Lighter Side
November 30th, 1998
"How To Swipe A Trout"
By Ed Zern
From How To Catch Fishermen

Probably, when they get down to the Z's on Judgment Day and my name is called, one of the charges against me will be that on June 3rd, 1943, I stole a trout. At least it will be if the records are complete. If they give me a chance to explain, I'll plead guilty and mumble something like this:

"Your Honor, it was up at the Beaverkill. One of the group I was with was a kid spending his brief Army leave in trout fishing before going overseas. His name was Henry, and frankly, Your Honor, he wasn't any great shakes as a fisherman. In fact, according to his own story he had never caught a trout more than ten inches long up to that time.

"That afternoon he was fishing a few hundred yeards above me in Baxter's Pool when I heard him holler, and saw that he was into a pretty good fish. I walked up to watch him net it, and saw that it was a nice husky brown. When he'd conked it on the head he held it up and asked me how long I figured it was, and I said, "Well, Hank, that's a fine fish - maybe sixteen or seventeen inches."

"Seventeen inches!" Henry said, all excited. "Well, whaddaya know! Man oh man - a seventeen-inch brown trout! Wow!"

"That evening at dinner somebody told Hank they'd heard he got a real nice trout and asked him how big it was. 'Oh, about seventeen, eighteen inches,' Hank said. 'Fact is, I couldn't find a ruler to measure it yet. But it's a nice fish, all right.'

"A little later, down in the bar, Hank was talking about his eighteen-inch brownie and telling how he'd nursed it into the net on a 4X leader.

"And when I heard Hank, along about midnight, describe his trout as 'about nineteen inches,' and noticed some skeptical raised eyebrows, and heard a couple of others in the party say that as soon as they'd finished their drinks they'd go up to the kitchen and have a look at it, I snuck up to the freezer where we all keep our fish and found Hank's in a paper bag with his name on it.

"I took it out of the bag and measured it with a ruler I'd borrowed from Frank the bartender. The trout measured exactly fifteen and one-eighth inches. I stuck it in my own paper bag with a couple of twelve-inchers I'd kept and shoved the bag way down in a corner of the freezer, behind some lamb chops. Then I went back to the bar.

"A little later Hank and some of the gang went up to the kitchen to have a look at the nineteen-inch trout, and of course they couldn't find it. Hank was fit to be tied for a while, and even the next morning he was still beefing about the no-good so-and-so who'd pinched his big fish. But by sundown he was taking it pretty philosophically and saying, 'Well, if some unprincipled jerk wanted a twenty-inch trout bad enough to steal it, he's welcome to it. After all, I had the thrill of catching it - and nobody can swipe that.'

"Well, Your Honor, Hank went off the the wars, and came back home safe and sound. I met him shortly after he got out of the Army and we had a drink together and he told me, 'Ed, many's the night I was cold and wet and scared, and I'd get to recalling that twenty-one-inch brown that I landed on a 6X leader in Baxter's Pool that day, and it sure took my mind off my troubles, just thinking about it. But I'd sure like to get my hands on the louse that stole it. What a dirty, lowdown, ornery trick!'

" 'It sure was, Hank,' I agreed, and we had another drink to the stolen trout. In fact, we had several drinks - what's that? Why did I pinch the waitress where? You're positive? Well now look, Your Honor . . ."

Come to think of it, I wonder how complete those records are." ~ Ed Zern

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