November 08, 2011
Brown trout time in brown trout town. To be fair and honest, Milwaukee, Wisconsin is Brown Town, USA. More and bigger brown trout than Tierra del Fuego. Milwaukee is where it's at for a brown the size of a hybrid auto and a baggage-car load of 5- to 17-pounders.
But for browns that look like manatees, you have to cross the lake. To the Big Mansitee River, in Michigan. The day the current all-tackle world record brown trout (well, I'm told it's been tied or almost tied since by a fish from Racine, Wisconsin, which illustrates how much I pay attention to records) was caught, famous steelhead guide Mark Chmura called me on the phone. "Matt, it's bigger than a manatee," he said. "It's a world record. What do we do?"
The 41-pound, 7-ounce behemoth was caught by Tom Healy on guide Tim Roller's boat. With a Rapala Shad Rap. Roller called Chmura. "I think it's a world record."
Chmura asked, "How long is it?"
Roller measured. "Over 43 inches." Chmura told him not to move, pointed his river jet in Roller's direction, and the circus was on. I told them to call the DNR and they came and it was a world record and "what do we do now?" I gave them numbers for the IGFA and the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame and everybody lived happily ever after. Especially Mr. Healy of Rockford, Michigan, who reeled the thing in and remains the only real hero of the story.
But here's the rest... of the story: Five days before that fish was caught, I was on Chmura's boat filming a television segment for In-Fisherman. While enjoying the jet ride upriver, I noticed many a Storm Deep Thunderstick Jr. dangling from various rod tips on other boats. I decided to fish a Shad Rap just to be different. It paid off. By 10 am we were working on a second segment, drifting Gulp! Gobies under Thill Floats (grist for another tale). Roller came by. "What are you guys throwing?" I pitched him a Shad Rap.
And that...is the rest... of the story. Closest I'll ever come to an all-tackle world record. As for the journalist becoming the story? The greatest sin in all the realm of professional communications? Hey. This is a blog. What standards?
The brown in the picture? It wasn't taken in Milwaukee. Or from the Big Manistee. But it was late fall. Maybe early winter. When wallowing, barnyard browns from the Great Lakes come barging upriver to post up on gravel. They stage up in pools, first. Suckers for a TC Tackle jig adorned with a plastic worm or a fresh satchel of king-salmon eggs. Light leaders (4- to 5-pound fluorocarbon), long rods, and Thill River Master floats.
Brown town? Call Eric Haataja. Step off the lake and grab a cappuccino. It's a trip. Great trip, in fact.
Hard to beat a lonely pool in a forest glade, though. Foot patrol. (The brown police never sleep.)