This is the fourth part in this series. Read the first here , the second here, and the third here. Subscribe by entering your email address in the right sidebar to receive a notification of new content on Casting Across.
So I obviously didn’t catch a trout.
That, as you are very well aware, is a Lepomis cyanellus. The green sunfish. Common across the eastern half of the United States, it is a fine panfish in its own right.
I caught these little guys, one after another. They were more than eager to eat dry flies and streamers. They even put a little bit of a bend in my three-weight.
The ability of sunfish to live in even the smallest, swampy trickles is pretty remarkable.
But sunfish are most definitely not trout.
I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t disappointed. After all of that anticipation, all of that build up, to catch something other than a brook trout was a letdown. A five pound bass wouldn’t have given me a reason to cry, but it still wouldn’t have been that little trout that my imagination had conjured up.
Before the sunfish ravaged my blue wing olive, I was planning out my cast. The cold water was incredibly refreshing about my ankles and calves in the humid late morning heat. From where I crouched, there were about five yards of riffle before a deep hole with a log plunging into its depths. Beyond that the pool opened up into the deep, waving grasses I had seen from the path. Where I saw the fish. The water entered the pool through an old stone culvert.
Culverts are intriguing. Be they stone or corrugated steel, they are inherently not wild and markedly human. Much has been made in headwater feeder creeks about certain culvert types and their placement as being very detrimental for fish movement. But in lower gradient waters, such as spring creeks, they can be prime fish-holding spots. Not necessarily picturesque, but productive.
I’ve caught a few nice fish out of culverts, including a huge brown trout on a historic limestone stream in Pennsylvania. So the one that was before me piqued my interest.
But first things first. I casted beautifully. Not to brag, but my rollcast slid under a branch and dropped in the dead center of the deep hole. I waited, fully anticipating a splash of one sort or another. Nothing. And then the tentative, weak nibbles of some minnow-like critter trying its hardest to pull my fly down by a single hackle fiber. I watched helplessly as it summoned a minnow horde to eventually sink the pattern. Pulling the line slowly back towards me, I recast a bit further out.
That is when it hit. The rise was a mild splash; the kind that is just fishy and inconspicuous in form. There was hope, for a brief moment. This wasn’t a minnow. This might be the larger, streamlined, trout-like fish I’d seen the week before. But before I could soar further along a flight of fancy, I saw the sunfish gleaming in the sun as I stripped line in.
Almost at once, I realized that the water was cool but not cold. The vegetation was green but not lush. The stream was good… but not right.
I tossed the little sunfish back in, and proceeded to catch a few more of his friends. I ventured deep into the culvert, got thoroughly covered in spider webs, and then realized that it was too small in diameter to turn around my fly rod. And I got wet up to my waist.
I crossed the little pool off my list. Walking back to the car, a return trip marked by a much more cavalier attitude about who might see me and deduce my angling quarry, I thought of the next spot on my list. A spot that has trout: I’ve seen them. But it is a spot that is not easily accessible through permissible means. If you want to make an omelet, you’ve got to break some eggs. If you want to catch trout in suburbia, you might have to get creative.