Does the Montana FWP have it somewhere?”, “You might call Richard’s son, Tom. A group of whitetail deer sprinted from the brush a hundred yards upstream. The World’s Largest Trout. Even though Richard wanted to protect the fish, the dams on the Missouri pretty much put an end to them. “So what did these giant trout eat, how’d you catch fish of that size?” I asked. Then it happened. Then, the trout burst from the water like a Polaris missile, shaking his head violently, rising fifteen feet into the air before crashing down. A person is usually gazing up at the trout with a look of amazement, and the caption reads something like, “They grow them big out west.” Created with technology long before Photoshop, the amateurish attempt at deception brings a smile. The Biggest Brown Trout in the World – Thingvellir, Iceland Iceland, the land of fire and ice situated just below the Arctic Circle and above the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. We saw nothing that day and late in the morning of day two, my resolve began to wane a bit. If you look closely at this picture you can see this ranch house and the corrals right out the window.” He was right, of course. “The question has been answered. If you really want to know the story behind that picture, you need to talk to Will Starnham at the Crescent J, that is if Will is still alive. This applies to different types of trouts and it shows that the more people take on fishing, the more these records will change. We’d pull the tractor about 20 feet away from the creek, then Ben, my foreman, would attract the fish. A new record was also set for the biggest trout fish caught and released. About 100 feet upriver we saw a gigantic boil in the turbid water, and my heart skipped a beat. The closest to break that record was a 40-pound brown trout caught in Arkansas. It feeds on prairie dogs, but not just any prairie dogs—the ones in this part of eastern Montana. The picture was different from every giant, fake-fish postcard I’d seen before. You could see the wake when the trout entered the pool and started heading upstream. He leaned closer and said, “Didn’t know we had any of those left. The time has come to tell the story. Them trout was good eating. Then I snatched the card back and looked closer. He would probably know. If that critter ends up on the tractor seat, he could beat me nearly to death. I’ve been reluctant to do so because I am a fly fishing guide, and people think that fly fishing guides are prone to exaggeration. Richard said there was one other creek, a tributary to the Yellowstone, that had a few of the fish in them. I crept upstream. How can I help you?”, “Well, as you might suspect, as a life-long fly fisherman, to learn of the existence of an anadromous trout on this side of the continental divide, especially one this amazingly large is utterly fascinating. My systematic approach to scanning the water had given way to watching a herd of antelope about a mile in the distance. “Makes sense,” I said, and just then a fountain of spray arched skyward in the run upstream. A black void appeared under my fly and then a wheelbarrow-sized whirlpool as the fly disappeared in a foaming vortex. I guess I’d been looking at a patient in the hospital bed next to me. “Yeah, Mr. Starnham had quite a story to tell and it sounds like your father was the resident expert on the subject.”, “He was, and so was I for a time. She ushered me into the living room and as she did she said, “Don’t be fooled by appearances. By Hale Harris April 1, 2020 . Might not have to use the tractor on those guys.”, “So what happened to the research data Richard collected on these fish? Standing by the small, muddy stream, I felt ridiculous holding a twelve-weight rod and a fly of this size, but in light of the creature I hoped to encounter, I certainly wasn’t over-gunned. Only have ‘em here, right here in this creek, or we used to have ‘em before they started damming up the Missouri River.”, “Will, you are correct that this is all somewhat difficult to believe. The species wants to return to saltwater. A few we got out of the Bighorn not far downstream from the creek’s mouth. An 83 pound Lake Trout was pulled out of Great Bear Lake, a fish that would’ve broken the existing world record by a whopping 11 pounds. Maybe you’ve seen the post cards. Now take that concept to the extreme. “There may be several reasons, but one of them relates to feeding efficiency. The 42 pound 1ounce fish was caught in new Zealand, breaking the old record. And why wouldn’t they seek out some clear, cold water?” I asked. Tom handed me a pair of Swarovski binoculars and said, “Here’s the plan. This record was set in 1995 by Lloyd Bull. I’m being forthright with you because it doesn’t make any difference at this point. “We’ve done a little remodeling since then. I felt the fish’s weight on my chest, and I reached out to bearhug the beast in an attempt to subdue him. The time has come to tell the story. He had a large hook jaw, but his head was small in proportion to his body, and his body spread out and nearly covered the pickup bed. Swore us all to secrecy about these fish. Dam near dislocated his shoulder once when a big one hit. There is something unique about Beauvais Creek as well, but we’re not sure what it is. Tom had followed me, and I looked over at him and said, “How big do you think this fish is?”, “I’m guessing he’s close to 300 pounds,” he said softly, “what they used to call a ‘tractor fish.’ I have no idea how you intend to land him.”. I’ve been reluctant to do so because I am a fly fishing guide, and people think that fly fishing guides are prone to exaggeration. Other than that, you’re okay.” The doctor had a dry sense of humor. It was in the spring of 1993 that I came across one of these big-fish cards at the general store in St. Xavier, Montana, a tiny town near the banks of the fabled Bighorn River. I assumed it was Mr. Starnham’s wife, but I soon found out it was his daughter. They can tolerate warm water temperatures and turbidity. “These fish are a bit like the Taiman of Mongolia and Siberia,” he related. The picture had been taken right here, near this very house. He was “not long for this earth” according to his daughter, Laura, but he still had “good days” and this was one of them. Come to find out, Will Starnham was 95 years old and he was the patriarch of Starnham Land & Livestock, aka the Crescent J. “I’ll be darned,” he said hoarsely, and a crooked smile creased his ancient face as he studied the postcard. Big prairie dog town near that creek too. “These fish seem to be on their way to extinction. One of them would keep you in fish steaks a whole year.”. There was a disturbance on the far side of the pool which sent a large wave lapping against my side of the creek, but nothing attacked the fly. It was three days later before I made it out to Starnham’s ranch. Worked for the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks. This would have been in the early 50’s,” he went on, gazing at the photo and a shaky hand took a pinch of Copenhagen and put it in his lower lip. Tom went on to relate stories of the diverse creatures they would find in the stomachs of these large trout—coyotes, raccoons, antelope and mule deer fawns, etc. They don’t have to move up and down the water column. Of course, they ran clear down the Mississippi and into the ocean too. As near as I can tell, they showed up in the spring to eat prairie dogs. It felt as if I’d snagged bottom and I leaned back on the weight, bending the rod nearly double. Magpies made their unique racket, and the occasional song of a Meadow Lark sounded forth. “So why the secrecy?” I asked. Hay was stuck to the sides of the giant trout’s body, and something was stuck in the fish’s back – it looked like a hay hook, an implement I knew well from a youth spent stacking hay bales. They showed up in Beauvais Creek in May and June, primarily, it appears, to eat prairie dogs. The stream was so small the fish didn’t have the room to tire himself out, unless he went on a mile-long run upstream or down. I really didn’t have a plan if I hooked this fish, but much of my life was based in that mindset, so what the hell. Built in 1973 by local artist and fisherman, Andy Lomnici, the Big Trout is part of the more than 150 Big Things located throughout Australia.Originally conceived by Leigh Stewart, the Snowy Mountains Authority assisted with funding, and work on the trout started in 1971. Yes, there may be a few left, but the curtain has almost fallen.”. I could tell he’d once been tall, but now He sat in a wheel chair, his body tilted to one side. Caught by Sydney Cellan, in the flaming gorge reservoir, the fish would have been one of the biggest ever caught and kept had it not been released back into the lake.