Charlie’s Brook Trout

Welcome to the much anticipated FROM THE ARCHIVES feature on TroutBoyNW. Herein, we will present photos from our massive image library (located in a 400,000 sq. foot climate controlled Wisconsin bunker facility owned by Hector Suzuki Enterprises) and share the sepia-toned stories that changed the face of fishing, culture, and, indeed, history. Forever.

AND NOW FOR TODAY’S EPIC TALE!


THIS IS CHARLIE BRAWNER. SEE HOW PROUD! SEE THAT HANDSOME NORTHERN WISCONSIN BROOK TROUT! SEE THAT DIGITALLY ADDED SEPIA VARNISH, MAKING THE PICTURE APPEAR MUCH OLDER THAN IT REALLY IS!

The deal was struck in mid-2011.

You could call it a solemn promise. You could call it a blood oath. You could just call it some shit we said to each other on the phone, too. It went like this: Charlie, my younger brother, the hunter, would fish on opening weekend if I, the angler, would hunt deer.

So in the fall of 2011 I bought a Winchester Model 70 .270. I carried it into the Wisconsin woods for the 2011 deer season. Once in those woods, I found drinking bourbon, snapping pictures, and napping more worthy of my effort than loading the gun.

But the pact had been honored.

In spring 2012, Charlie began to talk like a fisherman. Not a fly fisherman, mind you, but a fisherman to be sure. He bought his own rod, reel, line, vest, and other accoutrements. He researched spinners from France and worms from the earth. We even discussed, in an especially heady moment, whether upstream or downstream presentations would best suit him.

I don’t remember how we spent the Friday before opening day, but it’s safe to say there was cribbage involved.

Saturday morning we piled into Uncle T-Bone’s truck and headed for the brook trout mecca called the East Branch of the Eau Claire. We were on the stream either well before sunrise or well after 8:30 and a large breakfast and some coffee and donuts and a short nap. It’s hard to say.

In the early going, I did better with the flies than Charles did with his everyman rig. In fact, he caught nothing more than a crayfish. How he caught a crayfish on a spinner is a story for another day.

But a move to a different stretch of river with deeper water favored the younger brother’s approach. When the fish in the picture hit, Brother Cha thought he was snagged. That’s perhaps less a function of the fish’s size than of not catching any fish all day and not knowing what a strike feels like. But nonetheless. In a small stream in Northern Wisconsin, the brook trout pictured is a very good one. Not a trophy exactly — stories abound of 15″ brookies caught in that river — but certainly bigger than anything I’ve ever pulled out of that stream. In fact, bigger than any brook trout I’ve ever caught.

Cut to opening day of the 2012 deer season, when I not only loaded my gun but placed my crosshairs on what may have been a trophy buck; he was moving too swiftly and in cover too thick for me to say that with total confidence. Could I have gotten off a shot? Yes, but I didn’t want to, and I let him run. I hoped he would make his way into the adjacent valley so my brother could get a look at him, but the deer chose instead to disappear into memory, taking up residence with every other animal that ever got away.


The trout openers since have been hollow, dismal affairs. Soulless springs have seen to it that the streams run too cold, too high, too dirty. Except for T-Bone The Reliable, no one catches a thing.

But let’s not end on such a bleak note. Let’s return to the sepia-toned days of yore, when pacts were formed, cigars were smoked, and brook trout were fooled.

Fine days, those.

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Originally published at troutboynorthwest.wordpress.com on June 28, 2013.

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