Sentenced To The Front

My brothers and I have a rule on our favorite stretch of trout water.  If two of us have caught a good fish on a trip, they reserve the right to sentence the third brother to the front of the boat.  Sentencing ends when you catch a good fish.  A “good fish” is usually any brown over 20″.  Some trips that number gets raised.   There are no other means of parole.  You cannot voluntarily remove yourself from the front of the boat.   The other two brothers will rotate between rowing duties and fishing from the back.  It doesn’t matter if it takes days. This particular stretch of water is not high on fish numbers.  Its a trophy hunt.  You have dinks, you have good fish, and you have giants.  There are very few teeners.  Big flies are the name of the game in this stretch.  Not because big trout only eat big flies, but to avoid the dinks.  Nothing worse than coming up on a nice ledge, only to have a dink immediately grab your fly.  Game over.  Usually 6″-9″ will be enough to deter them.   As a result, you can easily go days without landing a trout, which is fine by us.  It also means you can get sentenced to the front of the boat for numerous days.  It sounds good on the surface, but it means you are the only one that hasn’t caught a good fish yet. We’ve all been sentenced. The most recent sentencing came during very tough conditions.  Its rare for it to last more than a day or two, but very low/clear water would result in the longest sentence we have dealt out.  The first two days saw little to no action from any good fish.  The big fish were buried in the wood, or at the bottom of the deepest hole they could find.  It made fishing tougher than normal.  We had only planned to fish two days, but then the rain came.  It rained hard all night and we knew the water would come up.  Rising water means a good stain.  A good stain means big fish will hunt. We made plans to do a quick float the next morning.  It would be half the length of our normal floats.  We had to give it a shot.  About a 1/3 of the way into the float, a good fish grabs at the boat.  The fish reacts like most boatside hookups.  It spazzes out and throws the hook after a short battle.  We stare in disbelief.  Not much is said over the next hour or so.  Reality is starting to set in.  With each bend we round, we get closer to the takeout.  With each good stretch of fishless water, we think ahead to the next spot that could hold a good fish.  Those spots are running out.  As the last piece of good water comes into view, no one says a word.  The usual “this is the spot we caught…” isn’t said.  Everyone stays quiet.  Then it happens.  Another boat side grab, but this time the fish makes it to the net. It was only 21.5″, but I don’t think the three of us have ever been more excited for a trout that size.  That one decent trout meant more than just a caught fish.  There is bond between my brothers and I.  We all want to see each other succeed.  The grief one brother felt by fishing from the front of the boat for three days, and the relief the other two brothers felt for him, went much beyond that of a trout.  He had been paroled. Now life can get back to normal.

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