July 26th, 1999
A Trout's Revenge

by Don Cianca (aka Uncle Don)

I've reached thirty years of living and fishing in Montana. To say I feel lucky might be an understandment. What is at my backdoor and easily accessible, are the destinations which are perhaps the lifetime goals of trout fishermen living elsewhere. I definitely take advantage of my situation. The Big Hole River, Beaverhead, Jefferson, Ruby, Clark Fork, and Missouri are all close enough to home that no long-term planning is necessary for me to fish those rivers. It's simply pick up and go when the urge strikes. In addition, my business as a sales representative has had me traveling into Idaho and Wyoming as well as all of Montana. Along with my catalogs, my fishing tackle gets packed in preparation for a trip.


Having such choice trout streams so close and fishing them as often as I do, has found me enjoying the scrappy tug and tussle of many trout in the last thirty years. Now that I am of retirement age and an easing out of my business, I am fishing more than ever. In fact, I've undertaken a quest to catch a thousand fish in 1999. ( I expect that may be received by some as obscene, but frankly, I don't really care.) By July 4th of this year I had already fished sixty times and released over five hundred fish.

Unfortunately, the quest for a thousand fish has become an obsession. During January and February, I would carefully watch the weather forecast. If it appeared the temperature would get above freesing and I knew the guides on my rod would not freeze up, I would head out for a few hours and fish one of the nearby streams. Many streams are open to fishing all year, while others have either no fishing or some restrictions.

My tally continued to increase with every trip out. Most of the fish caught have been Brown Trout. Of course, along with a few Rainbows, our lowly Rocky Mountain Whitefish were also hooked and released, and were included in my count. However, the greatest percentage has been the Brown Trout.

As spring arrived and the river began to rise, I continued to fish. The conditions were of course less than ideal, but my obsession clouded my better judgement. I could no longer wade in the fastest and higher water as I had earlier, or during the normal summer flows. As long as the water was not too off-color fishing held steady for me. It did become difficult when a good size fish was on my line and it got into swift current. It was impossible to try and follow the fish downstream in hopes of finding an eddy or a place to try to land the fish. I'm short to begin with and the high water would have me in harms way very quickly. Consequently, several fish broke off when the current took them directly downstream.

Now here is where the title of this writing comes from! A better-than- average Brown took one of my wet flies and headed downstream in fast water. I did my best to feed line when I could, try to avoid breaking the 5X-tippet material. My success toward that end was short lived however.

The Brown made another run downstream and although my leader material held, the hook came loose. The fish and my line were directly downstream with my rod well bent at the time.

Roaring Orange Rocket

Like a missile, I could see my blaze orange strike indicator, split shot and two dropper flies headed right for my noggin! Fortunately, age has not completely robbed me of my reflexes for I almost ducked fully out of the way. ALMOST! The splitshot, both of them, managed to hit my cold ear just behind where the earpiece of my glasses rests. There was also a stinging sensation on my cheek, but it didn't hurt as much as my throbbing ear so I didn't pay much attention to it.

Mark of the trout!

Later, when it was time to head home, I got into my pickup and checked my face in the rearview mirror. To my surprise, there was dried blood and a small scar on my left cheek. Ovbiously one of the hooks had caught my cheek as it was propelled at me. Frankly, I was shaken for a while to think how close to my eye the hook had come.

On my drive home I reflected on what had happened, I had two thoughts. First, I promised myself I would never fish without wearing glasses (I always do wear them anyway.) Second, after hooking many fish toward achieving my quest, I guess it's only fair that occasionally a trout takes revenge. I was lucky the revenge was not as severe as it could have been.

(Do you suppose OSHA will get wind of this event and establish fishermen's safety requirements?) ~ Don Cianca

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