T’s daughter graduated from college the Saturday of Mothers Day weekend. T’s parents were up from Virginia along with her sister and brother-in-law. Saturday was spent entertaining the guests and going to the commencement ceremony. Sunday came early and T’s sister and brother-in-law were still sleeping when I took off to go fishing.
Not fishing for 1 day worked on my mind all day Saturday that I was going to take advantage of Sunday morning to fulfill the trout fishing emptiness I felt in my soul. I had about 3 1/2 hours, which included driving time, to get some fly fishing exercise to loosen up the stiff joints and get my fishing blood flowing again before another day of entertaining.
In about 25 minutes I was pulling into the gravel parking area of Mill Creek. A couple of cars were in the lot but I seen more vehicles parked across the road at the gaited lane. The fish and game commission spend money to make a parking area and yet people still park in the grass along the gaited area. Something I never could understand.
I hurriedly put on my hip boots and put together the two piece Wonderod. I fitted the Battenkill reel with dt5f line and 7 ½’ tapered leader. I Put on my vest, hat and grabbed the net. Put a chew in my mouth and headed to the stream.
The bright orange sun was already rising in the cloud streaked blue sky. Its rays were bleeding through the dense pines and leafless tree branches casting a reflection off the wavy rippling moving water. It was chilly enough to feel the early spring air in my lungs but not cold enough to see my breath as I exhaled. From the bank I looked upstream and already a few fishermen were standing fishing the deep hole upstream from the bridge. Downstream a husky fly-fisherman was working a small blow-down against the bank. Knowing the stream well, I was sure every deep hole within 100 yards from the bridge, up and downstream, had fisher-people around them. I figured on starting right where I was just off the parking area. A lot of guys don’t fish the shallow wide stretches and therefore, in brook trout waters, I knew there is usually a few undisturbed fish hiding.
I stepped into the water and ‘then’ remembered I wanted to put on another pair of wool sox as I felt the coldness of the water penetrating through my booted feet. Wading out a couple of feet from shore I knotted on a white woolly bugger. I roll cast the bugger into mid-stream and watched it swing above the drab stony bottom. Palm stripping in line slowly I then roll cast a little further out and again watched the swing thru the broken clear water. At the end of the swing I lifted the rod, back-cast and after feeling the fiberglass rod load I forward cast and the bugger plopped near the far bank. I watched the swing of the bugger drift in front and out from an exposed broken branch. A gray mass of three trout scattered from a deep hold as a larger fish entered just after my bugger passed by.
The disturbance or flash of the bugger must have drawn attention to the bigger trout. Standing in full view, like a sore thumb, in the clear riffled water, I brought the rod tip above me slowly in hopes that the big fish didn’t catch my movement. Maybe with the riffling surface water and reflecting sun in it’s face helped distract him from my presence. As my bugger surfaced there was enough surface tension I was able to upturn my wrist to roll cast the bugger up and across stream without too much of a quick motion. The bugger fell and I watched it swing towards the fish. The big fish swam up and mouthed the bugger and I set the hook feeling the line tension. With a quick ‘swirl’ the fish turned and darted downstream. My fiberglass rod tip section bent shortly than straightened. With the forces of the fish pulling, my rod flexed when against the current the hook popped loose.
Dummy me, instead of letting the fish take the bugger and feeling the line pull I set the hook too soon and must have only caught his lip. I had him fooled but counted on sight setting instead of waiting for the fish to suck it in. I knew another try would only spook the trout so I reeled the line in. Looking upstream and around me no one seen my quick reactions. ‘No one knew I had a fish on!’ I’ll get him later I thought and backed out of the stream.
The guy below me had moved downstream so I took his place. By the way he was holding his rod I was sure he was nymph fishing so I decided to drift a bugger along the blow-down. As the bugger drifted, not a quarter of a way through, an aggressive brookie flashed out from under the limbs and attacked the bugger. I set the hook and he fought across the rippling water. I netted him and let the 9” brookie swim back with his buddies. After two more quick hook ups and then no more takers for some time I cautiously fished my way downstream. At the next deep hole, as I expected, 5 guys were lined along the bank fishing minnows and bait in the deep pool. As I passed behind them I noticed a few trout on stringers. At the end of the pool, in the shallower water, 3 trout were scattered out but didn’t want anything to do with what I had to offer.
Time passed by as I slowly fished my way down further. I’d check my Dakota Angler watch now and then and hoped no one caught or spooked the big trout I fooled earlier.
I finally came across a limb held up in the middle of the stream. After drifting a bugger near it I waded up to it and peered out on the other side in the slow broad pool. 3 trout lay together beside a submerged rock with 3 others scattered behind them. I tied on a piece of 6x tippet to my leader and drifted a #14 latex caddis towards the first three. There was no problem hooking into the first fish but with the disturbance caused the others to be aware. After seeing none wanted the white caddis I tied on a R.A.M. caddis wet and cast it upstream and let it drift within view of the fish. 2 more came to my net in the short time I spent coaxing them. Looking at my watch again at least an hour more had passed so it was time to return for a last try at the big guy.
On the opposite side of the stream, from the parking lot, I leaned against a young sapling on the steep bank overlooking the water. Peering down I tried to locate the big trout in the wide stretch of water around the limb. I caught a glimpse of the three trout held up in the deep hold when the surface water calmed a bit but other than that I couldn’t place the big guy. With the sun glare, rippling water and shadows of tree branches along with the stony rocky bottom made it a real detriment even with polarized glasses on.
I crossed the creek downstream and made a wide arc to reenter the stream above where the fish laid. I stepped into the stream again pretty much where I entered it in the early morn. I tied on the slimmest white woolly bugger I had and twisted a lead matchstick about 12” up from the bugger on the leader. I roll cast the bugger towards the far bank and brought in some line so the bugger would swing right in front of the exposed limb and into the deep hold. I watched my floating line this time instead of watching the bugger swing. As the fly line drifted in front of the limb the line all of a sudden submerged and my fish catching instincts took over.
My vision instinctively let my brain know the line sank, this in turn sent an impulsive reaction to my upper extremities. Instantaneously my right hand lifted the rod up as my left hand held the line tight enough to set the hook and than let line out between my fingers as tension was felt. A swirl beneath the limb and the line swinging down and to the left connected my vision with the darting fish’s location. The brookie was as mad as a stuck bull in a bullfight.
The big brookie worked the stream from one bank to the other with quick jerking turns, fighting and twisting. I let him tire himself from side to side but didn’t let him take any line when he wanted to go down stream into the shallower riffles. The feel of the responsive reflex of the Wonderod was incomparable to any graphite rod while fighting the active brookie. Finally the fish succumbed from the pressure and I brought him to my left. Picking up the rod, his head raised some as I slid the net underneath him and scooped him up. I carried him, in the net, to the van to get some pictures before heading home.
I laid the fish on a wet towel on a mat in my van. Without changing my hip boots for shoes, I got in the drivers seat and hurriedly headed out of the parking area. I was anxious to show off the big brook trout to the visitors at the house. Driving up the dirt road I remember lighting up my last La Carona Whiff cigar. The small thin cigar lasted just long enough for the short drive home.
Later that evening I remembered that my boss was putting finishing touches in his log cabin camp. The next day at work I showed him the trout, I had put in a cooler, to see if he was interested in getting the fish mounted.
The 17+” brook trout is now displayed on the balcony wall in his log cabin.