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Trout Fishing in the Battenkill River

Trout Fishing in the Battenkill River
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I stood on the river’s edge below the bridge, and now there were half a dozen fish feeding steadily, splashing at the insects that fluttered over the water. My fly was invisible on the dark water. I cast upstream of a feeding trout, and if he rose when my fly was on the water, I lifted my rod. A couple of times I guessed the fish had splashed at my fly, but I didn’t hook him.
As the dusk gathered, the fish began to feed more hungrily. Now I had at least a dozen actively rising fish in front of me. I cast frantically, amateurishly, first to this one and then, when another rose nearby, I’d interrupt the drift of my fly, lift my line, and cast to him. Perhaps some of these were worthy trout, although I couldn’t judge.

Then I caught one. He did not come skittering in over the surface, but neither did he slog heavily at the end of my line. I landed him easily and measured him against the markings on my rod. His nose failed by an inch to reach the one-foot mark. He was a brook trout, a species native to the Battenkill. Perhaps this one was a descendant of those that settled here after the glaciers retreated. More likely his ancestors were hatchery trout that were heavily stocked a century ago.

Either way, I knew he was another wild trout, a survivor born in the river. It’s been many years since hatchery-raised trout have been dumped into the Battenkill. I revived him carefully and slipped him back into the river.

“How big?”

I turned. My friend had been watching from the bridge.

“About 11 inches,” I said.

“Brown?”

“Brookie.”

“Three-year-old fish,” he said. “Brook trout don’t live much longer here. That’s a trophy brookie for the Battenkill. About as big as they get.”

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