By Matt Dickerson
It turns out that the president really does know how to handle a challenge.
And no, I am not talking about Barack Obama. I’m talking about Brian Cadoret, the president of the New Haven River Angler’s Association.
Brian won the first annual Otter Creek Classic on opening day of the 2009 trout season, obliterating the opposition by catching the biggest, the second biggest, and the most trout — and also the most varieties of trout, and probably also the first, the last, and several other categories as well — leaving the rest of us in the dust. Or maybe just wading out in the cold.
Actually, winning came down to the fact that Brian actually caught fish, no trivial task when the water temperature on the Middlebury River was 39 degrees, and on the New Haven it was between 40 and 42. Most of the rest of the competitors didn’t catch anything all day. But Brian didn’t just catch one fish. He caught four. Four very nice trout.
The day began at 7:30 a.m., when the competitors met at the sponsoring store, the Middlebury Mountaineer. Jesse Haller, a guide for the Mountaineer, the organizer of the tournament — and the only other person besides Dean who caught a trout — went over the basic rules.
It was a catch-and-release fly-fishing only tournament, barb-less hooks requested. Anglers could fish Otter Creek, as well as the New Haven and Middlebury Rivers. Those catching the largest fish, as well as the greatest total length of fish, would win prizes. Photographs — unretouched, of course— would be required as proof from any candidates claiming largest. (Not that any fishermen would ever think of stretching the truth, or adding a few inches to the size of a catch.)
Jesse also reminded us all that several invasive species, including didymo, have now found their way to Vermont, and asked us to take precautions. We went over what was needed to clean waders to insure we wouldn’t spread didymo, and the Mountaineer established a cleaning station on the porch. Then we were off.
While I headed upriver on the New Haven to a place I thought would be secluded (only to find five other anglers on the same stretch of river), Brian went further downstream to the former Dog Team Tavern. It is a popular and heavily fished spot on opening day, in large part because it has a well-earned reputation for good early-season fishing. As expected, the scene was a zoo, crowded with opening day anglers.
But Brian was not daunted by that competition any more than by the cold water. He caught his first fish not long after arriving, right in the pool below the falls. It was a 16-inch rainbow: a beautiful spring bow, taken on an olive bead-head wooly bugger. He could have quit right then, and gone in for coffee, for on that one fish he had already wrapped up both tournament prizes. But he kept fishing.
His second fish was the most surprising, though not the largest. It was a 12.25-inch brook trout. (The 1/4 inch is important in some tournaments, though not this one as it turned out.) Brook trout, which need colder water than browns or rainbows, but can tolerate higher acidity, are rarely found so far downriver. Indeed, none of us, including Brian, had ever seen one downstream of Route 7. As wild brook trout always are, it was another beautiful fish.
Brian would catch one smaller rainbow trout (10.25 inches). But what made his day was the 20-inch brown trout. By Vermont standards, and New Haven River standards, that qualifies as a monster. Not only was it a behemoth, it also made meant he had fished for “the cycle”: catching a brook, brown, and rainbow trout all in the same day on the same stretch of river.
Even worse for the rest of us, Brian actually got pictures of his fish, making it difficult to bring his catch into question. But we did end the day with a fun (though chilly) BBQ, and awarding of the trophy and prizes — which included some consolation door prizes so that Brian didn’t walk away with everything. I even got a few door prizes myself.
Personally, though, I’d rather have caught that 20-inch brown.