This story was originally published in April 2021.
I did not grow up fishing. My first serious introduction to fishing was fly fishing in my 20s, and I was hooked (pun intended).
I’ve since fly fished for salmon in Alaska, sea-run brown trout in Iceland, brook trout at Libby Camps, salmon at Grand Lake Stream and striped bass at York Beach. I now consider myself a bonafide snobby fly fisherman. So, when my better half, Travis, suggested we go trolling, I looked down my nose in disgust and replied, “Isn’t trolling for people who can’t fish? You just sit there and don’t really do anything, right?”
“It’s relaxing. Trust me, just try it,” he responded.
“Ok fine, but I’m using my fly rod,” I said.
Truth was, I didn’t own anything other than fly rods. I grabbed my 6-weight rod with a sinking line from L.L. Bean, and tied on a black ghost. Travis grabbed his lead core rod and we climbed into our 16-foot aluminum boat. Argos, our dog, jumped gracefully and enthusiastically into the bow. We recently purchased a home on Crystal Lake in Gray, and it was our first-time open water fishing it. It was April 5 and the ice had only recently melted. The water was as flat and smooth as a mirror.
Travis put the motor in gear but did not give it any throttle. We putted along at about 2 mph. I let some line off my reel and held the rod in my hands. Travis turned on the fish finder — a large number 12 lit up on the screen indicating we were only in 12 feet of water. We were so close to shore that I could see people watching tv inside their homes.
Fifteen minutes into our troll, I heard the clicking of my reel and felt the familiar tug on my line. The tip of the rod bent over and bounced. I started striping in line and Travis put the boat in neutral. The fish came in easily.
“It’s a brown,” Travis said as he scooped the fish into the net. The silvery fish was long and slender and speckled with large black spots.
“Our first open water fish from the lake! Let’s keep it for dinner. We can call this cove, ‘Brown Town,'” I said. Argos licked the fish in approval, and we continued our evening troll along shore.
As I let the line back out into the water, I noticed a juvenile eagle take flight from a nearby pine tree. A half dozen mallards also took flight, undoubtedly nervous about the presence of the eagle. A week prior, I had seen an eagle half-heartedly try to catch a duck. The mallard dove for long periods of time before finally flying off, away from the eagle.
“I’m on!” I shrieked as my rod bounced up and down.
Fifty feet behind the boat a fish leapt into the air. “Get the net!” I squealed.
“It’s not even close to the boat, calm down,” Travis replied, chuckling.
“It just leapt again! Feels decent sized!” I said excitedly. When the fish was close to the boat, Travis slipped her into the net. It was a healthy rainbow trout. I admired the iridescent rainbow strip down her otherwise silver side. After a quick photo and with a strong kick, she swam off with purpose into the icy water.
A neighbor on his lawn gave a thumbs up. His two pugs yapped incessantly at us.
“Let’s call that spot, ‘Pug House.'”Travis suggested. “Now do you like trolling?” He asked with a smirk.
“You’re right, it’s a good mix of relaxation and excitement and I still get to fight the fish on my fly rod,” I replied as I studied the sky, now shades of cherry and plum as the sun began to set. The cry of a distant loon reverberated over the low hum of the motor.
I began making a mental list of things to bring for our next evening troll: a more comfortable chair, rod holders, a speaker for music and snacks.
“I could get used to this, ‘not doing anything’ fishing,” I thought, as we putted our way home with fresh dinner.