Fishing Lessons

We had three glorious weeks in Vermont and New Hampshire this summer. Day after day, we asked each other, “what do you want to do?” Sometimes we mountain biked on back roads and snowmobile  trails (VAST), sometimes we swam and picked blueberries. But mostly, we fished.

Fishing isn’t the same as catching fish. I know that and I’m just a novice. Not that it mattered. It was the exploring, the hunting for fish that captivated me.

“When I say I fish, most people think I sit in a boat,” Mike said one day as we bushwacked to yet another remote spot. It’s an understatement to say nothing deters him from getting to what he thinks will be good fishing. I didn’t keep track of all the places we went except for the dozens of photos that show “going fishing” included climbing under highway bridges and over guardrails, following railroad tracks, crossing farm fields, sliding down steep embankments, fording fast-moving water, worrying about critters and poison ivy … and — sometimes — finding fish.

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Mike has been fishing New England for many years and he studies the rivers. His atlas is dogeared and annotated with many circles and notes about getting to particular pools. In three weeks we didn’t hit all of his spots, and some that we hit didn’t give up any fish. It’s a scavenger hunt, the kind I could do day after day, outside in the woods, riverbanks and fields. Fortunately the equipment is pretty lightweight and easy to set aside when it’s time to jump in the rivers to cool off. These kids on the Mad River had the right idea.

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And then there’s the scenery. Do I really need to say that the most beautiful parts of rivers AREN’T the ones you can see from the highway? Sure, those glimpses you get from the air conditioned comfort of your car are nice, but they’re nothing like this. They were so beautiful that it was a challenge for me to stop snapping pics long enough to cast for fish.

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I used to think of fish as slimy (yet tasty), something I wasn’t really interested in until it was properly cooked or sushi’ed and on a plate. But once I started hooking into them I realized the fish you may get in the seafood market aren’t as beautiful as these, with golden scales, orange spots or blue patterns on them. (The little ones are still out there swimming, we didn’t keep them all.)

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And there’s something completely different about catching your own fish. I mean, I’d been fishing before — as a kid, with a worm and a red-and-white bobber — but learning how to find the right spots, then casting across whitewater and feeling the tug of a fish on the line and landing one were all amazing steps along the way. After a couple of weeks I knew I couldn’t really claim the “fisherwoman” title unless I went beyond the happy photos of posing with the fish I caught.

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Yup, I finally told Mike I needed to start cleaning my own fish. He was surprised. “I’ll do that for you,” he said. But I’d leaned on his expertise enough already, taking baby steps in landing my own fish, then extracting the hook. It was time.

On the last day, I landed a beautiful rainbow trout. It wasn’t pretty or as efficient as when Mike handles them, but I took out my Leatherman and opened him up, butt to gills. I scooped out the guts and twisted the head off with my bare hands. Then I cut into the stomach and made my report: two Japanese beetles, a few golden snails. Great, Mike said, sounds like we’re using the right lures if that’s what they’re eating.

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One Response to “Fishing Lessons”

  1. louisamayalcatt Says:

    Hi A, I always love a good fish tale. so good to see those huge smiles across your face. xo LMA

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