I drove through Laurens on the opening day of trout season.
Below the bridge, two guys were fishing for some early season trout. Actually, there's a good spot just below there as the Otego Creek makes its first bend to the left. That hole under the bank always holds a couple of nice fish.
It won't be long and the stocking trucks will pull up to that very same bridge and dump some brown trout into the creek. People will immediately come along and fish out as many as they can, figuring that they have a great catch. Heck, anyone can catch hatchery fish. Besides that, those newly stocked fish don't taste that good, either.
I didn't fish on opening day, and I haven't for many years. But when I did, it was in the small streams looking for brook trout. There's nothing better than some fresh brookies right out of the creek and into the frying pan.
When I lived in the Adirondacks, I learned a lot about brook trout fishing. When I told my neighbor that I was going to go get a mess of fish for dinner, he said he'd show me a great spot. With a can full of worms and my spinning rod, we were off. Ray drove up along a road called the Windfall and stopped at a small, narrow bridge.
"I'll pick you up right here at 4 o'clock," he said. "We'll go on up the road a ways and you can fish back down to here. Keep only the bigger ones ... you know, seven inches or so."
He drove on and stopped a mile or two farther up the old blacktop road.
"See that notch in the hill over there?" he asked. "Keep walking toward that until you hit the creek and then fish downstream. "Here," he continued, "tie this on three or four inches up from the hook."
Ray had handed me a small, silver Sacandaga spinner to use as an attractor.
And so, I was off.
I worked my way down the hill, through the woods, across a swamp and over some miserable tangles until I hit the stream. It wasn't more than four feet wide, but at that point, I was committed.
I let the silver flasher and a small worm drift down around the first big rock, and I immediately had a hit. Red spots with blue haloes covered the sides of the dark-colored fish that splashed in the current on the end of my line. The distinctive red fins with white leading edges were the signs of a truly native fish. There were no stock trout in that little brook. The small native was only about four inches long, so I carefully released it back into the water.
That tiny creek was full of fish. I had a hit nearly every time I put a worm in the water, but I released several before getting one big enough to keep.
A little farther downstream, I came across a beaver flow. I kept two trout in the 10-inch class from the deeper water. By the time I reached the bridge, I had my limit and had released well over 30 other fish. I don't think anyone else had been down that little brook in a long, long time.
Ray was waiting for me when I got to the road. He explained that almost every stream in that country was the same. All you have to do to get fish is walk back in a mile or so and fish it back to the road. No one ever goes very far from the pavement. If they don't catch one from the bridge, they move on.
He went on to explain that we never fish the same stream more than once a year. That way, there always will be fish to catch. We ate a lot of fish that winter, and none of them came from the store.
Using topo maps, I found a multitude of places to fish and only ran into another person once in the six years I lived there. Thinking back, that was about 40 years ago, but I bet I could do the same thing if I headed back to Wells this spring.
All you have to do to catch some great native brookies is go a little farther from the road. Few people venture very far anymore.
Rick Brockway writes a weekly outdoors column for The Daily Star. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I drove through Laurens on the opening day of trout season.
- Rick Brockway
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