June 27, 2023


Fish are meant to stay in the water. No, I'm not preaching for you to "keep 'em wet." It's an actual truth, or so I'm told, that fish belong in the water. Something about gills and breathing. It's only our questionable oversight as anglers that chooses to remove them from that sanctuary. Be it permanently for tablefare, temporarily for sport, or these days, egotistically for the 'Gram.

After a week of catching some hefty brown trout in the meandering spring creeks of southwestern Wisconsin, I switched gears and redirected myself to the sanctum of the Georgia headwaters, seeking a reunion with its much smaller, wild, resident rainbow trout.

The day was gorgeous, with just enough warmth from the sun to occasionally pierce the crisp air that can only be found at altitude during the heat of the southern summer. And even better, the trout were in a good mood, or at least a hungry one, their metabolisms likely jumpstarted by the pleasant weather.

While the fish weren't particularly picky, repeatedly succumbing to any and all sub-surface offerings, they immediately reminded me how slick and slithery they can be, once wrangled from the water, fooled by their eyes and stomachs. 

See, those Driftless browns tend to stay put after the throes of battle. Once conquered, they gently lay down their flag. This submission allows you to hoist them from the water momentarily to get a closer look, dress their wounds by dislodging the hook, then if you choose, return them from whence they came. Their captive behavior resembles a form of situational awareness, as if they understand the war is almost over and their time as a prisoner will be brief.

However those rainbows... Oh, those plucky little Georgia rainbows choose not to go down without a fight. While they may be brought to hand faster, it's only a ploy. A Trojan horse approach to combat in which they strategically get as close to their adversary as possible before unleashing a full artillery of spasms, gyrations, and convulsions. Anything to jettison the hook and then return to the water defiantly and without exploitation. As anglers, we're the Russians and they're screaming "Wolverines!"

That's why those little mountain rainbows have earned a special place in my heart. They may not be the biggest fish, but they never surrender. They never quit. Fight on Wolverines.


  1. At times those little ones are more fun, but a 9 pounder on a fly rod is something you just don't forget.

  2. I absolutely love those feisty little wild Rainbows! Ounce per ounce they're one of the strongest Trout species. Wonderful article Michael..., a very enjoyable read. Cheers.

  3. Thanks Ty, they are definitely feisty!

  4. Mike
    Trout this size is a blast on a two-wt—7 1/2 ft. ---one of the main things I've learned about fishing for small trout is never to use fly rods that overpower the fish you are pursuing! Thanks for sharing

    1. It's no fun to totally overpower the fish. There's a right tool for every job.