The Fish Whisperer

The Fish Whisperer

It all started the end of last summer, when I tasted smoked trout in Saltzburg, served with a horseradish sour cream and dill.

And remembered that they stock our lake in the Endless Mountains with trout every year.

I had a mission.

Getting a fishing license 

Easy-peasy.  Just go online, buy it and print it out.  Make sure you buy the extra trout permit as well.

Getting a fishing buddy

Not as easy as getting a licence. My husband? Not interested. Most of my friends? Thought I was nuts. After all, Russ and Daughters  is just a few stops away on the F train.

Except for Paula, the Eull Gibbons of New York City, who knows more about nature than anyone I’ve ever met.  Here she is on a bike ride we took on the Croton Aqueduct Trail a few years back,  explaining how to use black walnuts as dye.

Of course Paula thought catching trout was a great idea, and actually knew how to fish! Yes, it had been over 20 years since she’d last cast a line, but who’s counting?

What Book to Read

The Science of FishingIf there is an antique fair in town the weekend you decide to become a fisherman, you must buy this book. The Science of Fishing -The Most Practical Book On Fishing Ever Published by (are you ready?) Lake Brooks.

If there is no antique fair, you can download the free kindle edition.

Getting Bait and Supplies

Fortunately, the country store down the highway sells hooks, weights, floats, night crawlers and red trout worms. Meghan, the young girl behind the counter,  shows you how to pierce the worm onto the hook, wrap it round and pierce it again, a skill you master well.

NIght crawler on a hook

Your brother-in-law left his fishing pole behind last time he stayed at your place. You’ll need a second pole, which luckily, an antique store in town has for just $10. The owner graciously oils the works for you and gives you a weighted hook from the glass cabinet for free.

Learning to Cast

Practice in the street across from your house  (sans hook, of course…) Your neighbors will have all kinds of advice, and everyone has a fishing story, so it’s a great way to pick the collective community brain on technique and timing.

When to fish

If you are Paula, who gets up at 5 am every day, or Peggy, who wants to be able to have enough time to smoke the trout for dinner that night, the answer is obvious – in the morning.

Everyone else will be asleep, so be sure to leave a note.

gone fishing

And mornings on the lake?

Eagles Mere Lake 1

The best.

Eagles Mere Lake 2

How to Fish

I had visions of me laying by a fishing pole propped up against the dock, hat turned down over my eyes Huck Finn-style, waiting for the big tug on the pole, at which point I would jump up and reel in a massive trout.

Turns out this is not actually how one fishes.

The Fish Whisperer Casts

You need to be constantly casting, reeling, tugging and tweaking the line. A few minutes in one spot, then reel in and try another. Watch the still waters for little ripples that indicate a swimmer, then cast in that direction, intermittently twitching the line and hook as you gently reel it in. Watch for the float to bob and drop, indicating that something is grabbing at the hook, then pull back sharply to snag the fish and then reel it in.

What we caught

Me? Not a damned thing in two consecutive mornings.  Seriously. Nada. Every worm, eaten off the hook.  Not counting the one still hanging from the tree near the dock. And the ones caught under a rock or tangled in the grass in the water.

But Paula, the fish whisperer?

Two sunnies

Pumpkin Seed Sunny

and two little perch.

Paula's perch

We tossed the sunnies and kept one of the perch.

How to Clean and Cook Your Fish

We followed the technique in this video entitled “How to clean a perch in 10 seconds!”  (The best part is the guy with the Minnesota accent saying “Gaw! No way!)

Our perch was way too small for smoking all by its’ lonesome, so we coated it with a teeny bit of mayo, tossed it in flour seasoned with salt and fresh ground pepper and pan-fried it in butter and oil.

Pan fried  floured perch

Little bites of heaven.

Pan Fried Perch with lemon


But not trout.

There’s Always a Catch…

In this case, it turns out that the best place to snag a trout is not in a lake using a worm, but  in a cold running brook using a fly.

Which, I expect,  is why they stock our lake each year. Except that they didn’t stock the lake this year, given the recent sunfish die off  – caused by stress around the time the lake turned,  but by the time they figured that out, it was too late to stock. (The water, thankfully, is as pristine as ever.)

But as it turns out, even if they had stocked trout, warm summer mornings are not the time to catch them.

Better in the fall and in the evening. And in a boat out on the lake.

So no trout.

For now.  But I’ll be back.

Hopefully the fish whisperer will be there too.

WHen the catch is done

12 Responses to The Fish Whisperer

  1. I’ve often had great luck using spinning lures rather than live bait in lakes (also in rivers, if you are not of the fly fishing type). Send me a message and I’ll let you use some the next time you go up.

  2. After reading this, now I want to go fishing! (Never done it). Your story reminded me of the movie “A river runs through it”. A beautiful movie about life and fishing.

  3. And we are actually starting to look for a place on the water… This sounds lovely! (PS – Hi, Amalia, I hope you are having fun!)

  4. Seriously? City folk have to research everything…

    If this is something that you really want to try to do and have a blast doing it, go to the local bait/tackle store near there and see if there is a fishing guide in the area who will go with you. You will get local flavor and stories, and learn a bit about fishin’ local style!

    You might also want to rent a row boat and get into the nooks and crannies of the lake if you want to find “Walter” like they did in “On Golden Pond”

    What a pretty lake by the way.

  5. Your experiences are not atypical of novices at any new endeavor. Still the above comment on going to a local fishing shop are right on. Trying to do book research on how to fish in a given area is unlikely to be helpful. My suggestion would be to also watch the locals and copy their technique. Enjoyable read though.

  6. Shrugglin’

    We DID local research, with our neighbors and the girl at the country store, and as you can see from my book, some reading. I don’t think there are fishing guides where we are, although we have a friend who offered to take us out. But to be honest. I enjoyed this adventure as much as I have anything.

    Dr Pullen –
    Glad you enjoyed the read!

    Amalia and Alice –

    Thanks for your comments. Let us know how your fishing adventure goes and if you find that place on the water.


  7. Wow, what a great post! The pics are perfection for showing the mood.

    My feeling is, fishing is something you learn by doing. You can get a few tips but it’s all about putting the time in, which is the hardest part in our busy lives.

    I want to recommend a great anthology of short stories about women and fishing. I love this book and think you will, too.

  8. what a wonderful page, I happened upon your site when i was out looking for a recipe for catalan coca. Of course being from NZ I had no idea what this was but your lovely page from a few years ago has brought me up to date. And here you are fishing. Glorious light. Lovely to meet you. I shall try and sign up for your blog so I can see what you do next! celi

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