The Snob

Chapter 3: Derelict
Photo: Farb Ian / cc2.0
“What are you in for?”

Now, I had a real Alice’s Restaurant moment here. Except I didn’t get arrested for littering; I got arrested for picking up litter. I was an unlitterer. You cannot possibly get more pansy than that. I almost laughed. But, as it often happens, while my brain was working on the perfect thing to say, my mouth was already running. I heard myself saying “Being free.”

Sometimes, it’s hard to tell sheer dumb luck from genius. He looked at me. Everybody looked at me. You could’ve heard those cops fart in the interrogation room over at the police station, it was so quiet. He reached out a hand and put it on my shoulder and all I was thinking was, if I ever get out of this, I will never bemoan not being a pretty man again. He smiled down at me and with his other hand pointed to the lunch line. “Get yer grub, come sit with us.” It was then that I could see the Live Free or Die tattoo on his bicep. I did what he said and sat with my new friend, Earl, and listened to some pretty good stories at lunch. Like, when they arrested him, they took his Harley. Some dude outbid his club member for it at auction. “Shit man, that sucks, I’m sorry.”

The Snob

Chapter 2: Jetsam
Photo: Debris Field / cc2.0
When we got there, it was a beautiful little pond. Maybe 50 yards by 30 yards, but manicured right down to the last cattail and water lily. We walked up and stared at it for a moment, nobody saying anything, until suddenly there was a big splash. My rod was already rigged with a big popper, and I marked the splash by sound and looking at the ripples in the moonlight.

“Okay guys, this is a little different than the river. So what I’ll do is this, I’ll cast it out there, and then I’ll hand the rod to one of you, and then you strip it in, and we’ll keep doing that until you get a fish, and then we trade. If anybody comes, you drop the rod and run. We’ll meet back at the car. Good?” Nods all around. “Okay, who’s first?”

There wasn’t even a moment’s hesitation, Paulie and Darryl pushed Louie forward. I made a nice long cast out into the pond to a few oohs and ahhs and realized they had never actually seen a cast before. The fly landed with a satisfying “plop!” (something nobody said ever about a trout fly) and I handed the rod over, showing him how to strip without actually doing it, lest I hook a fish by mistake. “Go like this,” I said, “and if you hear a splash, lift the tip of the rod up? Got it?” In the dark I could see his big eyes and serious face as he nodded.

The Snob

Chapter 1: Flotsam
Photo: Joe Martin / © Joe Martin Photography
I admit it, I’m a snob. I like trout. Well, all salmonids, actually. I’ve had more than a few fun afternoons roping mountain whitefish and once or twice out west I caught a steelhead. I even caught an Atlantic salmon on the Winnipesaukee one night but let it go thinking it was a brown trout before I realized what I was doing. But I never understood the appeal of bass. Every bass I ever caught, I caught while I was fishing for trout, except for one time when we hired a guide for stripers out on Casco Bay. But even a 32” striper comes up like an old boot after thirty seconds of fight.

Meditating on the hunt

Hunting, by basic definition, is not a sporting endeavor
Photo: Johnny Carrol Sain
It was that distinct big-hound bawl booming up from the hollow that got my attention. The sound rolled over top of choppy beagle barks and brought my focus to the mountain bench below. Gripping the shotgun, I focused every bit of my 10-year-old awareness on that Ozark bench and waited as plumes of vapor drifted up with every ragged breath. Dry oak leaves crunched with the rhythm of a running deer. But before I could shoulder the old 16 gauge, the brown form dashed across my lane of view and that familiar white flag of defeat waved goodbye.

This is real silence

Hunters need the mountaintops like fishermen need the valleys
Photo: Austin Dando
I fish, so I love the valleys. The further you travel upstream and into the mountains, the narrower become the ravines and gullies where trout live. The streams turn to a trickle, leaving a soggy riverbed upstream of flowing water. And somewhere above that is a dry floor of cracked mud, littered with dead leaves and smooth rocks. You can keep going, but before you know it, there’s no stream at all, and you find yourself walking a wooded hollow leading to the top of a mountain.