Photos By: Justin Dobson
“The fish you put back is your gift to another angler, and, who knows, it may have been another angler’s gift to you.”
There are so many famous fishing quotes which ring true or strike a chord amongst those who fish. This just happens to be my favorite, although it could never be proven a fact until this weekend.
On a perfect summer morning, fishing a dark green opaque pool, I hooked into what I immediately knew was a big fish. For a moment it refused to come unglued from that deep hole where it was hiding. I had already lost 2 big fish that morning and was willing to fight, and do a little praying, to land this one. It’s amazing how fast and nimble you can scramble over slick rocks when you hook a big fish in order to put yourself into position to do battle. It took me a long time to wear this fish out. When he finally came into view I had realized what a prize brown trout I hooked. I tried several times to lead him to the net only to have him take me on another run. I led him down to shallow water, got below him and introduced him to my net. Yeah I gave the victory holler, even though nobody was around to hear it. I haven’t landed a fish in the 20”+ class since late last year.
I snapped some photos and sent that fish back. I was 20 something years old before I landed my first trout in the 20”+ range. I’ve searched and planned for a brown trout in that trophy class range and didn’t land him until just last year. Others are much older than me and are still on the hunt. It always feels good to land a fish worthy of a story.
I ended my day early afternoon after having continued success with catching some smaller, but equally impressive and beautiful browns. I headed to the parking lot and was breaking down my rod and changing out of my waders. The man parked next to me had walked past me when I was fishing that deep dark hole. He asked if I had caught anything out of it and I replied I had. He then asked what and I told him a big brown near 24”. He silently rose up his hand for a high five and then told me he landed a 23” brown out of that same hole just a few moments earlier that afternoon (he put a tape on it which I never do). It was his personal best catch and he told me he was shaking trying to get a photo. After we both produced our iPhones for the picture proof, it was evident by examining the spot pattern on the fish, that we landed the same trophy brown, in the same day, about 6 hours apart.
The only thing that makes this story more ironic is that a novice angler among the morning group heading out had asked, with both me and the other lucky angler present, if we had an opinion of how long it takes a fish to return to feeding after being caught and released. Wish I ran into him in the parking lot in the afternoon to give him his answer.
There are many of us who may read this and view fishing as more than just a sport and our waterways for more than just a fish market. I understand the idea of Catch and Release isn’t for everyone. Most who practice it will tell you it’s not about putting everything back. It’s more of a sensible practice of selective harvesting and considering the size of the body of water or river you are fishing from before taking your limit. But when you put a prize back that you fought for and admire, you may give the guy who parked next to you the opportunity to catch his personal best. I’m not sure what is more satisfying to my soul.