On an August afternoon several years ago, I returned to my desk at Orvis headquarters to find my neighbor, Tom Rosenbauer, missing. On the back of his chair was a hand-scribbled sign that read, “At an appointment with Doctor Triceau.” When I stopped laughing, I realized the real genius of the sign was that 90 percent of the people who saw it saw, felt sorry for the poor man who appeared to be suffering from an illness or condition that forced him to miss work. Also, those of us who knew the Tricos hatched on the battenkill were like-minded people who certainly wouldn’t blow Tom’s cover.
Since that day, some of us in the office have used the term “doctor” to describe small streams that we may not want to share with anyone who overhears our conversations. So maybe Tom will send me a photo of a fish from the Sunderland Doctor, or maybe we’ll meet up at the Sandgate Doctor after work.
Last Monday evening I made my way to the Bennington Doctor in search of wild brown trout. It’s a creek I’ve fished since I first came to Vermont 25 years ago, and to this day I’ve never met another angler on the water. As my friend Art Scheck explained, “Most people around here don’t fish anywhere they can’t put a lawn chair.” That’s fine with me.
I have a size 12 Yellow Stimulator fitted with a Beadhead Pheasant Tail Dropper. I normally only fish dry flies on these mountain streams but our recent very cool weather and low barometric pressure led me to believe that the fish may have been huddled. In fact I caught three or four with the nymph before the first dry fly hit. After about an hour I was just fine, collecting smaller creek and brown waters in the spots one would expect on a free rock creek, when I came to a deep plunge pool formed from current seams formed by opposite ones Boulders entered sides of a large river and formed a V. My eyes lit up because, as I always tell my clients, “When it comes to trout lies, V stands for victory.”
On my first drift through the V, my stimmie was thrown to the ground with a force that suggested something heavier than a four-inch stream had caught the pheasant’s tail. As soon as I threw my rod tip into the sky, a beautiful brown trout – twice the size of any other fish I had caught – swung into the air. At the height of its leap, it threw back its head majestically and threw off the barbless nymph. As the fish dived back into the water, my flies flew past my head and into the branches behind me. I just stood there speechless and stared at the water. . . I was afraid to look back on the macrame nightmare that my tandem rig had become. Luckily, a conveniently placed rock gave me access to the branch, so I spent the next five minutes getting my flies out.
“Maybe it’ll start eating again,” I tried to convince myself, knowing my efforts would be in vain. After five or six unproductive drifts, I staggered and made my way to the car. The sight of this trout hanging in the air plagued me all evening and was right there when I closed my eyes before bed.
As luck would have it, I had one actually I had a doctor’s appointment in town the very next morning, so I headed straight back to the creek. The morning was gray, it was drizzling lightly, and as I waded I told myself that the target was this fish, and only this fish. (It was a workday, after all.) I made a beeline for the plunge pool, set it up in exactly the same spot, and dropped the stimulator just above the V. Nothing. I tried a little further up the hole. Nothing. As I made the third toss, doubts began to creep in, but they didn’t last long as the stimulator dived below the surface again. I was ready this time. After a brief struggle, I directed the golden bay into my net.
Of course, it wasn’t quite as big as I remembered it getting, but it was still significantly larger than anything else I’d ever caught in that stretch of river. In Montana it would be a dink, but in a tiny mountain stream in Vermont it was a trophy to tell my friends about.
Miles of unfished water lay ahead, but I held on, staggered, and headed back to work. The satisfaction of completing that piece of unfinished business kept me smiling all morning.