Last evening when I stepped into the South Branch of the Raritan River the bright green, newly emerged canopy hung over the water and provided shade for the first time this spring. A light breeze carried warm air perfumed by nearby lilacs and other flowering shrubs. Through gaps in the trees above, I could see bluebird skies mottled with white puffy clouds lit by the late day sun. It was the perfect evening to be wading a trout stream; I'm not sure if I could dream a more pleasant slice of a day.
(Click on photos to enlarge)
I replaced my tippet with a new, 2-foot section of 6X, and tied on a size 14, pheasant tail soft hackle that I intended to fish dry. Once in position, I knelt low on the rocky bank and watched the fish rise several more times in order to get into sync with my quarry. My first two casts were short, but soft enough that they didn't alarm the fish. I had no idea how large it was, nor did I care; it's feeding position and the difficulty that presented, was all that mattered.
The third cast dropped above the fish before drifting over it, but was ignored. I let the fly drift far below the fish before lifting my rod and beginning to cast again. The next cast, the fly lit down at the end of my serpentine leader just where I wanted it to. It then drifted about a foot or so before the trout's buttery lower jaw lifted through the thin line and took my offering. I set the hook firmly, and what I now realized was a monster brown, bolted upstream and shook its head wildly. It then dove deep, shook some more, and stubbornly took line after every time I managed to wind a few feet onto the spool of my reel. After what seemed like an eternity but was likely only minutes, I netted the beautiful, male wild brown resplendent with a wide tail and scarlet spotted adipose fin.
Here's the fly the "veritable beast" took. The fly was retired immediately after our battle in deference to my encounter with one of nature's most beautiful creatures.
After carefully releasing this magnificent river giant, I gathered my wits and managed to catch several more fish on dries before calling it a night. As the sun fell below the trees and darkness swallowed the light of this wonderful day, sulphurs began hatching in waves and the trout responded accordingly, noisily sipping the little yellow insects off the water as I walked slowly down the bank. I left the fish to enjoy their banquet untroubled. They could see with what time has rendered less than useful for me in low light, which is just as well; I enjoyed my time on the river, now it was their turn.
Sharpen your hooks.