“There’s no place like home.”
That was the message from “The Wizard of Oz.” And what was true for Dorothy is sometimes also true of fishing. For all of the fun of traveling and exploring new fishing spots (like, for example, Alaska), there is something quite enjoyable about returning home to a favorite river — a river I know well, whose insect hatches I have fished, whose seasons and personalities I have become familiar with.
It’s like eating your favorite home-cooked meal after a week of eating out at nice restaurants. Those fancy restaurants can be fine for a time, but eventually you crave your spouse’s familiar best recipe that he or she makes just for you, or that dish your mom used to make whose taste you still remember 20 years later.
At the end of the day on Monday, after leaving work and making a stop at Monument Farms for fresh milk (the best chocolate milk in the country), yard chores, dinner, and getting a youngest son ready for a first day of school, I had just over half an hour left until sunset and maybe an hour left before dark.
Counting time to get my gear together and the drive down to the New Haven River, that left about 40 minutes for actual fishing — and that much only if I was willing to share the stream with bats for the last 15 minutes.
The water is low and clear this time of year — though, thanks to a rainy June and July, not as low as some Augusts have been. Although the nighttime air has started to cool, and leaves have their first hints of color, the water is also still a bit warm during the day.
Except for the deepest pools, or in swift rips in shaded gorges, trout tend to be pretty quiet during August days, especially the sunny ones: not very hungry, not very daring, and easily spooked. Which means that early mornings and late evenings can be especially good, as trout make up with a few minutes of voracious appetite for a whole day of holding out under rocks fasting.
That, at least, has been my experience the past two decades of fishing in Vermont. But my first 25 minutes of fishing didn’t produce a single strike. Maybe my Vermont instincts were just out of tune after a long period away.
But then, just as the sun dipped below the horizon and the skyline behind me turned from a hint of light pink to deep hues of orange and purple, and the sky above shifted from a bright azure to the darkest of blues, a 17-inch rainbow swirled out from beneath a log in a nominal pool between two of my favorite holes.
Although I could not see the fish clearly in the twilight, I could tell it was a rainbow right away because it took three beautiful leaps, each about a foot and a half out of the water. Rainbows, by nature, are wonderful leapers. The love to arc over the water, like their multi-colored namesakes that appear after storms.
I could also tell my fish was 17 inches, not only from the good fight it put up, but because, after about two minutes of fighting it and a couple good runs that pulled out line, I landed it. It was one of my better trout of the year, and certainly, coming from my “home” river, one of the most pleasurable.
The same little girl who told us “There’s no place like home,” also sang, “Somewhere, over the rainbow, skies are blue. And the dreams that you dare to dream, really do come true.” I don’t think she was thinking of rainbow trout. But the words fit.