Brook trout water remains a simple pleasure, as do the trout themselves. I could walk the mountain runs of the Alleghenies for days on end with no rod and remain content. Looking and knowing that the magical little fish are there is enough.
I’ve been away too long. Too much pavement, too much indoors, too much computer. I might even admit to too much mushrooms, a diversion that’s swayed my interest from the brookies in recent years. But while hunting reishi mushroom on the ridges nearest Pittsburgh, I again passed by the rippling waters and had to stop and look and remember.
Dad had taken me to a little pond outside of the town of Stevenville, Newfoundland at the age of 6 where I’d heaved in my first tiny, wriggling starry specimen late one evening. I’ve been in love with brookies ever since. I chased brookies around with butterfly nets and sometimes with hooks through my childhood in eastern Canada though my fascination at the time encompassed a wide realm of creeping, crawling things. Then we found ourselves living in the remote hamlet of Jackman in western Maine, with our house actually poised on the bank of the Moose River and I again discovered the brook trout and again fell in love.
Subsequent moves again wrenched me away from the aboriginal char of the east for many years but I began a long series of walks to find them again at the age of 27, walking through the woods for months at a time, year upon year, eventually treading over four thousand miles from Georgia to the New Brunswick border. And I did find brookies along the way, and clear, perfect spring water and the pristine watersheds that give rise to the brookies and all the creatures that co-habitate with the fish within these hidden refuges and micro-climates. When I was done I wrote a book too called The Dying Fish about those hundreds of days and nights alone with the trout.
Last week it was good to take Dad out to a fine little brookie stream I’d found within an easy drive of Pittsburgh. The brown and rainbow trout stocking trucks from the state didn’t venture here – all was wild. And it was good simply to see Dad smile over and over again as he hoisted the sparkling, writhing little fish for just a moment before release. And I felt I was somehow repaying a favor that he’d done me half a lifetime ago in a place very far from here.