Brook Trout, Boundaries, and Connections

Often, the connection between things is  not obvious to the eye, and even when it is, it can take years, if  not decades, for me to see just what is associated with what.  The events of my life and brook trout often meet at the line of demarcation between the world of the fish and the world of the fisherman, between the seen and the unseen.  This division will be the surface of a stream, which I imagine, from the fish’s point of view, as a silvery horizon, but which I see as a green sheet.  Still, the moment of illumination has often come here, with a trout taking a fly out of the boundary between its world and mine.

Craig Nova, Brook Trout and the Writing Life: The Intermingling of Fishing and Writing in a Novelist’s Life (New York: The Lyons Press, 1999), 3.

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Like novelist Craig Nova, I am a great fan of brook trout.  I cannot say that they play the significant role in my life that they have for Nova — that place would probably be held by rainbow trout — but I very much appreciate the sense of connection or even transcendence that Nova describes as taking place when one catches a trout on a fly.

Brook trout are stunningly beautiful creatures, and I am almost always happy to catch one, even if I feel a bit disloyal to the cutthroat trout with whom I grew up (yes, I use the word “whom” intentionally).  As is the case with all of the fish in the family Salmonidae, the most special of the brook trout are the ones who are wild and who inhabit the streams to which they are native.  Sadly, there are fewer and fewer of these wild, native “brookies” or “specks.”

Fishing a favorite stream filled with wild brown and rainbow trout a couple of weeks ago, I ran into a fellow fly fisherman, who told me where I could find a nearby stream that not only held wild, native brook trout, but large, wild, native brook trout.  Biologist and popular author Robert J. Behnke notes that brook trout average five to seven inches in small streams and are relatively small even in large rivers and lakes, when compared to other salmonids (Trout and Salmon of North America 2002, 275).  Therefore, hearing this stream side acquaintance describe brookies of several more inches was quite exciting.

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I visited this stream a few days ago with a good fishing friend, Bill Gregory (above).  We found very quickly that the man who pointed me toward this stream was no liar.  Bill and I caught many brook trout, almost all of which were an impressive size.  While I hesitate  to put words in Bill’s mouth, I daresay it was a pretty great experience and certainly one that we plan to repeat as soon as possible.

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I felt that sense of connection described by Nova when I caught those brookies.  That sense of connection extended not only to the trout, the water, my friend, and the wildness that encompassed us, but also to the past.  There just aren’t that many places where one can find such special fish these days.  Catching those wild brookies, then, was almost like stepping into a time before nonnative fish were introduced to the Americas and before mining and development ravaged the Appalachian Mountains and their inhabitants.  In this sense, it was like crossing many more boundaries that the one Nova describes.

13 Responses to “Brook Trout, Boundaries, and Connections”

  1. cofisher49 Says:

    Just found your blog a few days ago and I’m sure glad I did. Thanks for this great post. I really needed something positive to focus on today.

    Like

    • Kenov Says:

      I hear ya. I’m “positive” challenged, but fly fishing sure helps put things in perspective. Thanks for the kind words. I’ve often looked at and enjoyed your blog too.

      Like

  2. Bill Gregory Says:

    Put words into my mouth??? I will be back this weekend. It was a great day my friend.

    Like

  3. Kenov Says:

    Wish I could get away this weekend. I’ll be free after Sunday, though.

    Like

  4. cofisher49 Says:

    Thanks Kenov. It’s nice to see another FFR alum.

    Like

  5. Kenov Says:

    Yes, we seem to be a wordy lot at FFR. Fortunately, those words are usually a bit more measured than they are at other sites.

    Like

  6. Scott Says:

    I definitely need to check out Nova’s book. Thanks for the great post. Cheers for connections!

    Like

    • Kenov Says:

      It’s a good read, Scott. The early chapters are particularly nice. He recently revised and expanded the book, but I haven’t had a chance to read the latest edition yet.

      Like

  7. trutta99 Says:

    I am enjoying your blog. The mix of literature and Trout hits the sweet spot!

    Like

    • Kenov Says:

      Thanks very much! I just spent some time at your site and really like it too (it’s bookmarked now). That last stanza of “The Fisherman” is great. South Africa, yes? Definitely on my list of places to fish.

      Like

      • trutta99 Says:

        Thank you. Yes, South Africa it is. I hail from the Drakensberg area, on the Eastern side. Kwa-Zulu Natal province.Make the trip: I will put you onto some good water…!

        Like

  8. rivertoprambles Says:

    Here’s hoping you experience a lot more of these pleasant boundary crossings in the months to come. Wild brookies are a trigger for that, and for literary reflections as well.

    Like

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