"I want trout for dinner," Doug said. "I hope we make it."
It was close. When we hit level ground at last—which felt strange, like land to a sailor—and fought our way through some brush to the sandy beach that would be our campsite, it was dark enough so that bats were swooping and darting over the stream.
We threw down our packs and rigged our rods in a hurry. It had been two weeks since I'd last fished, and I knew I should tie on a new tippet. By now the blood knot that attached the six-pound Maxima to the end of the leader had undoubtedly weakened to one-pound-test or even less. But it was too dark. I had difficulty simply threading the leader through the rod guides and tying on a large wet fly—a maribou muddler—with a turl knot.
If I'd been thinking, I would have realized that it was dark enough to break off the bottom sections of the tapered leader and tie the fly to 10- or even 12-pound-test, because the fish wouldn't see the heavier line in the dark water. Unfortunately, what I should have done didn't occur to me until, on my third or fourth short cast to the head of the campsite pool—a long, smooth stretch below a waterfall at a bend in The Creek—I hooked a fish that felt as heavy as a salmon.
It acted like a salmon, too. Pete who had been a little slower rigging up, was on the bank in back of me when the fish struck. "Bring it in," he said. "That's dinner."
"I can't bring it in," I said. "It's huge."
The trout was strong and running deep; it took a lot of line off the reel, and in a hurry. I had thought quickly enough to loosen the drag, and the fish finally stopped and held at the tail of the pool, 20 yards below us. It took several minutes to work the trout slowly and carefully to within 10 feet of the bank, but just as I thought it was ready to let me lead it all the way in, it turned and ran back down again. This time I followed it partway and finally eased it into shallow water, up near the surface.
"Look at it!" Pete said.
"I'll never land it. Not on this leader," I said.
But with Pete's help I did. We cornered the rainbow in a foot of water over sand, scooped it up and tossed it, thrashing, onto the bank. It was some trout. We didn't measure or weigh it, so instead of guessing how long it was or how many pounds it weighed, I'll say only that it was easily large enough to satisfy three hungry men for dinner. We wrapped it in foil and broiled it in the glowing embers at the edge of the campfire. We embellished the meal with fresh peaches and white wine.