It was a gorgeous day to fish the Flatbrook a beautiful river that flows through the north western part of New Jersey. Sussex County as a whole is very picturesque an area of old forest and old farms. The river was a little low during the warmer months of summer. Today was a typical day along the banks, virtually void of people and ideal for a couple of men out fishing . Joe and Dennis had been waiting for this day for months. Dennis had just come up from his new home after two years away. He had taken a job with his Uncle Gary in North Carolina doing hard wood floors. He was a young man in his late twenty’s tall and thin, muscular with a distinct look about him that said tough to the core. His step father Joe as tall and more filled out in his frame the same tough to the core look yet with eyes that looked through you to your soul. Most would say he had a love of life and nature that had disappeared centuries before with the mountain men that had first fished this very river many years before The united States even existed.
When Dennis was a young lad of six or seven Joe took him on their first fishing trip together. Joe had a love for fishing the feeling for him was one of tranquility. The river and the woods were God’s church and as close to heaven as one could get on earth was what he used to tell young Dennis. Always’ leave any where you go in life as clean and natural as it was when you got there or cleaner. As well as being a pain in the but about garbage in the woods or any where for that matter he had taught Dennis a respect for nature and to be reverent in it’s beauty.
It was tradition to put back the first fish caught to appease the fishing gods Joe used to tell Dennis. You can’t feed any one on just one fish any way and besides it will bring you good luck. The fish you let go will make the fishing gods happy and laugh and maybe bring you lots of fish.
Joe caught the first fish and it was a beauty around fifteen inches of Brook Trout fighting till it was out of the net and back into the water. The spirit of life was in that fish and as was tradition he let it go. He caught another as soon as he recast his line a very beautiful Rainbow Trout of about thirteen inches. Shortly there after he caught another. Dennis was not having much luck and Joe suggested he change bait , mealy worms had been working for him why not try another bait.
Dennis exchanged his garden worm for a mealy worm and cast just upstream of a beautiful hole under the bank of the river and covered by the shade of an old red oak and a couple of maples making it an ideal hole for a nice Brown or Brook Trout. Dennis’s cast was perfect and he instantly had the nicest trout he or Joe had ever caught. It was twenty two inches of Native Brook trout and dinner for four. Dennis stopped for a moment before putting the trout on the stringer. Joe saw the look of uncertainty on Dennis’s face and asked what was bothering him. Dennis felt bad he didn’t put the fish back, after all it was his first fish. Joe explained he had started that story when Dennis was young to help him have respect for Nature in all of it’s forms and preserve what we have . I am sure that it will be all right for you to keep that prize fish it was after all a gift from the fishing gods no matter how you look at it what a beauty and it will feed all four that sit at your table.
A couple of hours went by and Dennis had caught a couple of more fish Joe had caught none. A water Moccasin slithered across the water effortlessly, silently. Dennis started into an old story of a trip when he was young and used to try to catch them. Oh how many times Joe could recall telling Dennis no poison’s’ snake’s in the car , house, tackle box etc . Leave them in the woods. A short time later with not even a nibble they decided to pack up head to town and have a beer before Dennis had to leave for work the following day. Joe reached down and grabbed the nylon stringer with five lovely trout on it was semi stuck. He pulled harder and it broke free he wondered as he pulled it up what had dragged the line under the bank. The stringer came out of the water was short two fish the last two Dennis had caught.
What critter if any took the fish I do not know there are snakes and otters as well as fishers below. Snakes aren’t an option as they swallow their food whole. The other ‘s I mentioned would have made a noise as otters and fishers are playful boys. The thought that came to both of their minds nature give’s and take’s however it chooses. I think they will both toss back the first fish the next time.