Trout Fishing in the Wilds
My lovely bride and I had acquired a recreational property in the wild woods west of Wellsboro, our home. We hadn’t yet decided what to call it. “Camp” was what it was intended to be, but it was much finer than the many hunting and fishing camps I had visited. Calling it a cabin or a hut was certainly beneath the dignity of the place. Labeling it a lodge or cottage seemed a bit audacious for the quaint quarters. The place had been home to a farming family for generations. It was a 1930s vintage abode shipped from Sears and Roebuck. In the end, our down-to-earth better natures settled on “camp.” We had been slowly moving furniture, kitchenware, and bedding into camp. I had transferred much of my fishing gear, as well. Trout water owed behind the camp.
The spring rains had continued in monsoon proportions well into May, raising the waters and encouraging grass to grow. In a break from mowing more than two acres around the camp, Maggie and I coaxed the beagle into the truck, loaded rod and reel, and headed downstream. We had been too busy with the realty transfer, camp prep, and other duties. I had yet to wet a line in pursuit of trout. And it was the middle of May!
These wild waters were foreign to me, but they had been featured many times in angling and outdoor magazines. I had no idea where there might be a good spot to drop a line. Mostly, I was exploring...checking the stream where I could. The truck chugged slowly along. The beagle had her head out the window and her tongue flapped in the breeze, dripping drool to the bed of the truck. I started to see great trout water and, just like the dog, I started to drool. Maggie said, “Pull over wherever you want. I know you want to fish. I’ll walk along with you.” I really didn’t need her encouragement. I began looking for a potential parking place.
I noted a nice camp across the stream. “There must be a bridge span over the crick,” I muttered. A driveway appeared, and I cut the sharp turn into it. Down the steep hill...out of sight of the road...stood the small bridge. Once it was in sight, I noticed that it was barred and locked. I groaned. There was a sign on the bridge, and I read it aloud to Maggie, “Fishing okay.” Just two simple words. An invitation. I slammed the truck into park, swung open my door, jumped out, assembled my rod, and approached the bridge. There was a time when I would have climbed over the barrier and crossed the bridge to get the best position. I’m a little long in the tooth for such action these days. I’d have to fish from a poor angle. The good thing was, the water was spring-high with good flow. Recent rains had stained it slightly. Perfect conditions.
On first cast, I had a hit. I set the hook and briefly felt a fish before I jerked the hook out of its mouth. My second cast also yielded a strong bite. I waited a little longer and tugged gently. I had a fish on. I could feel that it was a big fish. As I reeled it near the bank, my eyes popped. This was a trophy trout. I could see that it was an aged brown trout with yellowing belly sporting bright red spots a quarter-inch in size. This was the biggest brownie I had ever hooked.
From the other side, I might have been able to play the trout and slide it up the gently sloping bank. From where I stood, the only possible landing of the lunker was straight up, dangling through eight feet of air. Maybe I could slide down the bank and use a net. I yelled to Maggie, “Bring me the net.” I kept the line tight and played the trout, knowing that every second of struggle placed the odds more in my favor. “Darn it! Where’s the net?” My lovely companion shouted back that she couldn’t find it. “I know the net is in the truck,” I growled. “Here! You hold the rod while I look. Don’t do anything other than hold the rod.” After emptying the bed of the truck, I tore the interior apart. The beagle escaped and, frightened by my tone of voice, skittered to Maggie’s side. Then, I realized that my net was hanging on a hook...at camp.
I calmed down and walked to the rod, taking control. “I’ll probably lose the biggest trout I’ve ever had hooked, but I have to lift him up.” Wonder of wonders, I was able to swing the monster to hand. I ran my small rule along the trout, nose to tail and read aloud, “He’s twenty-five inches! Good God! Look at his big belly.” The beagle stood on her hind legs to sniff and check the size, too.
I handed the rod to Maggie. “Well, there might not be much chance to get another one, but see what you can do.” I pointed to the right spot and said, “Cast over there and let the current carry your hook under the bridge.” She did. The rod tip bounced. She jerked. The struggle was on.
My bride also had a huge trout hooked. It was a test of my self-control, but I was able to coach and coax her until she hoisted the big brownie to hand. We were both shaking.
Two trophies in two casts raises the blood pressure a bit. I cast again and hooked and landed a so-so seventeen-inch trout. I was thinking that he would’ve been a braggin’ fish on Pine Creek. As I handed the rod to Maggie, I said, “We’re eatin’ these for supper. Fried trout.” She cast and hooked another. I knew at that moment that, as long as we live, we will never have another fishing experience to match this. I said to Maggie, “Let’s enjoy these minutes...burn ’em into our memory.” She hoisted a foot-long to me. I took the rod, cast, and hooked another nice one. At the hoist to hand, the leader snapped. And just like that, it was over.
“That’s enough for one day.” We reflected a while, staying in the moment, staring at the water. “Let’s get back to camp and have trout supper.”
She simply whispered, “Okay.”