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This interesting situation came about a few years past. The location is on The Little Bighorn Ranch, a corporation owned by several good friends and the writer. The ranch sits just South of the Wyoming/Montana border and is bordered on the South/East by the Little Big Horn River. There is another stream running through the ranch property that is called the West Fork of The Little Big Horn River. It is on this stream that the following story occurred.

A few of us had gathered at the ranch to do some fall hunting for elk and deer. This happy occasion also called for some celebration and camaraderie to take place a day or two prior to the opening of hunting season. The following morning I was the first one up, and found myself in need of a refreshing drink of water, Martinis can cause a profound dryness of the mouth. The West Fork is unique as it is very pure, drinkable water and is probably one of the few streams left that you can safely drink from. The Wyoming Game and Fish tried to get a fish count at our request a few years back and found that their shocker would not work, no conductivity.

As I approached my goal, a nice pool about fifty yards from the main lodge, I noticed a wire basket about eight feet from the bank. I knew what this was as we had been using this basket for cooling pop and beer during the hot weather months. We had tied a piece of heavy twine to a galvanized wire crate that had previously been used in the dairy industry. The heavy twine would hold the crate and contents from washing down stream. At the end of a weekend the crate was usually hauled up on the bank for use on another occasion.

The first thing I noticed, as I was enjoying the first sips of my refreshing drink, was that the twine was missing. As I was staring at the crate I also noticed definite movement! There was something caught in the crate and was making swimming motions but no headway. This was all happening in about two feet of crystal clear water but the current in the riffle made it difficult to see normally. If you are a fisherman as I am you know that if you stare at a spot in the water long enough you get flat spots in the current that allow you a better window to see down further into the water. As this happened I was able to make out a nice sized trout that seemed to be stuck in one of the rectangular shaped holes formed on the sides of the crate. This fish was caught halfway into the crate with his head on the inside and his rear half sticking out; he also was facing across the stream.

I knew I wanted to free this fish if I could, but also wanted to do this without getting wet. We have a workshop located just upstream from the pool where this was taking place so I decided to go inside and get a rake and reach out into the pool and catch the side of the crate and slide it within reach and then release the fish. I also decided at this point that if I did this maneuver without out a witness maybe this would be laughed off as just another fish story. 
This is the workshop; pool is just to the right and behind.

I went back to the lodge to see if anyone else was up and had the need for a cool drink of water. Upon entering the kitchen I discovered my witness, a good friend and one of our guests, Fred Clyncke had just appeared. I asked him if he would follow me over to the West Fork as I had something to show him that I thought was just amazing. Fred had a puzzled look on his face as we walked over to the pool. “Look into the water and tell me what you see”, I said. “Looks like a wire crate or basket in the water”, he said. “Look a little harder and longer”, I said. “Hey there’s something moving out there and it looks like a fish, it is a fish”, he said. I quickly confirmed his sighting and told him I wanted a witness and that I was now going to CATCH A FISH WITH A RAKE. I went over to the workshop and came back with a garden rake. I found that I could just reach the top of the crate by hanging on to the end of the rake handle. Carefully I engaged a couple of the rake tines over the heavy galvanized wire forming the top edge of the crate. By slowly easing the crate across the river rocks on the bottom of the pool I was able to get it into position to reach with my hands and drag it to the edge of the water. As I did this I noticed that this Brown Trout had indeed managed to wedge himself halfway into the crate, he had contusions on both sides of his body but seemed to be in remarkably good shape. He was a beautiful fish about fourteen inches long and was in full spawning colors, from his condition we guessed he had only been trapped for a short time, probably just a matter of days. We carefully released him and agreed we had witnessed something unique and that we had a good fish story. In the fall of the year the Brown Trout spawn and I have sometimes seen a half dozen of them in this small pool, they come up steam from the Little Big Horn confluence, which is just below our barn.


Jim Dean





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