All About the Angles

May 20, 2024 By: Spencer Durrant

Photo: Judith Jackson/Flickr

My fly line hung limp in the Wyoming wind, where just seconds before it had been tight to a fish. A sizable fish, based on the few times it jumped, and the one good look Alex got.

“That wasn’t a rainbow,” he said.


The river was deathly quiet. Even the wind had faded to background noise.

“You thought it was a rainbow, but it was a big ol’ brown,” Alex said.

“Of course it was,” I muttered.

Earlier that morning, Alex had hooked into a big brown as well. That fish had taken a nymph just below the surface, flashing high enough for us to see that it was one of the biggest browns either of us had seen on the river.

That particular river is renowned for its big fish, but I’ve yet to tie into one of its trophy browns. I’ve caught a few rainbows that pushed the 25-inch mark, but that big brown has always eluded me.

Until that afternoon when I was 30 feet from putting one in the net.

My failure to land the fish mirrored what happened to Alex that morning. The brown took a nymph without much fanfare, than casually bulldogged its way downriver. Try as he might, Alex couldn’t get the fish out of the main current and into the calmer water near the bank. The fish acted as though it had danced this dance before (it probably has) and just kept moving downstream, until enough slack was introduced into the fly line that Alex’s hook popped free.

I hooked my big brown in shallower water, right at the head of a riffle. I walked it downstream as it insisted on running, peeling off drag-burning runs even though my drag was set tight. I applied as much side pressure as possible with my 6-weight, but the fish wouldn’t move where I wanted. It did its own thing, eventually working the hook free.

Both Alex and I fell victim to a problem that’s not all that easy to solve on a big, deep river, when you’re hooked into a large trout. The worst place to have a big trout like that is directly downstream of you, but that’s where both big browns ended up.

Losing two big fish in the same day wasn’t fun, but at least it made us both think about our fish-fighting process, and how to avoid it in the future. After all, if you don’t get your butt kicked every now and then, fishing wouldn’t be all that fun.