Darkness was taking over the Red River Valley this warm Friday evening when the phone rang. I knew from the caller ID that is was a potential guiding client wanting to book a trip or get information on taking a shot at a big catfish. The quiet gentleman from Tucson, Arizona on the other end introduced himself and went on to tell me he was in Grand Forks for the weekend and his plans had changed so he thought catching a big Red River catfish looked like fun.
Unfortunately, I had just canceled my bookings for the weekend and was not going to risk taking any more. The river was in the high point of the annual high water period and I didn’t feel comfortable taking customers fishing in those conditions. Not so much because of the high water but because of the debris that was floating in the faster than normal currents.
Our conversation was brief and I felt bad for not taking the man, but I felt taking the safe approach was best in this situation. After our conversation we went our separate ways, I thought. I received a call about two weeks later from the same man. He said he ended up fishing with a local for a few hours while he was in town and was so intrigued by the idea of such large catfish that he wanted to come back to North Dakota from Arizona for another shot at a the famed 20 pound Red River channel cat.
As luck had it for him I had one day open the weekend he planned to be in the area so we put it on the calendar. When he called to confirm his pick-up time for our trip he asked if he would possibly have a better chance at catching his 20+ pound Red River channel cat on the Drayton stretch of the Red River. (Drayton is about 40 minutes north of Grand Forks and is known as “The Catfish Capital of the North”) I said it is fact that there are more big fish the further north you go along the Red River so if he wanted we could try fishing at Drayton.
Sunday morning arrived. I picked up my anxious customer at his hotel and we were off the Drayton for a hawg hunt. I told him how we were going to fish and what the game plan was for the big fish. I also told him there are no guarantees in fishing but I would do my best to get his monster fish. We launched the boat; headed to a current break I know and the monster quest was underway. Within seconds of our arrival we had a punishing hit on a rod that was in the holder but didn’t get the hook up. About a minute later my southern friend set the hook with a large WOOSH and the battle began. Fish number one came in 36 inches around 23 pounds. (I only use weight charts and simple spring scales to protect the fish for release.) “WOW, I got my 20 in less than five minutes. Unbelievable! He touted. We re-baited and I told him we still had all day to do it again.
We moved and fished, searched, re-baited, visited and had a good time for the next seven hours and fifty-five minutes of our time together. We caught more fish with another one being 36 inches but fatter to make it a great day for all.
My client set his sights on a 20 pound, Red River monster. It took a plane ticket, rental car, hotel room, determination, and an adventure down the historic Red River of the North but mission accomplished and another memory to last a lifetime was created.
We really did make memories one hook set at a time.