Its 8:15 pm in late January and as one would expect its cold outside, particularly for south Mississippi. As my wife and I wrap up our meal, bathe our kids and get the boys ready for bed, I take out our trash as the last chore of the day. However with a content heart, full belly and the warm glow of a comfortable inside I notice the still, cold, quiet air fueling my curiosity of whether or not one of my winter time wade fishing spots has any hungry trout awaiting an easy meal - after all the tide isn’t supposed to start falling for another 2 hours. So as I swing open the screen door to confess to my addiction, my wife doesn’t allow me to even mutter a syllable, but instead acutely just says “go!” and shakes her head as if she just saw me doing the chicken dance in a room full of strangers.
As an avid wadefisherman, who is passionate about pursuing big trout, her response was the only word I needed to hear. In the next 5 minutes I put on 2 base layers, my waders, threw my wading gear, rods and Boga in the bed and made a right at the stop sign 3 blocks away. By this point, it is around 8:30, I just worked for 10 hours, and am running on pure adrenaline, like a skydiver approaching the door of a perfectly good airplane or a hunter getting ready to squeeze the trigger with his crosshairs spot on the biggest deer they’ve ever seen running perpendicular to end of their muzzle.
To add to the elements, I glance at my truck thermometer on my rear view and it gently reminds me that its 43 degrees. Its Tuesday, and the few people on Hwy 90 at this point would not believe me that I will be getting in the water on purpose, let along to try to catch a few trout. In events like this, it is as if you’re looking through an HD lens and DVR’ing your favorite show, so you can impress co –workers with quirky lines you’ve memorized from your favorite comedy. This particular night is no exception, in the short 10 minute drive it took for me to get to the spot, I listen to Sportstalk with Bobby Hebert and Deke Bellavia, and reflected with them as they analyzed last week’s Saints game-plan of throwing less and running the ball more. In addition to learning more about next weeks opponent through osmosis, my mind keeps racing trying to guess if anyone is in my spot and as a result, I contemplate cruising through red lights with fear that somebody has beat me out there….luckily this night, I was alone.
When I finally realized the coast was clear I quickly reminded myself that it isn’t that cold, and the encouraging mental image of me hoisting a Monster trout from the deep rich darkness, allowed the blood to keep flowing as if my hands were encased in waterproof neoprene’s. Moving forward and before I knew it, I’m walking out to my flat, after somehow putting on my wade belt, like I’ve done many times before.
I finally made it, with what felt like an hour in all actuality took me 15 minutes from door to flat. This particular spot I felt has the biggest possibility of containing a really large trout. I fished it for two solid years almost year round and the slightest intricacies are evident because It’s solid oysters and has a very nice adjacent drop off alongside the flat. In short, its my big trout spot! Now that I’m set up my first order of business is determining what the tide is doing, and from what I could tell she’s still inching in, which are indicated by tiny tide bubbles lying on the surface. Also my stringer validates my claim and I start fishing.
My first half hour is uneventful and the self-doubt starts to creep in as to whether I should be lying under my LSU blanket on the couch watching Deadliest Catch, rather than fishing. However, I decide to press on and switch tactics and throw a slow sinking Black with white bones MirrOdine, that was perfectly named Skelator by my good bud Mr.Sam Davis, who has a quick wit and an even better memory of the HEMAN cartoons him and his two sons would watch on Saturday mornings. However, after 10 or so cast I catch what I came for...a solid start to my night, a good 23” trout that I slide onto the stringer with visions of it being pecan encrusted and served on a bed of Grits with a sweet potato and a salad on the side. Now with some confidence under my belt, I heave skelator back out there and retrieved three more trout from the mold the first came out of, and think those will make a fine addition to our meal and maybe have enough for our neighbors to join us. All of the cold up to this point has gone by the wayside, my fingers no longer hurt, my teeth no longer clinching and my internal temp is enough to make me break into a sweat. In short, all the pain goes away when I’m catching fish….well, maybe not all of it.
You see my very next cast, skelator took two twitches and a 3 second pause to be engulfed by the biggest trout I’ve ever hooked. When I felt her hit the bait, she shot straight to the right then to the left and made a couple of quick burst stripping small sets of drag. However, after about 5 minutes or so, she wallowed on the surface in the low ambient light cast by the street lights behind me. At this point, I can barely make out if it was a trout or a nice slot red, but in the blink of an eye she heads north and lumbers straight toward the knee deep water with which I’m standing. In an effort to try and keep up, my Revo 7:1:1 went into overdrive and my numb arms and fingers were reeling as fast as they could to keep up. During that time, I noticed I was having a hard time getting her head to come up to surface and correctly ID and confirm what was on the end of my line. So after wallowing for a few more moments, she makes her presence known which weakened my knee’s at first glance. It was confirmed, my biggest trout to date, which easily surpassed my previous personal best which I caught, the same time the year before on the same flat, 7.4lbs. However, she wasn’t in my grasp….yet. My next big decision was deciding whether to get her on the boga or grab her, “like the Texans do.” With my mind made up and no time to waste to unhook my boga off my wade belt I decide to grab her with one fair swoop. So with her pretty tuckered out and me confident in my decision, It was time for me to get it done and take a picture for future Facebook gawkers. I work her to my left and the back to my right with my rod in my left hand I was going to grab her with my right hand. “Here we go!” I thought and I dive my right hand into the cold water and slide my hand stretched out as far as it would go around her shoulders, and as I go to pick her up. She does what any wise old fish would do and makes one last jailbreak. With all of her wisdom and all of her might she musters enough strength to shake her head valiantly one last time, and as she does so my cold, numb hand can’t keep up.
Additionally, all of my VMC#4 hooks on the belly of Skeletor come right back at me and no sooner as she was there is how fast she was gone. The image of her long black slender body sliding back into the darkness from the cascading street lights will be an image that I will never forget, as well as, the pain that returned in my fingers from the constant cold wetness of the Gulf. In addition, it wasn’t until that I could feel the nip of old man winter on my cheeks and my nose, and the lifeless feeing of my face from being numb for so long. And lastly, it wasn’t until that moment that I’ve been so disappointed to lose such a beautiful fish.
Now three years removed from that night, two states away and two bigger fish under my belt, I still remember every intricacy of the events leading up to and after that botched landing attempt. It was an experience I was able to redeem eventually, but at the time it was the near biggest accomplishment in my trophy trout endeavors. As I’ve mentioned before, speckled trout have a charm, but big speckled trout have a magic about them, so much so, that three years later I still remember that night like it was yesterday!
God bless and never give up! Tight lines.