My Buddy’s Fishing Hole

Where to find it, how to fish it, and why. | A Gray’s Sporting Journal Yarnspin.

[By Jim Mize]

MOST ARTICLES OF THIS NATURE  lead you to a famous river and point out the same 50-mile stretch that’s in every guidebook, suggesting you use one of the same 25 flies everyone always uses. But this article will guide you to a secret spot fished by only one fisherman, and it will suggest only one fly. For the sake of brevity, let’s call this Ralph’s Hole.

To find it, get a map and locate Farmville. Highway 48 runs south from Main Street and crosses the Green River 4.6 miles out of town. Cross the bridge and turn down the second dirt road on the right. Drive 0.7 mile to the end and park, trying not to hit that big oak tree on your right. On a weekday, try to arrive by 4:30 in the afternoon, because Ralph gets off at 5.

Forget about the big open trail that leads upriver to your left. Instead, look for an almost invisible path that heads off into the brush behind that big oak. That hidden trail’s why the hole gets so little pressure, except for Ralph. All the brush by the road makes it look inaccessible.

After a short walk down the hillside, you’ll arrive at a long pool. This is Ralph’s Hole. With all the shade from the tree canopy, you can go a little heavy on your leader, maybe eight feet and about 4X tippet, preferably fluorocarbon. No, better make it 3X, because you’ll be fishing a large fly. I suggest an olive Butt Monkey, size 2.

At the bottom of the hole, on the far bank, you’ll see a log dropping into the river at a slight angle, an old beech that has lost all its branches. Otherwise, you couldn’t get a fly near it without hanging up.

Look closely, just where the trunk comes off the bank, and you’ll see a little eddy that swirls against the bank before the water eases under the log and heads downstream. On the edge of that eddy, underneath the log, hides a brown trout Ralph has been trying to catch for about three years. It likes big flies, and I know Ralph has never tried a Butt Monkey, so one of those might just fool the old codger.

When you cast, aim for the eddy and coax the streamer along the trunk in short spasms. If that doesn’t work, try drifting the fly back under the log and giving it a short panicky jerk or two.

When the brown hits, keep him on your side of the log and lead him upriver. Also, be careful to guide him away from that far bank. You can’t see it very well, but about a third of the way up the hole there’s a big root protruding from the bank. The old brown likes to run behind that root and pop your leader. He’s done it to Ralph twice that I know of.

Take your time and let him wear himself down, as long as he stays out in the middle. He tends to circle the hole when hooked, but don’t let him circle behind that root.

You should have a big net and know how to use it. Don’t lunge when you bring him in, because he’s probably saved a little kick in case he sees an opening. Simply glide him over the net’s lip, drop his head, and lift.

At this point, be sure to take a good picture, because the Farmville Times will want to run it in the Sunday Sports section. And then—this next part is important—don’t release him.

You’re allowed one trophy fish—over 18 inches—per day, and this old bruiser is well past that. If the fish you catch is close to 18 inches, you’ve got the wrong one, so let that one go and keep fishing.

Next, put the fish on ice and head back up Highway 48 to the edge of town. There’ll be a tackle shop and pub called the Rusty Hook. Go in there and weigh your fish. I’m guessing about eight pounds, give or take.

At this point, the owner, a portly fellow with a limp, will offer to take your picture with the fish for his bragging board. Hold the brown well out in front of you to embellish its size. That photo will remain on the board for all to see for years, which is the whole point.

After the photo session, it’s customary to take the big ones into the bar and show them off. You likely won’t have to buy a beer the rest of the night. Those guys know that a well-lubricated fisherman is more likely to let information slip.

If you dole out the information a piece at a time, you can turn it into quite a few rounds. I’d recommend you tell them not only what fly you fished, but also exactly where. There are two reasons for this. First, you already caught the biggest fish in that hole. There aren’t two of them. Second, you’re fishermen, and fishermen expect you to lie, so nothing you say will be believed. I mean, who tells where they catch a fish that big, much less what they caught it on?

 If the fish you catch is close to 18 inches, you’ve got the wrong one, so let that one go and keep fishing.

Now, there’s a chance one of the fishermen in the pub will switch to something more potent than beer and begin ordering doubles for himself. That would be Ralph. He alone will know the truth behind the directions, the fly, the techniques, and the stories of how the fish fought. If you want to spice up the story a bit, throw in the part where you held the big brown away from that hidden root.

Last, if you’ve ever wanted to have a fish mounted, this unique old fish is the one. It’s the sort of fish a guy could become obsessed with, hiding it from all his partners, except for the one who followed him down that trail and hid in the woods while he fished that hole.

If Ralph should read this article, maybe the next time you find yourself in the good fortune to be given a bottle of Dry Fly Washington Wheat Whiskey, you might reconsider sharing it with one of your normally tight-lipped fishing buddies. Those other guys who helped you knock it off in one night have a tendency to talk down at the Rusty Hook, and word gets around. Sort of the way it can get around about a fellow’s secret hole and its giant trout.

So if it ever happens again, you might get to read another article about a secret fishing hole involving a pool beneath a lightning-struck old hemlock where another good fish has been passing the years. You know the one I’m talking about.

Not that I’m bitter about the whiskey. I’m just saying you should be more careful who you drink it with.

I’m just saying.

Jim Mize’s latest book of fly fishing humor, A Creek Trickles Through It, is available from