Fishing Little Brooks

by Fly Fisherman

THE AUTHORITATIVE angler who drops his fly on the Esopus, the Beaverkill or the Ausables in New York, the Penobscot in Maine, the Mad in New Hampshire, the Pere Marquette or the Jordan in Michigan, the Brule or the St. Croix in Wisconsin, the Brodhead in Pennsylvania, the Housatonic in Connecticut, the White or the Ompompanoosuc in Vermont, the Gunnison in Colorado, the Skokomish in Washington, the Snake, Salmon or Silver in Idaho, the McKenzie or Metolius in Oregon, the Owens, Feather or McCloud in California or the Little Colorado in Arizona, may and most often times does doff his fly draped hat to the blue jeaned youth who, with his cut pole, his earthworm or dap fly, snakes his silent way along the brush topped and meadow meandering baby “cricks” and takes his mess of eatin’ trout when he chooses, while foreigners to his water come up with but a brace of eight inchers or fail miserably.

These tiny lotic rivulets, many just capillaries to the well-known arterial trout streams over the country, were and are
the schooling grounds of many of our millions of trout anglers. And of these millions a great majority seldom or never have the adventure of feeling the surging throb or experiencing the flashing struggle of trout in the well publicized streams. Many dream of the day or resolve that they will shape their future so that they will taste the thrill of wading or coursing the banks of those waters little realizing that they, when they like, are on the home base of the true sportsman, the land of the little brooks so imbedded in the nostalgic memory of most of us.

I recall a small stream, tightly fringed with jealous brush, guarding shadowed pools, carpeted with fontinalis moss, no larger than a dish pan and where the few open areas were choked with crisp, bitter-sweet water cress, where miniature rapids boiled over diatomic, varnished pebbles and gurgling riffles charged into undercut banks, where pocket holes of mysterious dark water swirled under sunken dead falls. Some sections of this run were hardly wide enough to dip a bucket of water. This was the headwaters of the Boyne, located in a lumbered-over district of Northern Michigan, but the description, with few alterations, pictures literally thousands of similar flows and feeder streams across the country.

Alike, yes, but no two ever were identical. Every turn in their course is a mysterious promise even to those who claim familiarity. In the lower lands these streams just move happily along and in the hills and mountain areas we add more boulders and the water roars with laughter as it races down slopes or leaps from rocky
steps to rocky steps and hailing pools. This gentle, diminutive brook, I remember, was where my cousin Eddie and I cut our incisors on trouting and where we learned, nearly always, to garner a few keepers to take home and show. On rare occasions we met another angler, usually a grown up (14 years of age or older), from whom we may or may not have secured a bit of trout lore. I recall one instance when a kindly fisherman told us of a whopper that made a certain undercut bank pocket his home. He related that he had had him on a couple times before but he couldn’t interest him this trip. How could he when Eddie had him safely buried in damp moss in his basket?

He was all of eleven inches in length and we sagely kept still about it. Eddie had seduced him with a dapped Montreal fly.
Whether these little brooks are headed for larger waters in the White, Green or Berkshire mountains in upper New England, the Adirondack or Catskills, the Alleghanies, Blue Ridge, the Smokies, the Cumberlands or the Ozarks, the Canadian border states or in the Rockies, the methods of fishing them vary only slightly. Whether it’s a barefooted youthful nomad or a renowned surgeon seeking relaxation or the village plumber stealing a couple hours between jobs, they must, if they wish a modicum of success, pretty generally follow a few natural rules, augmented with their own secret formulas. The fishing procedures and methods, too, are quite a stretch from the customary and repeatedly quoted designs for working the larger streams. The fish in these larger streams may, as a rule, run to more length and weight but certainly are no more wary or wiser than the habitants of the little streams. Emphatically, no less skill is demanded in inducing the smaller stream trout to partake of your offering and in many cases the effort needed to place your lure, in the best way, where it might do the most good. is a most discouraging process. These tiny creek trout have to hustle to satisfy their hunger but the environment with even fewer visitors tends to emphasize their self-preservation instinct.
Whether the angler is a fly tosser, a worm chunkcr, a salmon egg or cheese soaker or a “hardware” devotee, weaving the lure through a snarl of brush to reach a presentation point is no job for a nervous individual. The successful fisherman of the little brooks must copy the stealth of an Algonquin, develop the monumental patience of nature itself, have the energy of an ambitious ant and the curiosity of a detective. Possessed with these traits in more than average abundance all he then needs is the perseverance of a spider trying to build a web bridge from table to phone in the home of a feminine teenager, and a studious obsession to learn the water he is fishing. From there on it’s merely a natural skill and some experience.

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