Outdoor Writers Visit Falcon's Ledge

By September 11, 2013 No Comments

flyfishing, orvis, utah fly fishing Dan with a nice brown.[/caption] Fly fishing guides should always remember that it can be intimidating for a novice to ply his craft under the nose of a professional.  Most of us have noticed that some clients, or even just new fishing buddies, will begin the day feeling a little nervous about fishing with a so-called “pro” guide.  On the other hand, when a trout bum sits at his laptop preparing to write a blog post about guiding professional outdoor writers, the roles are suddenly reversed. In August, it was my pleasure, along with head guide Spencer Higa, to introduce two such professional writers, Dan Nelson and Kelly Bastone to a couple of our best rivers in Eastern Utah.  The pair, was joined by Donna Meshke and Tom Rosenbauer, Orvis’ in-house legend who edited The Orvis News for a decade and has more than 10 fly fishing books in print or in the works.  Even as I type, I’m scared to think how bad my literary back cast is looking. At breakfast on the first day we talked over goals and preferences for the trip.  Having caught a four-species Grand Slam at Falcon’s Ledge the year before, Tom asked his friends if there was any trout species that any of them had yet to check off the fish bucket list.  Donna confessed that she hadn’t yet landed a brown. [caption id="attachment_2572" align="alignright" width="371"]image Kelly with a beautiful brook trout.[/caption] Day one was spent tip-flicking dry flies to a blend of cooperative trout species on a smaller mountain stream.  Both Dan and Kelly ended the day just a cutthroat away from a Grand Slam.  Tom used his considerable fish mojo to conjure a very long brown from a most unlikely piece of ankle-deep riffle.  It was a terrific day, but though she had landed quite a few rainbows and brookies, Donna was still due that first brown trout. With Donna’s brown in mind, we decided to spend the second day on probably the best brown trout river I’ve ever fished.  Due to its clear flow and great dry fly sight-casting opportunities to huge browns, we like to call this river “little New Zealand”; it’s the guides’ favorite.  Though the rewards are great, fishing this stretch of river can come with a high level of difficulty.  The crystal water means that while you can often see the hefty browns finning beneath the surface, they are likewise likely to see any movement you make.  Seeing, stalking, and strategizing is the order of operations.  In many ways it can feel more like hunting than fishing. As we arrived at the river there were no consistently rising fish so we rigged for nymph work.  While Donna and I ran drifts around a long bend Dan went downriver with Spencer, and Tom worked his way upstream.  Tom, the solo artist, landed and lost a few nice fish on a simple and very clean PMD nymph that he had put together the night before.  Fishing from a high ledge bank, Dan was drifting a dry and dropper over a big active square-tail when another one came unseen from the depths and jumped his drift, ignoring the dropper and engulfing the bushy stimulator.  Responding to the pursuant “Woot!” of the men downstream, I ran down the bank and pulled out my camera just in time to capture Spencer executing a perfect ninja-roll, net in hand, to get up onto the high bank and follow the trout down the river. [caption id="attachment_2566" align="aligncenter" width="560"]ninjaroll1 Ninja roll[/caption] After releasing the fish we all gathered on the high bank and scanned the water.  Every angler there was skilled at seeing fish so it wasn’t hard to find the big brown working just below a patch of moss.  It was Donna’s turn.  Flanked by the two guides, she crept closer to the edge of bank and peered down, while the others remained further back to minimize the risk of spooking the big feeding trout.  Kneeling, I rested my cheek against the end of the long wooden net handle as I watched accurate casts lead to smooth drifts, but Donna’s inaugural brown wouldn’t come easy.  The four-man peanut gallery gave an occasional suggestion, compliment or word of support, and we reminded her that this was not gimme fishing; Little New Zealand requires skill and lots of patience.  Tom put it best when he noted that in terms of trout fishing difficulty, this was “Ph.D.-level” stuff.  I had to laugh at the two-edged sword of casting under the watchful eyes of not just Dan, her usual fishing partner, but two guides for the river, and Fly Rod and Reel’s 2011 Angler of the year!  It had to be one of the best support groups ever assembled for a single angler targeting a single fish. [caption id="attachment_2567" align="aligncenter" width="538"]guides Tom, Spencer and Tim watch as Donna casts to a brown. Photo courtesy of Dan A. Nelson[/caption] We moved through several changes to dry and dropper as looks, follows, and almost-takes were accompanied by “oooooOOOOH….Oh, man!” from Donna’s entourage.  Finally the stars aligned.  Another lovely loop unfurled the leader and fly softly onto the flat water upstream of the target.  As flies drifted into his cone of vision, the fish rose determinedly through the water column and this time closed its kyped jaws over the fly.  Donna struck, and energy instantly filled the river as well as the bank above. [caption id="attachment_2568" align="aligncenter" width="553"]IMG_8882 Donna hooks up on her first brown.[/caption] Experienced as she was, Donna did everything right, keeping the rod high and bent as she moved a few paces downstream, playing the fish, and eventually leading it to where I was waiting in the calmer water below her.  She turned its head toward me and the bank once more and allowed me to scoop it from the water.  Donna’s first ever brown trout was landed. [caption id="attachment_2570" align="aligncenter" width="614"]IMG_8978 Donna is rewarded with her persistence.[/caption] As Donna admired it, Spencer shot photos of the big beautiful fish with its broad pectoral fins, deep silvery-gold body and perfect little kype, and we guessed aloud on which side of 20 inches it would measure if taped.  Finally, Donna lowered the brown back into water and after a moment of gaining oxygen and equilibrium, its flicked its tail and glided back to its home. [caption id="attachment_2571" align="aligncenter" width="608"]IMG_8982 Donna’s brown being released.[/caption] The whole group shared congratulations and I asked Donna if she realized that her first-ever brown was bigger than most fishermen’s biggest-ever brown.  Inwardly I wondered whether we had ruined her for future brown trout fishing. No.  She knows where they live now, and hopefully we’ll see her here again. Either way, you never forget your first. Written by Tim Johsnon  ]]>

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