Lebanon's Shannon Rowe recently had an excruciating experience that most every fisherman endures at some point: the "big one'' got away.
But Shannon got a second chance. And her next big one didn't escape.
"When I lost that first fish I was heartbroken," says Shannon, who joined her dad Corey for some trout fishing on the Little Pigeon River near Gatlinburg during her college fall break. "I've been fishing since I was a little girl and I've caught lots of smaller trout, but that was the biggest one I've ever hooked."
As crestfallen as Shannon was, her dad felt worse.
"As I was fighting the big fish, my dad waded out in the river up to his waist to net it for me. When I got the fish in close, he tried to net it, but the hook got tangled in the mesh of the net and the fish twisted loose and got away. Neither my dad or I said anything; we just sat on the bank for about a half-hour. We were both crushed."
Finally they picked up their rods -- and their spirits -- and resumed fishing.
"On my first cast, another big rainbow hit my spinner," Shannon says. "It went tearing down the river, stripping line from my reel. I fought it for 10-15 minutes, and my wrists and arms were aching. Every time I'd get it close to the bank, it would take off again."
Eventually the fish tired, and Shannon's dad again eased into the water with the landing net. This time he scooped it up.
The big rainbow weighed 6.2 pounds -- a genuine trophy trout.
"It was my biggest fish and I'm proud of it," Shannon says, "but the one I lost was even bigger. It was at least six inches longer, and had to weigh over seven pounds."
Shannon, a sophomore history major at Lee University in Cleveland, landed three more big trout during the trip, ranging between 20 and 28 inches.
"Back in the spring we took a trip to Gatlinburg, fished that same river, and didn't catch a single fish," she says. "Then we went back in October and I caught four huge ones and lost one that was even bigger."
Shannon was casting a "Joe's Fly," which is not actually a fly, but a lure that resembles a Rooster Tail spinner.
Although the stretch of river where the fish were caught is not a catch-and-release area, Shannon elected to let her fish go.
"We took a bunch of photos of it, and I plan to have a replica mount made," she says. "My dad has been fishing quite a bit lately, and we have plenty of fish in the freezer to eat. I like the idea of putting the big ones back so someone else can have the thrill of catching them."
That "someone" might be Shannon. She plans to fish the Little Pigeon again during her upcoming Christmas break. The monster rainbow she lost will likely still be lurking somewhere in the depths, and she might get another shot at it.
"It's exciting to know there's a fish that big in there," Shannon says. "I can't wait to try for it again."
If she hooks it a second time, maybe she'll win the re-match.