Don’t get yourself caught in a tight spot!

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Photo by Louis Cahill

Photo by Louis Cahill

By Justin Pickett

“My mouth spewed with expletives. My buddy’s face was blank. I knew that it was the result of several poor decisions.”

Recently, I headed up north with a great friend of mine to fish a small stream in north Georgia. Over the past couple of years this destination had become one of our favorite pieces of water. The main reasons being the number of large brown trout found there, and how it seemed one of us would hook up with one these large residents every time we wet a line in its waters.

That Spring day was perfect. Cool temps. Cloudy skies. The water was just a bit stained from the rain the night prior.

We headed straight for the section of stream where, historically, we’ve had the best luck hooking up with some nice brown trout. Fishing our way up through this section, we were coming up empty handed. Only a couple of eager rainbows had bent our rods during the first couple of hours.

We typically fish together with alternating casts and different rigs. This has always proven successful, but today I decided to depart from our usual method and jump ahead of my fishing buddy. Straying further upstream, I figured we’d just holler at each other should we need help with something.

I approached a run that just looked fishy as hell. A shallow section of water dumped into a deep bucket and then cut under the far bank, which was lined with rhododendrons. At the tail of the run a tree branched out over the water providing shade and cover. It had trophy trout sanctuary written all over it.

My euro-rig that day consisted of a #6 black stonefly nymph, trailed by a #6 Vladi worm, and I had them tied to 3x and 4x fluoro tippet respectively. To say, I have confidence in this tandem on days where the water is stained, is an understatement.

On the second drift through the meat of this run, my rod translated a solid thump in the line.

I lifted the rod tip and set the hook hard, and immediately I can feel the head shakes thrashing side to side. I know this trout is sizable, but I’ve not seen hide nor scale during the first thirty seconds of the fight. It’s doing its best to stay under the bank and in the relative safety of the current.

Finally, it makes a move downstream and I catch a glimpse of this huge, beautifully colored, male brown trout as it zips through the tail of the run. Instantly, I realized that I had made a big mistake. I just let this stream boss, take the fight downstream and into really tight quarters, and he wouldn’t be sweet talked back upstream despite my best efforts. About that time, I hear my buddy walking up behind me.

“You hooked up?”

“Yes!” I exclaim, “Gonna need some help!”

The next move we made would turn out to be detrimental to our efforts to land this fish.

“Jump in and get the net on him!” I hollered at my buddy.

Big mistake. So now we have a small stream with a tight canopy, two anglers (one with a 10ft rod, and the other with a net), and a big, frantic trout darting around in an attempt to escape.

We quickly tried a few “tactics” in order to safely net this brown, but to no avail. We probably looked like idiots. In fact, I know we did and I’m glad no one else was watching! Several times the trout should have been lost, but somehow managed to stay hooked up, including one instance where this brown literally swam through my legs and tangled my fly line on my boot.

I’m telling you, I felt like part of a circus act.

Even with everything falling to pieces, we soon found ourselves in a calm piece of water with a chance to net this fish. My fishing partner dipped the net under its kyped jaw and I thought for sure that this fiasco would be over…. But this brown was determined to have the final laugh. At just the perfect moment, and in an act of sheer determination, this big boy flipped his tail, catapulting his head out of the net, his weight causing the net to flip over completely.

As he slipped back into the water, the leader tangled in my partner’s boot, snapping the tippet and he shot off into the current and was gone. My mouth spewed with expletives. My buddy’s face was blank. I knew that it was the result of several poor decisions that I made during the fight.

I should have never let that fish get downstream of me. Downstream was no good in that situation and I knew that. The stream is narrow (literally only 10ft across in some places) and the canopy is thick and tight. I was too worried about the fish itself, its size and species, instead of worrying about landing the fish.

I MIGHT have been able to recover from that mistake eventually, but the moment I told my partner to step into the water with me, I was DOOMED. One angler and one fish in a tight spot is enough trouble. Add another person with a net into the mix and it can get downright dicey. In this scenario it cost us the chance at landing a great fish. We knew better. We were so caught up in the size of that fish that we threw everything we knew out the window.

When you’re fishing tight spots, take a look around you and come up with a plan of attack ahead of time.

Know your limits, and where the trouble lies. Keep an eye out for those pesky tree limbs, submerged debris, and other obstacles that can trip you up while trying to fight a fish. If you’re fishing with a partner, communicate the plan, should you hook into a fish that gives you a little trouble. Don’t get yourself into a bad situation because you’re in a hurry, or you’re super excited to net a fish. The old saying rings true…. Pre-Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance!  Do this every time you hit the water and you’ll instantly increase your chances of putting fish in the net!


Justin Pickett
Gink & Gasoline
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6 thoughts on “Don’t get yourself caught in a tight spot!

  1. I have to say it…………..I will never understand having someone else net YOUR fish. If it’s going to be a fair fight, having a friend 30 ft away from you with a huge two handle net scoop a fish that simply passes him by………..doesn’t do it for me. I may not be the purist “dry fly or go home fly fisherman” out there, but the day someone else jumps in to net a fish for me, I quit. I’m not just mentioning it here, I see it over and over every where I read or see stories about trout. Losing fish in the end game is just as exciting as landing them. In fact, when you do lose them you pay attention to what you may have done wrong. With someone else netting a fish what you may have done wrong gets dismissed as excitement. Just my opinion. Thanks,

    • I see your point and I used to land large fish by beaching them. Doesn’t matter when catching and killing but CPR it can cause trauma to the fish. For steelies I started using a net man if one is available, purely to protect the fish,

    • My thoughts exactly. Fish landed by a second party don’t really count in my book. I’ve seen guys on the Salmon River net steelhead or salmon 50 yards downstream of the angler. Seriously?

  2. Alex, it may come to a point its more of a benefit to the fish to have some one else net as to not have to exhaust the fish to net yourself. Sometimes there is a reason people do what they do even if you don’t agree or find it necessary

  3. I’m probably wrong. Sorry, it’s just an observation of mine. Not trying to be a tool. I’m sure I don’t have as much experience catching big fish…..Trout……( nothing else matters to me) not in fresh water anyway. If I was sitting there talking over a drink, guess my question would be…………I guess he deserved to get away…..huh? Nothing wrong with that for me. I remember them too.

    Peace! Love this new found site.

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