Trout fishing with talons

When it comes to the success of some fishermen I’ve never been envious. Instead, I admire them for their ability to cast a fly or to finess a bass into hitting a plastic lure. Most importantly, I simply admire their ability to consistently catch fish.

This past week turkey season was in full swing and I was caught up on most of my work assignments. That’s when my wife noted trout season was open and that perhaps I should head to a nearby lake and attempt to catch a trout or two for supper. “I love trout and you haven’t brought any home in quite some time,” she said. “Why don’t you go?"

That was all I needed. I was positive it would be a no-brainer to catch a few fish and enjoy a fine trout dinner, especially when they were caught out of an ice cold lake. The weather was warm, but not warm enough to send the trout deep, and I knew the fish would still be cruising just under the surface after sunset, feeding on the black gnat larvae that were hatching in incredible numbers. 

I was confident the only equipment I needed was my ultralight spinning outfit, a plastic torpedo bubble and a supply of black gnat flies in sizes 12 and 14. I reasoned the fish would be all over the surface of the lake feeding like crazy and I’d be home in no time. Wrong!

I was at the lake for about two hours and not a fish dimpled the surface. The flies were everywhere and the barn swallows swooped over the water in a feeding frenzy, but not a single trout even took a nip at my fly. 

Undaunted by my initial lack of success, I returned the next day with renewed confidence and a dozen minnows, which by my calculations was 10 more than I would need. After all, I only wanted two trout, and I reasoned if they wouldn’t hit a fly then surely the minnows would do the job and I could easily catch the two I wanted for supper. 

Wrong again! I sat for another two hours drowning at least 10 of my minnows and still had nothing to show for my efforts. What’s more, not a single dimple on the lake’s surface betrayed the presence of a feeding trout. This scenario played out for the next three days and I was getting frustrated. My wife still had a craving for trout and time was running out because truthfully, I had bigger fish to fry. Turkey season always takes first priority and the last part of the season has generally been very good to me. If I didn’t get a fish this trip the fishing would have to take a back seat to my turkey hunting. 

It was on my last evening trip to the lake when I noticed a pair of fishermen catching trout almost at will. I couldn’t take my eyes off them. Unlike me, they easily caught one trout after another and all I could do was watch. 

The "fishermen" were a pair of ospreys and they were circling above the lake. When they spotted a fish they banked and then dove like F-15 fighters, hitting the surface of the water with a loud splash. They never came up empty handed – or empty taloned – and with every dive they came up with a fish. They made what I found hard to do look easy and it was interesting to watch how the big birds held their prey with both claws and how they twisted the fish lengthwise in the direction of flight, apparently to decrease wind resistance. 

Watching the pair circle, dive and then fly off with their catch kept me entertained and made me aware that the trout were there in good numbers. Only problem was I couldn’t catch them, but I’m glad someone did. As I said, I admire good fishermen. 

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