Denison's 15th annual Howard Caylor Trout Derby this past weekend

Lynn Burkhead
For the Herald Democrat
As Denison begins a year long Sesquicentennial birthday celebration, the city will host the 15th  annual Howard Caylor Trout Derby on Saturday at Waterloo Lake Park Pond.

Beginning as far back as 1870, anglers across the U.S. have been able to see lots of rainbows in this country, even if they aren’t exactly the kind that good old Noah saw after he exited his big boat following a 40-day rainstorm.

Instead, these rainbows are fish, as in rainbow trout, which have a native historical range from eastern Russia, through southern Alaska, down the western Pacific coastal regions of North America, and bleeding over into portions of Idaho.

But while this colorful coldwater fish was found in portions of our continent prior to the appearance of the railroad system, it didn’t take long after the fabled Iron Horses began to rumble westward for dreams of fish stocking to happen as travel opened up from coast to coast. Before long, almost as soon as the MKT railroad began to dream of a stopping place on the Texas side of the Red River, trout were on the move.

By 1870, a trout hatchery had been built on San Leandro Creek near San Francisco Bay and rainbows were in production a year later. Fish from this hatchery began to be shipped out of state, arriving in Caledonia, New York in 1875 and Northville, Michigan in 1876 according to Wikipedia.

When the first federal fish hatchery was established on Campbell Creek, a tributary of the McCloud River in California, the rest was history and the rainbow trout was destined for coldwater fishing spots all across America.

Eventually, that would even mean the city of Denison, although the closest that a trout probably got to D-Town in 1872 when the city was founded 150 years ago was in a railroad car somewhere to the north as it traversed from one side of the nation to the other.

But that was then, and this is now, and thanks to the cold water that Old Man Winter provides every December, January, and February, rainbow trout now find a seasonal home in the land of the Yellow Jackets, even if it’s a bit temporary.

While striped bass, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, crappie, and even blue catfish occupy the angling dreams of most local anglers throughout the year, the New Year always brings dreams of rainbows, even if a little ice and/or snow has to be fought to wet a line.

That wasn’t the case last Saturday morning when Denison — which is observing its Sesquicentennial Celebration this year — continued with a calendar full of exciting activities including the 15th Annual Howard Caylor Trout Derby.

It might be a little chilly when the morning started, but more than 1,200 stocked rainbow trout — part of the 5,136 trout being stocked in the pond this winter by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department — begin to pull hooks down as they try to swipe baits ranging from earthworms to corn nuggets to marshmallows to PowerBait to small lures to name just a few piscatorial temptations.

The event, which will actually be held for the 27th time overall, will mark the 15th year since the derby was renamed for the late Howard Caylor, a Parks and Rec maintenance foreman who lost his life on the job earlier this century.

As noted here before, in addition to being a perfect way to remember a man who loved Denison's unique trout derbies, it’s also a chance for adults ages 17 years and older to find some wintertime fishing fun when little else is biting in the angling world.

The cost to enter is $7 for Denison residents and $10 for non-residents. The first 50 registrants receive a free cap, food and drink is available, door prizes will be given out, and all state and local fishing regulations apply.

There’s also the usual array of derby prizes, including awards for the winners of the casting contest as well as cash prizes for those winning several categories being held throughout the derby. Usually, those involve catching some of the tagged and/or golden trout that are sometimes stocked, as well as the biggest trout, the smallest trout, and the heaviest stringer of trout.

It's going to be a big year of celebration in Denison, and that includes the first rainbow sightings of the year. Get in line at Waterloo tomorrow, wet a hook for the first time in 2022, and see if you can't catch the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. Good luck!