This story by Feral Tweed captures the excitement and drama of spin fishing for trout – a lone angler returns to a favorite stretch in hopes of catching a lunker he saw on his last trip. Feral’s metaphors are wonderful! – Published by permission, copyright 2011 Feral Tweed.
The Monster Brown
by Feral Tweed
Dawn was still two hours away as I slipped my oId pickup into gear and turned my wipers on. The memory of my previous fishing trip was still fresh on my mind. Was that a brown trout I saw breaking the surface of that deep shining pool or was it a leftover steelhead? Though I knew there were a few remaining steelhead in the stream, I was convinced, then, that it had been a large brown, and this morning I hoped to find out. If only the rain would hold out, I thought, and if only the brown is still there.
I have always been a stream fisherman but I have never caught a brown trout larger than 18 inches. If I was right about the fish I had seen in the pool last weekend, I now had a chance at a brown that must be well over the magic twenty inch mark.
My headlights were getting dimmer and dimmer with each passing mud hole but I was alone on the road and could see well enough. My old metal tackle box was competing in a noisy contest with my broken exhaust pipe as I throttled my truck over the flooded two-track. I was heading to a spot on top of a large hill that overlooked a four hour stretch on the south branch of the Pine River in Alcona County. It’s still plenty dark I thought to myself as I jumped around like a circus performer trying to get into my chest waders- without putting either of my feet down on the rain soaked ground. Searching through the jumbled mass of hooks and lures that used to be my neat and orderly tackle box, I finally came up with my hand painted brook trout look-alike Rapala and couple of Mepps #2 bronze spinners. I stashed these in my breast pouch, picked up my rod and landing net, and headed down the dim leaf-covered path that led across the oak ridge and down through the cedar swamp to the stream.
The sound of the rain and my beating heart was all that I could hear as I made my way through the tangled mess of blown down cedars. I had to double back several times before I finally found an opening through the mess and made my way to the swift running stream. Halting there to catch my breath, I turned to listen to the mournful cry of a great horned owl somewhere out in the darkness. Hunting for her must be tough in this rain I thought, with all the mice and ground animals snug in a nest somewhere. She probably spent most of her night gliding silently from tree to tree searching for feathered prey roosting among the branches. She’d be giving up soon, I thought. I smiled. For me the hunt was just beginning. I lit my pipe and rigged up my rod.
This lure should do it, I thought as I tied a three inch Rapala securely to my new six pound test line. I don’t normally use lures this large on a brook trout stream but the spring rains should have brought the larger trout up from the main branch down below, and I was after larger trout on this trip. One trout above all, was the monster brown I had seen the week before.
Slipping down into the cold black water I could see that I was about one hundred yards below the deep pool that held the monster brown on my last visit. I tossed an under hand cast up and across the stream to the opposite bank. I watched with anticipation as my lure twitched seductively on the surface of the rain dappled water, then down into the current as it came past me. Taking up my line I tossed another cast upstream that fell just three feet from the bank. As I took up the slack in my line, my lure was smashed instantly by a nice brook trout that leaped several times into the air before I could get him under control and pull him downstream and away from the hole. The twelve inch brookie was a nice surprise. I slipped him carefully back into the water and moved slowly upstream towards the hole where I hoped to find the monster brown. I tried several more casts with no luck.
Stopping below the pool I worked out my strategy. Just in front of me were two half submerged cedars lying directly across the stream. Above the cedars lay the pool with the stream turning sharply off to the right. Over to the left where the cedars struck the bank the water was close to five feet deep and the current dug down fast and deep under the tangled mass of debris left there by the spring thaw. In order to get my lure down under the jam, where I expected the monster to be, I would have to make the long cast upstream and across. Then I would have to let my lure ride the surface down along the far bank and start working it back just as it hit the jam. Hopefully it would dig down under the cover and entice the large trout out of his seemingly impenetrable hiding place.
Luck was with me as I made the cast. My lure touched down easily just inches from the opposite bank, well upstream of the pool. I watched it silently as it slid downstream occasionally bumping into weeds that were hanging off the bank. A perfect cast is always rewarded, I thought to myself as I took up the slack line. Then I swung my rod out and down and watched as my lure dove beneath the surface of the water just inches in front of the log jam. I was rewarded instantly by the steady throbbing of the well tuned rapala as it shifted its course and dug down for the upstream run.
Was the monster down there watching? Was he hungry after a full night of constant rain? Where is he, I wondered, as my lure came out from under the log jam. I didn’t have to wonder long. There he was sliding through the cold water like a u-boat homing in on my rapala. A shudder went through my body the instant before he struck. Then, he was on!
I set the hooks hard driven by more shear panic than good judgment. I couldn’t believe the size of the monster. He didn’t run with my lure – he just rolled sideways in the current and shook his mighty head back and fourth like a large dog shaking an unlucky cat. My heart was racing as I regained my senses and plunged the rod tip over the cedars and into the stream in a frenzied attempt to keep from breaking my line. Don’t go downstream, I hollered. Don’t go downstream. The brown replied swiftly by making a mad dash back across to the security of the log jam. No, no, not there either, I hollered. I could imaging all kinds of things under there he could hang himself up on. I swung my rod tip upstream to hold him and managed to get one foot over the cedars before he made a spectacular leap and hit the water on a dead run straight upstream. Shoot. I was astraddle the two cedars with neither foot on the bottom and fighting for balance and I watched in desperation as the line peeled steadily off my reel sending a spray of mist with it. Somewhere upstream I heard the monster break the surface. Freeing myself from the cedars, I plunged into the pool, all thoughts of personal safety and plain human comfort behind me. With no more than two quarts of freezing trout stream down the front of my waders I made it through the pool.
Again I heard the fish leap. Cranking for all I was worth I made my way up to a straight-away that was covered over the top and two sides by thick brush. Ducking through a low tunnel, I came up to a pool below a beaver dam. There was my monster brown finning easily on a gravel bar contemplating his next move. I was perhaps twenty feet behind him waiting nervously like a bird dog on a hot point. I could see my lure hanging from his long hooked lower jaw. A large male, I thought to myself, all of twenty five inches. My landing net was fastened to a loop on the back of my waders. I would have to reach around with my left hand for it and let go of my reel in the process. I decided to take up some slack in my line first and get a little closer to the fish.
That was my mistake. The moment I moved out of the opening to the deep stretch behind me the monster came to life. I half jumped out of the way as he turned and came down by me. Unable to keep a tight line on him, I watched in desperation as he went by me into the tunnel of swift moving water. For an instant I lost all contact with the fish. Fearing what I knew was going to happen, I raised my rod tip high over my head hoping I would be able to break his run without losing him.
Then he was there. It all seemed to happen in slow motion. First, my rod tip plunged down from overhead splashing against the water in front of me. Then, down in the tunnel, I watched as the monster brown, framed by the overhead canopy of lush green vegetation, rose mightily from the surface against the straining line. For an instant the brown was clear of the water shaking back and forth like a John Deere at a tractor pull. Then my lure was sailing through the air and up into the brush. Instantly the monster was under the surface and gone. The stream swallowed him up as if he had never been there.
I stood silently, watching as my dreams and heart were swept away in the turbulent water. Then I noticed the rain falling and heard the birds singing their morning songs in the cedars around me. I turned to face upstream and realized that I still had a three hour stretch in front of me. Who could tell, there might even be another monster brown out there waiting for me.