4 Leaf Clovers and 20 Inch Trout

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Photo illustration by Louis Cahill

Photo illustration by Louis Cahill

By Louis Cahill

Trophy trout are more common than you think.

The real estate crash of the mid 2000s was good for something. My buddy Dan and I were having a banner trout season in the very depths of the crash. Here in Georgia, the secret to finding big trout is to get away from public access, where the coolers get filled. Access laws here give land owners the right to keep folks off their water. We are all used to hearing that angler access is a good thing, but here in the south the lack of access is the only thing saving a couple of nice fish. With the market in total collapse, many carefully guarded stretches of water had become vacant and bank owned. Somehow, Dan had procured a list.

DSCF4927One Saturday, he and I were fishing just such a stream, the banks lined with the skeletons of unfinished spec homes and crushing fish in the mid twenty inch range. This is not common. The developers had been feeding these fish in anticipation of a big payoff that was never going to come. With the steady flow of chow interrupted, these big boys were hungry and dumb. Not necessarily “classic trout fishing,” but a hell of a lot of fun.

It was spring and the field was covered in clover. I was picking 4 leaf clovers and eating them.

“What the fuck?” Dan blurted out again and again. “How many of those have you found?”

“I don’t know, you want one? Here.”

I do have one super power. I find 4 leaf clovers. Sometimes at will. Often enough that I can make it look like a magic trick. After a few minutes Dan spoke up again.

“Oh no!”

“What’s the matter?”

“I dropped my clover.”

“Hang on…here you go. The to hang on to this one.”

“Fuck!!! How do you do that?”

Their everywhere man. Just like 20 inch trout.”

edit-4918He and I have never forgotten that conversation, and there is a lot of truth to it. There is no trick to my finding 4 leaf clovers. They really are far more common than people think, especially in early spring. They are just very good at hiding in plain sight. Having spent my life as a photographer, my eyes my be a bit more tuned in on recognizing patterns but my vision is also pretty poor. 

I think the real reason I see the clovers where others don’t is, I believe they are there.

It’s that confidence that gives me an edge. I know they exist, so I spend a minute looking for them, and there they are. I often find several within a few feet, or even inches, of each other. Statistically, a given number of clover in every patch will have four leaves, and if you look you will find them.

IMG_1039Of course, they don’t actually bring you luck, and fortunately you don’t need luck to catch trophy trout. All you need to do is believe they are there and spend a minute looking for them. I remember hearing Kelly Galloup talk about diving in the river and being shocked at how many trout over twenty inches he saw. Way more than he would have guessed were present, even having fished the river for years. I am convinced that there are trophy trout, hiding in plain sight, in many of the places we fish and never see them.

IMG_1286Better than twenty years ago, I was fishing a river in North Georgia. I was just learning to find quality fish and I had spotted a log I was convinced should hold one. I cast fly after fly to the spot I thought should hold a big fish with no action. After a while, when I was ready to give up, my nymph swung down stream and hooked a small fish. It was a sculpin. I reached to unhook him and I had a moment of weakness.


IMG_1304I cast the little guy over to the log and, BOOM! A brown trout about twenty-two inches crushed him. I’m not proud that I had to use bate to catch him, but it was a learning experience. that fish had ignored a dozen different flies. It was clear that I had to work on my technique but I never again doubted my instinct.

IMG_3456Just like spotting 4 leaf clover, as you continue to fish, and catch better fish, your brain will catalogue the spots were you found them. Just like I can still picture that log where I caught the big brown. It will become second nature and your eyes will instinctively find those places where big fish hold. All you have to do is believe and spend some time looking for them. 

Confident anglers are always the ones who find big fish.

IMGP0533Several years ago, I stopped eating 4 leaf clovers. I’ll pick one once in a while, usually to give to a kid, or my wife, but for the most part I leave them alone. Sometimes I’ll pull out my phone and take a photo to text a friend. I like 4 leaf clovers. They just make me happy because they are different. I figure, if I pick them, they aren’t successful and eventually there will be fewer of them. If I let them grow, maybe some day they will be as common as their 3 leaf brothers. It’s easy for me to find them so I have to be extra responsible.

IMG_1787I’m sure you can see where this is going. As we become more effective anglers, it’s our responsibility to be better stewards of the resource we love. I will continue to practice catch-and-release with 4 leaf clover and trout. I hope you will do the same. That’s where the real luck comes from.

Louis Cahill
Gink & Gasoline
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4 thoughts on “4 Leaf Clovers and 20 Inch Trout

  1. Mr. Cahill,
    I very much enjoyed reading your story.
    Not only was it entertaining, but it also held several meaningful messages.
    I can’t say that I’ve looked for four-leaf clovers since the days I used to play in my parent’s front yard. That being said, I’ll be sure to give a look the next time I have a chance. Catch & release of course!
    Thank you for a great read!

  2. Well done guys.I try to fish where others cant or wont.I am in a big metro area and i will not divulge hidden spots to even close friends.Being observant is a key to many endeavors .I lack that skill with people but seem to have it in abundance when away from them.I have found many a four leaf clover during my many laps around the sun.

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