Tag Archive 'brook trout'

Jul 17 2016

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Before the Rain

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Preston Bk in JulyMy wife wants me out of the house while window shades are being installed. That’s all the excuse I need to drop everything. Never mind that thunderstorms are in the forecast for this afternoon. As soon as I finish doing the bare minimum work for my business, I grab my fly rod, load my dog Matika into the car, and head for the hills.

By midday I am bushwhacking downhill to a favorite brook. A tremendous sense of relief sweeps over me as I tramp through the woods. This is my first excursion into open country in months.

The stream is low, even for midsummer. We need rain. That said, I hope the dark clouds gathering overhead hold off long enough for me to make a few casts. After that, it doesn’t matter.

The stream is beautiful. Crystal clear water finds its way down a rocky streambed surrounded by lush green vegetation. I have walked this brook or ones like it a thousand times yet they never fail to charm me. The rush of flowing water, the cool shade, and that earthy smell – I’m a real sucker for this kind of wildness.

Matika sniffs around as I ply the water with nearly invisible line and tiny fly. When I pull an eight-inch brook trout from its hiding place, she dances around me, chomping at the creature flipping about desperately in my hands. I release it into nearby shallows so that Matika can give chase. She doesn’t stand a chance. The brookie torpedoes out of sight in seconds.

Dripping sweat and menaced by biting insects, I hobble over rocks and around fallen trees for another hour or two, maintaining a low profile to keep from spooking the fish. I catch and release a couple more brookies despite the less-than-ideal fishing conditions. When finally thunder rumbles in the distance, I splash cold water into my face then leave the brook.

The uphill scramble to a dirt track is hard. The amble down the road is easy. I reach my car right before the first raindrops fall. It’s raining by the time the wheels touch pavement. On the highway it’s a downpour. All the way home, I marvel at how lucky I’ve been.

 

 

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Jul 28 2015

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Cool Brook on a Hot Day

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Deep PoolAfter weeks of relatively cool, wet weather, temps are suddenly very summerlike here in the North Country. To beat the heat, I went trout fishing on a mountain brook yesterday – not so much to catch fish as to wet-wade a shady stream and keep my dog Matika chilled out.

I was not disappointed. The forest canopy blocked out most of the direct sunlight and the water was cold enough to keep the trout happy. Wearing old, worn out hiking boots, I didn’t hesitate stepping into the fast-moving water. Matika was a little reluctant to get wet so I intentionally crossed deep sections of the stream several times, urging her to follow. She complied.

Despite the heat of midday, the trout rose to my fly. I caught and released half a dozen brookies and browns, losing that many again. I’ve been working a lot and not fishing much. That’s my excuse for not landing the surprisingly large brown trout that darted out of a deep side pool. Truth is, the white flash of its torpedo-like body rising to my fly excited me to the point where I overcompensated while setting the hook.

Towards the end of my afternoon fishing, I came into a deep pool way out of proportion with the small stream. I knew there was a bunch of trout holed up there, but for some reason I decided to let them be. Or perhaps I’d taken my fill of angling joy. I chose instead to sit on a stretch of high, flat ground and eat a simple lunch with my dog.

Sometimes it’s enough just to sit quietly and look around. The wild re-creates us in a way that recreation cannot. Afterward, I hiked out as slowly as the biting insects would allow. It was another good day in the woods.

 

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Jul 08 2015

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Butterfly Camp

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NewHavenHeadwatersTen days after my brief stay alone in the Broadleaf Wilderness, I returned with my wife Judy to spend some more time there. We camped in the same spot where I had been before, along the edge of the headwaters of the New Haven River, miles away from the nearest road. With fair weather predicted, neither Judy nor I could imagine a better place to be on the 4th of July weekend.

A little rain fell the first night but we were comfortably situated in our tent by then. The rest of the time it was cool and dry – perfect weather for lounging in camp. Judy knitted or read while I gathered wood, tended a campfire, or puttered about. Twice I fished the mountain stream for brook trout, which Judy had for lunch. Our dog Matika chewed on sticks when she wasn’t following me along the stream. We napped. We listened to the endless rush of water breaking over rocks. Yeah, we did a lot of nothing.

Black and white butterflies overran our camp in the middle of the second day. Later we would identify them as the birch-loving white admirals. They gathered on the clothes hanging from a line strung between trees, on our tent, my backpack, and whatever other gear we had strewn about. They were not shy. I had encountered them on this stream before, but never in such abundance. Clearly the headwaters of the New Haven is their world.

Judy had some trouble getting comfortable in our primitive camp. I could relate. It’s not as easy to lounge in the wild at our advanced age as it was thirty years ago – not while living out of a backpack, anyhow. But we were glad to be out there all the same. We returned home on the third day feeling more than just a little relaxed. The wild has a way of massaging all concern into oblivion, temporarily at least. Wish there was some way to can it.

 

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Sep 10 2014

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Woods Retreat

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FrHillBkCampMonday morning I stuffed a few essentials into my rucksack and headed for the hills. I had plenty to do at home, but when the wild beckons the work can wait. I was overdue for a night alone in the woods.

I had my canine companion Matika with me, of course. Together we humped up the Long Trail two and a half miles from the trailhead parking lot to a small stream called French Hill Brook. From there we bushwhacked west, following the stream until I found a nice place to camp.

I didn’t set up camp right away. Instead I left my rucksack leaning against a tree and fished the brook for a while. In most places the overhanging vegetation made it difficult to cast, but I stumbled upon a few large holes where I could present my fly properly. There a couple wild trout rose to it, taking me by surprise. I didn’t expect to find 7 to 9-inch brookies this high up. I pulled them out of the water long enough to admire their beautiful markings then put them back.

I set up camp as late afternoon shadows overtook the forest. Matika lounged about, chewing on some of my firewood. Then I settled in for dinner and a little campfire meditation. The fire burned away all my concerns as I fed sticks into it. After the sun departed, a full moon rose into the cobalt sky. It’s light filtered through the trees. A cool September breeze kicked up. In the cusp between summer and fall… I reveled in it.

Up at daybreak, I enjoyed a leisurely breakfast before breaking camp. The hike out was easy: downhill all the way. Soon I was back home and getting ready for a half-day shift at the store. No matter. I got my fix of wildness so I’m all set for a while.

 

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Mar 09 2011

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Trout Dreams

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A big winter storm struck northern Vermont two days ago, dumping two feet of snow.  That’s the third largest dump on record for these parts, making this the third snowiest winter.  Or something like that.  I spent the better part of yesterday shoveling and roof raking, and that was after the plow guy had cleared my driveway twice.  Yeah, a lot of white stuff.

Right now it’s sunny outside, about twelve hours before the next storm strikes.  I should grab my snowshoes and take advantage of this break in the weather.  But that’s not where my heart lies.  Last night I dreamed of a mountain stream teeming with large, wild trout.  And this morning, well, let’s just say the view out my window doesn’t match the fantasy.

Stepping outdoors for a moment to start up my wife’s car, I hear a cardinal singing loudly from atop a leafless maple.  He’s thinking the same thing I’m thinking.  And the warm morning sun assures us both that spring can’t be that far away.  But all this snow . . . egads!

Judy and I have a late-winter ritual: when the snow is deep outside, we cook and eat the last of the trout that I brought home the previous summer.  Granted, I’m mostly a catch-and-release fisherman these days, but I make sure to bring home a few of them just for this occasion.  We ate the trout a couple weeks ago.  And that’s just about the time I started yearning for the warm season.

This morning I opened the newspaper and learned that the writer/naturalist John Hay just died.  This news sent me to my bookshelves right away.  I cracked open The Immortal Wilderness where I had it bookmarked and reread this:  “Behind the world so recklessly and uncertainly claimed by politics and economics lie the magic and inexorable laws of the wilderness, known to every life.  The flower is wiser than the machine.”  My sentiments exactly.  So now I’m dreaming of wildflowers as well as trout.  Right now I don’t give a damn about the government’s budgetary problems, the health care debacle, or the price of oil.  I just want to see a brook trout and a purple trillium again.

Is this cabin fever talking?  You bet it is.  But there’s no sense stewing in it.  So I’ll strap on my snowshoes and make the best of the situation.  My dog Matika is ready to roll.  Unlike me, she lives in the moment.  She will romp in the snow as if it’s the first powder of the season.  And I will follow, somewhat reluctantly, dreaming of spring.

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Sep 29 2010

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Mountain Stream Philosophizing

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Sometimes I head to the mountains to escape my thoughts.  Other times I take my intellectual baggage with me.  The other day was a good example of the latter.

Even as the rush of the mountain stream filled my ears, and the intoxicating smell of autumn leaves tickled my nose, I brooded over a comment made by a world-renowned physicist a week or two earlier.  He had said that a Creator was not necessary, that the universe could have arisen spontaneously from nothing.  I immediately scoffed at the notion, but it ate away at me regardless.

Order or chaos – it all comes down to that, doesn’t it?  Either the universe is organized according to certain immutable laws, or all events are essentially random.  Recent cosmological discoveries point to a Big Bang occurring 13.7 billion years ago, to a singular event giving birth to the universe as we know it, thereby ruling out the possibility that things are now as they have always been.  But that leaves the non-religious thinker no choice but to embrace utter randomness.  And that’s a tough pill to swallow.

Order or chaos?  While fly fishing a mountain stream, I see plenty of both.  All around me there are downed trees, rotting wood, and the quiet tumult of growth and decay, yet the leaves overhead are turning gold, completing a cycle set in motion many centuries ago.  Rocks are strewn about haphazardly, as are twigs and branches, yet the stream itself follows the inexorable tug of gravity.  Is wild nature ordered or chaotic?  A good argument can be made either way.

A small brown trout rose to my showy fly, an Ausable Wulff, then all was quiet for a while.  When I spotted a cloud of tiny, slate gray mayflies hovering over the water, I changed to another fly – one called a Blue-winged Olive – that better matched the hatch.  I was betting that the hungry mouths beneath the water’s surface would know the difference.  This bet didn’t escape the philosopher in me.  I was betting on natural order and was not disappointed.  Several trout splashed to the surface, chasing my tiny gray fly.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have the eyes to see my offering on the water so I missed the strikes, leaving all matters philosophical unresolved.

Shortly thereafter, I resorted to my showy A. Wulff, which is much easier to see.  I soon hooked and landed a ten-inch brook trout.  It didn’t make any sense, really.  You’d think a big, old brookie would know better than to rise to something that looks as out of place as an A. Wulff.  Clearly Mother Nature was making fun of me, mocking my assumptions.  Or maybe we just don’t have enough information to really know what’s going on around us.  I laughed long and hard at that, while returning the trout to the drink.  There’s always a rationalization, isn’t there?

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Jul 05 2010

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Pagan Fishing

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This is more hunting than fishing, really.  The trick isn’t trying to hook the trout, but sneaking into position without spooking it.  The water in the pool is crystal clear and the bigger fish in it are wary – especially this time of year.  Oh sure, you can walk along the edge of a pool, casually cast your fly onto it, and most likely get a fingerling to rise.  But if you want the big guy in there, you’ll have to try harder than that.  You’ll have to sneak up on the pool on your hands and knees.

While you move into position, mosquitoes and other biting insects have their way with you.  Sweat drips from your brow.  Negotiating the jumble of rocks that define the brook is harder than you think – especially if you’re trying to keep a low profile.  If you’ve been at this more than an hour, your boots are wet and your pants are muddy.  Not that you care.  You’re immersed in the wildness all around you now, so being wet, dirty, bug-bitten and sweaty feels right.

Yeah, the boundary between self and other began to blur the moment you set foot on this brook.  The forest embraced you, the rushing water sang its Siren song, and you forgot about that other life back in the lowlands – if only for a few hours.

At first you stood tall and proud next to the brook, casting your line with benign indifference.  But now you are hungry for it.  Now you are down on your hands and knees, creeping forward like a predator.  The one you lost a few minutes ago awakened your senses.  The unexpected splash that soaked your floating fly stirred something deep within you.  So now you are creeping forward, praying to the gods of moss-covered rocks and fast-moving water for one more chance to match your reflexes against those of that aquatic phantom.

When a torpedo-like shadow darts across the pool then disappears, you know you’ve missed another one.    But there’s another pool just above this one where you can try again.  So you get up and move forward as slowly as possible, slipping into position once again, studying the intricate details of yet another beautiful pool.  Then you launch your line into the air, sidecasting back and forth beneath overhanging branches, finding your mark before dropping a fly on it with all the hope that exists.  And for a split second you are that fly, gently floating with the current until wham! a toothy mouth breaks the surface and clamps down.  Then the fight begins.

It’s more religion than sport, really.  You call it recreation but deep down you know it’s more than that.  Much more.  You don’t just ply the water for trout, you worship it.  Every cast is a leap of faith.  Every new pool is fraught with possibility.  And as long as you keep moving forward, everything is right with the world.

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