Trophy Quest: Citation #20, Brook Trout

by Aaron Ball

   As the new year rolls around, I often find myself thinking about fishing goals or what adventures I want to undertake for the upcoming year.  Two things I vowed to do this year was to finally obtain Master Angler IV in the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources’ Angler Recognition Program. The second was just to branch out on more adventures, even if it that means doing them solo. 

  Cedar Springs undoubtably is one of the best places in Virginia to try and obtain the three citation trout species. However, for me, that entails roughly a six-hour round trip and a wake-up time of about 2:30 am. That is where making those resolutions comes into play and made me follow through with making a reservation for Martin Luther King Day. 

   I made reservations for two people, not knowing at the time if I would be able to find somebody else crazy enough to accompany me, but I had resigned I would make the drive myself if I had to. 

  Luckily, I was able to talk my friend Brian into accompanying me again for our second trip down the Interstate 81 corridor. If you remember, he also accompanied on my trip a few years ago when I went searching for a citation rainbow trout.  At the last minute, I even had doubts on if making the trip was worth it, but Brian convinced me that we needed to make the trip. 

  So, we hit the road at 2:30 am and made the long drive down to Rural Retreat, Virginia even though the truck thermometer was hovering right around 20 degrees. We got down there and even though the sun had not yet peeked over the mountains we geared up and headed to the river.  

  We each staked out a section of the stream that looked good, and I struck up a conversation with an older gentleman nearby. He told me that he frequented Cedar Springs often, and I asked him that if he had ever caught a citation brook trout there. He indicated he had caught a few there, but not often. While my spirts were buoyed a little knowing he had caught some, I knew my odds were long.

I tried to remain confident, even though my hands and feet were on the verge of frostbite and the ice was heavy in my rod guides. 

  I started throwing my Joe’s Fly into the current while secretly hoping that Brian would connect on a citation rainbow trout early so, we could begin the long trek home earlier than later. 

  After about five minutes of throwing the Joe’s Fly I felt that first tug I had come for. When I first saw the flash close to the bank, I knew that for a rainbow trout there, it was on the smaller side, so I just casually flipped the fish onto the bank.  

  As the fish cleared the water, I’m not sure who was more shocked. The fish, as it was finding itself flung from the water through the air, or me as I realized that it was in fact a brook trout that was now precariously in midair attached to a tiny hook. Fortunately, the hook stayed in, the line did its job and the fish landed on the bank. 

So here I was, my first fish of the day and it was in fact a trophy brook trout. I kind of joked with the older gentleman that I couldn’t believe that that just had happened. I was of course elated and I took a few minutes to reflect on this journey. 

  I thought back over all the early mornings, sunrises and sunsets this journey had taken me on. To finally accomplish a goal I had chased for so long was a surreal moment.  Unfortunately for me, there would be a price to pay for my fishing luck.

  My third fish was a sizable rainbow trout, and as I worked it to the bank, I reached down to grab it (while leaving my net on the bank) and my hand slipped up the fish.  The Joe’s Fly buried into my finger while still attached to a very angry rainbow trout.  

  I managed to get the fish onto the bank, pin the fish to the ground, and remove the hook from the fish’s mouth. However, there was still the problem of having a hook in my finger and being in the middle of nowhere.  This is where the bone-chilling cold helped. I could barely feel my hand as I walked up the river looking for Brian. 

  Eventually I tracked him down, and I advised him of my current situation. His response to me, “don’t worry I’ve watched a bunch of videos with the braided line trick.” He also told me to stop being a baby as only a close friend can do and reported he had dealt with much worse during his time in the Army.  Sure enough, he popped it right out and we were back to fishing in no time. 

  Brian did in fact end up catching his citation rainbow trout, and the ride back up I-81 seemed to fly right by.  I encourage all of you reading this to set goals or plan a trip with a friend. As always, I can be reached at @Psuaaron on IG. 

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