This afternoon and early evening proved to be totally Mike's idea, since my plan to fish Beaver Brook in Clinton first, failed, and my notion about fishing the North Branch late never became desirable. I know I read about Beaver Brook in Clinton stocked, on the DFW site, and besides, a butcher at Shop Rite speaks well of the little creek, but though I knew where the stream runs in Clinton, we didn't find a place to park, get out, and walk. Better, because Mike showed me the way into town by turning left at Hoffman's Crossing. It's a beautiful drive and beautiful stream, and we found a lot of trout, though not at the first and third spots we tried, and a lot more at the fourth. Mike grew up in Califon. This is his favorite home water, formerly accessed by him on bicycle.
We both played handicap. I forgot to add a pinch of salt to each of my salmon egg jars and tell Mike to do the same. These rainbow trout just pull soft eggs off the hooks. And we lost some eggs casting. We caught about two dozen between the two of us, but could have easily caught double the amount.
For me, the big moment came when my rod tip yielded to an unusually heavy pull, and I leaned into something heavy that looked too fat, deep under the surface, to be a rainbow. Had I snagged a sucker, or had a big Shannon's brown taken my egg? It seemed a very long time before the fish came into view as a rainbow about 18 inches long, and my judgment concluded, very nice fish, and yet, though this is nothing to take away from the fish I had on, something deeper down in me, I realize, is trying to match my brother Rick. We use micro-light rods, or at least Rick used to, now fully acclimated to fly fishing if he would only get out and fish. Three-and-a-half feet and the lightest spinning blank I know. Two-pound test fluorocarbon. He caught a 25-inch rainbow fishing salmon eggs this way. He told me it was fat and weighed eight pounds.
This is a big order to fill. I may do it on a fly rod. My five-pounder last spring was big. But on my micro-light? Surely never, and that was the biggest rainbow--today's--I ever had on this rod. I fought the fish at least three minutes. At best, it streaked for the pool's tail race about 25 yards downstream, leaping clear out of the river as at it plummeted downward, and I was ready to start running with the fish on the rocks. Instead, it turned. I exerted no pressure--not on line like thread--but simply let the drag and the rod's bend from tip to butt do its work. I muttered to Mike, "Get the camera." And in less than half a minute, the situation began to look as if the fish was going to come to the gravel, but I never gave into feeling entitled during this fight, because I know a fish like the one I had on is a little too good to be true, the way things seem to go for me. Except for one thing. I had this fish on. Had fought it long. And before Mike lifted the camera as he reached for the power switch, I told myself in that private language just as good as the words I write, but not thought in words, because common language is too intrusive upon moments like this, that what I had is enough.
"I was just about to switch the camera on."
The trout was gone.