I kneel down on the rocks, hands shaking, chest and arms covered in an ice cold slime and let loose a cry of joy that echos across the mirror lake and down the gorge below to be swallowed up by the indifference of the wild. The moment is pure. The moment is thoughtless. It's what dreams are made of.
I bought a topo map at REI at 21:00 Friday night, went to sleep at 24:3o, woke up at 3:45, and was on the trail head at 6:30. The morning was very pleasant. I don't know what the air temp was but it felt just right with the pant legs zipped off and sleeves rolled up. The animals thought so too, and were uncharacteristically caught off guard by the particularly early human invasion of their pristine world.
I bought a polarised lens for my camera specifically for getting shots of lake reflections and fish under the surface like I see them with my shades. It's all too beautifully exotic not to share.
We arrive at the lake and I begin my standard stalking lap around the edge peering into the water for fish. I see a deep flash and take a few casts to it, but quickly lose interest and move on.
Suddenly my eye catches some movement close in to the shore ahead and I get a stark view of the source of said movement. I gasp and slowly lay down behind a bush and let the vision pass by me no more than 5 feet off the shore. He lumbers by taking a gulp of something underwater and then sticks his nose out and seems to gulp something else off the surface. Maybe it was just a gulp of air.
My heart starts pounding knowing that I will get a single chance. The pressure of the situation is immense and mounting by the second.
I raise to a crouched position, eyes glued, and follow him trailing by 30 feet or so. A cast is made 10 feet in front of him and the woolly bugger is let to sink. As he closes in on the position I give it a wiggle with my line hand and wait.
I honestly don't know what told me to set the hook. It was a "zen set" as they say. When I tightened the line his nose softly tilted up through the water like a string puppet, followed by a toilet flush; the show had begun.
Time lost existence. The joy of hooking him quickly melted into the dreadful prospect of snapping him off. I had no net, 5x tippet, and a barbless hook.
He would pump his whale-ish tail with force throwing his weight, and then relax just to let me know that even though there was a dang hook in his mouth, he was king.
I finally make my move and begin leading him in for the tail grab. The wire of emotional tension pulling on my heart cranks fully taught:
A fit of splashing and yelling, then finally a hoist... the wire in my chest snaps.
A few photos are shot by Ryan who, thank god, was there to wittness and capture it all. Ryan, you are the man. The cutty is measured against my rod, revived, and then released to pass on his beastly genes and get back to the business of ruling.
I shudder, drop to my knees, and let out a Michael Phelps roar.
I spent the rest of the afternoon in a state of wonder. I walked around and took more photos, utilizing the new lens.
Some cutthroats hiding under the broken surface (notice the red):
As usual, the clouds tumbled in and flexed their thunderous might. Time to book it out of there, and the day came to an end.
The cutty measured an unprecedented 26 inches.