Fly Fishing: Searching for That Needle in a Haystack

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Louis Cahill Photography

Fly fishing for a needle in a haystack. Photo Louis Cahill

I really enjoy catching big wild trout on a fly rod. Even more though, I enjoy the challenges that come with having to hunt them down in places where they are few and far between.

I’m talking about trout streams where there’s not supposed to be any truly big trout living there. The places where catching a 12-incher normally gets you tickled to death, and where most fly anglers, if asked, would tell you point blank, “I guarantee you there’s nothing swimming in that trout stream large enough for a grip and grin.” These are the places I like to visit on my days off from guiding. I get deep satisfaction searching for that extra special fish. The fish that’s 99% confident no fly angler thinks he or she even exists.

When I’m searching for that one in a thousand fish, it allows me to forget that I’m a guide, and for a short period, I feel completely free. It’s just me, searching for a needle in a haystack, and I’m cool if I never find it. I’m in no rush. I believe if it’s meant to be, we will meet. All I care about is focusing my attention on two things. One, that I’m bringing my best on the water at all times, just like I preach to my clients, and two, that I never lose faith that there’s an out of place trophy out there, that exists. It may seem odd, but I’ve always believed that God creates a few truly magnificent fish for every trout stream on this planet, and places them in locations where it shouldn’t be feasible for them to exist. I like to think it’s God’s way of teaching us that miracles are always possible, if we just believe.

If you’ve found yourself bored lately catching the same old fish or numb drifting your flies through water that’s far too familiar, go out and search for that needle in a haystack fish. Try learning a new technique that you’ve always put off in the past or go out and try your luck catching a new species on the fly. I guarantee if you do, you’ll be reborn. It sure seems to work for me at least.

Keep it Reel,

Come fish with us in the Bahamas!

Kent Klewein
Gink & Gasoline
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25 thoughts on “Fly Fishing: Searching for That Needle in a Haystack

  1. Awesome read! So very right about believing and having faith. A person will amaze themselves by using those two tactics, not only in fishing but anything in life! All things are possible through God who also places lunkers in tiny mysterious places. Blessings

  2. Great stuff, Kent. Some of my most memorable fly fishing moments have been hooking that unexpected fish. The rarity creates a special thrill. It is the essence of fishing.

  3. You just have to be willing to put in the time and effort to find fish like that. It may take a while, but when that trout is lying in the bottom of your net then it’s all worth it.

  4. You believe God put a few truly magnificent fish into streams that shouldn’t have them? You think it’s God’s way of showing us miracles are possible if you just believe?
    When I read fish stories, certain things that are said, just stick with me. Whether it’s strategy or spiritualism, some things just don’t leave you and you think about them as your fly swings through that hole. A certain yooper author comes to mind for unforgettable quotes and stories. Anyways…that statement you made is one of them.

      • Had to comment hear. I took my three kids on a hike a while back along the Oconaluftee in GSMP. On a whim I decided to take along my rod and a box on nymphs. We stopped to fish a pool an the first and only fish was a 17″ wild bow that they got to see. I know in my heart that God was there. He is real folks. Omnipresent.

  5. I had one of those experiences this spring when fishing on the Sixes River here in OR. I had been swinging a streamer with my spey gear and hit a fairly long stretch where the water was real low and narrow. I decided to be lazy and just drag my streamer through this 40 yard stretch rather than reel all my line in thinking there wouldn’t be any fish in this puny stretch of water. About half way through I hooked up on a pretty nice steelhead! Another reminder to “keep an open mind and the radar turned on!”

    • Jeff,

      Staying optimistic and always keeping the radar on are two very important disciplines fisherman should always uphold.

      I’d like to fish that river someday. Thanks for sharing.


  6. I just started reading G&G about a month ago, and I can’t believe I never came across it before! You guys have great postings that catch the spirit of fly fishing, so thank you for giving this to the fly fishing world. This post reminds me of an early needle in a haystack experience I had as a fly fisher. I was guiding on a stream in the Greater Yellowstone Region in WY, and at the beginning of the season I walked and waded an entire stream that I would be guiding on to get a feel for what it was like. This stream is managed as a wild rainbow fishery with an occasional brookie. But, the largest fish of the day on a 7 mile walk and wade was a brown trout! I couldn’t believe it when I brought it to net. It’s those moments that make me want to explore and pour over maps looking for the next hunch to fish. Thanks for a great blog!

    • Welcome J. Heckel,

      Glad to hear from you and that you’re enjoying G&G. We are very proud of the wonderful community of loyal readers and contributors we’ve built up, over the last couple years. We consider everyone family, all helping each other to enjoy the sport of fly fishing even more than we already do. You sound like another great addition and we’re looking forward to getting to know you. Cheers. That fishing memory of yours painted a nice picture. You’ve got to love the surprise brown when you had zero expectations of getting into any.


  7. Great read, Kent. Nice work! After a day of nymphing a small Pennsylvania limestoner last weekend, with little to show for it, I decided to try a streamer or two. this is one of those creeks where a 3wt. is all you need, full of small wild browns. after a few casts and retrieves, I hooked into a nice 20″ wild brown, that had to be the alpha in that stretch of water. A reminder to always keep it fresh, and if one style of fishing isn’t working, change it up! you never know…
    oh, and he definitely hit it on the pause between strips!

  8. Sounds like my idea of a guide’s day off… Chasing 14″ stream-bred ‘bows in a creek one could jump across… alone, not a soul for miles. No rowing tho… no rowing. well put kent!

  9. Pingback: December 13, 2013: TGIF Link Round-Up | Feather and Fin

  10. One of my favorite things is to find a smaller less crowded Great Lakes Steelhead tributary and hike far away from others to find a few fish to target. I used to do it a few times a week, but since I have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s, I have some good days and some not so good. I now have to pick and choose a few days a month to go on a venture.
    Last week I went on a mile and a half hike in the upper reaches of a stream before I found a half dozen Steelhead holding in a big bend hole with good flow going into it. After a few fly changes and added weight I hooked up with a beautiful fish that gave me a great fight. After I netted it and took a picture, I released it looked to the heavens and said thank you!
    I felt blessed until I stood up, turned to head back, tripped on a underwater tree root and fell in face first. It was a long cold walk back, but I was still basking in the warmness I felt from my little successful venture. I will keep doing it as long as I can. Fish hard, I enjoy your columns!

  11. On point! Well written and to the heart of the mattter. I love to hear this from a like minded soul. Losing (aka finding) oneself on the water is what is at the core of this thing we call fly fishing…

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