September 19, 2018

Log Books Don't Lie

The clock is ticking. In less than a month 2018 trout season closes. Don't be a spectator in "The Year Of The Big Brown."

Wisconsin Natural Resources Magazine Fall 2018

September 18, 2018


"Those who dwell among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life." 

~ Carson

September 17, 2018

A Dragon's Tail

It was September of 1998.  My daughter Anna was born in July 1996.  My wings were severely clipped due to working in Madison and commuting an hour each way to work each day.  The days I wasn't working I took care of our daughter.  It was late September and my wife Barb saw I needed some time on the water to chase trout and basically kicked me out of the house and told me not to come back for four hours minimum.

My trout rods were waiting in the corner by the door all season.  I had gone a few times while Anna was really small.  I never felt comfortable abandoning my wife with a little baby.  Anna was actually a low maintenance baby.  My wife shooing me out the door was a god send.  She did not tell me twice.  I was gone in record time.

I headed north out of town to an easy spot I had fished in the past.  There was a truck there already.  I cursed my luck and was about to drive past when I saw the angler coming out of the woods.  I recognized the angler.  It was the local game warden in fishing gear and he was alone.  I waiting by his vehicle to talk to him.  I wised off when he came to the vehicle.  I said:  "Must be a big trout back there or you wouldn't have chased it on your days off." 

 The warden just shook his head and responded:  " Yup you are right."  "I just had it on for a short time but it shook my rapala."  "It was huge!"  "I have been chasing it all season and finally had it to shore and it got off before I could net it."  He gave me a hand gesture on how big it was and all I could say was: "WOW!"  He showed me the rapala and it had teeth marks on it the entire length.  He told me it was a fresh out of the box rapala and those teeth marks were from the giant big headed male brown with alligator teeth.  He said it had such a pronounced kype you could hang it on a clothes line.  I did not fish there because he had just hit it hard.  The warden told me the land owners were picky and I should get permission before I went in.

I fished another place that afternoon but the alligator toothed brown was upfront there in my mind the entire time.  I stopped at the two farmer's house that owned the stretch on the way home and secured permission.  I did not fish the stretch that year because I felt like a spot stealer and out of respect.  I talked to the warden during the closed season and he told me:  "Go slay the monster, you have my blessing."

I was out there the opener in March.  No one was home.  I remembered where I had seen him walk out and went back there.  It was a long ways.  There were rock bluffs on the other side of the stream.  The stream took a ninety degree turn and had a big downed tree in the water.  This had to be the monster's home.  There was a four wheeler trail on the other bank on the 90 degree turn.  The owner had put up a plaque on the trail on a big tree.  It said: "Dragon's Tail."

I hit the area numerous times that spring with no luck.  I invited my friend Patrick with his dad Lucky Larry to chase the monster.  Lucky Larry got his nickname because every time I fished with Larry I caught a monster.  We took the long walk back to the turn in the stream.  Patrick and I decided it was Larry's turn to have the best shot at a big one.  It was Larry's turn to be lucky.

Patrick went 20 yards downstream of the hole and I went 20 yards upstream.  We placed Larry on the "Dragon's Tail."  Larry had tied up at the vehicle.  He put a long shanked size eight wire hook on.  Larry was using crawlers.  I tried to talk Larry into a bit stouter of a hook but it was Larry's tried and true trout slayer set up.

It wasn't long and Larry was screaming "NET!"  Patrick and I sprinted to Larry's battle station.   Patrick grabbed my net off my back and went to help his dad.  I stood back and watched.  Larry had the trout on the surface and it was thrashing so hard the splashes were going above Patrick and Larry's head.  The commotion ended quickly.  Both anglers turned towards me with long faces.  The huge brown had straightened the hook and off it went.  Both had seen it and were certain it was the monster I had been chasing.  As per my tradition Larry got to name a big brown landed or lost.  Larry dubbed him "The Dragon."

I chased the trout another 10 times that year with no results.  I talked myself into believing that the trout had moved on because it was hooked two times and it decided that was enough and moved on .  I had thrown the kitchen sink at him in every season and light setting. The dragon was classified as "Legend" status in my log book.  I did not pursue him the rest of that year.

The next year Anna was bigger so I put her in a back pack carrying system and took her fishing with me.  She was a perfect passenger and made the days fishing go by with less stress.  I had her trained to sit on the bank and play with her barbies when I was fishing a hard to get to stretch.  It was the same drill.  I walked around and stomped down all the weeds and reinforced to her to stay seated and not get up for any reason.  Anna listened well and this arrangement made for fun fishing.

We were getting ready to go fishing and Anna in a wee almost cartoon sounding voice asked to see where the dragon lived.  She must have heard me speak of it and it stuck in her memory.  Off we went to chase the dragon.

I walked straight to the area.  I showed Anna the sign on the other bank that said "Dragon's Tail."  I can remember it just like it happened yesterday what Anna said in her cartoon like voice:  "Da da you are going to get that dragon today."  I knocked down the weeds and put her down with her barbies like usual.  I reinforced the stay seated rule and to not get up for any reason rule. She was barely two lengths from me.

I tossed in to the snaggy mess and was hammered by an obviously large fish.  I was down over the bank at the water's edge battling the monster.  Anna was above me watching from the bank.  I finally got the huge trout under control and brought it towards the bank.  One of my superstitions is to make sure I have looked around and planned an area to net a potential large trout.  I had already determined I would step out into the water and net a big fish. 

The monster was on its side in the shallower water.  I reached back and secured my net.  Anna had put down her barbies and was watching me.  I decided a step out and net the fish all in one motion was what I was going to do. 

 I stepped out with my left arm extended with the net.  What I did not know was the area I had picked to net a fish in was soft mud.  My leg immediately sunk down in the mud completely and I did a belly flop in the water.  I regained my composure and the net and tried to net the flailing monster.  I heard in a familiar voice from behind me . Anna spoke: "Da da if you are going swimming I want to go too."  I quickly responded and told her to stay put.

I reached out and netted the huge brown.  Only half of it fit in the net.  It promptly straightened itself out and was trying to get away again. I used the net and pinned the trout to the bottom and got control of it and tossed it up on the bank.  It had thrown the hook long ago.

I extracted myself from the mud and got up to Anna and the trout.  Anna exclaimed"  "I told you that you would catch it Da da."  I looked over the trout and saw it was bleeding badly and I had roughed it up some during the landing so I decided to keep it.  It was taken to the taxidermist that same afternoon and I had the "Dragon" on the grill that evening.  The free standing mount is at my mother's home. I went out and bought a bigger net the next day.

The dragon is the last big trout I have kept and will ever keep.

Covered Bridges By Barb Harris