I approached a slow shallow section of creek laden with what could have been hundreds, literally hundreds of brook trout, from upstream as I hiked my foot prints back downstream from where I’d came. I passed this slow section of water on my way about an hour and a half prior. With one or two half-assed casts I passed it up and continued hiking upstream most likely because the previous hour and a half had resulted in little to nothing other than spending my time outside away from cell phone reception. As I arrogantly hiked through the snow up past the long slow section of creek that couldn’t have been more than two feet deep I watched the white fins I had been searching for dart every which direction. I just blew the best chance I had seen of catching a heritage strain brook trout.
So I took note of the main seam and it’s relative location to the two large boulders on the opposite side of the creek and then continued on my way. I thought to myself maybe, just maybe I could dredge one of those scared brookies up on my hike back down stream. I’ve gotten myself in hot water with my wife plenty of times because I couldn’t turn around, just had to see what that next bend looked like or if the sacred honey hole I’m always searching for is just a bit further upstream. My obsession with seeing everything a creek has to offer is exacerbated when the stretch of creek I’m on is the headwaters of a stream that contains nothing but native brook trout. It’s later in the day by this point and the grade on the creek has begun to kick up. The water, faster now with few if any locations where even a handful of small fish could hide. My gut was telling me that I was looking at the first skunk of the year all because I underestimated that slow shallow section of creek.
Looking as far upstream as I could I saw a single tree near the bank, it appeared the riffles stopped and the water flattened out. My need to see every inch of water took over and I continued hiking. The sun that I had started the day with now replaced with grey skies and a biting wind. Hearing the forecasted warmer weather earlier in the day I thought this might be one of my last chances to fish in snow this year and I’d better make the best of it. I got to the tree and smiled knowing that without peering in the spot was packed with small colorful fish eager to hit my fly. The irony of nature had once again shown itself, the reason this spot was full of fish was the same reason it would be nearly impossible for me to catch any. The tree, dangled down low over the water. I couldn’t make out the small branches obstructing my cast from far downstream but as I approached it became almost comical that I came all this way to find the scene infront of me. This didn’t phase me, didn’t stop me one bit, no guts…no brook trout. I made four decent casts and managed to get one fish to turn but it snubbed me at the last second. Shortly after I wrapped my fly around several small branches and knowing the likelihood of making anything happen I resigned to save my fly. I looked in to see what looked like a single massive ball of small brookies, the biggest maybe five inches long, it made me wonder where the adults were hiding.
So further I hiked and saw two more locations where I thought a fish might hide and I was right, they were there, hundreds of 3-4inch brook trout none of which was large enough to get my #8 streamer in it’s mouth although several tried. Sure I could have stuck on a #18 pink squirrel and caught any number of those trout but I wasn’t here for that. I wanted one nice beautiful brookie, thats all. I hiked until the water turned into watercress and the stream effectively disappeared, end of the line. What a cool place, how many times have you stood where one of our creeks begins? I watched a half dozen turkeys eye me from across the creek, I smiled. Pictures, that’s what I was going to get from the day aside from
the exercise of hiking a couple miles one way to watch a few turkeys watch me but I wouldn’t have changed anything, except maybe the initial approach to the spot that held the best chance of a brookie and so the hike back began.
I busted out my macro lens which I never use and was more expensive than my camera itself on the way back. I have been waiting for BWO’s and bought this lens specifically for the mayflies of spring. Hopefully I’ll get a few decent images in the coming months. As I hiked downstream past the handful of locations with all those little brook trout darting as fast as they could I paused, the silence of such a scene. Hundreds of these fish are moving as fast as they can in all directions and not a sound is made. I continued following my tracks back the way I came when I approached the slow section, the spot I so eagerly passed up earlier. This time I was upstream looking down and I knew the seam, knew where the fish were and then I proceeded to do everything the exact opposite I would have told anyone else to do. Blinded by the prospect of the fish I’d been waiting for, I started slinging line, more and more and more until the wind took it and turned it into a knotted mess. It was at this point that I stopped and re-evaluated. I could have and almost did, cut my line and hiked out. I got to be outside for several hours and frankly just seeing those fish was worth it but instead I stood there for the next ten minutes and untangled the mess and when I finished my hands were as cold as they’ve ever been. Resolved to make one last attempt despite the fact that I most likely blew this spot for a second time I slowed down and took aim. A minute later stripping my fly slowly upstream the first one hit and everything was good. The most brightly colored fish I’ve seen in a long time was at my feet in moments. Not huge but not small, I couldn’t have been more pleased. My hands now covered in trout slime were getting colder. I didn’t stop, went back four more times for more brookies each one just as gorgeous as the one prior and my hands just kept getting colder. Called it a day after that and hiked out. If this is how the winter season ends for me then I went out on top this year.