I once caught a fish THIS BIG!

Like any fishing fool who figures a day not spent fishing is poorly used, I always look forward to trout season's opening weekend.

So, naturally I was instantly hooked when my wife made the surprise announcement that we had to expand our fishing fleet.

"We are definitely going to need a larger canoe this year," Maureen declared. "Our 14-footer is no longer big enough."

Like a real guppy, I took the bait and asked the obvious.

"Because that fish you caught 10 years ago on the Deschutes River is now way too big for our old canoe," she replied, her tongue held firmly in cheek as she expertly set the hook.

"All three of us can no longer fit in it," she added, as she reeled me in.

I sputtered a protest but it's hard to talk with a huge barb protruding through both your upper and lower lips.

Besides, she had snagged a painful subject too often ignored by fishing folk: we don't often catch whoppers but we sure can tell them.

However, in my defense, I must point out my fellow fishing fool was exaggerating a mite.

In truth, I did catch a lunker German brown trout a decade ago, a speckled brown, red and green whale that made me mighty proud.

It weighed in at 51/2; pounds, dripping wet, of course.

In initially telling the story, I was forced to round up its size, solely for the purpose of keeping the tale shorter, mind you. So it quickly became a six-pounder.

But somewhere along the line the fish began to get away from me.

It began its big run the day a fishing friend, a past grand master at embellishing already tall trout tales, launched a whopper. You could almost hear the poor fish's vertebrae popping as he stretched it out beyond belief.

Fortunately, I was able to knock his story out of the water with my titanic trout. I may have suggested it weighed "at least seven pounds."

Like an aggressive trout after an irresistible fly, he leaped to the conclusion my whopper of a fish fillet must have been closer to 10 pounds.

It didn't hurt that something may have been mentioned in passing about this monster of the deep towing us upstream.

Through rapids, no less.

"It was actually pulling our boat so fast we overtook an otter swimming desperately to get away from us," I insisted.

That's when Maureen had one of her spells, the ones that cause her eyes to roll back in her head. Yes, it is odd how those spells occur only when I'm busy pulling in the Big Fish story.

Could be she is allergic to a large German brown trout story told with a certain journalistic embellishment.

By now, I was clearly limiting out while my fellow teller of fishy tales was standing there with a broken line.

"My leader was thinner than cat hair," I told him. "That behemoth brown was literally dancing on the water. It's a major miracle I landed him."

In my excitement, I didn't fully explain how the fish managed to pull us through the rapids while dancing on the water. In any case, the fish was about to jump into the canoe when Maureen began groaning.

"Oh puh-leez!" she exclaimed.

The other embroiderer of fish scales had put up a tough fight but he now resembled an exhausted salmon about to go belly up. He wisely decided to cut bait.

I don't think he was feeling well. He seemed to have caught Maureen's eye-rolling problem. It must have hurt because he was groaning when he left.

Fortunately, my wife recovered quickly from her spell. Like any true angler, she was more concerned about the fish at hand.

"Do you realize that trout of yours is gaining almost half a pound a year?" she asked. "It will soon be twice as large as it was when you caught it."

That's when she suggested I either start downsizing my fish story or we get a larger canoe.

"Otherwise, just to get that friggin fish in the boat, we are going to have to throw everything overboard — life jackets, lunch, paddles and one giant fibber," she concluded.

You have to admit she has a point. I would sure hate to be up the creek without a paddle, particularly on opening weekend.

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 541-776-4496 or email him at pfattig@mailtribune.com.

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