Local History by Ron Patch: Boyhood memories

  Here’s another story by Lee Kendall. I remember, do you?

One of my lifelong ideas of fun was set in my brain the first time dad introduced me and my brothers to trout fishing. We came up from Florida on a summer vacation and were visiting my uncle Slayton at his farm.

A little brook that a nine year old could jump across just about anywhere ran down through Slayton’s property. The brook started at the base of Hawk’s Mountain. It ran through an old pasture overgrown with juniper and brush. After that it wound through the cow and sheep pastures below the barn. At the end of Slayton’s field it passed through a stone wall onto the property of Mr. Downing.

It made a lot of twists and curves through Downing’s pasture. Every curve had a deep pool. After this pasture it went into thick hemlock woods that were dark and shady.

Left to right: Dana, Kim, and Lee Kendall. Photo provided
Left to right: Dana, Kim, and Lee Kendall. Photo provided

Little boys were uneasy in the woods. It was dark and quiet. The shadows around the big hemlock trees were easy for a boy with an active imagination to fill with things he might not want to meet up with.

We all headed down to the brook. We were told how wild trout are difficult to catch. The brook was so clear and clean. You could see everything in the brook. Everything in the brook could see you too.

“You can’t let them see you,” said dad. “If they see you they won’t bite.” He showed us how to crawl on our bellies and keep out of sight behind bushes and tree trunks.

Slayton pulled a flat, red, pipe tobacco can out of his pocket. It had holes punched in the lid. He turned over a rock next to the brook. There were two fat worms under it. We turned over rocks until we had ten or twelve worms in the can.

Dad and Slayton cut three whippy little saplings six or seven feet long, as big as your finger on the big end. Three feet of stiff brown, worst fishing line in the world was tied to the whippy tip. An Eagle Claw hook and our tackle was complete.

I don’t believe I’ve ever had a fishing rod since that gave me any more fun than that first one.

“You don’t need much bait,” said dad as he pinched about a half-inch section from a worm and threaded it on a hook. “Here you go. You’re all set,” he said and handed Dana the first pole.

Kim and I baited our own. My dad released us on the enchanted wonderland of that brook with one final caution. “You can’t get lost. Just stay near the brook. You can follow it right back to here,” he said.

There is no smell like a brook running through a Vermont cow pasture on a sunny day, and probably none any better. I watched my dad and Slayton start back towards the barn.

Like a litter of feral creatures we cautiously approached the edge of a large pool. We peered over the tops of the bushes on the bank of the brook. There was a sudden streaking of shapes near the bottom of that crystal clear water as four or five trout darted under rocks.

We extended our poles over the water and lowered our hooks into the pool. Nothing bit.

“I’m gonna try that pool up there.” said Kim. “I’m going down the brook,” I said. “I’m staying here and waiting for them to come back out,” said Dana.

Dana stretched out on his stomach behind a bush. He got his line worked through the bushes and back in the water.

“They’re gonna come back and I’m gonna get ‘em,” he muttered to himself. “What a dummy,” I thought.

There was a big stump at the edge of the next pool. I crouched down and leaned against it. I couldn’t see the water as I stuck my pole around the side of the stump and lowered my bait in the pool.

Suddenly I felt a tug. I lifted the pole. Squirming frantically at the end of my line was a glistening trout. I swung that trout onto the bank and pounced on it.

I couldn’t believe that five inch long fish. It was nothing like a Florida fish. For starters it had no scales, just smooth skin. Gold and white belly, red and black spots, green and black mottled back, all the colors so brilliant.

I stood there admiring that fish. “I’ve got one. I’ve got one.”

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