Boy, where to start. It's been a few weeks since I last posted and it's been a few weeks since I had and pleasure of landing what will probably go down as the greatest trout of my lifetime. It all started several weeks back as waters levels continued there unstoppable drop in eastern PA. We haven't had a significant rain even in the east since the middle of May. Sure we've had T-storms, some of which have dropped a tremendous amount of rain, but in general we haven't had a soaking rain that holds water levels up in months now. Lawns are brown and dead and creeks, for the most part, are into the stones. Heck, I've been watering my garden, which I haven't had to do in almost 6 years now. It's been the driest year I can recall in a long while up to this point. Hopefully that will change but until then my stable of low water producers have been keeping me on the water for the time being. I cherish these spots because without them I'd be doing something else which I don't much feel like doing. I enjoy trout fishing ;-)
So in early July I found myself with few other options. I'd been clinging to life on normal waters but at least some bigger trout had been falling like this 19.5" wild brown
or this 19" healthy brown
but finally thing's just got too low and I needed to hide away on the last good waters I could find. Assuming rains come again at some point it was just fine with me as I love to fish my low water spots at least once a year. They are some of my favorite places to retreat to. Often times they hold excellent flows when all other streams are mere trickles.
They also run COLD and on this day I got a reading of 59 degrees on a 78 degree morning that would sore into the middle 90's. Perfect!! The trout where hitting good from the get go. The pace is never feverish on these streams but it's almost always 'good' and I'm just happy to be trout fishing. I was catching browns and brooks including some nice ones of each. This hammer of a native brookie stood out.
But nothing could compare to what was to come. I've caught wild tiger trout from this stream in the past. 10 of them actually. I've never caught more then one tiger from any single stream other than this. Since the trout population is rather split 50/50 browns to brooks they pop up here on a nearly annual basis. Back in 2014 I hooked and landed a wild tiger that was 13" and thought to myself at the time that I'd finally 'made it'. That I'd pretty much caught the king of all trout the state has to offer. That was a special fish that I've cherished the memory to this day. Every time I run over that area, which consists of about 3 really nice pools back to back to back, I always wonder if I'll ever see another like it and I always go back in my mind to that day. So as I approached those pools the same thoughts ran through my mind 'remember how cool that was', 'man, that was a great moment'. I worked the first pool, the smallest, and hooked into a really nice brown that turned the pool inside out during the fight so I new I wasn't going to catch another trout there. The second pool gave up a few browns and a nice size brook trout. The third pool is the most unlikely of the bunch to cough up a large trout so when I sent my spinner into the mid section and hooked into a 12" brown I wasn't surprised. I followed that with an 8" native brook trout just the left. I sent a few more casts to clear out the bottom and middle of the pool before finally sending my first cast to the riffle entering the head of the pool. The spinner immediately stopped dead in its tracks and I knew I was in to a large fish. I quickly turned my drag control counter-clockwise 2 turns before the fight had even began. I don't ever keep my drag totally tight but I wasn't sure how big this fish would be and didn't wanna take any chances. The trout took off downstream and then back up. It porpused from a distance and I could see it was about 17-18" so my excited waned a little as I knew it wasn't a truly big trout. I let the fish tire in the current before slowly pressuring it closer. That was when I noticed something was 'off' about the fish and I said in my head "Is this a Tiger??" I couldn't be right? This stream is remote, this stream isn't stocked, this stream has wild browns, brooks, and tigers already. There's no way right!? I inched it into the shallows and couldn't believe my eyes. I had a bonifide giant wild tiger trout on the end of my line!! Surprsingly I wasn't freaking out and was actually really cool about it. The only thing that crossed my mind was that if I didn't get a photo of it no one was ever going to believe this haha! The fish took a few more little run before I scooped him up for a closer look. Perfect markings, perfect fins, a perfect fish!!
It ended up being 18" on the button. I admired him for a few second, took the pics I needed to take, and quickly sent it on it way to resume normal life. I went back to business pretty quickly but in the back of my mind I was rather stunned by what had just taken place. Never in a million years would I ever thought I'd see a fish like that one in a photo let alone catch one. I finished out the rest of the trip before heading home. On the ride I started thinking to myself and second guessing. Could it have been stocked? How would I really know. The likelihood of catching a trout like that is 1 in a bazillion. It just got me thinking. The next day I started digging. I was curious about all the wild tigers I'd taken from that stream and what they looked like. Was there a spot pattern that would give me clues. I started pulling up pictures. Spent a few hours actually. What I didn't expect to find was proof that the fish was wild. It ends up that the 13" wild tiger I caught 4 years back from the same general area was indeed the same fish!!
Just looking at the markings close to the tail there truly is no question that it's the exact fish. Wild tigers are like snow flakes in a way. You'll never find 2 spots that are alike on 2 different fish. It's what makes them so special along with their rarity. I even dug further back and it appears that I caught the same fish again in 2011 at 9.5" although that photo was a bit less conclusive because the marks are so small at that point. It was the same set of 3 pools though. In reality that was probably every bit of a 9-10 year of trout I'd just released. Can you imagine what the odds are of a wild tiger trout living to 10 years?? Astronomical doesn't even begin to describe it. To say I released the largest and oldest wild tiger trout on the planet probably wouldn't be a stretch.
I'm still in a bit of disbelief about the whole event. I'm not really sure what I could ever do to beat that. Maybe I can catch him at 20" 2 years from now??? haha
So off we go in the upcoming weeks trying to create more stories to tell. It's hard to find time to post and certain things, like the 4 other trips I've taken, just don't seem worthy of the time spent. Low water streams are still in great shape though and as you can see from this post, a story could be just one cast away ;-)