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Mountain Home Magazine

Baiting Brook Trout

Apr 01, 2023 09:00AM ● By Don Knaus

Last May, I promised a friend a brook trout trip, and I guaranteed that said pal would catch a beauty. Summer passed—almost. Coming onto September we faced the last legal days for brookies. I called and said, “We’ve only got two days left. We need to go.” Friend was too busy to go. I stomped around the house whining. I told my lovely bride, Maggie, the fishing trip I had so wanted was out. Damn!

She suggested that I go alone. “I don’t want to go alone,” I moaned. “I want to catch some brookies and share the experience. You probably wouldn’t want to go, and surely you wouldn’t fish. I want to have a nice day in the back woods, check the water, and watch someone catch a brookie.”

She smiled. “Okay, I’ll go. We’ll make a nice day of it.”

“Will you catch a brookie if I coach ’ya?”

“Okay, I’ll catch a fish.” And, after packing some food and drinks and loading the chubby beagle into the back seat, we were off. The stash of trout worms that had resided in our refrigerator since April had simply disappeared. So we stopped at the Tackle Shack to buy worms, and I aimed my truck toward Ansonia.

I was thinking of Four Mile Run but changed my mind and drove up another favorite brookie stream. I stopped at a sure catch spot and walked to the stream. Maggie fed a treat to the beagle and opened her romance novel. I was shocked that the run was just a trickle. I could see no possible brookie lairs. It was disheartening. It truly had been a long, dry summer.

We continued up the run and stopped at my “guaranteed to produce a brook trout” hole. I got out and begged Maggie to join me. Baited up, I handed her the rod. I coaxed, “Just swing the worm out and when it swings back, drop it.” She did, and the rod tip bent instantly. Mimicking my dad, I yelled, “Put the iron to him. Haul his ass out.” She hoisted the trout out of the hole and over to me.

I was shocked at the size. I exclaimed, “Let’s get the rule and measure it. My God, he’s beautiful. Look at the colors—the orange, the red, the blue dots.” I took out the steel tape my dad used when he was fish warden. “God, Mag, you caught an eleven-inch brookie! Look at it!” She looked and agreed to the size. “Under normal conditions, he’d be bigger. And he’d have a bulging belly.”

She handed me the rod and said, “Now, it’s your turn.” I mentioned that I rarely caught two out of the hole, but I’d give it a try. Again, almost as soon as the worm hit the water, I had another brookie. It was beautiful and big. It measured nine and a half inches. Unbelievable!

My lovely bride urged, “Try it again.” I replied that it was her turn. She said, “I told you I’d catch a trout. I did. Now try again.” I was quite reluctant. Two trout from any hole was an infrequent event. Three was impossible. But, I dropped the bait. Wham! I lifted another colorful trout that measured ten inches. I couldn’t believe the luck. Then it hit me. This hole may well have been the only spot on the run with enough water to hold trout. So I tried again. My third fish out of the hole was just nine and a half inches. Then, I hooked his granddaddy. That trout was heavy. When he finally broke water, my rod jerked up and tangled in a tree limb. “Mister Monster” wriggled and wriggled. I prayed that I could get out of the leaves and limbs and land him. He plopped back to the water. My heart sank. Maggie sighed, “Oh...he was a nice one—the biggest yet.” After a pause, she added, “Too bad you got hung up on that tree. That’s what I usually do. Try again.”

Now five brook trout out of one hole just isn’t done. It isn’t possible. I stood staring into the hole. I was replaying the loss of the biggest brookie I would have caught in many years—maybe ever. Maggie softly suggested, “Maybe that big one will bite again.” Well, I knew that was never going to happen, but to placate her, I tossed in again.

I know you’re thinking that “Mister Monster” returned, I landed him, and lived happily ever after. If you’re thinking that, you don’t know squat about brook trout. Their motto is, “Once pricked, forever shy.” But I did land another nice trout, just a nine-incher, smallest of the five.

I tried again to no avail. Frankly, I worried that if I caught my fifth trout, and with Maggie’s one-trout philosophy, the trip would be over. We drove on and hit Four Mile Run. So much of Four Mile is a steep struggle down, and previous fishermen have turned any access points to slick sliding. At age seventy-seven and remembering the fall last winter that broke my leg, I was reluctant to try. I did carefully drop down once to a hole I just couldn’t resist. I caught two small brookies and released them. Silly me, I had negotiated the steep bank with just my rod and the one worm on the hook. I reluctantly returned to the truck to rebait.

I turned toward other waters passing miles of drought-dry streams and mere trickles. After miles, I spotted a beaver dam. Maggie persuaded me to try. Beavers had backed up water three feet deep. I instantly hooked an eight-and-a-half-inch brookie, ending my day. I called. Maggie walked to the pond, the beagle, Annie, trailing. She cast and cast. Apparently, I had caught the only trout in the pond.

I wanted to head over the mountain to Bear Run. Maggie always caught two brookies at the bridge. She couldn’t possibly pass that up, could she? I asked, “Which way?” She asked, “Which way is home?”

After supper, I “borrowed” from Lewis Carroll’s The Walrus and the Carpenter.

O Trout,’ said the Fishermen,
You’ve had a pleasant run!
Shall we be trotting home again?’
But answer came there none—
And this was scarcely odd, because
We’d eaten every one.

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