January 23, 2013 —
In the year 1936, my parents built a small bungalow in what was then rural Putnam County, NY. It was mostly used as a weekend retreat. Once bass season opened, my father would often go off fishing early every Saturday morning. How I wished to be taken along. I was always told that I was too young. Of course, when something is denied, it becomes even more desired. When I was 11, my father gave me an old bamboo rod, equipped with a Shakespeare “Wonder Reel.” He suggested I use this rod to fish for trout in the Peekskill Hollow Brook. Yippee!
The bungalow was the second house located a short way up a very steep driveway on a ridge just across from where the Hollow Brook came tumbling down off of California Hill. Upon reaching the valley, the brook then flowed in a southwesterly direction towards the Taconic State Parkway and Peekskill.
My gear was poorly suited for casting a night crawler for trout. However, by adding a very large, solid-cork bobber some 18 inches above the hooked night crawler, enough weight was created to make short casts of 12 to 15 feet. Fortunately, my quarry would be uneducated brook trout. The Hollow Brook was too small to attract any of the local trout fishers.
The night before my first fishing expedition was to occur, my father and I crawled about the lawn in the dark capturing night crawlers by flashlight. This was almost as exciting as going fishing.
Off I went the next morning, down our steep driveway to the Peekskill Hollow Brook. Upon reaching the brook, I peered into the rippling flow expecting to see a trout or two swimming about. I spied not a one. I suffered a moment of doubt. Where were the trout? Despite my misgivings, I impaled one of my crawlers onto the hook. A gentle cast plopped worm and bobber 15 feet out into the brook. Almost at once, the bobber began to bounce up and down. A trout! I pulled hard on the rod and both bobber and worm came flying out of the water. The worm was a bit worse for wear, having been chewed upon. After rearranging the worm on the hook, I cast again. Another hit quickly occurred, but only the hook and bobber returned to me. A fish had stolen the worm without being hooked.
With shaking hands another worm was even more carefully attached to the hook. With great expectations, it was cast into the flow. The bobber then floated along placidly for a few feet when suddenly it was yanked completely under water. I struck mightily with the rod. Aha, this time a hooked fish and bobber came sailing back toward me. Both landed on the bank at my feet. I dropped the rod and pounced on the fish. It had to be a trout. No other fish could be this beautiful. Its fins slashed with red, white belly and spotted sides gleamed in the light of the sun. This was a prize more gorgeous than a young boy could ever have imagined. I not only had the most exciting trout fishing story to tell but also the trout to prove it. Now, as I recall this story, which happened 72 years ago, what was more solidly hooked—the fish or the fisherman?