An impulsive decision to leave the library and fish one of my favorite spots—in the Virginia highlands—led to a catch I will never forget. I had been stuck inside, at James Madison University, preparing for a test when my dad texted me that he was making the long drive to come fish a spring creek nearby. A warm front had just moved into the valley and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to hit the creek.

This creek offers exceptional sight fishing, consisting of gin clear water and offering plenty of hiding spots in the lush vegetation. There is ample food available for the trout—ranging from BWO hatches to small fall fish to an abundance of scuds. However, these fish tend to be very picky when the water is clear, requiring small nymphs fished on 5x or 6x.

What started off as a slow day, soon turned around. While stalking up the stream bank, I finally spotted a decent fish sitting behind a moss bed. His rosy cheeks and dark body stood out in the rich, green vegetation. I just watched him for a while, scared that an imperfect cast would scare him off.

Watching him occasionally eat, moving left and right as the food came to him, I finally made a cast but didn’t even get a look. I cast and cast but just could not gain his interest. I decided to throw on a secret scud pattern and boom, he finally took. I couldn’t believe it. He took me straight to the reel, and my click pawl drag was screaming for all to hear. He immediately ran upstream then bolted back, heading directly at me, eventually making his way downstream. I could feel every move and violent head shake he made through my 5wt Orvis Superfine Glass. After several long runs and an unforgettable 8-10 minute fight, I finally got him in the net.

Measuring 20.5” and weighing in at just under 5 lbs, this fish had an attitude.

Congrats on the beautiful Rainbow! Colin is a member of James Madison University’s Fly Fishing Club as a part of Trout Unlimited and Costa’s 5 Rivers Program. Check out more from Colin on his Instagram here.