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Tales separated by years; both have surprise endings

We all have a story or two about big fish that got away. I remember when I was just a youngster of 4 or 5 listening to my dad and uncles recount fishing tales.

One of my favorites fish stories was the one told by Uncle Chuck. He told of a deep, dark hole in Michigan's Grand River downstream from my hometown of Eaton Rapids. The way Uncle Chuck wove the tale it seemed as though the hole in the river contained something evil and sinister. Of course, it did. The fishing hole contained a huge northern pike that Uncle Chuck wanted badly to catch.

Uncle Chuck listed all the lures that he had used to try to catch this leviathan, but to no avail. Finally, one day Uncle Chuck tried a big flatfish colored black with orange spots. If you have ever fished with a flatfish, you know that the lure contains about five sets of treble hooks. So once a fish takes the lure it is pretty hard to lose the fish.

The pike charged out and attacked the lure and made a powerful turn. Uncle Chuck was using stout casting line and a wire leader so he was certain that the pike wasn't going to bite through the leader or break the line.

What Uncle Chuck didn't count on was the fish turning so swiftly on the lure against the stout line. The pike managed to straighten out the treble hooks and swim back to its lair.

Mind you that this was a story that my uncle told, so the truth might be stretched a bit. But the long and short of the story is that the big pike managec to straighten enough hooks to avoid ever being captured.

New story to tell Nowadays, I have my own tales of fish that got away. Still, my tales can't compare to the saga that I saw unfold the other day.

I was guiding Bob Frame from Atlanta. We were on a local stream fishing for trout. Bob had already caught a hefty rainbow trout that measured 21 inches long and had a 12-inch girth.

In a few minutes time Bob hooked and lost another hefty rainbow. Somehow the hook had pulled out.

A short while later Bob hooked another fish. The fish ran upstream at an incredible pace. The fish jumped and let us know that Bob was dealing with a real porker. The fish swam against the heavy current with ease. Whenever it wanted to jump, it could catapult out of the water 2 feet high.

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The big fish tore downstream and ripped line off the reel. Just as we were going to start chasing after it, the trout changed direction and headed back upstream. It jumped as it zipped back. The fish leapt 20 feet away from us and then headed downstream again.

Surprise ending I figured I was going to have to wait a long time before I would be able to net the fish, so I was rather surprised when Bob raised his rod and slid a small fish across the water toward me. I reached out with my landing net and landed an 8-inch smallmouth bass.

Bob and I were stunned — we had both seen the big rainbow jump several times, yet the landing net contained a puny bass.

When I examined things closely I noticed that the smallmouth bass had our first fly, a San Juan worm, in its mouth. The trailer fly, a baetis nymph, was dangling free.

Here is what we figured happened: Since the first rainbow that Bob landed had taken the baetis nymph, we surmised that the fish we lost had done the same. The smallmouth must have seen the big rainbow bullet by with the San Juan worm dangling out of its mouth and dashed out to grab it. When the trout jumped the bass on the other fly gave the trout just enough leverage to shake the hook.

I swear that this story is the truth, and you know that fishing guides only lie when their lips are moving.

Bob Krumm, of Sheridan, is the Wyoming outdoor correspondent for The Billings Gazette. Contact him at

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