Manley's Record Trout Hit On First Cast
Night of disappointment quickly turned into one for the record book
Huey Manley and his two fishing buddies, Tommy Long and Paul Suddeth, were disappointed when they got to McClellan's Trout Dock on the North Fork River late Friday night, August 7, 1988. They were regular customers at McClellan's. All three usually worked a full day on Friday. They seldom managed to leave North Little Rock, Arkansas, until after 6 p.m., and the dock was always closed by the time they arrived.
"Mr. McClellan always told us we could take a boat out anytime we wanted," Manley said.But having a dock full of boats didn't help them this night. The Norfork Tailwater was dead low."There wasn't even half a generator running," Manley said. "The boats were on sand. We were tired. We didn't feel like trying to push a boat out there. So we just fished from the dock."Strike two against them was the fact that they didn't bring any worms, their favorite trout bait, which they often dug at home before going trout fishing. There was some corn on the dock."We just figured before we went to sleep we'd throw some corn and marshmallows out there," Manley said.With the water that low, Manley knew of just one deep hole to cast into from his perch on McClellan's Dock. His bait, kernels of corn on each barb of a tiny treble hook, floated off the bottom by a marshmallow, barely settled into the water when Manley felt a strike.
"When I pulled back there was nothing," he said. "Then all of a sudden my line just started singing out."Manley had just that day filled his Shimano spinning reel with new 6pound-test line."One-hundred-and-five yards is what it held," Manley said. "That fish took almost every bit of it. At one time, I looked down at the reel, and Tommy was yelling at me, 'How much line you got left?' Basically, I just let the fish do what he wanted to do."Manley wasn't sure what he'd hooked. He had seen some big carp in the area on previous trips. He thought he might have one of those."It took 15 minutes to even see the fish," Manley said. "When I finally got him close, he jumped out of the water. Tommy said, 'Man, it's a big brown!' I didn't think it could be, because it was such a huge fish. The lantern was right in my eyes. All I saw was the shadow of the fish."
Not until the third time the fish jumped was Manley convinced he had hooked a brown trout.Each time Manley worked the fish near the dock, it would make another long run. The pattern continued five or six times."I smoked two cigarettes," Manley said. "I had to just let him go where he wanted. I'd light up a cigarette and wait and pant and puff."Manley estimates the fish fought 30 minutes before he had a chance to land it. Long grabbed one of the many landing nets hanging from the dock rafters and slipped it over the big brown's head. But when he tried to lift, the weight of the fish collapsed the aluminum net frame."Tommy jumped in to grab it," Manley said. "We pushed it up on the dock."It was near midnight. Manley had a rope with him. He looped it through the trout's mouth and tied the fish to the dock, while they tried to figure out what to do. Long was a fly fisherman and knew that fly fishing guide John Gulley lived nearby.
Gulley didn't fully awaken until he put the trout on a scale that measured up to 30 pounds, and the scale bottomed out."It seemed like things were happening real fast by this time," Manley said.Gulley told them to go put the fish back in the water, then he got dressed and came down to the dock in his pickup truck. They filled a 48-quart ice chest with water and tried to lay the fish in it, but the fish wouldn't fit. Gulley took them to a Mountain Home grocery store where the male brown trout weighed 38 pounds, 9 ounces. It measured 41 inches in length and 27 3/4 inches in girth. Manley's biggest trout before that night was a 5-pound rainbow from the White River.Arkansas Game and Fish Commission fisheries biologist Mark Oliver was on hand at the grocery store to certify the weight. That's when Manley knew he'd caught a new state record brown trout, breaking the 11year-old mark of 33 pounds, eight ounces, set by Leon Waggoner of Flippin, Arkansas, on March 19, 1977. It was 3:30 a.m., and Manley wanted to call his wife, Karen, with the big news."She said, 'Oh, honey, why would call me at 3:30 in the morning and tell me this?' She thought I was kidding," Manley said.
By the time Manley got back home in North Little Rock on Sunday evening, Karen was convinced the early Saturday morning phone call had been no prank. Big fish news travels fast. Reporters were calling the Manley home, wanting to hear the story of the newest world record brown trout.Michael Hubert "Huey" Manley's name was entered in the National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame record book as both the all-tackle record and the record for 8-pound-test line.(In NFWFHF tests, Manley's 6 pound-test line was stronger than the maximum allowed for that class. So his mark was moved up to the next line class - 8-pound-test.)The International Game Fish Association didn't recognize Manley's fish because it was caught on the combination of a treble hook and bait.Manley's mark lasted almost four years, until Howard "Rip" Collins caught a 40-pound, 4-ounce brown trout from the Little Red River in May 1992. Manley said he wasn't disappointed when he heard his record had been broken."There are bigger ones out there to be caught," Manley said. "I was glad it was another Arkansan who broke the record."
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