A long hard winter
I didn't even have the trout on and it haunted me. My friend Andy's encounter with it was chapter one of the saga. I remember reading his email at first and dismissing the possibility of a monster in that stretch. My left knee was at full "I hate you" phase and I dismissed the fish story partially because of my knee not cooperating. I was supposed to be with Andy that day but I chickened out because of my knee.
I was on the bench near the end of the season. I was looking at photos and thinking about season coming to an end. I read Andy's email again and it lite my fire to fish. The quote in the email that he could not control it really got my juices flowing. I thought what the heck. I had talked to an angler a couple year earlier and she showed me a photo of an absolute monster she had caught very near to this hole. The potential was there I thought.
How much more could I injure it? I was scheduled for knee replacement surgery early 2014. My friend Floren was in town and season was coming to a close soon. I was going fishing. Floren is a big guy and I thought he could help me off stream if I became incapacitated.
We fished our way up to hole Andy had talked about being abused in. It just so happened by fate that I had caught a fish just prior to getting to the hole so Floren was up to bat. Floren had his fish of a lifetime on the second cast into the hole. The battle was over in a blink of an eye due to Floren being woefully under gunned with a flimsy fiberglass rod and closed face zebco reel. I remember seeing her surface right at shore. She was the skinniest and longest small stream trout I had ever seen. Her markings were stunning. She had lots of really dark spots very close together. Her image was seared into my memory.
I was really gimpy after that long walk/wade and thought I was done for the season. The neighbor boys talked me into one last adventure on the last day of season. The giant trout left the neighbor boys just as shell shocked as Andy and Floren. She hit before the youngest neighbor was ready and caught him with his pants down. The line was tight for about 2 seconds and the kid was not ready.
Season closed with three encounters with the ancient female to mull over during the closed season. The enormous female brown took my mind off my left knee pain and my impending knee replacement in January. I figured I could get that knee replaced and be ready to fish by March opener.
It was the longest winter I can ever remember. It went terribly slow and rehabbing my knee took a long time. I was not fully ready when opener came and only chased the infamous female brown a dozen times in March. She seemed to have disappeared.
April came and no giant trout. I decided she was way up in the head water that September before because nature was calling and the urge to spawn. That skinny dark spotted legit 30 incher had long ago dried up but nature still called her in September.
I was fishing like it was still September. It was April and I thought she might have moved down stream to winter in the deepest hole in the area. I knocked on some doors and got permission downstream for another 2 miles. I asked each land owner about deep holes on their property. This one land owner recounted a swimming hole on his property that he swam in as a kid that was seven feet deep that they always had fish running into their legs when they were swimming. I had such a big smile on my face I almost broke it.
It was a little sunny that day but I was determined to give the "swimming" hole a good try in search of Gargantua. It wasn't an easy walk to the hole. Lots of barbed wire fences down and lots of loose barb wire at ankle level. I fished my way to the hole. I landed this big brooder bow in the junk that was laying in the water. A washer and a dryer were at the end of the hole in the water. I was very disappointed in the landowner using his waterway as a junk yard.
The barbed wire was everywhere and I was walking very gingerly and avoiding anything that might injure my new left knee. I was close to the swimming hole and continued on with care. The sun was high in the sky before I got to where I thought the giant female brown might have taken up residency for the winter. I was hoping she was still there.
The stream was banked hard due to spring flooding and I got down to the water level before I got to the swimming hole with high banks. I didn't want my shadow or movement to spook the old girl before I had a chance at her. The hole was worth the long meticulous quest on a new knee. The hole was a "WOW" place. I was certain I was going to score.
It had back eddies and it had fast water and step drops. I could not have designed a better hole to be Gargantua's home. I was down in the shallow water on the bottom right of the photo. I cast for 1 hour in the hole with zero hits. I threw everything in my box. I varied speed and lures numerous times. Nobody was home.
I had an encounter a few years before with such a beautiful hole and finding no one home. After much scratching my head I decided that the enormous female brown lived exactly here. When trout get old they are very territorial and testy. That was the reason I didn't even get a hit in this hole.
I decided I needed a photo of the hole when I was done casting to evaluate later. I crawled up on the bank for a better photo. I sat there a long while before I took the photo. I was dissecting the hole in my mind to make sure I had cast everywhere she might be laying. I had cover everywhere I thought. The sun was warm and I sat there for quite a while. I stood up to take this picture.
The water tight to the bank at the end of the fast water in the main hole at about one o'clock erupted. The swell of the trout spooking was huge and then I saw the dark close together spots and I knew it was her. She flew down stream out of the hole like her tail was on fire. I was certain I had cast exactly where she blew out of at least 40 times. I returned to the swimming hole numerous times that year and I still do to this day. She was gone.