Sports Column by Matt Dickerson: A rainbow spotted before a storm

I arrived at the New Haven River at 7 p.m. Thankfully, though the water was still running clear, the light rain of the previous few days had the water up a bit from the unseasonably low level of early May. The sky was overcast, but the weather was holding. Conditions looked promising all around. Furthermore, the forecast was for steady rain the next few days, including scattered thunderstorms, so I expected this evening to be the pick of the week.
I started at a deep hole I used to fish regularly in the 1990s when I lived a few miles further upstream than I do now. But my intention was to work my way downstream to one of the few areas on the New Haven River I had not fished more than once in 20 years — a spot upriver of the village of Bristol but not yet into the mountains.
When I got down to the water’s edge and saw a steady hatch of small yellow stoneflies drifting past me four feet above the water, along with an occasional dark grey mayfly; my hopes went up. I tied on a small but heavily weighted imitation of a golden stonefly nymph along with an even smaller mayfly nymph and started drifting it through the riffs, down into holes, behind rocks.
I had covered a good 70 yards of water before I got my first strike. Drifting my flies in front of a fallen log, I felt the sharp tug of a hard take. A few seconds later, I pulled a small wild rainbow trout out of the water.
The New Haven is a heavily stocked river, with brown trout and rainbow trout in the downstream portion and brook trout up higher in the river. This year’s stocking efforts are already well under way. In fact, in many places the stockings are mostly completed. The New Haven had already received its full injection of 2,000 brown trout, 1,500 rainbows, and 500 brookies, all in early May. As of my writing of this column, the lower Middlebury River had not yet been stocked, but 500 brookies had been planted in the upper Middlebury. Otter Creek was about half finished with its stocking.
So I was surprised — and quite delighted — to catch a wild rainbow trout. Even if, at only about seven inches in length, it was quite a bit smaller than any stocked rainbow trout would have been. There was not doubt it was wild, though. I could tell not just from the size, but from the bright colors. I always feel hopeful when I know that trout are successfully reproducing in my favorite streams. Like the famous rainbow that appeared in the skies after Noah’s flood, it was a sign of hope and promise.
Wetting my hands, I gently unhooked the fish and released it back into the water. I don’t have qualms about keeping a stocked fish for supper, but I’d rather let the wild ones go in hopes that they will keep reproducing.
A short time after I put the fish back in the water, I heard the first loud peal of thunder. Standing in a river with a nine-foot graphite rod in hand is no place to be in an electric storm. I started back toward the car at a steady pace and was sitting in relative safety five minutes later. I was not long behind the wheel, with the radio on tuned to the start of the Red Sox game, when the siren sounded over the airways. The National Weather Service was warning of several thunderstorms with inch-thick hail. The fishing day was over. The rainbow had come before the storm. For that, at least, I was thankful.

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