To the Bitter End

To say I was bitter would be an understatement. If I’d had a dog, I’d have kicked it. Nothing could cheer me up. My wife kept asking, “Why are you mad at me?” But it had nothing to do with her.  All I wanted to do was sit and sulk.

Rainbow modeling a fishnet swimsuit.

I didn’t want to admit it, but the root of my bitterness was a string of fishing failures. In the last two weeks, I’d been fishing three times at supposedly stocked rivers, and all I’d caught was one measly trout.

When I think of all the time I’ve wasted driving across New England, all the $4/gallon of gas I’ve burned through, all the chores I’ve let go fallow for one very forgettable stocked nine-inch trout, it makes my face so long that I could eat butter out of a churn.

This isn’t how I imagined this trout season would go. How hard can it be to catch stocked trout? It seemed like the forces of the universe had lined up against me.

My bitterness needed someone to blame.

Why would the highway department close off the Green River Road during trout season? Why would MassWildlife stock the Assabet in Hudson and not in Marlborough? Why would the Westville Recreation Area close the gate that accesses the road that parallels the Quinebaug River? Why stock part of the Quinnepoxet River and not stock the other sections of it?

MassWildlife, though it cared not a bit, started catching the brunt of my ill-temper.

Why were 89 ponds and lakes stocked this year before the first creek, stream, or river was stocked? Why do they stock so many trout in ponds and put so few trout in rivers?

Healthy stocked rainbow, more than a handful.

Does Peters Pond in Sandwich (which has already been stocked seven (7) times as of 4/19/22) really need multiple stockings of brook trout, brown trout, and rainbow trout? Is there anybody even in Cape Cod this time of year?

I wear my bitterness badly.

The reality I didn’t want to face is that I am still a second-rate fly fisherman after all these years. I had to either face that fact or believe that all trout in Massachusetts had suddenly gone blind. If I were a restaurant, I’d be a “Below Your Average Joe’s.”  A greasy one at that.  If I had a dog, it should kick me.

On Monday, Patriot’s Day, my wife had had enough and suggested I volunteer to examine any ticking packages that were found along the Boston Marathon route.  Either that or go fishing. She knew I needed to break out of my slump, even though it could have meant another 0-for-day and deeper depression. But desperate times call for desperate measures. I had to face my failure, get back in the saddle, try-try again, etc.

My fishing buddy, Drydan (formerly known as Doover2), met me at a freestone river that’s relatively close to Boston. I figured if I wasn’t going to catch any fish, I shouldn’t drive very far to do it.

The river had been stocked about eight days previously. With the beautiful weather on the previous weekend offering great conditions for bait fishermen, the vast majority of the newly stocked trout were lying stiffly in freezers all over central Massachusetts.  I didn’t have my hopes up.

Drydan with the fruit of his tightline nymphing.

But this time my mojo was different. On about my fifth cast, my indicator started moving up-current, and with a twitch of the rod tip, I began feeling that glorious pulsating action of a large trout who resented being hooked. The tug is indeed the drug. I reveled in the battle as the beautiful rainbow valiantly fought to stay out of the net, unsuccessfully.

Working our way through some skinny water, Drydan and I each caught four trout that had survived the weekend, yet they were fooled by our incredible fishing skills.

We moved to another location on the river and had even greater success with larger trout. We both reached double figures relatively quickly and decided to call it a day at about 2:30 pm. Though we could have caught many more trout, we wanted to let other, less skillful, fishermen have their chance.

Our praise of MassWildlife was profuse for their adroit management of Massachusetts fisheries.

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9 thoughts on “To the Bitter End

  1. Bill a timely article. I can relate. My last two or three trout trips and my first two striper trips of the year have resulted in about the same, one small hatchery trout. I had a solution, go turkey hunting. I should say that turkey hunting can lead to the same “bitterness”. Bright side, makes it all the more sweet when it all comes together.

    1. Dry spells are hard. I wish I handled them better. But, Robert, you are right, breaking through is sweet.

  2. Because I live in Berkshire County in western mass, and most rivers out my way are all blown out because of all the past rain, so I haven’t been out yet. But I will tell you I know how you felt. Sometimes I too question mass dfw stocking methods and why they do and how they do it. But there have been times during years past that I couldn’t have done anything right and other times, I couldn’t do anything wrong with casting a fly and or catching trout on the fly. I keep reminding myself its called fishing, not catching. With all my personal DFW questions removed, I look forward to the fly fishing joys and disappointments of the upcoming fly fishing opportunities. I love the fly fishing sport and all its methods, so regardless of our self pressures we put on ourselves, it all good.

    1. If we never caught a trout, it would be no fun. If we caught fish on every cast, it would be no fun. The fun is somewhere in between. I’d rather live closer to the former extreme than the latter.

  3. Bill, I’ve head that Sudden Trout Blindness (STB) is in fact a real thing and can be triggered in trout when weather conditions, river conditions, and the price of corn in southeastern Oklahoma all align within a certain range. No doubt in mind that the fish you were looking for experienced STB for a stretch. I was also thrilled to hear that the drought ended and that those trout were miraculously healed. You’ve given me renewed hope.

    1. Good to know, Chris. Between STB, low pressure systems, and ghost stocking, it’s a wonder we catch any trout at all.

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