This post is from contributing author, Pat Burke.
We’ve all been there before. You are fishing on a stream with a large population of wild brown trout. You hook into a fish that is much larger than any fish you’ve ever caught out of that stream. Your heart instantly starts to race and the anticipation grows the longer you are fighting the fish. You wait for that first glimpse of buttery gold to confirm what you have been hoping for.
You anticipate the slight cast of blue around the gill plate
Or the bright red adipose fin.
The fight is drawing to an end and you are finally getting the fish up off the bottom. Then you see it. That pale silver mutt.
You curse and quickly net the fish. All of the excitement quickly drains and all you are left with is disappointment. It’s probably not even worth taking a picture but you do anyway because it’s a big fish. It’s a rushed photo job. You’re kind of indifferent and you don’t take the time to set up for a good picture. The lighting is all wrong, the tripod isn’t set up right, the picture is off center, and you’re not smiling. Then you end up with something like this. Loser.
You vow never to show that picture to any of your fishing friends. What a horrible experience for you and fish alike.
So let me back up a bit and explain to those unfamiliar with our area why a big rainbow is a let down. Almost any stream in central PA has wild trout in it. Many of the tiny mountain streams have wild brookies in them and any of the larger waters have an overwhelming wild brown trout population. Even with the huge wild trout population, the Pennsylvania Fish Commission insists on stocking rainbows in many of these waters. As most people know, rainbows are a much more gullible fish than a brown trout. Couple that with being stocked and you end up with an extremely willing, gluttonous fish, that will eat almost anything that floats by. The fly below was tied by my 5 year old son. As a father, I am ecstatic that he is picking up the mechanics of fly tying at a young age. However, no fish should ever eat this. A freshly stocked rainbow trout would. I’d bet my Helios on it.
I’m not opposed to all rainbow trout. I’ve caught beautiful leopard rainbow trout in Alaska with a vivid pink stripe and spots throughout. I’ve also caught the hard fighting wild bows of the West Branch of the Delaware river. Both are great fish. The fish I despise are the freshly stocked lackluster rainbows. We’ve given them many names over the years –from mutts to second class citizens.
Luckily Dom and I have come up with a way to make stocked rainbow pictures cool again. Give a thumbs up and squeeze out a smile!