Fishing the Maddoxx

OK. Yesterday while I was madly busy writing up more juicy copy and working on the soon-to-be-released-but-is-running-late!!, Tannic Pond Bites, I took a quick-look at Facebook (and we all know that is a seriously inept metaphor for an-hour-zipped-by-before-you-know-it!) where I saw a recent post by A.d. Maddox. She posted one of her infamous ‘trout skin’ paintings – one from back in 2005; you know …the ‘near dark ages’ of the beginning of ‘trout skin painting phenom’. 😉  

Fishing the Maddoxx: Fantasy Tail

ANYWAYYYYY … The moment I saw that image, what I saw was NOT the spots along the side of a gorgeous brown trout.  NOOOO.. what I saw were the rubble and rocks, strewn upon the flowing riverbed of the River Maddoxx!  Filled with hungry brown trout, all of epic proportions, abilities and story.  All of them just eager to reject my finely honed and adroitly tied flies (all tied by someone else, ’cause I don’t tie flies, I draw ’em!!) – and every cast I could possibly present. But I did have a few tricks up my sleeve.

So, are you ready to give them a whirl?  

What else could I do? I did what all of us kids who grew up in country families, away from all the stuff town-kids had to do; and none of the mind gobbling toys’n’gadgets of today, I made up my own game! I simply created-me-up a bit’o fun.  What I have called, Adventure Fantasy In Trout Fishing Fun [AFITFiFu]

Off I headed to fish the amazing, beautiful and bountiful, River Maddoxx


I chose to test first casts upon the infamous section, flowing hungry between the upstream side of Three Brush Trussel and just downstream of the Sliding Note.  

The day began as a typical. Mild wind, with frequent gusts of 12 knots. Yes a 12-Knot wind. Surely we all know that number isn’t the speed of the wind. Right? It’s the number of wind-knots that you’re likely to end up with, after bein’ sideswiped by one of those events.  Yes, just another regular day in Imnotintana.  Slightly overcast due to weather brewing up in the tops of the Broxxies. A small price to pay for being able to fish amid such splendor! 

Oh Yeah!

Occasionally we had the sun peak out through the low hanging mist. Ambient light is bright; good for spotting fish. Also good for fish spotting you!  So the fish are likely to be skittish.  I approach the bank as low as I could make my profile; resting on one knee, along the west bank of the Maddoxx; watching.  The water is clearing. Run-off has slowed way too early. The water is much more like 1st of July.  Not good, really!  But right now, the clarity and the volume spell one thing: Fishing SHOULD BE Fine! 

The careful approach continues.

The water creases and dimples as a couple of feeders nip at the surface; off-bank at 11 o’clock and 25 feet out.  Nothing frantic. Just steady.  It’s early, around 2:30PM – so the real hatch hasn’t rumbled in yet; just a few early bugs.

The sun gently brightens up a bit and I see movement at 10 o’clock.  A pair of browns – unknown gender – and a big single female are moving amid the larger rocks. They must be feeding on the afternoon caddis migration, because they are nose down and not looking up.  I rise a bit to get a better view and ‘BAM!’  A huge brown, that was just off to my right explodes midstream.  I nearly douse my waders!!  WOW!  I would love some action on that one!  Had to be a good 30″ bad-boy brown at least.  He doesn’t go far. 

Maybe… there’s a chance.

Settling back, my eye is glued to the water’s surface. I’m guessing the in-and-out of the clouds, if timed just right, could bring on a descent Green Drake hatch.  If I am really lucky, I’ll be there for a good emergence.  The watch ‘n wait begins.  I hope. I wait. I watch. Well, y’all know the drill.  

An hour later – around 3:30PM the sun has been behind clouds for a good 30 minutes and it looks like it’s stayin’ there.  Only the whisper of a an ever-so slight breeze is  present.  The elements are all aligning for a better than average Green Drake hatch. Correspondingly, I’m seeing movement in the near area signaling feeding fish. Nose up and off-bottom; into the mid-column.  Fish must be seeing, and keying-in-on, some of the emergers bookin’-it-for-the-surface. 

It’s time to put the rod together and string a bit of line; prep the leader; tie the tippet and attach the fly for the afternoon.  My favorite for the green drake, on this, a very swift-water section on the Maddoxx is my old standby, the Elk Hair Caddis.  Yeah, I know.. it’s not a mayfly. But, in the fast water I want something that is visible for me and the fish. And a #14-10 EHC does the trick; especially when tied with a calf-hair parachute.  In faster water, if its big and visible, it gets the bite.  

Threading line through the rod-eyes, I see movement on the surface at about 1 o’clock.  I carefully watch as I thread line. The rise is steady at about 75 feet from shore. A bit far so, for now, I’ll keep the big brown that blasted out of the water not 3 feet from my elbow, in close memory.  I’m here to catch fish and less-than-interested in messing up the close-waters for one-fish close by.  ‘A bird in the hand…’ may not be the one you see.  It’s a good Rule-of-Thumb to keep in mind.  

I finish the assembly and tie on a #10 EHC and keep watch. 

Out from the bank at 11 o’clock I see a feeder start up.  I rise a bit; walk down stream 10 paces; step off, into the water; walk out 4 paces. Then begin my cast. Out, then up stream.  Dropping the fly-line to the bank side of the feeding lane, with the tippet kicker out to-the-right of the fly-line. OK. The fly should be running right down the gullet line.

The fly takes a perfect line. But the trout takes an early natural, just before the EHC arrives.  I repeat, and repeat, and repeat, and repeat… Yeah, y’all know the drill.   Then I see a feeder begin the dimple-dance to my right, at about 4 o’clock.  I gather, my line, do a bit of drop-in short cast and the fly floats right into the gullet..

‘ZIP!’ Fish on!  A pleasing sixty-seconds later a nice little 14″ brown comes to the net. A quick flick of the barbless fly and freedom reigns.  OK.  I have a shot at 4 more fish in this hole. [1]   I would really like to make that big brown one of them.  But there are a lot of other fish in this section.  A LOT! So chances are quite small.

Another surface fish is working at 10 o’clock. I watch.  It’s not the ‘big one’ but it is a nice one.  I decide to try.  It doesn’t appear to be the same fish I was going for earlier; different place, too.  I make a cast upstream sending the line to the outside of the line of the feeding lane.  The tippet falls back toward the bank and the drift is a bit outside. But the fish is eager and takes the fly.  FISH ON!  A bigger fish. After a minute and half, a nice, full-bodied 24″ fish comes to net. A nice healthy rainbow buck.  This one is a pretty fish. It has lips!  A rarity on this stretch of the Maddoxx; sad to say. A lot of pressure means a lot of marred fish. 

There will be scars. – Akilologos

Released and ready I look again for a feeder and quickly get an answer. Straight out, at 12 o’clock, a big ring begins a regular formation. This could be that big one.  But, before I can line out a cast .. it stops.  I wait and watch. Nothing. It vanished.  Couldn’t have seen me, I’m too far away. I kept the profile low.  Well. Sometimes that’s the way it goes.  They just stop.  Then I humorously add a mental note, “It could have been a ‘squirrel trout’: ‘Shiny thing! Shiny thing!

Forty minutes drag by. Nothing. Wow. It was like the whole population of fish took siesta. Or were beamed away!  Dead quiet. No wind. No sudden temperature flux.  No real explanation.  Again .. sometimes this stuff just happens.  I’m trying to figure it out when at 11 o’clock at big .. I mean BIG .. swirl sets up a pattern.  Once. Twice. Three .. then Four.  Yeah, Baby! That’s the spirit.

I know I’m looking at a long cast. Upstream a good 45 feet and out about 30 feet.  I will only get maybe 10 feet of good drift from where I am.  Should I move upstream?  If I do, I know I will put down a dozen feeders, and that kind of telegraph action is not at all wanted. Not on a big one for sure! 

What they hey!  It’s not about ‘catching the fish’; least wise, not for me.  It’s about trying-to-catch.  And this is about as technical a, ‘try-to-catch’, as a wide-open water can get.  Distance. Multiple, tricky current. And the likelihood of a big fish.  Oh yeah.  This is fun!!

The wind is mild. No real gusts. So I start my cast out; to the east to build up distance. Then I turn the cast upstream, 2 false casts and shoot the head.  The line lays out nicely with an offshore kick in the tippet.  The fly is a bit offshore of the feeding line.  But.. maybe I’ll get lucky and the fish is not staked out for counting-the-coup on this feeding lane.

I can see the EHC moving in toward the feeding lane. I can also see that the slack – allowing that natural float – is running out of time: FAST!  At the very last possible second for a natural drift .. the surface EXPLODES and a giant head engulfs the EHC!  Instinctively I lift; set the hook; and the race is ON!  Fish ON!!!  

This IS a FISH!  

RUNNING OUT into the midstream current, the big fish begins a steady ‘chug upstream’.  I apply a bit more pressure and push the rod OUT.  LIFTOFF!  The fish explodes from the water, shaking its head. Desperately trying to spit the fly.  Yes. Those barbless hooks set down into the jaw better and easier than barbed hooks, but they also reverse a lot faster, too!!  But the hook-bite held.  The tension was right, pushing the rod tip down and backward – the run was stymied; at least for now. 

I gain a few feet on the line before it again takes off another double what I’d gained.  This is not going to be a quick landing.  This is a fish worthy of the full ability of this 7wt rod.

Back and forth. Give and take. Amid the rocks the fish navigates and me moving slightly upstream. I finally had the fish, about 3 minutes after hooking, to within 15 feet of me and the net. A couple of times I got to see the full size – or at least enough – to realize this was a big fish.  So, I really had to be careful to keep that tippet from breaking.  But this fight was not yet over.

Again the big fish surged and headed out into the bigger current.  Again I laid the rod upstream and toward the bank, low to the water and held.  The graphite and the current did the trick.  Quickly the fish stopped its pursuit of freedom and I gained line back to within 8 feet.  The net was secured;  a couple more feet are sucked up onto the reel; maneuvered into an upstream mode; a steep roll of the rod, and the fish is in the net. Just BARELY! 

I really needed a bigger net for fish like this one. Taping in at just under 32″ this was the largest brown trout I had ever successfully landed.

Well… sort of. OK! All this excitement was actually my A-FIT-FiFu; Adventure Fantasy In Trout Fishing Fun. So, it really didn’t happen. But how could it not? 

How could you not see, hear and feel all this taking place, uniquely mapped out on the surface of that 2005, A.d. Maddox painting, Maruia Brown Skin.  Can you imagine how much fun you can have just looking at that print!?! 

It definitely worked for me!

I hope this little A-FIT-FiFu provided you an enjoyable, imaginary read. You can enjoy your own imaginary respite in great paintings like those produced by A.d.Maddox.  Just let that wonderful tool – YOUR Brain – loose now and then to wander amid the memories of fishing adventures past.  Tread the streams and row the lakes. Feel the elements on your skin, in your ears, smell, taste, enjoy.

Fish ON!

Inspirations just like this are available from A.d. Maddox’s website/gallery! Enjoy your own A-FIT-Fi-Fu Fun!!

[1] I fish under a set of personal guidelines that does not use C&R as a license to catch fish-after-fish.  I catch and release only the number of fish that would be allowed on a typical water of the state I am fishing, for the species being sought.  Once I reach that number (usually 4 fish). I stop and move either up or down stream at least 1000 feet.  Then repeat.  This way I do NOT over burden the fish population of the water I am fishing.  If you are interested in more on this method, visit my site O’fieldstream Journals and read the article SA-LIFE Manifesto —