It was opening day 2003. My friend
John Armstrong drove up to Wisconsin
to fish with me. John is a Pennsylvania angler
displaced a couple times over due to job changes.
John called me 4 times on the way up
and interrogated me about the weather
conditions. The 4 degree weather up
here was really not very inviting to
a Georgia native.
John and I have been fishing buds for
quite some time. He use to manage
Madison Outfitters on Madison's west
side. His wife works for Oscar Meyer.
One fine day in September 2002 John's
wife was involuntarily moved to the
To make a long story short...
John had to drive 11 hours to fish with
me now. John has done that least once
a year since his move.
John rolled in the Friday night and we
prepared for fishing. I was amazed at
how many pairs of long underwear John had
brought with him. He was going to wear 2
pairs along with fleece wader liners. I
told him he would look like the little brother
from The Christmas Story movie after he geared
up. The one with the Red Rider BB Gun theme.
I wondered if he would even be able to put his
hands to his side.
We hit the stream at 8am. We parked his truck at
the beginning of the area and we planned on fishing about
2 miles up to a very deep hole. I called the final
hole the sewer hole. It had a large spillway and was
the first obstruction on that waterway. It was a perfect
We were having fair luck and John could put his arms to
his side. I still tormented him and kept saying.
"You will shoot an eye out with that thing." The temperature
did not get warmer and the robin's egg blue sky didn't help
at all. We were cleaning ice out of the eyes about every other cast.
John had never fished this stretch before and was growing wary
due to the slippy banks and excessive clothing. I told him we would
go back to the truck after we fished the last hole on the stretch.
I told him it usually held a big one.
The end is in sight. John sees the hole and thanks me for not letting
him turn back. He has a little more spring in his step now and the
prospect of a big trout is very real. John said he need to change
his leader and his entire set up. He wasn't walking all this ways to
hook a big one and have it school him. I watched as John put a new
11 foot leader on. He was using 3x before but switched to 4x here with
John's rig has a size 6 hornberg on the end. A brand new leader without
tippet tied to it. There is moldable tungsten placed above the fly about
12 inches. Tungsten not a split shot..John said. The split would cause a nick
in the line and a decent trout would break off. The last part of the rig was
a bright orange stick on strike indicator at 8 feet up the line.
We made the battle plan. John was out in the water to about his crotch.
He was hesitant to go any farther due to the extreme cold conditions.
He had the left lane of the hole. I was to block the trout if he got one on
that would try to escape out the right side of the hole.
John is a pretty good caster and has his hornberg up in the sweet spot
below the spill in short order. John explained to me that because of the
cold the trout would be on the bottom holding tight and any fast action
by the fly would be ignored. John called it the dredging method. John
even paused a couple times for long periods during the retrieve.
I can remember it like yesterday. John is at the end of his retrieve
and just taking the fly out of the water. He is telling me he calls the
last part of the retrieve the most important. In cold weather conditions
like these when he takes the fly out he does what he calls a Shake and Bake.
The action mimics a bait fish swimming to the surface. It is a slow upward
lift of the fly and pauses and stutter shakes are used as the fly exits the water.
A very slow meticulous thing.
John is an excellent teacher. He is looking right at me when he is talking
and explaining the Shake and Bake. He just had told me how important it is to
watch the fly come out of the water because lots of times a big one will hit it
at the very last moment as it breaks the surface. John readjusted his view on
the fly as he did the final lift.
It was like it was choreographed to happen. John slowly did his Dance
With Trout and the surface erupted as his fly hit the surface. The surface
was alive with a big trout directly at John's feet that had NOT been tired
out by a battle. The trout was on about 4 feet of line and giving all it had
to escape from his captor. It got off the surface for a moment and tried to
dive and run out the side of the hole. John reached for his net and did
a right side step all at once. He lunged at the trout with his net fully extended.
The only problem was that to John's right was about 3 feet deeper and when
John side stepped his right foot found nothing but deep water and John
fell over like a tree.
It happened in slow motion it seemed. There is John with that nice brown in
his net and he stands up out of the water and one side of his body is wet and
I can see the ice forming already on his clothing. John is shaking uncontrollably
but still wants a photo taken of the trout and him. One photo and off we go on
a full jog back to truck.
We are about 150 yards back towards the the truck and we come up to a
dairy farm. We are talking all the way. John doesn't know if he can make it all
the way back to the truck being wet. I suggest to find the dairy farmer and warm
up in his house or maybe John should find a warmer place in the barn and I would
run and get the truck. Luck was with us a little this day and we found a farmer right
away and he gave a ride to John's truck. We sat in the guy's truck for a while so
John's truck could warm up.
Out John hopped and went directly
to the back of his truck to his
bin that had his extra clothing
and long johns in them. John
down to his birthday suit right
there on the roadway and put on
The farmer bid us a fond farewell
and John and I looked at my digital
sitting in his truck while he warmed
up. I can remember him saying. I sure
the heck hope you got a good photo of that
trout with all the DANCING I had to do.
The photo turned out fine.
Later that night I can remember us
sitting in a local water hole and
reliving the experience and sharing
the photo with the bar patrons. John
said at the end of the night: "This is
what it all about........Fishing
with good friends......catching big
trout.....sitting around talking smart
with whoever will listen and Dancing With Trout.