is a special issue of the Reel Thing, because it was the very first
one, originally written in almost 40 years ago, with an update by the
– 2004, IN
couple of years ago, a fishing buddy of mine, Paul Quarrington, wrote
a best selling book entitled FISHING WITH MY OLD GUY.
I am the ‘Old Guy’.
I have been fishing for brook trout since I was seven years
old, almost sixty-eight years, but since the day when I first saw the
original mount of Doctor Cook’s fourteen pounds plus world record
brookie in the railway station in what used to be called Port
Arthur-Fort William, it has become an obsession with me to top the
good doctor’s world record. Many brookies, up to eight pounds, had
succumbed to our feather and tin tossing efforts over those early
years when in 1961 the search for the record began in earnest with the
Field and Stream magazine reporting that an eleven pound speckled
trout had been captured in Northern Quebec’s Assinica Reserve.
The following winter months were spent pouring over maps and
interchanging mail with the ‘powers to be’ who governed the
fishing and access to that area. The result of the exercise was a
decision to load a car-top boat and canoe on the Chev., talk a buddy
into joining me and head for the mining town, Chibougamau. It was the
end of the road in the days before Quebec Hydro began building dams
and roads further and further north.
necessary, we were prepared to travel as far as we could with the
car-top and motor towing the canoe then paddle and portage to what we
suspected might be the source of the waters which drained into
Assinica Lake. It seemed reasonable to assume that even larger trout
than the eleven-pounder which had been taken out of Assinica could be
in the headwaters of the entire watershed.
We were correct and after a great deal of difficulty obtaining
the necessary permission and documentation, scrapped the original plan
and flew from a tiny air base on Lac Cache near the town to what we
hoped would be the answer to all our dreams, the headwaters of the
Broadback River. It was…..almost!
did not top Doctor Cook’s record, but did manage to fly out a few
days later and have weighed in the Hudson’s Bay store an incredible
catch of speckled trout, four fish tipping the scales at more than
thirty-six pounds. The largest, eleven and a quarter pounds, fell
victim to my Despair nymph and took fifty-five minutes to subdue
beside the rapids where she kept shop. Each time I would work the fish
in close in the back current it seemed to find enough strength to get
out again into the heavy flow of the main current then take all the
fly line and considerable backing out to deeper water at the foot of
The second largest was an even ten pounds and unbelievably was
caught by my buddy on a rubber worm. He now operates a commercial
trout pond near Toronto and tells folks that his fish was caught on a “Dry
Fly”. Oh well! It’s business, I guess. The catch and the
photos thereof created quite a sensation amongst trout fishermen at
the time, with call after call and question after question,
were you fishing?” - “What did you use?”, etc.
fixation on the record was somewhat appeased with the eleven-pounder
but was certainly far from being satiated. In the forty-odd years
since, I have fished a variety of waters in the Assinica and Broadback
watersheds a total of twenty-five times and managed to land many other
magnificent brookies in the eight to ten and a half pound range but
never topped that first huge salvelinus fontinalus, speck, brookie,
squaretail, Quebec Red, or whatever else you want to call them.
have, however, been five or six occasions during those years when
either I, or one of my buddies tied into what we were certain was a
new world-record brook trout, with the first being on that initial
trip to Northern Quebec. Another female brookie, one that would have
crushed Dr. Cook’s record, went over a waterfall and stripped the
fly-line and backing completely before eventually breaking the tippet.
That fish was studied in the water above the waterfall for at least a
half an hour before the cast was made with my Despair landing fifteen
feet above the huge trout to allow the fly time to drift right to her
nose. I had hoped that she would remain above the falls, but it was
not to be. After engulfing the morsel, she made a single run up-stream
then turned tail and shot right past me and over the falls.
potential world record was hooked by my old buddy, Tony Whittingham,
on one of his seven trips with us. He thought he had that trout
whipped when he finally worked it into the shallows a few feet from
where I stood with my movie camera whirring away. The problem was that
I was so happy and excited for him that the camera was busily filming
the clouds in the sky while I was flopping around trying to get out of
the trout’s way so that Tony could get down off the big rock he was
perched on to land the thing. I would conservatively estimate that
Brook Trout to have tipped the scales near seventeen pounds if
he had slid down and netted it. But before he could, it meandered back
into the current and in his attempt to arrest its progress his six
pound spinning line snapped.
a similar trip to the area a third brookie that also would have easily
set a new world record was surrendered due to my own foolish
carelessness. I had just released a small pike that had struck the
streamer and rolled up on the leader, badly fraying it with its
razor-sharp gill covers in the process. Eager to get the fly back in
the water, it was not replaced. The moment the gaudy Muscarovitch
streamer fly hit the water a speckled trout almost a yard long erupted
with the fly firmly buried in its lip then jumped a second time like a
huge steelhead. Of course, the ragged leader tippet parted.
magnificent male brookie continued leaping between me and the fellows
with whom I was fishing on both sides of the rapids, seemingly showing
off his captured trophy fly to the entire world. The four of us had
excellent opportunities to judge the size of this trout and all agreed
it was well over thirty inches and would have weighed in excess of
fifteen pounds. In total frustration at my own foolishness, I sat down
on the closest rock and cried like a baby. That fish has been landed
and cradled many times in my arms like a precious gold statue or young
child…..but, unfortunately, only in my dreams!
have been several others that were ‘released’ due to one
reason or another, but a couple of years ago, old buddy, Rick
Matusiak, designed and built a system for underwater video-taping. The
camera was mounted in a waterproof housing, shaped and coloured like a
bottom rock. Using an extension pole, it was lowered into one of our
favourite holes then using the miniature remote television set on the
surface he was able to film whatever action there was passing back and
forth through the camera lens’s field of view.
he filmed and what we have studied many times over was that this
particular spot contained a number of fish that might be the ‘pot
o’ gold’ that
we have been searching for all these years. We were able to determine
that because we were actually catching one brookie after another in
the twenty-one to twenty-six inch class (four to six pounds) and
although those were the majority of the trout we were also witnessing
in Rick’s viewer and subsequent videos, every few moments a monster
brookie or two, much larger than the others would casually mosey along
by the lens, dwarfing the others in appearance.
the past three years we have fished that spot in Northern Quebec which
was tabbed by my son, Ron, as the “Glory Hole” a half a dozen
times and have yet to produce Mister Big although almost
everything has been offered to these monster trout except dynamite
caps and hand grenades. They are there….or close by…..somewhere.
We reassure ourselves continuously by studying Rick’s videos and are
convinced that one of these days the record will fall to someone in
our coterie of fishin’ buddies. When it does, we have agreed that we
all should be able to share in the glory of the “Glory Hole”, as
it can only really happen as a team effort by the total crew there on
that particular excursion.
have just returned from my twenty-fifth trip to that wonderful brook
trout anglers’ paradise and although we once again had a great trip,
have to sadly report that although there were many fish caught, some
of which that provided superb dining, Doctor Cook’s record still
stands. Next year I will be seventy-five years old. Will I go back
again, or is it time to retire and settle for the lovely little
brookies I can catch less than an hour from where I live in Toronto?
Ask me that same question please next spring when maybe I will
be able to answer it.