I took my own advice this week and ignored the call of duty around the house in favor of spending some time on the water in search of spring trout, which turned out to have been the better choice. I finished stacking next winter’s firewood in the shed and thought that I deserved to take some time away from responsible pursuits, and (as always) I’m glad I did.
It helped that the leaves on the lone poplar tree on the property were big, in fact bigger, than a mouse’s ear, which is the standard mantra among fishermen of past generations, who believe Maine brook trout fishing picked up considerably once the poplar leaves burst into view. Normally, I take a neutral stance on such tales, letting the trout tell me when it’s time to fish. As it turned out, the trout and the poplars were spot on last week.
My ritual for trout fishing hasn’t changed in over half a century. First stop is at the corner of the garden where a few forkfuls of loam reveal enough worms for a day’s fishing. I have one of those nifty “upside down” bait cans that fool the worms into thinking the top of the can is the bottom. I’ve had one of these “Bait Baffler” worm boxes since the early 1960s and never go trout fishing without out. I don’t think they are made any longer but a few years ago I found a couple of new ones on a dusty shelf in a flea market and happily paid $5 each for them. Now I will have all the bait cans I’ll ever need and one less thing to worry about in my declining years.
Anyway, with my bait problem solved I dress up in my slovenly worst in anticipation of getting wet and muddy while traipsing along my favorite trout brook. These days I spray on a good layer of anti-tick repellent starting from my ankles to my neck, dosing the backs of my hands, my ears and forehead as well because those are the places I seem to find the most ticks when I start looking for them. While working up my firewood I found 17 ticks on me so I’m going to say 2018 is going to be a bad year for ticks – proceed accordingly if you plan to be outdoors for any length of time – literally. I went for a walkabout in the yard with a cup of tea the other day and came inside to find two ticks on my T-shirt. Be forewarned!
Over the winter I had spent some time getting my trout-fishing gear together so there was new line on the reel, new hooks and a handful of new spinners in my kit just in case I got the chance to fish some of the bigger streams and rivers in my area.
On this particular trip I brought along a high-school senior who’d been begging me to take him brook fishing for a few years. Our schedules never seemed to match up (he was busy in school, I was busy fishing). This year, however, he had a day to spare that fit both schedules and off we went, anxiously looking forward to the first real, serious trout fishing of 2018.
Trying to be the good host I let the fledgling angler go first and immediately realized that he had no experience in brook fishing. Plowing his way to the water with heavy steps he began casting to the center of every pool with all the finesse of a caber tosser.
Realizing that he was a newbie at the sport I sat him on a nearby rock and explained the fine points of Maine brook trout fishing to him with the stream gurgling past just 10 feet away.
While brook trout are notoriously aggressive when it comes to taking a bait they are instinctively shy because they know they are rather high on the food chain. A wide variety of birds and animals happily eat brook trout when they can find them including blue herons, mink, otters and kingfishers. For this reason it is important to walk quietly and slowly along the brook to avoid alerting nervous trout with your heavy footsteps.
When arriving at the water’s edge, stop for a moment and consider your options. Where may trout most likely be hiding? Most brook trout like to lay in wait for prey under logs and rocks, fallen trees and similar cover. Others may be waiting at the heads or tails of deep pools while others may be tucked up under overhanging banks. It doesn’t take much of a hole to hide a 6-inch brookie but the sharp-eyed angler identifies the most likely hotspots before making his first cast.
On most trout brooks a “cast” is merely a toss of the bait using just a few feet of line. No great distance is involved although accuracy is a definite must. Let the worm fall naturally into the water; a loud, splashy presentation will only spook nearby trout. Instead, drop the worm into the water and let it drift along with the current. In most cases a fish will take the bait within a few seconds. If not, try again closer to any of the obstacles mentioned above. Work each pool slowly from end to end before moving on.
On larger streams and rivers I add a copper spinner to my rig just to give the trout something to focus on but in very small streams a floating worm is its own best advertisement. Fish slowly and methodically, make little noise and try not to disturb the trout by making a grand, boisterous entrance.
After my friend understood the basics of stream trout fishing he had no trouble pulling his limit of five fat brookies out of the depths. Before long I had my limit as well and, from that point on the day was “seized.”
Now to teach him to slow his fishing down so he can avoid having to do chores after he gets home!