New Year's trout

New Year’s is a time for reflection and perhaps a few resolutions. I made a great one when I decided to go fishing on New Year’s Day and I managed to take advantage of the warm weather and catch a couple beautiful brookies. That’s the way to start another 12 months.

As I’ve grown a bit older, New Year’s Eve has lost much of its importance.

Back in the day, the upcoming year was a momentous occasion and the family spent some effort preparing food, buying drinks and getting together for the big event. Now, with my kids scattered about and often away from home themselves over New Year’s, with my father, my wife, grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins deceased, my circle of close relatives has shrunk considerably; in fact, I’m about the only one in the area. Even when Jane was still alive, we often just stayed home, had a good meal, watched a movie and went to bed before midnight. Neither of us liked arising tired the next morning.

THIS YEAR, good friend Steve Colley cordially invited me up to his home for a small get together and I was pleased to have received the offer. About a half-dozen of us sat in his kitchen eating meatball sandwiches, sausage, cheese, crackers and several desserts. The conversation covered a wide variety of subjects and the pleasant murmur of friendly voices whiled away the hours. In fact, we made it all the way to 10:30 before people started drifting off.

Once back home I found myself surprisingly wide awake, probably due to the large amount of Coca-Cola I’d put away. Though yawning when I left Steve’s, the nippy temperature outside seemed to jolt me wide awake. I sat down to read a little and before I knew it the fireworks celebrating the birth of 2022 were exploding over Mt. Raub. After watching them I hit the hay, surprised I’d actually been awake for the New Year.

Sometime during the night, I became aware it was raining cats and dogs outside, but I rolled over and went back to sleep. The next morning, I awoke at 8 and by 10 a.m. had become a little stir crazy. The thermometer hovered at a balmy 40 degrees, begging me to do something outdoors.

I’d been keeping an eye on several of the smaller local lakes and ponds and noticed the ice was thin and melting at the edges. Had the heavy rain thawed enough of the ice for me to fish? I felt it was worth taking a look and called my friend Scott Neely, asking him if he wanted to scout the situation out. Scott is almost always available at short notice and it wasn’t long until he pulled up at my home, a big grin on his face. I tossed my gear in his truck and we were on our way.

ARRIVING at the lake we were happy to see the rain had indeed been busy; the center of the lake still had an ice covering, but the edges had melted out approximately a long cast from shore. Perfect.

I grabbed my vest and was tucking my pants into my boots and zipping up my jacket when I heard Scott groan.

“Look what I did.”

He held up his tiny UL and, at first, I didn’t notice what was bothering him, but a second glance showed his reel had an empty spool, no line. He grabbed the wrong pole.

“What in the world’s wrong with me,” he asked, a frustrated expression on his face. What could I do but laugh, my own memory a bit lacking these days.

I reached into a vest pocket and pulled out a spool of Stren 4-pound test monofilament and handed it to him. His relief was tremendous. I always carry a spare spool and on rare occasions actually get to use it myself. Most of the time I end up donating it to my friends who for some puzzling reason don’t expect the worst to happen. I’m much too acquainted with Murphy’s Law for that.

I was surprised to see some other fishermen. They relished telling us how good the trout hit the day before; today was very slow. Should have been here then. Thanks, guys.

I, by some small miracle, had salted minnows with me and, figuring the trout had been hammered by lures, fished for an hour with them, working my way up the shoreline. Nothing. Well, so much for natural; let’s go larger and brighter. I tied on an orange and brown minnow bait and worked my way back. Sure enough, after a bit I looked down and saw a big brookie was right behind it. He appeared very interested, even almost grabbed it but didn’t. I kept the lure moving back and forth, twitching it and he kept following. After at least a minute or two of back-and-forth I paused for a second and he grabbed it. Then I remembered I had no net. Stepping into the icy water I discovered my Muck Boots had a hole. Finally, I trapped the trout between my boots and the shore and landed him. Then the hook fell out. Whew, the fish was worth an icy, wet foot.

I had another flash or two behind my lure the following casts and switched to salted minnows. I felt a tap, raised my rod and tangled the tip and my line in the limbs. The offending branch was broken and hanging by a thin strip. Scott showed up, looked the situation over and brought over a fallen limb with which he tore the other down. Thank you, my friend.

When I managed to unravel the line from the branches, I noticed the line remaining in the water was pointing at a steep angle to the side. Could the fish still have my minnow?

I reeled in the slack, felt the fish and soon landed another fat brookie. Now, that’s the way to begin the New Year. Back home, I fried the fillets in butter, with a little rice. Delicious.

May the upcoming year bring joy to you and yours.


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