You are a brown trout.
You are not just any old brown trout, but a lunker; a grand-daddy of a brown.
You didn't get that way by being stupid. After all, it took you eight autumns to reach your weight of more than seven pounds.
Ever since you got big enough to eat more fish than insects, you have shunned the shallows of the river you call home. Instead, you have opted for the undercut beneath the exposed roots of the huge oak that graces the side of your stream.
We can justifiably call it your stream, at least this section of it. The others know you. Your brown trout brethren, even those that have grown to a better-than-average size, respect your part of town. They give your “turf” a wide berth.
Those hatchery rainbows that the men throw in upstream from you each spring aren’t as wise as your stream-bred nephews. Consequently, they drift into your domain, which, we all admit, is a perfect holding spot.
What they don’t know, of course, is that they are making their final drifts. Many have ended up in your recurved teeth and eventually in your stomach where they helped make you the behemoth that you are.
Ahhhh, how you love springtime.
It has been a long time since you frolicked in the style of a 12-incher and zoomed to the stream’s surface to slurp a just-hatched mayfly or a struggling adult caddis. The energy output just didn’t seem worth it. Your human counterparts would liken it to the energy needed to continue cracking one pistachio nut after another.
Although the trips to streamtop come less frequently now, there is that occasional period, such as late May or early June, when the green drakes hatch. That is almost too much to pass up. Those fat, floating, flopping appetizers drifting down the river of no return.
Even then, though, your experience controls your enthusiasm. Even though it was four years ago, you still recall the plus-sized mayfly that fought back.
It pulled at your upper lip for what seemed like an eternity. That stubborn fly even moved you from behind the boulder where you had grabbed it.
Finally, you pulled it under a submerged log where you swam around the branches and crunched it in your powerful jaws.
That stilled the nasty insect and left it lifeless in your lip where it remained for more than a season.
You still carry a scar from the episode. More importantly, you carry the memory of the struggle. It seems that the mayflies you take cautiously at night are not prone to fighting back the way that one insect did many flaps of the caudal fin ago.
Now, it is mostly a fish diet for you.
You stick to the chubs and shiners that hang around the edges of your undercut home. It’s the sculpins that you dearly love, though. Those big-headed, brown-blotched, fan-finned morsels that hug the rocks where the water sweeps out of the mainstream and through your root-filled domicile.
It is the sculpins that have supplied the bulk of your nourishment for more than half of your years.
Those years are wearing by now. Though your status as a local monarch remains unchallenged ... you know.
You know thaty your girth is not what it once was. The rear portion of your yellow-hued body is a bit more trim than a year ago.
The flip of the tail is still powerful enough to propel you so that you can grab a young rock bass that ventures near, but it is not the thunderous burst from the starting block that was your trademark of days past.
Your underwater years have been good, filled with the essence of being a brown trout. Your offspring populate holes and riffles both upstream and down. They rise to the floating mayflies. They speed after the escaping forage fish. They race to bump other browns to establish what they determine to be their territories.
But most of all, they stay away from you. For you are the king.
You, Sir Brown, are the ruler of the river.
Sir Brown, River King is reprinted from Michael A. Sawyers' book "Native Queen, a celebration of the hunting and fishing life. Order here.