RAMBO THE RAINBOW

One of the contributors to Upland Equations, Scolopax, recently sent me a generous gift: Hemingway on Fishing. I have greatly enjoyed reading this famous author’s writing about one of my favorite subjects (Thanks Scolopax!). Tonight as I was reading Hemingway’s “The Best Rainbow Trout Fishing,” I appreciated the following account:


We decided on a McGinty and a Royal Coachman for the flies and at the second cast there was a swirl like the explosion of a depth bomb, the line went taut and the rainbow shot two feet out of the water. He tore down the pool and the line went out until the core of the reel showed. He jumped and each time he shot into the air we lowered the tip and prayed. Finally he jumped and the line went slack and Jacques reeled in. We thought he was gone and then he jumped right under our faces. He had shot upstream towards us so fast that it looked as though he were off.

When I finally netted him and rushed him up the bank and could feel his huge strength in the tremendous muscular jerks he made when I held him flat against the bank, it was almost dark. He measured twenty-six inches and weighed nine pounds and seven ounces.

That is rainbow trout fishing.

Obviously, this is not the fish he was writing about, but still a cool picture of young Hemingway pursuing his passion.

Man, I could not agree more! Have you ever seen a big rainbow do his best? Have you ever had one jump so high while you were standing knee deep in a river that he literally looked you in the eye? Now, that is rainbow trout fishing! The acrobatics of a wild rainbow never cease to amaze!

Hemingway’s story reminded me of one of my own. When I lived in Picabo, Idaho, I often fished Sullivan’s Lake on the Silver Creek Preserve. Sully’s is really a spring fed slough which is damned at its conjunction with Silver Creek. The areas in Sully’s where the springs well up are obvious as the bottom is light and sandy and gases constantly bubble up to the surface. Even though it is a hundred feet or more away, you can see huge trout shaped like cuban cigars cruising in and around the springs from the road on the hillside above the slough. The visibility of the fish is both a blessing and a curse as the fishing in Sullivan’s Slough can be darn near impossible! I usually resort to fishing it at the butt-crack of dawn or at sunset when the fish are a hair less warier.

One Summer evening I fished Sully’s with my family. At the time, I was using a streamer named, “Philo Betto,” Scott Schnebly’s (of Lost River Outfitters in Ketchum) fly named after Clint Eastwood’s character in the movie Every Which Way But Loose. Interestingly, Schnebly stated (and I am paraphrasing) that he needed a tough guy name for a kick-butt fly. I can attest that the fly definitely lives up to its name.


Believe it or not (despite its caption), I actually tied this fly and sent it in to Fish & Fly Magazine (See Spring 2005 issue) to be photoed and published along with my picture below. Scott Schnebly is the originator of the fly and he taught me how to tie it. However, he does not usually tie it with a bead head.

As I stripped in the Philo Betto, I watched anxiously as a monster rainbow zeroed in for the take. When the fish struck, he immediately erupted three feet high out of the water, but his momentum carried him through the air at least six feet in distance. The supercharged rainbow then pulled my entire floating line under water with his runaway train run. When he was 40 yards away, he shot for the moon again and my line peeled up from the depths spraying a rooster tail of of water lit up like glitter in the sunset. After plenty more acrobatics and a memorable tug-o-war, my wife, Kristin, finally netted this trophy and we took some awesome pictures. Then we released him unharmed back into his element. I later wrote to Fish & Fly Magazine: “This rainbow was the rip-roaringest fish I have ever hooked into.” Even though I have caught bigger fish since that time, this fish is still, by far, the hottest fish I ever caught.

This picture was first published in Fish & Fly Magazine in Spring of 2005.

I love brook trout for their breathtaking beauty, brownies for their conflicting wariness and sheer agression, cutthroat for their naivety and the wild places they inhabit, but, for my money, no trout puts on a show like Rambo the rainbow. He’ll give you “a war you won’t believe!”


Rambo the Rainbow: Notice the blister on the trout’s gill plate. Mark Danielson, who was the Silver Creek Preserve manager at the time and a good friend, later informed me that the trout in Sully’s get blisters like this by hovering in and around the springs. Somehow the natural gases embed themselves in the trout’s skin.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Dale Hernden says:

    Great Post. Wish we had rainbows like that.Dale

  2. Andy W. says:

    Thanks Dale! I thought there were some big rainbows up in your neck of the woods. I always hear about big stealhead that spawn in the Great Lake's tributaries. Ever give it a try?

  3. Scolopax says:

    Hi Andy, SO glad to hear that you are enjoying the Hemingway. Didn't he write beautifully though !. Sadly – I doubt that we shall see his like again.Scolopax.

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