Bamboo Bonzai

The Smith Dam Built 1741 on Trout Brook

The Fisher of Trout Brook

Text and Photos By Ron Kusse
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 largemouth bass.

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 Trout Brook.

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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