Sunday, August 19, 2012

Cutbow Bass!

My latest installment from our Way Out West Adventure at The High Lonesome Ranch...

Sunrise at The Homestead Cabin, High Lonesome Ranch

While at the ranch, we stayed at The Homestead Cabin.  It was a cozy 3 bedroom log cabin, a part of which was one of the original ranch buildings.  It had been renovated, was very nice and very cozy.  Within steps of the front door was a spring fed pond, small, but it did hold trout.  Down the road a piece was a larger pond, part of the stream that traversed the valley.  That pond was deep, with lots of edge where the moss and aquatic vegetation grows within inches of the water surface, creating great flats. Those edges and flats were prime hunting grounds for the trout that lived there. I fished this pond several times before breakfast. I typically used streamers here, but one particular morning I decided to try a hopper pattern.

This particular morning was the first since my mountain biking mishap. We were scheduled for some horseback riding. After breakfast, I accompanied Julie and the boys to the corral and snapped a few pictures while they got used to their horses.  All of them had some riding experience and even though I was about to go fish, I really wanted to ride with them.  There is just something about a women in boots and jeans…I guess that’s the Texan in me.  Even Aaron, born in Texas, agreed. In fact, he stayed after they finished riding to help one of the young lady wranglers brush horses, put away tack and saddles and what not.  Later in the week, one of the ranch staff remarked to me that Aaron must really have an interest in horses since he spent so much time helping.  I thought to myself… “nope, he just had a lot of interest in that cute girl wearing boots and jeans!”

"Hello, I'm Mr. Ed"
With the family headed down the trail, I headed back to the Homestead, grabbed my five weight and headed to the big pond below the cabin.  I caught a couple of fish but soon realized that while I could cast just fine, stripping line with my right arm was tough, but landing a fish was even tougher.  Why didn’t I ask for a guide that morning?  Why?  Because I’m hard core and thought I could handle it all myself.  That would cost me later that morning.

On the Trail
With the sun up a little higher, bug activity and cruising trout activity was on the rise.  This pond has some nice casting platforms built around it and I stationed myself on one that gave me access to one of the mossy “flats” as well as the edge along the deep water.  I saw what appeared to be a nice fish rise just as he crossed that edge.  I laid out a cast and the hopper went plop.  The fish swirled and I set the hook.  “Ouch,” I said out loud as I used my right hand to pull the slack fly line tight.  I must have “hit” that fish too hard…he broke off.

The big pond below our cabin

I managed to get another hopper tied onto my leader and caught a couple of fair fish (fair here would be awesome back in NC).  The fish pounded the hopper pretty good and I realized I didn’t have to strip strike the fish and the fish would run enough so that the slack line would disappear and I could play them off the reel.  I thought at one point… “Sure wish I had one of those Martin automatic reels!”

Cruising over the Moss
I looked at the flat area again and saw several fish move in and feed.  There was what seemed like a big push from a big fish within casting range.  I cast the hopper.  The hopper went plop.  The fish turned.  The fish hesitated. I twitched the hopper.  The fish moved closer.  I twitched harder, just like I was working a bass bug across my home river, The Eno. The fish charged, kipped jaw open wide, his nose sticking out of the water.  Strip, strip, strip I kept that fly moving and then it was if a bomb went off in the water!  Next thing I knew the fish was into my backing, but fortunately he headed towards deeper water. I dropped my arm out of my sling and began to battle this fish.  He made several long runs, jumped and danced on the water. It was a spectacular display but I had no one there to share it with me.  At one point the fish headed for the moss.  I stuck the rod butt into my belly and put the heat to him.  I kept his head up and he turned again for deeper water.  The fish had one more jump…a gills flared, head shaking, tail walking largemouth imitating jump.  Soon the fish lay exhausted in the shallow water at my feet.

It was the first cutbow I had ever caught. The fish was a thick, football shaped trout.  I wanted this fish to be over 24 inches long and based on its weight it should have been. However, I understand that cutbows tend to grow stockier for their length. The fish had that translucent golden hue like many cutthroat species, with a red lateral strip of a rainbow. A gorgeous fish in anyone’s book. Quickly I grabbed my smart phone to take a picture. The phone seized up and I had to reboot it. More importantly I had to reboot this fish. I sat down on my backside and gently moved the fish back and forth in the water. It took several minutes but he finally swam off, giving me one more tail splash as if to say “nice job!”

My collar bone and right shoulder ached from the fight and the difficulty reaching down and releasing the fish. Before I released the fish, I did get a measurement… 22 inches, but more importantly I estimated about four pounds!

Sometimes you gotta play hurt

But I have no picture…except the one permanently etched in my mind.

Whether you believe the size or not, it doesn’t matter. What was unique for me was the way this fish behaved…just like he was an Eno River largemouth from my own backyard. It was as if this fish was simply trying to make me feel at home because I was alone that morning, injured and concerned that the majority of the rest of my vacation would be spent sitting around doing nothing because of the broken collar bone.

I did spend the next 30 minutes just sitting; waiting for the pain to ease, reveling in this wonderful place. I looked up and there was a ranch vehicle bringing Julie and the boys back to the cabin. “How you feeling?” Julie asked.

“I’m fine…caught some fish,” I responded.

“You’re hard core…can’t believe you are fishing with a broken collar bone.  Catch anything worth writing about?”

“Yep…a cutbow bass!”


  1. I'd probably fish too even if I was hurt. Find some way to cast and strip the line in with my teeth or something like that.

  2. Texans arent the only ones that like women in boots, jeans, and a cowboy hat.
    Yee Haw <I:-) (That's a cowboy)