Don Brown, Vernal, caught a 29 lb, 12 oz brown trout — a Green River record — on Dec. 13, at about 10 p.m. He was fishing a Rapala in one of his favorite holes, a short way below Flaming Gorge dam.
His fish was just smaller than the state record brown, which weighed 33 pounds, 10 ounces and was pulled from Flaming Gorge in 1977.
"I knew I had a big fish, but it didn't feel that big," Don said. He has caught lots of 10-15 pounders from the Green, and said he thought the fish would fit into that category.
He was using 10 pound test Fireline, and so he played the fish carefully.
"She could take out line any time she wanted to. I tightened my drag as much as I dared, and just worked her in. After a 15-minute battle she came close to shore above me, and there was no place to land her. I worked her through a little rapid into an eddie, then pulled her in close. When I though I should be able to see her I put my flashlight into my mouth and shined it into the water. But I couldn't see her, so I pulled her closer. Then I saw her. I couldn't believe how big she was." Then Don said he started to yell for his friends to come help.
"When I got her close to the bank I thought I could grab her, but she bolted out into the fast water. I worked her in again, and she wedged herself on the bottom, between rocks. I thought I was going to lose her."
He finally worked her out of the rocks, then slipped an arm around her and hugged her to him.
"Then I didn't know what to do. I knew she might be a state record, but I just sat there."
Don carries a camera, and usually photographs and releases the fish he catches. But he wanted to get a certified weight for this fish, so he and his friends decided to take it up to Flaming Gorge Lodge. The lodge was closed, but they beat on the door until someone answered.
"The lodge manager was more excited that we were," Don said.
Don is having the fish mounted.
Don has lived in Vernal most of his life and fishes the Green often. He has fished the river regularly for the past 15 years. He fishes there at least once a week, and sometimes more often.
"I always fish at night," he said. "The fishing is better, and there are fewer people. As soon as the sun's gone, all the fly fishermen go back to the lodge."
It's also more practical for him to fish at night, because he works a construction job during the day.
Don said he caught the fish on a big Rapala, but won't be more specific. He also chose not to divulge the exact location of the catch. "It's one of my favorite holes," he said. "I catch fish there almost every trip.
He doesn't wade. He just stands on the bank or on a rock and fancasts, so that he casts to and works all parts of the river which can be reached from his position. He casts upstream and reels with the current, then across and then downstream, reeling against the flow of the water. He works the holes and eddies, but also fast water sections.
"One secret," he said, "is a slow retrieval."
He catches a lot of big browns, but he said he catches more rainbows than browns on the big Rapala.
"I've caught a dozen fish between 8 and 10 pounds this year," he said. He catches a lot of big fish, but also good numbers of medium and small sized fish. He's been surprised to have fish barely bigger than the Rapala strike. He often enjoys fast action. "There have been weekends where we've caught and released 100 or more fish," he said.
He said the winter months are his favorite time to fish the Green.
Don's big brown had apparently just spawned. A fish of that size could easily carry 4-5 pounds of eggs. The fish also dried a bit — and probably lost a few ounces — before he could get the official weight. Had he caught it a week earlier, it could easily have been a new Utah state record.
Copyright Dave Webb, 2005