This past summer, our family met up with the Leibelt family for our annual summer vacation to Crescent Lake. Hard to believe this has been the sixth year in a row that we have done this trip. Over the years, we’ve been blessed to catch some amazing browns during our summer retreat. This year we were hoping to add to those memories!
We arrived on a Monday afternoon and got settled into our yurt for the week. I was excited to get the boat launched and try our luck at fishing. That evening I got the whole family out in the boat, which is a rare occurrence. Most of the time, the kids are wanting to play or sleep in, so I cherish these moments. My lovely wife, Robyn, even joined us for the evening despite the fact she can sometimes get motion sickness out on the water. We all had a great boat ride together, but unfortunately the fish weren’t biting.
Tuesday morning Dustin and his middle son, Jake, joined me on the water. We trolled down Simax Beach and soon Jake was into a feisty brown. We did a quick release and were soon back at it. On the next pass, Jake reeled in another juvenile brown. Where are the big boys we asked? I decided to do some down rigging and went out to deeper water. I had noticed that my cannon ball eyelet was starting to rust a bit, but didn’t think much about it as I connected it to the rigger and put it into the water. As soon as I let go of the ball, the eyelet stripped out of the ball and it quickly deep sixed! Well……..there goes $60! It wasn’t long after that (and a few swear words later), that we decided to head in for breakfast. LOL. That afternoon, we went over to Willamette Pass and did a 9 mile hike to Rosary Lakes. It was beautiful and our families all had a great time doing the hike. We were well exercised by the time we made it back to the trailhead, so no fishing that night.
Wednesday morning Dustin and his youngest son, Ty, joined me on the water. And let me tell ya for being in early August, boy was it COLD! There was even ice on the boat to greet us at the dock. Ty was a real trooper though at age 11 and was eager to get out to catch a big one. With the action being pretty slow at Simax, we set out for the south end of the lake to try our luck. We worked Tandy and a few other spots, but didn’t get a single bump all morning! I was baffled that the previous year patterns were not producing, nor were the usual depths. I made a call to go out 10 feet deeper than what we had been working, and it paid off in spades. Around 8 a.m., the downrigger rod started dancing, and Ty was quickly into a better brown! He fought his first big brown perfectly, and soon I was able to net the 24”, 6-1/2 pound hen. Ty was super stoked as we snapped some pics of him with his prize! Once done, we slipped her back into the water to live another day. Later that same evening, my daughter Madyson and I went out, but no fish were willing to play.
Thursday morning was much warmer than the morning before which was nice for Mady, Cole (Dustin’s oldest boy), Dustin and I. We set off in the dark for a spot I have never started in before during this time of the year. It took a while to get there with four people in the boat and my 15HP Mercury outboard, but eventually we made it. I stayed in the deeper water column where we had found Ty’s fish the day before and we let out our offerings for the morning. It was just getting light as we were within the hour before sunrise. Once the line counter said 300 feet, I told Dustin to click his bail as we were set back proper. Just after saying that, I turned my reel to engage the bail, but it would not click over and engage! In shock, I repeatedly tried to spin the reel handle but noticed that the spool was frozen and would not engage! Boy was I PISSED!!! I had already lost a $20 lure on this trip, lost a $60 cannonball, and now my Abu Garcia reel was failing me. I yelled some choice words, as the boat was just barely at a troll. I looked at Dustin in disbelief and told him to just hand his rod to Cole while we figure out how to get my line and lure back to the boat. In no way could I even spool line on the reel. Finally, I told him to use a tube of sunscreen I had in my fishing box to hand spool the line around. He grabbed the sunscreen and slowly began the painful process of hand lining 300 feet of braid and mono around the tube! In the meantime, I reached down and clipped Cole’s line into the downrigger clip and sent the cannonball down to the depth we had discovered the day before for Ty’s nice hen. I was trolling as slow as possible for Dustin while he worked hard to get the faulty setup in. After what seemed like an eternity, Dustin was finally into the final 50 feet of mono and soon we had the lure in the boat. I quickly kicked up the Merc, and soon we were trolling at 2.8 MPH. With everything working and fishing proper, I relaxed a bit after the early morning stress the bad reel incident had caused me. I smiled and told the kids to holler if they see the rod dancing in the holder that was directly behind me as I captained the boat. As I literally finished that sentence, Dustin, Mady, and Cole began hollering “the rod’s dancing!!!!”. I thought they were kidding, but it quickly dawned on me that their excitement was not a joke. I looked back just in time to see the line pop off the release and the rod tip was damn near in the water!!! Line was quickly ripping off the reel while making that “zingginggggg” sound!!! Mady was sitting closest to the rod, but Cole’s little bit more experience told him to get up and try and get the rod out of the holder. Poor Cole was struggling mightily to get that fishing pole out of the holder but it was literally pinned in there from the weight and power of the fish on the other end! I reached out to help him and even I had a hard time getting it out. Finally, we had the rod in Cole’s hands and then Mady and Dustin hollered “WHOA!!! Did you see that fish jump out of the water back there?!!” Just as they were finishing, Cole and I both caught the splash the big fish had created from his head thrashing jump. Cole has caught some dandies with us before over the previous summers and his experience with keeping the rod tip high and not letting any slack in the line take over. He did a masterful job of fighting the big fish that in the back of my mind had to of been a BIG brown if it had jumped clear out of the water on the bite. I kept that to myself though, as I didn’t want to add any more adrenaline to the mix. The fish was heavy but 14 year old Cole did a great job of battling through the fatigue he was feeling in his arms after getting the fish three fourths of the way to the boat. Then all of a sudden with about 100 feet of line still to go, the big fish made a series of huge leaps behind the boat for all of us to see! It jumped at least 5 times just kicking and thrashing in a desperate effort to throw the Owner trebles in the kokanee imitation lure that had fooled him that morning. My theory was soon confirmed as I could see the square tail, spot pattern, and big hookjaw of an old male brown trout each and every time he shot out of the clear water. My heart raced each time he jumped and I literally was praying to the big guy upstairs that this fish would stay hooked up. The good Lord answered as the big male stayed on and soon Cole was into the last 50 feet of 12 pound test Maxima monofilament leader. Little did I know, but Dustin was actually videoing the later part of the fight as I coached and provided support to Cole in steering this monster brown to the net. Dustin hollered “There he is!”, and soon we could see him 25 feet from the boat on the surface. The beast was tired and was swimming on his side. At this point, I had the net in hand and was ready to scoop Cole’s prize. I told him to keep the rod tip high and just slowly back pedal in the boat towards the bow to slowly drag the fish into my big rubber net. Cole played it perfectly, and as I swung the net under the beast, he gave one last big kick and damn near got out of the net but with one big lift of the net he quickly fell back in and I HAD HIM!!!!!!!! Oh My God, I was so close to losing him at the net, but we had him!!! Every one whooped and hollered and high fived! It was an incredible moment as all of our adrenalines ran WILD. As soon as I had the BIG Hookjaw in the net, I knew he was easily over the 10 pound mark. This was by far Cole’s biggest brown to date! Soon, after gathering our emotions, I lifted the fish into the boat for weight, measurements, and pictures. We often put the fish back in the net to keep him fresh in between picture taking sessions. The big male weighed in at 11-1/2 pounds and had a girth of 17-3/4”. His overall length was 29-1/2 inches. After some discussions with Dustin, and much encouragement from Cole, we decided to keep this trophy of a lifetime so it could be molded and painted for Cole to remember for all of his life. In all my years of doing this, it was the biggest male brown to ever come to my boat, and a real beauty at that. Colors, spots, and stacked from head to tail. This was the perfect specimen! Couldn’t have happened to a better kid either, especially after the previous summer when Cole had a seizure and the Leibelt family had to end their vacation prematurely and rush him to the Eugene Hospital. Cole has had diabetes from a very young age. After the incident, Cole had left me a voicemail that next summer we would have to catch a monster since he didn’t get to go fishing in 2015 with me. Just more proof that the good Lord works in mysterious ways.
Soon we were back to fishing again and this time it was Mady’s turn. She got to reel in a brown, but unfortunately it was just a little guy. Later in the morning, as we were reeling in our gear to head back to camp, Cole got slammed by a fish not 50 feet from the boat! The fight was on and he graciously gave the rod to Mady. She did a great job tackling this fish and after a few line ripping runs we could see the forked tail of a 7 pound mackinaw in the crystal clear water. I netted the Laker and we got some pics of Mady with her fish. That was the perfect end to a crazy morning that we all will never forget!
Friday morning was my son Wyatt’s turn. He was fired up after seeing what Cole and Mady caught and was hoping to have the same luck. Unfortunately, all I could drum up for him was a small mackinaw. However, this little mack seemed to make his morning. He was happy to have caught a fish and I was thankful that the Lord provided! I let him “drive” the boat numerous times that morning hoping to fuel his fire for fishing a bit and getting out in the boat with me more often. Over the years, he has grown closer to me and shown more interest in fishing and hunting. I look forward to the day when both he and Mady get their shot at the brown trout of a lifetime. Until then I will remain grateful for getting to share the things I love with them.
As always, we had a great family camping and fishing trip to Crescent Lake. The fishing was pretty tough overall, but Cole’s fish made up for that in spades. Thanks for reading and best of luck to you on your next trophy trout hunting trip.
“Browns – Coyotes of the Fishing World!”