A couple of years ago, while fishing in Oklahoma, I spotted one of the most beautiful rainbow trout I have ever seen swimming below me as I fished off a rock wall taking in the brisk afternoon air.
I come from a family that enjoys casting a line in the water, and last year I held fishing licenses in Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Colorado. To be short – I’ve seen a trout or two, and this fish was my beauty queen.
Oklahoma has several year-round trout spots and others that are stocked during “trout season,” which runs November 15 until March 15 each year.
During trout season, anglers are permitted the use of just one pole at a time, so my habit was to carry three poles with different lures on them rather than waste time putting on one at taking it off and tying on another.
That meant I had plenty of opportunities to give this trout choices for his supper, and I reared back with my small Rapala dive-bomber and promptly hooked it into a nearby tree on my backswing.
The little lure has two treble hooks, all of which took hold and sank deep into a branch. Undaunted by the problem, I sat the pole down and picked up another pole with a small Panther Martin spinner bait.
When trout fishing, I usually use a 2-6 pound test line and a very light drag setting on my reel, which lets me cast farther and use smaller lures. The downside of the lighter test line is you can’t horse the fish to shore, and finesse is needed to land it successfully.
The trout I had an eye on was swimming in the shadows of the dam’s wall and looked like he was interested in a meal. I flipped the lure well past the last spot I had him swim out and slowly started cranking on my reel.
Nothing appeared from the shadows until about the fifth cast, and then suddenly there he was chasing my spinnerbait, and he bit down only to drop it to the creek bottom the second he touched it.
There’s something extra special about sight-casting and seeing a fish rise from the depths of shadows to take your lure. It’s also extra frustrating watching a trophy fish turn down your offering by spitting it to the side like a person does a watermelon seed.
I tried another cast, and my two-piece pole separated with the top snapping my light line as it soared about 20 yards into the air and did a perfect swan dive into the water. The last I saw of the top of my pole, it seemed to be waving goodbye, capped by my rooster-tail spinnerbait as it sank below the surface.
In less than three minutes of fishing, I was down to my last pole, and my heart was racing wildly as I picked it and the attached Kastmaster lure up for battle.
I was standing on a rock wall dam that was about 8 feet above the water on one side, and there was a small spillway of 18-20 feet on the other side. To make a bite-worthy cast, I had to pitch my lure over the spillway’s current and toward the trout’s hiding place.
I let fly with the first cast and began to retrieve my lure past where I hoped the trout was lurking, and nothing happened as the Kastmaster flittered past the spot.
Just as I was about to pull the lure from the water as it got close to me, it started to get caught in the spillway’s current only to be pulled out of the rushing water by my targeted fish.
I set the hook and, at the same time, pulled the trout back into the current, and he shot off through small spillway like a football thrown toward the end zone.
The snap of my fishing line clapped like thunder in my ears. The pain of my loss began to sink in immediately as I gazed down into the water far below, and then I noticed a glint of silver.
At the bottom of the small waterfall, my Kastmaster lure was hanging out of the trout’s mouth, and he looked pretty dazed from his tumble.
I scrambled down below, determined to see if I could retrieve my trophy fish, and found he had moved into a pool of water about 3 feet deep and was beginning to recover.
I had two choices, wave goodbye and have a semi-great story about the one that got away, or I could jump and try to prevent the trout from getting into the rushing current.
It was about 36 degrees that day, and jumping in meant a very chilly dip, and I didn’t hesitate as I jumped in feet first and swept my arms under the fish and onto a large rock nearby like a grizzly bear serving up lunch.
Trout are slippery like catfish, and he slid away from my grasp, and I went headfirst toward the water after him catching right on the mouth before he could escape again.
I secured a death grip on my fish, and even though it was bitterly cold, I felt none of it because, at that moment, I went from being a grown man with grown children to a small child again.
I proved it as I began climbing back up the rock dam, calling out to my mom, who was trying her luck bait fishing on the other side. When I reached the top, I shot my hand into the air, holding my prize toward the heavens like an athlete carrying the Olympic torch.
“MOM! MOM! Look what I caught!”
And that folks is why I go fishing.