The happy wife and relieved guide _ Ben Levin image
I don’t think I’ve ever needed to net a fish more.
Ben and I knew it was big, from the first huge swirl which roiled the surface, though the eat was down deep. I don’t think I willed a fish to be over the 2-foot mark more. And that was all we could do, hope and net, the rest was in my wife’s hands.
My wife Becca is a stubborn little cuss, and I say that with a mix of admiration and exasperation: She went back to college as a divorcee, pregnant and with 2 kids under 4 and got her degree, something that still astounds me. But she can hold an opinion like a pitbull on a ham bone, so it rocks both ways.
She genuinely likes to fish, which given the way our lives have turned out, is a real bonus: then she discovered streamer fishing.
Not for her the productive numbers of nymphing, nor really the elegant entertainment of the dry fly. No my wife wanted to chase trophy brown trout with big flies, physically and mentally the hardest game on our river and indeed one of the hardest ways to brown trout fish anywhere. Not only was she going to learn fly fishing, with a pretty limited background of any type of rod, but pretty much learn fly fishing the biggest and baddest way possible.
She took to casting and stripping the fly remarkably well for a relative beginner to fly fishing. Since she has a teacher’s schedule and is off when I’m busiest, our fishing time was snatched when we could get it. And with the lower flows of the last few years that time was cutback further with her outright refusal to fish a bobber.
Understandably there were growing pains: Learning to cast sinking lines and heavy rods all days isn’t easy, let along underprepared going into it, but she learnt to with a Galloup Articulated Fathead zooming past her head and graduated up the ranks to now fishing my Method 8wt, a Rio Outbound short and 8” Deceivers.
There were arguments and pouts along the way from both of us, it’s never easy trying to teach or trying to learn from your significant other: I was swinging between the keep quiet and let her learn at her own pace method and drill sergeant pushy. For all the good intentions some days Becca just didn’t want to hear it from me, on others would drop her bundle at the first tangle or tree.
There would be the good days, the small successes, the teener browns she could catch and land but needed a slice of luck that wasn’t coming: I still have a vivid mental image of a 27” brown coming off a tree hot and hungry for her fly below Wildcat that I knew was going to eat _ I just knew it. Apparently this fish was not the most nimble as the fly’s action outjuked it and off in a pout went a serious brown.
Weird stuff like that kept happening. Spring 14 was a breakthrough: Becca hooking and fighting a 7lb hybrid wiper, something to give her the feel of fighting a real fish. But once again this winter I don’t think she even got a shot to fish _ every time she was free the water was down.
We had a great day out in Colorado with Chris Franzen & Lando, she scored the fish of the day on a small streamer wading and famously told us “I do fine when you guys leave me alone”. Then last week Becca ran into one of those ridiculous White River browns we all want to catch and we broke it off on 15lb test at the knot after fighting it for several minutes _ and I know damn well that knot was solid. It was one of those fish that haunt you.
Sitting there watching that single tear roll down her face in the aftermath was about as bad a moment I’ve ever had on the water. But she remained undaunted and jumped at the opportunity to take the front seat with Ben Levin and I last night. Something made me the grab the oars first and while we fished for a mile or so without a look, something just felt fishy.
I don’t think I’ll every forget that first huge swirl, nor the being deep thumps I could see being transmitted through the red rod in her hands, nor the smile on her face and the little butt-wiggling dance when we had it in the net.
Yep, I’m a lucky guy