Sunshine and Sculpins

Press play and ride along with me…



It’s been a long winter where I’m from.  Spring has taken its sweet time getting here and the cabin fever has been maddening to say the least.  Let’s not forget we started our winter being snowed into our houses for a week. Fishing options have been very limited because it was subzero for two months straight and there was 4′ of snow lining the trout streams.  I had a few trips planned to Virginia to chase muskies with my southern muskie brothers that got cancelled due to the cold temps.  So it’s been a rough go. So the past few week have been filled with impromptu fishing trips in hopes of reliving that rush. We have had a slow thaw and water temps have been staying cold hovering around 34 and 35 degrees. It’s a hard sell to get a trout to chase a streamer when it’s that cold but we had some flashes and tugs but the first three trips were a blank.


I love the spring. The steel head streams attract most of the fisherman and the trout streams up until opening day are generally angler free. This is some of my favorite times to target larger trout. I’m a firm believer that the biggest fish in any body of water is still the biggest fish and it takes the same amount of dedication to hunt these apex fish whether they are 50″ or 15″. This hunt is what has consumed me as an angler. After I read the post on here Go Small or Go Home I decided to take a different approach on my next trip.


One of my favorite dudes to fish streamers with is my buddy Nate. We have gone all over together and I just fish better with him, he pushes me to fish hard and not get lazy. We get in the car and he asks where I wanted to fish and I just shrugged my shoulders. I had no plan. That’s another nice part of fishing with Nate is that he always has a plan. I trust his instincts, he’s one of the best all-around streamer fisherman I know. As a matter of fact, I don’t think I’ve ever fished anything else with him. So as we are driving he mentions a stream that I grew up by and asked what I thought. I had always heard of big fish being caught there but I had never had good luck when I fished it and it just wasn’t really on my regular rotation of spots. We pulled up to the side of the road to an access point and it was a spot I had driven by hundreds of times in my life and every time thought that I should stop and fish but never did.

We step into the water and start our quest. We have a pretty good system for covering the water and without even a word we just start in on our normal routine. About an hour in without a sighting of a fish we meet up at this pool that looks real greasy. I’m standing there with the trout whistle doing what I do and talking to Nate and I tell him to fish the pool and I’ll sit back and take pictures. He insists on me fishing it, he was going to hike down to the next one. A few more blasts off the whistle and I was in the zone. I started in the head of the pool methodically covering the water. I am hungry for a fish at this point. I have a Pat Cohen black deer hair sculpin on and this thing looks lethal in the water. Every time it comes into view I just expect a big fish to hammer it. I’m fishing the dominant bank and in the back of my mind JC’s words are echoing “After about 2,000 cast to the dominant bank with no result with the soft water” so I move down into the tail of the pool and cast to the soft side and start a slow swing strip into the deeper part of the tail-out. I can see the fly wiggling around and the bunny strip flapping around in the current and then all I saw was head and mouth. Strip set and it was on! Savage take! I yell for Nate downstream but he doesn’t hear me. I land the fish, it is one of the prettiest fish I’ve ever landed, take a few pictures lay it next to the rod for scale and release it. I’m on the board for 2015 and with a truly special fish.


A few hours later we take a drive down stream to some other water that we both were familiar with. When we arrived I went downstream and Nate went upstream. After few blasts off the whistle and breaking my fly off on a tree I started walking upstream to find Nate. I come around the bend and Nate is knelt next to the water washing his waders off and looks up and yells “You have got to be fucking kidding me!” I’m puzzled and he continues, “I just released one of the biggest trout I’ve ever caught!” and I wasn’t there to take a good picture of it. He was pretty worked up over this fish and when he showed me the picture on his IPhone it looked big but glare and my blurry vision at the time didn’t really allow me a good grasp on just how big this fish actually was. He sent it to me later that night in hopes I could edit it up decent on Photoshop.

photo 2


All in all it was a awesome day with a great friend and we encountered two fish that were trophy class fish in the stream they came from. The pursuit is the reward for me, the fish are just a bonus.

By Justin Damude


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