On the board with a brookie

Friday morning began with a picture of a trout from Pirate.

“They’re eatin’ Bill,” his text said. “Get down here.”

The clock on my work computer said 9:41 am.

“I’ll be there in seven hours,” I texted back.

The work day eventually passed, and I drove an hour to the pond in the bright, late afternoon. I arrived just as the sun was moving behind the pines, and Pirate stood at the shoreline casting a spoon.

File Mar 26, 8 54 01 PM

The pond was busy–families, fly fisherman bait fisherman–all enjoying the cool, wind-less night and the prospect of a newly stocked trout.

I walked through the woods to the far edge of the pond and began casting a woolly bugger. There was a rise fifty feet in front of me. Then, another one just beyond it.

I’ll tell you, there’s nothing like the first rise of a season to get the blood pumping. But there’s also nothing quite like snagging a branch on your back cast and snapping your fly off when you’re casting to rising trout.

This pond has very limited wading options, and thick bushes line much of the shoreline. After multiple failed attempts to get the fly to where the trout were eating, I made the trek back to the other side of the pond.

By this time, most people had left. The night was getting cold and I had pretty much given up on getting my first stocked trout of the year. I chatted with Pirate and made a few casts right off the beach. The woolly bugger sank low in the water and I stripped it slowly. Then, it happened.

The take was not so much subtle as it was unexpected. Before my brain could register what was happening, I lifted my rod tip and it bucked gently as the trout took line. I played the fish and got it close enough for Pirate to net.

File Mar 26, 8 54 16 PM A sense of relief swept over me. I was on the board for the year. A very dark brookie was in the net, woolly bugger I had tied a few nights prior secured in the corner of its mouth. I lowered the net and the fish swam off into the darkening water.

The first fish of the year came later for me than it normally does. I’ll blame our New England weather for that. Or maybe I can blame my unwillingness to fish through said New England weather. But I’m on the board. And that’s all the matters.

Billy Mitchell

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