Posted on March 2, 2012 by Administrator
More classic Old Man ! This is the 2nd of 3 stories I am honored to be allowed to share with you this week .
AFTERWARDs… By Ken Yufer
Damn! I know there’s a good brown trout under those roots. I’ve seen him several times, but despite my best efforts– no luck.
I have spent many hours daydreaming about this fish and planning how to catch him. I fell asleep visualizing my casts: during high water (streamers); slightly high or turbid (nymphs); normal conditions (we or dry flies, nymphs in the film, etc.). And I awoke to more of the same kind of thoughts. When there is some doubt in my mind about technique or tackle, I hit the reference books. And so it goes!
Sound familiar? I sure hope so. There are few experiences in life that can compare to pursuing that big brown trout.
My love affair began fifty years ago on Elk Creek in central Pennsylvania. When I was seven, my dad decided that was a good age to get me started. He outfitted me with an eight-foot bamboo flyrod, a beautiful handmade wooden net, hip boots, creel, and lots of instructions. My dad was one of the best trout fisherman in the area . He was a bait fisherman, but in those days most trout fishermen used fly rods to fish bait. We used worms , minnows, helgramites, crickets, grasshoppers, stonefly nymphs, and caddis larvae. My dad occasionally even put a dab of paraffin on a bare hook, then pressed the fly to the hook and fished it to get a good look at a large rising fish. It just might be the brown trout that would fulfill his dreams. I never saw anyone fish with artificial flies until I was seventeen. I wasn’t impressed. He caught few trout and no good ones.
I learned to respect and admire the brown trout. The large brown is to be stalked like any trophy; but the greatest satisfaction is that after the catch the trout can be released to produce and reproduce more challenges. In the 1940s I saw very few trout released– particularly large ones. Like many other fishermen in those days, my dad was poorly informed about brown trout aging , and he kept some larger trout that I’m sure he would have returned if he had known that harvesting them hurt reproduction.
Is the brown trout really unique? I definitely think so. They are not smarter than the brook or rainbow, but their instincts and habits serve them well. The brook and rainbow are called “aggressive feeders”. The brown is moody: a sporadic feeder, often feeding at night. Occasionally the brown does indulge in a feeding frenzy– usually during or shortly after a storm when the water is rising and becoming cloudy. I had my best West Virginia big -brown day on the upper Elk River during hurricane Hugo. Also, the brown lives almost three times as long as a brook and up to twice as long as a rainbow. The big brown has become the wise old man of the mountain.
The color schemes of these trout are also distinctive. The brook is admired for its vivid oranges and blues but the dress seems a bit gaudy. The rainbow is flashy, with its silver backdrop for a brilliant red stripe from head to tail. But the brown is top drawer all the way, with the pale gold, subtle blue, and shades of rust and red of a Brooks Brothers’ paisley tie.
More seriously, the brown is unique because he’s harder to catch than the brook or rainbow. That’s the crux of it. The excitement of catching a big brown is hard to describe, but everyone who has done so needs few words– just memories and daydreams. The experience reminds me of an author friend of mine who has solved the problem of dealing with the mandatory sex scene in his stories: he says the best way to describe the love scene is merely to write “Afterwards…” Reader then think of their own most pleasurable sexual experiences.
A few anecdotes may help explain.
This fall I received a call from our founding father, Ernie Nester. He was quite animated: “ Ken, I caught a 23-inch brown trout. It’s the largest trout I ever caught!” For the next ten minutes I listened to his marvelous story. I was captivated by the tale and relived the experience with Ernie. His fishing partner cast to the large trout but got snagged in a tree. He yelled to Ernie, who also got snagged (this stream is small with unforgiving canopy). That day however, the brown-trout god smiled on our leader. The next cast led to a fifty-minute battle that neither Ernie nor the trout will ever forget. One might say the trout couldn’t have been too smart. It should have been spooked. It was spawning season, and the trout was a hen.
I listened to Ernie and Max Robertson (arguably the chapter’s best dry-fly fisherman: he caught a 22-inch brown this season on a dry fly) comparing notes and relating subtle differences in catching a particular big brown. Both men knew the hiding place of an 18-½ inch brown. The stream is small and very difficult to fish. The two experts used different tactics, but both were able to catch the trout in the same year (hence the confirmed exact measurement). The glow emanating from that conversation made me feel good all over: and excited that we were going to stock brown trout fingerlings that morning.
From across the stream I could see the joy on Charlie Nichols’ face as he battled a 19-inch brown trout. “Kenny, this may be the one,” he yelled. Not quite, but very close. Charlie is trying to enter the “big-brown club”–20 inches or more. He’ll make it ! In the meantime, he dreams, plans, and learns. That same brown later taught him a valuable lesson: don’t pull a large streamer after the first strike unless you feel the weight of the trout. Wait for the second strike. I use four-to-five- inch streamers, and the trout’s first strike is to stun the prey. The second is for dinner. Charlie will never make that mistake again.
That same day, Larry Banfield caught the largest trout of his life–a 22 inch brown. That night his face beamed as he told the tale of the big brown yet another time around the campfire. Larry almost exclusively fishes the caddis fly, so it seemed appropriate that that was the victorious dry fly. Every time I sit around the campfire at Larry’s trailer, I can see the twinkle in the eye of its owner as he again described THE caddis pattern that outwitted this memorable fish.
Seven or eight of us sat on the front porch of the National Science Camp listening to Joe Crowder tell us about the biggest brown he ever caught on a flyrod: he couldn’t get his camera out, and he kept yelling, “Matt, Matt!” His son Matt ran up the rocky bank as fast as he could, but not fast enough . The brown had suffered enough indignity for one day; he jerked free, heading for his secluded lair. We all smiled, and mentally thanked Joe for yet another memory. One doesn’t have to catch the big brown to enjoy the occasion–just catch the fever.
I implore you to spend some time researching and daydreaming about big brown trout. The pursuit comes at a price: when the stream is rising with just the right color to it, resist the temptation to see how many trout you can catch or how many patterns will take trout that day. Think BIG BROWN! Whether you are a bait, spin, or fly fisherman–think big, and fish exclusively for that brown of your dreams.
Damn! I know there’s a good brown under those roots…