Written by: Len Harris
Photos by: Barb Harris
I went to the nursing home to pick up my wife. Barb had worked
a double shift because of the bad weather here in
Wisconsin. The nurse that was to work the shift could not make it in
because of blowing snow. My wife left her little car
in the parking lot. I barreled through the snow with my SUV. Barb
was at the curb waiting for me. She was really tired
from working a double shift. As we went home, she told me there was a
new intake in the nursing home. She met the
guy briefly and introduced herself. The 80ish year old man introduced
himself as Trout . My wife asked the
guy if that was his real first name. "Trout" said that his real name
was something else but he has been known as "Trout"
since his childhood.
The nasty Wisconsin winter continued for an eternity. Barb
logged many long shifts at the nursing home.
.She found out Trout's nickname was given to him by his grandfather.
Barb told me many "Trout stories."
My wife told me that he seemed quite lonely and I should visit him. I
decided I needed to meet "Trout".
The visiting hours that day were 5pm to 9pm. Off I went to the nursing home.
Barb usually worked the third floor. I went right up to the
Nurse's station. The charge nurse told me that my wife was not
I smiled and told her that I knew that. I was there to visit Mr.
Trout. The charge nurse smiled and said, "I wondered how long it
take before you came to meet Trout. He is in room 312." I walked
down the hallway and walked into room 312.
I knocked on the door and introduced myself. There were 2 names on
the door. One of them said: Trout Swenson There were two beds in the
room. It was quite obvious which side Trout lived in. The right side
of the nursing home room was like a shrine to trout. There were trout photos
plastered all over the wall and four huge trout mounts on the wall.The
mounts were old and awe inspiring. Three of the mounts were male
trout and all of them were over 30 inches. Each trout was mounted on a
gnarly piece of driftwood. The alligator teeth on each trout were
fearsome looking. The final trout on the wall was at least 36
inches .It was the deepest female trout I had ever seen. I guessed the
trout's weight at between 16 and 18 pounds. The wall also was adorned
with three fishing rods. And there was a HUGE net mounted directly
over his head.
I told Trout I was a husband of one of his nurses. He said, "You
must be Spinner." I smiled at Trout and nodded my head. I asked him
if we could swap some lies. He smiled and said, "Sit on down." Our conversation
quickly turned to trout fishing. Trout had been born and raised in
Richland County. He has fished
the local streams his whole life. He told me his "temporary" stay at
the nursing home was putting a cramp on his fishing outings. Trout
had injured his
hip on the stream last fall.
We talked for quite some time . I asked him about the four trout
mounts on the wall. I asked him the lengths and weights.
He started out the descriptions with the same opening line.
" If my memory serves me right I caught that trout on a night crawler on my fly rod."
The four mounts varied from 32 inches to 36 inches in length. He said
he never weighed any of his trout ,only measured them. All of his small stream
trout fishing was done locally. Trout "only" used night crawlers All of the trout
on the wall were caught in a 100 mile radius of Richland Center.
Trout told me he always fished alone. He liked his solitude.
I asked Trout how he got his nickname.. As a young pup
"Trout" was enamored with trout fishing. He spent every waking moment
either trout fishing
or talking about trout fishing. His grandfather gave him the
nickname on a spring day when Trout caught a huge trout in a tiny
stream near their home.
Trout's grandfather said: "Boy, you could catch a big trout in a mud
puddle in the middle of main street." The initial nickname was "Big
Trout" but it morphed
into Trout through the years. We yakked for a little while longer
until one of the nurses shooed me out of the room. It was bedtime. We
had talked for four
hours, and the time had flown by.
I made many visits to the nursing home to talk to Trout that
winter. We always talked about trout fishing. I asked him if the
four trout on his wall were
the biggest trout he had ever landed. Trout's eyes squinted and the
tone of his voice rose with anger ....
"There was this one SOB that got away at shore. It was a prehistoric
male brown. I played it for almost an hour and I had him next to
shore and grabbed my net and tried to net him. That darn trout just straightened itself out
in the net and made one more shake of its head and it got away. I can
still remember the blasted thing mocking me as it slowly swam away, and I swear on
my momma's grave that durn thing just turned right around just like it
was lookin' right at me. Then it just swished its tail and it was gone."
Trout turned and pointed to the huge net on the wall above his
bed. He said: "I bought that net the next day. You'll never hear any
"real" trout angler say "I wish I had a smaller net." I went right
out that next day and bought three nets as big as Trout's.
Spring was approaching quickly and I was getting really fired up
about opening day. I stopped to talk to Trout to pump him for some
information on where he thought
I should fish opening day. Trout looked at me and said he was quite
puzzled,. "You want me to tell you where to catch a big trout? Where
is the fun in that? You
need to earn your own trout. Get out there and catch a big one and
report back to me on your outing on opening day. I don't want to hear
about any little ones
Eight days flew by quickly and It was opening day. I caught a
couple decent trout and lost one big one. I thought about what Trout
had said throughout the winter. I fished
all day and went to the nursing home at dark to tell Trout about the
day. I walked directly to his room to talk to him. His bed was empty
and all of his belongings were
removed from the room . I was really freaked out. I went directly to
the nurse's station. I was afraid to ask the charge nurse where Trout
was. The charge nurse handed me
a sealed envelope. It had "Spinner" written on the outside. I opened
the envelope This was all that was printed on the paper.
I asked the charge nurse for some details. She told me that Trout
had contacted the doctor wanted to be discharged. The
doctor was hesitant to discharge Trout. Trout was not healed 100 percent.
Trout insisted on being discharged. Trout was picked up late Friday night. He
wanted to get home and clean his gear and get ready for opening morning the next
As I was driving home I started think about what the charge
nurse and I talked about. Her demeanor was odd. She seemed sad when
she talked about Trout. When I got home I told Barb about the the
whole thing. Barb listened very closely. We were about to fall asleep
and Barb rolled over and said: "Len I am not sure if you know this
about the nursing home. There is a confidentiality requirement there.
Nurses are not allowed to release medical information to non family
members." I thought lots about Trout that night. Did Trout get
discharged or did he go to the Big Trout Stream In The Sky?
All of this happened the winter of 2001. I have not seen Trout on
the streams and have not heard of him since our last lie swapping at
the nursing home. I have made a special effort to try to fish some of
the streams he told me about. I like to think he is still out there catching Massive trout.
I often think of Trout when I am fishing these days. I smile
when I remember Trout's eyes squinted and hearing the tone of his
voice ringing in my ears about the big one that got away.
Based on a true story
Len with his nets that are just like Trout's legendary nets.