An Enigmatic Trophy

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By Justin Pickett

So here I am. Streamside. Spankin’ new Epic 686 in hand.

The anticipation of tossing the first bits of feather and fur into a fishy run with this stick is more than I’ve been able to tolerate. I can’t wait to put the first trout on this glass! I barley cinched my boots down before I started my hasty march towards the water. I’ve wanted so bad to put a bend in this rod since it hit my doorstep, still just a collection of thread, glue, and fiberglass tubes. The last week has been spent working in as much time as humanly possible in order to form these materials into what I hope to be nothing less than a fish slaying saber.

Guides in place. Wraps tight. Resin cured.

It’s Go Time!

I’ve quietly staged upstream of one of my favorite runs in a small, heavily canopied, N. Georgia creek. My feet are settled on the bank as I release my fly from the frame of my reel. You guessed it. Streamer. A mix of natural, muted colors with a splash of fiery metallic used to pierce the dark waters of this overcast day. Stripping the line from my reel, I focus on the sound of the drag whizzing. I love that sound. I stare into the water as I play through my head the cast I am about to make. Tight canopy and the current is forcing a backhand presentation and it has to be on point. It has to land softly, almost on the opposite bank. I have to manage my line correctly and mend appropriately in order for the fly to swing down into the feed zone. If I want to pull the nice fish that I know lies here, I’ll have just one shot.

My mind is right. My rig is neat. The timing is right.

I relax my left hand, allowing my fly to swing away from me as I raise my rod tip. I lay the fly against the water’s surface, allowing the water’s force to pull about ten feet of line from my hands. Here we go. Loading the rod against the current, I begin my presentation. My fly disappears behind me, over my left shoulder. I’m so focused on my target, I’ve lost all of my periphery.

The rod reloads. It is prepped to transport its passenger to its destination. Next stop: Brown Town.

My right arm glides forward, beginning my forward stroke. I am poised to strike! Apply power….

“What in sam hell is”…..

My efforts have come to a screeching halt. Typically, I would probably watch my backcast in this particular situation. The banks are tight, the canopy is low and thick, and the cast must stay low. You see, had I been watching my backcast I would have realized that I, in fact, made a lackluster backcast that was terribly offline. The path of my rod tracked the fly over the water, into the soft water of the run above me. My awesome efforts to keep the fly low caused the fly to land in the water and begin to dead drift along with the current.

I immediately look over my shoulder, expecting to see my fly hung on a rock or limb. However, instead of seeing a tangled mess in a tree, I can feel a bounce in the bend in my rod and my fly line dancing above the water’s surface. In the following split second, I realize that I have managed to blindly present my fly behind me and entice a trout to eat. Well how awesome is that? It happens on occasion. The accidental hookup that occurs when we aren’t paying attention, or we fling our flies somewhere unintentionally.

As I catch a glimpse of color I see that I’m tangling with a ten, maybe twelve inch trout… and then my jaw drops.

“It’s a Tiger!,” I yelled.

I have no idea who I was yelling at. Bigfoot maybe…who, by the way, is a high-holing S.O.B. Zero etiquette!  I digress…

This was the damnedest thing. A Tiger Trout! This is a species that is a rare find in the southeast. A mutation created when a brown trout and brook trout pair up and spawn. They are sterile though, so there is no sustainable population to speak of. Many anglers hop around our freestone streams hoping to just have a run in with one someday. I’ve always wanted to be that lucky angler fortunate enough to net one. I just figured I would have to put in the time on the right water and maybe one day I’d get one.

Now here I am, kneeling on the bank with tiger stripes cradled against the basket of my net. I’m freakin’ stoked, but also a little dumbfounded that all I had to do to catch this little guy was make a shitty, no-look, backhand cast. Could this have been any more wacky and laughable? It seemed too implausible to be true. I don’t think I’ll ever really understand. Oh well, I caught a Tiger!

Justin Pickett
Gink & Gasoline
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16 thoughts on “An Enigmatic Trophy

  1. That is very cool! They sure pretty! I caught my first this month. Two days later I got another! Congrats!

  2. I can’t remember who said it but it was “Fish every cast”, even when I have a bad cast or in a kayak land the fly behind me I fish that cast. I have caught so many fish I would have missed by doing that.

  3. I can see it now in one of the Fly fishing Magazines casting tips;

    “Justin Pickett’s Shitty, No-Look Tiger Trout Backhand Cast”

    all seriousness though, congratulations on such an awesome catch.

  4. my first fish on the Deschutes river in Oregon was a 10-12″ dolly varden or, more precisely, bull trout, the only one I’ve ever caught. I can totally relate to the feeling you had, only I didn’t realise that i’d caught a somewhat rare fish at the time. thought it was a brookie of some sort! caught it on one of my “redeye” smallmouth streamers too. cool, very cool. the year of my catch (and release) was 1988, I believe.

  5. Nice! Those are such cool fish! And they put up a nice fight as well. Hit me up when you’re in CO if you want to chase some Tigers. Tight lines!!

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