Best Fish Ever – AvidMax Blog

By: Pat Pawlowski

Many years ago when I was in my twenties I went with some regulars from Creative Sports to the Hank Lawson Ranch for some serious fishing. The guys who hung out at Andy’s shop were skilled, well seasoned anglers. I was the new guy, but I had been tying flies and fishing since I was ten years old. I could catch fish, usually on purpose. However, I really lucked out, finding this shop and these wonderful people. Best of all, I was lucky enough to meet Andy Puyans. Creative Sports was his shop and he ran the group.

We all went to Sand Point Idaho to stay at Lawson’s. From there we could explore some great water and then I got really lucky. A couple of us went out to Henry’s Fork. Big Water, Big Fish and Andy kept an eye on me. We hiked a low ridge over a nice easy switchback. Andy said to keep an eye out for good growth. It looked strange as there was growth almost everywhere. He instructed, not only to get up, but also big soft rings and best of all, a snout. After a few meters along the ridge I stopped. That’s what I said. Exactly like that. I watched it for a few minutes and said I think I see a lump in the ring. With that Andy again instructed. OK, now another 20-30 feet and down to the water, but down and in to set your feet. However, first, think.

Before I went down into the water he reminded me; you’re going to go for a certain fish, line it up from where I’m standing, go down under it, come out just a few feet past the seam it’s on so your cast doesn’t go over it, but you get a few feet with good movement, watch are the last lift and his timing rises so that when you cast is out the fly falls a few feet forward as you wait for the next lift. Then he gave me a specific fly. He said, remember, we dived in to see what the fish was doing. This guy is big, but he is looking for small bugs because they are the most numerous. The meat was small. Maybe a 24 or smaller and I had never tried anything under an 18. He said to hook it up here first. Then he said go find your target, set your distance and throw at the plate.

Well, I slid down, spotted the seam just a few feet from shore, and went in about ten feet further and thirty-five feet down. I drew a line and extended it out of habit. I looked for a few minutes at the rise time and made sure to focus on that muzzle. I then cast it along the side of the seam to check my distance and get comfortable with the cast again for the timing and cast the fly to the right, exactly where and when I wanted. I was thrilled with the best casting I had ever done. Right on cue, the fish came up, drank the fly and dived back down. I dipped my wand slightly and raised the tip. Man, what a rush. The fish came halfway out of the water bobbing and pulled further to the right and down. Awakening from my serious focus that had led me there, I excitedly yelled and pulled the rod up and back pulling the small fly as the big fish pulled away and the tail went away and back into the water. Wow, shit but wow. I got so excited that I took the lip off that big fish. Andy was watching.

It took a while to calm down. I was disappointed, but mostly I was excited that I had purposely planned and presented an educated trout the right fly and the right time with a great cast and he got it. After all the stories of the day and Andy telling everyone how the hunt for a two foot plus fish went, I was excited. I remember the biggest of all the fish I tricked but didn’t land every time I talk about why I fly fish and every time I hear Andy call out, ‘the lamp is on’ (time for drinks and stories of the day) .

I didn’t land that fish. It is still the best I have ever received. A 24-26 inch rainbow on a size 24-26 dry fly at 40 plus feet. A cast, a sip, a connection, one that left, but with good vision, poured perfectly and in time. Best fish ever and I didn’t even land it. This is one of the biggest reasons I get asked how I fly fish. It is a process, a style, or as Mel Krieger advised, an art. That art is etched in my mind and I’m thankful for that fish I didn’t land.

Pat Pawlowski, Youth and working years chasing trout around Northern California through OR, WA, ID and MT. Attended University of San Francisco, 40 years in risk management. Youth soccer coach. Elite Level Weightlifting/Powerlifting Highlights; bonding and fishing with Andre Puyans, Fred Gomez, Mel Krieger. Family
Fishing. It retreated to Minnesota hiding in careful browns in small spring streams.

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