John Hofferd with his killer 14.5 pound hen...
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As I have stated many times while working on one of these profiles, I have been very lucky and blessed to meet arguably, some of the best trophy trout anglers on the west coast over the past twenty years!
As we sat in his kitchen looking out on an idyllic view of the snow capped Cascades, John asked me if I still had the same fire in me pursuing big browns as I did when I started. After a moment of thinking about it I said, ďYeah, I think so...maybe not quite as much, but I still love it.Ē He had the same drive for many years and that was one of things we had in common. We became friends because of our association in the Brownbagger Club. Though he still occasionally fishes for the browns, it is his first love of duck and goose hunting that occupies most of his recreational outdoor time these days! He has traveled to many parts of Canada and North America to pursue the fowl.
I first met John back in the mid-90ís right after moving to Bend. He was the owner of East Lake Resort after buying it back in 1989. The lake produced his first two browns over 10 LB. back in 1993. One was over 12 LB. and the other over 16 LB. both caught three days apart in Sept. on a marabou jig technique!
Johnís love affair with Newberry Crater started back in 1949 on his first trip to the lake as a young child. Over the next several years, his family would be making the ďOpening WeekendĒ trek to Paulina every year up until around 1955. Back then the lake was known for its kokanee and also some larger rainbows. The lake did have a good population of browns but they were looked upon as a scourge to many back then. We arenít sure when they were first stocked browns in the lake but they stopped in the late 50ís to help promote the rainbow and kokanee fisheries.
Iím going to sidetrack here to tell one of Johnís favorite stories about what would have been the all-tackle World Record brown trout back in 1963 from Paulina Lake. A photo and a massive, but poor quality mount of the 35 LB. 8 oz. monster, still hang in the restaurant to this day.
Many years later while John owned Paulina Lake Resort, he noticed a man and his companion one afternoon talking about the big trout while looking at the mount on the restaurant wall. John struck up a conversation with Jim Craig and learned that evening the true story about the massive brown. You see it was Jim that hooked that monster while reeling in a hapless smaller rainbow he had hooked on a set of blades and lure as a young teenager that year. The big hen engulfed the bow as he was reeling it in. As the story goes, after charging off, she came up on top and rolled up on him and popped the line, blades and all. Just another big fish story that few people would have believed if that was the end of it.
Later that day Jimís mom showed up at the resort store to tell the story of her sonís battle and loss of the giant hen brown. As the story was told later, she erroneously got credit as the unlucky angler who lost the brown. That was the story John and most everyone else were told for many years. Jim set him straight that night.
This isnít the end of the story and it gets really interesting from here on out. As luck would have it, later that day Darrell Fox and his son saw something on top of the water out in front of the resort in the bay. They were out in a small aluminum car topper and decided to go over and investigate whatever it was. As they got closer they could see it was the monster brown almost dead and slightly struggling on top. The blades were still wrapped around her. They wanted to get the blades and tried to net the big trout. There was no way with the small net they had. Finally they decided to both position themselves on the same side of the boat and pushed the gunnel over until it was right at the waters surface. They then both scooped the trout into the boat.
As the story goes the fish was mounted and traveled around Oregon for many years. It finally ended up in Johnís hands after he had purchased the resort.
Continuing Johnís journey, he graduated from Stanford in 1973. Later that year he and his dad, Rolland, made their last trip together to Paulina Lake before he passed away. The next year, as the size of kokanee was increasing, John got interested in pursuing them almost exclusively. The Oregon State record was established back in the mid-70ís with a 4 Lb. 4 oz. specimen from Paulina......a giant kokanee back in those days! John spent the next several years chasing after the bigger kokanee until around 1980.
From 1981 until 1988 John was into commercial fishing out of Half Moon Bay in California. As he says, it was his way to pay for his fishing addiction and all the perks that went with it. He was working out of a 17 foot Boston Whaler at the time. He fondly reflects those years were some of his best fishing experiences during his life.
Another one of Johnís favorite stories was the opening weekend of 1997. On the Monday after the weekend, he got 14 and 16 LB. browns by mid-morning and went on to catch another 9 browns from 4-9 Lbs. that day. An incredible day for sure! The next year, he had hooked up with Kim Daggett, another Brownbagger, and they had a day he will never forget. His biggest brown of all and # 5 over 10 LB. came one evening in May as they were coming into the resort bay across the outside point, Johnís rod goes over hard and immediately he knows he is into the biggest brown he has ever had on. After a good battle they get it up on top and are astonished at the size of the big hen. It turned out she was over 38 in. long and weighed right at 24 LB.! One of the biggest browns ever caught from the lake....in the top 5 for sure! Unfortunately, the only photos are in an old newspaper article that didnít reproduce well so I have no photos to post here.
The next morning, John had another one on he believes was over 20 LB. but it chewed him off after about a 45 second battle. When they went back through the same area, they found his lure floating on top and were able to retrieve it. About 6-8 inches of line was still attached where it broke him off!
After his first big brown from East 22 years ago, John has amassed 14 browns over 10 Lb. anchored by his 24 LB. monster hen. All but one of those browns came from East and Paulina.
One day this past summer, my phone rings while out on Wickiup. It was John telling me he just caught an 11 LB. brown from Lake Almanor while jigging with 4 LB. test line on a spinning rig. Some guys are really lucky and some guys are really good......John is a little of both!
Many more ducks and browns to you my Friend!