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The Big One That Got Away

August 1, 2021

I have been a fisherman for over 68 years and like most of us who are constantly on the stream I have heard my fair share of stories. The most popular are (in no particular order):

1. You should have been here yesterday…. they were really hitting!
2. Yeah, I’ve been here only an hour and I’ve already landed 20 fish.
3. I was here last week and had two Rainbows over 10 pounds apiece.
4. You should have seen the big one that got away.

Obviously, as in most human discourse, there must have been some grain of truth in these stories to propel them forever onward. However, even a novice angler is apt to ask himself, “Where’s the proof?” Suspended believability really doesn’t work too well stream side. Enter the digital age!

Decades ago, it was difficult if not entirely impossible to take a photo of your “proof” with a bulky Brownie Box Camera. Your ghillie had to be at the ready or you had to improvise the shot yourself. Neither really worked with any great regularity. Now if you don’t have a Go-Pro mounted onto your head, you probably at least have a pocket digital camera ready to record your exploits on the water. Boasting requires it so! The ego is now digitally driven!

The above photo was done with a Brownie Box Camera. The obliging ghillie was my father. The fish in hand was a six pound German Brown Trout landed by the author on the Owens River in Northern California in May of 1956. Here is another photo, this time of a ten pound Steelhead caught on the Smith River in Oregon in 1996. While these photographic proofs are 40 years apart in time, they do show that not all fishermen are complete liars.It’s the same person doing the same thing over a period of many years. No stories, just the truth backed-up by a little proof. But stories continue to persist; it’s in a fisherman’s blood.


I have often been on the same stream two days in a row and yes, the action was red hot one day and completely dead the next. That happens in any sport you can name. However, one day does not negate another; all must be taken together and synthesized into a life long fishing experience. I can remember one day long ago on Black Creek in the Oregon Cascades where almost every cast was answered by a very small Cutthroat Trout. Twenty and hour? Very doubtful. I did not actually record the FPH (Fish Per Hour). There are waters that I have fished where two Rainbows over ten pounds apiece is a possibility. However it is also an extreme rarity that is likely reserved for anglers like Brian Williams and therefore “misremembered.”

Then there is the big one that got away. Ah yes, I’m sure that I have been there on more than one occasion. Every fisherman has had a similar experience. Sadly most of these fish seem to “get away” when nobody else is around and in the total absence of at least a poor snapshot. The fact that it got away to begin with makes the blood rush but also makes a moot point in the end. A great man (my father) once said, “If he got away, forget about it and keep fishing.”

So to recap a bit:

1. Yes, sometimes the fishing was better the day before.
2. Nobody probably lands twenty fish an hour unless they are scooping goldfish out of a tank.
3. If you claim to have landed two Rainbow Trout at 10 pounds apiece in one day, I want to see the photos!
4. There will never be a way to see the big one that got away so why bother bringing it up.

If you enjoy fishing stories, you might be interested in my book The Blackest of Canyons and Other Micro Tales of Fly Flishing

Read author Allen E. Rizzi’s latest books available at

Books JPG

  1. James Rogers permalink

    Love Your Writing Allen. I Would have Liked to see the 5 or 6 Pound German Brown Trout you caught when you were 7 years old or so.. But the Trout in the Picture Looks like a really nice Rainbow or Steele .Either way you have caught some really Great fish .. Would love to see a Picture of the 50 or 60 Pound King Salmon you Caught some years ago .. Take Care.. Jim

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ernest Garcia permalink

    Now we have to ask?
    Is that photo really you, or a poster of you holding a fish?

    Liked by 1 person

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