A continual refrain of mine, being a salt
water snob, is "I have never caught 40+ fish
when trout fishing, but I've done that so
many times with striped bass that I've lost
count" yada yada yada. I say this in a
condescending way, implying that there are
only two types of fly fishers: those who
fish the salt and those who wished they fished
the salt. But now I can no longer be so smug,
as a recent trouting trip in Northern New England
has made a liar of me.
It all began with a late Friday night phone
call from my good friend Dick Brisbois. Dick
is a retired Massachusetts state trooper who
lived in a neighboring town but moved to the
White Mountains when he hung up the gun and
badge a few years back. In his later years
with the state police he was a crime scene
investigator, and bearing witness to just
how bad things can be has made him appreciate
the outdoors and, especially, fishing, all the
"You need to come up," he said in a low,
conspiratorial way, as if my phone was tapped.
"The ice is off the pond and the trout are hungry.
I got 21 this morning in less than an hour."
Incredibly, I didn't instantly agree. Catching
small fish with small rods doesn't interest me
(until I do it), and I had yard work hanging
over my head. I hemmed and hawed, and I think
that, not having fished since November, I was
like a bear just out of hibernation, lethargic
from a long, inactive winter, but I finally
agreed to meet him on Sunday morning. Thank you,
fish gods, for bringing me to my senses.
I'm not able to say where we fished, because
if I told you I'd have to kill you. Actually,
if I told you Dick would kill me. But suffice
it to say it is a Northern New England State
with a very progressive fish and game department
that allowed me to purchase and print my
out-of-state license on line. In my home state
of Massachusetts there is not only a delay in
purchasing on-line, but a surcharge for doing
so. The nickname "Taxachusetts" is well deserved.
I left my house at 5 am, keeping well within
the speed limit for the entire three hour drive,
mindful of my last fishing excursion up this
way when I was stopped by a cop for speeding.
"Do you know how fast you were going?" he asked.
"65?" I lied.
"75" he corrected me. "Do you know what the speed
limit is?" he asked.
"65?" I lied again.
"50," he corrected me again. "Let me see your
license and registration."
Usually in this situation I'd give my most sincere I'magoodtaxpayingcitizenyoureallydon'twanttohassleme
look, but, exceeding the speed limit by 50%, I didn't
have the nerve.
"I'm going on a fishing trip," I explained.
"I guess I was a little overanxious."
He took my license and registration back to the
cruiser, and a short while latter returned and
handed me my papers along with...a warning!
"Slow it down," he said. "The fish will wait
for you," and since then I really don't speed
any more. Well, maybe just a little.
I met Dick and we were on the water by 8. We
launched his John boat, paddled about 30 yards
from shore, rigged up and began casting. It
didn't take long before we were both on to fish.
I'm used to fishing the salt, and the first thing
I need to do when trout fishing is to forget
everything I know about the brine. This takes
time, and I'll usually double haul a few 60-foot
casts into trees on the other side of a 30 ft.
stream, use the water to load the rod on the
false cast and scare every trout within 50 yards,
and set the hook so hard as to sentence an 8-inch
brookie to death by hanging in a tree behind me
before I settle into the Zen of trout fishing.
But, having fished neither fresh nor salt for
six months, I didn't immediately lapse into bad
saltwater habits and was quite pleased with my
little used freshwater streamcraft.
Until, that is, Dick observed that I was ahead
of him by two fish, which was all I needed.
There is nothing like a little friendly
competition to bring out my spirited nature,
and I began fishing with a purpose--casting
flies into trees, snagging deadfalls, throwing
tailing loops, and at one point macraméd my
leader into such a bird's nest that I had to
reel in and just cut it off. Dick is the
quintessential gentleman fly fisher, and,
seeing the state I was in, announced "I'm
going to take a little break," and, so saying,
reeled in and relaxed to give me the opportunity
to fix my line, catch a few fish, and calm down.
There had been rain a few days before, and
the trout, drawn to flowing water, had gathered
at the mouth of a small dam on the south side
of the pond. Gathered is too weak a word;
they were stacked like cord wood. I noticed
rises in the pool above the dam; Dick, more
observant than I, had already quietly raised
the anchor and began to softly paddle over.
We hooked fish on almost every cast, spotted
brook trout, each between nine and twelve
inches, each a beautiful example of nature's
artistry. Dick was fishing a dry fly that
was soon a wet fly; I was fishing a hare's
ear with a hand twist retrieve. The brookies
showed no preference, hammering our flies with
greedy abandon. Four worm dunkers, noticing
our luck, moved on shore toward the dam. They
crowded us a bit, caught a few, but this was
one of those wonderful days where the fly out
fished live bait and we were able to enjoy both
the quality and the quantity of the fly fishing
I caught 70 trout and quit counting (and then
caught 30 more). Dick always out fishes me,
and his numbers were even higher. Having been
on the water for about five hours, with no end
to the action in sight, we decided, that, already
crossing the line toward the deadly sin of
gluttony, we'd call it a day (if only I could
control sloth and lust...).
And now I smugly say "I've never caught 100 fish
when striped bass fishing, but....." ~ Dave
Dave Micus lives in Ipswich, Massachusetts. He is an
avid striped bass fly fisherman, writer and instructor.
He writes a fly fishing column for the Port City Planet
newspaper of Newburyport, MA (home of Plum Island and Joppa Flats)
and teaches a fly fishing course at Boston University.