I knew I could count on Paula Shearer to meet me down at the Bow River in Calgary on a chilly spring weekday. I had the day off of work and was determined to get on the water despite the less than favorable conditions. Rain, cold, wind. Not ideal, but also not a deal breaker for the determined angler.

I asked Paula if she could give me some spey casting tips as I had never used a two-hand rod before and was eager to learn. As I worked on attempting to perfect my anchor, sweep and D-Loop, Paula went upstream and fished the top of this long deep bucket before the next river bend.

It wasn’t long after her first few swings that she had hooked into a fish. As I scrambled to line up and get my camera settings dialed I asked her how the fish was. “Looks alright..” she said.

As I snapped some photos of her fighting it, the fish came to the surface showing it’s face for a brief moment before darting away again. It was then we both had that “Holy Shit” moment.

Now clued into the size of the brown she had on the end of her line I set the camera to my side and went and helped her net it. After a valiant fight and having the beast of a brown to hand we both cheered in excitement. Paula is no stranger to good-sized fish, but this was one of her biggest browns on a two-handed rod yet and she was so pumped.

It was really cool to experience that entire scenario, and this was one of those times where I was thankful to be the photographer over the angler. Sharing in the experience of a big fish like this as a spectator is absolutely amazing as your playing witness to the broad range of emotions the angler is going through.

From the hookup to the fight, to landing the fish and finally admiring and releasing it. The rollercoaster of emotion involved with big fish like this makes for some of my favorite photographs, and I was truly honored to be there to capture it all.

Photos and words from Amber & Brendan Toner, give them a follow on Instagram at @thebugparade. Angler: Paula Shearer.

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