By Matt Lenz, Pro Staff

All across the nation, from the White River in Arkansas to the mighty Lee’s Ferry in Arizona, tailwater fishing has provided some of the most exciting moments for a fly fisherman. Fishing below these dams has become more and more popular over the years and for good reason, monster trout. Many twenty-five pound plus fish have been landed all across the county throughout these one to two mile stretches of rivers. Although popularity levels have grown and groups have flocked to these areas, the numbers of large fish caught has been improving in recent years due to new catch and release regulations.

There is a reason these fish get big, and it’s not completely due to an abundance of food. These fish are ‘smarter than the average bear’ due to being caught multiple times and continued fishing pressure. It takes more than a novice fisherman to hook one of these pigs. Size 20 to 26 flies and 6x tippet or higher is usually the name of the game, but that is just half the battle. These fish do not enjoy having their food source suddenly jerked into the side of their mouth, with an uncomfortable pressure. For those who have gotten to experience the battle of a tailwater trout, you will recall the mighty bass-like headshakes, extreme barrel rolls, nose gravel rubs and last but not least, the merry go round the rock.

It takes great time on the water, studying how trout will react to each movement and leverage of the rod, and being able to read their next move to prevent a quick headshake from making you have tears running down your face.

A tailwater with these monsters is a place that can make your mind do funny things. There is “buck fever” in hunting, and for tailwater trout, fisherman definitely get “trout fever”. Usually there is a visual aspect to fishing tailwaters. A good pair of polarized glasses could turn a large red rock in to the biggest rainbow trout you have ever seen. Breaking off at this point, on a back cast, is as fatal as it can get. I challenge you to try to tie a size 24 midge onto 6x tippet with a 32 inch trout in front of you.

If you do get the perfect drift and convince these over-fished trout to eat your fly, it’s game on. Once you have that fish on, your mind focuses on nothing else but getting it into the net. Rapids, waterfalls, deep pools all seem to disappear at a moment’s notice. Big trout create opportunities for a “A River Runs Through It” moment, which probably could have been easily avoided had you just taken the path on the shore.

Those hoping to get “lost” in the wilderness experience will be disappointed, as tailwater fishing combative at times. A good fishing tailwater is sometimes a crowded tailwater. There are definitely times of year that can still provide you with solitary moments. Most days though, you pick your hole and that’s your spot for the day because you have guys fifteen feet to either side of you.

Patience is key when attempting to catch and land the big one. After spending a summer guiding on a tailwater last summer, I would say the ratio of hooking a trophy trout to landing a trophy trout is one in ten for a novice. After years of experience, this ratio will get better, but even the best of us lose a trophy from time to time. Tailwater fishing for monster trout is one of the toughest encounters a fly fisherman will ever have, but the moment that trophy trout is scooped into the net, is the moment a long awaited journey finds peace.