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Diving for Trout
Adolescence brought confusion to me (even more than I exhibit now). Boyhood was over, adulthood still seemed distant, my face was pimply, I was filling with testosterone. I was broke, too young to get a job, too big to hang around. My friends were all in the same boat. So three of us, Mike Leone, Tim Deveau, and I, spent most of our days one summer fishing.
The closest pond to my house was properly called Fellsmere Pond, but everyone we knew simply called it The Rez. Mike, Timmy, and I found ourselves there two or three days a week. We were victims of an ongoing fiscal crisis and at The Rez we could entertain ourselves most economically.
We became experts at finding bait. Crayfish, earthworms, beetle grubs, crickets, grasshoppers, anything a fish might eat found its way onto our hooks. Most of the time we just acted stupid like young kids are prone to do. We stayed out of trouble though, and even caught a fish once in a while.
Malden Anglers Association used to stock 200 rainbow trout into Fellsmere Pond every April, one week before the big fishing derby they’d put on for the local kids. Some of those fish would manage to survive that shoulder-to-shoulder, line-tangling, water-beating, rock throwing frenzy, only to slowly asphyxiate once the water began really heating up at the end of June. But for a couple months The Rez would supply some fishing for an actual, honest-to-God salmonid, and catching one was the pinnacle of angling achievement in our young, city kid lives.
Twelve thousand years ago a humongous sheet of ice retreated from somewhere south of Fellsmere Pond. As it did so it left lots and lots of rocks, some of them very large, around the margins of the pond. Mike, Timmy, and I found ourselves sitting on one of these rocks one day, fishing.
I made up a Spaghetti Special. A Spaghetti Special consisted of three, four or even five small earthworms, all threaded onto a single #8 or #6 Eagle Claw hook. There was no lack of slimy, squirming fish appeal in a Spaghetti Special. I cast the tentacular glob of worms into the water, put the fishing rod down, and recommenced whatever stupid stuff I had been doing before I baited my hook. With three teenaged boys hanging around, stupid stuff was never hard to find.
The line came tight, a welcome distraction from the stupid stuff. I grabbed the rod and set the hook. Holy cow, a trout jumped out of the water! The three of us immediately forgot all about the stupid stuff, our undivided attention focused on catching that prize fish.
Those were simple times, and we used simple techniques. Of course we lacked a landing net. We were standing on top of the rock, about four feet off the water. I horsed the fish up to the rocks and decided to use the by then well established “Derrick Method” for getting it from the water to me. I jerked hard on the rod. The fish made a magnificent arc through the atmosphere, landing with perfect aim right at my feet. At just that moment the hook decided to fall out of the trout’s mouth.
Picture it, if you will: a very surprised and dismayed fish flopping around desperately on top of a dirty rock; three dumb kids trying to grab it, all looking like they have pants full of fire ants; and then boink, boink, boink, splash! as the fish wins the battle and somehow bounces its way back into the pond.
Three of us are dumbfounded by this turn of events- Timmy, me, and the trout. Mike, however, is moved to immediate action. Without hesitation he dives headfirst off the rock onto the stunned trout. What makes this lightning-like reflexive action particularly astonishing is that first, Mike is fully clothed, second, we have no idea how deep the water is, and third, Mike can’t swim a stroke.
As it turns out the water is only waist deep. Not only does Mike not break his neck, the concussion of his striking the water stuns the fish so completely that Mike is able to grab it and hold on to it as he clambers, dripping and spluttering, out of the water and rejoins us on top of the rock. Mission accomplished!
Nowadays I am a Professional Fishing Guide. I frequently have desirable fish species swim right past the front of my boat, in plain view of my anglers. I often tell my angler, “Just jump on him!” Not one ever has. Always disappointed, I tell them, “You don’t have much killer instinct.”
And then I think fondly, nay proudly! back to Mr. Killer Instinct himself, Mike Leone, fearlessly risking his life on that day, so many years ago, when he went diving for trout.
john kumiski outdoor communications