One day about 20 years ago I caught a beautiful twenty-inch male brook trout in XXXXXXXX Pond. The Bro was there with me. We had often fished that fly-fishing-only pond, which is a 20-minute hike off a logging road, and had caught many a trout there, usually in the nine-to-twelve-inch range. In the late afternoon of the day I caught the big fish I heard a heavy splash that came from somewhere near the shore and that sounded as though someone had tossed a small boy into the water, and I saw the ensuing bubbles, waves and rings from the splash, and I thought, That was a very large fish. After the second such splash I moved the boat from the center of the pond toward the shore and cast a size 12 black dry fly that landed not three feet from the bank, where it was immediately and emphatically taken by the biggest trout that I had ever caught up to that time. I was very glad the Bro was with me, not that I needed a witness, because I kept the trout and photographed it lying beside a truthful tape measure. But I did need him to net the fish, which he did, skillfully, and deposited it in the bottom of the boat where we gazed at it in shock and awe.

We both uttered a few OMGs and other appropriate oaths of amazement, and I said, Let’s go. I’m going to put this guy in the cooler and drive straight to David Footer‘s house in Lewiston. David, a world renowned fish taxidermist, had mounted a very similar fish that the Bro had caught years earlier in Quebec, and I didn’t want anyone else to mount my fish. David Footer was the best.

We hiked out to the car. I got out my camera — no smartphones back then — and a tape measure. We laid the big fish on the grass and I made its posthumous portrait. That’s when another vehicle pulled up beside us, with an official insignia on the door. Now, in all the many times we had fished XXXXXXXX Pond we had never encountered a game warden — until now.

“Afternoon, fellas. Catch anything?”

We exchanged a glance, then I pointed to the trout lying in the grass.

“Wow! You didn’t catch that fish in XXXXXXXX Pond, did you?”

I assured him that yes, that was where I had caught the fish. After a license check, the warden left and we headed for Lewiston, where my fish would lie in state for about two years and then emerge from the Footer studio in living color and affixed to an oval cherry-wood plaque; it has pride of place on my office wall.

The next time we returned to XXXXXXXX Pond it was obvious what had happened. The warden had blabbed. The trail had been churned to a mud wallow by the boots of many anglers and not a few accursed ATVs. On the bank of the pond where boats were kept we found the trash of bait fishermen — worm cans, even a spinning lure. If there had been other large trout in the pond they had probably been taken.

Which is why I don’t tell people where I fish. I fish in a number of ponds that shall remain nameless or redacted, such as XXXXXXX Pond (not the same as XXXXXXXX Pond). So imagine my horror that when this past June when Trout Boy and I pulled into a gas station and the gregarious TB started chatting with a couple of guys in a pickup truck, and told them we had just come from XXXXXXXX Pond where the fishing had been “pretty good.”

“SHUT UP!” I wanted to yell. “REDACT THAT!”

Nick Mills

About Nick Mills

Full disclosure: I was not born in Maine, alas! I was born in Massachusetts, but the family moved to Maine when I was eleven, and I grew up in Thomaston. My dad was skipper of one of the draggers that sailed out of Rockland, in the days when it was a rough-tough working fishing port. When he came in from the sea his favorite activity was freshwater fishing with me and my brother, Peter. We learned together to flyfish for trout in the Alder Stream in Eustis. Once hooked on the sport, pun intended, I fished at every opportunity in every place I could -- in the rivers, streams and ponds of Maine; in the mountain ponds of Utah, where I was stationed for a year in the Army; in high Andean lakes in Colombia, where I served as a Peace Corps Volunteer; even in a lagoon that surrounded one of Saddam Hussein's palaces in Baghdad. I tried once to go trout fishing in northern Afghanistan, when the U.S.S.R. occupied that country; a landslide blocked my path, but that led to a more interesting adventure, which I will tell you about in a future post.