Brookies for a Good Cause

Big Native Brookie

Few fish are more beautiful than a native, male brook trout in its fall glory.
Photo by Phil Monahan, 2010

Last winter, Casting for Recovery held an online auction to raise money for their programs, which combine fly fishing, counseling, and medical information to help breast-cancer patients and survivors focus on wellness instead of illness. One of the auction items was a day of fishing in southwestern Vermont, with me as the guide, which was purchased by Casey Peltier, from Arlington, Virginia. Once the auction ended, we made a date for late September, when Casey would be visiting Vermont for a family get-together.

Big Rainbow

Casey ended her day on a mountain pond where the rainbows will eat anything, apparently.

Photo by Phil Monahan, 2010

As the summer progressed and the drought grew worse, however, I began to wonder if there’d be any water left by our appointed date. When Casey arrived last week, the Battenkill was lower than I’d ever seen it, and the mountain streams weren’t much better, so I feared that our much-anticipated day on the water would be a total bust. To her credit, Casey told me right off the bat that she realized our summer had been hot and dry, had adjusted her expectations accordingly, but was still looking forward to a fun day on the water, fishless or not. Her optimism was contagious, and I could feel my anxiety level drop. 

We got on the Battenkill at dawn, setting up downstream of the West Arlington Grange covered bridge and casting streamers to a deep slot. Although the cool nights had caused the river’s temperature to drop into the high ’50s, the water was extremely low and clear. After three hours of fruitless casting and plenty of enjoyable conversation, we decided to see if we could scare up some native brook trout.

I am a brookie fanatic, and one of my favorite kinds of fly fishing involves scrambling over boulders and casting into plunge pools in mountain streams. Casey was game, enduring some tough wading and walking conditions, and we found some gorgeous trout willing to take dry flies. At this time of the year, the brookies are sporting their spawning colors, which can be spectacular, especially on the big males. In the middle of one long pool, Casey’s fly disappeared in a big splash, and she brought to hand a stunning 7- or 8-inch trout, a real trophy in this neck of the woods. We marveled at its colors, snapped a quick picture, and carefully released it to make more trout just like it. After a couple hours, Casey said, “I’ve lost count of how many I’ve caught, which is a good sign.”

We finished the day on a friend’s pond, where Casey managed to take several nice rainbows on a Gartside’s Wet Mouse. Lord knows what the trout thought they were eating. It was a fine end to an enjoyable day, which turned out to be a lot more successful than I thought. Who knew raising money for a great cause could be so much fun?

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