Do You Keep Cool When A Big Fish Shows Up Unexpectedly?

Yesterday, Mr. Merwin posted about his trip to the upper Delaware River last week. He noted that it was cold, windy, and the trout were less than cooperative. I can attest to this, because I happened to be fishing the same river on the same days just a little further downstream. I spent one day fishing with friend and guide Joe Demalderis, and the others rowing myself. Hatches were practically non-existent, so it became a streamer game...the kind that turns your stripping arm to Jell-O by day's end.

My buddy Mark and I would get the occasional small-fish follow, we'd stick a 13-incher here and there, and after ten miles of rowing conceded to the fact that this was the kind of action we'd have so we better just be happy with it. Then on cast number 2,678, my sculpin glided off the bank and the shadow of the pictured fish rose from below it. Having seen no trout this size the whole trip, I gasped, fully expecting the brown to turn away. But by briefly pausing to stare at the shadow, I inadvertently stopped my strip and the fly. That's when it got inhaled.

I always seem to have more success with big fish when I can't see them. I'll hook 20 average-sized bonefish in a day, then blow it when the lone 12-pounder cruises by. I've reeled in a live bunker for a re-cast, only to see a cow striper behind it at the last second and panic. Do you reel faster? Do you let bunker hang? It feels like I choose the wrong option more often than not. I got lucky last week with this trout, but if I had a buck for every big largemouth, pike, and seatrout I missed when they appeared out of nowhere, I'd be rich.

How about you? Is there a memorable trophy opportunity you choked because you saw what you were dealing with?