Hooked Up: December 2009

It was December 2002 when Mike McBride and I first fished together in Baffin. We had become friends through Troutmasters in the late 90s and discussed fishing Baffin together. At that point in my career I was about as under the radar as anyone could be, so bringing a proven trout hand to my lair was done with one eyebrow raised, and a constant inner battle with paranoia.

We set it up for a December weekend and, in true McBride form, he misses the first day. I go by myself and experience a career day of catching and releasing ten trout weighing over eight pounds and a boat load between five and eight. As I write this I am all grins and goose bumps remembering every detail of that day.

When I returned that evening the message machine was lit up and confirmed my worst fears; McBride wants to fish the second day. As much as I wanted to fish with him I had no idea that I would get on those kinds of fish, and now I was really certain that I did not want such a good fishermen to know about it. Well, those of you who know Mike know he can be pretty persuasive, with more than a little charm hidden behind that handlebar mustache. I had that in the back of my mind when I called him back, and was certain to play the day down, never mentioning exactly how great it really was. I guess he read between the lines well enough to know that he had better get down here, and get down here he did, two hours late, but he did actually show up.

To my great horror, he pulls up in front of my house with his own boat and has a co-pilot with him. I, secretly, almost lost my breakfast, went into a cold sweat, and was pacing in my garage for something that resembled a lead pipe, a broken shovel handle, or maybe even a handgun. After breathing into a paper bag for a few minutes, I finally leveled out and Mike introduced me to Louie Baumann. "This guy is big find a bigger pipe." After the mad rush of loading gear into the boat, and me deciding that Louie could possibly bend the pipe around my neck, I carefully hide the pipe and we pointed Mike's Pathfinder south.

We got to the chosen area that had produced so well the day before and everything looked perfect or just as it had the prior day. I was being bashed by McBride for my lure choice, an LSU-colored corky, while he is tying on something that resembles a topwater with grass hanging from its belly. Turns out it was just rusty hooks on his lure, and Mike, amidst his bashing, failed to notice the chewed condition of my lure from the day before.

Being the good host, I describe the lay of the land and what the trout were holding on. It was a very specific pattern that could easily be messed up if you walked through it versus casting to it. After my careful and considerate explanation to insure all would have a memorable day, Mike does a 180 and goes the opposite direction. Mistake! Louie sticks with me and within five minutes I am hung up on a pig. The Boga says 8.75, and I cut her loose. Within minutes the Corky is slammed and another big fish comes to hand. Louie is getting excited watching all of this, and I start pointing out, specifically, where the lure needs to be. Mike is babbling some gibberish off in the distance, but continues to walk away from the fish. Louie starts hooking up and brings to hand a personal best fish. This is more than McBride can handle and finally starts heading back, although slowly.

For the rest of the day we pound on trout into the nine pound range and a slew of "small" fish from five pounds and up. At some point the bite slowed but we knew the moon would be rising just before dark and the potential for another epic day was just a couple hours away.

Louie and I stayed with the Corky as the moon broke the horizon behind Padre Island and Mike switched to a new topwater that had just hit the market. His Skitter Walk was rattling obnoxiously but promptly greeted with a monumental explosion that made us all stop what we were doing. No doubt, this fish was very big, and Mike is so rattled he is talking in tongues or Swahili. I can, every now and then, make out words like "LiferGoobeehoodeedoo.Best EverYomomma. Oh My God!"

The battle was taking a long time. Time enough for me to get to Mike, get his camera, and start taking some shots. As the trout came close we could see its size and she was really big. We had landed some in the nine pound range and this fish looked larger. As I was snapping photos and feeling overjoyed for Mike, his rod snapped back and unloaded in close proximity to his face. She was gone. I felt terrible for him as I had seen a lot of big trout, and easily recognized her as a true giant, as did he.

I will not come right out and say who caught the most big fish that day, but his initials include D and R, as opposed to letters commonly found on hard-shelled chocolate candy. When the day was over I had matched my prior day with another 80-pound catch for my ten largest. Louie caught his personal best and some other great fish to go along with it. McBride had a great day landing numerous big trout and a memory of fighting a fish that will haunt him for a long time.

This is the month where patterns really become established for the larger trout. The water temperatures will be staying on the cool side and morning jitters will be well justified in our eagerness to get where we think the big trout will be held up. I love this time of year.

God bless you all and have a Merry Christmas,
Capt. David Rowsey