Lucky No. 13

By February 28, 2014 No Comments

The Tireless Pursuit of an Elusive Trout Grand Slam

Seven anglers from New York met at Falcon’s Ledge for a three day fly fishing trip. They 3 lucky 13were brought together by Adam Cook, the fishing manager of the Buffalo, NY Orvis store. It was my privilege to guide Adam the year prior during his visit to the lodge, and he wanted to come back for more. This year, I was fortunate to guide Bill and Mike, two clients of his that were retired educators… they were relatively new to fly fishing, but definitely had the desire and the passion to learn. Before breakfast on our first day together, we talked about the quest for a grand slam… catching four species of trout, all on the same river on the same day. Bill and Mike were up for the challenge. Our first day took us to a beautiful freestone river, in the Uinta Mountains. The fish were plentiful and the weather was great. Mike was first to the grand slam. Just an hour after lunch, he caught a nice Cutthroat that completed his quest. We gave each other a high five, snapped a quick picture and then released the fish. Bill caught his share of Brook, Brown and Rainbow trout that day too; however, the Cutthroat eluded every fly that was at the end of his line.2 lucky 13 Day two would take us to another river in the same mountain range, equally capable of producing a grand slam. Even though a storm gathered overhead, we remained undaunted in our quest. The first with a fish on was Bill. We picked a nice deep hole just after a shallow run, and as soon as his fly hit the water, a Rainbow took it… fish on! Bill was extremely excited… and we both felt that this would be his day. Mike caught several Browns and Rainbows, and he even managed to land a very nice Cutthroat, but no Brook trout. Meanwhile, Bill had landed some nice Rainbows and Browns and one small Brook trout, but was still without a Cutthroat. We had a two hour 4 lucky 13reprieve from fishing as the pending storm finally rolled in. We put our fly rods down and cinched up our jackets and hoods… the rain was coming downinbuckets. We waited out the lightening and when it was deemed safe, we resumed fishing. Both anglers landed a couple of more fish… none of which were a Cutthroat or Brook trout… day two was in the bag. Our third and final day would take us to yet another river near the lodge. We walked a dirt road down river about 300 yards and began to fish some more. Bill caught a couple of nice browns and a couple of rainbows and a small white fish. Mike hooked into a couple of fish as well, a nice rainbow and a few smaller browns. It began to rain, and there was a fear of ending the day early… but the lightening stayed away and we fished on… after all, there is no bad weather, only bad gear.
We decided to move up river in search of the Brookies and Cutts that would be needed to complete the grand slam. We caught the middle of a nice afternoon hatch and the river was popping… fish were hitting the flies with reckless abandon. Bill and Mike caught their fair share of Brookies and Browns, but still no Cutthroats, and it was getting late. To be honest, at this point, I was ready to break the rules and give Bill credit for a white fish 1 lucky 13that he had caught earlier that day… that’s four different fish, all on the same river… easy enough to justify, but I knew Mike would ever let him live with it, and I didn’t want him to have an asterisk after his name. We had one last shot at catching a Cutthroat on this river. It meant that we would move up river, and by up river, I mean up in elevation about 1,000 feet. There would only be Brookies and Cutts up this high… it was worth a shot. I had only fished this particular stretch of river occasionally on my free time, and I had not fished it this year at all. I was breaking unwritten guide rules by taking clients to water that I hadn’t fished recently… I discussed this with Bill and Mike, and they were both up for the gamble. We climbed in the truck and started up the mountain on a narrow dirt road. After a couple of stops, we found a stretch of crystal clear water that was a little deeper, that looked like it could beholding some fish. On our approach to the water, we6 lucky 13 stopped and waited to see if there were any fish rising. Sure enough, there was one fish that was actively feeding in this hole… since Mike had already got his grand slam; he volunteered to move down river 100 yards to allow Bill and me to work this one fish. Our target was suspended about 2 feet below the surface actively feeding. We watched it move side to side as it fed, and every once in a while, it would dart to the top and hit an adult fly. This was going to be easy… or so I thought. Bill’s first cast was good, and the water was so clear that we nervously watched the fish dart towards the surface after the dry fly. The set was a little too quick, and the line and fly came back at us, only this time in a nearby tree. We used the same combination for another dozen or so casts, the fish was not interested at all… time to change flies. Our next approach was to use two dry flies and no dropper… this was met with similar results… initial interest and then flat out rejection. Out of the corner of my eye I could see Mike… he had a fish on. I quickly changed flies and then left Bill to continue his efforts and headed down river to net Mike’s fish.
My fears were confirmed… he caught a nice Cutthroat, and his second grand slam for the trip. Mike continued to fish and I made my way back to Bill. “What was it?” he asked. “It was a Cutthroat.” I replied in a somewhat muffled voice. “Let’s switch flies.” We would continue to cast flies to this one fish… still feeding and still looking at the flies we were tossing its way. Sometimes the fish would nudge the dry with its nose, more times than I’d like to count, it would take a fly right next to Bill’s. On other presentations, it would stop an inch or two short of the dry and then retreat to the shadows. By now, Mike had put up his rod and just stood watching us stalk this one fish. The sun was setting and I was down to my last options… “I’ve got one combination that we haven’t tried yet… this might be our last shot.” Bill placed a nice cast 4 feet up river from the fish. The three of us anxiously watched the dropper sink and the dry fly float a foot off the bank where the fish was suspended. The fish moved towards the dropper and then darted straight up towards the dry. There was as splash on top and I yelled“Set!”as the fish5 lucky 13 closed its mouth on the fly. The line went tight and the fish was hooked… the three of us let out a scream and were exchanging high fives and hugs while the fish was still on the line. We gained our composure quick enough to net the fish, snap a couple of pictures and release it. Bill had completed his grand slam.

Sometimes, the grand slam comes quick… I’ve had a client catch all four species of trout in the first hour of fishing and then exclaim “Wow! That was easy… you made it sound like it was tough.” Sometimes, despite my best efforts, clients have left empty handed… wondering what a Cutthroat actually looks like. On other days, the pursuit of the grand slam takes you to the limit… today was that day… as I counted the combinations of flies that we used, No. 13 turned out to be lucky after all.IMGP1394


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