1. He didn't get wet.
2. He hung onto the fish, and was concerned about causing it unnecessary stress.
3. He didn't break his rod while falling.
4. He caught a beautiful Brookie (and it didn't escape).
In your fishing regs, look through the Willamette and Central zones for streams where "no minimum length or bag limit on brook trout" is advertised. If you want the largest brooks, I think you'll want to be in lakes/reservoirs.