Once In A Lifetime
Written by: Len Harris
Photos by: Len Harris
I really need to give some history to this story before I get to the actual story. Two springs ago we had a huge flood in the southwest part of Wisconsin. Most of the streams were dramatically effected by this flood. Many streams were widened and others had holes where there were never any.
The water finally receded and I decided to go look at my streams to see if any of them were fishable. Most of the bigger streams were still chocolate milk. I decided to take a look at a couple of my brookie streams. I remembered one stream in particular that I had been fishing with a friend at a huge beaver dam. The beaver dam was still intact.
I remember this outing because my friend Frank had a decent sized brookie on and all of sudden the water erupted under the brookie and a huge almost flush of a toilet happened under the brookie. The brookie was sucked under and all of a sudden the pole was bent in half. What ever had the brookie was big and dove towards the bottom. The action ended as quickly as it began. There was the brookie floating on the top of the water. The brookie was still hooked. We brought it in and took a photo of the 10 inch brookie close-up. It had teeth marks the entire length of the fish. We decided it had endured enough injury for the day and popped it back in the beaver dam hole. Frank and I did NOT see the would be brookie stealer but we both knew it was large.
That beaver dam grew in legend that year. Frank and I went back numerous times and never hooked up on any trout. Not a single trout. It was really odd. Prior to having that brookie almost stolen, we caught many brookies in that area. We finally gave up and decided the brookie stealer had moved on.
This spring we had even a bigger flood. I did my traditional look see after the water went down. Again the bigger streams were dirty and no fishing. The memory of that big fish trying to steal the brookie from Frank came back to me. I knew where I was going. Hello Big Beaver Dam Hole. The floods had completely knocked out the dam. The once 100 yard long and 8 feet deep beaver dam hole was about three feet deep. I was really disappointed because I figure the Monster Of The Beaver Dam has surely
I walked downstream first and all of the remnants of the beaver dam was down stream. I did a 180 and went up stream. Far in the distance I could see some action on the water. I dismissed it at first as the beavers trying to rebuild their dams. The closer I got....it looked like minnows scurrying in to the shallows with a big wake behind them. It was still a good 80 yards ahead of me.
At 40 yards I could see that those weren't minnows in the shallows...They were good sized brook trout and they were begin chased into the shallows by an enormous trout. The trout's back was coming out of the water as it chased the brookies into the shallows and ate any of them that got to close. My camera was out and my point and shot digital didn't have a good enough zoom to capture the carnage from this fish. I needed to get closer. I took 4 more steps and the action turned off. The big fish must have felt me walking trying to get closer.
I told this story to quite a few anglers and they just smiled and nodded their heads and said " Ya....right...An enormous trout chasing brookies
in the shallows." To them it was just too much of a tale to swallow. I tried to talk a couple of them in to stalking the trout. They all had better
things to do. I tried for this fish minimum 50 times this year. I had not even a whisper of a bite.
About a month ago my buddy Joe Chadwick and I went back to the beaver dam to fish. The beavers had repaired their dam and the massive beaver dam was back there in it's full glory. Joe and I fished it hard for 3 hours. No bites. We moved on. We walked back downstream to my truck and took a look at the beaver dam one more time. No action. The beaver had made many runs to make entry in to the beaver dam easier. They were hidden in tall weeds. I was leading the way back to the truck. I told Joe to be careful of this one beaver run. Joe must not have heard me and he stepped in it and tumbled down the bank in to the beaver dam. I asked him if he was OK and he just barked out " Why didn't ya tell me there was a run here?" After I stopped laughing at Joe treading water in the huge eight feet deep beaver dam........I noticed a huge wake going up stream. Joe falling in the water had spooked the brookie stealer and now it had shown itself to us again.
Joe and I went back another 20 times to try for the big trout. I always let Joe have the hole first because he said he had discovered the trout by falling in and he should have first crack at it. We did NOT catch anything. Not even a tiny brookie. We decided we needed to try some different tactics. On the way home I told Joe that BIG trout turn in to nocturnal feeders when they get really big. This one fell in to the big category. We decided night fishing was in order.
We went back and pruned some of the willows and did some practice casting in the light of day to make sure we could cast properly during the night time hours. The path to the beaver dam was manicured and any holes were noted so we would fall in to them during darkness. We looked for a good battle position on the water's edge and an easy place for netting We went to Cabelas and got 2 headlamps.
So now.......What were we going to use to catch this Leviathan ?? We decided to be prepared for many ways to tempt this trout. We were going to time our assault on it during the time of the Hex hatch. The Hex were late this year because of the major flooding. A trip to a local fly shop was in order. We got a couple Hex patterns and a couple mouse patterns. We strung up the 5 weight fly rod with a 3x leader and the Hex emerger pattern. We had heard of hex hatches in the area.
We also got out a spinning rod and put 8 pound fireline on it and a size 6 eagle claw with a small split shot part way up the line. We decided if one method failed we would try the other. I stopped at the local Kwik Trip and got a dozen night crawlers and went fishing for chubs. I caught 6 chubs and cut off their tails about one inch up from the tail. So now we were ready. Night crawlers and chub tails and a readied fly rod. We also had some size 9 floater rapalas in rainbow color (they don't make brookie color).
The alarm rang at 2am. I picked up Joe and off we went for our night time adventure. I parked the truck quite a ways from the normal parking spot. I wanted to have every possible advantage. We walked slowly to the woods edge. I put on my headlamp. I told Joe to leave his off. The approach to the hole seemed like it took an eternity. I turned mine off also quite a ways from the hole.Joe wanted to get right in there with a chub tail. I told him we needed to look and listen for a while. We actually took a seat for about 10 minutes. We both looked at each other had the same time. Joe said what the heck was that sound? I told Joe it was a slurp sound. I had read about the sound in many fly fishing magazines. I had never heard the sound myself. We sat there a little longer the sound got closer to our battle station. I handed Joe the fly rod and said have at it. There was a hex hatch going on and we had stumbled on it.
It was actually quite intimidating casting in the pitch black. I told Joe to cast towards the slurping sounds. Joe asked me how would he know when to set the hook. I told him to set after he heard the slurp. The first cast in the large beaver dam was off target. Joe put his second cast near the sounds. It seemed almost instant...there it was...the Slurp sound. Joe set it hard.
The fish went directly to the bottom and hunkered down. It did a figure eight a couple times. I don't think it knew it was hooked. Then it realized it was hooked any went screaming upstream at Mach 8. There was another small submerged beaver dam up there and I was worried the trout would get entangled in the beaver dam. I yelled at Joe "Turn it!" "Muscle it!" It can't get into the other dam. The reel on the rod was just screaming and the rod was bent in half. Joe was kinda like a deer in the headlights. He froze. He yelled ......can't control it!!!!
I told him to take one step in to the water and invert the fly rod and stick it directly in to the water. I told him to keep the rod bent over. He didn't understand me. He wanted more explanation. I just yelled "Just Do It!" He followed my directions to the letter and the trout turned and came back down stream. Joe was reeling for all his worth. He had it in the main
beaver dam again. It was showing no signs of getting tired. It was Joe's turn yell. "Get in the %^43^^7 water and net that fish!" I told him it wasn't ready to be netted. Joe said: "I don't care.......Get in there."
I took 3 steps out and was at the top of my chest waders. I told Joe to get it closer to me so I could net it. The trout swam by me and I made a half hearted netting attempt. I had not even seen the fish yet. I thought I better get a try while it was near me. I tried and I missed. Joe was yelling. "If you cause me to lose this fish I will never talk to you again!" I took one more half step out and the water was even with my waders. I told him he had to get it head up so I could see it to net it. He kinda brought it to the surface. I went deep under the fish and brought it
to the surface with the netting action. The trout would not fit in the net from the side and the net got tangled up in the line. I was certain i was going to lose this fish. I dropped the net on purpose and the line came free from the net. I recovered the net. I decided I was going to go in up to my neck and net this thing. I took one big step forward and went deep...almost to my neck and made a lunging deep netting attempt at the fish. I got it in the net by sheer luck. I lifted the net over my head and walked out of the hole. I did NOT know how big the trout was.
When I got to shore I turned on my headlamp. Joe met me at the shore. We just stared in disbelief at what was in the net.
A small stream trout in these parts is considered big at 20 inches. This thing was way beyond that. I snapped a couple photos and we measured the male small stream brown trout with a tape measurer and a digital scale Joe had brought with. It measured an eye lash over 30 inches and it weighed 10.2 pounds.
Joe Chadwick Trout Of A Lifetime.