Bryan, Larry, Anthony, Gene and I had endured hours of cold, wind and nasty chop, but now Larry was hooked up and from all indications he was into something big. The fish wasn’t running or headshaking and truth be told it probably didn’t realize that it was even hooked.
The trout simply swam slowly back and forth, some 200 feet behind the boat. Larry’s downrigger rod was bent sharply against the unseen bulk and despite the fact that he turned the reel smoothly and methodically no line was being gained or lost.
It was several minutes into the “fight”, when the fish came to life. Our captain, Bryan Roccucci had gone into the boat’s canvas cabin to grab something and Larry was looking down at his reel when the fish bolted, but since I was shooting video I saw everything.
The fish dug in hard with its tail and ran out to the port side in a crescent shaped blitz that ended in a wild jump.
The fish looked bright yellow and massive against the slate grey water and I felt an instant surge of adrenaline.
“Whatever you do Larry don’t pump the rod or mess with the drag. Just reel. That’s a really big fish and it’s got a lot of fight left in it,” I exclaimed.
Instantly Bryan was back on deck and he asked, “How big Cal four or five pounds? Bigger? Rainbow? Brown?”
“It’s big, at least 5 pounds and honestly it looked like a big yellow carp. That got a laugh from everyone including Larry, but I continued, “It’s got to be a brown.”
Larry hadn’t done much downrigger trolling for trout, but he knew how to handle a fishing rod. He stayed patient and let the tackle do its job. Would the tiny hook hold?
After the jump, the trout dropped down in the water column and bull-dogged in true brown trout fashion. Yielding little line and headshaking occasionally. According the scrolling time on the video camera’s view finder, the fight had gone on well over 6 minutes when the trout showed its first sign of fatigue and Larry started gaining ground.
Back and forth the fish swam, coming steadily closer to the boat, but from the angle of the line it was clear that the fish was determined to stay as deep as possible. Larry was now situated in the port corner while Bryan was posted in the starboard corner, where he could command the kicker motor with one of his long-handled nets at the ready.
At first the trout looked like an amber mass through the gun metal colored chop. Ever so slowly that mass transformed into a handsome brown trout, exquisitely gold and adorned with incredible black spots the entire length of its body.
Once the fish was within sure range with its head angled up, Bryan made a textbook move with the net, enveloped the brown and lifted it out of the water.
Simultaneously we all let out a whoop of joy as the trout flipped and struggled against the net. And then the brown plunged back into the water!
The entire bottom of the net had given way under the weight of the fish. For a nano second the trout was swimming about a foot beneath the surface about 3 feet from the stern. The hook was still in place but now the rod’s line was going through the hoop of the net and the destroyed mesh.
In the heat of the moment Bryan must have concluded that the fish had jumped out of the net. With catlike reflexes, he made a second stab at the fish. With the line going through the net, the stab moved the fish out of the way causing Bryan to miss and ultimately snapped the light leader.
It was as if we’d all been collectively sucker punched. We’d put in our time. We’d dealt with the cold, the wind, the tough conditions and victory was snatched away from us at the last possible moment in an inexplicable way!
How big was the trout? Maybe 6 pounds.
How does a seemingly stout net simply let go like that? The only explanation I can come up with is it broke down due to UV light from the sun.
Have we all learned something? Oh yes, I expect that the 20,000 plus anglers that read this column will be giving their nets a pre-use tug or two the next time they go fishing! I know Bryan and I will…LOL!
With the big brown safely “released”. We went back to trolling for another hour or so, landing a beautiful brown of about 3 pounds and an equally impressive catfish that just couldn’t say no to a Gulp! Minnow.
How I came to be on Lake Almanor on June 11 was the work of John Crotti of Quail Lodge and Bryan Roccucci of Big Daddy’s Guide Service. The two had collaborated to create a veterans event where veterans and Norcal fishing guides would be paired up for a day of trout fishing on Lake Almanor as a way of saying thank you to the veterans for their service. Dozens of veterans turned out for the event and a good time was had by all.
Around noon all of us got off the water and headed over to Quail Lodge for a big BBQ lunch courtesy of John Crotti, his wife Deb and their team of volunteers.
About Quail Lodge
Quail Lodge is located in Canyon Dam, California just a few minutes’ drive from Lake Almanor and is a great headquarters for fishing and hunting adventures in the Lake Almanor region.
“We have 6 rooms that sleep 2 to 4 people each. The rooms have a rustic décor with log pine furniture and comfortable pillow top queen mattresses. The beds are covered with quality linens and nostalgic quilts. Our rooms are designed to give you a warm comfortable feeling and a great night’s sleep. We’ve updated all rooms with televisions, microwaves and refrigerators for your convenience. Portable air conditioning units are available upon request,” said Crotti.
“We have plenty of room for parking your boat. The Canyon Dam Public Boat Launch is just 1 short mile down the street,” Crotti continued.
If you don’t have a boat or don’t know how to fish Lake Almanor, John Crotti can take care of you. He is a fully licensed fishing guide and is ready to take you out on the water to explore the secrets of Lake Almanor’s outstanding trout fishing!
If you’d like more information about Quail Lodge you can call them at (530) 284-0861 or check them out online at www.quaillodgelakealmanor.com.