Story By Tim Smyth
It was at a family gathering almost twenty years ago when a distant cousin of mine tipped me off on a nearby creek that was producing 16 inch brook Trout. This man was known to be a bit of a prankster and for all I knew he was sending me to a creek chub haven on a wild goose chase. Still, there was a glint of sincerity in his eyes. 16 inch brook Trout are no joking matter after all. Two evenings later I made the short trip to this stream with a friend of mine. A short distance from the road the current slowed and the small creek seemed to lack any real trout like characteristics. I had a feeling I was in for a mess of shiners at best. Eventually the stream narrowed a bit, etching and carving it’s way through soft soil and hawthorn bush. There were finally some deep undercuts and pockets, indicative of midsummer trout haunts.
I came across an old dismantled beaver dam, the remains of which were piled high on either side of an acute bend in the river. This was perfect cover for stalking wily trout from. I crept up behind the mess and presented my offering to the outside bank in a high stick fashion. The line stopped, I raised my rod tip and when I saw the results my heart almost stopped. Thrashing to the surface came the biggest trout I had seen to date in a creek setting. An unusually short battle brought to hand an enormous brown Trout. A quick photo in a grassy eddy beside my trusty tape measure revealed it to be 21 inches long. I left that night ecstatic and with a renewed faith in my cousins ability to be serious once in a while.
Since that night I have felt the need to investigate every “trouty” looking piece of water I see. Probing the back roads for new gems is often times worth the bug bites and bush wacking frustrations. Sometimes the quest for permission from land owners is part of the battle, but being curteous enough to ask can butter up the grumpiest of land owners. A few years ago I decided to fish a new creek based on a tip that it held a healthy population of wild rainbows. Upon arrival I immediately went to the closest house on the downstream side of the road to ask for permission to fish their land. The woman in the house was dumbfounded while appreciative. She explained to me that strangers wading past her back window was a common sight, but nobody had asked to do so in years. This is what prompted the land owner on the other side of the road (the good side for fishing) to plaster the front of his property with NO TRESSPASSING signs. The woman I was speaking to called the man and explained that a nice young fly fisherman had actually asked for permission, and after a brief chuckle she hung up the phone and said I was welcome to fish both sides of the road. I was off like a shot, skipping like a school girl back to the truck to gear up. I quickly caught a couple of small brook Trout, and did see two rainbows about 12 inches in length holding in a shallow riffle. It was at this point my hopes started to crumble. As the creek looked better and better, the bush that ran tight to the edge of it got tighter and tighter. Every step was a challenge and a hobby in knitting may have helped me maneuver my rod through the thick cedars a bit easier. To even catch a glimpse of the creek without spooking fish was next to impossible. My blood pressure peaked when the beautiful wooden landing net I had hanging on my back got caught on a tree stump while I was in mid stumble and broke in two pieces. I hung it in a tree as an offering to whatever god was putting me through this and prayed that I had a flask of whiskey in my vest. I did not. I decided to head back through the stream just to see what I might spook in my travels. Football size brook Trout would dart from under sunken logs and rocket down stream leaving a wake that only a fish of knee weakening proportions could leave. I almost shed tears over what could have been if that bloody cedar bush had been just a tad thinner. I will NEVER fish that creek again, but I will always be glad that I checked it out, and just knowing that it exists in all of it’s naturally protected glory warms my heart. Let the trout grow large.
Finding new productive water is rewarding. Spending a day with friends willing to split some gas money, while zig-zagging the country side in search of treasures can almost never be a bad idea. There’s a big difference between fishing water that somebody tells you to, and fishing water because your gut tells you to. There’s the gratification and feeling of ownership over these waters that cause you to protect them as though they were your 16 year old sister at a punk rock concert. You’ll keep these hotspots a secret as though you actually think you’re the only one that currently knows about them.
Between the tips and good old fashioned leg work, you will find a lot of good water as the years roll by. Unfortunately you’ll sometimes notice some of those favourite spots from the past have deteriorated in quality. It makes you wonder if this top secret information leaked to too many people or just a few of the WRONG people. There could be plethora of variables affecting this poor stream, but in the meantime you decide to just leave it alone to heal up for a few years, and hope others do the same. You’ll pull the car over now and then on the way to new water, just to visit the old girl and give your best as though this stream was a relative who’s not well.
Through this trailblazing approach to discovering our waters, we meet other characters who will share our addiction to exploration. Others, who stay up late, staring blankly at topography, planning day trips of efficiency in the search for the next jewel. Others who are content to wade and bush wack all day only to catch a few small brook Trout, just to know that there are in fact brook Trout in there. These are the people you might start to share your hard earned waters with. You’ll trade secrets like they were limited edition hockey cards as you find your way towards a proud collection of blissful places to drift a fly.