Not that you need to give a hoot, but this column first reaches the StarTribune newsroom editors by email via the Internet.

After that, the editors move the words all around so the big fish I always catch seem smaller. That's a joke, just wanted to make sure you were paying attention.

Email has been a wonderful invention -- thanks, Al Gore--- for submitting hunting and fishing yarns from anywhere in the world. No muss, no fuss, no typewriters or copy paper, no dictation over the phone to some newsroom intern who couldn't spell walleye or Winnibigoshish.

But I digress.

Since the advent of email, readers of this column have become more vocal and that's a good thing. Usually. Except for a few jerks, most senders of emails have something interesting to say or a point of view different from mine that deserves to travel the Internet ... even if it's ridiculous.

Sometimes emails arrive from old acquaintances who, frankly, have been forgotten for whatever reason.

The other day, for example, an email arrived from John L. Clay, a former resident of Duluth, who moved to Montana decades ago. He got right to the point, remembering a column I wrote about a trout fishing foray with him, mind you, 38 years ago.

"I think I became a member of the old farts club when I started telling the truth about the size of my fish,'' he wrote. "Obviously you have not reached that plateau yet as you referred to that Brook Trout I caught as being only 8 inches. Then proceeded to reduce its size to 6 inches. It was 14 inches or was it 18?''

Allow me to explain:

Back then, John was a young brook trout devotee who thought nothing of charging into the boondocks along the North Shore in search of trout streams with no names.

For some reason, I thought such an adventure would make interesting reading so I dutifully followed John into mosquito mecca following paths that only a bull moose could love.

After a few thousand mosquito bites, John finally had a bite from a brook trout. When he landed the brookie, John was overwhelmed with emotion -- so much so -- he fell to his knees to give thanks as if he'd just landed a world record. Frankly, I was amazed, peering through a cloud of mosquitoes and watching a grown man genuflect over a skinny fish roughly 8 inches long but more likely 6 inches.

Being a responsible fish reporter, I crafted a column about John's idea of catching lunkers for the newspaper and later wrote a note in John's guest book, which he'd saved.

"Just for fun I pulled out your entry in our Lutsen Cabin Log that you wrote. Labor Day 1969,'' his email continued. "Ron, I can only assume that by now you have discovered what a Brookie is. I always wish that you and I could return someday to that river, not to be named even now, and see if those little Brookies still hang out in the same hole.

Always fun to hear from you.



Happy holidays to John, too. Yes, I can still see him holding that baby fish, his hands quivering with adoration. Why, the mosquitoes on his nose weighed more.

As any angler knows, the truth hurts and now it's nice to hear that John is finally getting over it. Without email, I'd have never known.

Ron Schara is at