When Self-Sabotage becomes a lesson in humility (and good trout etiquette)

When Self-Sabotage becomes a lesson in humility (and good trout etiquette)

I looked into my fly-bag and shook my head in dismay. I could’ve sworn I had one more 3X leader. But as I dug through my unorganized bag of goodies, all that I could round up was some 5x… I looked at my mangled, bent, 4 feet of leader I had left. A sorry mess that surely would spook any brown. Then I though about the big browns in this stream, no more than 10 feet across in most spots, and the countless log-jams, undercut banks, and fallen trees that marked the banks. I don’t stand a chance, I thought.


Fast forward about three hours and I still haven’t caught a fish. I’ve lost 3 flies to Big Browns. And at least that many to logjams and trees. I’ve practically lost all my streamers that I could reasonably expect to catch a fish on. Despite the beautiful weather, the fish don’t seem interested in any dry flies or nymphs. I sat there in dismay and thought about all the fish I have almost caught, including 2 that appeared to be quite significant. Surely larger than any so far this season. But, for some reason, I still wasn’t that bummed. For some reason, knowing the fish were active and present, and I was very close to catching them, had me content. And it was a beautiful day. And, I still had one bright streamer that resembled the ones I had success on so far.

So yes. My chances were still very low. But they weren’t zero. And as a fly-fisherman, you”ll take any odds you can get.

Has anyone else found themselves in this predicament? That feeling when you know the fish are there, you know they are eating, you know what you should do to catch them; yet, you just know you probably won’t catch them based solely on some lack of gear or flies. Its kind of odd. Knowing that you are hours away from home, and probably hours away from the car, sitting beside a beautiful trout river you know is full of trout, with kilometers of pools you know have fish in them, yet despite this perfectly ideal set of circumstances, you know you have to get lucky to keep your day from being completely pointless (if catching trout is the point).

This was my circumstance yesterday. Feeling dumb about not having 3x line. And feeling guilty for leaving a bunch of streamers in the mouths of fish. But I had a nice pool in front of me. And I was pretty sure I could at least get close to catching another one. Hopefully it wasn’t too big.

I tied on my last good streamer, making sure the knot was extra perfect. Snuck up to the edge of the pool. Cast my fly to the far bank.

Strip. Strip. Boom!

A nice brown exploded to my fly. I curbed my enthusiasm finally, and instead of excitedly ripping out my fly and setting my hook, I properly strip set and felt the pull of a well hooked trout. I gingerly wrangled him in, guiding him away from the overhanging tree, and happily netted him. He was a pretty little brown of about 14″. Absolutely gorgeous. A great relief came over me as I admired him. The thought of three hours back without a single fish was daunting.

I released him and admired the moment for a second longer. And then, with newfound hope and my heart still racing, I went upstream a little more to the front of the pool. I cast again. On my second strip, again, I saw a Big Brown belly over. He hit softly and was able to shake the hook. But I was rejuvenated. I cast to him a few more times before moving on a bit further up. Things are heating up, I thought.

I cast again. I stripped slowly, patiently. On my last strip before reaching the bank, a truly large brown smashed the streamer, startling me as I yanked my fly and broke it off in an instant. I stood there stunned. Mad at myself, Knowing that was my chance. Also knowing I probably didn’t have a chance at landing him anyways.

I took the message from the River. I’ve fished irresponsibly for long enough; left enough streamers in the mouths of fish, in exactly the way I always tell my friends and others not too. I could keep trying. But I realize that is a waste of time, and selfish; to the Browns that I love so much and are there purely for my enjoyment.

All I could hope as I gathered my line and prepared for the hike back is that someone who actually knew what they were doing comes tomorrow, with the right gear and leaders, and catches those same browns and is able to gather those streamers from those browns.

Some people, I’ll tell ya. 😉

The one Brown I was able to wrangle in yesterday. Made it worth it though!


So, yes, I feel bad about leaving these flies in the mouths of fish purely because I didn’t have the right gear. So please don’t ridicule me. I figure it can be a good reminder reminding everyone to NOT do the same.  When your fishing small creeks, have the proper tippet and leader, and try to avoid breaking your line off. It will save you the heart break of losing great fish, and also help out our trout. The river always has a lesson to be learned; and for me, it was if your not smart enough to come prepared with the proper equipment, you don’t deserve to try. Next time, I will be back with proper tippet and a lot more fish in the net!



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