The Hog Farm

June 3, 2024 By: Richard Donnelly

In bluff country one stumbles on isolated taverns sitting there for no good reason. These are typically at the intersection of bridge and creek. The wading fly angler, bug-bedeviled and leg-tired, finds himself drawn to a battered Pabst Blue Ribbon sign the way a brown trout rises to a well-presented light Cahill.

Johnny Cash on the jukebox? There’s the hook-set.   

One of my favorites is Judy’s Bar, upstream of Glenwood Falls. Inside it is dark and cool. You consider the choices. You can’t beat an ice-filled pint of Coca-Cola, followed by deep fried cheese curds. The waitress is a brunette of forty, heavy, dark of eye, who calls you honey. There is a lot to love in bluff country.

I discovered Judy’s last year, and make it a regular stop. One day as I propped my fly rod against the rail I noticed the waitress throwing scoops of what looked like dog food into a pond. I asked what was up.

“Feedin’ the trout,” she said.

I looked in. It was a spring pond, the banks reinforced with limestone riprap. At one end an overflow of gin-clear water tumbled over rocks to the river. Rainbow trout, huge ones, circled and snatched at pellets. “They look hungry,” I said.

“They’re always hungry.” She emptied the last of the bucket.

“How did they get here?”

“I don’t know. One day we saw fish, and we’ve been feeding them ever since.”

I put a hand in the water. It was ice cold. It didn’t take much to figure out what happened. Trout, being great travelers, had migrated during a period of high water. “Can they get out?” I asked.

“Why would they want to?” she said.

I didn’t know. I’ve spent the better part of my life trying to figure out what a trout would or would not do.

I followed her inside. “How’s the fishing?” she asked. I must look like a trout angler. But then everyone in Judy’s does. We wear battered caps and olive work shirts with cigars poking out of pockets. Both men and women. My waitress put down a basket of cheese curds. “Honey, if you want to catch trout there’s a mess of them under the bridge.”

“What bridge?”

“The one right there.” She pointed. “Big ones, too. Just like in the pond.”

I had no more questions.

“Get your net!” my brother yelled. He pulled in line, working the trout into a knee-deep pool. I stepped ahead and scooped up an 18 inch rainbow.

“Got him,” I said. I was doing more guiding than fishing.

“He’s big,” Neil said, reaching in and unhooking him.

They get bigger.”

Using a Royal Coachman dry fly, he cast under the bridge. Takes were rare. After a few more casts I stopped him. “Here. Tie this one.”

“What is it?”

“A flashback bead. Tungsten.”


“It’s heavier. A lot heavier. It will fall through the water column to where they forage.” Water column? Forage? I was getting real guidey.

I tied it for him and checked knot strength. Neil cast into the shadows. The second cast straightened his line. “I’m hung up.”

I watched his line. “That’s a fish.”

Neil hauled back and a rainbow, sides flashing, leaped from the water. A good angler, Neil simply waited. Tiring, the fish swam into shallow water. I stepped ahead with my net. He shot away. Then did figure-eights. I soft-stepped from behind and dipped him up. A twenty-two-incher! Maybe bigger! We released it.

My brother took two more from the same spot, all big. He hooked a third. “It’s a hog farm!” he yelled.

Someone walked along the bridge. It was my dark-haired waitress. She carried a bucket. Stepping right up to the rail she dumped pellets into the pool. She didn’t notice us until the water, churning with feeding fish, subsided.

 “You boys catching anything?” she called.

“A few,” I said.

 “It’s feeding time. These boys are starved.”

I guess so.

We quit fishing. You can’t compete with ten pounds of trout pellets.

 “We never did keep any trout,” Neil said. We walked across the bridge and up to Judy’s Bar. “I wanted fish for dinner.”

“I don’t believe you’ll have any problem.” I pointed at the window. “Friday Fish Fry. All You Can Eat.” Then underneath, “Happy Hour All Day.”

Gotta love a country tavern. We propped our rods against the rail and walked in.