A Letter from Brook Trout Camp

A Letter from Brook Trout Camp

Aweek after the fact, I am still thinking about the drive to the stream and the side stop to get doughnuts at a local convenience store.  Dad and I fished hard for a couple days right around the anniversary of Grandma Rikala’s funeral.  It had been a yearly tradition to visit around this time of year as I had plenty of history to draw on to be in the city around my birthday.

But times change with the passing of time just like watching the stream curl around rocks and continue on its course down to what grandpa always referred to as “the big lake.”  As I witness time slowly marching by, I notice the changes, however small, that come with it.  The stream where dad and I fish is relatively unchanged.  There is a lot of chatter of climate effects and large shopping malls contributing to the detriment of the stream, but the creek still continues to flow even after the many centuries it has been around.  Hot summers and recent drought conditions certainly have had their effect. 

The fishing remains solid.  The only difference there is I am learning to better read the stream through experience and experimentation.  I’ve read or heard somewhere, where you pull out fish from one hole, the void will soon be filled by another.  I find this is true as some of my favorite holes contain a predictable supply of fish.  Even my secret hole, you can expect to pull out your better than average sized trout.  Last year, it produced around a 12 incher.  This year, that same hole I lost as least three keeper sized fish.  I caught and released one keeper and offered it as my “first fruits” to the Lord.  That one may eventually become one of tomorrow’s twelve.

By the time we reached midday on day one, I had caught and released five.  Dad fished the lower part and by the time we met up I had expected him to have five keepers and five that he released, but as it turned out, Dad had caught and released three six inchers.  After I let go the nine or ten inch fish, the only other fish I had caught were in the six inch range.  I was wondering if this was going to be the theme for the rest of the day.

I was actually pretty surprised we landed eight as I was sure fishing was going to be slow as the stream probably was about a half of the level I usually see it.  When we got down to the stream, I saw a small flow of water with plenty of rocks.  You could see where the level usually is by the level of the moss and slime that covers the stones on better days.  These had been bleached white.  On the other hand, it made for non-stressful walking as you didn’t really have to worry slipping and landing hard on the usually slick rocks where you need to exercise extreme care while negotiating from one spot to another.

But, there is nothing that can compare to the peace and serenity that comes from being in the coolness of the stream and smelling the freshness of the stream mist.  I would have been happy just to get a couple of bites and just leisurely fished all day.  I did change tactics somewhat and steadily fished fast moving stretches that emptied out into deeper holes.  I didn’t really care if they weren’t biting.  I just let the worm drift in the current and let it rest there and repeated the process.  Occasionally, I would cast over my shoulder into some of the faster water flowing behind me, and that would often trigger a strike.

By mid-afternoon, bait supply exhausted, I slowly walked back up stream to find dad.  I had landed three more fish after we took our snack break.  One of those was a scrappy native brook trout with brilliant coloring.  I quickly released that one.  When I met Dad, he had also had some luck, landing three more including the day’s second keeper which we ended up taking home.

The first day we had caught fourteen fish.  I think that was a Brook Trout Camp record.  There still was a day to go with hot weather and storms forecast for the following day. 

It rained during the night.  I had hoped it would make a difference in the level of the stream.  We woke up to a beautiful morning with blue skies and a refreshing 61 degrees.  I expected the winds to switch to the southwest to raise the air temperatures another twenty degrees in the next hour or two.  We were fortunate that the tall trees kept the hot air above us as I enjoyed the coolness of the lower reaches in elevation while fending off mosquitos and gnats and hoping that our luck would continue on day two.

When we arrived, there was another car already there.  The place we go is very rarely fished, so it was somewhat a surprise to see we had company.  As we walked down the stream bank, we arrived to the shaded quiet gurgle of the stream.  Yes, it did look like last night’s rain did increase the water flow so that was a welcome sight.  Unfortunately, it also helped fully lubricate the stones all around the stream bed as walking was very perilous at best.

With a higher stream, it provides additional challenges of trying to locate fish.  When the stream is low, it is pretty easy to zero in on really the only places the fish could be.  I didn’t have much success for the first half hour or so.  Dad made his way further down the stream while I fished the upper reaches. 

I zeroed in on finding my favorite “go to” hole.  I didn’t waste much time making my way down to where I knew it was.  I was just quite content to hang around there most of the morning and enjoy the solitude of nature and the last day of our fishing camp.  Up to that point, I didn’t have any luck.  We arrived around 7:30 am so the stream was still waking up when we arrived and the water was shaded and dark.  You couldn’t tell if the water you were casting into was a couple feet deep or a couple inches deep.

After I arrived to my money hole, I had casted a dozen or so times when I felt a couple taps on my line.  I raised my pole and splashing on the top of the water was a beautiful thick brook trout.  My two piece rod came apart at the same time through all of the commotion.  I quickly tried to piece it together and the line went slack.  After I got the pole rejoined, the fish was gone.  So was my worm.  Ol’ reliable came through again, but that would be all the action that I would have at the pool on this day.  I reluctantly decided to move further downstream.

It wasn’t long until I landed my first trout of the day a couple pools later.  It was a pretty six-incher.  I quickly released it.  By now, the winds were starting to pick up and the breath of the warmer air would occasionally gust through the swaying trees and be felt in the coolness of the stream’s shade.

Dad and I met up shortly after I arrived at my last fishing hole around mid-morning.  I had deeply hooked my second fish of the day a keeper sized trout.  I saved that one for a future meal.  Dad was doing a bit better, having landed three, including another nice keeper that he gave me to add to my stringer.  We agreed to fish for another twenty minutes as Dad wanted to fish the slow pool he had caught his larger trout from the day before.  It wasn’t long after he left that the stream water became cloudy and swelled from the rains that we received that night before.

It went from a lazy bubbling brook to a quite a fast moving stream in a matter of minutes.  Dad always said he like to fish after a hard rain when the river swells.  That seems to bring out the larger fish, he said.  The effect of the rising water seemed to have that effect, as I almost immediately caught another small six incher shortly after the water rose after having zero action for the previous half-hour.  I could only image what luck Dad must have been having at this point.

We only got to fish for a short time under these conditions before it was time to call it a day.  As I walked up the path to meet Dad, I knew we had caught the same amount at least since the last time I had checked in with him.  I did see him standing on the other bank and saw he had a small one on.  It was hooked pretty deeply so he ended up releasing the fish after he cut the line.  The fish at least had a chance of the hook rusting out, but that was the only one he had caught.

All in all, we landed over twenty fish over the two day camp.  Dad still leads in the total fish department.  Hopefully we can pick up again in the fall, but life is sort of a day to day thing.  Like the passing of time and watching a piece of birch bark floating down stream with the current to some unknown destination, we don’t know what tomorrow will bring.  I long to return to the stream and will continue to cherish the memories from our latest Brook Trout Camp.

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