A large, dark shadow was visible in a bathtub-sized pool. The pool downstream from where I stood had produced several average-sized rainbow trout for quick release. The shadow was in a tiny pool upstream in the middle of a turbulent riffle.
The fly was a black, No. 16, stonefly nymph with a split shot pinched onto the leader 6 inches above the fly. After repositioning, a diagonal cast upstream dropped the fly several feet above the shadow, which allowed the fly to enter the pool without the line first passing over the fish.
As soon as the fly entered the pool, a strike was felt. A quick hookset and a brief struggle brought a 12-inch rainbow to the net and a quick release. This fish definitely had not created the shadow in the pool.
After allowing the pool to rest, the fly was cast again above the pool. In a repeat of the previous scenario, a strike was quick to follow, but this time it was different; it was the fish that had created the shadow. He fought valiantly but was being drawn closer to the net. He made one last run toward brush in the lower pool, and I increased the pressure to turn him. As fate would have it, the hook pulled free. I muttered to myself, “I only wanted a photo”.
The location was the North Mills River in western North Carolina, and this fish was likely a brood fish that had been released into the stream. He appeared to be at least 24 inches or better, and at one point was only feet away. The brilliant color and black dots on his scales were vivid in the light that filtered through the overhanging tree branches.
This kind of action is not uncommon if you learn to fish nymphs. It is no secret that the greatest part of a trout’s life is