Tiger trout, photo by Terry Miller

by Scott Sadil

It’s a pretty good session.

Joe Kelly and I are scooting about on our SUPs (stand up paddleboards), enjoying the cool air above the surface of Horseshoe Lake, tucked up on a shoulder of Mount Adams, plucking out trout here and there.

I’ve got on a small damselfly nymph, with a fairly big version of my Wild Hare trailing behind it, a pattern that looks close enough to the emerging stage of any mayfly, but certainly the Callibaetis mayflies which I see spinning here and there against the backdrop of blue sky and the shrinking yet still impressive glacier spilling dramatically down the northwest face of the dormant volcano.

Mt. Adams, Horseshore Lake

The cutthroat are lovely, bigger than I expected.  The rainbows less so—and then a foot-long brown trout offers concrete evidence that there’s always a chance to hook a big fish, one of those brutes lurking who knows where, a piscivorous beast that keeps the other trout on edge.

And then, what do you know, I hook something heavy that immediately goes deep and turns and heads across the lake.  My little Scientific Angler 456 reel, the kind I used to buy for less than forty bucks apiece on eBay, makes a terrible racket, a lot like the old manual coffee grinder I once took camping, while my fly line disappears and the backing knot rattles through the guides.

“What’s going on over there?” Joe calls from across the water.

Then the line goes slack.  Fish gone.  I reel in.  Both flies are still where they belong.  

At least I didn’t break it off—whatever it was.

A while later, we paddle past a point where a dad and a kid are fishing, their bobber just offshore.  Joe doesn’t notice the line until I say something; he reverses direction, apologizes.  When we swing to the other side of the point, Joe spots a big fish tight to shore.

Tiger trout, photo by Terry Miller

“Right here!” he hollers, pointing for the dad and kid to see.

The kid comes over, throws out his line, and immediately hooks the fish.

“Hold on!” shouts his dad.

“Can you believe it?” says Joe.

It’s a real tussle.  When the dad helps the kid finally drag the fish up onto shore, Joe calls out and asks what it is.