The Impossible Shot

by | Apr 14, 2019 | 23 comments

I must have been in my late teens, because I was wearing hip boots and casting a fly rod. It was a short transitional time when I fished small streams on the fly and still thought I had no need for chest waders.

It’s remarkable how the details of a fishing trip stick in an angler’s brain. We recall the slightest details about flies, locations and tippet size. We know that our big brown trout was really sixteen inches but we rounded it up to eighteen. The sun angles, the wind, the hatching bugs and the friends who share the water — all of it soaks into our storage and stays there for a lifetime. Fishing memories are sticky. And for this one, I certainly remember the fly . . .

I was learning to fish nymphs, Joe Humphreys style. I’d nearly worn out a VHS tape titled Joe Humphreys — A Casting Approach to Nymphing Tactics, and I knew his two books from cover to cover. With the newfound freedoms of a driver’s license and some generous access to the family car (a Buick Skylark), I was expanding my perimeter, pushing the radius of trout streams I could access, fishing further into the wilderness with each passing week. An ambitious kid in the outdoors, I was armed with a Delorm Atlas and a tenacious inclination for discovery.

The fly was a Green Weenie. #12, 2XL Mustad, with twelve wraps of .015” lead under the chenille. The only fly fisherman I knew at the time was the owner of a small local fly shop. Unpredictable, a little grumpy and sometimes friendly, Woody seemed engaged when I told him I wanted to start tying and fishing nymphs.

“Tie the Green Weenie,” he said. “Not only is it the easiest damn fly to wrap around a fishing hook, but in this early summer water, you’ll see it through some of the drift. That’ll help you learn.”

I nodded an okay.

Woody reached into the gridded wooden fly bin and plucked out a single chartreuse fly.

“Here’s your model,” he said with a grin. “And there’s your material.” Woody pointed to a card of matching chenille on the rack behind me.

I must have seemed unconvinced, because Woody reassured me as he walked back behind the counter. “They’ll eat it, Dom. Just fish it. Trust me.”

And the trout surely did eat it. The Green Weenie was so good that it became my first confidence fly — my go to weapon. I rigged up with a Green Weenie on the point and BHPT on the tag. Coming from a bait fisherman’s background, I didn’t see much need for a lot of options. They take what I give them, or I move on to the next trout. That was my approach.

So there I was, hip boots sturdy against the current, with the water up and off color from recent rains, on a piece of water that local anglers had given up on months ago.

“That creek’s all fished out, boy” they’d say. “Why bother?”

But it was close to my home. And I knew of a few places where leftover trout migrated once most anglers had left. This was one of them.

It was a pocket water stretch of chunky bedrock below a low head dam with the middle sawn out. The water rushed through the center opening and widened around a short boulder field. It was deep enough to hold trout in shallow times, and difficult enough to wade in hard times. That kept most anglers walking around this spot to fish the “better” water above.

So I waded to the middle, with the current near the top of my rubber hip boots, reconsidering my resistance to chest waders. And I cast.

I’d caught a handful of trout and was nearing the end of a pretty good evening, with perhaps an hour of daylight left before my forced return.

Nymphing requires deep drifts, so that’s where my flies went — down into the unknown darkness of a rocky pocket . . . until the rig snagged. I pulled up. I pulled sideways in both directions. I tried a quick stack mend on the other side and pulled again. Nope. Stuck tight. Because I wasn’t wading any deeper in those rubbers, I broke off the Green Weenie.

Now, I’ve already told you what fly would replace it — another Green Weenie. But when I unfolded my small fly box, I found a solitary green fly remaining. Out of the dozen I’d tied at my last sitting, only one survived. And with some remorse, I tied on the last Green Weenie, feeling the sting of the previous loss a little deeper.

Good fishing happens in hard to reach spots. Of course I might hang up again, I thought. But I’m casting right back to the same spot. And because fishing is fishing, I hooked the same rock just a few drifts later.

My shoulders dropped and frustration crept in. Fully expecting to break off my last fly, I pulled hard sideways until, surprisingly, the line popped free. I turned that motion into a backcast, but I felt a bit more weight at the end of the line. And as the nymph turned over ahead of me, it looked larger. I allowed the line to hit the water before I stripped in to check the fly.

What I saw was so improbable that I gasped aloud. Two Green Weenies. The hook point of the second fly had entered the eye of the first. Somehow, an impossible shot at thirty feet had found the impossible target. I held the tippet in front of me, and the first fly dangled from the bend of the other. The second Green Weenie had made a recovery.

That simple, fortuitous accident was the most remarkable thing I’d seen on a trout stream. And in that moment I realized this: Anything is possible out there. Anything is possible.

 

** After a few seasons on the water, we all have tales like this. What’s your one-in-a-million story? Please share it in the comments section below. Cheers. — Dom **

 

Enjoy the day.
Domenick Swentosky
T R O U T B I T T E N
domenick@troutbitten.com

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

Lost Fishing Friends

Lost Fishing Friends

The lost friendship transforms a river bend — the one with the ancient and hollowed-out sycamore — into an active tombstone. The towering tree with the undercut bank becomes a place to remember shared moments of casting into cool waters, where the ghosts of laughter and fond companionship persists.

Seven Days

Seven Days

For those who fish daily, the routine resonates. We are part of the pattern, not mere observers of the design.

We have time to learn and grow, to breathe deep and sigh with satisfaction. We’ve the time to stand tall, to rise from the constant crouch and the intensity of a fisherman, to take in the surroundings, not once, but regularly. It’s the ferns, the sun and the rain, the trout in the water and the birds on the wind. It’s everything . . .

What water type? Where are they eating?

What water type? Where are they eating?

Fast, heavy, deep runs have always been my favorite water type to fish. I can spend a full day in the big stuff. I love the mind-clearing washout of whitewater. No average sounds penetrate it. And the never ending roar of a chunky run is mesmerizing. I also enjoy the wading challenge. The heaviest water requires not just effort, but a constant focus and a planned path to keep you upright and on two feet. Constant adjustment is needed to stay balanced, and one slip or misstep ends up in a thorough dunking. It reminds me of the scaffold work I did on construction crews in my twenties. I always enjoyed being a few stories up, because the workday flew by. When every movement means life or death, you’d better stay focused. I always liked that . . .

The Twenty Dollar Cast

The Twenty Dollar Cast

“Okay, Dad,” Joey bellowed over the whitewater. “Here’s the twenty dollar cast . . .”

His casting loop unfolded and kicked the nymph over with precision. And when the fly tucked into the darkest side of the limestone chunk, Joey kept the rod tip up, holding all extra line off the water. It was a gorgeous drift. And the air thickened with anticipation.

We watched together in silence as Joey milked that drift until the very end. And I think we were both a little surprised when nothing interrupted the long, deep ride of over thirty feet.

“Not this time, buddy,” I told him.

Joey flicked his wrist and repeated the same cast to the dark side of the rock. And because the world is a wonderful place, a no-doubter clobbered the stonefly nymph . . .

Nobody Home | Nobody Hungry

Nobody Home | Nobody Hungry

Nobody home means there’s no trout in the slot you were fishing. And sometimes that’s true. Nobody hungry suggests that a trout might be in the slot but he either isn’t eating, isn’t buying what you’re selling, or he doesn’t like the way you are selling it.

Does it matter? It sure does!

New Structure | Old Structure

New Structure | Old Structure

One of my favorite places in the world is a deeply shaded valley that runs north and south between two towering mountains of mixed hardwoods. The forest floor has enough conifers mixed in to block much of the sunlight, even in the winter. The ferns of spring grow tall, and thick moss is spread throughout. The ground remains soft enough here that all large trees eventually surrender to the valley. When they can no longer support their weight in the soft spongy ground, they fall over, leaving a broken forest of deep greens and the dark-chocolate browns of wet, dead bark. It’s gorgeous.

Fallen timber also dictates the course of this cold water stream. The fresh tree falls force the creek to bend away from the hillside. Rolling water carves away the earth and lays bare the rocks — these stones of time, as Maclean puts it. And when water cuts into a neighboring channel, previously dry for centuries, new river banks are undercut and fresh roots exposed . . .

What do you think?

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

23 Comments

  1. This is just a great story! Thanks for sharing it.

    Reply
  2. Wow this story brings a smile to my face. I’m sure it brought one to yours when it happened.

    Reply
  3. Ha! Hooking a fly snagged on the bottom through the eye is child’s play compared to a fish I landed many years ago on the Salmon River. My hook managed to enter the eye of a barrel swivel attached to a fly stuck in the jaw of a salmon. Moving fish, flailing leader/swivel and the one in a billion occurred. Great story. I hope it generates many such improbable if not nearly impossible happenstances from your readers. Many, many years ago I hooked three large mouth bass on one cast and landed two of them.

    Reply
    • I hooked a pull tab on a 6 pack of PBR on the Salmon several years ago.
      It put up quite the fight but we managed to land and consume it in short order.

      Reply
      • Are you sure it was in season?

        Reply
  4. I really dont expect anyone to believe my story of the big rqinbow that fell out of the sky and landed near my feet in the parking lot at Fishermans Paradise. Except that Greg was standing right beside me and is my witness! It was dropped from a Bald Eagle above.

    Reply
  5. Great story. When I saw the picture of the two green weenies hooked together I thought, “Is this a new tactic, the new fattie-wacking fly?” LOL. I bet that thing would catch a fish or two.

    Reply
  6. I’m sure this has happened to a lot of fishermen but one time I was in Canada fishing with my Dad and it was getting dark. We had a stringer with a couple of walleyes tied to the side of the boat. I fired up the motor and started to motor back to our cabin when I realized I forgot to take in the stringer. As I reached down the stringer also had a 40″ northern but we didn’t catch one. I pulled in the stringer and saw that the northern had grabbed at 14″ walleye that was hanging on the stringer and must have gotten caught in the stringer hook.

    Reply
  7. You may or may not know this, but the “Green Weenie” was a plastic hot dog filled with beads, an amulet designed by Pittsburgh Pirates KOA radio broadcaster Bob Prince, a/k/a “The Gunner”, in the early 60’s. I had several. We shook them at games at Forbes Field and also at home to cheer on our beloved Bucs.

    Reply
    • I know this because I shook them at Forbes Field many times hoping for a “and you can kiss it goodbye!”exclamation from Bob as another Bucko homer sailed over the ivy-covered center field wall. Those were the days my friend.

      Reply
  8. The most improbable I have experienced. This might or might not be improbable for some of you. Some may say that I can do that with my eyes closed. Well, I am not one of those. I was fishing from a canoe in the early autumn when a wasp began flying around 8 feet above my head. Without thinking I hit it with my rod and it went straight down into the water. That I should be able to do this is still a mystery to me after 30 years.

    Reply
  9. i’ve done “mostly” by accident on the Kenai River in Alaska … it’s called “lining Sockeye.” (8->}

    Reply
  10. Great article , reminded me of a time I had a steelhead on elk creek break off with my white bugger only to have my girl friend land it 10 minutes later . Her hook went right through the eye of my bugger. Love when that crazy stuff happens.

    Reply
  11. I love this story. Last year I hooked a stringer with a trout that was swimming around a hole. I was not sure what to think of that but I got it to the bank took it off and released it. Crazy. I also read your BHPT story from this one and I too have used the same fly. There is a Tim’s fly shop down in Cassville Missouri ties the same. It was my first confidence fly, probably still is. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  12. Dom: I can share the same experience except it was not me. My all time best fly fishing buddy of all time was fishing with me on Little Pine Creek. We were using rabbit fir emerges and catching obviously stocked fish. He lost his last and rerigged with a bead head hares ears and on his very first drift and hook set came up with the rabbit fir pattern hooked through the eye. What a victory with lots of laughs as once he re- rigged the action continued. Thanks for the memories.
    Jim ROOME

    Reply
  13. After floating the Kenai River using a guide’s equipment my two sons and I took my son’s fly rod to the Russian River. On my first cast to a pod of salmon, the tip section flew off into the River. I discovered the rod must have shattered during transit. We tried tieing the sections together with discarded fishing line we found but it was too flimsy. “What we need is duct tape!” Said my son. Would you believe we actually found a 2 foot piece of tape that was still sticky about 10 feet away and taped a stick to the rod for support. We landed 3 sockeyes on that jury-rigged rod!

    Reply
  14. last Spring I was fishing a two nymph rig below Norfork Dam, AR at outlet of a creek, (Dry Run Creek) and caught two hybrid bass about 15 inches long on one cast. Three or four casts later I caught two rainbow trout about 11 inches long on the same two nymphs, copper and black zebra midges. I’d been fishing for nearly 70 years and had never caught two fish on the same cast until then.

    Reply
  15. Many years ago on the Beaverkill fishing with two buds who are no longer with us I hooked and landed a nice brown on a Sulphur emerger. When I brought the fish to hand I found my hook point in the eye of a rusty spinner that the fish had been previously hooked with and had broken off. I carried the two hooked together flies stuck in the brim of my hat for quite a while until I left the hat in a restaurant on a trip out west.

    Reply
  16. Years ago my brother-in-law tied some flies for me to try out on a local stream. I decided to walk about 6 miles into an area where you can only walk. I hooked and lost a very nice trout and mentioned it to my brother-in-law; a few weeks later he came to me and asked whether the fly he had in his hand was the one I had lost to a trout. I looked at it and saw it was, in fact, the very same fly. He said he hooked and landed this fish and found the fly in its mouth. WOW – what an amazing catch for him to land the very same fish about 6 miles off the closest road. One in a million???

    Reply
  17. impossible! I was fishing the San Juan in December. The usual pods of big mooching fish around my feet. I spotted a good one 10 feet away, and planned my attack. As soon as he took I would step back two paces, turn him a little, and be able to maneuver him quickly into the slow water.

    He took. “You’re mine,” I though as I stepped back. I forgot the rock that was there, and down I went. But despite the shock of that December water, I kept the rod up. He was still on when I regained my footing, but he didn’t follow my plan. The pod of mooching fish hadn’t yet figured out that I was gone, and he came straight at me right through them. I braced for a break-off, but it didn’t happen. After some floundering I recovered control, but when I netted him it was not my fish and it was not my fly in his mouth.

    Someone had lost a two-fly rig in one of the fish in the pod, and the top fly in my rig had neatly hooked the bend of the other guy’s top fly, and miraculously held while my fish broke off. I cast two flies, and got back three and a fish. I was also sopping wet and freezing.

    Reply
    • These are all really great stories, everyone. Thanks for sharing.

      Dom

      Reply
  18. I was fishing for bluegills and having GREAT success with a Gill Getter wet fly. Unfortunately I had not thought to re-tie as bluegills have very sharp teeth. I had a good size bluegill on and my line broke. I tied on another fly and cast to the same spot and had a bite immediately. When I landed the bluegill he had two flies in his mouth. The one I was fishing and the one that broke off. Hungry bluegill!

    Reply
  19. Chock this one up to the luckiest guy in the world.

    MIRACLE 1. After fishing one day a friend broke down his rod and left both sections leaning against some tall grass. It was dark when we got back to the car and he noticed his tip missing. He said he would retrieve it in the morning. The next day he looked for the tip section and couldnt find it. Lost forever or so he thought. About 2 weeks later after some blow out water levels, we were fishing downstream about 5 miles and he catches his rod tip!

    MIRACLE 2. Same guy is bait fishing for small mouth bass in Lake Ontario. Working a jig bait over a rocky bottom while he had a minnow rigged on a second rod just laying across the bow. What may have been a fresh water drum or large pike pulls the rod overboard. Lost Rod? Not with this guy. The following year fishing the same area of Lake Ontario, he catches his rod. Lightining does strike twice.

    Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Recent Articles

Pin It on Pinterest