I made my inaugural splash into the 2018 trout season on Monday with my usual flair. I caught three trees, two of them pretty good sized. The spool fell out of my reel while I was trying to remember how to cast; fortunately it fell into shallow water where I could retrieve it and properly install it. I had forgotten to pack the elastic thingy that prevents my landing net from escaping, so I had to jam the net uncomfortably in the belt of my waders instead of dangling it from the magnet on the back of my vest. On the plus side, the landing net improved my posture and I didn’t fall in. The water temperature was forty-two degrees, ideal for chilling beer but not for impromptu swimming.
The open-water fishing season opened April 1, but, wuss that I am, I waited for a day warm enough so that I could fish while maintaining a high degree of tactile sensation in my fingertips. That day finally arrived, a day of sun and 60s, and a-fishing I did go, in the Georges, up in Searsmont where Ghent Road crosses the river just above Robbins Lumber‘s sprawling mill. Robbins opened a little water-powered stave mill in 1881, just upstream of the bridge. The old mill remains, somewhat updated but empty and long widowed by electricity, and enough of the old dam’s rubble still lies on the riverbed to create a dandy trout pool.
Trout flies have a pretty cushy existence for much of the year. They lounge around in a padded fly box doing pretty much nothing. Come fishing season a few of them actually get to fly, and swim, although clinch-knotted to the skinny end of a fly line. And in those moments of airborne or watery freedom they sometimes attempt to leave the easy life and strike out on their own. They might grab onto an overhead tree branch, or a sunken log, or hitch a ride on the jaw of a tippet-snapping trout and light out for the territory. The other day I was casting a soft-hackle brassie that seemed powerfully attracted to the budding branches of the swamp maples near the riverbank.
These would-be escapees always seek branches just beyond the reach of the land-based angler who is then forced to pull on the line until the fly gives up its grip and flings itself back into the angler’s face or until the 5X tippet snaps.
I have a very nearly unblemished record of hitting the stream at the right place but the wrong day. The anglers I encountered on the Georges told me that, no, they hadn’t caught any trout today but that two, three or four days ago they landed two, three or four brown trout in the 18-to-20-inch range — brood stock that the State releases into the river each spring after serving as sex workers in the hatchery. Nonetheless, between encounters with swamp maples, equipment glitches and embarrassingly inept casting I managed to land my first fish of the season, a healthy and handsome brown trout. Since then heavy spring rains have blown out the streams. When the raging waters subside I’ll go back and give a few other flies a shot at fish and/or freedom.