That look when bigger is just, well, bigger. Photo - Chiel Robben
I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone that can sleep as much as Chiel. Lying amidst some of the best trout fishing on earth, he’d usually rouse somewhere around my third cup of coffee.
On a few occasions I even had enough time to build a fire, let it turn to coals and cook a cake or scones over those coals before he’d stick his head out of the tent. Luckily, he could fish as well as he slept.
I grew accustomed to seeing his olive Epic 686 hooped into positions contortionists would be proud of. In fact, the merits of carbon v glass would be a recurrent theme of the long walks we shared at the end of a day’s fishing. And these were fish that made you ask questions of your gear.
The classic sneaky high-stick for a laid up monster. Photo - Jack Kos
Fuelled by a seasonal influx of protein, they were the bodybuilders of the trout world. No, they weren’t going to win a sprint but the sheer dogged fights and the inability to turn a trout with a 20 inch girth in heavy current meant your gear was tested: strong hooks, stout tippet, and a fly rod with some backbone.
Over the course of three weeks we lost our share of these fights and won a couple that we shouldn’t have, one of which I’m unlikely to ever forget. It was our first night at a new camp, having just restocked after a long 4 day hike, and we decided to go out for a quick poke about for a couple of hours before dark. Two fantastic early fish had us in buoyant spirits and our day was already made. With that mindset, I was fairly relaxed approaching this fish – at least as relaxed as you can be while perched atop a tree root casting to a fish that looked substantially north of double digits, with a fallen tree just below me and a massive exposed rock mid-current just below that.
On the third cast the fish took, and I remember joking to Chiel that ‘this doesn’t have a happy ending.’ The fish naturally headed straight for the tree, but to my astonishment continued past it. I was left with no choice but to leap into the river and haul myself over the tree, with Chiel pulling from the other side. Once I caught up, the fish changed its mind and decided that after all it did quite like the look of the tree and moved upstream at that steady unstoppable pace.
And it's off the gym for you buddy. Photo - Chiel Robben
Faced with climbing back over the tree or getting to the much more secure looking other side, I chose the latter and begun wading out between tree and rock. By this point any thoughts of staying dry were long gone as the water hit my chest and the bottom started to fall away beneath me. Bracing against the current I managed to just keep my feet as I crossed. At this stage the fish was ominously close to the tree and I had as much pressure on it as I dared, when I saw a small splash next to the fish and felt it turn away from the tree. I looked up to see Chiel with a rock in his hand, which this time caused a much larger splash and saw the fish abandon the tree entirely.
From then on, the fight was a formality, the slow slide of a big brown into the shallows and a waiting net to be met by two astonished anglers. It was a fish full of character; a big, scarred up jack complete with protruding kype. I often tell non-anglers about the teamwork aspects of fly fishing, and this was a testament to it. Without Chiel’s help that fish simply wasn’t getting caught.
Jack clearly enjoys fly fishing. Still, with a fish like this who wouldn't be delighted. Photo - Chiel Robben
This kind of trip, three weeks of roaming around chasing fish, is what I live for. And yet, even despite the astonishing fishing we experienced, it was often the less tangible elements that formed the strongest memories; tired legs that kept saying yes to one more bend, esoteric ramblings between two obsessive fly fishers, hot coffee drunk with frost on the ground, and cold beers and good food by the fire in the evenings. People covet many different things, but I covet time. Time, and the opportunity to chase a rather spotty fish.
To be continued....
- This little tale of extremely large fish is related by Epic Ambassador Jack Kós. Jack is an accomplished photographer and writer - and not a bad fly angler.
Jack was fishing an Epic 690C carbon fiber fly rod, his mate Chiel was fishing an Epic FastGlass 686
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