November 27th, 2006

The Premiere OnLine Magazine for the Fly Fishing Enthusiast.
This is where our readers tell their stories . . .

The Trophy on My Wall
By Roger Murray

Out in the back yard I have a small garage where I have made a small but comfortable shop. It's my little private space where I can sit to watch the world go by. I haven't put in a phone and there is no TV or Video games. The closest to anything electrical is a worn old coffee maker and a tiny fridge to keep cream for my tea in. I listen to the local news on a small portable radio. On the wall just over my fly tying bench there is a space with a crude outline of a large fish on it drawn by my little sister many years ago. Just underneath the drawing of the fish hangs a small engraved brass plate. It proudly proclaims the following.

Rainbow trout
(Oncorhynchus mykiss)
Weight 25 pounds plus
Catch and Release Length 38 inches
Lake Okanagan May 23 1967
Trolled #6 Mickey Finn
Ten weight rod
Angler- Roger Murray

It was the third week in September 1985 newly married to a wonderful woman who has become the light of my life. Having only met my new in laws three weeks before and hoping to make a lasting good impression, I foolishly offered to take my three newly acquired brothers in law out on our 25ft fishing boat after some large Lake Okanagan rainbows. In hindsight it seems clear to me now that perhaps a little research would have been wise before I plunged blindly into what turned out to be a disastrous day on the lake. Research and caution was not my style back then. I was a full steam ahead and damn the torpedoes kind of guy. Even my father-in-laws "Gawd are you nuts? taking them three out in a boat" did nothing to dissuade me.

Pleased that things were doing quite well after having gotten off to a bit of a shaky start I happily set out from the marina with my intrepid crew of three. The night before our journey began I had insisted that everyone should get up and be on the lake bright eyed and bushy tailed ready to go at 5 o'clock in the morning. I carefully outlined to my audience the eating habits of the wily rainbow trout. Regaling them with tales of monster trout that only fed by starlight just before the sun arose.

"Five Am! In the morning! Are you nuts?" Tthe disbelieving chorus from around the room rose steadily in volume till it became an unfathomable din. Amid a multitude of reasons why this was not going to happen, mixed with the odd curse here and there. Suddenly there was a kind of eerie silence, just for an instant. So quick you would have missed it if you blinked. Then I watched as all three angrily protesting men had the briefest look of what might have been fear shot across their face. Suspecting something was up I turned to see the cause of this unknown terror. I was greeted by a smile from my new bride apparently in support of my cause. "He really does catch big fish," she offered sweetly to her brothers on my behalf.

Good news, it seemed reasoning worked on them. Lo and behold suddenly they had decided to please their little sister and would go along with her new husbands plan however dumb it might be. Later on in life, when the bloom was off the rose so to speak, I was to learn they had been given "The look," taught to her by her mother and her mothers mother. I have learned from first hand experience to fear this look above all else but that's another story and not, dear readers, for the faint of heart.

On this particular September evening, still basking in the fresh glow of our young marriage and the new life we'd begun, I had not recognized the significance of the moment. Immediately all three brothers grudgingly signaled their acceptance of my wisdom and promised to meet down at the dock, bright eyed and bushy tailed, rod and reel in hand to do battle with the promised trophy sized trout at 5 am to depart for battle at 5:30.

I was more excited than usual at the trip ahead so got little sleep that night. This was my area of expertise, we were in my backyard where I was most comfortable. I hoped to shine as never before and bring home some monster trout for the family feast. Henceforth to take my place as the best fisherman in this new branch of the family. I eagerly arose before the crack of dawn to get ready for the day ahead. Five am came and went like a thief in the early morning light, then 6 am crept right on by moving as slowly as molasses in January. The coffee, toast, bacon and eggs power breakfast I had made in the pre dawn lay silent and cold. 6:15am came and I'm still alone. Oh Gosh! I had an awful thought, maybe they were already down at the boat ready to go and cursing me for being late, all the while here was stupid me still eating breakfast.

I shot out of the house raced down the hill to the lake. My face flushed with the shame of being late for my own fishing trip. What's this? The boat still covered in a heavy dew showing no sign of disturbance. Shame was replaced by relief and a growing anger flooding thru me. Good grief they really had slept in. We probably had already missed out on the morning bite. I speed back up the hill with thoughts of murder or at the very least mayhem thundering thru my head.There at the doorway is my beautiful bride.

"Honey! Oh I'm so sorry! I forgot to tell you. Have you been up long? Poor baby. I told them to sleep-in. Those old fish can wait till 9:30 can't they?"

Her smile slowly melted the corners of my heart. How could I say no to those big brown eyes? "Oh no bother hon," I mutter feeling a bit of a fraud even as I say it.

Ah, but not to worry, it turns out they had mistook the crack of dawn for the crack of 10:00. All three finally staggered out to the kitchen, rudely insisting on breakfast and coffee. Instead of the arsenic laced fare I had in mind for them my beautiful wife makes a sumptuous meal of bacon and eggs with pancakes and fresh coffee. I watch as they lined up to the trough to guzzle down their meal. Finally breakfast is over. Much urging and coaxing, I finally get all of them out the door and down to the boat. My joy unbridled, finally at last we were out on the lake.

My, 'no drinking on the boat', rule is quickly dismissed by two of these twits as just plain stupid. Who thought that dumb one up? It seemed they just had to bring along a six pack each. (Just a six pack because they thought that a fishing trip only lasted an hour or so.) The third it seemed was in the throes of a major hangover and couldn't stand the thought of beer in the morning. Not to worry, by noon he had found strength to fish a Mickey of Rum from his back pocket just to ward of the chill.

What the heck? Who cares now? At last we were fishing, things would surely work out for the best still time to catch some good ones.

Thirty minutes later, after catching a couple of small kokanee, our trio are hell bent on going home for lunch. We caught them two little ones, let's go home is the popular opinion.

Then it happened! The port rod doubled over reel screaming line melting off at an incredible rat,e signaling a really large fish. As the reel shrilled its sweet song, I quickly adjust the drag and turn the crank a couple of turns and settle in to bring this fish to bay. Sanity finally kicks in as I get a rush of blood to my head and remember my guests. I reluctantly, very reluctantly, hand the rod to Mr. Hung-over-in-law Wayne. He was at least still sober to this point. Wayne assumes the glazed look of a dead salmon and says, "What do I do?"

"What do You do? What the hell are you talking about? You've caught lots of salmon, these are the same thing."

Remember earlier I mentioned that I wasn't big on research? It seems none of these braggarts of the night before had really caught all those salmon or giant sharks they bragged about in front of the fireplace. Not only had they not caught big fish before they hadn't ever been fishing before!

But for their evening bragging I could have given them some instructions on the rudiments of fishing. Now suddenly I have to instruct them how to fish?

Learning to fish starting with a really big fish on the line is not a really good idea as it turns out. Wayne started out doing everything wrong, he reels in backwards, gets a pileup on the reel that I finally manage to clear give the rod back to him. He then sets the hook like he was trying to pull a telephone pole out of the ground. I yell, "It's already hooked, ease up." Then in the middle of the fight with the fish finally beginning to tire he stopped everything, puts the rod in the holder to light a ciggy "because as he so poetically puts it, his mouth feels like crap!" The trout which I knew by now was big enough to have swallowed the fabled Walter whole with room left over for dessert, was by now almost up to the boat. Wayne shakily announces he is going to throw up and promptly drops the rod to the deck and leans over the rail. I desperately dive to the floor and grab the rod before it can become airborne. I stuff it into the big mitt of his younger brother Glen, the more sober of the remaining two morons. The fish comes into view. It is huge! Not big, Huge! Never have I seen such a Rainbow. Its broad tail flashes past as it dives for the bottom. It comes back up gleaming in the sun as it tail walks for over twenty feet with an incredible power and beauty before diving once again out of sight. I gasp at the beauty of the thing.

"Is it a carp?" Ron asks. I suppress the urge to kill him on the spot. Although I would have bet my life on it being otherwise, Glen proves to be even more inept than Wayne. The fish is at hand, "slide it over the net" I implore as I lean way over the rail stretching the long handled net as far as I can. It is there, right at the net, then watch in disbelief as the fish, straight as an arrow heading to the open net, STOPS! It is tantalizingly just inches away. Glen stops reeling in altogether, lowers the rod tip clamping the rod and reel between his legs all the while reaching for his camera "to get a candid shot of this baby." By now I am screaming "REEL-IN YOU IDIOT. REEL IN. THAT'S THE BIGGEST TROUT I HAVE EVER SEEN IN MY LIFE. REEL-IN YOU BLANKITY BLANK IDIOT" (please supply your own adjective here, it's a family website.)

Ron, the third brother now decides to join the fray, grabbing the net off of me. My insane screaming finally gets through to Glen as he again begins to reel in line. There is hope yet! We might actually bring in this fish of a lifetime. My joy is short lived however as he reels the fish in all the way to the tip of the rod . Now the fish is at the rod tip hopelessly out of reach so I yell " LET OUT SOME LINE...LET OUT SOME LINE ITS TOO FAR OUT YOU NEED TO GIVE IT SOME SLACK." Someone swears loudly at me "For Gods sake make up your bloody mind, what is it? Reel it in or Let it out? If you don't know, how the hell should we know?"

Way out at the tip of the rod eight feet away from the net the fish lays over on its side exhausted, clearly it is ready to be boated. At this point , Glen now angrily strips off about twenty feet of loose line. "There are you satisfied I let line out. Is that what you want?"

Ron drops the net overboard and tugs once more on his jug of rum, the net floats slowly away.

I watch helplessly as this fish of a lifetime recovers enough energy to begin slowly shaking his great head from side to side, finally tossing the lure. I watch that giant trout slowly swim down into the darkness forever out of reach.

I am by now shattered into little pieces, numb and in kind of shock. I turn and head the boat back to the dock and home. "How was the fishing?" asks my wife and my mother-in-law as I stumble across the kitchen floor. I mumble something about the two small Kokanee we caught. I hear the door open behind me with a bang. Larry Curley and Moe enter announcing loudly to all present "Mr. Master know it all fisherman cost us a huge trout by yelling ignorant stuff that no-one could understand because he was shrieking so loud we couldn't hear just when we were trying to net the fish."

Ron pipes up, "Besides which he made us get up way to early and it bit at 11 o'clock, not 5 am like Mr. fish genius said they would. The youngest of the stooges pipes up "Yea he was like some kinda maniac or something."

Sure I can laugh about it now but at the time I was totally a beaten man, done in, not able to even think. I closed my eyes, bowed my head, then mumbled something like sorry fellas, I'm not feeling to well I stumbled off to bed and safety.

Years have passed, I have matured to the point where I release all fish, even the trophy sized ones. So looking back on it, it is a good thing this giant lived to add its size to the gene pool.

It's a total surprise to me but all three boys turned out to be nice successful young men. They all fish now and are apparently very good at it. I however am still referred to as the maniac that took us fishing and cost us that big trout.

My little sister drew a crude picture of that trout on the wall in my shop. From what I have heard, my mother-in-law used "The Look" to cajole the truth out of the brothers grim, passing the info on to my wife who in her wisdom purchased and placed the brass plate that hangs below my sisters drawing. It is The Trophy On My Wall.

(The names and addresses in this story have not been changed to protect the innocent. To be 100% truthful there would have to have been some very colorful swearing all the way thru this piece but it is a family oriented site after all. The story is 98% the truth the other 2% is a fisherman's prerogative, (Lie). So it has been cleaned up quite a bit so as to not offend anyone.) ~ Roger Murray (Gnu Bee Flyer)

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