Over all this has been a cool, wet spring, too cool in fact for some garden plants (squash and cucumbers come to mind). I had to replant most of my zucchini and crookneck mounds, and it took Round Three before the cucumbers would germinate. What we needed most, it seemed to me, was sun, and we had very little of that during May and half of June.
Now, however, things are booming in all categories. I was a little worried about my four rows of corn but, after a few days of 90-degree heat and sun every seed germinated and now my little plants are about 10 inches tall. The strawberries, sunflowers and morning glories have done well but my marigolds have not been cooperative. A few that I planted in pots close to the house on the south side are nearly ready to flower at this point but most of the seeds I planted around the garden (to keep the honest pests out) failed to germinate.
Most folks just throw their hands in the air and give up when there’s a lack of sun and constant rainfall during spring, but those who love the outdoors find the positive in any weather pattern. I had a hunch that the brook trout fishing would continue to be good well into June, perhaps even till the end of the season (only a few weeks away now). Of course hunches aren’t worth much – we need solid facts – and so I felt it was my duty to forego such mundane pursuits as lawn mowing, hedge trimming and weed whacking because, by heck, we need to know the status of trout fishing in Maine’s legendary small streams and brooks.
Armed with a pocket full of No. 8 snelled hooks, a Bait Baffler full of fat garden worms and my trusty 50-year-old Orvis spinning rod, I headed for the nearest brook. This spot is ridiculously easy to fish because the stream flows around the edge of a long-time gravel pit that is now as flat as a parking lot, providing easy walking just a few feet from the water.
As expected, the continuous, relentless rains have kept water levels quite high. Most of the pools I fished were deep, dark and full of trout – too many, in fact. After the first pool I crimped the barb down on my hook because I was catching a dozen undersized trout (under 6 inches) for every keeper that took the bait. Those little trout are as pretty as any fish that swims but they are extremely fragile. I unhooked them very carefully (under water whenever possible) and released them as gently as I could. Those are next year’s lunkers (a 10-inch brook trout is a monster in most waters) and I want to be sure that there will be fish to catch next time I’m tempted to mow a lawn or cut brush around the yard!
And what’s a “Bait Baffler,” you say? Well, it’s an ingenious little aluminum bait container about the size of Klondike Bar that hooks on a belt or pack strap and holds a full day’s supply of garden worms. The ingenious part is that the container is designed to ride upside down on your belt until you need more bait. You flip the container over and lift the spring-loaded lid to reveal all those fat, juicy worms, which had burrowed down to the bottom of the container which, by flipping it over, now becomes the top. Worms, evidently, are not difficult to fool. It takes longer to explain what a Bait Baffler is than it does to use it, but I’ve used one since the early 1960s and wouldn’t go brook fishing without it. There’s no easier, more convenient or efficient way to handle worms for trout fishing. Plus, the sharp, snappy lid makes it easy to cut worms in half when dealing with pesky bait stealers. Half a worm is better than a whole one in most cases, especially when it comes to brook trout fishing.
I discovered that most of the bigger trout were not in the deep, still pools, nor were they under the fallen trees and log jams where they are most common in early spring. Instead, I found most of my best fish lurking in the dark water at the edge of fast-water runs. When I tossed my worm into the head of the pool and let it drift with the current into those dark places the trout hit immediately. If I missed my cast or let the worm drift down into the deeper water all I got was sub-legal fish, chubs and minnows.
Experienced fishermen learn these nuances at the first pool and then focus their efforts on the places where trout are rather than where they should be or used to be. I tried a few deep pools, undercut banks and log jams just in case but all of my best fish came from the periphery of the fast water. Good to know!
To test my theory I tried two other brooks with the same results. The biggest fish and the fastest action came at the “current seam” where fast water meets the eddy’s edge. My test run came to an end quickly because the daily limit on trout is five and I had mine in just a few casts. I was back home by 9 a.m. with a stringer full of plump trout.
I suspect that most of Maine’s small brooks are full of keeper trout and there are miles of water open to fishing that rarely see an angler. The trout population is suffering from habitat loss, high temperatures and poor water quality but I doubt that anglers have much effect on mortality. I never see anyone out there and I only take one limit per brook per season, so barring an environmental disaster there should be brookies to catch when our great-grandchildren decide it’s time for a feed of trout.
If it means deciding between yard work or fishing I am confident that they will make the right choice!