Trout Fishing Is More Than Trout

A journal entry from spring trout fishing in Vermont township

By: Gary Cox

I finally spent time getting the garden in. After being so responsible I definitely needed to take a break and head out fishing. I head out around 3. Conventional wisdom would say that would not be the best time to fish on a cloudless day with the temperature approaching 80º. I checked stream temps online and see that they are just at 60º. Anything much over that and the trout will be stressed. It will be a good day to try the hip boots that leak because its so warm. Even though I fish most everyday, I’m still excited as I drive through the township on the way to the creek. People ask if, since I do fish everyday, I get tired of trout fishing. I always respond that on each trip I can honestly say “there’s something I’ve never seen before”. 

The water is low and clear. Fish spook at every move. In the woods there is a large beaver dam. I see a small dead trout in the shallows. Is it because the water has slowed and warmed from the dam? The oxygen is lowered and it could have suffocated. Or been stuck by a kingfisher. Or been hooked by a fly fisher. Farther up I step over a turtle buried in the mud. Is it dead? On the way back its gone so, no. No takers on a dry fly. Collective wisdom might be right. Not the time to be trout fishing. 

I go upstream because, well why not? On first cast with a little dry fly the line seems to move on its own. I don’t even see what is moving the line until I reel in the line and see the buttery yellow sides as I unhook him. A 13 inch brown trout. Now Yellow Warblers and American Redstarts are fluttering on either side of me like a Disney movie. I would not be surprised if they start talking to me or breaking into song. The little black eye of the Yellow Warbler staring at me seems so intelligent. The mayflies they are eating look like a Hendricksons. That could mean good fishing up ahead.

Fishing every day makes each day less essential, less of a frantic rush and allows you to see patterns in nature or try things that go against collective wisdom, like fishing in the middle of a hot day. It’s less about skill, and more about brute force in the amount of data I can collect in the hours spent fishing these waters. This bend of the creek is where I taught my daughter to fly fish. We spent hours on one bend in the creek trying to get her to connect with a trout. She must have cast to trout feeding in that corner more than 40 times before she landed one of her first trout. I have since referred to that section as “Emily’s Corner” when I recount the day’s fishing report to my fly fishing friend. My daughter just beamed with pride the day I told her of my encounter with a perfect stranger on the creek one day who commented that they “got a nice brown out of Emily’s Corner.” Immortalized before 30 years old, what could be more satisfying?

All aspects of our natural world are interconnected in so many interesting ways, and the more I take time to learn about those interdependencies, the more I am amazed at the complexity in even the smallest systems.

Botany comes into play in obvious ways-knowing what nettles or cow parsnip look like. It occurs to me that something always seems to be trying to harm me, the intruder, out here. But botany also plays into fishing in ways that are positive-seeing watercress and knowing that scuds, a sort of freshwater shrimp, favor living in watercress and that trout will eat scuds when no bugs are emerging. It’s also just enjoyable to get a whiff of mint as I walk along the stream bank or maybe pull apart a section of horsetail to marvel at the way it grows in sections and feel the grit that legend has said was used to scour pans in before Brillo Pads showed up in stores.

I move upstream to the last run I’ll fish today. There are Hendricksons in the air. Fish slashing and eating enthusiastically in the fast water. Though I see the fish, pick the fly, plan the cast, the take surprises me and I break him off. I catch a 15 inch even farther up. Is it the same fish? I don’t think so. 

A Wood Duck vaults off the water as I work my way around a corner. I’ll add him to the list of birds I’ve seen today; a shrike, Yellow Rumped Warblers, a Green Heron, Bald eagles, Turkey vultures and some greyish bird I’ll have to look up later. 

As I walk the road back to the car, 30 or so Mazda Miata convertibles drive by and give a friendly wave. They enjoy the view of the township from a speeding car and love it. I think how much detail in nature they miss at that speed, but also how much I must miss on a daily basis, from not making a living from farming or slowing down enough to take it all in. I think I have become part of the rural character of the town. “Look some colorful local fishing in that tiny creek”. I spot two red tulips randomly out on the side of the road. They seem out of context or out of place. But still beautiful to see and someone who loves red tulips will appreciate it more than I. 

Fishing in the township is accessible only due to the generosity of landowners who allow fishermen on the stream by permission or through an easement with the DNR. Please make sure you know where you are and respect every landowner and their property. Those of you who fish the town creeks will know exactly where I was, and those of you who don’t know, don’t ask.

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