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It’s Not a Beaver!

Above: What it looks like to watch someone catch a fish at night.


Before the last of the water from the aquatic eruption had fallen, one of my fishing companions let out a string of expletives. The punctuation on the end of the profanity-laden, run-on sentence was “…big fish.”

It was a big fish. A big trout, to be exact.

“No way. It was just a beaver,” was my attempt at humor. I handle mildly stressful situations with mild attempts at humor.

“No,” Scott replied. “It’s not a beaver. It was a trout.” He was laser focused.

Chris was just casting and casting and casting.

It was nearly dark, and we had all anticipated this moment. That special time at twilight when big trout leave their spooky inhibitions under streambanks and their usual carefulness down in dark pools. Dusk is when predators act like predators. We had counted on this and decided to predate on those very trout ourselves… releasing them, of course.

Mice were on the menu.

Now, we hadn’t seen any mice. But we had heard story of large brown trout chasing mice across this particular stretch of river. It seemed too good to be true. Access was easy. There was ample casting room. The current was cooperative. Real mice or not, this was just the kind of place to fish faux mice.

The evening had already turned up a few fish. Between the three of us a brown, a brook, and a rainbow had all come to hand. All were on streamers. But the allure of mice-eating trout had us leaving fish to find fish.

The mice patterns were being tied on when another explosion upstream turned all our heads.

“I think I’m going to cast upstream,” I said. My mild stress was ratcheted up to moderate, and I waded into casting range with a little bit of urgency.

We fished and fished. We all claimed to feel bumps. We switched spots. We moved downstream collectively. We tried new kinds of mice. We talked nonsense and family and business and fishing. It was getting late.

“Fish!” Chris stated, sounding somewhat startled.

“What is it?” I asked. I don’t know what I expected him to say, seeing as it was pitch black and the fish was still yards away from him.

Scott and I both turned on our headlamps and shined our lights right at his face. This probably didn’t help in his attempts to identify or land the fish, and, if anything, put him at risk of falling blinded into the quick current.

“Chub,” he said.

“On a mouse? A chub hit a mouse? A big, foam mouse? A chub?”

More good-natured jesting tinged with jealousy that we didn’t catch any chubs on mice followed. Ultimately, jesting was all that would follow. All of us had long drives, and all of us have small children who wake up early.

It wasn’t a strategic, comprehensive battle plan. It was just a quick evening rodential blitz on some big brown trout.

Splashes and creek chubs and banter are as much a part of fly fishing as strong, heavy trout. A few hours on a weeknight, flinging giant flies in hope of being in the right place at the right time is going to pay off in one way or another. It did: not in flash-illuminated photos of nocturnal predators, but in a fun, shared, quasi-adventurous manner.

Because after all, that next cast could prove to be a trout. Or a beaver. Or one very surprised creek chub, who would absolutely not consider himself at the right place at the right time.


  1. Bob Heine says:

    Years ago I hooked/snagged a large beaver at midnight while fly fishing Arkansas’s White river. It took(?) a size 4 Heine’s Night Train streamer. The fight was much slower and deliberate than a trout’s. I was 99% sure it was a beaver within 30 seconds of the fight. But fishing was slow and I decided to humor myself and fight the entity until I landed it or was sure-100%-that it was a beaver. One hour and a quarter mile downstream, my headlamp finally picked up beaver eye shine.Then unmistakable tail splash. The beaver was massive. I broke off the 2x tippet.

    An angry beaver at 1;00 AM is something I prefer to avoid.

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