By Steve Volski
In 1948, I was nine years old and used to listen to my Mom and Dad talk about my Uncle Don from Connecticut; about his hunting and fishing camp in Vermont; the big deer he had shot and the fine fly rods he would make. Uncle Don was a big man, very strict, with large hands. His head shook slightly from an old lumber mill accident. I didn't know anyone else in the world I could talk to like Uncle Don about shooting bear, trapping muskrat, tanning hides, and making maple sugar. He was my hero.
It was always a treat to visit my
kissing cousins in Hartford, but I dreamed about the mountains and streams of Vermont. In
those days, my hunting and fishing trips were just daydreams. Sunfish and perch would have
to keep me happy until I got to Vermont.
After dinner, the stories started around the wood burning stove and I was all eyes and ears. I remember wandering around the cabin discovering old cigar boxes filled with arrowheads, Indian head pennies, and old keys. The exposed beams downstairs held fly rods, deer horns, old licenses, crusher hats, and waders. On one beam, an outline drawing of a brook trout on a piece of cardboard read, "Brook Trout taken 5/26/48 - Beaver Pond near camp, 17 1/2 inches". When I asked about the fish drawing, Uncle Don told me of the fantastic fight between himself and the legendary fish of the beaver pond that we would fish in the morning. I couldn't wait and had a hard time sleeping that night.
Morning came early and the cabin was filled with the smell of fresh coffee and bacon and eggs. As the bacon crackled and the coffee perked, I laced up my new Keds and put on a new long-tailed flannel shirt. I was ready. I washed the sleep from my eyes and ran a wet hand though my hair. Aunt Mary has us well fed and on our way by 6:00 a.m.
Uncle Don's camp jeep was loaded and we headed down an old logging road to a washed out bridge. We parked and walked back to the beaver pond, spooking four deer on the way. Uncle Don put together one of his fly rods while I sat there with my mouth wide open after seeing my first real live beaver. It cruised in close to the dam, smacked the water with it's tail and disappeared. We were now ready for my first fly fishing lesson. I guess I should have practiced in the backyard first, because I lost several flies and leaders before I got my first good cast. I used a rod that my uncle had made and Black Gnat flies. I remember that because they were the same as the flies that were biting us all over. I think we used a quart of Old Maine Woodsman fly dope. The fishing was great in that little pond as those fat brookies were gorging themselves on gnats. Vermont was everything I thought it would be. The weekend went by fast and I was hooked. I couldn't wait to get back there.
On thing led to another as I grew up. I
went into the military, then school, then marriage, and finally a nine-to-five job in New
York City. During my free time, I started to think about the peace and quiet of that small
beaver pond in Vermont.
We were up at dawn and on our way. My cousin's husband knew how to get to the famous beaver pond - he thought. After three unfamiliar logging roads, I spotted the washed out bridge and things started to look familiar. As we parked the truck, my heart started to race. To make matters worse, a partridge sky-rocket from a nearby pine tree and my heart come to rest in my throat. Calm down, I told my self. I walked 20 feet on a blow down out into the pond. Upturned roots hid me from rising fish. Once again, my heart started to race as I listened to the fish slurp while they were feeding. I tied on a #18 Black Gnat and dropped it three or four feet from the last action. I twitched it once and my hand started to shake. A fish rolled. I set the hook, missing him clean. I tried to act calm but almost fell off of my perch.
I hooked a nice brookie on my third cast
and almost let out a blood curdling scream of delight when I decided that might put the
fish down. I played the fish out, admiring it's beautiful vermilion and blue spots, and
heavy girth. Still it weighed only about a pound. I released my catch thinking, I'll see
you another day.
Now I had to deal with all the blow downs in the water and the stumps the beavers had left behind. The brookie ran, splashed and dove. Then he held there and sulked. I walked around some of the obstructions and moved the fish into more uncluttered waters. It took 45 minutes to bring him to the net. We took pictures, measured the trout with a carpenter's tape and released him. Later I did an outline drawing of a 19 3/4 inch brookie to place next to the 17 1/2 inch one Uncle Don caught 20 years earlier, to the day.
Now it has been 20 years since I fished
that pond last. Uncle Don has passed away. The camp was sold like so many of the other
homesteads. But one of these days, I'll be back to check out the beaver pond where I was
introduced to this wonderful sport of fly fishing
Text and pictures by Steve Volski
Visit his website to see
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