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Young Fisherman Frank

First Fish

By Frank Boyd

As I said previously, one of my jobs was to go up on the mountain and chase the cows down in the evening, so that they could come in for the evening milking. Needless to say, I'd tramp around all over the top of that damn mountain and I got to know it pretty well. There was a big brook down on the far side, it ran along the lower meadows and I guess if I remember correctly, it wondered it's way down and finally hooked up with the Ottoquechee River. I think that was before the river went through the gorge, but I'm not sure.

Anyway, one summer afternoon as I was coming back from chasing around after the cows, I came up and I had to jump across that brook. The brook was fairly wide in places and had big pools. It was very, very cold water. The water was from up on the mountain, spring-fed water that came down and collected up. But, there were narrow places. There were places where it was kind of deep but narrow across, and you could jump from one side to the other side and not have to worry about falling in or what have you. I had come down and jumped across this particular location a number of times before. But this time when I jumped across, for some reason I happened to be glancing down stream into this big pool that was down there, and as I jumped across I saw this flash of color; and I wondered what the heck it was. So, I slipped down there and I guess it was fortunate that I was on the side that I was on, because the sun was sort of in my face and my shadow was behind me, my shadow didnÍt fall into the pool. And, that's important because those fish that are in those pools that are very, very wary, they'vegot excellent eyes. They can see things like flies and mosquitoes landing on the water and little bitty bugs and things, which is what they eat and they can pretty obviously see a shadow moving. Any, I crept up to the edge and looked down in there, and there was a granddaddy brook trout like you had never seen before. Well, in fact, I had never seen one like that before. I had seen minnows and little things in the water, but I guess thisis when I first became aware of fish as a thing, because this guy looked like a whale. I mean he was big, he was huge.

I guess I had just gotten so fed up with these guys down there on the place running on me about being a New York City kid and not knowing nothing and nothing that I knew was worthwhile and all that sort of thing. I guess I just sort of had a burr under my saddle that I was going to catch that fish somehow or another.

I remembered that on the way home from school one time, I had gone into the general store that was on the road out of town coming home, and there was this big old general store sitting on the side of the hill. The building by the way, is still there. Anyway, they had everything in that store. It was the big store in the town of Quechee, and they had everything in there including all of the fishing tackle and all. There was a fellow in therenamed Albert who was in a wheelchair. I don't know exactly how he'd wound up in the wheelchair, but something had happened to him and he couldn't use his lower legs. I think later on he got some of those fancy crutches and could get around on crutches. But, by and large he did everything in the store in this wheelchair.

It turned out later, I found out, that he and dad, that's your grandfather Vernon, had been childhood friends. He apparently came from up in the Royalton and South Royalton area and from around Bernard, and he knew your grandfather, my daddy. He was the one who did the tying of the flies, special flies for the fisherman in the area. That was his forte. And, I found out that the fly tying devices that he used had been made for him by my dad. They were not things of beauty by any stretch of the imagination. They were big old long-nose pliers of various sizes and different shapes of bills, and they were welded to a C-clamp so that they could be clamped to the edge of a desk or a table or what have you. The clamping action was caused by a long threaded rod with a wing nut that went through the handles.

But anyway, I went in to see Albert and was talking to him about how you catch trout, and could he tell me how to catch a trout and so on and so forth. And, he teased me a little and talked to me about fishing, had I ever gone fishing. I told him no, that I had never done any fishing before. Well, it wasn't all that hard you just had to have the right kind of bait. You had to use the right kind of flies at the right time of the year, and I would hang around and watch him tie flies after school. The first couple of times I hung around too long and I was late getting home from school and got my butt chewed. But, I told them a big fat story. I told them I was staying after school doing some special work for the teacher, and that I was going to be a half-hour to an hour late getting home because I had to stay at school and do this special work. Well, that was acceptable. That was okay. I knew they weren't going to buy letting me hang around the general store and watch Albert tie flies.

But anyway, I did that, and he tutored me a whole lot on how to catch fish and what kind of flies to use and about the hatches and what months of the year, what bugs hatched and what the trout fed on and so on and so forth.

Finally, he got around to talking to me about my particular fish. Somehow or another, he became aware of the fact that there was a fish that I wanted to catch. So, I opened up and I told him honestly what it was all about and where the fish was and so on and so forth. He thought that was grand. He thought that was a great ambition to go and catch that fish. He said that I had to wait until the right time of the year, and he would tell me when, and I had to use this particular fly that he was going to show me how to tie, that was called the Royal Coachman.

Well, he spent a whole week teaching me how to tie this special fly that was called the Royal Coachman, and he told me all about the history of it. He showed me in the books and how it was tied and who invented it and where it came from and all that sort of thing. Anyway, finally the time came and I was thoroughly and well lectured on how to go about presenting this to the fish, and I had my gear smuggled up and stashed away, and I went upon the mountain to catch the fish.

Anyway, I went up as usual to chase down the cows and circled around on the back side of the mountain and was very careful to get on the high side of the brook. I had a fishing rod that was the top two sections of a bamboo dry fly rod. I had gotten that by doing odds and ends and chores around the store for Albert and his dad. Anyway, no fishing line, just a big long leader of some sort, I guess it was catgut or something. In those days I don't think there was any such thing as nylon or any of the modern materials that they have now that the long fishing leaders are made out of But anyway, I snuck up to side and I flicked that old dry fly, that Royal Coachman, out onto the water, and I let the current carry it on down and over into this cut-bank area where that trout was hanging out. I could see his nose come out, two or three times, he kind of looked that fly over and would tuck back in under the hill and just stayed there. Well, I was real frustrated. I just figured that I was going to catch him and bring him out of the water and that was going to be it. But, it didn't work that way. So, I stashed my gear and the next day on the way home from school I stopped in and I talked to Albert. Albert said "Oh well, you know, it might be a little early yet or it might be to late, but it was approximately the right time of the season to be using that fly in that area and I should just stick with it".

Well, I tried every night. I'd make maybe a half- dozen or dozen casts with that fly, and I swear to God that that fly and that trout got to know each other on first name basis. He would come out from under there and he'd swim around in the pool or he would just poke out his head and be coy and eye that thing. One time he even came up real gentle like and sort of mouthed it and then spit it out, and it was just driving me bonkers. I was about ready to go get a stick of dynamite and throw it into that pool.

Eventually, I guess it just got to the place where it was the right time of the season or that big old lunker trout was hungry enough, but I dropped that thing on the water. I don't know whether I got just the right cast or what, but it drifted on down there by his nest and he came out of there like a bull out of the gate, hit that fly, came up out of the water a-snapping and a-twisting, scared the puddin' right out of me and I didn't know what to do. So, I grabbed the a hold of the leader with both hands, no finesse, just bull puppy strength, snatched him out of the water and up on the bank.

He laid there and he flopped and he flipped and I looked down at him and he was all the colors of the rainbow. And God, he was gorgeous, and he looked like a whale even out of the water. But then I noticed that he was gasping and his gills were working, and I thought my God he's dying, and his color started to change. Well, Albert had told me don't ever touch a fish with dry hands. So I real quick got my hands into the water and got my hands wet, and I come back up and I got real careful and I managed to get him laid down. By this time, he is losing it, and I got him laid down, quieted, gota hold of the hook, got the hook out of his mouth and I realized that I was killing this trout. So, I slipped back down into the water. I got my feet and legs all wet. I slipped back down into the water and I held him very gently in my hands and his fins started working and I held him so that his nose was up stream, cause that was the way I had always seen him swimming.

Pretty soon he started breathing again; I could see his gills working. Then after a bit, away he went back under the bank. I was so happy that he wasn't dead, that he took off and that I hadn't killed him.

Well, I never said nothing about that fish to any of the people down there, any of the other kids around the farm or anybody up at school. But, all my life since then when it comes to fresh water fishing, I've used barbless hooks, and I do what's called catch and release. I catch a fish and I'm very careful not to kill him, cause I don't eat them. I'll eat salt-water fish, but I do not eat fresh water fish and when I catch them, I release them and let them go. So that's the story of your pop's first trout.

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Copyright 2001 - Frank Boyd