By: Pat Pawlowski
Many years back when in my twenties I went with a few regulars from Creative Sports up to Hank Lawson’s Ranch for some serious fishing. The guys who hung around Andy’s shop were well seasoned skilled fly fishers. I was the new guy but I had been tying flies and fishing since I was ten. I could catch fish, usually on purpose. I really got lucky though, finding this shop and these great people. Best of all I got lucky in meeting Andy Puyans. Creative Sports was his shop and he led the group.
We all went up to Sand Point Idaho to stay at Lawson’s. From there we could explore out to several excellent waters and then I got really lucky. A couple of us went out to the Henry’s Fork. Big water, Big Fish and Andy was keeping an eye on me. We walked a low ridge over a nice easy bend. Andy said to keep an eye out for good rises. It seemed odd as there were rises almost everywhere. He instructed, not just rises but the big soft rings and best, a snout. After several yards along the ridge I stopped, Like that I said. Just like that. I watched for a couple minutes and said I think I see a bump in the ring. With that Andy again instructed. OK, now another 20-30 feet over and ease down to the water but sit down and go in to get your footing. First though, think.
Before I went down to the water he reminded me; you’re going for a specific fish, line him up from where I am currently standing, and get below him, wade out just a few feet past the seam that he’s in so your cast does not come up over him and you get a few feet of good drift, watch from his last rise and time he rises again so when your cast is out the fly drops a few feet ahead just as you expect the next rise. Then he gave me a specific fly. He said remember we dipped to see what was bringing fish up. This guy is big but going for tiny bugs because they are the most numerous. The midge was tiny. Maybe a 24 or smaller and I had never tried anything under an 18. He said tie it on here first. Then he said go find your target, set your distance and drop it on the plate.
Well, I slid on down, noticed the seam just a few feet out from the bank and waded about three feet further out and thirty five or so feet below. I pulled out some line and stretched it out of habit. I watched for several minutes timing the rise and making sure to focus on that snout. I cast back then along side the seam to check my distance and feeling good with it cast again for timing and dropped the fly to the right, exactly where and when I wanted it. I was exhilarated with the best cast I had ever made. Right on cue the fish came up sipped the fly and dipped back down. I dipped my rod just a bit and lifted the tip. Man, what a rush. The fish came back up half way out of the water shaking and pulled further right and down. Waking out of my serious focus that had got me there I excitedly whooped and pulled my rod way up high and back pulling the tiny fly out as the big fish pulled and tail walked off and back into the water. Wow, shit but wow. I had gotten so excited I about ripped the lip off that big fish. Andy was watching.
It took a while to calm down. I was disappointed but mostly I was thrilled to have deliberately planned and presented to an educated trout the correct fly and the precise time with an excellent cast and he took it. After all the stories of the day and Andy telling everyone how the hunt went for a two foot plus fish, I was thrilled. I remember that greatest of all fish I fooled but did not land every time anytime I talk about why fly fishing and every time I hear the call Andy used to make, ‘the lamp is lit’ (time for drinks and stories of the day).
I did not land that fish. It is still the best I ever hooked. A 24-26 inch rainbow on a 24-26 size dry fly at 40 plus feet. One cast, one sip, one hook up, one that got away but well sighted, perfectly cast and right on time. Best fish ever and I did not even land him. That is one of the biggest whys when asked how come I fly fish. It is a process, a style or as Mel Krieger advised, an art. That art is etched in my mind and I am thankful for that fish that I did not land.
Pat Pawlowski, Youth and working years chasing trout around Northern California through OR,WA, ID and MT. Attended the University of San Francisco, 40 years in risk management. Youth soccer coach. Elite level weightlifting /powerlifting Highlights; tying and fishing with Andre Puyans, Fred Gomez, Mel Krieger. Family
Fishing. Retired to Minnesota sneaking up on wary browns in small spring creeks.
One thought on “Best Fish Ever”
I love that story!