by Leo Doucet
I didn't think the hook had even touched the water, yet there was a
trout on it frantically trying to get off. It wasn't long, a second or
two and it disappeared into the water. I quickly lowered the line again,
the rod tip bent, a jiggles or two, and then complete inactivity. I
spent the next few minutes moving the line up and down while slapping at
mosquitos. I lifted the line and saw the bare hook, the worm was gone.
Two or three times more the same thing happened.
I was then about ten years old, and while I had fished many times from the wharf in Dalhousie catching smelt, tomcod, flatfish, skulpin, eels and other weird things that would take a worm this was to be my first attempt at brook fishing for trout. My uncle Armand Arseneault, had taken me to 'Monique's Brook' about one kilometer behind my Grandfather's farmhouse in the village of Balmoral in Northern New Brunswick.
Monique's Brook was no ordinary brook. It was choked with old logs laying every which way, some piled over others. About 6' to 8' wide, maybe 6" deep and fast flowing. Every time the brook changed directions it created beautiful pools, each of which I was to learn later was good for one or two trout in the 6 to 10" range. Spruce and fir branches spread from each bank toward the middle, or alders grew out from both banks to cover the brook. Mosquitos and black flies abounded, But the brook was chock full of small trout.
My uncle would call to me occasionally to move on down the brook and catch up with him. It was hard going and as I wanted to drop my line into every hole between the logs I wasn't making much progress. Before leaving the house he had handed me about 4' of line, a small nail for a sinker and a hook. The line was wound around a short stick. The idea was to cut a slender alder when we got to the brook and rewind the line on it. Of course when we were finished fishing we simply broke the end off the alder and put the line in our pockets.
I was shown how to fashion a branch to string the trout on to make them easier to carry. I can honestly say that during the next five years that I fished this brook I caught more brook trout using this set up than I have ever caught since. When I look now at my costly spinning reel, carbon fiber rod, creel, waders, net, and tackle box I wonder if I'm really better off.
There were no fishing regulations and no one had ever heard of a fishing licence, but you had to get a forest travel permit during the forest fire season. These cost 10 cents each time you went into the woods, but if you had no money the permit was free. In the middle 30s, game and fish supplied the protein requirements for a lot of families in the area.
That first year I fished with my uncle. When I knew the area better I was allowed to go by myself. It may appear terrible now with our modern regulations and catch limits, but at the time we generally stopped fishing when we had caught 100 trout. This came out to four strings of fish, two each, and was easy enough to carry. Monique's Brook was always full of trout until about 35 years ago when the marsh it drained into and the outlet to the Baie de Chaleur was damed to create an industrial water supply for the paper mill in Dalhousie.. There are far fewer trout in the brook now.
What I caught was divided up with one or another of the neighbours. In turn when a neighbour went fishing he shared his catch. About once a week or so, someone would shoot a deer and likewise it would be divided up. Nobody had a refrigerator, in summer the fish or meat wouldn't keep but using this system kept a lot of people eating fresh meat and fish.
Worms were my favorite bait. On the way to the brook I would also collect grasshoppers that I stored in a small bottle and when I got to a pool I would bait my hook with one, sneak up and drop my line into the inlet to the pool. Instantly I would get a bite. You had to be quick. Another grasshopper and another trout but that was about it for that pool, then back to dropping the line between the logs, the current was swift and the line disappeared, Very often the hook would get caught under a log and that meant reaching underwater to unhook it. Generally I had only one hook and soon learned to limit my line length to less than a meter. Pull out a wet arm and slap your face or neck to kill a mosquito and a dozen more would replace it. They were a curse. Did anybody ever say fishing was easy?.
In those long gone days no one I knew had any money. Todays kids think we had no entertainment then, but fishing in a place like Monique's Brook sure occupied a lot of my time. At night, listening to the older men talk about their work in the woods, the animals they had seen or trapped or the fish they had caught, mixed with the odd ghost story sure beats watching TV.