The author is playing the role of traveling angler, trying to get the best of what Wyoming has to offer, while others head to Alaska for the fish of a lifetime. (Courtesy photo | Jeff Lund)

The author is playing the role of traveling angler, trying to get the best of what Wyoming has to offer, while others head to Alaska for the fish of a lifetime. (Courtesy photo | Jeff Lund)

The big ‘What If…’

A good river is productive enough to make you happy, yet still challenging enough to frustrate you.

A good river is productive enough to make you happy, yet still challenging enough to frustrate you.

Though this applies to even my favorite steelhead rivers in Southeast, the frustration is different when you travel because it burrows like a warble fly you can’t reach since it’s not your home river and your time is limited. The North Platte (Wyoming) has joined the White (Arkansas) and Madison (Montana) as rivers on which I had legendary days by my standards but also flopped bad enough to bring me to tantrum. It’s like the river saying “Hey, guy, it’s not that easy.”

When you are lured to fishing grounds with stellar reputations, you sometimes get reminded that the all-time fish are sacred. While I can remember every river for the good, it’s the bad that seems to preserve better in my memory. I lost an epic fish on the White. I never caught a cutthroat on the Madison. I got skunked my second day on the North Platte.

I guess fishing has to have failure because if you owned every river every time there wouldn’t be much excitement in guaranteed success. However, I don’t think I would get tired of catching 50-pound king salmon.

Anyway, a place called the Miracle Mile gets its name because of something. Reputation is a funny thing because it goes hand-in-hand with expectations and there is no clear standard, especially if it’s your first time there.

So, should the expectation be the potential for one trout at 28 inches or half a dozen, none smaller than 18 inches? It does not take much to Alaskanize this but dialogue is a bit different at home this time of year because a good day is measured in how fast one can catch a limit and how big the salmon were.

My goal on the North Platte river in south central Wyoming was one fish. I wanted it to be a corker, of course, because this is the Miracle Mile. I’ve caught 16-18 inch brown trout on the Upper Sacramento River, Pit River and the White River. The best I got on the Madison was an incredibly beautiful, but only 15-inch fish. So, I’m well short of the brown trout of a lifetime. Which is probably good, because once I bring a mega-brown to hand, then what? Am I just destined for disappointment? Will I turn into one of those dudes who dismisses things like beauty because it’s just about catching fish in that elite class? Twenty-six or bust?

I can say that I would appreciate the big fish and never lose my passion for browns even after I catch one that’s wall worthy. Of course, I also said that I would be happy with just one nice fish, per day, on the Miracle Mile.

I caught a fish on the second cast. Then the third and put my rod down so my girlfriend could have the first shot through the bottom of the run. Both my fish were rainbows around 17 inches and she caught one herself. Things were cooking fast. Later I caught another, then a sucker fish, then the brown I can come to The Mile for, a brown trout pushing 19 inches.

It was only a little later that I got greedy and figured there were bigger ones out there and I wanted one of them. Next up was the mega-brown.

It was also later that I stopped catching fish and my drought continued until we left the next day.

I left the river with that familiar feeling of incompleteness that comes with fishing. Things are great, you’re happy, the trip was worth it. But man, what if …


• Jeff Lund is a writer and teacher based in Ketchikan. His column “I Went To The Woods,” a reference to Henry David Thoreau, appears twice a month.


More in News

Gabe Donohoe, lead sewer, works on creating face shields for people with hearing loss. Rapid Response PPE, founded at the beginning of the coronavirus epidemic, is creating specialized PPE, allowing people with hearing loss or dead people to easily see the speaker’s face, May 29, 2020. (Michael S. Lockett | Juneau Empire)
Local mask-making company continues to grow

In two weeks, they’ve produced and shipped more than 6,000 of the specialized face masks.

1
Juneau students earn degrees and honors

Recognitions for May 31, 2020.

A sign on a city bus urges the use of face coverings, but following an ordinance passed by the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly, all passengers will now be required to wear masks on buses and while using other city facilities. Friday, May 29, 2020. (Peter Segall | Juneau Empire)
Face coverings now required on buses, in city facilities

Masks will be provided for those who cannot afford them.

Police calls for Sunday, May 31, 2020

This report contains public information available to the Empire from law enforcement… Continue reading

Juneau City Hall on Monday, March 30, 2020. (Peter Segall | Juneau Empire)
Finance committee votes to hold line on property tax

“Projects will still go on. Services will still go on.”

Police calls for Friday, May 29, 2020

This report contains public information available to the Empire from law enforcement… Continue reading

Most Read