Hidden Gems: Wild Trout

February 28, 2009
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'There's one,' I said to myself as I quietly crept down the wet, steep banks of a small wild trout stream flowing through New York and Connecticut. The brown's location was betrayed when he flashed his side after grabbing a nymph under an overhanging branch. I didn't want to blow this opportunity so I crawled on my knees along the snow covered fern lined banks. The current was moderate as the trout held up right behind a logjam with a branch jutting out horizontally diverting the flow. The canopy provided cover from the hot sun on the winter day. I slowly positioned myself to make a down and across cast where I would skate a piece of feathers and deer hair, some would call a Muddler Minnow, over his head. First cast, no dice. Then, after the Muddler seems as if it will cross the trout's nose with little acknowledgment, he quickly turns and in a swift maneuver he grabs the fly and darts down. A beauty is hooked!

We pull up in an out of place SUV, and quickly rig up. It was an immediate race among us because usually my little brother would run down to the best hole and toss a heavy bugger putting down some of the fish. The car was parked on a snow bank in front of the closed park gates. The park was rarely visited in the winter months even on a nice crisp day. Furthermore, the parking lot would be lucky if it was plowed and the trails were often not cleared. These factors provided a feeling of solitude and enhanced our confidence, as the river probably hadn't been fished in a while.
My family had been coming to this small stream outlet that was part of a long system of streams that were divided by many ponds and reservoirs before dumping into Long Island Sound. This section that we arrived at has been stocked for a number of years, but all the stocking takes place within the parks boundaries and the lower sections of the stream are inhabited by natives browns and lake run browns. Every fall the stream sees a migration of large trout into the small stream that provides exceptional spawning habitat. I have seen and heard of many large trout stories including the one of my grandpa's 26-inch hog. He was working his way up from the reservoir and six or seven pools up from the lake he encountered a large trout that was distinctively old by his size and battle scars. The fish was reluctant to take so he after a number of casts right on his nose he finally got pissed and grabbed it with aggression. The stream is unique from others because it combines the tail-water attributes of some larger blue ribbon trout rivers with that of small mountain streams that flow into large lakes. These qualities allow the trout to consistently feed through winter and they have no problem chasing a streamer.

Myself, my two brothers and my Dad start the long walk down to the lake in about a foot of snow along the uncleared trail. The trees were heavy with snow and rain. The snow gave the resident deer little cover and we easily spotted them before the darted over the old Indian Reservation Stone Wall. The trek down to the mouth of the reservoir was hard and tiring, but was all worth it as we hoped we might strike gold, in the form of precise wild trout.

At last we were finally on the river ready to fish. The stream was a picture perfect place for wild trout. It cascaded down a steep 'Gorge,' hence its nickname, with its banks lined with Rhododendrons and ferns. The stream contained all the makings of a classic trout water, with pocket water, plunge pools, deep runs, and many logjams. The four of us began making our way up the stream leap froging each other as we tossed our various buggers and hair wings. I was using one of my custom patterns for that river known as the 'Dakota's Trout Seaducer.' It is a small heavily hackled seaducer with a marabou tail that pushes a wake on the surface and really gets the trout attention. After, working our way up river for about an hour and half, catching a few small trout here and there, we were finally close to the preserve that we started at. Here I was, along the stream bank admiring a beautiful trout take nymphs as his glimmering sides flashed through the water. I already had a Muddler on so I proceeded to skate it down and across the trout's nose trying to antagonize him into eating. On the second cast, the Muddler brought out a response where the trout turned and whacked the fly on the surface. As I worked the trout over on light tippet to the shallow gravelly bank, his big black spots seemed to be glowing. He had a certain spunk that was only displayed in wild trout. A beautiful little specimen that was a symbol showing hundreds of years surviving through the seasons and against the odds.

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