At first glance you suspect this waterway could hold big browns and you get the chills thinking about them and you are dreaming of your drag screaming and line snapping. The only real problem with this dream is it is reality. This short stretch of water has reduced many a sage angler in to shaken blathers of witnessing unbelievable trout of sea monster proportions. I can still remember Stewart Riley telling me about his less than stellar encounter with a monster trout that he described as bigger than most steelhead he caught.
We got out of the vehicle downstream a ways. Stew is from England and has fished the chalk streams over there and he was less than complimentary about this stretch. He called it frog water. I enlightened him that this was quality water and not quantity water. He was dying to break in his new Schroeder 3 weight bamboo rod his wife had purchased for him for his birthday. I told him to leave it in the truck and 5/6 weight rod was more appropriate for the monsters we could encounter. He did not heed my warning.
It was early season on this non-typical trout water. The banks were quite steep and this made for poor casting from them. A long handled net was required or some up close and personal wading through the mess. Stew opted for the up close and personal route.
We both had landed a couple decent browns on the stretch. I watched Stew battle a medium sized brown on his soft bamboo rod. The rod was almost bent in half and I was still of the opinion he was under gunned for the potential trout on this water. I suggested he go back to the vehicle and get his 5/6 weight. He declined my suggestion.
When I fish with people, I typically like showing them a good time so I decided to let Stew fish a hole that I knew a big fish lived in. Stew was trying out the hole from the east bank and wasn't really working it right. He went downstream a ways and crossed in shallow water and got down on the 90 degree bend from the other side. Stew was one of these guys that was tenacious and a good looking hole required anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour and a half to properly cut apart. I left Stew at this hole because I was not up for waiting that long to see him fish it properly.
I looped around the hole Stew was fishing so I wouldn't spook his potential prey. I made it back to the water about 30 yards upstream. I started casting in to the log jams and snarls I was used to fishing on this stretch and heard a thunderous "LEN!!!" being shouted by Stew. This only meant one thing in my book. He had hooked a monster and needed my help landing it. I ran as fast as a big fat white man can to where I left him.
It took a little while to get through the fallen weeds and underbrush to get to Stew. He was seated on the 90 degree bend on the other side on a soft mud delta that the spring floods had made. There was no bend in his rod or drags screaming. There he sat with his head in his hands and heard him mumbling. The only thing that I understood from his whimpering was: "I should have listened to Len." It was obvious he had broken off on a large fish.
I sat down in the tall weeds and watched him fish that hole for another 45 minutes with no takers. He finally gave up and went back downstream and crossed. I met him where he crossed. He was mumbling and he wanted to take me back to the 90 degree corner and talk. He was visually shaken still 45 minutes after his encounter.
First thing he blurted out was: "You were right about me choosing the wrong rod." He gave me the complete skinny from how he began to how he ended. Stew typically fishes holes the same every time he fishes them. He goes bottom right and bottom middle and bottom left. He repeats the same fishing action again but with longer casts covers more water. He had on a size 8 wooly bugger with weight in the body and he was fishing without an indicator. He was dredging the bottom like I suggested when he first saw it. The first flash of the fish was "unbelievable," he muttered. He didn't get a good look at it but he was in disbelief at the size. He thought it was magnified when the fish turned up on its side in the water.
Stew has a standing operating procedure. Whenever he sees a large fish, he checks his line for wind knots and checks to see if the knot looks good. He fired right back in there after his knot check. He was a little left and off target of his prior cast so he stripped in his bugger quite quickly this time. He was cursing his poor casting as he lifted the fly out of the water when he saw it. It was two inches from his fly when Stew took it out of the water. It sat there for a micro-second and slowly swam back out in to the hole. He got a really good look at it this time. Stew told me he was shaking like a school girl. He wasn't sure what to do. This trout was bigger than most steelhead he had encountered in the Great Lakes and he felt incredibly under gunned with his tiny 3 weight.
The car was way too far to go back to now so he adjusted his leader. He took off his 4x leader and put on a new 2X leader. He tied the same bugger on and attacked the hole again. There it was again following his bugger not 10 feet in front of him. He slowed his retrieve on the next cast and it followed again. This was three times he saw this monstrous male brown. It turned off at the last minute and didn?t hit. Al fired right back in there and slowly retrieved the bi-colored bugger and the trout hit right near shore. This when he shouted out "LEN!!" to call for me to come assist.
He told me that me before the shout was finished his line came back limp. He inspected the line and it was a clear cut. The steelhead sized male brown trout must have had teeth like an alligator because he barely felt any bend on his rod before the line went limp.
On the way back to the vehicle I told him that such a monstrous fish should have a name. The angler that lost the fish must give it a name. Al told me about some King from England that was a crazy trout angler. The king?s name was Cuthbert and that was what he was naming his lost giant.
Stew was truly concern about depositing the size 8 bugger in Cuthbert's jaw. He worried that it might die because of the bugger in its jaw. My next comment probably soothed him and also made him weak in the knees. I said: "I didn't see that fish but the way you described the large headed monstrous male and how the line came back so fast, I seriously doubt if you got any penetration and a trout of that size has a jaw almost made of iron. I seriously don't think you enough backbone in that rod to drive in the point of the hook. That trout probably spit it out as quickly as you deposited it. We went back a couple times after Cuthbert with no takers. Cuthbert lives on in Stew's nightmares.
I asked Stew if he minded if I used his name and photo in a story. The nightmare must have been still fresh in his mind. He declined. The name has been changed in this story and "Stew" had his identity altered. I guess losing the biggest trout of your lifetime scars you.