Heading into the wilderness to connect with nature and take stock of our mental health. Learn more about the Flybiking program for men's health here!
Matt was maybe 100m upstream from me when he called out, nearly prone, and signalling for me to come down the river. Floating gracefully on the end of a deep hole was a Brown that would have been maybe 10-12in long. He was rising to the surface to feed, prime for a dry fly.
Presenting the fly directly above the fish, after the third or fourth case, he went for it but Matt wasn’t able to set the hook before the trout turned his head and went to the deepest part of the river, well out of sight, not to be seen again, even when we backtracked later in the day.
We kept moving up the river; the banks got steeper; it was harder to fish but easier to see into the water.
"Stop, did you see that?" I said. "Wait for the flash."
"Mate that's a fish, and a big one too," Matt called back.
Fluttering around the edge of a deep hole, was an absolute hog of a brown trout, at least 20in long Matt and I both crouched down on the bank to watch and make sure it wasn’t our eyes playing tricks — when we were totally satisfied it was, in fact, a fish we hatched a plan.
Trout can look and focus out of both corners of its eyes at the same time, meaning the fish can see nearly 360 degrees at once; so it can stare down your fly, and see you standing on the bank. This wasn’t a fish to mess around with, and so Matt went down to cast, and I hid around the corner, camera at the ready.
“I’m going to throw a popper to see if we can get a big strike,” Matt whispered loudly. “Stay down over there.”
Matt presented the fly just upstream of the fish so it would drift into its field of view, and the trout watched it float directly overhead four times without showing any interest.
“Let's try something else,” Matt whisper yelled to me. “He’s rising but isn’t interested, I saw a Mayfly hatch back there, I’m going to try another dry."
Casting from his knees trying to stay out of the fish's field of view, Matt threw a Mayfly pattern he ties himself, and bang; fish on.
The trout dove down deep and headed for the other side of the river and Matt had to follow it not to risk breaking the line off. Trudging through the deepest part of the stream as the fish began to tire out it changed direction heading for the small rapids just downstream, with the weight of the fish and the fast-moving water behind it was a recipe for this trout to getaway.
Before I knew it, Matt was on the other bank running alongside the fish until it splashed into an eddy outside of the current. Matt was back in hot pursuit, tromping through the shallows to get on top of the fish before it could recover.
From behind a rock downstream, I saw Matt’s head pop up; he was grinning ear to ear, and then lifted up one of the biggest brown trout I’d ever seen. By his estimation, the fish was four or five years old, and his belly was firm, and Matt thought he must have eaten something solid like a crawfish within the past couple of days.
Soon our time with the fish had come to an end and Matt gently returned him to the water and watched him gracefully paddle back towards the hole where we found him.
We worked our way back down the river throwing a line out occasionally, but the climb back up the fire road is what dominated our presence of mind.
Even for an eMTB, Trek’s Powerfly is a long bike, with a wheelbase well over a metree and 474mm chainstays, so they're a bit of work in tight switchbacks. But this length puts your weight smack dab in the centre of the bike, allowing you to crawl up a vertical wall sitting upright in the saddle.
The trouble is, between the long wheel base, and the low-end torque-y power offered by the Bosch motor, you get a bit lazy and rolling the front wheel over a loose rock you don’t move forward on the saddle which starts you sawing on the bars. Next thing you know, the front wheel has followed the path of least resistance down into a deep rut and you’re totally sideways with a foot down blocking the entire fire road, killing any momentum your riding partner had built up through the climb.
Being a bit smaller and lighter than Matt, I made it up the climb first. "That wasn't so bad," Matt said as he crested the last of the incline.
"How good are eBikes?" I called back.
The Farm Ridge Trail fire road would have been nearly impassable on a standard MTB, between the incline and loose rocks, even the strongest climber would have struggled to keep a bike moving forward — we'd made it up with a bit of work and not too much sweat.