by CLIFF AND NANCY HILL
Has there ever been a fisherman who has not harbored the thought of one day catching a world record fish? On September 9 of last year (09/09/09) that day arrived for 35-year Rockford resident and avid fisherman, Tom Healy.
Fishing on the Manistee River with his long-time fishing buddy, Bob Woodhouse—good fishing buddies are a treasure indeed—and guided by Tim Roller of Ultimate Outfitters, Healy tied into what he knew instinctively was a “big one.” He had been working a No. 8 Rapala Shad Wrap lure when the fish struck, and it wasn’t until the fish was brought to boat that it was identified as a huge brown trout.
“It was the largest brown trout I had ever seen,” said veteran fishing guide Roller.
Thus began a fated chain of events that will forever change the life of the 66 year-old retired Owen-Ames-Kimball construction company president.
Hoping the fish was indeed a record fish, the three called it a day and quickly returned to the Peer Pressure Charter Boat office in Manistee to weigh the fish on a certified scale. Unbelievably, the trout was measured at 43.75 inches long, with a girth of 27 inches, and weighed a whopping 41 pounds and 7 ounces. When certified by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the fish smashed the former state record by almost five pounds.
These stats were then submitted to the International Game Fish Association for possible world record certification. In early December 2009, Healy was thrilled to receive notice that his catch, the largest ever hooked and landed, had established a new world record for the brown trout species. Healy’s fish had broken a previously held 17-year record by 1.2 pounds.
Now, establishing a world record fish catch, especially in one of the trout species, brings with it many accolades and endorsements. Sport fishermen around the world read and heard of Healy’s magnificent grab in the press and on TV.
Reading of the feat in Field & Stream magazine, Curt Redden, founder and principal artist of You Catch We Sketch (www.fishportraits.com) of Hattiesburg, Miss., contacted Healy. Redden paints high-quality original works of art of fishermen’s catches as an affordable alternative to high-priced taxidermy. Fishermen send photos and specifications of their catch, and Redden creates a painting in exact size. By way of honoring and congratulating Healy, Redden proposed to give Healy—at no charge—an original rendition of his fish. Healy could hardly refuse.
“We all love fishing, and I am thrilled and honored to perhaps be a small part of the history of the sport,” said Redden. “The new record may well be never broken. and this will probably be our only chance to do this.”
Redden then went to work on a life-size portrait using graphite, wet and dry watercolor pencils, and acrylics (largely straight from the tube). Highlights were then added in raw zinc white and shadowed in charcoal, diluted acrylics, and light watercolor, depending on whether or not scales should show through. Finally, several coats of matte sealer were applied.
Healy recently received the finished portrait of his world record brown trout. It was beautiful! It was a breathtaking rendition and exacting in detail, right down to every one of the 6,300 scales of the fish.
The next stop was Rockford’s renowned The Frame and Mat Shop (formerly Courtland & Main), because of the shop’s expertise in framing pieces of this size (approx. 4’x6’).
With the work completed last week, the framed piece was placed on public display last Saturday in the framing gallery’s front window. It will remain on display for the remainder of January. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect. Countless visitors to Reds on the River’s Ice Festival were agog at the humongous portrait of the world record brown trout in the shop’s Courtland Street window. One really needs to view the portrait first hand to totally appreciate the size of this magnificent fish.
Through all of this, Healy has been steadfast in stating, “All of the hoopla is not about me. It is about the fish and praise to the ‘Great Fisherman’ in the sky.”
Healy is exactly right! On that fateful day in early September, in the 15 to 20 minutes it took him to hook and land the brown trout, the fish had brought him instant fame in the world’s sport fishing community.
And what a fish it was! The Michigan DNR determined from scale samples that the trout was 6 years old. The specific strain of brown trout and sex will be determined when the fish goes to a yet-to-be-chosen master taxidermist in the near future. What is certain is that for the trout to grow to this length and weight in six years, it must have possessed superior DNA and had been a fearsome feeding machine.
For readers out there who subscribe to the importance of certain dates in time, remember this fish was caught on 09/09/09, a date described as a “calendrical anomaly.” Every century produces only 12 such dates. You do the math. The date on which Healy established his world record catch will not occur again until September 9, 2109. With Healy’s luck, his record may stand for that long.