Updated: Nov 16, 2022
I have had a rather lengthy relationship with him, three years now. We've never met though. Well, at least I've never laid my hands on him. I want to. I've tried, but he's eluded me so far. The closest I've come to that was getting a photo of Kevin holding him. That was three years ago now.
The first time I became aware of his existence, he stopped me from having a good sleep. His never-ceasing "gallump", once every twenty minutes or so, continued all night long, and into the morning hours.
I was sleeping without a tent, on a gravel bar in a canyon. The stream chuckled only ten feet from my sleeping bag. The micron-thick tent fabric was missing from around me and my "slumber logic" convinced me that this way of sleeping in the wild did nothing other than invite night intruders to provide me with nocturnal harm. Buddies, Jeff and Kevin, slept a little further down the gravelly pad. Apparently, I was the only one in certain jeopardy judging by the snores.
On the far side, against the opposite canyon wall, a deep chasm cut into the water. It seemed bottomless, emerald green in the daylight, and was an anomaly of depth in this stream. I woke, cheerlessly due to a lack of sleep, and the thought that someone or something felt the need to torment me all night by throwing rocks into the water from the cliffs above was still weighing on my mind in these early hours, pre-coffee. It had to have been Sasquatch. I am sure.
Kevin handed me a coffee. As usual, he had woken before me and the fire was cracking, warm and comforting. Raising the steaming cup to my lips, a flash of brilliant gold and splashing water erupted in the current near the bottom of the deep run in the corner of my eye. The splash, and the "gallump", near the opposite canyon wall, jolted my mind. Not Sasquatch, just an extra-large Brown Trout in this tiny stream! Relief, excitement, and a rush of adrenaline coursed through me. I looked at Kevin. He was at full attention. He had heard the watery commotion, but hadn't seen what I had.
I hurriedly shared my new knowledge and nodded at Kevin to go get him. Kevin's fly rod leaned against the canyon wall not far from the fire. It was already loaded up with a Mule Deer Hair Caddis dry fly.
Within a few moments, Kevin had made two drifts through the run, not quite the right place though. With my best description of the location of the fish, the third cast was perfect. The fly bobbed high in the water exactly where I had seen the huge fish rise.
A flash of gold and the now-familiar sound of heavy flesh breaking the surface of the water broke the silence and the fly was suddenly gone from view. The scene was abrupt and chaotic. A splash and Kevin set the hook. The rod bowed heavily and the reel began screaming as the fly line peeled off. The big fish, using the current, panicked downstream and Kevin followed, never losing his concentration to keep the rod tip high and the line tight.
Everyone knew that this was a special fish. Jeff appeared suddenly from somewhere and had the net. I simply enjoyed the spectacle unfolding before me, smiles all around. After an appropriate amount of time had gone by, it is difficult to say how long that actually was, the fish was in the net. Kevin, Jeff, and I were all vocal in our excitement. Whoops and hollers of congratulations. Everyone was joyful…except for him.
The huge trout was in the net and the rod was relaxed and laying on the beach. A few quick snapshots were taken. Unfortunately, this was before the hobby of photography had grabbed hold of me. The photos are grainy and a little out of focus, but that doesn't matter too much. The joy in Kevin's face is obvious.
As the fish purposefully slipped from Kevin's hands back into the cold, clear water, he suddenly became a memory, a legend even within our little circle. That sentiment was lost to me at the time though. We slammed hands together and joyfully retold the story. The lighthearted conversation continued over another coffee back at the campfire.
A few weeks later I revisited that run in the stream. It was weirdly quiet, and a little sad to be there without my friends. The joy we had that summer morning, was past, and I stood alone along the bank. My bamboo rod and another mule deer hair caddis fly were ready and I made the cast, exactly where I wanted. The little pretend caddis floated briskly down the length of the hole and then disappeared in another flash of gold. The now-familiar sound of a big fish attacking a floating insect startled me. He was on! And then, in about 10 seconds, enough time for me to turn to the camera that I had set up behind me and exclaim "big fish!", the line, fly and all, flew from the water and the rod snapped straight. He was gone.
Summer 2020, the same hole. This time I was euro-nymphing, watching the line carefully as I followed its progress down the run. I had made three or four passes, working my way up the channel to where I now knew the premium lie was. The place where the big fish take over, the best spot for the first choice of floating food that had the misfortune of being dislodged from a submerged rock further upstream. I was focused and alert, but the line went unnaturally straight and surprised me a little even as I was looking for it. Instinctively I lifted the rod tip. A heavy bouncing weight pulled back. The line suddenly pulled from my reel and I watched it burst downstream in a rush. I followed eagerly, careful not to put too much pressure on the knots and hook. This was him! Then, as suddenly as he was on, he wasn't. The fish was gone, the hook had pulled free somehow. A head shake at just the right angle had dislodged it from his jaw and he was free.
This was my last encounter with the fish. When We returned to the spot last September, the summer drought had taken its toll on the water levels. The bigger fish had left for safer waters in the big river, a few miles downstream. We struggled to catch much of anything on that trip. One little brown trout in two hard days of fishing was my reward.
As I type, I am dreaming of that run on that special piece of water. I will be back there in only a few weeks now. We will be filming another episode of Kevin's From The Wild series. I will have a mule deer hair caddis tied on the end of my line and my heart will be full of anticipation. Again.