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Brookie to Brighten the Day

Certainly if you have spent anytime watching the news this week you are gloomy.

Weather most of the week was that way too, and then it snowed again last night!

How about a colorful brook trout to brighten things up?

Nebraska does not have a lot of brook trout waters, but we do have a few!  I have always said I love those places because they are some of the prettiest in the state, and so are the fish that are found there!  Wish I could spend an afternoon on one of those streams right now!

You know I love big fish.  Every angler does.  But, it is all relative.  I love big specimens of a variety of species, and when it comes to brook trout they do not have to weigh very much.  The reward of catching a brookie is in its beauty.  If you catch one when it is in its spawning colors, it is an even bigger prize.

I have told this story before, but this is a great time to repeat stories. . . .

One of my biggest trophies that I have caught was a brook trout, a 13-inch brook trout.

I was exploring one of our small Pine Ridge streams in late October.  Yep, that was spawning time for the brookies swimming there.  Time flies when I am doing that; you fish one stretch of stream, then have to see what is around the next corner, up in the next pool.  A person starts exploring and fishing and the next thing you know you are a couple of miles from the pickup and the sun is getting low.

I spotted another pair of brook trout in a riffle.  The female was actually larger, likely she would have been close to 14-inch Nebraska Master Angler size, but I hardly even noticed her.  No, the male she was with was spectacular.  Even through the water and bank-side vegetation I could see that fish was gorgeous.  I wanted him!

Often I have said that trout in small streams are easy to catch as long as they are not spooked.  But, boy are they spooky!  Whenever I fish one of those waters, I am painfully reminded of that.

So, you have to fish those small streams like you are still-hunting deer.  Yes, I wear camouflage clothing, and yes, I crawled on my hands and knees to get in position to catch that fish.

Holding my breath I barely raised up onto my knees, made a flip and let the bait drift with the current.  It got in front of those two brookies and the colorful male slowly finned forward, tipped over and ate it!

I will not regale you with a story of a long, brave fight from that fish.  Nope, once it ate, I set the hook and then pulled him out onto a bed of watercress.  That was it, fight was over.  But, I had my prize!

This was back in the days when I lugged a 35mm camera on my back.  I positioned the fish, pulled the camera out and took one, 1, uno, picture.  I advanced the film, and that was it–end of the roll, no more film with me.  Nooooooo!  I was not sure I would even have one exposure of that fish on the end of that roll of film.  The prettiest fish I had ever caught and it may exist only in my mind.

I turned him loose.  He drifted back to his partner.

I hiked back to the pickup.

Later at the film processor I told my story.  Told the technician that there may be only a partial frame at the end of the film, but if possible I wanted it developed anyway.  A few days later, holding my breath, I opened the envelope of prints, and . . . .


Hopefully one day I will catch a bigger brook trout, but I doubt I ever catch one purdier.

I never will forget that fish.


If you can get out and fish a bit this weekend.  Do it!  We all need the stress relief.

If not, spend some time remembering the ones that did and did not get away.  Spin a story or two while you are at it, fishstories.org.


About daryl bauer

Daryl is a lifelong resident of Nebraska (except for a couple of years spent going to graduate school in South Dakota). He has been employed as a fisheries biologist for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission for 25 years, and his current tour of duty is as the fisheries outreach program manager. Daryl loves to share his educational knowledge and is an avid multi-species angler. He holds more than 120 Nebraska Master Angler Awards for 14 different species and holds more than 30 In-Fisherman Master Angler Awards for eight different species. He loves to talk fishing and answer questions about fishing in Nebraska, be sure to check out his blog at outdoornebraska.org.

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