Rainbow does lead to a pot of gold

Cindy Chaplin sat in the pontoon boat she shares with friend Mike Grover, waiting for a bite from a Diamond Lake rainbow trout that didn't seem like it would ever come.

Winding down their second day on the lake July 3, the two Myrtle Creek friends had caught just two trout, a couple of run-of-the-mill 15- and 16-inch fish tethered to a stringer.

Grover picked up the stringer and noticed something odd on one of the trout. "Mike said, 'Hey, we got a tag on one of those fish," Chaplin says. "I knew it was my fish because it was a little bigger than his."

Try $1,000 bigger.

Despite relatively poor fishing for Diamond Lake last week, Chaplin managed to make the best out of the one trout she caught by capturing the lake's "Lithia Lunker," which earned her the $1,000 prize left over from last month's Rainbow $5,000 trout derby there.

The brown floy tag sticking out of the trout's back had numbers matching the tagged fish sponsored for the derby by Lithia Body and Paint in Medford.

And it was the only trout Chaplin caught all week.

"Pretty amazing," she says.

Lithia and The Black Bird Shopping Center in Medford, which organized the derby, agreed to award the cash prize for this fish — plus five other $100 trout bearing green floy tags — caught anytime during the 2012 fishing season at the lake.

A similar offer on last year's $500 "Lithia Lunker" went unclaimed after no one caught the fish before the Oct. 31 end of the fishing season.

One of the $100 fish was recently caught, so four more remain in the lake, says Rick Rockholt from Diamond Lake Resort, where all cash-winning fish must be verified.

"We'll keep handing Black Bird's money out all summer," Rockholt says.

Grover and Chaplin had known of the Black Bird derby and figured tagged and uncaught fish were finning around somewhere in Diamond Lake.

"But we didn't realize there was a fish in the lake worth $1,000," Grover says.

Chaplin caught her fish on the north end of the lake near the Forest Service buildings.

"I got a 41/2;-pounder there last year, so I wanted to go back," Chaplin says.

Casting rainbow-colored PowerBait, they had little luck, save the two standard-sized trout.

"It was just a pound and a half, nothing special," Chaplin says.

Until Grover spied that stringy tag, she says.

Once they discovered it, they motored over to the resort to see if it meant they had won something.

"I thought maybe it would be worth $100," Chaplin says.

This time, that rainbow truly did lead to a pot of gold.

Rockholt told the couple, who were camping in a nearby Umpqua National Forest campground, on July 4 of their winnings.

The pair will parlay the cash into a November trip to Arizona to attend a NASCAR race, Chaplin says.

"We only caught two fish all week, but they were good fish," Chaplin says. "With $1,000, I can buy a lot of fish if I want."

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470, or email mfreeman@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/MarkCFreeman

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