Sunday’s Classic / The Fish That Took Three Anglers to Land

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I loved this fish. Photo By: Louis Cahill

I’ll never forget the epic battle that took place between three anglers and a trophy salmonid one freezing December morning in 2010. I was having the time of my life on a steelhead fishing trip with my great friends Louis Cahill and Murphy Kane. We had made the long drive up from Georgia to chase after Great Lake steelhead for a week. Many of the rivers that feed into the Great Lakes hold huge numbers of salmon, steelhead and brown trout. Unfortunately those large concentrations of fish also attract every fishermen within a 100 plus square mile radius. We all agreed we couldn’t handle putting up with shoulder to shoulder fishing conditions, so we came up with a strategic plan to avoid it at all costs. Our strategy was simple, watch the extended weather forecast, and try to plan our trip around the nastiest weather we could find. This way, angler traffic would be at its lowest and we’d hopefully have plenty of water to ourselves.

A week later I got the call from Murphy that a huge snow storm was rolling in, and we all immediately needed to pack our gear and hit the road. It ended up being one hell of an adventure just making the trip up there. We had to drive in snow and ice conditions from North Carolina all the way up to New York. I’ve never in my life seen so many wrecks and vehicles sliding off the road. I’ll tell you one thing, it wasn’t easy driving on snow covered roads with sheer drop offs on both sides, and having to guess where your lane begins and ends for hours on end. If that’s not bad enough, then add to that having to safely pass eighteen wheelers that are throwing up blankets of snow on your windshield completely whiting you out for a couple seconds at a time. My ass was puckered up so tight during that drive up, I don’t think the jaws of life could have opened them.

God willing we survived the treacherous drive up to New York and our strategic plan ended up paying off big time. Temperatures never climbed above the teens during the trip, and I remember the wind blowing a constant 20mph with gusts 35-40mph. You had to really want to catch fish to hack it in those arctic conditions. The strange smell of butter filled the air from us constantly spraying down our rod guides with Pam in our efforts to fight off ice build up. Apparently none of us were smart enough to remember to pack ice-off paste for the trip, and Pam was the closest substitute we could come up with. It was so cold even the hot coffee and soup in our thermoses would freeze up solid after an hour or two out in the elements. The conditions were challenging to say the least, but putting up with them was well worth it. We ended up sharing the entire river between the three of us for a week, with each of us taking turns setting the hook and landing big beautiful steelhead.

One fish particular left a lasting impression on all of us. I”ll never forget that exact moment when I set the hook and felt that giant hen rolling and shaking her head below the surface. I instantly knew it was the biggest trout of my life. The intensity of the situation skyrocketed as adrenaline began pumping through my veins. My body went from being numb and frozen to sweating in a matter of seconds. The voice in my head screamed at me, “Don’t screw this up. All the experience you’ve learned fighting big fish over years was to prepare you for this moment, keep tension…, don’t let her get downstream of you”!

Just about the time I got all my excess fly line on the reel, I felt her tail kick hard, and she bolted 100 yards downstream like it was nothing. The fight was on and I began moving as fast as I could downstream, yelling for both Louis and Murphy to follow me in pursuit. I knew there was no way I was going to be able to land this fish by myself. Several times I managed to close the distance between the hen and me, but every time I got close enough to attempt to steer and change her direction, she’d take me further downstream. The big hen did it to me over and over again, one hundred yards at a time. I eventually figured out the only way I was going to land her was for the three of us to work together, and corral her into shallow water.

So there we were, looking like three cowboys in a rodeo all trying to catch a greased pig, while that big fish seemed to swim endless figure eights around us. By this point, twenty minutes had gone by and I had succumb to fighting the fish with two hands since my arms felt like jello. Murphy and Louis were yelling back in forth in the effort to stay out of my way and keep the fish from wrapping us up. Meanwhile, all I could picture was the teeth of the big fish slowly wearing through my tippet, and it was sure as shit going to break at any moment if I didn’t land it soon. Finally, with the help of Louis and Murphy after a fierce thirty minute battle, the big beautiful stubborn hen finally tapped out of the fight. It was a surreal moment for me as I gazed upstream from where I originally hooked the fish and my eyes could barely make out the spot where the fight began. I thanked my gracious fishing buddies giving each of them multiple high fives and I hollered, “That’s why we’re here boys, to catch fish like this”!

Keep it Reel,

Kent Klewein
Gink & Gasoline
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12 thoughts on “Sunday’s Classic / The Fish That Took Three Anglers to Land

  1. You were fishing up in my neck o’ the woods… where were you at? Or were you just jumping from trib-to-trib? “Don’t let her get downstream”… funny…

  2. Haven’t thought about those fish from that trip in a few weeks…..Thanks. Won’t sleep well tonight thinking about the ones hooked, battled and never seen. Was a great trip with good company. To this day I still thought you both were calling it quits the half way in on the first day.

    There are still a few pics I haven’t seen.

  3. Wow…now that’s a freakin’ monster! I’m guessing somewhere in the 40″ range? Can’t even imagine what that fight must have felt like, but sure as hell would like to. Congrats on a fish of a lifetime!

  4. Great story. Your trip up was hoary. Steelhead and Salmon are two reasons why I moved to the NW frrom the Mid-West. Money is nice but not everything.

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  6. Beautiful fish Kent, that’s one heck of a way to warm up, and you were even so kind as to warm up your buddies too! And while fishing in those single-digits temps may be miserable in some ways, it makes the stories of days like these all the better! Thanks for sharing!

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