Dave Micus, Plum Island Sound

May 16th, 2005

100 Trout
By Dave Micus

A continual refrain of mine, being a salt water snob, is "I have never caught 40+ fish when trout fishing, but I've done that so many times with striped bass that I've lost count" yada yada yada. I say this in a condescending way, implying that there are only two types of fly fishers: those who fish the salt and those who wished they fished the salt. But now I can no longer be so smug, as a recent trouting trip in Northern New England has made a liar of me.

It all began with a late Friday night phone call from my good friend Dick Brisbois. Dick is a retired Massachusetts state trooper who lived in a neighboring town but moved to the White Mountains when he hung up the gun and badge a few years back. In his later years with the state police he was a crime scene investigator, and bearing witness to just how bad things can be has made him appreciate the outdoors and, especially, fishing, all the more.

"You need to come up," he said in a low, conspiratorial way, as if my phone was tapped. "The ice is off the pond and the trout are hungry. I got 21 this morning in less than an hour."

Incredibly, I didn't instantly agree. Catching small fish with small rods doesn't interest me (until I do it), and I had yard work hanging over my head. I hemmed and hawed, and I think that, not having fished since November, I was like a bear just out of hibernation, lethargic from a long, inactive winter, but I finally agreed to meet him on Sunday morning. Thank you, fish gods, for bringing me to my senses.

I'm not able to say where we fished, because if I told you I'd have to kill you. Actually, if I told you Dick would kill me. But suffice it to say it is a Northern New England State with a very progressive fish and game department that allowed me to purchase and print my out-of-state license on line. In my home state of Massachusetts there is not only a delay in purchasing on-line, but a surcharge for doing so. The nickname "Taxachusetts" is well deserved.

I left my house at 5 am, keeping well within the speed limit for the entire three hour drive, mindful of my last fishing excursion up this way when I was stopped by a cop for speeding.

"Do you know how fast you were going?" he asked.

"65?" I lied.

"75" he corrected me. "Do you know what the speed limit is?" he asked.

"65?" I lied again.

"50," he corrected me again. "Let me see your license and registration."

Usually in this situation I'd give my most sincere I'magoodtaxpayingcitizenyoureallydon'twanttohassleme look, but, exceeding the speed limit by 50%, I didn't have the nerve.

"I'm going on a fishing trip," I explained. "I guess I was a little overanxious."

He took my license and registration back to the cruiser, and a short while latter returned and handed me my papers along with...a warning!

"Slow it down," he said. "The fish will wait for you," and since then I really don't speed any more. Well, maybe just a little.

I met Dick and we were on the water by 8. We launched his John boat, paddled about 30 yards from shore, rigged up and began casting. It didn't take long before we were both on to fish. I'm used to fishing the salt, and the first thing I need to do when trout fishing is to forget everything I know about the brine. This takes time, and I'll usually double haul a few 60-foot casts into trees on the other side of a 30 ft. stream, use the water to load the rod on the false cast and scare every trout within 50 yards, and set the hook so hard as to sentence an 8-inch brookie to death by hanging in a tree behind me before I settle into the Zen of trout fishing. But, having fished neither fresh nor salt for six months, I didn't immediately lapse into bad saltwater habits and was quite pleased with my little used freshwater streamcraft.

Until, that is, Dick observed that I was ahead of him by two fish, which was all I needed. There is nothing like a little friendly competition to bring out my spirited nature, and I began fishing with a purpose--casting flies into trees, snagging deadfalls, throwing tailing loops, and at one point macraméd my leader into such a bird's nest that I had to reel in and just cut it off. Dick is the quintessential gentleman fly fisher, and, seeing the state I was in, announced "I'm going to take a little break," and, so saying, reeled in and relaxed to give me the opportunity to fix my line, catch a few fish, and calm down.

There had been rain a few days before, and the trout, drawn to flowing water, had gathered at the mouth of a small dam on the south side of the pond. Gathered is too weak a word; they were stacked like cord wood. I noticed rises in the pool above the dam; Dick, more observant than I, had already quietly raised the anchor and began to softly paddle over.

We hooked fish on almost every cast, spotted brook trout, each between nine and twelve inches, each a beautiful example of nature's artistry. Dick was fishing a dry fly that was soon a wet fly; I was fishing a hare's ear with a hand twist retrieve. The brookies showed no preference, hammering our flies with greedy abandon. Four worm dunkers, noticing our luck, moved on shore toward the dam. They crowded us a bit, caught a few, but this was one of those wonderful days where the fly out fished live bait and we were able to enjoy both the quality and the quantity of the fly fishing experience.

I caught 70 trout and quit counting (and then caught 30 more). Dick always out fishes me, and his numbers were even higher. Having been on the water for about five hours, with no end to the action in sight, we decided, that, already crossing the line toward the deadly sin of gluttony, we'd call it a day (if only I could control sloth and lust...).

And now I smugly say "I've never caught 100 fish when striped bass fishing, but....." ~ Dave

About Dave:

Dave Micus lives in Ipswich, Massachusetts. He is an avid striped bass fly fisherman, writer and instructor. He writes a fly fishing column for the Port City Planet newspaper of Newburyport, MA (home of Plum Island and Joppa Flats) and teaches a fly fishing course at Boston University.


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