So, here at the office we are anxiously anticipating Spring and the return of optimal fishing conditions. While organizing some files on my new computer the other day I came across all of the photos from Ryan's Big, Big, Big, Brown...and thought I'd pass the account along to all of you.
It was Good Friday, April 22, 2011, at approximately 8:30 p.m. Ryan and I were each in our respective offices, busy at it, when I heard a knock on my door. It was no surprise that it was Ryan and he had a look in his eye that meant only one thing...fishing. "What do you think about floating?" I was already out of my chair and headed to change before he had mentioned any river, because any river would have done at that point. Luckily the boat is parked next to the office, and we were on the road in less than an hour.
There was a bit of snow along the road in town, and a little more as we headed over the pass toward Livingston. I fired up the Flip Cam and took a few shots of the ominous looking clouds that guarded the Paradise Valley, directly where we were headed. I normally don't mind the weather when I'm fishing, in fact, I hardly notice it. But I will say that I dread bad weather on the Yellowstone. It can be trouble, and it's no secret that Lucy resides just downriver in Livingston, and will show up at any time. But Ryan and I drove to the put-in and things were calm for the rest of the day...well, at least the weather was calm, little did we know that we were just a few hours away from screaming like schoolgirls at a Bieber concert.
The trip started off as usual with a few smaller fish on nymphs. If I remember correctly the fishing was slow so we decided that if it was slow anyways, we may as well throw streamers and try to catch something big. The past week I had been tying some big flies. These included some articulated 2 x size 2 streamers of orange, yellow, and brown that I had hoped would resemble a passing 4" brown trout. I never expected to catch a thing on them, but they looked funky. I also tied a few behemoths in black, tan, olive, etc. The usual suspects of colors. Ryan and I took turns on the oars while the other pounded the banks with a 9' 8 wt. rod that I had broken the tip off of. I referred to it as my 8'8" 8.8 wt. That rod feels like a telephone pole but you can throw a streamer from Emigrant to Pray with one false cast with that thing. As we pounded the banks I'm sure the conversation varied with topics such as how to mount stereo speakers in the boat, what float we should have gone on, how many fish we'd be catching if we were on the Madison, etc. It was a calm day, and a good chance for Ryan and I to recharge our batteries. Then, I hooked a fish.
He was right on the bank as many fish are in that river. I brought him to the net and was proud of my orange-yellow-brown craziness that had fooled this 17 incher. He was a pretty fish, and I was happy to jump on the oars after that and row the rest of the way. Ryan and I switched spots. I rowed us away from the bank while Ryan made a couple of false casts. Ryan let the streamer splash down near the opposite bank, made a strip or two, then snagged a log...or so I thought.
Ryan's "log" screamed downriver. Expletives poured from Ryan's mouth at a greater rate (in cfs) than the Yellowstone has ever been. The reel's throat had instantly worn out and was reduced from screaming to a sharp hum. I was frozen and was merely watching the events unfold as if they were on T.V. Awakening, I spun the boat and headed back for the bank. Ryan was the first out of the boat. I was kicking down the anchor while Ryan screamed "GET THE NET!"... Wait, let me correct that... "GET THE &#$%!*@ NET!" I bailed out with the newly named net and headed downstream after Ryan. Don't ask my why we didn't stay in the boat. I have no clue.
I sprinted downriver as fast as I could. I paid no attention to Ryan, his line, or his fish. My plan was to get downriver fast...as fast as my Korker wading boots, which were falling apart only months after buying them, would carry me over the rocks. (Dear Korker, It's the truth. Send me two new pair and I'll omit your name. I wear an 11. Love, Sky) Before I knew it I was 60 yards downriver and could hear Ryan using the net's new name for my new name. Apparently I had gone too far. I turned to see Ryan's line entering the water about 30 yards down from where he was walking...towards me. The fish was still mid-river, but I could see Ryan trying to turn him my way, and Ryan was gaining ground. I waited for them to come to me a bit. The fish inched closer to our side of the river, and was now out of the fastest of the water. As I jumped in the river I could see Ryan's line entering the water 20 yards upriver, and Ryan was getting closer to the fish, and closer to me. I walked out twenty feet from the bank in 3 feet of water, and then I saw it. 10 yards upriver, in the slower water, facing upstream...a big brown. I dipped the net in the water, scooped it under the fish, and lifted. I expected to see a monster in the net, but it was empty. How could I have missed! Before Ryan could express his displeasure I dipped again, scooped up the fish with perfect netting technique (riiight.), and the fish was ours. We sprinted upstream back to the boat without even looking at the fish. The camera was the only thing on our minds. I handed the net to Ryan, grabbed the boat cam, pushed power, and my heart sank. "Charge Battery" flashed on the screen. Of course it would do that. I grabbed my phone, which as it turned out took better pictures that the boat cam anyways, and here you have it. Ryan's Big, Big, Big Brown. 26 inches, fat, hook-jawed, and one heck of a good time.
As we approach the one year anniversary of that fish I can't help but hope that a reunion is in order.