JONAH

I’ve been fly fishing now for twenty-three years and have caught some monster fish over the years.  From about 2004 through 2013, I hunted primarily big browns and rainbows–which are not native to Eastern Idaho–with streamers like the Circus Peanut and Peanut Envy.  There is nothing quite like fooling an aggressive big fish with a fly.

About five years ago, I gravitated back to my roots and started fishing small creeks again.  I first fished tenkara in the Fall of 2014 and found it to be perfect for small stream fishing, especially on my favorite cutthroat stream, which I call “Trickle Creek.”  Admittedly, there are no monsters in this creek.  The average fish is probably eight inches.  However, there are some surprisingly big fish for such a little creek.

And that’s where Jonah comes in.  This fish lives in a stretch of the creek degraded by cattle grazing, which denudes the banks of vegetation and often causes them to cave in.  Notwithstanding, the creek and the fishes’ saving grace is the numerous icy springs and its rocky bottom.  Jonah lives in a beautiful bend in the creek under a rocky ledge, which just looks fishy.

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Jonah’s layer is right in that dark hole under the rock.

When he first came out of hole and attacked my Renegade, my eyes about popped out of my head.  He was a beast for this tiny size of creek.  After a good fight on the Tenkara USA Rhodo, I brought him to hand and had to take some pictures.

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Look at the shoulders on that fish!

I quickly released the cutty back to his lair to play another day.  After numerous years of fishing this creek, I believe this is one of its biggest (if not the biggest) fish.  Of course, every time I fished the creek, I had to check to see if he was home.  Sometimes I caught him and sometimes I didn’t, but always had fun trying.  All said, I recollect catching Jonah a total of three times last summer.

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This photo is from the second time I caught Jonah.  Check out those chompers.

Jonah has made me rethink my definition of a trophy fish.   These native fish have been in Trickle Creek since the dawn of time.  To know a creek so well that you figure out exactly where the biggest fish resides and how to catch him is a worthwhile pursuit in and of itself.

 

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This is the third time I caught this beaut. Jonah is no monster, but he is a trophy fish to me.

 

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TENDER MERCIES TENKARA

Remember, O LORD, thy tender mercies and thy loving-kindnesses; for they have been ever of old.

-Psalms 25:6

I’ve known my friend, Matt Tower, for over ten years. We go to the same church and have fished and hunted together quite a few times over the years and I always enjoy his company afield and on the stream. Matt was the first person to introduce me to tenkara fishing over three years ago. Since then, I have really developed a passion for it and even started this blog.

Last winter, while trying to push his son, Skyler’s stuck car out of the snow, Matt felt an excruciatingly painful pop in his heel. He later found out that he had torn his Achilles tendon in two and had to go through surgery to repair it. For six weeks, he could not put any weight on his ankle and had to get around with a scooter. Matt told me that it was one of the darkest times of his life. While I have not experienced that particular injury, I could relate somewhat because in 2007 I had surgery for a ruptured a disc in my back. For the six months before the surgery, I experienced debilitating pain, darkness and depression similar to what Matt described. In such situations, you wonder if you will ever be able to do the things that you love again and I’m sure that Matt spent much of his recovery time, like I did, praying to make it through this difficult trial.

Recently, Matt has been healing quite well and even went on a strenuous hike with the youth from our church. I figured if he can hike, he can fish. So, yesterday I invited him to come and fish my favorite stream, Trickle Creek. This was his first time fishing after the surgery. I picked Matt up and we drove to our destination.

At the creek, I tied on a Renegade and Matt used an unweighted rubber legged stonefly nymph. In my mind, I questioned his choice of fly and based upon past experience, believed that the Renegade would easily out-fish the nymph. I offered him a Renegade, but Matt declined. Oh well, to each his own.

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The conditions were perfect as the creek was mostly clear from the runoff and the cutthroat could be easily seen in the holes, runs and lies. With bluebird skies and bright sun overhead, however, the fish were skittish and tougher to catch than usual. I seemed to spend more time than usual caught up in the trees and when I could get the fly on the water, the fish ignored it. In contrast, Matt started off having a good day as the eager cuts chased his stonefly nymph. I fished one particular promising hole and had a fish chase but reject my fly. I then invited Matt to give it a try and on one particular drift, a nice trout darted out from a rocky ledge and took the stonefly nymph. I videoed Matt catching the nice trout—the fish of the day.

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“How’s your ankle feeling?” I asked after Matt.

“Feels pretty good. The cold water actually helps.” He responded.

As we fished together, we saw some bigger, colored-up cutthroat that were trying to spawn, but they ignored our flies. In one particular shady hole, we could see two beautiful cutties and Matt cast the nymph up into the lie and it hung up on some snags at the bottom of the hole.

“You try for it with the dry fly,” Matt suggested.

I cast up to the head of the hole and we both watched the smaller of the two fish chase my fly down stream and engulf it. With the ruckus the smaller fish made, the bigger fish bolted and we had no more chance at him.

Matt and I explored some other water up the canyon and both caught a few more fish, but we had to soon pack it up as I had a church meeting to go to at 4:00 p.m.

When it was all said and done, I believe that Matt out-fished me with that crazy nymph. Some may call that skill or luck and such days a coincidence, but I call them tender mercies. In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ taught something that sums up my sentiments on this experience:

For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?

Or if he ask a fish, will give him a serpent?

If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?

Matthew 7: 8-11

In my experience, sometimes when you make it through a difficult trial, Heavenly Father gives you a special day to help you know that He cares. Those, my friends, are tender mercies from heaven (which in Japanese translates to tenkara).