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Part of the allure of trout fishing is the blind potential of what lies beneath every cast you make.

About 15 years ago I saw it the first time. I was fishing with Pat Hogan and Jay Thurston. I was not close to the refusal but I was apprised of the aftermath. Jay had a huge hit. The fish freight trained the Mepps See Best and was off nearly as fast as it was on. All I heard was muttering about the power of the fish and how it possibly could have gotten off so quickly with such a ferocious strike.

The next year I took my friend Bob Skoronski "Green Bay Packer" retired Ice Bowl Era to the same stretch of water. Before we got close to the cut corner that Jay got abused in, I told Bob to make sure his lure was tied on well and to retie if the knot was in question. Bob retied just to be cautious. I had told Bob the story of the freight train from the year before. I could tell by his facial expression he was a tad bit skeptical of my retelling of the tale from the year before.

We fished up to the corner. There was a downed tree about 30 yards below the hole where the incident happened the year before. Bob could not walk by a good hole and cast into the run. Bob was retrieving the panther when it looked like lightning struck his rod. It lurched downward and then straighten back to normal and Bob reeled in.

Bob looked at me with his mouth wide open and the first thing out of his mouth was: "Are there pike in this waterway? That fish nearly ripped the pole out of my hand." That fish never showed itself again.

Through the years I had thought about these 2 incidents and the only rational explanation was the trout hit the spinner part way down its jaw not at the corner where the hing is. Old large trout have jaws nearly made of stone. The spinners basically bounced off the bullet proof jaws. A couple inches closer to the hing and there would have been a hook up.


Anyone who has fished with me has seen my set up. A few have poked a little fun at it and called it a broom stick or mop handle because it is such a heavy action rod. I like the casting accuracy it gives me. It also allows me to even feel if the spinner blade pauses at all spinning.

Yesterday while fishing with Chris I had a similar incident. It was quite unexpected. The day was sunny and there was no structure in the run I was casting. Big trout shun sunlight and usually like to hide in structure. I was running the shaded bank deep cut when it happened. I guess the cut to be 4-5 feet deep. My spinner literally felt like it had slammed on its brakes and went in reverse at Mach 10 all in the blink of an eye and then the line went limp. I yelled big trout to Chris and had him cast right in there. It did not come back.

Rock Jaws 3 Anglers 0
 

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Your story made me think of one of my favorite articles, originally appeared in the PA Angler, December 1996. It is printed below.

The Mystery Fish

If you spend enough time on the water, you eventually meet the mystery fish. While he
could be anywhere, from the smallest spring run to the wide-open expanses of Lake Erie,
Raystown or Kinzua, you most likely encounter him on bigger water. Perhaps you and
he have already met.

What is the mystery fish? Well, that's just the point; the answer is a mystery. He is the
unknown force that grabs your minnow as you spend the morning filling the bucket with crappies.
He proceeds to peel all the line off your reel until with a final popping sound, he bids
you farewell. He is the massive wake that comes out from beneath the undercut bank
to intercept your spinner. Your rod bucks violently once, maybe twice, and he's gone. He is the snag that
begins to move out of open water toward the weed bed and simply never stops. You reel in a limp line without a lure. Your knees have turned to jelly. He cannot be landed, and he is seldom, if ever, seen. After all, he's a mystery.
I usually meet the mystery fish at least once each season. He has a habit of showing up when you least expect him. I think somehow he knows when your guard is momentarily down; those snapshots in time when your mind wanders away from fishing to consider tomorrow's dental appointment or what's waiting on your desk at work. These are the times he chooses to attack.
All the better to stay a mystery, you see.

The dying sunlight casts an amber glow over the waters of Presque Isle Bay. The endless breeze has finally called it a day and in the grassy flats around the weed beds, baitfish explode out of the water here and there with the bass in hot pursuit. If I stay on the tips of my toes, I can keep the water from trickling down inside my waders. Four broad Presque Isle bass with mouths like stovepipes have sucked down the big white popper in the last 20 minutes. It's the magic hour. I haul back for all I'm worth and drop the popper into a fishy looking dent in the weed line. The ripples die away and I jiggle the popper just enough to make it quiver. A "V" the width of a yardstick races across the water and slams into the popper. I raise the rod and connect for a second, and then all goes limp. I reel up to find half of my 14-pound tippet gone. The tag end looks like someone took a curling iron to it. Pike? Musky? Big bass? Who knows.
Say hello (and goodbye) to the mystery fish.

My brother-in-law sits in the bow of the canoe as we shoot through a section of dancing fast water on the Clarion River near Belltown. The morning's fishing has been good, but not exceptional. Lunch hangs over the side of the canoe on a stringer a 14-inch brown trout and a couple of decent rock bass. A dozen
or so fair-sized smallmouths, red-eyed and indignant, have been caught and turned back to the river.
As the current slackens and we glide silently into the head of the next pool, my brother-in-law shoots the little crankbait on the end of his ultralight into an eddy where two submerged logs crisscross in front of a massive boulder. Back in the stern, I'm not paying a lot of attention. I am occupied watching a
flock of mergansers twist and turn as they circle the river, looking for a place to set down. A sound halfway between a grunt and a whoop comes from the bow, and I look up. My brother-in-law's rod is bent nearly double, and he is hanging on as it bucks and jumps.
"This is a fish," he remarks. It is a considerable understatement. The bow of the canoe swings toward the center of the river and we begin to be towed downstream.
"What is it?" I yell. "I don't know, but it's big," he answers, switching rod hands back and forth. For five minutes the canoe zig-zags down the Clarion, under the power of something so big we aren't at all sure we want to see it.
We need not have worried about what it was, and we had no reason to fear the sight of it. It was the mystery fish. And from the start, there had never been a chance we would land it. It just doesn't work that way. A few seconds later, a long "aaahhh" issues from the front of the canoe, the rod tip straightens and my brother-in-law reels in the slack line. We spend the rest of the day speculating. The mystery fish is good for that.
I suppose that someday if I live right, pay my taxes, and keep fresh mono on the reel, I will finally land the mystery fish, and we will see once and for all just exactly what this force of nature is. But, you know, there is a part of me that hopes it never happens. The mystery fish is just one more of the reasons why
I love this sport. He is on our minds when we force ourselves to roll out to the summons of a buzzing alarm clock at four a.m. without a murmur of complaint. He is the shadow lurking under the edge of the spatterdock in the cool mist of the dawn, and the reason why we just have to make that last cast to the dead tree in the center of the big pool. He is that sudden, electrifying break in the lethargy on the slow days on the water we all endure, and he lays at the heart of the anticipation that makes up so much of this thing we call fishing. He is always out there on the edge of the possible.

Long may he remain a mystery.

December 1996 Pennsylvania Angler
 

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Not a trout but I was throwing a buzz bait a few years ago in one of the lagoons off of Presque Isle Bay in Erie for pile. I was running Spider wire / Fire Line / some sort of braid on my rig and pitched the buzz bait next to some weeds / stumps. It no more than hit the water, there was a huge splash, my rod bowed and snapped back and that was it. I reeled up the slack line to fine my braid neatly cut. I have no doubt that was one of the top 3 biggest fish I'd caught had I gotten that far. It hit like a truck and I never saw it.
 
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