The beaches of Normandy, famous World War II battlesite that sparked the USA’s big push into Europe

The beaches of Normandy, France… where thousands bled and died during the D-Day invasion during World War II. It’s now considered one of the most famous World War II battlefields that many movies, books, comics, and video games are based on this location. The D-Day invasions are quite often depicted as an important event during World War II in the European campaign as it opened up the second European front since the Allies first attacked in the south particularly Italy and Africa. A lot of preparation, especially with transportation and logistics, were made so complete coordination would be made and fit in the grand scheme of maneuver, firepower, and mass effect of taking back France from Germany. That’s why I think the beaches of Normandy are great to visit then you understand how difficult it was to begin the second European front which was why UK Prime Minister at the time, Winston Churchill, wanted to delay this before building. I am sure Churchill was in his war rooms when the planning and execution for this day finally came.

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One thing that came quickly and easily was that the Norman coastline is not just all beaches but rather cliffs overseeing steep drops into the ocean. You cannot launch a ground assault through this way at all.

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The German occupiers were smart to dig in should any invader come their way.

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The German military back then knew that an invasion was coming so they made their own preparations by installing big guns to scare off the Allies.

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Ignoring the people and roads, look at the potholes! You can be sure that the Allies bombed the beaches as much as they could to soften the targets for the landings to take place.

long stone memorial

Another Normandy memorial that commemorates the June 6th invasion.

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Here’s a picture I took of the Normandy landing. 5 beaches were actually used in the invasion: Omaha, Utah, Gold, Juno, and Sword. All were invaded at the same time to over-mass the Germans.

One of the things once I was on the ground was the tall ocean cliffs throughout the Norman province. There is no way troops would be able to climb those steep cliffs with equipment. So it made it very important that the landings had to be on beaches with direct access to roads. By securing the beach-heads through the landings and airborne-dropped troops, the tanks, supply lines, and more troops could be rolled onto the mainland where it would then become a race towards Berlin until the Germans counterattacked at Bastogne.

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While the bombs were being launched and paratroopers landing, boats raced towards the shore full of men and equipment in the attempt to overload and overwhelm the German occupiers. This is one of the places where a landing could take place compared to the rough cliffs earlier.

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An old tank that probably broke down or got partially destroyed but finding its home as a memorial piece.

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That’s me on Omaha Beach but many years after the actual D-Day landings. They built a memorial right into the beach.

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There is another memorial there as well but it was bit more elaborate as this had a carving into the side of it.

Thanks to the efforts of many, a new visitors center and a little bit sprucing up the cemetery helped make the Normandy American Cemetery one of the best cemeteries out there to go see. There are thousand interned there but like in every US military cemetery such as the one in Luxembourg where General Patton was buried, there is always someone of importance. the two people that I wanted to see were the Roosevelts: Theodore Roosevelt Jr. and Quentin Roosevelt, both whom were sons of the great President Theodore Roosevelt. Quentin was actually KIA (killed in action) back in World War I when he was a fighter pilot on the Allies side and was initially buried elsewhere before they moved his remains to be buried next to his brother, Theodore Sr., who himself was well accomplished as a soldier and officer. He had served quite a long time in the military not only in World War I but also in World War II where Theodore Jr. was the only General on ground to make the D-Day landings and also survived! Many including the higher echelons did not think he was going to live through the chaos of Normandy but he made it as he could before the Minister of Death with his scythe came for him in the form of a heart attack. Theodore Jr. also won the Medal of Honor as well just like his father, Theodore Sr. did with the Rough Riders.

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This part of the Normandy cemetery called the Garden of the Missing due to the fact that some of the soldiers, sailors, civilians were never found because they were completed obliterated or whatever happened to them.

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General area of the Normandy American Cemetery.

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This is where the famous white rows and rows of crosses signifying soldiers who gave their lives for the D-Day landings. It was not an easy decision to be made by senior leadership knowing that this had to be done.

 

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Originally buried in another part of France, Quentin Roosevelt’s grave was moved to this cemetery in Normandy. He was his father’s favorite that upon hearing news that Quentin died, Theodore Roosevelt never really got over it and eventually passed away a short time after.

Theodore Roosevelt Jr grave tombo General one star rank famous dday landing wave

Due to having his famous father’s name, Theodore Roosevelt Jr. had huge shoes, pants, shirts, and a big club to fill in. Probably in his father’s eyes, he did not match up to him but over time, Theodore Jr. did quite well making it to Brigadier General and won a Medal of Honor posthumously (like his father did), especially after what he did: be the only General to be on the ground when the D-Day landings happened.

Just note that there are a lot of museums, memorials, and war cemeteries in the area that even some of the museums are privately owned as people would dig up WWII equipment over time and stockpile it into a building to preserve it and get some tourists in as well. It’s almost like Bastogne where locals would have their own personal libraries and museums that their families in earlier generations picked up over time. Note that if you plan on visiting the Normandy beaches around D-Day (06 June), you need to book your trip very early because the place becomes overcrowded and crawling with tourists who show up there for the D-Day Landing Ceremonies every year.

I recommend showing up in April-May or late August-September as the better times to show up when the weather is not so hot or cold and there aren’t that MANY tourists around. It’s also best to take a tour up north to the French northern coast because of the sheer amount of road tolls that you have to pay in France. For some weird, the French like to tax people for using their roads and highways that even in the past meaning hundreds of years ago, the people would have to pay tax for living by a royal road AND were also expected to fix and maintain them. Nothing’s changed since then.

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Napoleon’s contributions to Paris, France, and the World

Napoleon Bonaparte, one of the most famous French leaders or perhaps of the most famous leaders of all time, put his stamp on France and on the world through his military genius and very analytical-processing mind. His ability to multi-task like a supercomputer enabled him to enact reforms within the French government which helped the country advance further. One such legislation was the Napoleonic code which still in use today in some countries.

Les Invalides famous building people tombs graves

It’s where Napoleon Bonaparte’s body was moved to when the French government wanted his remains moved from St. Helena and back onto French soil.

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The church section at Les Invalides is quite small but it was still spacious and a sign of things to come for the rest of the building…

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Even the dome was well designed and decorated! Anything and anywhere was a craftsman, artist, painter, sculptor, etc. who put in a lot of work into this place.

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Even something as simple as a window was lavishly decorated with marble, gold, and other vibrant colors!

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Even the pillars striking all the way to the top are not spared any cheapness. This was intentionally made all fitting for a king or god emperor which in this case, it was made for Napoleon I.

Even though Napoleon lost the Hundred Days’s War, he did not die in France but instead, he was exiled to the Atlantic island of St. Helena where supposedly he was poisoned while under the watch of British troops after his loss at Waterloo. It was only years later that the French government asked for his body to come back to France where he was buried in this grand sarcophagus in a place called Les Invalides. There are many famous French people buried there kind of like the Pantheon, but the grand emperor and king of all is Napoleon who has his own space and sees the sunlight gaze upon it so visitors can see his tomb.

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Here lies one of the most famous Generals and Leaders of all time: Napoleon Bonaparte.

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The French had already built this Les Invalides building but the main attraction of this show was obviously Napoleon’s. They spent quite a bit of money on making it very lavish, fitting for the once French leader who almost took all of Europe.

Napoléon François Charles Joseph Bonaparte burial tomb

Even Napoleon Bonaparte’s son from his second marriage, Napoleon II, was buried at Les Invalides. Even though Napoleon II did not actually rule France due to the coalition against Napoleon I would not accept this. Instead, Napoleon II held a royal title and moved to Austria where he was going to be a military leader but passed away due to catching pneumonia. Most of his body was buried at Les Invalides with the exception of his heart and intestines buried in Vienna which was a Hapsburg tradition.

The Arc de Triomphe is another one of Napoleon’s commissions after he won the Battle at Austerlitz, which today is considered his greatest military victory when he defeated a much larger Russian-Austrian allied/coalition army by using his knowledge of tactics and terrain to his advantage. Napoleon instructed to have an Arc, a memorial built in honor of those who died in the French Revolutionary War and in the Napoleonic Wars which led to France’s glory at the time.

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The famous Arc de Triomphe which is probably shown in a lot of pictures of Paris.

This was also the period when Napeolon’s France was its greatest height of power and prestige due to his military genius, ability to direct the battle in key flashpoints to collapse enemy lines, and recovering the chaotic and disastrous period of the French Revolution which saw many heads fall at the guillotine. However, after the victory at Austerlitz, Napoleonic France started its slow downward slide as the construction of the Arc lasted for many years, well after Napoleon had died. When his body was moved from St. Helena, the French government at the time set up a route from the port to under the Arc and eventually to Les Invalides as his final resting place. The Arc back then represented itself as a symbol of what he accomplished for France, almost like how French militaries would parade their successful campaigns so it was fitting to have Napoleon’s body travel under the Arc.

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Paris – the famous Eiffel Tower, Louvre Museum, Notre Dame Cathedral

Ahhh, Paris, the city of love. Or more like crowded and polluted city of disgust by the locals. No, I’m serious. I really think the locals are really sick of tourists who have no idea that they are basically barbarians in this French capital but at the same time, I don’t think the natives understand how much money travelers pour into both the city and country which help circulate the money into the system which keeps the locals employed indirectly. But don’t let the stories of the French treating tourists horribly or snobbish put you off from traveling there. I still think it’s worth going to see it, experience it, and say that you’ve gone there.

Eiffel Tower by the Seine River rio

What visit to Paris would be complete without going onto the Eiffel Tower? It’s a famous landmark despite the locals despising its hideous look when it was first constructed. Now it’s an icon to the world.

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I’m not sure what’s more imposing. The bottom part of the Eiffel Tower or the huge caterpillar lines that zig-zag back and forth for what appears for miles. And I didn’t even go during the summer time, which is high tourist season meaning much longer lines!

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My proof that I was there at the Eiffel Tower in Paris!

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The views of Paris from the Eiffel Tower are spectacular. This view is looking towards the Trocadéro Gardens which is northwest of the Tower.

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This view, southeast from the Eiffel Tower, is towards the Champ de Mars which is a park.

 

There are a lot of great sites to go visit in Paris other than the Eiffel Tower, so make sure that you have several days to spend it because the city is so spread out with so many places to go see and do. Many museums, monuments, galleries, etc. which many are world-known and famous. For example, the Louvre Museum which houses the famous Mona Lisa painting (which by the way, was a disappointment for being so small). It’s a grand building surrounding this glass pyramid and it also has an underground level as well – there is so much stuff in terms of artifacts, paintings, statues, relics, gold, silver, etc. in that museum that it would take days. It almost reminds me of the Egyptian Museum except the Louvre has more items from around Europe and the world.

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Another grand museum in Europe which is regarded as one of the best so they say. But as usual, it’s crowded like the rest.

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The headless but winged statue of Nike. One of the three women of the Louvre that attracts tourists to the Louvre.

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The second of the three women of the Louvre, this one is the Venus of Milo, a 3-D statue of the goddess of love, beauty, and sexuality. Aphrodite was her Hellenic name.

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Although this not of the 3 women of the Louvre, I still liked seeing this one as it is a statue of Artemis, the Greek goddess of the hunt, forests and hills, the moon, and archer. She’s posing with a female deer (doe) because it represents the hunt. Her Roman name was Diana.

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This is a famous painting of Napoleon Bonaparte’s coronation who first received the crown and then placed the Queen’s crown on his wife at time, Josephine.

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Even as you walk the halls, it was being back in the Versailles Palace all over again. But this is a famous world-known painting.

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And now here is the third artwork of the 3 women of the Louvre: the famed Mona Lisa painting created and painted by the famous Leonardo da Vinci. It is a lot smaller than you think it is. At first, I thought, that’s it??? That’s all there is to it? Gosh, that was a big letdown in life in the midst of all these tourists wanting to take a look at it.

The Pantheon is also another famous Parisian place to go to as well. There is a fee to get in but it’s worth the price to go in because like the Monte Carlo Casino in Monaco where you have to pay to get in, fees seem to un-attract the tourists who are trying to get into these places for free.

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Kind of looks like the front entrance of the US Congress building, doesn’t it?

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There are two levels to this place. The first is the ground floor with open space and you’re able to see the ceiling. The other level is below, underground where famous French people are tombed/encrypted.

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A Joan of Arc painting that hangs in the halls of the Pantheon.

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A marbled statue in the Pantheon. Quite big I must say.

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Once you’re done looking at the walls, statues, paintings, and other works of art, you can look upwards to the dome ceiling which was constructed very well.

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When you go downstairs of the Pantheon, you’ll recognize some famous people down there. Here lies Louis Braille, who invented the Braille System for the blind so they could read by feeling those bumps.

François-Marie Arouet criticism of Christianity, especially the Catholic Church, and his advocacy of freedom of religion, freedom of speech and separation of church and state

And of course, the great philosopher/writer, Voltaire, is also in the underground as well. Known for wit and able to criticize quite amazingly, he helped argue for the separation between the church and the state.

Lastly, and this one seems to be missed which is the Notre Dame Cathedral, a Catholic Church built in the Gothic style and on a small island in the middle of the Seine River in Paris. This is Paris’s most visited site, not the Eiffel Tower, because it’s free to get in which is why it attracts the freeloaders to show up.

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I took the boat to travel on the Seine River and one of the stops was at this location, Notre Dame Cathedral. And there ain’t no hunchback there either – I looked. Trust me.

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The front entrance of Notre Dame looks quite imposing but don’t let the dark front scare you away because it’s got quite some light inside.

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Even the arches are amazing in the Notre Dame Cathedral. It made me think of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.

Notre-Dame de Paris Roman Catholic church cathedral

For a building that started construction in the 1100s and then completed in the 1300s is quite amazing for a Cathedral like this.

With everything being said, it’s worth noting that you might need a few days in Paris and that’s pretty much it unless you want to go to other places of interest such as the Père Lachaise Cemetery which is where some famous people are buried there such as Jim Morrison, lead singer of The Doors, writer Oscar Wilde, the paintist Frédéric Chopin, and others. My recommendation is go do the tourist stuff and then take off doing your own thing elsewhere. I do suggest knowing some of the French language as I’ve noticed that when I went to places where there were a lot of tourists and I spoke the local language, the people treated me a lot better than the generalized tourists. Also, try to avoid visiting during the summer time as the climate can be quite uncomfortable due to scorching temperatures and humidity. It also doesn’t help that the majority of tourists flood the streets and tourist sites which also cause the Parisian locals to escape Paris for other locations which cause some restaurants and hotels to be closed meaning prices rise during the summer due to the economics of less supply and increased demand.

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Versailles, where French Emperors resided in luxury until the French Revolution took it all away

Versailles, the royal residence of the French Emperor and probably even considered the capital of the once powerful French Empire that imposed power throughout Europe under the the Sun King, Louis XIV, until its gradual decline in power in the late 1700s during the French Revolution. Due to the Sun King’s long reign, France was able to consolidate its power and riches within the country unlike other countries where they lost territory such as Spain losing the Spanish Netherlands and eventually Naples and Sicily.

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The Versailles Palace courtyard… I can only imagine what a sight it must have been when grand parties were held at the palace and so many people attending to meet ministers, rich people, and of course, the French Royal Family.

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If you were invited to show up to one of the parties at Versailles and it was your first time, it must have been quite a sight to see the front part of the building, this grand palace.

 

Due to these events by the French Monarchs, they were able to concentrate vast sums of money to keep the Palace of Versailles well-maintained and well decorated over time to where it basically became the seat of royal power. If you wanted to do business with the French king and/or queen, you had to travel to Versailles, not Paris, in order to communicate with the royals there. It was serious business at Versailles Palace, that dignities were very impressed upon arrival with complete amazement that France was that rich and that powerful to have such a great palace to impress outsiders. Even the personnel working with the Palace was serious business that I’ve even heard of stories where French ministers would fight over who got to help the King put on his robe when he woke up.

Touring the Versailles Palace is quite an affair as it’s not only the palace within but also the gardens outside. Everything was built with decoration and amazement in mind.

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This is one of the many art pieces in the Versailles Palace as this one represented a French King in its past.

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Imagine being in the past and you walked the halls, seeing all these countless paintings of historical significance. It must have left a huge imprint on that person’s mind once he left the palace.

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And then imagine walking down the halls and looking up at the ceiling and seeing that even the top has been decorated to very high standards!

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Certain hallways are even more amazing as it was intended to impress foreign dignitaries that France was this powerful, this strong, this rich, and this classy that the French King lived there in luxury.

Even though Versailles lost its importance after the French Revolution where the locals sold off or transferred the contents to other places, people still knew of the place and its history. Even Napoleon I thought about making Versailles his residence but its high cost of renovation and the fact that it would probably invoke the local people’s wrath due to the lavishness of past French royals made him think twice. Over time, despite the one time the place became more of a museum to house French artifacts and paintings which still remain in the Palace to this day.

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Even the back part of the Palace grounds are simply amazing. I can’t imagine what its heyday looked like when it probably had hundreds of gardeners taking care of the plants growing there. Might have been millions of flowers there.

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Another section of the gardens. Must have been amazing even when parties were held there as well.

I think it’s still worth going to this place so you can see the splendor of the once-mighty French Empire before the French Revolution and Napoleon’s reign and eventual conversion into a tourist site/museum.

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Fly-fishing during the autumn of England

Well, it’s time for round 3 of fishing in England with this time frame being in the fall where the temperatures have dropped, the sun sets earlier (less sun light as well), and the fishing conditions have changed quite a bit. I could definitely see and feel the difference compared to the summer time when it was a lot brighter, warmer, and longer sunny days. I already knew that it was going to be a tougher “fish, hook, land” challenge this time around. But you never know with fishing as I could land a supreme monster-sized fish and even then I’ve been maintaining my body through my workouts so I will be ready should I win the world-envious-sized-ogre-of-a-fish lottery for a chance to fight and land it.

But autumn presents a different situation, a different challenge, as it’s colder and the days are shorter with the sun setting earlier in the day rather than later unlike in the summer where it seems all days in June, July, and August are just sunny-side up long. That’s why I wanted to see if I could fish it up like it were summertime because autumn is the best time for fishing (especially in Mexico for big game fish) and hunting (most hunting seasons occur during this time). The targeted fish species for this trip was brown trout, preferably a big one because I’ve came up blanks during last trip to England as well as in Scotland and only caught tiny ones in Iceland. So it was time for a biggun’, a big brown trout. Anything else big would be acceptable as well.

I would have to say the fishing was a lot harder and requires more patience. I actually had two huge brown trout but I lost both of them! The first big brown trout came in the beginning of the day, on my 5th cast, and bam! I got a hit! A big bite, grab, and take off. Unfortunately, after seeing a huge tail on that big one, he somehow came off of the fly after a 2 minute fight and took off. I wondered if I had a 10+ lb brown trout on there….

And of course, trout lightning hits twice as I lost another one. Not that big but about 4-5 pounds. And I lost another one. And then I lost another huge again, another possibly 10+ pound brown trout. That’s the kind of stuff that creates nightmares for fishermen especially after getting by brown trout thunder and lightning 4 times! But that’s where patience and continued determination come into play because on my fifth trout, I finally hooked up and landed it! It wasn’t a big one but still, it’s a nice consolation prize to get a 4, 5 pound brown trout and officially lay hands on an English Brown Trout and say that I caught one outside of the US and one biggun’ in Europe!

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My guide, Thomas, helps me un-hook the Brown Trout by playing his secondary role as a fish dentist. My first Brown Trout in England!

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My first brown in England! A lot of gold on this one.

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A quick picture before I release it back to the water. Brown trout are usually released, not eaten in England.

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Sometimes these fish need help getting some oxygen back in their systems otherwise they float and die. Whitewater works best on reviving them.

After a quick drink and food, I went back at it again. And bam! I hooked another one! This one had more energy as it actually took some of my reel line out since it was fighting like crazy as it had jet fuel in its veins. But I wasn’t giving this one away and reeled in my second trout of the day.

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My second brown trout of the day! This was one was a little bigger and had a more silver color to it.

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The fly came off easily so thank god we had the net otherwise I wouldn’t have gotten pictures of this one. This brown trout had no problems with reviving as it just blasted out of the gates like a rocket.

The rest of the day was difficult as I did get more bites and a few small Perchies to get them hooked and a few were actually landed, it was still a great day. I admit that it was cold and wet as the rains came in pouring all over me, but I still hung in there. I will have to return to catch a much bigger brown trout some day. Not sure when that will happen, but hopefully soon!

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