Sometimes one trout is enough. Or, more accurately, it has to be enough because that's all that time and situation will allow.
After a wonderful family camping weekend in the woods above the Youghiogheny River in Pennsylvania my wife agreed to allow me to fish a small creek we would drive by on our way back home. The small freestone stream tumbles out of the Laurel Highlands and runs alongside a country road before ultimately trickling into the mighty Yough. I had driven past the waterway on my way to and from the Yough a few times, but had never stopped to explore it. The creek had the tell-tale signs of a freestone stream that gets too much pressure, despite its remote location. Every mile or so there was a gravel parking spot or two along the side of the road. The first two stops produced unappealing water as a week without rain had taken its toll on the flow. My patient wife rolled her eyes as I pulled into a third spot. Braided water upstream wasn't promising. If downstream didn't offer hope, I was headed back to Cleveland without even breaking out the fly rod.
I quickly walked back to the car, talked my wife into joining me and assembled my 3-weight rod.
While I love small streams I rarely fish them. Bigger rivers are a little more predictable, and predictability is important when a multi-hour car trip is required to find trout water. Small trout streams are challenging for clumsy anglers like me who don't practice often. Tight quarters demand casting accuracy and low water requires stealth. I was down two strikes before my first cast. The angle of the sun through the trees made it hard to spot my fly on the water as it drifted through the pool. (Strike three.) However, I could see the bottom of the pool clearly and the brown trout that rose earlier was missing. (Strike four.)
The forest canopy kept the air and water temperature 10 degrees cooler than out on the road, yet beads of sweat poured down my face as I tied on an elk hair caddis to replace the tiny, invisible Adams. Ideally I would spend hours stalking trout and exploring the tiny pools downstream. But every few minutes the sound of my wife swatting a mosquito on her legs reminded me that both patience and time were running short. The sweat increased with my determination to hook a fish.
I decided to try the narrow ribbon of water that flowed straight out of the shoot. While most of the current headed to the pool to the right, it looked like the secondary flow would be sufficient to hold a trout. From a distance I couldn't see below the surface to judge the water's depth; and I figured at least a fish in the tiny run couldn't see me either.
Casting from the shelf I placed the caddis on the outside of the shoot and the current carried it straight downstream. Just before it went behind the boulder a small splash made the fly disappear. I set the hook and was pleased to see a small, but healthy brown trout flash in the water. My wife kindly netted the fish and let me know my mission was accomplished and it was time to go.
The memory of that one small brown trout on a small stream will have to hold me for a bit. But there's another family outing ahead in another place where trout like to hang out. And if I'm lucky, I won't be one and done in Montana.