Monday, February 29, 2016

Here is a First

Here's a first:
Yesterday, I went fishing.
This may not seem like big news to you, but I live in Wyoming. I rarely fish in February and if I do, it's on a tailwater like the Bighorn. And even then, stripping guides freeze up, lines become stiff and cumbersome and feet and hands quickly go numb. But not this year. This year, we've had a prolonged and somewhat scary warm spell almost all of February. Given this unusually mild weather, I decided to give a local freestone a try. I guess I just wanted to say I fished a freestone stream in Wyoming in February one year... back in 2016.

In previous years, this stream would have been effectively locked up below a thick plate of ice and snow... as would any of our other freestone streams. Not this year! Yesterday was 55 degrees! The water was still achingly cold, but still... IT WAS 55 DEGREES!

The fishing was slow. I did manage to catch a couple big browns including this magnificent 20 inch hen. She was fat and obviously well-fed which bodes well for her survival this summer... 

But here is the first that I referred to at the beginning:

While stripping a streamer through a large lazy pool, I felt an unusual tug. No, let's call it a grab... then within seconds I felt a second grab... then a third.

Odd sensation #1. 

Then all of a sudden my line zipped off as if a fish had hit then immediately run off without feeling the bite of the hook.
Odd sensation #2.

Then, my catch jumped and emitted a high pitched squeal. Now, I've never had a fish scream before!
Odd sensation # 3. 

I had no doubt I had hooked a muskrat. Muskrats are always about in trout rivers and over the years, I have foul hooked a few. But it felt like this one had pursued my fly.

Knowing this was weird, but obviously possible, I immediately took all the tension off my line hoping my pinched barb would quickly work itself free.

Suddenly, the animal broke the surface again and jumped up and onto a huge plate of river ice that lined the stream's banks. I could now plainly see it was an otter. Probably a yearling and at most 3% of the size of the otters I just had spent time with in the Amazon. This otter squealed in pain and indignation. It clawed at it's chest as it pushed itself across the ice on its back. Then it stopped and whined. It looked at me the same way my dog looks at me when he is in pain: a look that's an unsettling mixture of fear and confusion. I instinctively threw a loop into my fly line as if trying to free a fly from a log and miraculously, my hook came out on the first try. 

Amazon otters although much bigger, have similar blazes on their chest

The otter emitted one last yelp then rolled over onto its belly and slid back into the river. He soon surfaced and looked directly at me. I could see a white blaze on his chest. He was cute... adorable really, and I felt awful. He stayed like this with his head out of the water staring right at me for quite awhile. He seemed to be trying to figure out how something over there could have this effect on him over here. I reeled in my line up knowing full well there were probably other otter with him and moved upstream to fish a different run.

Geez, now that was a first!


  1. Very cool. Good thing that hook came out by itself. I don't think I'd like to try to hold onto a mad otter while trying to get a hook out of its belly.

  2. Interesting, Scotty. And weird too, I actually had a dream last night with otters in it!! Seriously! And I have also hooked into a muskrat before....

  3. really cool and quick thinking on the roll cast loop to free the fly!