Bushwhacking for Breakfast Trout
By Stu Bristol

"Are you nuts?" asked my neighbor, when I asked would he like to join me for a day in the deep woods in search of barely legal brook trout and fiddlehead ferns. "The Saco River is right full of five pound stripers, Sebago Lake is giving up a dozen or two six to ten pound togue each morning and the bass have finished spawning and are handy, with no bugs to chomp your butt off. Why in the world would you want to bushwhack for tiny little trout?"

"Tradition" was the first word that came to mind, followed by the words "tasty" and "peace and quiet." Well, peace and quiet is actually two words, but if you are a turkey hunter it won't take much to bring the beauty of the Maine forest in the month of May to mind.

Fishing opportunities, in southern Maine, in May are equal to the shopping opportunities in and around the Maine Mall. However, I just can't give up the personal tradition of feasting on brook trout and fiddlehead ferns before I can get down to the more serious adventures.

All winter southern Mainers have endured a record-setting drought with most lakes and ponds down in level from five to ten feet below normal. The brooks were drawn down as well and most had only the larger pools in which brook trout migrated for survival.

With a cut-off (4-foot) flyrod in hand, loaded with only about ten yards of weight-forward sinking line and two feet of leader, I walk right up the streambed casting tiny transparent earthworms.

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Of course I'm an avid fly-fisherman and bead-head nymphs and hare's ears would work, but not as well. My one "breakfast hunt," as I call it is serious business. No time for finesse and aesthetic picture taking on this outing.

Working upstream is far more productive than the opposite. Brook trout, especially in the spring, with high, cold water, will hold most often in the tail-outs of the larger pools. They will be pointed into the current looking for food and the angler coming up from downstream will not alarm fish.

By casting the tiny worm (found under rocks along the stream) into the top of the plunge pool and allowing it to move downstream with the current, the bait will be presented in the most natural manner.

Of course, you will need to mend your line as the bait moves down the current, just as you would dead-drifting a nymph. You can add a strike indicator if you need, but in shallow brooks, wearing polarized glasses allows you to see your bait.

Scouting which brooks or streams to fish has come from experience or trial and error planning. The most productive for me are the ones that empty into a larger body of water such as a river. Near the outflow into the river, there is usually a gully or ravine that gets flooded in the spring and as the waters recede, fiddlehead ferns grow in numbers.

On a good day I can take a limit of brook trout and a gallon or two bag of fiddleheads, enough for a lunch or breakfast for two. You can add a can of baked beans or homefries for breakfast and french fries and coleslaw for a lunch meal, with white wine, of course. Only after this traditional meal has been collected and eaten can I get down to the serious business of turkey hunting in five states and striped bass and salmon fishing.

Maine's turkey population is considered now to be one of the largest in New England and a fall archery and flintlock season is in the works. Maine turkey hunters should begin their research on how to locate and scatter flocks for the fall season. Unlike the springtime, when hunters use mating calls to lure gobblers to shotgun range, fall turkey hunters find and scatter flocks. Then, they use the shrill kee-kee-kee sound of the juvenile birds and the raspy assembly calls of the mother hen to bring the birds back to where they were scattered, and to the waiting hunter.

Stu Bristol is a full-time freelance outdoor writer living in Lyman. He has published a weekly outdoor column for the past 31 years as well as numerous regional and national articles.

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