August 02, 2017
This One Time
Looked at my log books and could not nail down the exact day or year. There was only one photo referenced and I gave it away. Here is the story about the one Polaroid photo given away.
One of my fishing friends did an internship with the DNR one summer to help with shocking surveys in the driftless. This was about 25 years ago if I remember correctly. My bud contacted me after a shocking survey. I think he contacted me just to torture me. The stretch they shocked was way off the road and owned by a curmudgeon that was one of those angry landowners that didn't even allow his relatives on his land to fish. It had lots of beaver dams and was hard to shock.
The giant trout the team shocked was more than my bud could bear to keep secret. He had to tell me. The landowner was along when they shocked. My buddy was sure the owner was going to go after the trout the next day even. I drove by the area the next morning at first light and I saw the landowner walking out into his pasture with a five gallon bucket. I figured the monster female brown would be on the guy's grill later that day.
I later learned that my bud had told other people about the huge trout and many went to ask the landowner if they could fish. The owner knew the word had gotten out about the giant female brown on his 650 acre stretch. He was not letting anyone on there and even barked at a couple people that asked and said: "My land my fish!"
It was a running joke in my hometown about the crazy landowner and his pursuit of the mythical brown. The season passed and the word on stream was the guy could not catch the trout. The word was also that the landowner became even more aggressive towards anglers that asked permission to pursue it.
The new season was almost upon me and I decided I was going to ask the landowner if I could fish on his property. The farmer met me part way in his driveway. He was shouting before I even got out of my vehicle. All I heard was "NO" you can't fish on my property and get off my land and never come back. I heard him shout as I left: "I caught the damn thing last year anyway!"
Opening day came and I drove by his stretch out of curiosity. There he was in the distance walking through his field with that five gallon bucket again. This meant he had not caught the big fish the year prior like he said. I drove by again later. It was late May and there was a beaten down path in the weeds where the owner crawled over his fence to go out after the giant brown. I smirked as I drove by and decided to let the maniac catch his "Moby Dick."
It was the fourth of July celebration in my hometown and I was at the local watering hole talking with friends. The next thing I knew I was being tapped on my shoulder and there was the aggressive landowner standing there and he was all in a huff.
He had heard me talking about the big trout and the persistent landowner that kept striking out. The landowner was enraged that I had been dissing him at the bar and he asked if I had sent people to fish his land because he had chased away numerous anglers trying to steal his big trout.
I had not fished the stretch after the trout and was taking his NO I couldn't fish there at face value but got pissed at the guy for being aggressive towards me in front of my friends and the entire community.
I was in law enforcement at the time and knew the wading rules very well. I had never had to wade before because I could typically soften up landowners and get on fish. I was about to make an exception to my standard policy to not wade due to the ranting maniac landowner.
I took three days off to chase this trout. I figured I would go in downstream of his land and wade up to where I thought it was located. Little did I know the landowner had talked to the neighboring landowners into NOT allowing anglers on their property either. It was going to be a crazy long wade to get to the area. I had taken three days off and I decided I was going to do it.
I hit the stream at one hour before light and waded past many good looking holes to get on the maniac's land to get a chance at the big brown. It was obvious when I came to his line fence. The ten strand barb wire fence went from stream level to a good eight feet up with a no trespassing sign centered on the top strand. It looked like a prison camp fence.
I heard a tractor in the distance. The sound got louder. I thought I had been stealthy and there was no way he could see me. The farmer was doing some weird driving. I saw him drive across the stream in four places and purposely rev up his tractor as he went across to go across fast each time. He did this a dozen times at least. He was muddying the stream and trying to disrupt any potential anglers from fishing. This guy had become unhinged. He didn't see me and he was doing this out of pure madness.
I waited for him to leave and fished through. Nothing was going to bite after all this nonsense and I fished through quickly. I did notice a beaten down area alongside the stream with a five gallon pale there. This was his battle station for the trout. His driving across the water like a crazy man was just above and below the area and told me where to look. He couldn't catch the trout so no one was going to. He made an error. He had shown me where the big fish lived.
I gave the stream a rest the next day and went after the big brown the third day. I started two hours before first light and got to his line fence before first light. I was crouching down as I came close to the hole to keep my profile low. I was about to cast and out of the bushes the maniac came with a giant rock in his hand. He tossed it in the middle of the hole.
He had waited for me to get up on the hole before he threw the boulder. He was ranting and saying he had seen my vehicle way down stream two days ago and he was ready for me. He had been there the day prior waiting for me too. He knew I was in law enforcement and left quickly and did not get in my face. He said in parting he was going to keep a close eye on "HIS" trout and no one was going to catch it. He preferred it die of old age before he let anyone catch it.
I went to my mother's home after and told her about the kook. She knew him only a little. She told me she knew him from church every Saturday night. He came every Saturday for decades she said. I smiled and made my battle plan.
I parked my vehicle at the end point and had my wife drop me off downstream. I waded upstream like my tail was on fire. After all this nonsense I caught the big trout on the third cast. I took one Polaroid photo of it.
I quickly waded to my vehicle and drove past the land owner's farm. I slowed down before I got there. He was still at church. I wrote "Thank You" on the bottom of the Polaroid photo and put it in his mailbox and put the flag up and drove away.