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Brownie’s Choice

Don Webster, author badge,

isregard the story’s title. I don’t really have a “first” name. If I did, it would probably be something like Leviathan or Behemoth or maybe Lunker. Officially, I’m a trout. A brown trout. A giant, brown trout. Possibly the biggest, fattest, brown trout who ever lived.

If other fish in Lake Shasta see my shadow approaching, they flee like the terrified citizens of Tokyo trying to escape Godzilla’s jaws. I don’t know how much I weigh. There aren’t any scales down here. Well, there’s scales on some of the fish, but you know what I mean. How ginormous am I? I swallowed a rainbow trout for lunch the other day that was probably as long as one of Shaquille O’Neal’s shoes. Then I ravaged a school of bluegills for dessert. But I can’t eat as much as I used to. I get indigestion. And heartburn. They don’t have any Tums down here, you know. It’s not a pretty sight when you get old.

fishing art work by Isabella Langaman

«Art work by Isabella Langaman

Don’t get the wrong idea. I’m not bragging and I’m not complaining. The only reason I’m sharing this information with you is because my days are numbered. I’m tired. This is, I guess, a “swan song” of sorts. I’ve had my “day in the sun”, or maybe a better selection of words would be, I’ve had my “laughs in the lake”.

I’ve got my memories. Like all those times I grabbed fishermen’s lures, let them get a glimpse of me, wrapped their lines around logs or debris, and spit out the hook. I almost laughed my tail off watching them moan and wail and try to tell their buddies how big I was. Naturally, they were accused of being liars. I don’t know what all the fuss is about. Everybody knows that all fishermen are liars.

Then there was the time I swam up the Sacramento river one fall, chasing the females. Raging testosterone. If you’re a male, you can probably relate. I only had one thing on my mind, and I couldn’t think straight. So, I took an irritated swipe at a bug that persisted in pestering me, and lo and behold, it turned out to be a fake bug. Some sneaky fly fisherman hooked me. I wasn’t nearly as humongous as I am now, but I was plenty large. I had muscle, and lots of it, but this Jim Dandy who looked like he belonged on the cover of an Orvis catalog actually wore me out with his fancy Sage rod. He caught me. I couldn’t believe it. I was about to be eviscerated, drenched in olive oil, sprinkled with rare spices and delicate herbs, and baked to perfection in one of those luxury AGA ovens.

But something strange and unexpected happened. The resplendent angler, dressed to the nines in his Simms gear, proceeded to lay my exhausted bulk on a nice patch of grass and snap a few photos with his pricey 35mm SLR camera. He picked me up gently, almost reverently, and slipped me back into the water, holding me in place while I gulped oxygen. The moment I regained enough strength, I swam out of his easy grip, back to the safety of the river.

I learned a valuable lesson: if you’re going to screw up and get caught, make sure it’s by some Izaak Walton who’s into catch and release.

Like I said, I have my memories. I may not have much time left, but I still have a choice. Even if you’re a fish you have some options, right to the very end. For instance, I could hole up somewhere under an outcropping along the shore. Expire in peace and quiet. Or I could swim up on a beach somewhere during the night, and let them find me stiff and dry in the morning sun. There lays Big Old Brown Trout. Defiant to the end.

But that’s not my style. I’ve mellowed with age. I want to leave something behind. Some pleasure. Actually, more like resounding joy. And some true appreciation. The stuff lasting memories are made of...but how?

...Wait a sec. As I live and breathe. Look. There. Walking along the water’s edge. That kid. Barefoot. With a cane pole. ...Yeah, that might just do it. Aw, geez, kid. You’re going to use a worm? How undignified. Okay. Whatever.

...If I work this right, I can give him one, whale of a fight, being careful not to let the hook pull out. And I’ll have one, last giggle, because he’ll probably pee his pants.

The last thing I want to see as I take my final breath is the look on his grinning, freckled face when he realizes he’s probably caught the biggest brown trout in the world. He’ll remember that moment the rest of his life. Now, that would be something to go out on.

...Hurry up, kid, before I change my mind...

Don E. Webster has been an avid outdoorsman for over 60 years. In addition to being a columnist for, Don has published three books: "Bury Me In My Waders" An Old Duck Hunter Recalls His Fowl Past, "Double-Ought Buck" a novel, and "Bears, Beer, Trout Tacos, Etc." Short Outdoor Tales & Other Quasi-Kindred Illuminations.

Webster's MyOutdoorBuddy column entitled “Canine Comics" won the Phil Ford Humor Award from the Outdoor Writers Association of California in 2013. Visit Don's website at

He continues to love fox squirrels and hate eucalyptus trees.

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