the clock kept ticking and reminding us of the impending departure, we fished all the harder. In fact even after saying it's time to go, we fished the way out walking and casting with each step. More fish came and went, but our smiles remained!
YOU LOOKIN' AT ME?
Smiles are exchanged on western waters!
This was one heck of a day and an awesome day to conclude the trip on. I will be back to this stretch of water, mark my words!!! Thanks for reading along with me over the past month or so as I recalled the memories from awesome western waters. I am looking forward to my next adventure and I hope you are too!
The Steelhead season is just around the corner and our bookings are as strong as ever. If you are looking to get out this fall, give us a shout. We would love to get you out and share with you the world-class water we call home. If you are interested, give us a call at 419-466-9382.
Until next time,
Patrick "Flybum" Robinson
Steelhead Alley Outfitters