A Nightmare of Big Fish Proportions

August 15, 2009 By: Marshall Cutchin

Returning to the West after a decade-long absence necessitated by children and jobs, I knew my first forays on front range trout streams would be challenging. I haven’t gone fishless during any of my day trips (yet — they will come), but anyone who tells you that the conversion from tip-in-the-water stripping for fast-moving saltwater fish to high-sticking tiny nymphs in mountain pocketwater is easy either fishes way too much or is outright lying. During the switch, one suffers.
The best evidence of this is the dream I had last night about catching something larger than the beautiful 12-inchers that have graciously eaten my flies on the Big Thompson and Cache La Poudre. In my reverie, I was fishing with a guide buddy on some gorgeous spring creek and managed to land a giant rainbow. This fish appeared to be 3 inches across the back and was well over two feet long, by my estimation. “Nice fish,” my friend said. “How big do you think he is?”
“I don’t know, 24 inches maybe?
That was when my buddy gave me the oddest look. What?, I was thinking. He handed me his waterproof cloth tape — a handy item in most circumstances. As I laid it along the fish I was gripped by cold shock.
14 inches.
As someone who has spent years knocking inches and pounds off of other anglers’ estimates of their fish sizes, my comeuppance had arrived. Fortunately the dream made me sit straight up in bed and I didn’t have to endure the nightmare for more than a few seconds, but it did remind me that there’s probably a little bit of the hopeful liar in all of us.
I think I might be a little more generous with friends’ estimates from now on.