Pursuit of Perfection

The single best day of fishing for Rainbow Trout anyone has ever had anywhere - ever.

Mar 20 2016

Ben Coulter

First posted Apr 4 2016 Last updated Apr 5 2016

PERFECTION. It's that one element that every outdoorsman strives for. The One that few bold individuals can claim to have achieved, and legendary masters of the trade only reveal to their closest confidantes. For an avid sportsmen like myself, Perfection is an intangible concept that often lies just beyond my reach, within plain sight through a cheap pair of binoculars yet somehow barely outside my proverbial fence.

Until last weekend. Oh, buddy – if I could only describe how truly perfect the fishing actually was…

To back up a step, I made plans to do a day trip with two old college buddies. I never actually took a class with Louis or Eli, but both are outstanding sportsmen and proven killers. Louis works as an emergency responder - when he's not on call you can find him pursuing the vast wilderness within an hour's drive in any direction of the state capitol. Last fall Eli took time away from his day job to fill a once in a lifetime mountain goat tag in an epic 36-hour adventure we got on video
(see link in bio).

We wanted to fish a known "secret" spot on El Rio – a place of legend known by locals as La Tierra de Los Gigantes. It's a section of river where mature rainbow trout (oncorhynchus mykiss) spawn during spring runoff and the shallow gravel beds are overrun with schools of thick, red, football-sized fish.

To say I have a history with this water would be an understatement. Years ago – the first time Louis and I fished here together – our camp perimeter was breached by a large predatory cat in the middle of the night. We listened to that thing circle our tent for over two hours before we made a run for my car, deciding to "call it a night" and gear up to be on the water before dawn. Later that morning, I helped Louis land a 35-inch rainbow – a white whale of a fish – that has haunted both of us ever since.

Being a freelance photographer, I often carry the burden of sacrificing my own line or cast for what I create behind the lens. I knew there was potential for this to be an epic day once the three of us met up early Sunday and hit the water, the frigid wind hitting my face as we sped upriver in Louis' 18-foot jet boat under the bluebird sky.

We set up size-8 Gamakatsu hooks with translucent pink and orange plastic beads, under a swivel with split shot and a strike indicator. As we killed the motor and drifted a half-mile long sandbar, the riverbed was visibly marked by white patches in the gravel – areas where the "reds" sweep away the underwater sediment as they spawn. Peering deeper into the contrasting blue/green water, in and out of the shadows lay dozens of massive, wild, trophy-caliber rainbows lurking on the bottom.

Well, that's about it – not much more to say… I'll give you a moment to catch your imagination from running wild…

For the rest of the day, we hooked into at least one 20-something inch rainbow trout every drift. I got off to a slow start, as usual, but Louis and Eli made it clear early on there would be consequences if I put the rod down for my camera. So when I finally did figure out my hook set, we quickly stopped counting as we continued to reel in one after the other. Drifting out of the jet boat could not have been a better setup. Everyone got doubles – two fish to the boat at once – hitting the point where we wouldn't even break conversation as we snagged another fish mid-sentence. By mid-afternoon I actually missed a couple, in a weakened state, due to a nagging rotator cuff injury and my own uncontrollable laughter.

It turned into one of those days on the water where time seemed to stop. After boating and releasing what we guessed to be more than fifty fish between the three of us, we called it a day. From an editor's standpoint, the photos I took don't do justice to the majestic, natural beauty that surrounded us that day. But no picture can ever capture that moment of absolute PERFECTION with your buddies.

Not one fish under 20" all day long. Photo by Ben Coulter.

"...and we're the best three friends than anyone could have..."
Photo by Ben Coulter.

As a professional photographer I don't often go for the grip-n-grin, but since I had to do something with the ridiculous smile that wouldn't leave my face...
Photo by Eli Shuford.

Ben Coulter doesn't always use a point-n-shoot camera to get something cool, but when he does...
Photo by Ben Coulter.

The White Whale from a few years back.
Photo by Ben Coulter.

Because a skilled camera operator can make everything look bigger (wink).
Photo by Ben Coulter.