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After all the moaning and hand-wringing spring has sprung upon us with a vengeance. All of the players are here now (the geese, the robins, the phoebes, the bugs) and the soil in my side yard is a warm 60 degrees, just right for planting. These days I am big on colorful flowers and fast-growing vegetables. It’s critical that whatever I plant manage to make it on its own because poking around in the dirt chasing weeds and bugs all summer is not my idea of a good time. I plant marigolds around the perimeter of the garden to keep the deer and rabbits out and then I say, “See you in September!” The things I like to grow (squash, tomatoes, cucumbers and the like) grow well without my interference and produce enough of a crop to keep me happy till the apples and pears begin to ripen in fall. I admire people who can pack a lunch and spend all day creeping around in the garden but I am too easily distracted for that kind of dedication. Plant, water, and grow. That’s about the extent of my gardening prowess.
Part of what distracts me in the garden is that every time I dig a hole or run the hoe through a patch of dirt I find a big, fat garden worm, which of course tells me I should be fishing for trout right now, not cultivating and weeding. I actually keep a collection of small cans and cups near the garden so whenever I find a good batch of angleworms I can pop them into a can, drop the rake and go fishing. After all, my garden plants aren’t going anywhere! I’ve learned from long experience that they’ll be waiting right where I left them till it’s time for another watering. We talk, we bond, we get water and fertilizer. Seems to work for me!
The important thing, however, is that armed with a cup full of lively worms I’d be negligent if I didn’t head for the nearest trout brook to gather a few fat trout to go with all those fine garden veggies. I’m happy with trout and fiddleheads or trout and dandelion greens, but when I can get some Swiss chard or maybe some fat little radishes out of my back yard I’m just as content.
I’m fortunate in that I have some great trout fishing within walking distance of my front porch. The first really good pool is only about 15 minutes away, and if I want to spend a morning or afternoon in pursuit of a limit of brookies I don’t feel as though I’ve wasted all that much time. I never really feel guilty about time spent hunting or fishing, anyway, but my to-do list seems to be longer in spring and fall, so I try to be reasonable about it and spend at least some of the time doing responsible, necessary things. It all gets done eventually, and that’s fine with me.
Having the proper carefree mind set is important to a good day’s fishing. I never have been one to fret about where I should be, even though my social network keeps close tabs on me in case I forget to go somewhere or do something they think is important. Fishing for trout in small brooks doesn’t require an advanced degree but it does help if the angler is paying attention to such things as spider webs, broken branches and how many worms there are left in the cup. One does not want to run out of bait at the very best deep hole in the brook! When that happens it’s just a matter of poking around under rocks and logs to find enough worms to finish the job. That, of course, takes up even more time, so there’s no real point in planning to be somewhere because, let’s face it, you’re going to be late!
One of the best things about fishing small streams in early May is that there are still few leaves to get in the way and just enough black flies and mosquitoes to remind us that it is, in fact, spring. For some reason the black flies annoy but don’t seem to bite in the early going, and the mosquitoes seem content to hover nearby, as if they aren’t quite sure what their role is. They find out soon enough, of course, but by then we all should have had more than our fill of fishing for small stream trout.
Because I am not wont to respond to the call of back yard labor I usually bring a small stove and a pot to cook my trout in. With luck I’ll find some fiddleheads near the brook, just enough to accompany the three or four trout I plan to catch for lunch. If the fiddleheads have gone by I’ll carry in a can of peas or potatoes to go with my fish – it’s all good when cooked in the open right beside the stream.
In my later years I’ve actually gotten more pleasure from the cooking and eating than I do from the catching. In truth, it doesn’t take a doctorate in fisheries biology to fool a Maine brook trout. If there’s a more fisherman-friendly species in the state I’ve yet to meet them. There are times when the common bluegill or yellow perch can be more difficult to catch than a miniature brookie, especially in early spring before weeds, lily pads and milfoil rise to the surface. I would say that summertime bullheads are easier to catch but only at night; the daytime belongs to the brook trout. If you can get a worm or fly down to the water they will respond. That could be one reason why we are running low on brook trout, although the smaller the stream the less pressure anglers put on them. Go small, take few, leave some for seed. I’ve fished the same small streams for more than 50 years and they still produce enough trout each spring to fill a frying pan.
The best part is they require no weeding, fertilizing or watering!
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