TLO Hunting Articles

Rocky Mountain Rainbow Steel

It was a typical spring morning, clear and beautiful. I found myself at the trailhead of New Mexico’s San Gregorio Lake. With my float tube and light spinning outfit, anticipations were high. I left the parking lot just after sun up, knowing that the biggest fish don’t get up too early. The well traveled trail was swallowed up by the thick timber. Moss and rotting vegetation permeated my senses. Sunlight streaked through the thick, damp air. The squirrels and birds fell silent as the sound of my boots echoed on the packed clay. Quiet eyes were cast down on the intruder with the thundering entry. As I broke out of the woods, the birds went back to their hurried lives.

As I reached the top of the last small hill, the lake lay at my feet. The sapphire blue of the crystal waters held the untold treasures that I came to uncover. As I eased my float tube into the water, a little spinner dipped and danced just beneath the surface. Kicking slowly toward a small inlet channel, I cast out to a weed line and started my first retrieve. From somewhere down deep in the aquatic vegetation a chunky trout attacked the lure with the strength that you don’t find in lower elevation trout. The four pound line glistened in the sunlight slicing this way and that. The trout ran hard straight away and without warning broke the confines of its liquid atmosphere. The bright pink stripe flashed like a beacon as it completed its aerial display and reentered the blue water. He had shown his courage, proven himself worthy and was returned to his home. Many fish were brought in over the next hour, all were as valiant and colorful as the first. All were returned. As I slipped into the main inlet channel, my stomach tensed like a kid sneaking the last piece of candy. I made a long cast up the weed line. I had only reeled three feet of line when something hit the lure and almost jerked the rod from my hands. The fish was big, really big! He hit the top of the water, thrashing and splashing. It was a ball of twisted rainbow steel. I knew that this fish could break my line at any second. I gave him all I could. The reel drag was singing. My arm worked, give and take to absorb the shock of the jerking mass of trout flesh. I started to gain some line on him when he dove. My reel squealed in agony. All went silent. As quickly as it started, it stopped. He was gone. My arms went limp and lay on the tube. I looked down, the line was broken at the reel not the knot. Dazed, I looked out in front of me to find some scrap of hope. Somewhere out there was a huge trout with 30 feet of line hanging from his lip. Then I saw it, caught in the edge of the weed line. Monofilament curled slack and not moving. I gently kicked the float tube closer. I reached down and grabbed the line, wrapping it around my hand, quickly taking up the slack. The excitement built with each second. Was the fish still at the other end? He was! The strength of this trout was evident as the thin line cut into my hand. I had him! His body slammed into my tube as he tried to shake the lure from his mouth. My mind was racing. “How big is he? 26 inches? How much does he weigh? Six pounds maybe seven? Where is my net…in the back of my vest, I need it, he is too strong. He’s gone!” The lure dangled from the line in the water. I had the lure but the biggest trout of my life was gone. There was no THIRD chance. There was no way to top this. I took my broken line, dangling lure, and my silly smirk and kicked towards the shore. I’ll be back!

Mel Raney

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