Fish Heartbreak in February

It’s too early in the season for fish heartbreak, but here we are, crying in the club over a missed strike on a salter and a broken off Larry.

This mild winter (knock on wood) has kept my waders and gear in the car since the fall run. And I have no plans of ever moving this stuff back into the house. I’ve fished thus far in 2020 more than I ever have during the winter months. And as we know, it can sometimes be tough to get the fish to cooperate when the water is just a tad bit chilly.

But I’ve found plenty of fish willing to hit my flies and lures! That’s the wild part. In the past week, I’ve gone on five fishing outings in three locations and all spots seemed to be following spring patterns. While I haven’t put the time in to searching out holdovers yet, I’ve found one new and rediscovered one old obsession that can fill the immeasurable void left by our striped friends this time of year: Native brook trout and bucketmouths.  

Fish Heartbreak #1 (Sounds like a Dylan song)

I’ve been on a serious searun brook trout kick lately. And it’s been screaming up to albie-fever levels in the past week or two.

Close quarters small-steam trout is still a technique and style I’m very much a greenhorn at, and each trip I take, I’m learning new things. I’ve seen fish each time I’ve gone out, and I’ve gotten a few to take my empie shiner, but just haven’t been able to stick one.

A few days back, I fished a local stream known to hold the aforementioned elusive strain of trout. With a half hour before I was to meet Geoff of Brackish Flies, I decided to scout downstream a bit in the tidal portion of the river. It was here where the heartbreak happened. Being a relatively wide portion of the river and an overcast, windless day conducive to sight fishing, I actually saw the trout bolt after my lure. He whacked it once, backed up, then hit it a second time, before retreating into the shadows.

A few minutes later, I had a second, much larger trout speed after my lure, hit and turn on it. And this one, ladies and gents was a good fish, judging by the fat flank of purples and greens and yellows. We fished the rest of the river and didn’t see a fish. This one hurt.  

Fish Heartbreak #2

Last night, in only a sweatshirt, I launched the yak into my local pond, and on the first cast, caught a pickerel on a perch Rapala crankbait. I paddled into the weedy shallows and found crappie and possibly herring rising to the surface. I threw the crankbait and hooked a few more pickerel and one crappie.

A few dudes in a johnboat were throwing soft plastics next to me and hooking up with good Larrys at a pretty ridiculous clip, so I switched to my trusty watermelon Senko, rigged it weightless and weedless and got to work.

After a few short strikes, a big V-wake barreled out from the weeds and erupted on my offering. I went to cross his eyes but missed him. I frantically cast to where I thought he’d run and let the Senko sit, giving it slight twitches and rod raises when it rested on the weeds.

Suddenly, the line began to move. I set the hook on what felt like a stump. He came up once and headshaked on the surface before diving again. I horsed him to the kayak, and just as he started to come up from the weeds, the line went slack.

It was one of those moments where I didn’t even have the will to tie on another hook. I just slumped in my kayak seat and listened to the near-silence stillness of late winter, hating myself for thinking 6lb test was enough.

I stayed out until dark hoping to cross paths with my behemoth, who was getting bigger in my mind every time I thought about him. But it wasn’t meant to be. Oh well. It’s only February.

Billy Mitchell

One thought on “Fish Heartbreak in February

  1. If this weather stays on a warming trend, I’m gonna be launching the kayak up river somewhere hunting the elusive holdover.

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