Over the years, I have fished streams, lakes and the ocean around NY State, Canada and in Alaska. Every trip has been a blessing and a privilege I genuinely enjoyed. Although I appreciate every kind of fishing, my favorite will always be a small trout stream like the one in this photographed which I took yesterday. I am sure this is because I spent many hours as a boy, with a trout rod in my hand, standing beside my father. He took me into the little-known trout ponds and hidden streams that he had fished since the early 1900’s. These places, in the heart of the Adirondacks, were untouched natural gems, where we went to get away from people, be together in the woods, and bring home dinner. Dad was one of the last old-time guides in Northern New York, and his love for trout fishing was no secret. Fortunately, he instill that same love within my heart and soul as well.
A pristine trout stream, like the one above, is a thing of beauty and mystery. Each rock in the water, overhanging bank and deep bend in the river presents a new challenge, and a new possibility for catching Speckled Trout. Once you learn to “read” a particular stream, it begins to feel like an old friend that will give up it’s secrets and bounty, every time you go. That friendship can last a lifetime, but it has to be maintained, nurtured, and cared for from year to year. You steward that stream, which means you never abuse it, over use it, or neglect the signs that it may be in need of rest. I have a number of these in the Adirondack Mountains, and I cherish each one.
Over the past 30 years, I discovered these old friends through many different avenues. Some were found by driving back roads on my old 1980 Honda CX500, while others were located by searching topographic maps. Some I found during hunting season, and others I just stumbled upon as a blessing from God. One in particular, is very special to me, because I found it on a day when I was ready to give up. I stopped my motorcycle on a back road, just to rest, clear my thoughts, talk to God and settle my heart after going through a very painful divorce. The moment I shut the engine off, I heard the unmistakable sound of running water, yet there was nothing in sight to indicate it was there. When I pressed through the heavy brush, a small, healthy trout stream caught my eye, yet I had never seen it on any topo map. For a fisherman, this is the equivalent of hitting the lottery, and it changed my life.
Regardless of how a stream came to my attention, each is a treasure to me, and I guard their location with everything in me. Once a kid in our neighborhood tried to follow me to a stream, but I knew his car. After seeing the same vehicle behind me for several miles, and several turns, I took him on a trip through the mountains. Eventually I stopped at a diner for a very long breakfast, while he sat in his car on the road side. Upon leaving the diner, I walked up to him and handed him a cup of coffee, saying, “Hope you enjoyed this scenic Saturday morning drive”, then I drove home. My friends have seen pictures of the trout I catch on a regular basis, and many ask me to take them fishing. My response is always the same , “sure, where would you like to go?” If they want me to reveal one of my streams, my response is something like, “If I did, I’d have to kill you”.
My reason for being so secretive about these streams is rooted in a harsh reality that showed up a few years ago. I broke the “Emmons family rule” and took a friend with me to one of my local streams. The time together was fun, but it brought out an unhealthy competition in me which destroyed the solitude, and sense of unrushed peace I long for in those places. Worse than that, I didn’t realize by bringing another person there, I doubled the fishing pressure on that stream, which upset the management I had established for it over the years
Within two years, the size and number of trout caught in those waters dropped way off. For all practical purposes, I knew I would probably have to write that stream off my list. Then, to add even more problems into the mix, he took others to my stream. Soon I saw that several people had found this stream. There were other sets of boot tracks on the bank when I arrived to fish, and a bit of trash left behind which I picked up when I left. I realized this was the death knell to a stream I loved, and had fished successfully for more than a decade. It also sealed in me the absolute rule that I never reveal a productive trout stream to anyone.
Yesterday I decided to try one of my other dead streams again, as I traveled north on my cx500 for a morning of fishing. I stopped at my favorite diner for breakfast, and while eating my eggs and rye toast, a thought crossed my mind. I wondered if one of my old “friends” had come back to life. You see, I have not driven on this specific dirt road, past that stream for the last 4 years. I knew it had basically been fished to death. Since it was empty for so long, I wondered if everyone else had abandoned it as a lost cause. If that was the case, there might be a chance it had come back to life, and was restored to it’s former productive state.
I drove down the old familiar dirt road and parked out of sight. Then I hiked the half mile back into the woods where I knew the stream took a sharp bend. At that spot there is a deep, clean pool of water that undercuts a glacial boulder which sits right in the middle of the stream. I pulled the ultra-light rod from my creel and baited the snelled hook. The moment my nightcrawler hit the water, there was a splash, and the line was rapidly pulled under that rock. My heart pounded as I set the hook, and sure enough, out of the water came a beautiful 9-inch speckled trout. That was the first of many I caught on that stream. I kept four, and the rest I threw back. I am pleased to say that my stream has been restored, and the power of that restoration has revitalized something in me as well.
You may be in a place where something you once loved and cherished has been lost. Perhaps it happened through a mistake you made, or through something someone else did in ignorance. Whatever caused the problem, let me suggest that the best thing you can do is relax, give it time to rest, and let things heal. Stop second guessing why things happened as they did. Does it really matter at this point? Embrace your situation and accept the fact that they are what they are. Just let it go! Like my trout stream, if given enough time, everything in your life will work itself out as it should be. Restoration, in one form or another, will surely come to you. Be encouraged! If God can restore a trout stream to better than it was before, then he can surely bring restoration to you!
Now go have a great day and enjoy every moment of the life you have.