Trout Tips From Trautwein: Tiger Trout and Lessons Learned
When I was a young boy, I had the normal attention span of an adolescent child. But the one thing that I could focus my one-track mind on was fishing.I could not wait to go. It didn't matter when or where, and I often drove my folks crazy with the "can we go now" approach that I thought would defiantly crack their will. If I kept it up long enough, at least.
I was lucky to have one particular fishing partner, as a boy, who could always withstand my bombardments. She also gracefully taught me many lessons throughout the time she was on this earth. Claire was my maternal grandmother, and I will never figure out how she was able to withstand my nagging about the only thing that mattered to me back then. None the less, she knew what she was doing. Although I didn't know it until just recently in my life, she was teaching me the lessons in a way I could have never imagined.
Claire would be making a big lunch and packing it into a cooler on many different occasions when I would just happen to pop in to say hi. She lived next door to me when I was growing up, and I frequented her house sometimes more than my own. I will never forget the cuckoo clock that kept vigil over the time, or how wonderful it was when the smell of Claire's house met me at the door.
I remember asking, "Where are you going grandma?" each time the cooler was carefully being packed. Although this would occur many times in the course of a summer, I would always ask the same question. The exact same way.
It was as if she knew my attention span couldn't fathom that the answer was always the same.
She would patiently reply with, "We are going fishing..." To which I would erupt with excitement and bolt back out the door to collect my gear.
In the whirlwind of a 10-year-old boy's excitement, I would sputter the question, "Why didn't you tell me?"
"I knew you would be coming over, sooner or later," she'd respond.
After so many years I can still see the coy smile she would be wearing on the way to the fishing hole. I didn't know it then, but she knew her patient approach was the defense to the overwhelming nagging approach to take me fishing. She knew what she was doing.
We would meet her four sisters at the fishing hole and they would all sit and fish for hours--sometimes days. That group of girls was the most productive group of anglers I have ever been around.
As a boy I would try to out-fish them, but It was always to no avail. At one point, I realized I couldn't out fish them, so I started to watch what they were doing. They would all just sit there. And fish. They wouldn't change bait or move from one place to another. They would just patently wait until a fish hit, and, which ever rod it bit on, that sister would get up and reel in another prize.
The fish in the photo is a tiger trout I caught last spring using the methods my grandmother and aunts taught me so long ago. This fish was special. There is only one place to catch them this big, and I knew from years ago how to go about doing it. I took my girlfriend and some friends with me that day.
I tried all day to get everyone else the hook up for one of these beautiful trout. We had to fish for quite awhile, and after boredom set in, my friend kept saying, "Should we move?" Waving him off, I kept on fishing. This was responded to with disdain, but soon the fish started to hit.
I tried to talk these folks into letting the fish eat the bait. They missed hit after hit, and I tried to instill in them to wait. The girl I was seeing at the time had a hit and, even after reminding her again, she yanked the bait away from the trout.
"You have to be patient and let them eat the bait," I told her. I'll never forget her reply: "Well, I guess I wont touch the rod again then."
I watched all day trying to let my friends catch what I could tell were nice trout. Then, late in the day, it became my turn. My rod tip danced with the tell-tale sign that a trout had picked up my bait. I sat for a few minutes more watching the rod tip bend then go lip and then bend again. The people with me couldn't stand the fact I continued to sit, waiting. "You have one" my friend yelled at me as if I didn't know what was going on.
Not yet. I wasn't going to touch it yet.
The rod went limp again and I could hear the disbelief in the laughter and snide remarks around me.
I thought again about Claire, Rose, Eunice, Nat and Eve, and all those days spent fishing with them... trying to figure out their methods. Even though it seemed to me they had no approach or clear method to being consistently successful, the lesson was there for me to take.
The next minute, the fish did what I knew he would and the rod tip bent again, and this time it continued to bend as the trout tried to take his prize away. I got up and grabbed the rod, but still I waited for the trout to take the bait deeper. I felt the trout's head jerk twice and that's when I knew I had him.
I hammered the hook set and this eight pound, 27-inch monster came clean out of the water. This fish eventually gave up the fight, but not before ruining my reel, my relationship and my friendships.
It's a funny thing when you are right. The people around me wouldn't listen because they wanted to do it their way. It's an even funnier thing when you are the only angler to catch something, even though you tried to let them get it first.
The trip home was in silence, and I wore Claire's coy smile the whole way. Even though these people have all moved away from me after that day, this tiger trout brought me back to a time in my life when it was all so simple.