The Fisher of Trout Brook
Text and Photos By
Washingtonville, NY, USA
Trout Brook at one time was
a small wild and free-flowing trout stream in the
foothills of the Catskill Mountains in New York State.
In 1741 an early settler, David Smith, dammed Trout
Brook to make a mill pond to power his grist mill.
This dam created a mile long pond which released
its sun heated water over the top of the dam and
changed Trout Brook into a warm-water fishery
containing only sunfish, bluegills and a few
The Smith Mill ground grain on that spot for a hundred-fifty
years. The mill foundations are still there along with
a couple of native rock walls. Even one of the old mill
stones is lying by the dam. It is a tribute to the dam
builders as this dam still stands and dams the water of
One afternoon in the third week of July 1999 I found
myself with an hour to spare. Whereas Trout Brook was
only five minutes from the house, I decided to fish
for some panfish and if I was lucky maybe a bass.
We have been in drought conditions and most of the trout
streams are very warm and low leaving the trout in distress.
The Mill Pond reservoir always has a good flow of water
even when other streams are in low water conditions.
I gathered my tackle, Hardy Marvel flyrod, Hardy reel
and vest with flies. I didn't need waders or boots as
the stream is small. I decided to fish the grotto below
the dam. Picking my way down the rock ledges to the stream
I realized I was not alone.
The small pool I had decided to fish was already occupied.
He was a long legged slender individual, dressed somberly
all in gray, which blended well with the surroundings.
Even though he knew I was there he pointedly ignored me,
and from his demeanor I knew he wished I would leave. I
knew immediately I was in the presence of a great fisher
and his every movement reinforced this in my mind. He
carefully stalked his way along the stream edge, each step
placed carefully so as not to distrub the fish. His gimlet
eyes, seeing all there was to see in the pool. Seemingly
nothing escaped his attention.
Within five minutes of my arrival he caught two bluegills,
5 to 6 inches long. He gave me one disdainful look,
effortlessly leaped into the air and lazily flapped his
four foot plus wings and with great grace disappeared over
the top of the dam.
This perfect conservationist has a lesson for us all. He
took only what he needed and left behind only wet footprints
quickly drying on the warm rocks of the stream edge. I felt
humbled to realize that the only true fisher on Trout
Brook was not me.
~ Ron Kusse
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