The ice was still in the pond when many of us felt the urge to go trouting. It was a spring ritual and there was an itch to take that pole and go. Our bamboo was still on the fence where someone had left it in the fall. It had been around for a long time and we were hoping to get one more summer out of it. Father’s green cod net twine went the whole length of it and there was more wrapped around the very end. A lone trout hook stuck firmly into the end of the bamboo and a bobber that had been cut from a piece of cork that my grandfather had, waited patiently to hit the water once again.
I believe father bought our trout pole down the trade or it may have been at Freeman Crewe’s, I am not sure. The one that we had hanging on our fence was ten to twelve feet long. It had a flimsy tip but grew bigger towards the end. It reminded me of an over grown stock of mile a minute from Helen Rose’s garden but it was much stronger. I kind of think that it came from where our friend Bunga lived.
But a bamboo and trout hook were not much good up our pond, duck pond, or long pond without worms. So with an old bean can half full of mud, we set out to find the fattest and juiciest worms that we could find. We dug up ground at the back of Harry’s Engram’s garage and the bank below Warren’s. If there weren’t any worms there, we went around to every pile of horse manure that we could find and flipped them over. Ripe worms quickly disappeared as we exposed them to daylight. They would make for good bait for trout desperate for a spring meal.
With a bamboo pole in one hand and a worm can in the other, my buddy and I legged our way up to our pond. It was a nice spring evening, the days were much longer, the winter ice was slowly melting and it was still too early for flies.
I had hoped to have a pair of hip rubbers, the kind that I saw Bill and Art wear, but they never came. A few people had them, but I had to be content with my pair of short rubber boots.
The last time that I had worn them they were tight. I would soon find out if they still were.
The pond was high and the water calm as we crossed the brook not far below the icehouse. Flat rocks in the brook made it easy to cross over to hook into a trail that would lead us to a fishing spot.
There were times on our way around the pond that we found hockey pucks and blades and handles of hockey sticks that had fought fierce battles while the trout, oblivious to what was going on above them, dug themselves deep into the mud below.
We stopped at the rock where not very long ago we sat behind to lace up our skates. We perched our worm can on top of it so that we could share the bait.
Other people had already begun trouting and were out to the tip of their rubber boots. They seemed to have had some luck. They proudly displayed a string of trout on the straps of their hip waiters.
I felt a sense of excitement and couldn’t wait to bait my hook and make that first flick with my bamboo fishing pole.
I recall baiting my hook and walking off into the water to the red tips of my short black rubber boots, constantly looking down to make sure that I did not go over the tops of them. It was a fine spring evening but the water was still very cold.
I flicked my line to where I thought the trout were lying and waited patiently while watching my bobber that I had taken two half hitches around. Father always had an expression that “you better watch your bobber”, but he was talking about having strong drinks. It made a lot of sense here as well. If you were not watching, a trout might take your bobber under and be gone before you knew it.
So watch my bobber I did. Its slightest movement caused me to haul back on my bamboo with great anticipation. But the hook was empty and my bait was gone. I hadn’t hooked anything.
It was I who had been hooked. I reached deep into my can of worms to find another fat, manure fed worm and pushed it on over my hook. In jigs time my bobber went under. I yanked my bamboo, sending a small trout back into the woods. I was not about to look for it and I doubt if he would find his way back. My line was deeply snarled in an alder bush behind me. Cursing didn’t help my cause at all.
I knew there were trout and kept my patience. In short order I had several hanging onto an alder branch that I cut from shore with my pocketknife. I did not have the luxury of the straps on hip rubber boots.
As darkness started to close in, the pond lay silent. Winter’s ice contrasted to the dark waters around it. The most that could be heard was the push of water as other people made their way to shore to give it up for the night. Birds sang their last tunes before they settled down.
We bid farewell, picked up our worm can and picked our way back around the pond following the trail that had taken us there.
When I got home, I put my bamboo back onto our fence where it had hung all winter. The one bare hook still had a piece of worm on it and the cork bobber was still secure with two half hitches. Mother put my trout in a bowl and threw salt on them to cut away the slub.
It would not be long before the urge would be there to do it all again.