The Surprise Attack
Flies With a Story
The Story Teller:

Flies Tied By: Don Shaw, Alberto Jimeno and Peter Frailey
Story By: Don Shaw
Home: Denver, Pennsylvania

Read Don's other story on Don's Maine Flies

Now retired, Don pursues outdoor activities year-round. Fly-fishing in Florida during the winter, he heads home to PA for spring fishing and turkey hunting, before going off to Maine for a couple of weeks of landlocked salmon and brook trout fishing.  He then fishes  PA spring creeks before heading west for late August and early September.  Fall means it's back to PA for turkey hunting and trout fishing, and his active year concludes with deer hunting. It must be tough, Don, buying all those licenses!


Featured Flies:

Turck's Tarantula tied by Alberto Jimeno
Chernobyl Ant tied by Peter Frailey
Ostrich Herl Prince Nymph tied by Don Shaw


The Story:

The Surprise Attack

It was a warm autumn afternoon on a small, nameless river in British Columbia. One of those golden days that highlight the calendars of your mind. I was fishing in shorts and slowly making my way upstream, catching and releasing Westslope cutthroats every few minutes. Most of the fish were in the 12- to 15-inch range; but every once in a while Iíd nail a bigger one, but not so big that I couldnít handle it with my 6 Ĺ-ft. 3-weight rod.

The only thing disturbing my solitude was a general feeling of discomfort due to the local bear alert. The area I was fishing has one of the highest concentrations of grizzlies in North America. Guides and fishermen had already related stories to me about their recent bear confrontations. A dry year and a lack of berries had the bears on the prowl, and the guides were running into them regularly.

They said the best defense was to nail the bears between the eyes with pepper spray. They said they did that when the bears were at a distance of ten to fifteen feet. According to the guides, that would make the bears wet themselves and run away. I can tell you I would have been the one to wet myself if a grizzly came that close.

So every time there was a rustle in the leaves or a twig snapping in the woods behind me, the hair on the back of my neck would come to attention and a feeling of impending doom would come over me.

But the fishing was great and you know how that is. Fortunately, my only visitors were deer and a few black bear; and, most of the time, black bears wonít bother you. However, sometimes even the neighborís dog will bite you.

Overall, the scenery was breathtaking, the fishing good, life was great and problems of the modern world were far away. The real reasons we fish.

Two other angling buddies were spread out over the stream, probably not more than a quarter mile from me, but far enough to give each of us plenty of solitude and elbow room.

Big ugly flies, like Turckís Tarantula and the Chernobyl Ant pictured below, were taking most of the fish.



Click on the fly for larger image and recipe.

The cutts were hanging in small pockets along the bank, so I was wading up stream a few feet out in the water. I worked my way around a bend in the river and waded to the head of a foreboding-looking pool where a fast, shallow run emptied in. I cast up stream and ran the tarantula, then the ant, down the run and into the pool a number of times with no response, so I decided to go deep and tied on a Prince nymph with a small split-shot above it. 

(Peter's note: The Prince is also known as the Brown Forked Tail.  There is a version called the Black Forked Tail which is made with black ostrich herl and black biots.  Don's variation combines features of both and is pictured below.)

Click on the fly for a larger image and recipe.

Iím a firm believer that inviting-looking pools, where you get no hits, are often the home territory of big fish. So, I just kept drifting the nymph through the fast water and through the dark of the pool. Just about the time I was ready to pick up and move on, the line hesitated and made an unscheduled stop.

I lifted the rod and was fast to a fish, but not a big one. After a couple spirited runs, I coaxed the fish over to my net and could see it was a small whitefish, maybe ten inches long. I leaned over, slipped the net into the water, then all Hell broke loose. A long, dark shape, about the length of my arm, made a shark-like rush past my left leg, grabbed the whitefish and headed downstream.

It scared the Hell out of me and I said a few things that would burn the hair off a grizzly, like "Holy Dingleberries" or something like that. Line melted off my reel and the little rod looked like a shepherdís crook. This obviously wasnít a cutthroat.

The fish finally came to a stop at the foot of the pool, reluctant to leave the safety of the deeper water. Lucky for me, because there was no way I could have stopped the fish if it had it decided to leave home.

Then, the fish anchored itself there at the foot of the pool. To get below the fish, I stumbled along the stream bank, tripping over rocks, in my best imitation of a twenty-yard limp, then applied pressure to try to get the fish to move back up stream. Nothing! The fish refused to move.

I applied more pressure, tweaked the line like a guitar string and the fish began to move again, this time upstream. I wasnít so sure I was happy. Did I have the fish or did the fish have me? If the fish had decided not to move, I would still be standing in that river in British Columbia. Fortunately, the fish began sprinting around the pool like a greyhound after a rabbit. I just hung on.

After another five minutes of rod pumping excitement, I finally got the fish close enough for me to get an enlightening look. It was a bull trout. A big nasty bull trout. (Bull trout have notorious appetites and are known for their carnivorous ways. They much prefer other fish over insects.)

Now, all I had to do was figure out how to get an arm-sized fish into my midget-sized net. (Normally, I donít net large fish. I leave them in the water, slide my hand down the leader and tippet and just twist the hook out of their mouths. Sometimes that results in a bent hook, but this time I was concerned about my fingers rather than the fly. A bull troutís teeth can constitute a lethal weapon.)

I took me another five minutes before I finally worked the trout in close enough to consider ending the fight. There was no way I could get more than half the fish in the net, but figured I could use my forceps, reach into the water, grab the fly and release the fish before it could make a meal out of my hand.

As the fish swung across in front of me, I slipped the net into the water, tucked the rod under my arm and reached down with the forceps. Just as I began to feel for the fly, that big, nasty bull trout just opened its mouth, spit out the whitefish and swam slowly away.

I NEVER HAD THAT FISH HOOKED. Throughout the entire fight, the bull trout had just been hanging on to the whitefish refusing to release it to me and my little, sissy rod. Turns out that grizzly bears arenít the only carnivores in British Columbia. Does this mean I now have to tie ten-inch flies and use pepper spray on the fish?

--Don Shaw


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