In Search of the Inscrutable Brookie
By V. Paul Reynolds
Trout are tricky little buggers. Trying to snaffle one up on an artificial bug can be a humbling experience.
Those who fly fish for trout in a serious way will sooner or later turn in desperation to wiser peers and the written word. There is so much to learn. And, as the old saying goes, the more you discover about the ways of trout, the more you realize how little you really know.
Many books have been written on the basics. Trout Fishing 101 teaches the importance of the so-called "primary triggers" and "secondary triggers," shape, size and color. Newcomers learn about the rise process, good feeding locations on a given body of water, and the significance of water temperatures.
Years of trying to outsmart brook trout with a fly rod has taught me the critical role of timing, too. Timing as in "when to go fishing." (Iíve always had my best fishing over the years when the fish were biting). In keeping with my graying hair and less exuberant demeanor, I counseled myself to hold off this year, not to rush things. I waited for weather, water temperatures and good reports from the angling grapevine.
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Last week, finally, all the signs seemed right. So I went fishing for three days at Noname Pond, a favorite trout repository north of the Park that has failed to disappoint in years past.
For the first two days black clouds obscured the captivating long views of Pamola Peak, and the howling wind kept me near camp and off the water. But Friday morning broke clear with blue skies and a welcoming light wind. Daybreak found me on the water, fueled with great expectations and an appreciation for the cooperative weather. Sure enough, just as I had figured fish began to surface feed with a predictable, after-the-storm diligence. My English Setter Sally, who should have been named Swivelneck, watched the riseforms from the bow of the canoe. I stayed cool, waiting for the feeding ritual to build in intensity.
Lighting up a pipeful, I puffed at the blackflies and began to pump the rod and work the surface feeders with a no. 14 Parachute Adams. Early on, it became apparent that these trout were no pushovers. Still, I kept my composure and concentrated with the quiet confidence that comes from lots of years on the water. Nothing. Not a bump.
For the rest of the day, with the exception of a lunchtime shore stretch, I paraded my vast collection of dry flies upon the glassy- smooth waters of Noname Pond. During the day, my assorted presentations of artificials gave new meaning to "secondary triggers." I tried attractors and searchers, high profile imitators and low-profile imitators. Fast retrieves, slow retrieves and drifts. Late in the day, good-sized fish began tailing so I tried emergers under the surface and emergers down deep. I fast-stripped wet flies, including Woolie Buggers and the famous Maple Syrup. I nymph fished beaded nymphs and big ugly stone fly nymphs.
Lengthened leaders and delicate 1-lb tippets didnít seem to help either.
By midafternoon, my confidence waned. There was a discernible decline in my composure. Unkind things were said to the ever-present trout, who, in carefree feeding frenzies, hurled themselves through the meniscus and into the air right under my nose. Sallyís eyes began to glaze over. When she did glance my way, it was with a familiar air. It is one that I have earned in the fall after missing too many of "her birds."
I talked to myself through the dog curled up under the bow seat. "Sally, Sally,Sally," I pined, heaving a big sigh."This is not as good as it gets. What am I missing here?"
Well, it never did come together fishwise that day for Sally and me. At 9 p.m. we came off the pond tired, frustrated and fishless. From the shore, we watched and listened to good-sized brookies tailing and feeding with impunity just under the surface.
This same day at another pond not that far away it was a different story.
Paul Huston of Bangor took home his best trout fishing experience ever. Fishing from his "belly boat," Huston was dredging the bottom of a remote trout pond with a wetline and a nondescript wetfly when Old Walter took. Huston, who was fishing a 2 lb tippet, said that he played his big trout for an hour before it gave up. The fly fisherman said that his chums offered lots of advice for the first half hour. The fish made numerous long runs. Soon, though, the fish began to sulk and tail in the bottom silt. The fishermenís friends returned to their fishing as Huston continued to coddle his catch into submission. When the smoke cleared, the angler took home a fat brookie that weighed over three pounds and a corker of a fish story.
The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal.
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