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Bears are coming down to the Housatonic River, as spotted by column author Patrick L. Sullivan two weeks ago. Photo by Patrick L. Sullivan

On the question of ‘stockie bashing’

Tangled Lines

It is a sad but undeniable truth that many if not most of our trout streams in the Northeastern U.S. require stocking of trout. 

That means trucks from state hatcheries occasionally appear and put large numbers of hatchery-raised trout in the rivers.

And that often means that anglers armed with a variety of fishing gear are poised, ready to catch them — and, quite often, keep them and eat them.

It is also true that catching recently stocked fish is not enormously challenging.

Hence the term “stockie bashing.”

I was bemused last week, on Tuesday and Wednesday, Sept. 22-23, to see the hatchery truck along the Housatonic River.

The river is so low (97 cubic feet per second as of this writing, Saturday, Sept. 26) that the river resembles an ornamental rock garden with a little trickle through it.

Nonetheless, the water has cooled off to the point where the fisheries people thought they could safely plant the brown and rainbow trout — about 9,000 of them, in fact.

So they did.

Trouble is, it is hard to find spots where there is enough water for these bewildered freshmen fish to hold.

So anglers, who have a sixth sense for this sort of thing, were all around the Trout Management Area (from Lime Rock to the north, downstream to Cornwall Bridge) in the ensuing days, trying to find a bit of water in which there might be a few stockies to bash.

I was no exception. 

I would rather fish for wary, wild trout. But that is not what we’ve got here.

So rather than allowing the perfect to be the enemy of the good, I imposed these rules on myself:

• Make it as difficult as possible. That means using light rods and, often, itty bitty flies that I can’t see to tie on without serious visual aids.

• Keep moving. I do this anyway, but when you’ve got half a dozen anglers all flogging the same 50 feet of stream, moving along and searching for that overlooked pocket or hole is an easy tactical decision.

• Experiment. With a slow-action 8 foot 2 weight rod far more suited to a stream in a distant alpine meadow, I flicked all manner of dry flies around in water that didn’t look like it would support a crayfish, never mind a trout. And whaddya know — most of the time, it didn’t. 

• Know when to call it a day. 

• Wait for rain, which is coming in the next few days, according to the internet. And the internet is never wrong.

In the trout management area, you’re not allowed to keep trout. Period. But once the streams come up a little, popular spots like the Blackberry River will get their share of stockies and people will keep them.

I have no problem with this either. That’s what the fishing license fees are for. And I don’t even like eating trout. So there.

By the way, the bears are coming down to the river. They heard about the stocked fish too. Or maybe they are thirsty. In any event, I had to beat it across the (thankfully) low Housatonic the other day, when Mr. Bear casually sauntered down the same path the anglers use.

Once on the other side, I managed to get a crummy photo with the point-and-shoot camera. 

He ambled along downstream for a bit. Then something alarmed him and he crashed back into the woods.

The sound of bad singing you might have heard along River Road in Cornwall last Thursday was me, informing the bear that I was coming.

My theory is the worse the singing, the more scared the bear. So I was yowling away, conceding nothing to famous atonalists like Arnold Schoenberg. Matter of fact, I bet my bear song would have sent ol’ Arnold back to the drawing board.

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