The ‘ole brown trout is synonymous for having many names; brownie, butta, water pig, and my personal favorite Leroy Brown. Scientifically he (or she for the ladies) goes by the name of Salmo Trutta, and his (or her) earliest roots can be traced back to Europe.Brown Trout were first introduced in the United States in 1883 from Germany and stocked into the Pere Marquette River, in Michigan. Since then, they have been stocked in virtually every other state in the U.S. Brown trout out-compete many of their salmonoid brethren for food and space, and larger brown’s will even feed carnivorously on their own kind, as well as small birds and mice. While a brown’s cage fighter mentality may be disturbing to some biologist, it’s those same characteristics that make him (or her) so appealing to those who chase fish with a fly.
For those in the know, brown town is where it’s at. I’ve caught many butta belly’s in my life, some big, some small. Some faded from an early life confined to four concrete walls, like a man awaiting execution. And then there have been those who looked as if they had been hand painted, all dressed up in their spawning suits with the brightest red spots, and crisp white tipped fins. It’s always been “Leroy” though who has eluded me. All of the countless hours and meticulous planning trying to find him, and still coming up empty handed left me under the impression that he didn’t even exist. Sure I’ve seen photo’s, but I’ve also seen photos of big foot and a flying pig, but I’ve yet to see a flying pig come by with big foot on his back in person.
This past weekend all of that changed. A group of us assembled at one of our favorite spots for a Sunday stress reliever. Having such a big group we decided to split up and parted ways with the usual I’ll see you at some point later in the day. My group of four after having a successful day in our own right decided as the day was winding down to see if we could locate the other members. We finally stumbled upon J.D., his dad, and a friend upstream from one of our favorite pools. We exchanged the “how’d you do’s”, and heartbreak stories from the day and decided to fish another few minutes, before rolling out. I’d no sooner made it upstream and unstrung my rod, when I heard a scream that sounded as if it came from a twelve year old school girl. It was one of those screams that a grown man only let’s out when something has gone awry with his junk, or the fact that he’s a married man finally sets in. I looked downstream and I could see J.D., rod bent still screaming in that girly voice. I hurried over to see what all the fuss was about, and when I finally made it, all that came out was “dude it’s a monster brown”. After a few valiant runs I finally got the fish in the net, and as I peered down into the net at this old wise looking brown with weathered looking skin and a big kype I knew I’d finally found Leroy. It wasn’t the way I’d envisioned finding him in my mind, but it was him none the less. His eyes even had this look of wisdom, as if he knew something we didn’t. Maybe he had been fooled before, but I’d like to think he hadn’t. We snapped a couple of pictures and quickly sent Leroy back to his hole. We all watched, still in amazement as he swam away, his natural camo finally causing him to vanish as if he never existed in the first place. I congratulated J.D. on his catch, and silently thanked Leroy, as he was a once in a lifetime fish, and I’m glad we finally met.