Classic Photos: The Beast Brown Trout That Almost Got Away

Written: by Danny Frank


Danny Frank hoists the brown trout of a lifetime from an unnamed Colorado river.
Photo by Marshal Miller

[Editor’s Note: Sometimes, when I’m looking for something in the archives, I come across a post that stops me in my tracks, like this one did. On a blog updated as often as this one, posts get buried under more content pretty quickly, so it’s nice to occasionally unearth a gem that some folks may have never seen.]

Last weekend, I was fortunate to be part of a once-in-a-lifetime experience. This event is something that I am hesitant to share details about, out of respect for both the fish and the spot, but also because of the recent criticism that has come with blogging and posting things on the “intra-webs.”

I was out fishing with a group of friends—the majority were fly fishermen, but a couple non-anglers tagged along for the mountain experience—less than three hours from Denver on a favorite section of river. At around 11:00 a.m., I saw a trout that made my heart stop. Shocked, I called my friends over to make sure it wasn’t a mirage. My hands instantly began to shake, as something in the back of my mind knew I was about to cast at the trout of my life. On my third cast, I saw the fish move slightly to its side to eat something. Instinctively, I set the hook, and the water erupted.


The saving grip of the net man kept this from being “just another fish story.”
Photo by Marshal Miller

This fish would not have been landed without help from my good buddy, Chris Smith. As the beast tired out, we contemplated how to even fit it into the net. Chris got its head in the bag, and he used his free arm to try and support it. I thought the battle was over as I saw the mother of all brown trout, half in a net lifted a foot out of the water. As I stepped over to help control it, the net broke, and the fish disappeared. My heart sank. This trout of indescribable proportions was going to get away, and no one would believe me: it would simply be another fish tale. However, as the net had broken, Chris’s hand had instinctively shot down, saving the day as he grabbed the fish by its enormous tail.

In awe, we admired the brown while making sure to leave it in the water. We all knew what we were looking at and treated the dinosaur of a fish with the respect it deserves. Our buddy Marshal Miller had joined us on our weekend adventure, and fortunately for us, Marshal doubles as an incredible photographer. He snapped some quick pictures before the fish was safely released.

The rest of the day fished awesome. Bugs were out, and the trout fed aggressively. I didn’t fish much after that, though—just a couple more casts as the day passed. Mostly, I sat on the bank smiling about the one that didn’t get away.

Danny Frank is the man behind Delta Trout Force, a site dedicated to celebrating “the art that my friends and I take away from fly-fishing.”


The sheer magnitude of the fish inspired awe in the entire group.
Photo by Marshal Miller

12 thoughts on “Classic Photos: The Beast Brown Trout That Almost Got Away”

  1. I know how catching a fish over 7lbs feels and have it on film. I caught a huge rainbow that was close to 10 lbs and have a photo of it. When I caught the trout, I was only 8 years old at the time. This was when my dad started to introduce me into river fishing. He would cast and hook the fish, while I got to reel it in as he walks me through fighting a fish over 7lbs. At the time my dad didn’t pack his prized fly rod, but did have his spinning rod. My dad and I always use flies and lures never bait and we catch and release to help fisheries produce fish like your brown you caught.

  2. What an amazing fish!! Too bad that with all the fondling and picture taking of such an amazing creature that it did not make it to fight another day. This very fish was found dead on the bank about 10′ from where this picture was taken the very next day. Hope it was fun – might want to frame this pic and hang it on the wall because that is the only way you will see it again

    1. First of all, I’m sure you are lying. Secondly, I guarantee that if you were to catch a trout half the size of this one, you’d get you pics too. Don’t attempt to ruin a great story.

  3. Phil, thanks for re-posting, I missed it the first time. Danny, thanks for sharing such a great once in a lifetime moment.
    Regarding the post above: I’m not sure how any seasoned fly fisher can know 100% that the released fish will survive-IF in fact, it was that same fish, and IF no one or nothing else impacted its demise in the time period after Danny caught and released it.

    As for me, I am happy to share in Danny’s joyful moment! What a Great Catch!

    1. Was it on the Frying Pan below Reudi reservoir? I used to see those hogs back in 1989 -1992 when I lived in Glenwood Springs, would fish with midges & scuds year round below the dam.

  4. A fish of a lifetime indeed. Sad to see what looks like didymo on all the rocks in that river. Regarding the post about finding the fish dead, I’d like to know the source of Ted’s claim rather than just accepting it as fact.

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