I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: there’s nothing better than fishing for wild fish in their native habitat. Fishing for wild, native fish is a defining experience for every diehard angler. Still, who am I to turn my nose at freshly stocked fish?
Stocked fish and I have a complex relationship. In many waters, I dread their arrival, as I understand they have dire implications for the indigenous fishes. In waters where I know wild trout already exist, I question the decision to stock more fish over them. Where the water is too warm for salmonid survival, I struggle to understand why we don’t support other fish that will thrive in such an environment. However, when the stocking trucks dump their cargo into local rivers and streams, I jump at the chance to fish for them, quickly forgetting any moral principles I previously held.
This year, as with many other years, I have a spring schedule jam-packed with activities. As I watch nearby rivers appear on the daily stocking report, I immediately imagine ways to fit a trip into my schedule. Frequently, things don’t work out, and I’m left dreaming about sunny spring days spent fishing for spunky stocked trout.
Such was the case this past week, as days filled with school, baseball, homework, and other activities took away any chances I had to escape to the river. Even over the weekend, a campout and multiple driving lessons diminished my availability greatly. Even so, I managed to squeeze in a quick trip to one of my favorite local watering holes, the Shawsheen River, on Sunday afternoon.
Typically, my first few trips to the Shawsheen result in skunks. I’ve found it takes until the second stocking of brookies and browns in late April or May for the fishing to really heat up. I went to the river fully expecting to have the same results as always, especially since I was limiting myself to just one rod and one fly.
The fly of choice was a bead-head olive wooly bugger fished on a sinking poly leader to get it down quick. Per the suggestion of my friend, who had already been nailing the trout on spinning gear, I simply let the fly swing across the current without any additional motion.
On the fifth or sixth cast, a strong take signaled my first rainbow of the year, which was quickly stripped within landing range. When I reached to pull my net from its magnetic keeper, I found it wouldn’t pull free; subsequent tugs yielded the same result. When I glanced behind me to see what was the matter, I realized I had forgotten the magnets at home, so the net was attached with multiple carabiners with no easy way to release it. I was lucky the fish didn’t snap my line as it thrashed around while I struggled to grab it, but I did finally get a chance to hold it briefly before sending it back on its way.
Within ten minutes, I caught two more fish and long-distance released a third. For stockers, the trout were quite hefty and put up good fights in the current, even jumping a couple times. For a quick outing, I was very pleased with my success, especially considering I don’t normally catch fish here until about a month or so later.
Hopefully I’ll find some more time in the near future to get to the river again. It wouldn’t be spring without stocked trout, so I’ll certainly enjoy them while they’re here. Perhaps I can find a few of the wild variety as well.