Never too old
by Robert Booz
I spend a good bit of the year with a line in the water, but there’s nothing quite like trout fishing in the spring. It brings me back to my childhood, with a pushbutton Zebco Rod & Reel in my hand and a worm dangling from the snelled hook at the end of my line, to that first day of fishing season. That’s where my love for fishing began.
A lot has changed since those early days. While I never got into fly fishing, I did upgrade to an open face spinning reel and a nicer rod—a few of them, in fact. I’ve ditched the live bait for artificial spoons and spinner baits that are easier to care for and less likely to kill the fish when I catch and release. But what hasn’t changed is the anticipation leading up to that first spring day that I make it out to the pond, and the unique combination of accomplishment and hunger that hits when my first catch lands in the pan.
It may seem odd to bring up freshwater fishing while literally surrounded by ocean, but trout are as much a part of the Island’s history as any ocean fish. (Plus, we all need to get away from the coast sometimes.) Many of the Island’s small ponds, brooks and streams historically held both non-migratory and sea-run brook trout, colloquially known as salters. A testament to the Island’s fine preservation and management of wild space, you can still find native brookies if you know where to look. To my mind, better to leave these spaces wild and focus on the brook trout, brown trout, rainbow trout and the tiger trout, all species the state stocks in Upper Lagoon Pond in Oak Bluffs, as well as Mill Pond and Seth’s Pond in West Tisbury. Or bring the kids to Duarte’s Pond in May for Martha’s Vineyard Rod and Gun Club’s annual trout derby—a piece of Island history in its own right.
So why go after stocked species when there’s an ocean teaming with wild seafood all around? Well, besides the fact that the stripers aren’t running yet, I’ve always found there’s something in trout fishing that I don’t quite find in the ocean, where waves crash, or the boat motor groans, or the wind howls, and where even on the calmest days I’m seldom alone. Trout fishing is a time when I can wander down to the stream or pond and listen to the birds sing. I can watch a deer meander through the morning mist, or just focus on the retrieval of my spinner as it flashes through the clear water. I can feel the world waking up from winter. And with a little luck, I can later taste spring on my plate, in the form of freshly caught trout.
As a kid, my father always reminded me that “it’s called ‘fishing,’ not ‘catching,’” which has proven to be a wise outlook long-term. I’ve always been equally happy with the discovery of a sunfish and a sand shark as with trout or flounder—it’s the thrill of having something on the end of your line. That’s never changed, and, as I suspect for most recreational fishermen, it probably never will.