On July 21, 1915, the 14-pound, 8-ounce monster brook trout was plucked out of the Nipigon River by Dr. J.W. Cook of Fort William, Ontario. Many stories have been told about what happened that day, but here is what Dr. Cook said in a CP story printed 34 years after he caught the World Record Brook Trout in Rabbit Rapids, on the Nipigon River.
“The river that day was covered with brown flies,” Dr. Cook recalled. “I was fishing with a minnow. When it had settled below the surface, the big fish took the bite and was away.”
Dr. Cook played the giant brookie for some time on his 5-weight bamboo fly rod and it was finally netted after a great struggle. He thought it might be a lake trout, but the First Nations guides said it was a brookie. When he opened the fish, it was found to have a stomach full of brown flies, likely caddis. “He was greedy enough to take the minnow too,” said Cook, in the piece.
World records rise and fall with some regularity, yet Dr. Cook’s record has never been seriously challenged. Although it was caught in 1915—long before three Hydro dams tamed the greatest trout river in history—the fish created such excitement, it was sent away and verified as a brook trout by the Royal Ontario Museum. Even for the time, this was an abnormally huge brook trout. The fish measured 31.5 inches long with a depth of 11 inches. There was no girth measurement taken, but a good estimate would be about 23 inches around.
Cook’s 5-weight bamboo rod, now owned by Jim Donaldson, of Thunder Bay, remains a Holy Grail item. I had the good fortune to hold this legendary rod a couple of years ago and feel a little bit of the magic from that day. The rod, reel and line were in miraculously good shape. Dr. Cook’s fly wallet can be found at the Thunder Bay Historical Museum.