March 17th, 2008

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

Upside Down Browns
By: Dick Taylor, Grn Mt Man

We had a river that flowed through the city on the western side and held it's temperature pretty well even during the summer doldrums. It's birth place was about three miles north of the vicinity of my house, at the base of the city reservoir, then down through the golf course and on through the city.

It was fairly wadable for us kids; but, also contained many deep holes and a few long runs. We spent many summer days retrieving drowned golf balls that failed to negotiate the river from tee to the opposite bank on the fifth, seventh and eighteenth holes.

The "blue hole" was the cooling off spot for the caddies during the day; time permitting, and it consisted of a large, deep spot between the eleventh and twelveth fairways. The woods were so thick that you couldn't see the river from any portion of the two holes. The water there was always a brilliant blue; unless a heavy upstream dam release discolored it for a short time. And, it was thought that the color of the rocky bottom and the shade from the close in tree line contributed to it's hue.

What was unknown to many folks is that the river harbored a plentiful number of trout; both rainbows and browns. Some of them reached epic proportions compared to the stocked dinky things placed into the small brook that also ran through the city for a short ways and finally into the river.

An occasional twenty inch or more trout was reported by various of my buddies; but, proof was often just in the imagination of the catcher without the benefit of witnesses at the time. I did catch a nice twenty inch rainbow, from a big swirling pool, at the foot of the dam overflow once. Knew my dad would never believe it; so, paid my witness buddy a dime to smuggle it home in his bicycle basket wrapped in long grass to keep it moist and, most importantly, hidden! There was a slight problem with it not actually being trout season at the time.

When dad came home from work I proudly announced my good fortune and his "I don't really believe the size of it" attitude was quickly followed by my prompting him to "check out the refrigerator freezer if you don't believe me." Needless to say I was promptly chastized and forbidden to ride my bike for a while. But, he later remarked that it was a pretty good tasting fish given the mid summertime catch!

Later that year, as we entered early fall, me and my bestest buddy headed to the river for one last fish-in and decided to try a long fast run that was only about a half mile from our houses. Bicycles, rods and a can of crawlers to the ready and off we went. Although the water in the area was crystal clear we didn't see anything nor did we get a bite for about an hour or more. Suddenly my buddy let out a high-pitched scream and motioned me to come upstream about twenty yards to where he was standing. At this point the river narrowed and you could wade almost all the way across if the dam wasn't releasing any water.

When I got there he was pointing and still almost screaming, "Look at the size of those two fish on the far bank right underneath the tangle of tree limbs and small logs there." The water depth was probably about three feet at this juncture. Closer inspection revealed two enormous brown trout slowly finning in the slack water underneath the hanging jumble of river debris and tree limbs. In a panic, by now, we tried every way possible to drift a big juicy crawler close to those beauties; but, the narrowing channel and swift water wouldn't permit any kind of toss, flip or cast to come anywhere near them. They seemed impervious to our presence even though we were in plain sight and none too quiet the whole time.

Okay - it was time for Plan "B."

What was Plan "B going to be?"

Alright, those dumb fish weren't going to outsmart us worldly wise twelve year olds, were they? Nosiree - we promptly hiked about a hundred yards downstream, climbed the river bank and crossed the bridge to the other side. It was tough going on that side because of all the river-side brush.

Back up river and we were at last right above the tree tangle containing our quarry. A slow, quiet descent brought us to the edge of the river; but, again there was no good way to get a drift to the noses of those monsters. Finally my buddy says, "How about we crawl out over the river on top of the pile of limbs and try reaching the rod under the tangle and maybe we can get it close enough so that they'll bite." As the brilliant Einstein idea hatcher, naturally, he would get the first shot at catching.

When he was duly stretched out full length across the log pile, with me holding his legs lest he slip, the first of many drifts were made. Even bumping the nose of the trout with a gob of crawlers only resulted in a sideways fin and didn't even spook them. After about ten or fifteen fruitless minutes I wanted my turn; but, my buddy came up with another idea.

On to Plan "C."

Says he, "I remember hearing about how you can catch a fish by "tickling" it." Had I laughed any harder my grip on his legs may have courted disaster. But, he insisted that this would really work if you did it slow and easy. He said all you had to do was reach under the fish and slowly touch it's belly while raising it a little bit at a time till it got close enough to the surface to just grab and flip it up on the bank.

He scrambled a little more over the edge, while cautioning me to get a good grip on his legs, and damned if he didn't get a hand under one of those humongous trout and slowly, ever so slowly, was able to start it towards the surface. He had it's dorsal fin somewhat above the water and told me that he was going to try and also grab the tail with his other hand and flip it up on the bank.

And then Plan "D" for Disaster struck.

We were so occupied with the task at hand that we failed to notice the slow rise of the water table, indicating the daily upstream dam release had started and it usually wet the banks about two to three feet above the normal flow.

With a mighty heave the big brown went airborne; but, only for a fraction of a second and no more then a few inches above the now swifter and deeper river.

My buddy; however, went riverborne, headfirst into the five to six feet of swiftly moving water! I had lost my grip when he wildly thrashed around trying to lift that whale out of the river.

My last view of him was a turning, twisting, cartwheeling "fish tickler" being rolled along the river bottom and occasionally coming up for a quick gulp of air. He traveled about twenty-five yards downstream before he could gain a foothold on some rocks and the current slowed and directed him to the opposite bank.

Luckily for me, he made land on the opposite side of the river from me! The air turned blue in his vicinity for a few moments and many choice words, refelecting on my ancestry and maternal side of the family, emanated from his mouth between coughed up river water.

When I ascertained that it was safe to join him on the homeward side of the river once again, we headed home fishless; but, what a tale to tell. Both fish were literally an arms length long and probably would had given the twenty-five inch ruler mark a run for it.

I asked my dad how come they wouldn't bite and never seemed to be afraid of us or try to hide and he said they were probably resting up there temporarily on their way upstream to the deeper and wider places in the river.

We went back there every day for the next week; but, never saw the big browns again. ~ Dick Taylor


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