Timing, conditions need to be just right

Posted May 13, 2009, at 9:32 p.m.

For years the tiny, meandering brook has been a topic of discussion, the source of many possible adventures … all of those, unfortunately, yet to be realized.

“We’ve just got to hit it at the right time,” my fishing pals and I told each other, year after year. “Early. You know. Right after the alder leaves get as big as a mouse’s ear … just like the old-timers tell you.”

Those conversations, of course, always took place in July … or August … or during hunting season in November, when we stalked deer along the same stream.

We’d nod our heads, agreeing that hitting that particular brook in early May (when those alder leaves reach a certain, special size, of course) would lead us straight to trout city.

In a stream like that, we reasoned, brookies must live around every corner. They must thrive in every pool. They must. They must.

If only we could remember to be on the water at the right time.

Last weekend, after 44 years traveling across the bridge that spans that tiny brook, I was. Finally.

To make the day even more special, I had a young, first-time trout fisherman with me.

Together, we made a few stops on the way to the fishing grounds. A large store for a special lure. A convenience store for the essentials: Juice, soda, chips, worms. Another shop for a couple of sandwiches, which we’d eat in the truck before beginning our ambitious hike.

The conditions, we learned, were indeed perfect.

The water flow was good. Black flies had begun to gather, but weren’t yet biting. A bit of bug dope sent the message to the swarm.

We chatted with a couple of anglers at the trailhead and learned that they’d had some luck.

My 8-year-old fishing buddy was enthused. So was I.

Into the woods we went. Past the beaver flowage. Around (and sometimes through) the mud and the muck. Up hills. Over rocks.

And finally, we reached the spot my pals and I always knew would produce fish.

If we were there at the right time. If the conditions were right.

“See this alder tree?” I asked my fishing partner. “These leaves are as big as …”

“A mouse’s ear!” he finished.

Yes, they were.

At the first few spots, we had no luck. The pools looked good, but the trout weren’t there … or weren’t interested.

“I’m getting bored,” my fishing buddy said. “Can we go back?”

I’d expected as much. Our past fishing experiences had come in more controlled environments. We’d fished out of a boat, over a rock where sunfish are plentiful, hungry and not-to-discriminatory.

Making the transition to finicky brook trout, I knew, might be a challenge.

As the self-appointed guide, I decided to push on … just for a few more minutes.

“Not quite yet. We’re just getting to the best spot on the stream,” I told him, not quite knowing if the likely looking pool ahead was any better than the ones we’d already fished … but hoping for the best.

One trout. Just give us one trout.

After one drift of the worm-enhanced lure, we got a rise. I prepared to replicate the previous drift, and announced our plan.

“I’m casting to that rock on the other bank. I’m going to hand the rod to you. And you’re going to catch that fish,” I said.

“Are you sure?”

“I’m sure.”

Thankfully, the plan worked.

I flipped the lure to the deep water. Handed over the rod. And the trout darted out from his hiding spot and grabbed his meal.

My smile, I imagine, was broad. My fishing buddy’s grin was even larger, his eyes wide as he brought his first-ever brook trout to hand.

“What do you want to do?” I asked. “You can eat him if you want. Or we can let him go.”

We’d already talked about ethics on the way to the stream. We’d talked about catch-and-release, about leaving fish for others to catch … and, truthfully, about how tasty brook trout are.

“This time, I think we ought to let him go,” my fishing buddy said.

“Sounds good to me,” I replied. “Sounds good.”

Shortly after that, we both decided we’d had enough adventure for one day.

We had hiked. We (or one of us, at least) had fallen into the stream. We had gotten muddy and sweaty. We even caught a trout.

To me, that’s a pretty complete day on a trout stream.

As we arrived back at the truck and stowed our gear, my fishing partner looked skyward and frowned.

“Did you feel what I just felt?” he asked.

“A raindrop,” I agreed. “Looks like you picked the perfect time to turn back after all.”

“Yeah,” he agreed. “I guess I did.”

Just another enjoyable day in the woods of Maine.

Last call for moose permits

For the last few months, I’ve been updating you on the approaching deadline for the state’s annual moose permit lottery.

Today, the message is simple: If you want to hunt moose this year, you’ve got one more day to take care of the related paperwork.

OK. That’s not entirely accurate. Your deadline for filling out actual paper forms has passed.

You do, however, have until 11:59 p.m. on Friday to fill out a permit application on the Internet.

The process is quick and simple (as long as you’ve got a credit card and know the birthday of your sub-permittee), and once you begin shopping for licenses and permits on the Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife’s automated MOSES system, I doubt you’ll go back to the old-fashioned method.

The DIF&W is encouraging applicants to apply on-line during the day, before the close of business hours on Friday, so that staffers can field calls about any problems that might arise. If you do encounter difficulties, you can call 287-8000 to iron them out.

Otherwise, just go to www.mefishwildlife.com and enter to win a permit for a hunt you’ll never forget.

The lucky winners will be drawn on June 18 in Fort Kent.

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