When I was a young boy growing up in Chilmark, my friends and I couldn’t wait for spring vacation to arrive because this was the time of year when we would spend most of our days fishing the brooks and ponds for native brook trout.
The night before fishing, my friend Danny and I would look for night crawlers with our flashlights down around my father’s chicken house; worms liked the fertile ground where the hens pooped. The sound of pinkletinks in the marsh and woodcocks twittering above, was our music as we scanned the cool, wet grass for fat, six-inch worms. After about 30 minutes, our empty dog food can would be half full of worms, more then enough for a day of fishing.
Danny agreed to bicycle over at the crack of dawn the next morning but refused to come in the house and wake me up because he was afraid of my father; perhaps because my dad had scolded him recently for sticking our family cat in the clothes dryer (he didn’t turn the dryer on but no matter, Dan and I got a lecture from my not so happy father).
Early the next morning Danny yanked on the string I had left hanging from my second floor bedroom window, the other end was tied to my toe. As only a good friend would do, Danny pulled so hard that I leapt out of bed yelling and followed my strangled toe to the open window.
Mill Brook was only a two-minute bike ride from my house and we accessed the brook via a deer trail through the briars and brush. Our excitement would grow as we quietly approached our favorite trout stream. We made our fishing poles out of five-foot pieces of hazelnut bush with eight feet of woven cotton string wrapped around one end. We bought our tin of assorted hooks ( Pflueger Hande-Pak ) from Alley’s Store. Once at the brook Danny and I would stick a bunch of worms from the dog food can in our shirt pockets and leave the can with our lunches and head off in different directions to our favorite spots.
Trout are very leery and spook easily, so you must be alert and watch where they dash off to once you spook them. Usually they take shelter under a hollowed out bank. Quietly I would crawl on my belly through the brush toward where I last saw a trout and gently dangle a fat worm into the stream. With luck I would hook a trout between six and 10 inches; the biggest trout I ever caught out of this brook was 12 and a half inches.
Around noon Danny and I would meet back where we left our lunches. We always packed either sardine or tuna fish sandwiches because our fathers told us in order to catch fish we had to eat fish.
While eating lunch with our hands smelling of fish, we’d lean back in the oak leaves and talk about the huge fish we saw but didn’t catch.
The call of a flicker echoes through the marshy woods and my heart skips a beat as I watch a wild brook trout dash beneath a bank.
Albert O. Fischer lives in West Tisbury.