A Mitchell 300 & Ernie Aumand

13 inch Brook Trout. Photo by Ron Patch


The best thing about Vermont’s changing seasons is that new seasons usher in new outdoor opportunities. On April 8 trout season begins in Vermont. The ice is still on local ponds so brook fishing will be the only option.

Early trout fishing is seldom productive. The water is high and very cold in early April making the trout sluggish. But that doesn’t stop diehards like me and Danny Clemons. We’ll look for a small brook and give it a try. If there’s snow on the ground we’ll try the boat landing in Springfield.

For me there’s something magical about being outdoors fishing. You forget all of your worries and focus on the tip of your pole. You hold your line where it comes off the reel between your thumb and forefinger. This technique allows you to feel the faintest twitch of a trout hitting your bait. You concentrate on fishing and nothing else. Time passes you by.

Older local people will remember Ernie Aumand’s store in North Walpole in the 1950s-1960s. Ernie carried a complete line of furniture and house wares. In the back of his store he had a well stocked sporting goods store. He had just about anything a hunter or fisherman would need.

Young boys like me would go to Ernie’s with their fathers. As your father talked with Ernie you would walk around in amazement at the selection Ernie had. There were racks with dozens and dozens of fish poles. Ernie sold all sorts of reels, lures, fishing vests and firearms. He carried a complete line of fish line, hooks and sinkers. Ernie’s was heaven for a young boy.

If you went to Ernie’s on a Friday night before the first day of deer season or trout season the place would be packed. Customers would be standing shoulder to shoulder. You’d talk to someone you didn’t know but you both had something in common. “Look at this new reel,” one would say to the other. “Boy, that’s a dandy,” would be the reply.

Growing up in my house we always had Outdoor Life and Field & Stream magazines. As a young boy I read every story and every advertisement. I would read an advertisement for guided fishing trips in Ontario where you had to fly in to a remote lake to fish. These advertisements were a delightful fantasy for young boys. What an adventure we would conjure up in our minds.

These sporting magazines were a “Wish-book” for young boys. One advertisement that caught my eye in those days was for the Garcia Mitchell 300 fishing reel.

Every boy wanted a “300” as they were known. I saved my money and went down to Ernie’s and bought a 300 in 1967. I seem to remember it cost me $16. That reel was every bit as good as I dreamed. My 300 is 50 years old this year. I still use it whenever I go fishing today. Quality never goes out of style.

It was in the early 1970s in late April or early May that I was fishing down at the boat landing in Springfield with Dave Nichols. There were several fishermen there fishing for anything that might bite. Dave and I were fishing just to the left of the boat landing.

I was fishing with nightcrawlers when all of a sudden I got a good hit. The fish was fairly heavy and a good fighter. We soon saw him as I reeled him in. It was a beautiful brook trout that measured just over 13 inches long. All of the fishermen there came to see this unusual catch. There was much discussion as to where he had come from. It was the largest brookie I’ve ever caught.

No one there had heard of brook trout being caught in this section of the Connecticut River. Well, I took him off the hook and laid him on the ground when Dave said, “You’ll never do that again.”

About 15 minutes later I got another hit from a smaller fish. Can you imagine our surprise to see another brook trout? Incredible says it best. The photo with this story is of those two brook trout. They were both very fat trout.

I’ve always wondered if those brook trout lived in the Connecticut River or had they come into the Connecticut River from the nearby Black River? Perhaps there are other fishermen out there who have had a similar experience. If so I’d love to hear from you.

This week’s old saying: “Washington, D.C. is Capitol Punishment.”

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