My obsession with trophy trout started about 6 years back. I became completely infatuated by the idea of enormous trout. To say that chasing trophy trout was an obsession is an understatement. I have spent hundreds and even thousands of hours pouring my soul into research trying to trace down places with the potential to hook and a land a goliath trout. Slowly, my obsession pushed me to fall in love with Brown Trout because of how incredibly challenging they can be. My passion for chasing trout is in tracking down new spots and exploring new water constantly. So when I say that our adventure began on Thursday, August 9th 2018; I am blatantly lying. Although August 9th through August 13th make up the time frame of when Bradley Bonnett and I landed these particular ten fish in this story, our journey began long before.
Bradley and I crossed paths while guiding at different lodges in Alaska in 2017. After the season ended in October we returned home to our respective states of Idaho and Utah. We decided to go on a fishing trip and Rainbow Trout a few days after we got home. This was the beginning of a 3 month timeframe that I consider "Hell-ish". We both were living off of the funds from guide season in Alaska and we trout-bummed all across the Pacific Northwest and Rocky Mountains in search of 30 inch trout. This '30 Incher' is a length of fish that I consider, for this region, to be above exceptional and extraordinarily rare to come across.
October 15th 2017 until January 10th 2018 is when we fished almost nonstop, hunting a 30 inch trout. Due to my college semester starting again in January we had to give up the pursuit and put Trophy Trout on the back burner. During those cold winter months we fished well over 100 different locations; some all day, and most for just a few hours. This shotgun approach was nearly fruitless. There was one evening that we spotted one very large brown trout in late December cruising the edge of a large deep lake. He was, without a shadow of a doubt, well over 30 inches. I tossed my streamer near him and without hesitation he t-boned my fly and proceeded to take me 200 plus feet straight into my backing. He was deep and so far away I could barely keep tension. I fought this fish for ten minutes way in the backing before all of a sudden it was over. The line didn't break, no knot failed, the fish just came unbuttoned. Heart break. Our fishing mojo that had led up to us finally hooking "the one we were after" was all gone. 2017 ended on a low note and Spring of '18 put trout on the back-burner for monetary concerns and receiving an education.
When my semester ended May 1st, the hunt resumed. Nothing, nothing, nothing. Bradley went back to Alaska for guiding a half season from June until August. I spent those two months searching endlessly and stumbled into some truly unbelievable spots. I saw a handful of fish I am sure were pushing our 30 inch mark. I would call Brad on the weekends and describe the spots I had found and we started planning our trip for when he got home. August rolled around and we found ourselves wadering up in the evening light. The one thing I love about trophy trout is how hard they are to catch. The other side of that coin is that bigger fish start to become extremely piscivorous, cannibalistic, and carnivorous... and maybe the bigger secret; nocturnal. Brown Trout in particular are infamous for being night feeders. Gorging themselves on baitfish, crawdads, salamanders, rodents, and a plethora of other meaty animals that decide to cross their paths.
So, this story begins at 6:30pm on Thursday, August 9th. The beginning of a 5 day roadtrip that I will never forget. Fish were caught, fish were lost, and Personal Bests were broken.
To save the agony of reading the entire story of every fish, I will shortcut to the 'Top 3'.
But first here's a quick look at # 4 - # 10, on our list of favorite fish from the trip.
#10: Bradley with a firecracker of a chrome buck Brown Trout that slurped a mouse sometime after midnight.
#9: This was probably the strangest fish of the trip. Was not expecting a cutthroat and a pretty nice one at that. But low and behold at 11:29pm one of those fateful nights I tagged this gorgeous fish.
#8: The time was around 2:45am when Bradley hooked up with something heavy on a Glow-Chubby Chernobyl pattern. Ripping line and bulldogging he eased it to the gravel bar; thank heavens for big nets cause wow. We were sure it was a brown until we finally stared at it for a second in the net.. a tiger. A big one.
#7: This brown absolutely crushed Brad’s fly. The dimensions were unbelievable and the vibrant red spots were even crazier. If my memory serves me right this young male brown trout was 24”x13”.
#6: Bradley and I got a late start this night. We showed up and stripped out some line and started bombing casts into the black abyss. On my first 3 casts I had 3 big blow ups and I kept trout-setting instead of strip setting so the hook didn’t stick. I was getting pissed that I couldn’t remember to strip set.. next cast... BOOM!
#5: This fish didn’t come easy, we fished from late evening that day all through the night and when this fish hit the bag it was 5:33am. Guess it was technically “morning bite” cause the sun was peeping over the horizon. Cool way to end a tough night on the water!
#4: This fish the precursor to the fish that is #1 on this list, so I honestly don't remember much about him because about ten casts later... I caught his great grandfather. Still a beautiful and incredible fish that crushed a mouse at 2:30am.
And finally, the Top 3. Where the story begins to end...
#3: Grandmother Brown Trout. The DSLR we had with us fell in the water as we were getting ready to take photos of this fish. With a fried camera, we settled for some blurry iPhone photos. The photos didn't turn out perfect but this fish is burned in my retina for time and all eternity. 30.25" mouse crusher. I could not believe my eyes when she was finally in the net. Barely in the net. I bring a giant rubber boat net for the 0.1% and she was definitely reason enough to have it, and she still barely fit. Her girth and shoulders were magnificent. I was completely alone when I hooked her and I fought her for around 10 minutes before I reached out and scooped her up while screaming for assistance. I was shaking after this fish and sat on the bank for a half hour just euphoric about what just happened. This fish rocked my world at 12:47am on the last night of the 5 day excursion. Yet she was only #3 on Bradley and my list of Top 10.
For #2 and Bradley's biggest of the trip, here is what he had to say about the experience.:
"Sleepless nights, long days, countless trips, and miles driven trying to catch trophy Brown trout with Bryan. We caught very nice fish, and had lots of fun with some unbelievable stories, but were still left searching for that 30" fish. Although I've caught a lot of nice Brown trout, I have never landed a "dirty 30" in over 2 decades of chasing the butter dragon.
When I got a phone call from Bryan saying he had a spot with probably the best shot at getting a Brown that size, I could hardly focus on anything else except for casting mice and streamers for woofy toads.