June 22, 2008

Something’s Fishy About These Fish

"The legend of the trout's sagacity ... arises from man's conceit. If the trout can outwit us, the lords of creation, he must be superior to us in cunning."

-P.B.M. Allan

"You want to fish the deadwater Friday," Gifford said. "I was thinkin we could try that in the morning and then maybe catch the evening rise on the river," he added as an enticement.

"Friday's good for me, Giff. Let's do it!" I said.

One of my favorite fishing partners, Gifford Stevens of Bradley, is a skilled angler and a good man to share a canoe with anytime, even when the fishing is slow. He and I have fished most of Maine at one time or another. We have also shared campfires and remote cutthroat creeks in Montana and Wyoming. He always outfishes me at least 2-to-1, all the while feigning humility, as if he didn't care who outfishes whom.

I know better.

Stevens is no slouch at the tying vice, either. As we were putting in at the deadwater, he opened his fly box and handed me a couple of small pinkish streamer flys.

"Gee, thanks, Giff," I said. "Never saw any even similar to these. What do you call it?"

"No name as far as I know. A friend gave me one last year, and it worked good on this water," he said.

Not to sound unappreciative, but it looked a little, well, effeminate to me with it's pink chenille body and gold ribbing. But I didn't say so to Gifford. In fact, I tied it on to my tippet as a gesture of appreciation for his thoughtfulness. I knew that if past was prologue, I'd snag the little, limp-wristed pink job on an alder bush by the third or fourth cast anyway. Then I'd tie on an old staid, less showy artificial, say an Adams or maybe a Goddard Caddis. Gifford would never have to know: Deadwater Diplomacy.

As we worked our way up the deadwater, beyond the bony section of the stream, one thing became apparent. Our timing could not have been better. Although the water was a tad low for this time of year, the trout were making riseforms like this was to be their final meal before the winter set in. You guessed it. The trout fishing was exceptional! We released 50 or more trout and kept a couple for the pan.

Yes, and the little pink job with the fluorescent thread head was deadly. And, contrary to conventional wisdom, there was a bright sun and no hatch that we could discern.

Go figure.

That afternoon, we tried our luck on a well-known Aroostook river. Game Warden Charles Brown told us that the river had been fished pretty hard during Memorial Weekend, but that there ought to be a few good brookies in the deep holes.

By 2 p.m., there was a blinding Mayfly hatch about as good as any we had even seen on this particular stretch of water. Attached to the logs and sticks underwater were dozens of what looked to me like cased Caddis. Considering the bug activity, fishing was slow, at least for the first hour. A few hundred yards before our takeout spot we found, to our delight, a pod of good sized brookies feeding just under the surface.

For two hours, we worked these fish with little success. Nothing interested them. Between us, we threw everything at them but Atlantic Salmon flies. We tried No. 14 and No. 16 dry flies, small streamer flies, Copper Johns, Hare's Ear Nymphs, stone fly imitations, muddlers, wooly buggers, and the late Wiggie Robinson's first-resort and last-resort killer, the Maple Syrup. I even tried, in desperation, Alvin Terriault's fish-flavored version of the Maple Syrup.

"What was going on beneath the surface?"

The answer eluded us. Even the Pink Job had no attraction for these fat brookies that shunned us with a vengeance.

We also wondered how, in the same day, two different trout waters not all that far apart could be so contrastingly hot and cold. What we experienced was all part of the intrigue and mystique of angling, why they call it fishing and not catching.

If you fish for trout, you know as well as we do that there is a fly that should have done the trick. Probably some type of an emerger. Darned if we could match it, though. What would you have done?

We quit for the day.

V. Paul Reynolds is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. He is also a Maine Guide, co-host of a weekly radio program "Maine Outdoors" heard Sundays at 7 p.m. on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network (WVOM-FM 103.9, WCME-FM 96.7) and former information officer for the Maine Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. His e-mail address is [email protected]

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