The Big Score | Meet the Bad Hombre

by | May 12, 2017 | 13 comments

Spring fishing in Montana. It’s unpredictable and sometimes impossible once the runoff starts, but there are always places. It was a risky time to schedule a family fishing trip, but that’s what he did.

With mugs of steaming coffee and a cargo area damp with fishing gear, Matt and his two brothers drove the truck deep into a morning snowstorm. The air was thick with snow — enough to double their travel time. The crisp, dry snowflakes washed over the windshield in air-cushioned layers. No wipers needed. Just drive through.

“The snow will stop,” Matt told them. Finally it did.

The truck crested a ridge and poked through the clouds. They were above the storm for just a moment, then back down through it for a short period before finally shedding the snow for good. The truck entered an altogether different weather pattern about halfway into the valley. That’s Montana.

They parked in the dirt. It was clear and calm, with air and water temps in the low thirties. Matt tossed a fly box to his brother, Andy, as they pulled on fishing packs and jackets.

“Fish those ones,” he said.

They looped boot laces and tied knots in long leaders. They tucked sharp, curved steel around hook holders, reeled up snug and then walked in.

Photo by Matt Grobe

Matt and his brothers set up on a long pool about the size of a football field. At both the upstream and downstream borders — right where the end zones would be — the river raged with deep, high-gradient, bouldered runs. Between the goal lines, the flat water was shallow enough to be accessible, but deep enough to provide confidence and cover to trout. Big ones. Lots of them.

The raging, persistent water from downstream sounded like the machinery in a Pittsburgh steel mill, and Matt yelled over the commotion.

“If you really want to cover this water you need to stay focused. Find the seams and buckets. Try to make different drifts over each piece,” he told his brothers. And then Matt moved on.

Focused. Yeah, that’s what Matt had been for the two years since he’d moved to Montana. Day after day, he explored trout streams in every season. He found open water and solitude in the winter, so he fished through single digit days just to see what could be done. Why not? Matt didn’t know how long he’d stay in Montana, he just knew he was there right now. So he fished his ass off.

Matt walked to the top of the flat and set up on the inside seam, fishing a pair of nymphs on a tight line. He took a few steps downstream after every three or four drifts, working his way back to his brothers. A couple small fish came to net with sluggish, subtle hits, and Matt knew he needed a change. He added an indicator to the long leader and used it to even out the drifts into long, slow lanes, hugging the bottom of the river. In the cold water, trout weren’t moving far to eat.

Matt reached the bottom of the pool where Andy had crossed. He paused to change the dropper nymph and then started working back upstream, this time reaching further out into the river.


At the upper ten-yard line, Matt stopped. To prepare for a third pass he lengthened the leader, enough to probe the middle seam and get down into the heart of the flat he’d been saving.

Be methodical. That was Matt’s strategy since the day he’d arrived in Montana. He didn’t want to float rivers and rip streamers for a few big fish each day. He wanted to wade miles of water, tucking nymphs into every corner pocket, catching hundreds of fish and digitizing the data into memory. That’s how he fished.

Halfway down the flat, on the fifty yard line and right where the players meet for a coin toss, a small unremarkable nymph tripped over a stone and then recovered. It danced deep into the belly of a bucket, home to the largest and baddest brown in the river, and it paused . . .

One swift tail kick and an angled fin propelled the trout a few inches to the side. The hooked jaw open, captured and closed.

Matt saw the indicator hesitate, but should he set the hook? In an instant he calculated the chances of a take versus a simple bump on a rock. He considered the line’s position and saw the angle leading into darker, green-blue water, into the very guts of the pool. Matt knew where his fly was, and he set the hook hard.

The baddest brown didn’t move. After sixty seconds of strong side pressure, Matt finally forced the fish to yield, and it left the bucket. Matt and the great fish were locked into a tug of war for the next thirty seconds. The huge trout swam back toward the bucket, and Matt pulled as hard as he dared to keep him out.

Then finally, the fish surrendered his position. He turned downstream, and ran for the end zone. But Matt was ready.

Matt followed and stayed sideways. He kept the rod high as it flexed and pulsed and bent deep into the butt section. Matt pulled with side pressure as he raced downstream with the trout. And right at the last hash mark, just at the lip leading into the roaring, bouldered run where no angler could possibly follow, Matt made his goal line stand.

With one last thrust backward, Matt pulled hard on the rod. Every knot in the leader tightened and strained. And just before the 4X transition could snap, the baddest brown resigned.

The trout turned and rolled toward the inside seam, and Matt reeled against the weight. When he finally saw the size of the trout, another surge of adrenaline rushed through Matt’s blood, and he recommitted to end the fight.

With much of its super-strength spent, the great fish surged three more times, but Matt carefully held on. He positioned himself below the trout, somewhere around the twenty yard marker, and he brought the fish near the sidelines, scooping it swiftly into the net.

Sweating and shaking, Matt looked up to see his brothers near the bank.

“This is the one I’ve been waiting for,” Matt breathed heavily.

The trout measured in above the two-foot mark. So Andy asked,

“What’s his name?”

Matt chuckled as he slid the massive wild brown trout into the water and held its tail.

“The Bad Hombre,” Matt said.

With one solid tail kick, and with fins scooping like oars, the baddest brown returned to the fifty yard line, back into the guts of a river.

NOTE: Troutbitten tradition is to name all fish over two feet. And Matt Grobe is the one who started all this nonsense in the first place. It may be a silly tradition, but it’s our tradition. Meet: The Bad Hombre.

Photo from Matt Grobe


Enjoy the day
Domenick Swentosky

Share This Article . . .

Since 2014 and 600 articles deep
Troutbitten is a free resource for all anglers
Your support is greatly appreciated

– Explore These Post Tags –

Domenick Swentosky

Central Pennsylvania

Hi. I’m a father of two young boys, a husband, author, fly fishing guide and a musician. I fish for wild brown trout in the cool limestone waters of Central Pennsylvania year round. This is my home, and I love it. Friends. Family. And the river.

More from this Category

Find Your Rabbit Hole

Find Your Rabbit Hole

Understanding the ideas of other anglers through the decades is how I learn. It’s how we all learn. The names change, but the process remains. We build a framework from others. Then we fit together the pieces of who we are as an angler . . .

One Last Change

One Last Change

Every angler goes fishing to get away from things — and most times that means getting away from people too. So whether they be friends or strangers on the water, going around the bend and walking off gives you back what you were probably looking for in the first place . . .

Troutbitten State of the Union — 2020 Wrap Up

Troutbitten State of the Union — 2020 Wrap Up

The real joy of having Troutbitten as my career is in all the chances I have to be creative. The articles, presentations, videos, web design, and the guided trips — each one is an opportunity to communicate ideas about why we fish, how we fish, and what keeps us wishing to fish, day after day. Thank you for that chance . . .

Walk Along — Jiggy On The Northern Tier

Walk Along — Jiggy On The Northern Tier

This article is part of the Walk Along series. These are first person accounts showing the thoughts, strategies and actions around particular situations on the river, putting the reader in the mind of the angler.

Tuck. Drop. Tick. Lead. Now just a five-inch strip with the rod tip up. Pause slightly for the fly to drop. Focus . . . Fish on!

River and Rain

River and Rain

A Blue Winged Olive hovers and flutters next to River’s face for a moment, and he sees it. (River doesn’t miss much.) Tilting his head, he’s just about to lunge for the mayfly when a large raindrop knocks the hapless Olive from the air — more confusion in the life of a puppy. I chuckle, and River relaxes while I start to tell him a story . . .

Rivers and Friends

Rivers and Friends

Through all my life, these watery paths and the lonely forests accompanying them have offered me a respite — a place to escape a world full of people. And all the while, these same rivers have enabled my deepest connections with a few of those people . . .

What do you think?

Be part of the Troutbitten community of ideas.
Be helpful. And be nice.


  1. What an awesome fish. Cool retelling of the battle. That would certainly be a trout of a lifetime for me.

  2. Looks familiar…is that the Depuy Spring Creek above Livingston?

  3. Love it. All of it. Great fish Grobe!

  4. That is a trout of a lifetime.

  5. What a gorgeous fish.

  6. Outstanding! I just returned from Montana, but will go back with similar resolve. Great article….Thanks!

  7. Phew. What a read and definitely the trout of a lifetime. Pure magic.

    • Right on.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent Articles

Domenick Swentosky

Central Pennsylvania

Hi. I’m a father of two young boys, a husband, author, fly fishing guide and a musician. I fish for wild brown trout in the cool limestone waters of Central Pennsylvania year round. This is my home, and I love it. Friends. Family. And the river.

Pin It on Pinterest