Eye of the Guide


Tom Travis - Sep 09, 2013

Sysadmin Note
Part 11 can be found here

Once upon a time in the magical kingdom of trout there lived a speckled fish called the brook trout. This special trout was desired by all, he inspired the creation of fly patterns and the methods to outwit this special trout. With the proper tactics and imitations thousands of the special speckled marvels were caught and killed. However in those days no one thought that the special trout would ever suffer any change as they never had in previous years. The brook trout inspired the pen of wonderful authors to flow across the pages much like the musical river rambles and glides through the woodland.

This magical trout kingdom did exists, it is now called the United States of America and from the time that the first people travel by ship to these shores to begin a new life the brook trout was the only trout to be found in the streams in the eastern U.S. But nothing ever remains the same. Yes, we can point the finger at overharvesting and the destruction of critical habitat, but regardless of what caused the decline, by the 1880's some had noticed it and decided to introduce the brown trout.

As a pure historical note: 4,000 brown trout eggs were sent from England in 1882 to W.L. Gilbert of Plymouth, Mass. Most of the eggs died in the crossing; only twenty five hatched and only three reached maturity. None were released in public water or used as brood stock. Thus ended the first brown trout sent to America.

Then some brown trout were sent to Fred Mather on Long Island, NY. 80,000 brown trout eggs came from Friedrich Von Behr of the Black Forest. Behr was the President of the German Fisheries Society. So, like many Americans, the brown trout is an immigrant from Europe. He soon obtained his green card and before long Mr. Brown trout would become a full citizen of the United States.

In 1883, 80,000 brown trout eggs arrived in New York Harbor on the German steamship Werra. Fred Mather quickly transported them to his hatchery at Cold Springs Harbor. Rearing and keeping some for brood stock, Fred Mather planted them in the Spring Creek of Long Island and in streams around the area, including the Beaverkill, Willowemoc and the Esopus in 1884.

Fred Mather didn't bring the brown trout to America on a whim; he had seen the start of the decline of the brook trout fisheries due to poor forestry practices and pollution being discharged into eastern streams. Fred Mather knew that the changing habitat would destroy the native brook trout and also knew that the brown trout could withstand warmer water temperatures, and could also withstand a certain amount of pollution.

When Mather brought the 80,000 eggs to his hatchery at Cold Springs Harbor and began to start his stocking program, neither the state of New York nor the Federal Government kept track of stocking. Nobody seemed to care in those days. In 1888 browns were introduced to the Brodhead's in PA. During this same year they were shipped to the Pere Marquette River in Michigan. How well did the browns fare in this new land? By 1900 brown trout of over 20 inches had been taken in the waters of the Catskills. The rainbow trout were soon to follow and the Magical Kingdom of the Brook Trout was forever changed.

The brook trout never disappeared from the waters of the east and Midwest, but they also never regained their glory, but for many the brook trout was still the magical trout of their dreams and the glory of their youthful fishing adventures.

I to have a special place in my heart and memories for the Speckled Magical Trout, their color always bring fond memories to mind and I know that I am not alone in this fondness for brook trout.

In the 1890 brook trout, the magical speckled fish from the east was widely stocked throughout Yellowstone National Park, and today populations of those trout can be found in several streams and ponds around the park. Among the locations where brook trout are located is the Gardner River and its tributaries above Osprey Falls.

Many years ago I was guiding an elderly grandfather and his two grandsons ages nine and eleven. He requested that we fish on Soda Butte Creek if possible; as I knew the age of the grandsons I had extra rods and reel along just in case. However they both were able to cast and were very careful with the gear that their grandfather had provided for them.

We left Livingston around 6:30 A.M and after several stops to photograph Big Horn Sheep, Elk, Antelope and Buffalo we arrived on Soda Butte Creek by 9 am. We had taken our time as this was the first trip into Yellowstone National Park for the grandsons. It was fun to see the Park through their eyes and I could tell that is was a special day for Walt who was their grandfather. Their father worked for the state department and they had spent most of their young life in the Middle East. Now they lived in New York City and their grandfather was a resident of Long Island. They had both learned to fly fish last year and were very excited to be in Yellowstone Park fly fishing on Soda Butte Creek with their grandfather.

Soda Butte Creek

We fished from 9:45 am until 2:00 pm and the fishing was outstanding, Walt caught a few fish but spent most of his time working with first one and then the other grandson. I switched back and forth between the two boys and we had great time and took lots of pictures. As soon as the fishing stopped the boys were hungry and we when off to a lunch of burgers, salads and fruit and those boys ate like hungry trout during a green drake hatch.

During the lunch Walt and I began to talk and he explained his love of brook trout and how they were the trout of his youth and how much fun he had with those speckled magical trout. Then he said that he wished that there was somewhere in Yellowstone where he could introduce his grandsons to brook trout. I explained that the Upper Gardner River held brook trout and on occasion you could catch a decent fish of twelve inches plus, however most were in the six to ten inch range.

Walt excitedly asked if we could fish the Upper Gardner in the early evening, I told him we could leave for the Upper Gardner as soon as lunch was over and that the Gardner River was on our way back.

Upper Gardner River

We left Soda Butte Creek and drove to the Upper Gardner River, pulling in a Sheep Eaters Cliffs and fishing the river from the bridge upstream towards Indian Creek Campground. Once we were on the river he asked me to take his rod and catch a brook trout, which I did and even though the trout was small I placed it in the net and Walt took the net and showed it to his grandsons and explained this was the magical trout of his youth. The boys noticed that the brook trout that I had caught was much smaller than the trout that they were catching earlier in the day. Their grandfather explained that the size of the trout really doesn't matter, large or small the angler still has to fool the trout into eating and it was the joy of fly fishing not the size of the trout which was important. I thought of many anglers I wish could have heard this talk and information that Walt offered to his grandsons.

There were caddis on the water and soon we had the boys rigged up and they were catching fish and laughing and talking to their grandfather. Walt had a gleam in his eye and a glow of satisfaction because he was able to pass on a very important lesson on trout fishing to his grandsons. Nothing could be better.

We fished for a couple of hours and finally we could see that the boys were running out of steam and we packed up and headed for Livingston. One minute they were talking and laughing about the magical speckled trout that they had caught and suddenly there was silence. We both glanced back and the boys were sound asleep, no doubt dreaming about the magical speckled trout that they had fooled. We chuckled and continued to chat as I drove back to Livingston.

I continued to guide Walt and his grandsons for many years after that day on the Upper Gardner. On that day we didn't catch any trophies, however we did turn two young anglers into true fly anglers. That day stands out as one of the best days in my guiding career.

Good night my friends and may your dreams be filled with magical speckled trout in a magical stream that wanders and glides among the woodlands and fields.

Enjoy & Good Fishin'

Sysadmin Note
Part 13 can be found here


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