As your eyes dry out from searching the lake, a sharp sting sets in to the fingers from stripping the iced fly line across creased skin hundreds of times, and hope slowly fades. You began to think, “At least my double haul is looking good” – which is really what you say to yourself to keep from feeling disappointment and gnawing self-doubt.

Either way you’re out there right? And it feels good to cast the big rods again. Aside from a few days spent in the Florida Keys chasing the big three, your eight and nine weight Winstons have been gathering dust this summer. Now, rigged with cold water lines and sock-sized baitfish flies from your “Big and Flashy” box, the powerful rod feels like a cannon as it launches loops out toward the drop.

With a few of your best fishing buds spread out along the rocky shoreline – the only ones crazy enough to join you on this fool’s errand – there are hopes someone will make it happen. And maybe not. There have been plenty of fishless days this season. Hours pass and your mind starts to slowly fade into the elements. Then, something happens. 60 feet out in the frigid lake you’re wading in (a few inches too deep for that hole in your waders you’ve been putting off patching), a force tugs at you… and you’re not sure if it’s a fish, rock or delusion. You pull back and are quickly awakened to the reality of “Big. Fish. On!”

But not just any fish. It’s the elusive Mackinaw or Lake Trout. Most of the year this pelagic fish is hiding in 80 feet of water, or deeper, cruising the depths and gorging on kokanee salmon and the 10” rainbow trout stocked by the DOW. It’s a fish usually targeted with conventional gear, boats, downriggers, or by ice fisherman…fly fishermen in this state rarely dabble in its glory. Nerves are high as you watch your backing fly off the reel, and you timidly crank your drag a few clicks tighter to slow the fish’s impressive run. When the momentum finally shifts, you can reel. Your buddies have heard your shouts and are all holding their breath, clenching their teeth and refusing to blink. Don’t. F-it. Up. Especially whoever dares to net him!

Reel, reel, reel, then let him run. Reel again, he’s getting closer. “Oh my God, would you look at that!”

Now the fish is in the shallows. It throws water with an angry head shake and rolls on the surface giving you your first good look at its massive spotted body. The glowing yellow fins and powerful forked tail stretch out well past the dirty 30 mark. You start to doubt your net size. “Please, please don’t throw the hook!”

In the final tense moments, a scoop of the net…and relief.

Just like that the doubt is gone and a dream-like sense of accomplishment sets in. It is possible after all, and you know that you will be back for more.


Lee and Michaela Molvie are Winston and Bauer Ambassadors based in Colorado. Aside from their professional pursuits, their main love is fly fishing. Together they’ve fished all over the West and chased saltwater species in Baja, Hawaii and the Florida Keys. When they’re not wading or floating their favorite rivers in Colorado, they’re focused on improving the health of our wild rivers and forests. In 2017, together with co-founder Meaka Ravithis, they founded the brand Isoterics Apparel, a clothing company that’s dedicated to the removal of beetlekill and deadfall in forests across the Mountain West. Isoterics gives 10% of profits towards the removal of beetle-kill, dead-fall and other fire mitigation projects.

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