Voices from the river

Voices from the River: What makes a 'trophy?'

by Kirk Deeter

I love catching big fish. How can you not? After all, size is the benchmark that is ingrained to matter most to many anglers. My mother doesn’t fish much, but when I call her to say I spent the day fishing, she always asks: “Did you catch any?” Question two… “How big?”

The concept of “trophy fish” is usually about size too. I’m starting to rethink that a bit, though. If you go fish in a place where the fish are stocked, and some of the trout are 20 inches long when they are put in the water to begin with, well, isn’t that more like a “participation trophy?”

I’m a bit more old-school, in that I think a trophy should be a reward for lots of hard effort and good performance. I love it when people catch big Michigan brown trout at night… you know, this fish you think is in the bottom of that perfect run, but you’ve never been able to get it to eat. Sometimes it takes a better angler than me to revive my faith.

A small, native cutthroat is also a good “trophy” in my mind, especially when I have to walk a few miles to find them (though I admit I don’t have to make any miracle casts to catch them). They also tend to represent the effort of a lot of people who work hard to keep them around.

We spend a lot of time thinking about the covers for Trout magazine. Thanks, by the way, to those who wrote to say they like the current one, featuring a Clark Fork Cutbow, by Lon Lauber. Erin Block picked that one. I think one of my favorite covers is the “State of the Trout” issue we did a couple years ago featuring a small cutthroat. We might be the only “fishy” magazine to run a 3-inch fish on its cover. I wonder if we could pull that off again…

Kirk Deeter is the editor of TROUT Magazine and the vice president of Trout Media for Trout Unlimited. He lives and works in the mountains west of Denver.

By Chris Hunt.