Saturday, July 12, 2008

Help Protect The Little Speckled Beauties

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My several experiences fishing Frenchman’s Pond with the late John Voelker, a.k.a. Robert Traver, taught me many things about fishing for brook trout.

The Bard of Frenchman’s Pond always believed in a calm and delicate fly presentation, and he believed these great game fish respond best to a cautious and delicate approach.

I think of the old Judge often, especially when fishing a back-of-beyond beaver pond where getting to the thing is two-thirds of the battle. The other third revolves around finding a receptive taker. Some beaver ponds are sterile. and may be pretty to look at but they do not contain brook trout.

Voelker once wrote that the environs where brook trout are found are invariably beautiful but much of what man has created is not, and if Judge Voelker, was right about anything, it was his thoughts that Man could screw up a one-car parade.

Brook trout fishing is occasionally too easy which is why gluttons and other fools who would take a limit of fish today, return to do the same spot tomorrow, and clean up what is left on the third day, should never fish such waters because it is inherently wrong. As wrong as it is, many fishermen subscribe to the theory that if the trout are there, they are meant to be caught.

Such thinking has sounded the death knell for many once-thriving beaver ponds and small streams. The fish simply are too gullible in tiny waters to pass up any chance for a meal.

Show me a beaver pond that holds brook trout, and if the word is spread around, it no longer will be a beautiful, unsullied, fish-producing piece of wonderful water. Sadly, many people subscribe to the “Me first” attitude where the first person in to a pond deserves the spoils. It reminds me of Genghis Khan’s philosophy of rape and pillage.

I’ve been known to park my car two miles away and hike in to a beaver pond to hide its identity and location. I once fished a tiny pond that produced some 14-inch bookies, and the hiding place for my car was between two huge white pines where the boughs obscured my vehicle. I was never found in that location.

Many little jump-across creeks that flow out of a cedar swamp are destroyed; if not by human pressure, than by the worm containers and beer cans or bottles people leave behind. Such things weigh much less when carried out empty than when carried in full.

I began fishing brook trout at a tender age of 11 on some tiny Cheboygan County streams. I began by using bait, and garden hackle threaded onto a hook with one split-shot above, was all it took to catch trout in those days.

It’s all that is needed to catch brookies today. The bad thing is that undersize brook trout love worms, and they will swallow the bait. Easily two-thirds of the fish caught on live bait are killed before they reach legal size.

These days, if the area being fished is too confined for fly fishing, I’ll use a number 0 Mepps spinner. Two of the three hooks are cut off, and far fewer fish are hooked too deep. A treble hook simply requires too much time to remove without killing the fish.

Beaver ponds are like rare jewels that sparkle in the distance when glimpsed through heavy conifers. They are generally small and very fragile ecosystems, where the removal of too many trout will cause it to decline into a silt and marl-bottomed pond with no redeeming features.

Some of the best brook trout fishing I’ve had came on the land of a friend’s friend. The man never invited anyone in to fish except my buddy, and he would run others off with threats of calling the police.

My buddy knew that his friend has a fondness for strong drink, and whenever we showed up, a pint of whiskey would change hands. He’d make some excuse to his wife about why we were fishing the pond, and our fishing trips usually began at dark.

We’d carry in our fly rods, waders, swim fins and a belly boat. Wading the edges of that pond was a death trap. We would set off into the darkness, sitting in the belly boat, and cast flies here and there along shore. My friend usually caught the largest fish because he concentrated on the deepest water near the beaver dam.

On occasion, we would speak to each other, but for the most part we silently fished in the dark. Most of those brookies were at least 10 inches long, and we caught a few 16-inchers. We would keep one or two of the smaller fish—if we kept any at all—and fished that pond only once or twice a year. The pond went out in a spring freshet when snow melt and heavy rain washed out the dam.

Beaver ponds are like that. They survive between being washed out, and once they are gone, the brook trout go with them. It’s while they are vibrant and still alive that they can be the things of which anglers dream of but seldom find.

Posted by Dave Richey on 07/12 at 07:42 PM
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