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Of all my fishing tales, this may be the fishiest. But I swear this one’s true.

Blog by: Bill Prater , CO 4/24/2024
This is one of those unlikely stories that sounds an awful lot like the usual fishy stuff you hear at Friday breakfasts with the Loveland Fishing Club. Bear with me. I have a witness.

So there we were on Tuesday, this witness and I, at a high country place I try to fish during ice out every spring. You know, another situation my lovely wife wishes the fishing club would avoid, bobbing around like old water-logged corks in our Fat Cat belly boats, fishing a lake notorious for scary weather and big fish.

I was fishing of course with Darryl, an Alabama native who’d relocated to Colorado by way of Florida. We were on the prowl for trout that, a few days earlier, had been exiled under several feet of North Park ice. And if you ignore the cold, and the blustery winds, and those dark storm clouds to the north, we were doing pretty well. No hail, and in a couple of hours several gullible fish had been brought to net, admired, and freed to be caught another day.

But Darrell’s Southern soul was obsessed with the thought of a really big brown, and the biggest I knew of lived in a different lake. So we ignored that old fisherman’s cliche’ to “not leave fish to find fish,” and left in search of something a bit bigger.

At first, it didn’t seem like one of our better ideas. After talking it over with a shore angler who was wearing his skunk with grace, I was seeing what folks mean about having second thoughts. Those storm clouds were still gathering, but not the fish. But then - suddenly! Darrell let out a proper rebel yell. And it was “fish on” in North Park, as the old guy was dragged around for what seemed like an hour, clutching that kinda flimsy-looking homemade spinning rod of his. It turned into a pretty even fight with an enormous fish that matched Darrell’s daydream exactly - a really annoyed, 24-inch brown, qualifying the angler for a Colorado Master Angler award. I was pleased for him, of course, but uncharitably wondering why I’d been left out. Caught a small rainbow a few minutes later, but it was one I might have caught back in Loveland.

And then! I was suddenly tied by a skimpy 4-pound braided line to my own fish of a lifetime. I remember yelling something smartass to my buddy like, “I think it’s probably 24 and a half.” And then worrying that it really might be. “Was I really going to cut into Darrell’s personal best by catching something bigger, a few minutes later? ” It’d be like dating the better-looking sister of a buddy’s girlfriend.

Anyway, after a legendary struggle, highlighted by fishing skills honed over a long lifetime, I nosed the beast head-first into my inadequate little landing net. Sometime during the struggle, Darrell had flipped over within a few feet of me and the fish. And together we measured that monster. Over and over, just to be sure.

This is where a long fishy story turns truly classic: together, flippers bumping in casual intimacy, my friend and I measured that big trout with the same tape he’d used minutes earlier on his own. It didn’t seem possible, still doesn’t. But there it was: within the space of half an hour, less than 50 yards of white-capped water apart, I’d caught a fish exactly the same length as Darrell’s! Skeptics might suggest I’d caught the same fish - but in true legendary fashion, mine turned out to be …  a rainbow. 

As you might guess by now, that North Park gale had blown our belly boats straight onto the boat ramp where we’d launched. The truck was just a few feet away. And I told Darrell: “We can fish some more if you’d like, but I think we should quit now. Can’t get any better than this.”  

So. Driving back a little early to the low country, where expectations are high but trout are small, I remembered why we get up at 4 in the morning, drive three hours to a just thawed lake, and fish until our arthritic hands cramp. In the words of another old fishing buddy, the late Dave Harem: “I think we do things like this to show ourselves we still can.”
Photo by Darrell Knight
Blog content © Bill Prater
Blog Comments
SirGreg88, 4/25/2024 5:42:35 AM
Nice going. I wore the skunk face well yesterday. I left Lake John(where I was catching nice fat fish) for the Delany Brothers--specifically North. The weather was nice after the sun broke out. Tried everything for 4.5 hours and made the long trek back to Denver(dodging legendary potholes). I know they're in there but nada. Congrats on your catches!! That probably wont happen again!!
eholm, 4/25/2024 10:28:28 AM
Great story, congrats! "It’d be like dating the better-looking sister of a buddy’s girlfriend." LOL!
Anteroman, 4/25/2024 5:29:41 PM
Very neat story, thank you for sharing. Bill
1blueflamer, 4/27/2024 3:10:51 PM
Nice story! It's a perfect fit to my retirement dreams of fishing the magnificent North Park lakes while everyone is else is hard at work in their 9-5's! Maybe we'll meet up out there in our bellyboats one day in a couple more years!