Trout Fishing in the Battenkill River
There were enough insects, I guessed, to interest a worthy trout. But I crept upstream a mile or more without seeing a single ring on the water. The mist became a steady soft rain.
I rounded a bend and paused at the tail of a flat that extended so far upstream that the mist blurred its head. The left bank, I saw, was the deep one. Some dead timber had collected there, and a big oak grew at an angle over the water. Its branches swooped so low that they nearly ticked its surface.
I sat on a rock. Here, I decided, I would take my stand. In four days I had not seen a more likely lair for a worthy trout. I would sit here all day, if necessary, to wait for him to show himself.
A ring appeared near the tailout, not 30 feet from me. I could cast to him without moving. I waited, and when the trout rose again, I knew he was a small one, another six-incher. I ignored him.
Gradually more rings began to show on the glass-smooth surface of the long pool. I sat quietly in the misty rain and watched them. Small trout, all of them, but even so, they fed cautiously. A minute or more separated each quick foray to the surface. On this absolutely flat water, fooling even one of these six-inchers would take precision and luck.
An hour passed before I saw the unmistakable black nose. On the Henry’s Fork and the Bighorn I learned to measure a surface-feeding trout by the size of his nose. We call the big ones “toads” because that’s what their noses look like against the water.
Here on the Battenkill I had found a toad. I didn’t move for ten minutes, the interval it took him to come to the surface three times. He rose in precisely the same place, about two feet directly upstream from the outermost sweeping branch of the arching oak tree. The only way I could float a fly over him was from the side and upstream.
His delicate rise form suggested he had selected spinners to eat. They drifted inert on the water’s surface membrane, easy pickin’s for an energy-conscious trout. I saw two kinds of spinners on the water — large rust-colored ones and smaller olives. Knowing the perversity of large trout, I guessed this one had selected the olives. I found a good match in my fly box and tied it to my wispy tippet. My hands, I noticed, trembled just a little. After three days, the Battenkill had showed me a worthy trout. Now it was up to me. The odds, I knew, were slim. Even if I hooked this fish, he would bolt to what I assumed was his lair under the tangled timber against the bank. My tippet was too slender. It would snap if I tried to hold him back. Otherwise he would wrap me and surely break me off.
Perhaps not. When they’re hooked, large trout sometimes shoot directly upstream, or try to slog it out in midriver, or exhaust themselves by jumping repeatedly. I might get lucky.
I focused on the first challenge, which was to wade into position to make my cast. A careless step would send telltale ripples across the pool, and the trout would dart back to his hideout for the rest of the day. So I moved downstream and crossed in the quick water of the pool’s tailout. Then I climbed the bank and pushed through the alder tangles to a spot directly across from the fish. I paused there until his nose showed again. Then I slipped down the bank and into the water.