Millbrook River Fly Fishing
Lately, circumstances seem to have conspired and these days find me with precious few hours a week in which to indulge my passion. Not having the time to travel too far my fishing has been limited to local waters, mostly, the rivers and streams I knew as a youth. One such place I visited recently, Mill brook.
A classic meadow rill Populated Exclusively by wild browns, sometimes up to 18” inches!I found and fished this then rural wonder in my teens as it was right down the road from my highschool. I learned more along it’s banks (and not just about trout) than I ever did in classes skipped to go there, as well it taught me to look in unsuspecting places for trout and not rule out any water, no matter how small. Millbrook is a stream easy to overlook, especially if your driving for where it crosses the road the bridge railings are almost completely covered by vines and draped over by maples. I would have never found it, had I not been on the track team.
One day, alone and just about drained from a two mile practice run I spied a shady spot up ahead and decided to rest for a moment. Leaning against a rusty railing i looked down, there beneath me was a tiny pool, and, swimming in it, a trout! NOT a brookie either! NO, it was DEFINITELY not a brookie! It looked like a brown, but unlike any I had ever seen, maybe a wild brown? I’d never caught one before, holdovers yeah, but a wild one, no. OF COURSE I had to “check this out” as soon as possible, so, that night, I calculated what classes I could get away with not showing up at, and prove to myself, this hypothesis.
It wasn’t so easy! I couldn’t cast from the road and the vegetation was so thick that venturing downstream wasn’t an option (especially in my school clothes) Well, then it’s upstream and onto private property. Crossing the road and hoping to dissapear behind the treeline I ran strait into an electrified barbed wire fence! The current wasn’t that strong though, and I did have on heavy corduroys. Holding down the wires with a dry stick I gingerly straddled the fence without experiencing a second shock. Eagerly crossing a field towards my goal I tromped thru the tall grass in a strait line…until I almost ran into several black angus bulls! Looking up one glared at me. Without waiting for him to make up his mind if I was friend or foe I took off weaving ‘round woodchuck holes and toward the stream (I may have broke the record for the ¼ mile that day, if only coach Regan was standing there with his stopwatch!) Right before the brook I lept over another small electric fence and ended up standing in a riffle, nervously watching the muscular giant that had, afterall, decided to chase me. He turned after a few moments and went back to grazing, casting a wary eye towards me every now and then as I stood there. The immediate danger over I closely examined the water that was soaking into my shoes. Clear, cold and bordered by tall grass. A meadow brook right out of a magazine! If any stream harbors wild browns i thought, it’s this one!
Slogging forward against the current trout fry scattered everywhere ducking into hiding spots along the undercut banks or mainlining upstream. COOL, there ARE wild trout here! Right before a bend in the brook I paused, for I saw, undoubtably, a pool that could contain trout of a size large enough to take my fly. With a casual and quite sloppy cast I plunked down a cricket imitation right in the middle of the still water. After a single twitch it disappeared and the line went taunt! The fish didn’t bulldog towards the bottom as a brookie would, no, instead it slipped under the bank and into a tangle of roots that reached down from an ancient willow leaning over water. The line went slack and for a moment and I feared the worst, but then i remembered an article I’d read about fighting brown trout. lowering the rod tip i stood for a few minutes and let the line lay there, Sure enough, the author was right and after a few minutes the fish swam back out into the pool! This time I steered it downstream and towards me into the riffles, Seconds later I had him! (or should I say HER, as it was a henfish) A red and black spotted, yellow bellied, WILD 12” brown! I’d guessed correctly! This stream DID hold wild browns!
For a few months after that brookies and the tiny freestone rills by my house where forgotten, Mill brook became my new, “homestream”. During that time, through trial and error I think I may have caught every trout there that was big enough TO catch and learned much about the habits of Salmo Trutta.
Over the next decade, Thru my college years and into my early career I’d go back there occasionally, especially to the pool where I caught that first fish. Millbrook was and still is, a special place, a very personal space that saw me graduate, academicly and as an angler. That’s what drew me back there once again I think (Well, that, being tired of too eager brookies and looking for a LOCAL challenge).
I’m sorry to say I didn’t catch anything during this recent visit and the environment has changed. The electric fence I was once so cautious of is now just a broken rusty relic, the field I ran across that day almost completely overgrown with saplings, condo’s loom over riffles where I once sought refuge from a charging bull and silt clogs a streambed that today only offers up chubs. Yes, the brown trout and black angus are both gone, but the stream is still there, as it’s always been. Maybe in twenty years I’ll visit it again and be surprised. I hope.
Walking back to the car that evening, listening to the crickets, I thought of something my grandmother used to say: “you can always go back, but you can’t go home”. I can in my dreams grandma, I can in my dreams…