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
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
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
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
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