How I Caught (and Released) the Colorado State Record Rainbow Trout

by Dave Shogren
(Hastings, MN USA)

I drove up to do some lake fly-fishing in northern Colorado a couple of years ago during mid-March. It was just after first ice-out, with plenty of snow on the ground, and only a small section of the lake open on the north side of the lake.

I hiked around the lake from the public launch area to a small beach area that was relatively shallow adjacent to a rip-rapped dam that created this reservoir-lake.

I was wading casting black tunghead wooly bugger and catching 12"ers, one after another. I look down, and there is a huge trout near my feet, nosed into the rocks.

I was alone at the time, but after a few minutes, another guy shows up and takes a spot just down the shore.

After closer examination, I could see the huge fishes gills working, so I knew it was still alive. I guess the icy water was still cold enough to slow the fishes metabolism down or maybe it was old age. In my best estimate, the fish looked to be four feet in length, or possibly longer.

Having caught great lakes steelhead in the 28"+ range, I knew this fish was probably 20+ pounds and most likely a state record.

After fishing for an hour or so and observing this gigantic fish, I decided to reach down to see if the fish would respond. I reached down into the water and grasped the fish by the tail, and in one swell swoop put my other hand under it's belly and lifted it out of the water. At the same moment, I yelled to the fisherman down the beach to take a look.

His expression was one that can only be described as dumb-founded.

The fish was so large that when I lifted it, it could only shimmy side-to-side in a slow-motion wag. Fourty-eight inches was a base minimum. After a triumphant whoop, it occurred to me I had to make a decision. Turn and walk back to shore with my trophy, or release this magnificent fish.

With little regret, I gently placed the fish back in the water, head first, still grasping the tail. After a couple swishes back an forth to revive him, he gave a mighty thrust of the tail and with a splash returned to the icy water.

You would have to have used a shovel to wipe the smile off of my face as the perma-grin stayed resident on my face for quite some time.

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