Ashley Rubanoff's July 21 fishing trip with his girlfriend and a buddy at Lake of the Woods had all the makings of an embarrassing afternoon.
The trio were fishing in friend Jarl Brown's little fiberglass boat — which was not much bigger than a fat man's tub — drawing snickers as they pulled away from Lake of the Woods Resort.
Brown and girlfriend Krista Alvord were hauling in rainbow trout, while the best thing Rubanoff could muster was a short cast caused by a tangle in his line.
"I was thinking to myself, man, I hope I don't get skunked," says Rubanoff, 27, of Medford.
Turns out Rubanoff was going for quality, not quantity.
He boated a 12.5-pound brown trout, a fish that Lake of the Woods-watchers say is the largest such trout to come out of there since the Clinton administration.
"I was in shock," Rubanoff says. "This was unreal. I never caught anything this big. I've caught some 7-pounders, but this is a whole new ball game.
"It was about the size of our boat," Rubanoff says.
Hyperbole aside, the trout did measure 31 inches long. Brown trout are known for their saggy beer-bellies, and this one was plump enough to measure 19 inches around.
"It maxed out our scale," resort co-owner George Gregory says.
"I've been up here since 1998, and I've never had a brown here over 10 pounds," says Gregory.
Though big by Southern Oregon standards, Rubanoff's trout is a child compared with those grown in other Oregon lakes.
The reigning state record is a 28-pound, 5-ounce brown trout caught in 2002 at central Oregon's Paulina Lake by Ronald Lane, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
But Rubanoff gets extra style points for being different.
Most brown trout caught in Lake of the Woods are landed by anglers in boats fitted with downriggers, trolling 7-inch-long lures resembling the rainbow trout or kokanee the mega-browns feed on there.
Rubanoff's trio puttered across the lake in a boat under 10 feet long and powered by a small outboard.
"You should see it," Gregory says. "It looks like a bathtub."
They anchored and began fishing for rainbows with the doughy PowerBait flavors favored by rainbows.
Rubanoff formed some glitter rainbow-colored dough on his hook, cast and immediately became frustrated.
"I made a cast I thought was too short, and I had a butterfly in the line," Rubanoff says of his monofilament tangle. I fixed it and started to reel in, and I thought I was snagged.
"Then I had this monstrous tug on the line," he says.
The fish ran furiously through the water but eventually surrendered to the net.
The trio puttered back to the resort marina, where the one-time snickerers turned into admirers.
"Everybody's jaws dropped," Rubanoff says.
Gregory says the brown trout had faded colors, suggesting it was quite old.
"His mouth was so big that brown trout could eat a 12-inch trout, no problem," Gregory says. "That is truly a remarkable fish."
Rubanoff's trout of a lifetime will become a prop for when he tells about the day a big brown trout kept him from getting skunked.
"I'm gonna mount him," he says.
Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.