I’ve been hearing a lot of fishing stories in the last few years. I am hoping to share a few of them with you over the next few months, along with a few of my own. I have also found that some times there are stories within the stories.
With that said, I want to tell you about Heidi and her story within a story. We had a great trip this summer and it is one I won’t soon forget. I have a feeling I will be telling this one for years to come.
In 2015 Heidi booked a remote pond trip with me for 2016. As you know, this year was dry and everything was early but our date was set and there was no changing it. I was booked the rest of the summer. I have a certain time of year I hike into this remote pond here in Maine. The fish are hard to catch but if you do land one, it is likely to be a trophy brook trout. They get stupid chasing the Hexagenia mayfly that hatch. So our goal is not a certain number of fish but maybe one or two trophy trout. As you know this year was dry and everything was early but our date was set and there was no changing it. I was booked the rest of the summer.
The thing is, this trip almost didn’t happen. I received a phone call from Heidi early in the the spring. She sounded nervous on the phone. She told me that her sister and mother didn’t think it was a good idea to go into a remote pond for a couple of days with a man alone. I told her that was fine and that we could fish elsewhere. Those days were hers and we could figure something else out. I asked her how her husband felt about it and he was fine with it. I was telling my friend Stacy about Heidi’s dilemma and she offered to go in with us so Heidi wouldn’t be the alone. So I made the offer to Heidi and the trip was back on.
After a long hike in and getting camp set up, we went fishing. I spent the day paddling Heidi around the pond. We could not move a fish. I think I went through every fly in my box. I didn’t want to keep her out there for 10 hours of straight fishing so we went back to camp for lunch and also managed to fit in a little nap. As the sun began to fade, things started to change. On occasion you could hear an explosion on the water. Of course it was never close to us but the pond was slowly coming alive. If we had only spent a few hours fishing there, we would think it was void of fish but like I said, when the Hex start to hatch, the trout get stupid.
Keep in mind, this is only Heidi’s second year fly fishing. She is a busy mom of 2 and a full time doctor with very little time to be out on the water fishing. And much like anything else, the more practice you get, the better you become. Fly fishing is no exception. So that moment when everything is perfectly aligned, you have to be ready.
Typically I have an hour to fish the hatch but the season was early so the hatch started early as well. Our window was small with fewer bugs on the water. The sooner you can fish this hatch the better.
Our hatch didn’t start until 8:30pm and it was like someone was dropping boulders into the pond. You could feel the excitement every time a fish came to the surface. They would rise all around us but just outside of Heidi’s casting capabilities. I would try to paddle her closer but by then it was too late. I did this well into the dark night without success. As we paddled back to our campsite, we all talked about what had just happened. It is an amazing thing to witness and something most people never experience because they don’t take the time.
Once back at camp, we got a fire going and poured our fist glasses of wine. We sat around laughing and talking about the day, trying to determine our game plan for day two. Heidi was discourage and concerned she wouldn’t be able to get the cast where she needed to in order to catch fish. We offered to hike her out in the morning and fish for smallmouth somewhere else. She thought that would be a better choice and decided to make that our plan for day 2. It was at that point she and Stacy dipped into night two’s bottle of wine, trying to lighten their load for the hike out in the morning. We ate and laughed the night away. We all stumbled to bed and I dreamt of huge brook trout taking size 8 dries.
We were up make coffee the next morning when Heidi informs us that she is having second thoughts on hiking out. She feared she would regret not staying and trying one more night. I told her it was her trip and I was game for anything but the the whole day was going to be spent working on her cast. I would try some stuff on a sinking line to see if I could figure out something during the day before the hatch. She was up for it so that is what we did all day, cast and cast some more. We stopped long enough to take a little nap and have some lunch and went back at it until dinner. After filling up on dehydrated meals we headed out onto the water for the hatch. It was time to see if all Heidi’s hard work had paid off. It was 7 p.m. and we were hoping something would happen earl but it didn’t. 8:30 it was.
My game plan was to anchor up in one spot and have the fish come to us and I have Stacy anchor in another spot. I wasn’t going to chase them all over the pond this time. We could hear fish exploding on the other side of the pond where Stacy was when we heard, “one just rose over here.” And seconds later, “Another!” All I hear is Heidi saying, “don’t do it!” and Stacy saying, “there’s another one!”
I pull anchor and head to the other side of the pond. There was a small chop on the water, so unless a fish exploded we couldn’t see the rise. As we approached Stacy I could see a fish feeding in the cover near her. That point was blocking the wind. I instructed Heidi to cast to the last place the fish rose. Often times the fish will came right back for your fly.
Heidi makes a great cast and puts her fly right where the fish just surfaced but before anything can happen, another fish explodes right by my right shoulder. When I say explode, I mean, I got wet from the fish eating the mayfly. I yell “right behind me!”
Heidi makes a back cast and lands the fly right in the circle, perfect cast and nothing happens. I turn and say, “usually they come right back up” and as the word leave my mouth the water erupts and I yell, “Thats you!”
”I know, I have the fish on” Heidi shrieks.
I had told Heidi beforehand that these fish can be so big that they could turn the canoe and this was one of those fish. The fish runs down the side of the boat towards her and then to her left turning the boat so we were now facing Stacy. Heidi fights the fish beautifully, not over playing it but not forcing the fish into the net to soon. I slid my net under the fish and say to her, “oh my, I just knocked the fish off.” The expression on her face was priceless. It went from that of sheer horror to complete excitement when I lifted the net with her fish inside. She had one shot and she sealed the deal! I snap a few pictures and released the fish back into the water. We spent the rest of the night replaying the days adventures in all it’s excitement and emotion.
You would think her story would end there but it certainly did not. Heidi’s story was much more than the exciting challenge of catching a trophy brooke trout in a remote pond. Her story was much more about what happened next. What happened when the three of us were sitting at the House of Pizza ready to enjoy our first real meal in days. After eating dehydrated meals for two days our mouths were watering for a little pizza.
Our pizza had just been set on the table when Heid looks at us and says, ” I just realized yesterday was the anniversary of my brothers death. He is the reason I got into fly fishing. ” Before I knew it, they were both crying and even I choked back a few tears. I felt there was a reason she didn’t catch a fish the first night but did on the anniversary of her brother’s death. It was as if he was there with her that night, helping her, coaching her.
We all have a story. Some are simple and some are complex. Sometimes there’s a story inside a story as well. Each fishing trip leads us to the next story. We become better fishermen but we also learn a lot about life. Fishing can help heal and help us forget, for that moment, about our stresses and worries in life. There aren’t many things in life that you get you focused on living in the moment like fishing.
Whats your story?