Chasing The Last Days Of Trout Season by Mark Usyk
Another Monday. Another personal day used at work. My last personal day to be exact. I still had a couple vacation days and a bunch of sick days left, but knowing I’d just called in my last personal day of the year left me with a feeling of anxiety. Personal days had become my crutch. I take my personal time, well, personally. And personally, I wish I could just go fishing every Monday.
But I’d called it in over a matter of upmost importance. I was chasing the end of trout season. We were in the final four days. Only four days left to chase brook trout in the Adirondacks. I was chasing my tail, Steve was chasing a brook trout in it’s full spawning season colors, and Tommy, well Tommy had just come back from fishing in Mexico for about three months. So he was chasing after a change of scenery, and the idea that you never have to stop fishing, you just change up strategies and gear. One day you’re making casts to bone fish, and two days later you’re in a beaver meadow in the Adirondacks making casts on a brook trout stream.
I laugh when people start asking me what I do when “the season” ends. “Do you ice fish?” I love telling them that the season never ends, that it just changes from spring fishing, to summer fishing, then to fall fishing, and finally to winter fishing. I still stand in rivers, I just wear more layers, and look like more of a lunatic to them than I do in the more comfortable seasons. But trout season ending does get to me a little. Sure, the creek behind the house is open to catch and release all winter, but those are browns. And they’re right at home. Local. What I can’t do after the season closes is fish for brook trout in the Adirondacks. It gets me down. Because they’re brook trout. And they’re in the Adirondacks. So I fight the system hard in the last days. Using up days off at work to fish is like trying to eat just one potato chip.
Steve made the drive from Rochester, Tommy had just come from Mexico, and I’d been spending so much time in the Adirondacks lately that I felt like going home was actually being away from home this year. I’d even camped on a Monday night after work once. Washed my hair in the river with some of that eco-friendly shampoo, broke down my tent by the headlights of the Subaru, and drove an hour to work. No one had to twist our arms to come up here. It was more likely that you’d have to tie us down to keep us away.
We worked our way up a stream the first half of the day, starting in heavy cover forest, a shallow stream full of rocks and pocket water. It gave up a couple tiny brook trout, nothing to write home about, but still better than being at work. I guess that’s one of those sayings that doesn’t have much meaning any more. “Nothing to write home about.” Who writes anything anymore, especially letters? Who even calls home? It’s all texts these days. Everything is so impersonal. We fished through a beaver meadow, back into the forest, and finally headed off into the woods and back to our cars after hitting the second beaver meadow. We fished it for a good four or five hours. I wouldn’t know really…because we never checked the time.
Back at our parking spot we made sandwiches and opened beers. The sandwiches came from Tommy’s cooler, the beers from mine and Steve’s coolers. That sandwich was probably the best meal I’d eaten in a couple days. I mean, the mac-n-cheese and whiskey a couple breakfasts ago had tasted good, but living like that will probably kill me some day. That processed stuff is just no good for you.
We drove to another stream. The sign said it was a creek. Stream, creek, river, I guess they decide what to call it when they first lay eyes on them. Because I’ve seen rivers called creeks that were obviously named up in their headwaters where they were creeks, before they ever realized how big of a river they became. We fished the pockets of a rolling waterfall, big enough to call a water fall but small enough to walk it and fish it where you could. Steve found a small brookie, but not the colored male he was chasing. I struck out completely. It wasn’t until I walked down stream and made some casts tight against the tall grassy bank where the waters slowed that I started missing fish rising to my caddis pattern. For whatever reason I missed four rises, and then the next three I hooked one after the other, three casts in a row. Maybe the brook trout were messing with me and had a change of heart. I don’t speak fish, so I’ll never know.
We drove another twenty minutes, one last stop as the sun was well below the tree tops now and the temperature was dropping. Steve brought us here once before, me and two other guys from Rochester, Art and Pete. We didn’t catch squat. We didn’t even see any fish. Couldn’t even spook them out of the fishy looking spots. We laughed and joked that there was nothing in it only because there was nothing else we could do, but here we are again. Steve said it fished well last month. As we came up empty handed again I’m feeling like I’ve fallen for the same joke twice now. But one brook trout did rise to my caddis. It jumped completely over it, never touching it, then shot back under a log jam. Again we laughed because there’s nothing else you can do.
We were standing on a sandbar on the inside of the final bend before the bridge we’d parked at, a place beaten down by human traffic, a flat camp area with a fire pit a few yards away. You know, one of those spots the locals sit with spinning rods propped up on sticks stuck in the mud and beer coolers next to their folding camp chairs. It was probably as much of public beach complete with beach balls and pool floats during the summer as it was a fishing spot. If it had been dried up it probably wouldn’t have looked any less fishy. I was looking at something…the sky, the trees, nothing in general, when I heard Steve excitedly exclaim “Get a net!” I took a couple steps, tossed my fly rod to the bushes to get it safely but quickly out of the way, and snatched my net from my back. When I saw the flash of orange I knew if I messed this up Steve and I might never speak again. This was the fish he was chasing.
And it was a good way to end it. I drifted my fly through the same run a couple times as if anything would actually happen, but I decided that the little rises we were seeing must’ve been tiny creek chubs feeling safer, because that brook trout had swam off to sulk somewhere by itself.
I knew I’d be sulking myself soon. The next day at work. Knowing before the week was over, so was my Adirondack brook trout fishing for the next six and a half months.
Mark Usyk is the author of Reflections of a Fly Rod and Carp Are Jerks… both books full of stories about life, where fishing happens. They can be found on Amazon and Barnes & Noble in both paperback and e-book format, and signed copies are available for purchase right here on jprossflyrods.com. Be sure to check out our latest fly rod models, the Peacemaker… and the Wild Card’s facelift!
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