Normally......as in like every other year....I'm mentally wrapped up with the trout fishing season by now and onto more efficient uses of my outdoor recreational time. This has been an unusual year though as I'm sure most of you have seen. Rain. Lots of it. Having lost most of the month of August due to high and often unpredictable water levels I have been making some proverbial hay during the latter part of the August and into this month. On one particular trip I hit a small woodland stream that has treated me so very well over the years. It was treating me quite well that day also and the browns were going absolutely nutz over my spinner. It as clear that the high water had kept the fisherman off this stream for the longest time. Dumb uneducated wild browns are my favorite! I approached a nice pool with a good little log jam in it. It was a nice spot but nothing that really shouted for me to prepare myself mentally for something special. I sent a cast straight to the heart of the brush pile and a giant obliterated the spinner on the 3rd crank. The fish took me by complete surprise but I adjusted my drag and took up a better position for battle. None of it mattered. In this small stream setting I had no power over this monster. It was the second time this year that a giant rainbow was going to take me out behind the woodshed and give my equipment a sound beatin' haha. This fish took off upstream which was great. I tried to keep it going up stream by running up into the riffles and forcing it to the long shallow hazardless pool just upstream. Ya, it didn't see things quite the same and turned. As if shot out of a cannon it cruised through my legs and made a beeline for the cover and the log jam. I figured it was over if the fish made it there so I quickly tightened my drag and applied as much pressure as I felt I could. It was hopeless though. The fish threaded me right into the branches and my line went limp. I figured I was snagged but I had learned a valuable lesson earlier in the year when another huge rainbow did the same thing. Instead of waiting this time I waded over the log pile and fished my rod into the branches. Sure as heck I felt a throb and quickly applied heavy pressure to the fish. As pure luck would have it the fish came out from being deep in the pocket but shot downstream past the log. I was now fighting the fish with my rod tip 2' under the surface. I was on one side of the submerged log and it was on the other I had a moment of clarity where I realize that my only chance of landing this fish was to let go............I mean literally let go. I needed to get my rod on the other side of a 2' log and there was not other way but to go under it. The fish was running downstream so I pushed my rod and reel to the bottom of the stream, let go, jumped over the log, and snatched the rod back up as it sprung through the other side of the branches. It was a bold move that paid off in spade and a minute later I scooped this absolute UNIT up for a pic.
The fish was so big I had a lot of trouble doing my trademark one hand scoop pic. I couldn't get it to balance in my hand. I figured it out though and quickly got the fish back into and under its log jam. In reality it would have been a good fish to kill but I wasn't prepared for that so I just let it go.
After that trip I had a few 100+ outings in SWPA as well as eastern PA. Lots of browns and natives came to hand including this incredible native brook trout
And this very very unusual wild brown trout.
I also caught a nice 5 inch wild tiger trout that flopped out of my hand just as I was taking a pic and broke free from the hook. Devastating moment right there.
While conditions where still good I took another short drive to a favorite stream of mine. I arrived to PERFECT water levels, deep dark cloudy skies, and a nice sticky humid AM. Just a textbook day for great action but even I didn't expect what was about to go down. I hopped into the stream at the base of a great looking spot but the action was dead. Being near an access I wasn't deterred and just kept poking and prodding my way up through the pool. As luck would have it I ended up on the opposite side of the bank tight to the weed line when I heard twigs breaking behind and slightly upstream of me. I kept casting but the sound kept coming. about 20 yards upstream of me I started to see a person walking towards the bank. Then another and another. 3 fly fisherman were approaching. They didn't know I was there and hopped into the stream right in front of me. They looked upstream and started chatting about the spot. I debated allowing them to see me in which case they would either straight up cut me off or worse yet yield to me and get out and walk upstream effectively ending my morning on that stream. On that note I yielded to them and melted into the stream side brush. I silently wished them well, hiked around them 200 yards upstream around the bend and off I went. It was the best move I could have made. At the very spot I hopped back in at my rod did that unmistakable double over that only a 20" brown can do and the day was off to the races.
My lord were the big trout out. Basically every even decent piece of habitat gave up a trout over 16". I was seeing 20" trout every 10 minutes and they kept coming to hand.
Sub 20s rolled in too. It was a day of days for big trout.
The one thing I've learned over the years is that you don't leave good fishing for big fish ever. You just stay till it's over. At about 1:30 the fishing slowed down and an hour later I called it quits for the day with 12 trout over 16" and 5 of them over 20". It was the best big trout day I've ever had solo in my life. The crazy thing is that it could have been better as I lost 4 - 20" fish and missed several other sub 20" fish. Regardless, amazing days like that can happen once in a lifetime so I'm overjoyed with the successful outing.
I'm not feeling any shift in my metal approach as of yet and will stay in full fishing mode most likely until the night time temps consistently get into the low 50s and high 40s. Once nights go to the 40's, which will be very soon, that will get me off the stream and into the tree. Until then, with how I'm being treated on the stream, I'm sticking with it and seeing what I can do. Hopefully great times ahead yet!