Guy Harvey Magazine

WIN 2012

Guy Harvey Magazine is focused on fishing, boating, scuba diving, and marine conservation. Portfolios from the world's best fishing photographers, articles on gear, travel, tournaments, apparel, lifestyle, seafood recipes, sustainable fisheries.

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Page 78 of 83

and splattered sting juice in our faces and eyes. The whole thing was a bit traumatic, especially so early in the morning, but we managed to bag a couple dozen nice shrimp. We found what we'd been told was the deep honey hole and I grabbed the biggest shrimp I could find and tossed him in. In less than a minute I was fighting a monster. He spun out a bunch of line and I tightened the drag ever so slightly. I worked him to the boat and he ran again and again. I didn't want to try and hoss him in and break the line, so Mr. Trout and I engaged in a delicate battle. By the time I got him in the boat my buddy was freaking out. He grabbed the net and scooped up a beast. "Damn, that's a wall hanger," he yelled. "I mean, that sucker is huge. You gotta mount him." I was not as impressed. I figured that was the status quo. "Really?" I said. "I thought we'd just get mama to cook him." "No, man, we can't eat that fish. You gotta mount it." It was my first trout. I was ignorant. "Nah, mama won't let me mount this. She wants some fresh fish." "But, but…no, it's not right." "It's okay, man," I assured him. "I'll catch a bigger one next time and mount that one." What a fool I was. The trout measured 29.5 inches and weighed nine pounds. It's no state record, but my buddy was right, it was a wall hanger. We ended up catching a few more nice fish but none as big as the first one. My buddy was flabbergasted that I still planned to eat it. As I suspected, a watermelon smile spread across my 82-year-old mother's face when she saw that fish. She had a bounce in her step because it reminded her of the old days when daddy was alive and would bring home fresh fish to cook. And that was often. That evening, I got some charcoal going and she baked that sucker on the grill. We had a fabulous dinner—we laughed until we cried, we told stories about old friends and old times, and we gorged ourselves on fresh fish, hushpuppies, cheese grits, and greens—a true Southern meal that somehow tastes best when your mother cooks it. I have great memories of that night, not just because of the trout, but my mother's sense of humor. She asked my buddy what he was doing for work and he joked that he was going back to school to be a brain surgeon. "Well you'll have plenty of work around this family," she laughed. Then she scrunched her face in a confused kind of way. "You know, speaking of surgeons, the doctor told me they might have to replace part of my heart with a pig's valve." Her mind had gone a little foggy in recent months and I could tell she was having trouble understanding the concept. "Well what did you tell him?" I asked. "I told him as long as I don't have to wallow in the mud every day, I'm okay with it." Then she laughed hard. The big fish had given her a big lift, and she was happy. We talked for another hour or so, had another glass of wine, and called it a night. I tucked her into bed, kissed her, and told her we had plenty more fish for breakfast. "Fish and eggs," she said. "Sounds great. Good night, honey." As I cleaned up the kitchen and wrapped aluminum foil around the trout carcass, I counted my blessings. I had good friends to fish with, a mother who could still cook and get around on her own, and plenty of great fishing at my doorstep. Life was good. Sometime in the cool stillness of that night, my mother passed on to the other world. Her time had come and the Good Lord took her home. Even in my grief, I thought about that fish, and I was pleased that she had feasted on the biggest speckled trout I've ever caught. That was almost 15 years ago and, as I mentioned, I've turned into a hard core speck fisherman. I have the fly rods, the bait casters, the top water lures, the mid-water lures, the spinning rods, three kayaks, and a flats boat for the backwater. Since that fateful day with the jellyfish shrimp, I've caught hundreds of specks and reds. But the absolute truth is—and this hounds me every time I go—I have never caught a bigger trout than on that first day. Maybe I never will. But I won't stop trying. Maybe I'll be 82 and it'll be my last meal. That would be a good way to go.

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