Haunted By Brook Trout

Haunted By Brook Trout

I have sometimes heard the subconscious mind described as a well. If that is true, then I've got brook trout swimming at the bottom of mine. Consider,

  • By: Paul Guernsey
I have sometimes heard the subconscious mind described as a well. If that is true, then I've got brook trout swimming at the bottom of mine. Consider, for instance, the extremely weird dream I had a few days after my father died.

In this dream, I caught a nice pair of brookies in a place no fish would ever be: among the gravel and weeds of the driveway behind the house where I grew up. I measured each trout-they were both 14 inches-and then released them back into the unlikely medium from which they'd come.

When I went into the house, I was astonished to find that both fish had assumed white-robed human form and were waiting for me on the living room couch. (I told you it was weird.) I didn't stay astonished for long, however; instead I began peppering them with all the questions about life, death and afterlife that recently had been much on my mind.

But these two luminous beings merely deflected each urgent question with a slow, choreographed shake of their heads. I knew they could tell me what I needed to know, and I grew increasingly frustrated with them until one of them finally put an end to the conversation by gently saying, "We can't tell you that. We can tell your father, but we can't tell you."

A friend named Dave Wood passed away a half-dozen years after my father. The last time I spoke to Dave, we were at a meeting of our Trout Unlimited chapter, and he was telling me about his retirement plans. Dave said he was just about ready to leave his job trucking auto parts all around Maine, and buy himself a much smaller truck-a pickup-that he would outfit with a camper shell. He would then drive it out to the Rockies and spend his remaining lifetime traveling from river to river, living out the dream.

"Dave, that sounds great," I said. "I'm happy for you." About a month later I was shocked to hear that he had died quite suddenly.

Dave's name came up this past summer when I was fishing a northern Maine brook trout pond with another friend, Richard Corbett, who'd known Dave better than I had. Richard said, "You know, Dave Wood really loved these Maine brook trout ponds."

Richard went on to tell me about how Dave used to prowl yard sales for old canoes, which he then would carry with him on his auto-parts truck. Whenever he found a terrific new pond, Dave would haul in a canoe and, in the time-honored Maine tradition, chain it to a tree along the shore. That way, whenever he was in the area all he had to do was hike in carrying nothing but a fly rod and a paddle. Richard figured that a score or more of Dave's canoes were still out there, resting beside some of the finest wilderness brook trout ponds God ever made. Unfortunately, he never told anyone where, exactly, he'd left them.

Ever since that conversation, I've thought quite a bit about Dave Wood and his lost canoes. In a way, it seems completely fitting, in a poetic or even a spiritual sense, that those canoes are still waiting out there for a brook trout fisherman who never comes.

On the other hand, I think of how enchanting it would be to unexpectedly come across a detailed map drawn in Dave's hand, and a set of 20 or more padlock keys. I imagine the experience would feel kind of like sitting in my living room, getting answers from an angel.