- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
There is a pool on the West Branch of the Ausable River, in the Adirondacks, where the bank overhangs almost four feet of crystal-clear, slowly moving water. If you approach the opposite bank carefully, early in the evening, and cast a small light Cahill dry fly on a 12-foot 3X leader so that it lights gently at the head of the run, a dark torpedo shape will slide out from the shadow of the bank and move under the floating fly. As you watch, the shape rises surfaceward in the water until you see it is a brown trout of three or four or five pounds. Drifting with the current, its nose almost touching the fraudulent tidbit, the trout studies the fly. Then it slides silently back into the shadow. You cast again, and again, and then you tie a 4X tippet onto your leader in hopes the finer, longer leader may deceive the fish. Again you cast, and again the torpedo slides out from the bank, drifts for an interminable minute under the fly and again returns sedately to the shadow.
Because you want the trout—it would be the biggest you ever took on a dry fly—you hunt through your leader case for a strand of 6X gut, tie it to your leader and bend the light Cahill to it. Again you cast, Again the torpedo moves out and touches its nose to the fly. Then (perhaps because it knows the tensile strength of a gut strand .004 inches in diameter) the trout gently sucks the floating fly into its mouth. When you set the hook the great fish thrashes angrily and dives for the tangle of roots under the bank. You do everything right: you hold the rod high, drop the tip when the fish throws its burly body out of water and try to check it when it heads for the roots. When the 6X gut breaks you reel up and go sit on a log and smoke a cigaret. When your hands have stopped shaking you tie another light Cahill to the end of the leader and walk up to the next pool. On the way you give thanks for Europe's great gift to the American fly fisherman: the choosy, moody, infuriatingly fickle, surface-feeding brown trout, the hardest trout of all to catch, the unquestionable favorite of all discerning dry fly fishermen.
Behind the brown trout is a history in the true American tradition, a story complete with its misunderstood hero, lots of conflict and a happy ending. The setting is an idyllic one of dark pools and sparkling riffs, but too often the background music of whispering streams and the liquid notes of the hermit thrush have been drowned out by the plain and fancy cussing of sportsmen, scientists and nature-lovers. The story opens on February 24, 1883, when the German liner Werra arrived in New York harbor with 80,000 brown trout eggs consigned to the New York State Hatchery at Cold Spring Harbor, Long Island, where Fred Mather—sportsman, writer, fish culturist—was in charge. Gleaming softly like pearls in moss-lined trays, the eggs, the first important shipment to this country, were received casually and without fanfare.
Even the idea behind the shipment was casual—as casual as two sportsmen fishing quietly along a trout stream. Mather, a representative of the United States at the International Fisheries Exposition at Berlin in 1880, made the acquaintance of Herr F. Von Behr, president of the Deutsche Fischerei Verein. Mather also met the brown trout on the business end of a line. Taking a busman's holiday on one of the streams near Baden, he was thrilled by the fighting qualities of the trout in the Black Forest streams. Von Behr promised to send him a gift of brown trout eggs.
As the eggs were carefully transferred to the clear, running water in the hatchery troughs, there was nothing to indicate that each egg was loaded with finned dynamite. When these brown trout eggs and other shipments from Germany and the British Isles were hatched and planted in American waters, the reaction was immediate, hostile and violent.
"Speckled carp," sneered oldtimers. The griping was especially loud in the Adirondacks, stronghold of the brook trout. No one had a good word for the brown trout; even professional opinion was against him. In 1897 the Michigan Fish Commission stated flatly:"A few years of experiment and experience have convinced us that the brown trout is inferior in every respect to either the brook or the rainbow."
While the hot stove boys sounded off, the brown trout thrived, stubbornly resisting attempts to eradicate it from the streams and lakes where it had been planted.
What the cracker barrel debaters didn't know was that their adversary was no Johnny-come-lately. It had a long and distinguished past stretching back to survival in the grim days of the Ice Age. The brown trout originated in the Arctic as a migratory fish. As the great glacier extended southward, the brown trout came with it. Later when the ice sheet receded and the seas grew warm again, colonies of brown trout were trapped in the cold streams they had entered.
For the first fishermen, then, the brown trout was at home in English chalk streams like Walton's favorite Lea or Cotton's beloved Dove; in the burns and lochs of Scotland (the world's rod and reel record of 39� pounds came from Loch Awe), in the rushing torrents of the mile-high Pyrenees, in the ice-cold lakes and streams of Norway and Sweden, in the brawling tributaries of the Russian Caspian.
And from the beginning of sporting literature the brown trout was a fish to be reckoned with. The publication of The Compleat Angler in 1653 gave the brown trout a lasting literary sanction, for Walton wrote with loving appreciation of his favorite fish.