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Why this monster catch led to an act of generosity and compassion

Things happen for a reason.

There are many people who share the philosophy of that simple statement. A perfect case in point is the circumstances surrounding the 31-pound brown trout caught last week by Bob Klemm of Lords Valley, Pa. He was fishing with his brother, Rich Klemm of West Milford, N.J., in the lower Niagara River with Capt. Frank Campbell of Niagara Region Charter Service. Yes, it was a fantastic catch. But in the manner that story-teller Paul Harvey made famous ... here’s the rest of the story.

The Klemm brothers were no strangers to the Niagara River. They have been coming to the famous fishing destination for more than 10 years, fishing with Capt. Bruce Blakelock of Riverside Sportfishing. They visited annually until they took a short hiatus for a few years. Bob was an engineer for 25 years and then switched over to teaching for seven years. He had a few health issues so he made the decision to retire. The week after he retired, he discovered that he had pancreatic cancer. This was last June, when he was given one to two years to live. It was Stage 4 cancer that had already spread to his liver. The prognosis wasn’t good.

At 60 years old, he had to make a decision. “I take every day as it comes,” said Klemm. “I’m trying to take a trip a month with my wife or brother. One of the things I really wanted was to come back to the Niagara and catch some brown trout. Bruce (Blakelock) wasn’t fishing in the winter anymore and he recommended Frank.”

Things happen for a reason.

It was March 27 and the weather wasn’t the best as they readied at the Lewiston launch ramp to head out into the 34-degree water. It wasn’t easy getting Bob into the boat because he has some back issues and both feet are paralyzed. Once he was situated, Campbell headed north out of Lewiston toward Fort Niagara. Campbell had picked up some spottail shiners to try and target brown trout in the shallows near Fort Niagara.

It was early in the morning when the lunker brown trout bit the bait. Right away, Bob knew he had a good one. It took off like a freight train. Bob struggled to keep the rod tip up, having lost some of his upper body strength due to the debilitating chemo treatments. This was something he wanted, though – desire and adrenalin fueled his excitement. Twenty minutes later they netted the 31-pound trout that stretched 38 inches long and had a girth of 26 inches.

“He milked the fight a little,” brother Rich reflected with a wink after we staged a little photo session immediately following the catch. The two brothers were side-by-side. Bob couldn’t hold the fish alone so Rich lent a hand. Okay, two. Bob’s smile was genuine, infectious. We staged some other photographs with Capt. Frank in the middle holding the fish, a Kodak moment. While having the three of them in the picture didn’t do the fish justice, it managed to capture an outstanding angling achievement for the Klemm brothers.

Capt. Frank Campbell with Bob Klemm's 31-pound brown.

And while the 31-pound brown was the highlight of the trip, Rich caught his own personal best brown trout, a respectable 12-pound fish that gave its own fish fight of fun. The Niagara River is known to give up these kinds of memorable fishing experiences time and time again. Things happen for a reason.

Bob, as a former taxidermist, he wanted to see his trophy fish as a skin mount on his wall at home. He knew that the massive brown gave the battle of its life, a final battle from which the fish wasn’t going to recover. He paid his last respects in the only way he could, preserving the moment for many, many years. (Local taxidermist Tony Siefert of Grand Island will be recreating the moment.) He wants the brown trout mount to eventually end back up in Niagara USA so that other people can see the quality of fish this water produces ... and the river of dreams that quite often become a reality.

Mitch Grant of Rapid Fishing Solutions in Virginia is a regular fishing fanatic in the area. When he heard about the behemoth brown and the circumstances surrounding the catch, he immediately offered up a $1,000 check as a donation to honor Klemm. They are all currently narrowing down a charity that can accommodate a child with a life-threatening illness and give them a Niagara River fishing experience. It’s a dose of natural medicine that helps you feel better no matter what you’re dealing with ... even if for just a short time.
Yes, things happen for a reason.

The Buffalo News Outdoors Page

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