by Ronnie Crawford
This is a little wordy, but finish
it, or youíll never know what happened.
RONNIE CRAWFORD IS A REGULAR VISITOR TO THE WATERS OF THE SOUTH PLATTE RIVER. While many of his previous adventures have brought pan-size catch into his net, one August afternoon Crawford fought an epic battle with a channel cat that would make any angler proud.
I got off of the river about an hour
ago. Oh, what a morning! I hit the river, near my house, at 6:45 this
usually carry two rods, a 9-foot fly rod and a lightweight 7-1/2-foot
rod. I started at my favorite stretch, just downstream of the Florida
Ave. bridge. The morning is cool and pleasant, with a little moss
in the water, and the sound of traffic, as the workers are going to
I can see the smallmouth hitting on the
surface, so I tie on a dry fly. Not a hit, nothing. I tie on a carp fly and
immediately catch a 12-inch smallmouth. I target a couple of carp, but theyíre
not having any part of it. The fly is accumulating too much moss, so I pick up
my spinning rod. For those of you who donít know how I fish, I use long,
lightweight rods, 6-pound test line, and crimp all barbs shut. I try to give
the fish as much of a chance to get away as I can.
I landed several more bass, between 8 and 12
inches, on my favorite spinner. The Denver South Platte is a smallmouth stream;
of note here is, two of the bass were largemouth! I
worked the stream for a hundred feet or so and decided it was time to try the
fly rod again. I had a nice carp on for a second, maybe a second. Then nothing for about 20 minutes. So I packed it up and
went home for another cup of coffee Ė and plan B. I retrieved plan B from
the refrigerator: my trusty night crawlers.
I hit the river at a different spot. This
time, Iím just below the bicycle bridge, near Overland Pond Park. Itís a real
nice hole, about 6-7 feet deep. First cast, another 12-inch smallmouth, then a
10-inch largemouth, all on the carp fly. Several more bass on
my spinner. Itís all too crazy. I fish the Denver South Platte, four or
five times a week, and never anything like this. By now, Iím getting a little
complacent and Iím longing for the tug and run of a really big fish. I wade
across the river and go downstream about 150 feet to my favorite carp water. I
throw my fly at the carp, but too much moss.
So, by now Iím ready for the fight of my
life. Bring it on. I put a night crawler and a small split shot on my fly line.
I let it drift in the current, and it bounces along the bottom. Zing, my reel
is ablaze, screaming. He took me out well into my backing. I probably only had
20-30 feet of backing left on my reel. I nervously kept checking my reel, and I
could see bottom! After about 20 minutes, I land this big carp, 32 inches. I
carry a tape measure and measure all of my big fish.
He had run me downstream about 150 feet or
so, he was a traveler. This was an ordeal. My hand went to sleep and my arm was
tired. I was tired. I walked back upstream to where I was when the big one hit.
I thought about going home, but you all know what a mental task it is to walk
away from the water.
I put on another night crawler and did the
drift another couple of times. Cleaning off the moss, I thought, Iíll throw a few more times and see what happens. So that
little worm is bouncing along the bottom, and BOOM. I mean BOOM. I set the hook
and the fight was on. I could see him out there. It was huge, bigger than the
last one, and he was swimming upstream, how weird. So then, he changed
direction and headed downstream. I have never had my reel scream like that. I
was into the backing again. Up until today, I had never had a fish take me into
my backing this much. Iím looking at my reel and seeing bottom again! Holy
crap! What the heck is going on? I fight him for 20-25 minutes and heís still
not ready to give up yet. And I thought I was tired before!! It was a tussle of
epic proportions. Damn my arm is tired. My hand is falling asleep again. Crap.
I got him within 100 feet of me a couple of times, a hundred feet, not close at
all, and he runs me well into the backing again and again.
Well, a funny thing happened fishing today.
Heís got me into the backing again. There was probably 40 feet of backing out,
when Ė CRACK Ė a sound that Iíve never heard before. I thought my
rod had broken. Never heard that sound before. My rod relaxed. My next thought
was that my line had finally given out. I looked out into the water, 30 feet
downstream, and my fly line is floating away from me. The backing had separated
from the fly line. The knot had given way. So, with fly rod in hand I run to
get my line.
Iíve never run that fast in water in my
life. I reached the line and pulled in the slack. I think when the
released from my line that fish felt free, because he didnít try to make
for it. I pulled in the slack and could feel the fish was still on. Now
the heck do I do? No rod and Iíve got a monster on. I wrapped the line
my left hand several times to secure it, and with my right hand, I
coaxed the big guy in, while letting the slack float downstream in front
is all so surreal. He made a couple more runs. I knew that without a rod
holding the fly line in my hands, that there wasnít much chance of me
good look at this fish. I just had to know how big he was, at least.
another five minutes or so, he was tiring, and so was I. I got him into
view, and it was a monster channel cat. Iíve never caught a channel cat
South Platte, just seen pictures. I had him 10 feet or so from me and I
net ready. This takes three hands. This thing was 8-10 inches wide at
and 32-34 inches long. My heartís about to jump out of my body, but Iím
to maintain. Now Iíve got him four feet straight in front of me. Weíre
at each other, eye to eye. Remember, no rod. By now heís so close that
holding him, with my leader, a 2X. I slip the net under him,
Iíve got him. He makes one last thrash. Heís on the
rim of the net. Leader in one hand, net in the other, can you picture
this? Heís momentarily straddling the rim of the net and damn, itís a
50-50. He falls off of the rim, and swims away
slowly, very slowly.
I donít know how to figure his size, 30
pounds. Maybe you catfish guys can give me some insight. As he swam away, I
gave him a strong salute and thanked him for the battle. I salute all of my big
fish. I figure they have earned it ... And the beat goes on!