Drama surfaces when landing a 32-inch rainbow that has just snatched our 12-inch brown trout.
By Lu Warner
Mike West and I were fly-fishing a dry dropper on the stretch of the Taylor River located at Wilder on the Taylor on July 9, at a place that I call the swimming hole. Dry fly fishing had slowed down a bit from earlier in the day but after a few casts, a 12- to 14-inch brown trout came to the surface, which Mike hooked on his dropper. The brown thrashed around on top and after a few seconds, a giant rainbow came up and inhaled the brown like a mayfly. Gulp! The Brown was gone, just like that!
Mike’s line tightened up and snapped immediately under the weight of the big fish. Wide-eyed, we looked at each other and couldn’t believe the size of the rainbow that we had just seen. I said that I thought it was 30 inches or better.
We thought about it for a bit, settled down and decided to put on a streamer to try to catch the big rainbow. After two or three casts, Mike mended the streamer down pretty deep and we saw a huge flash. Then his line tensioned up, and the big fish was on! He jumped four times like a tarpon (a tropical marine fish) and after several minutes finally settled into the tail of the pool about 20 yards below.
Mike and I were wading deep above a dead tree; to move down the pool to land the fish was going to be difficult. The fish held in the tail for what must have been six or eight minutes, and my hopes were rising that we would land it.
Just then, he bolted over the cascade below and downriver. By the time we could react, we were well into the backing, maybe 100 yards as the fish was now in fast water and heading downstream like a freight train. Mike held tension and we worked our way to the tail of the pool, but we were losing ground. The big fish was now over 200 yards and two pools away. Not good!
At the cascade Mike wisely stopped as we were in a sketchy spot in the middle of the river. Quickly he gave me his rod and I ran down the middle of the River stumbling and trying to regain some line, figure out where the fish was and if we even still had him. In the meantime Mike crossed back to the bank and the river trail and was running downstream as fast as possible. It was quite a sight. We were both completely at our aerobic maximum!
Twice the fish hung the line up on rocks on the other side and I thought we had lost him but each time the line came tight again. After over 400 yards of running, I finally got the fly line to the reel. Mike entered the water at the lower bench hole with his net and somehow he doubled the fish up to fit inside. When we netted the fish, the Adams fly was still hanging out of his mouth attached to the dropper and the brown trout inside the rainbows stomach.
This is the biggest rainbow I have seen landed at Wilder on the Taylor in five years of guiding there. It was a healthy, wild fish of 32 inches and estimated at 14 pounds. It took two of us to land him and we were lucky to have done it!
Lu Warner is a master fishing and mountain biking guide at Wilder on the Taylor, a ranch community located between Gunnison and Crested Butte, and has been fly fishing and tying flies since the young age of 8. Since 1985, he has worked as a fly fishing guide in Idaho, Montana, Colorado, Alaska, Argentina and southern Chile. Warner has guided the summers in the Crested Butte/Gunnison area since 2000. From October through May, he resides in the Patagonia of Chile where he owns and operates the Valle Bonito Lodge, which specializes in fly fishing, hiking and mountain bike adventures.
Wilder on the Taylor is an angling paradise and a preservation-oriented 2,100± acre ranch community with a total of 26 homesteads conveniently located between Gunnison and Crested Butte, Colo. Each homestead is a minimum of 35 acres with a one-acre building envelope. As private fly-fishing water is increasingly difficult to procure, Wilder presents a rare and distinct opportunity to own an undivided interest in one of the best fly-fishing properties in the western United States.