Whenever I am asked about trout fishing in September, my answer is always something like this:
- The fishing can be slow.
- The fish are moody.
- They are thinking more about reproducing than eating.
- The weather conditions can vary greatly, also affecting their moods and urges.
- That said, the fish are in peak condition in both strength and appearance.
So the quick, two-day trip that Tony and I took just after Labor Day proved all of that.
We started our fishing at one of the most famous spots on the Magalloway River–the Mailbox Pool. We never fish there because it ALWAYS has so many fishermen that I feel like I can’t enjoy myself in a crowd that size.
So when we saw no cars there, we decided to see what was so special about this spot. When we got there, it was obvious why it was so desirable. It looked like the picture perfect trout water.
We fished it without a hint of a fish. I think I saw one fish rise. So when a young man showed up with *two* fly rods and his dog, and apparently had fished here many times, we decided to move on.
Surprisingly, when we got to our car, there was no other vehicle there. We assumed this young man walked there. That said, there is only one house within a mile or more of this place, which seemed to confirm our belief that he was very much a local.
Now we moved on to our secret place on the river, downstream a few miles. This spot is rather innocuous, but it simply holds fish, big fish. You might remember this spot from this spring’s story of the big brookie that Tony hooked briefly. It was easily the biggest brookie we had ever seen in the lower 48.
So we fished that pool–or more accurately a bend–and for quite some time, there was little to get excited about. Suddenly a nice sized fish broke right in front of me. Thankfully I was in such a position that I was almost instantly able to put my flies (a dry with a nymph dropper) right on the spot. There was a splash, and I was on. Tony knew, even at a distance that it was not your typical 9-inch brookie, and he dashed over to help.
The bank there is the very definition of steep and deep. It is a few feet deeper that Tony is tall. He literally slid down the bank, having to be careful not to go too far so as not to end up in the very deep river.
Eventually, I got this beautiful native brook trout to Tony’s waiting net–a very small hand net that you hang from your wading vest. What we needed, and I’ve since created is a long-handled net.
Now Tony needed to get up the bank. That was no small feat, but eventually he made it. The trout was a beautiful 15-inch female that we returned to the river very quickly. That made the trip.
This place is within a short drive of one of the most heavily fished brook trout pools in all of New England–or maybe the Northeast! We have only once seen another fisherman there, and even that was very briefly, thankfully.
At midday, we went to the dam. That resulted in each of us catching a trout and a salmon.
Tony’s salmon was the biggest at 15.5 inches. It was a nice couple of hours.
That evening, we returned to our secret spot. Just after sunset, I heard an excited Tony as a salmon took to the air. I went over to help, as it appeared something was wrong. Sure enough, the salmon had taken Tony’s line under a log, not once but twice, wrapping the line around it, and making it impossible to move him. I held Tony’s rod while he once again climbed down the steep bank and into the river, lifted the log, and rolled it to untangle his leader. The fish and the fly were gone.
It worked out for this very smart–or more likely lucky–salmon, as the resistance of the log was enough to break the leader at the fly, which was one of the yellow soft hackle streamers that I tie. Luckily, Tony took a picture of it before he tied it on so I can recreate the fly that he lost.
The next morning we returned to the dam, and Tony caught an average sized brown trout.
Later that afternoon, we returned to the dam and caught a couple of small smallmouth bass.
When 10 high school students began to slowly portage their kayaks over the dam, we decided to move on.
That night, we returned to our secret spot. It started off quiet and uneventful. There were no rises to take note of.
Suddenly, about a rod-and-a-half length from me, directly in front of me, the largest salmon that I have ever seen south of Labrador, jumped in a classic arch.
It–and I mean this very honestly–took my breath away. I could not even speak as I tried to yell to Tony. I finally caught my breath, and it became obvious that at even 75 yards away, Tony had heard the splash and seen the rings.
This is going to sound crazy to some, but like the appreciation for the big brookie earlier in the year, we felt lucky just to be fishing in a place that a magnificent fish like that called home. Actually, he probably does not live there. He is more likely there for the sole purpose of spawning. He’ll then leave, but he’ll be back. So will we.