What Were Your Most Memorable Catches of 2011?

In less than 48 hours it will be 2011 no more, so now is as good a time as any for a little fishing season reflection. Yesterday I was thinking about which fish from this year I'd consider my most memorable catch, and my choice might surprise you. I just caught my first muskie a few weeks ago, and that's one I won't forget. However, while a goal was achieved with that 'skie, it was a pretty straightforward deal. The muskie hit, rolled around a few times, and was in the net. The steelhead below, on the other hand, may not be particularly impressive as the species goes, but "memorable" does not automatically mean "big."

This steelhead came from Elk Creek in Pennsylvania a few months ago when I was fishing with Mark DeFrank (left) and Chris Kazulen...two guides that have put in a lot of years on Elk. When we met up that morning, the fellas were none too happy about the stream conditions. Elk was dead low and gin clear, forcing whatever steelhead had come up during higher water to stack in the few holes they could find between long runs only a few inches deep. The game, they told me, was to scale down to super-tiny bug on 4-pound tippet, and getting the fish to eat meant making a perfect cast since they were so spooky.

Well, about an hour in I hooked up this fish; step one complete. Now I had to deal with a wildly ticked off steelie on hair-thin tippet. The only way I was going to land it was to keep it in the hole that was about 30 feet long. If it ran up or down the shallow riffles above and below me it would likely be game over. Every time it took off my heart sank, waiting for the line to snap. But miraculously I managed to turn it around every time until Chris put it in the net. Of all the fish fights I've had in 2011, I will remember that one most fondly.

How about you? Which 2011 fish stick out most in your mind? Happy New Year everyone.