Here’s another favorite column, written a few years after we bought our camp.
As I cast a Brown Wulff to a Sourdahunk Lake brook trout that had risen about 40 feet from the boat, I was startled by a shout from young Joshua at the other end of the boat.
“I got him!” he exclaimed. The water about six feet in front of me erupted as Josh’s brookie fought to separate himself from my son’s Hornberg. Josh had spotted the trout’s rise right beside the boat while my eyes were looking much further out, and he had carefully dropped his own fly into the middle of the ring.
The fish struck immediately and Josh professionally set the hook. Up went his rod just as we had practiced, and the battle was on. Keeping a tight line, Josh played the fish well, bringing it in quickly so as not to tire it needlessly if we decided to release it.
But I took one look at that brookie boatside and knew it was a keeper. Josh has released his share of fish and he deserved this one. I dropped it out of the net into the bottom of the boat and almost in unison our two voices said, “Wow, what a fish!”
It was Josh’s biggest fish to date, a colorful and fat 13-inch brook trout. It perfectly matched a fish I’d caught earlier that evening, and we limited our catch to those two fish, releasing the rest that evening.
If there’s a bigger thrill for a 12-year-old than casting a dry fly and catching a hefty 13-inch native brook trout in the shadow of Mount Katahdin, I guess I don’t know what it is. Heck, it’s a pretty big thrill for me, watching my son working that rod and bringing in that trout.
I’m doubly blessed because my 9-year-old daughter is an avid angler too. Earlier that week, Hilary joined Josh in a small boat they paddle around a nearby beaver pond. Josh fashioned a rod for her from a nearby alder branch and attached about six feet of thread to it, at the end of which he tied on a small dry fly, part of his collection of old flies that his grandfather purchased for him at a yard sale.
Hilary didn’t hook any trout in the pond with that rod, but she hooked herself on fly fishing. After that, I couldn’t keep her out of the boat! And she adored her alder branch rod.
A day later we traveled to a nearby brook with our respective fly rods. We scampered from the Baxter Park perimeter road down a steep bank to the brook’s edge where I waded the stream carrying Hilary on my back to the other side.
Eventually I placed her, still fishing her alder branch with thread and dry fly, in the middle of the brook, perched on a downed tree, so she could fish a deep hole that I was certain held some trout.
She began getting strikes immediately and fished intently for over an hour, trying to hook those tiny trout, none of which go more than 6 inches. She never hooked one, but she got more strikes with that foolish alder branch than I did with my $150 LL Bean fly rod.
Later that week, Josh and I fished the evening Mayfly hatch in a stiff wind, very few trout rising, and even fewer taking an interest in our dry flies. I tried a parcel of flies from grasshopper imitations to the ever-faithful Brown Wulff, with no luck.
Shortly before dark, Josh cast his Hornberg about 15 feet toward shore, watched it ride on the waves for about a minute, keeping his line tight. Smash! A trout pounded his fly and he brought the rod up to set the hook, cool and calm.
It was a handsome 12-inch trout and we kept it, our only fish of the night. After I continued to cast for about 20 minutes, frustrated with my own lack of action, I looked at Josh and he said, very seriously, “Dad, why don’t you try my rod. I’ve got all the fish I want.”
Boy, talk about being humbled. I thanked him, thanked God for him, and told him to keep fishing. We both had all the fish we wanted.
On the Fourth of July, the Smith family enjoyed a feast of three poached trout, two of which were contributed by the 12-year-old. I can’t remember a finer meal and it had nothing to do with the food.