Yesterday I was at a job in Massachusetts, near Marlboro, inspecting the roofs in a community that rests on a hill top. The sun shone bright through a clear, blue sky warming the day to the mid-fifty degree mark. Throughout the afternoon I kept seeing little-black stoneflies on the building trim and siding, lots of them. Almost everywhere I looked I saw the thin, dark shapes moving along the warm, white trim, or in the air, their two sets of smoky wings fluttering like a confused helicopter.
By the time I got done with the inspections, I had one thing on my mind. I had to find out where the stoneflies were hatching from and if the stream was fishable. I left the community and I headed down the hill to where the land flattened out and began looking for what in my mind was a clear, clean, freestone stream contained by rocky banks and shadowed by bare hardwoods and low, leafless brush.
After following my nose for a bit I found the stream as it passed under an empty, one-lane road. The stream was just as I had imagined - small, swift and clear, with clay-lined rocky banks and a graveled bottom. It paralleled the road through fallow farmland, filled with overgrown brush and pale, tall dead grasses and weeds. There were also quite a few trees of mid-life size, scattered along the banks and the surrounding land.
I pulled off the road about 50 yards from the stream and walked through the field to the stream. As I approached the narrow flow – a 20 foot cast would span the banks – I saw more stoneflies in the air. Upon reaching streamside, I also saw some stones on the water trying to take flight, and others skittering along dropping their egg laden abdomens to release their progeny.
And then I heard that familiar sound every angler associates with feeding trout, and looked to where the noise came from. Downstream along a low, curving, cut bank, a trout rose in a splash to take one of the hapless stoneflies. And then another did the same, or maybe it was the same fish, and I walked quickly down to get a closer look.
The stream curved gently and widened into a smooth flow along the outside, creating the perfect conveyor of food to trout hanging under the bank in the shadows. I watched as several brook trout took turns ascending from the secure darkness of the depths to chase the stoneflies on the surface for an early spring meal. The fish were small, maybe 7-8 inches, and deep olive in color. I imagined that up close, their flanks had the typical brook trout red spots surrounded by pale, blue halos, and their dorsal sides showing the vermiculated light and dark patterns so well known to anglers in the Northeast.
I imagined, and watched, and walked and watched some more and found in every likely holding spot, a trout or two rising to take the plentiful stoneflies. Some rises were subtle sips, and others were splashy aggressive affairs, with the trout sometimes torpedoing completely out of the water. I couldn’t help but think the trout were happy in some way, with the warming water and first hatch of the year going full-tilt. I know I was happy, and fascinated, as the site of feeding trout never seems to grow old, especially after a long, cold winter.
Note to self - carry your equipment everywhere you go!
And sharpen your hooks.