Photos By: Jamie Keown
Fishing small streams has always been a passion of mine. My earliest trout fishing experiences were with my pops fishing those little gems. He’d wake me up early on a Saturday and we would drive an hour or so north and explore different small freestone streams until darkness finally ran us back to civilization. My teenage years saw pop’s desire to fish start to dwindle, while mine grew to levels probably not normal in most teens. During that time the size of the fish made no difference in my mind. It was locating some of those streams, putting in the miles, and imagining that you were the first to set eyes on a particular stream that were my driving force. Ralph Waldo Emerson Said “Do not go where the path my lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail”. While I didn’t know that quote at the time, I was most definitely living by his words.
Somewhere between then and now my views changed. Not in my desire to fish smaller streams but somewhere along the way I began to seek out the larger brothers of those residents that inhabit the blue lines on the map. Chasing larger fish will inevitably take you to larger streams and tailwaters where the ecosystem is much more capable of growing larger fish. I’ve made it a point along the way to never forget my roots and I frequently find myself headed north, in pursuit of solitude and clean mountain air.
It’s on these same trips that I often find myself thinking while fishing some small blue line, what it would take for a small stream to produce a “trophy” sized fish. Competition in small streams is fierce and most small streams in my neck of the woods are what you would consider infertile. Simply put, they only produce enough food for the fish to eke out a meager existence and the odds of a fish growing to trophy size are about the same as you winning the lottery. Even with the odds stacked against trout in small streams, I’m not naïve. These hardy fish beat the odds more often than we take notice and I was reminded of that the other day when fishing one of my favorite small streams with our pal Kyle (better known as KPV).
This small stream is unusual in the fact that it is managed as a brown trout fishery. No stockings take place and the fishing is limited to artificial lures only. It has also undergone extensive in-stream improvements thanks in part to the efforts of Trout Unlimited and the USFS. We decided over beers the night before that we owed this little gem a visit and that it had been too long since our last one. We ended up burning the midnight oil so to speak and although we were up early the next morning we decided it was best to get our ratios right and enjoy an afternoon session. The weather for the day was awesome and the catching equally as good. We caught fish in almost every spot we fished and it was somewhere midway through the evening that I came up to a run that we frequently pass over. It’s a nice run with log placed along the far bank by TU and the USFS providing cover and a nice feeding lane; but having fished it on previous occasions it seemed to be void of life. The dry dropper bite had been on fire that day and I decided with KPV downstream that I would it give it a go while waiting for him to catch up. On the third cast a large shadow streaked from underneath the log and inhaled the dropper. I set the hook to what I can only guess was around a 16-17 inch brown trout; his body slender from a lack of food and his head disproportionally large for his body size. I shouted for assistance and being that nets are not common practice for fish in the 8 inch range, neither one of us had one. As I fought the fish KPV made his way up to the run and he gave one valiant attempt at grabbing the fish before she spit the hook. We both sat in amazement of what we had just witnessed, as that fish was a true trophy for that stream. I don’t have any proof of the fish’s existence and I guess it may be considered another fisherman’s tale. My question of what lies beneath was definitely answered and you can bet that the small streams around my house will definitely see more action this fall.