A Fishy Legend by Richard Yocom
Cover photo by USFWS Mountain-Prairie

Granddad Herbert Hamlin clinked his glass with a spoon: “We owe thanks for this feast to Richard, who pulled this five pound German Brown out of the Truckee today. Robert and I got skunked but Richard pulled this baby in on one cast off a big boulder.”

The hotel’s chef filleted the fish and served it broiled with lemon on a bed of rice along with summer squash. Everyone looked at me with approval. I loved the adulation of my family. I was the center of attention, the perfect place of a nine year-old kid from Rockville Maryland.

Early that morning, Grandpa, a prospector who “knew every fishing hole in the Sierras,” took brother Robert and me fishing. From his home in Reno, we drove along the Truckee, into the mountains. We tried several spots but the fish weren’t biting.

“The river is too high and fast; it was a wet winter,” Grandpa said.

Driving down the hill, he dropped Robert off at a spot and asked him to try it there. We continued down the road a little ways and and stopped on a soft shoulder. “Here’s a secret place I know. Let’s give it a try.”

We worked our way through underbrush to a boulder jutting into the river. He set me up at the end of the boulder and asked that I cast up stream and allow the salmon egg to drift down with the current. He would fish the eddy, downstream from the rock. On my third cast I heard a “thunk” behind me. I looked and there flopped the biggest fish I had ever seen.

“Don’t say a word,” whispered Grandpa. “Between us, you caught this fish. It’ll be our secret.”

In July, 1948, a family legend was born.