My indicator slipped past the brown I was sight fishing to, but I set hard on a take four feet downstream and immediately my brain began a familiar back and forth.
There it is.
Great fish. Alright!
Wait a minute. Wait a damn second here.
A bright flash at the surface and I accepted what I already knew. Whitefish…
But hey, nice whitefish.
Whitefish get a bad rap. They seem to find our flies at the least optimum times. More specifically, any time we are fishing for trout. Catching whitefish can be a let down because it is not what we are expecting when our attention is so singularly focused in targeting trout. The more I fly fish though, the more I appreciate the different experiences that this sport brings us. Whitefish may not be a beautiful, colored up rainbow, but that difference makes them special.
Like many trout fishermen my dislike for whitefish began at an early age.
Although I can’t remember exactly when or how, it was ingrained in me to be disappointed with a whitefish in the net. My enjoyment of these fish has been a gradual one. The irony is not missed on me that the better I get at catching trout, the more I seem to enjoy catching these fish and appreciate their unique qualities.
Here are a few things that changed my mind as I spent more time on the water.
Damn Hard Fighting
You have to give it to them. Whitefish pull hard with a hook in their mouth. They may not jump or splash around much but they will definitely take the line off your reel and put a bend in your rod. This is excellent practice for fighting fish and makes for a fun time as well.
Whitefish have a beauty of their own. The sun glistening off a thick, silver whitefish flank can be impressive. The more I encounter them, the more I appreciate why some jokingly refer to these fish as Rocky Mountain Bonefish.
Whether you like it or not, when you catch a whitefish, it belongs there. Whitefish are native to the Rocky Mountains and that is not something that can be said about all the species of fish that we catch on a trout stream. There is something special about catching fish that have been in their home waters for thousands of years.
I’ll be honest (by the way that’s the way it will always be at WOT), I don’t know if I will ever be equally excited to catch a whitefish as a trout. But I can see them for what they are now: hard fighting, beautiful, native fish whose biggest similarity with trout may be that they are different.
When you think about it, every fish is a new memory and a new connection with the river. I’ll happily take that experience however I can get it. Even if it comes from “mighty whitey.”
If you still aren’t convinced these noble creatures are valuable… I hear smoked whitefish are delicious. Wadeoutthere.
What’s your take on whitefish? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.