With the grill and dishes cleaned and put away, the Old Timer and Troutman walked over to the cabin porch to watch the sunset. Tomorrow was the designated trout ponds opening day and the two intended to be on the water an hour before sunrise.
In years gone by, they would share a bowl of tobacco and a whiskey on the rocks as they slowly moved the rocking chairs on the porch. But since the Old Timer heart attack, tobacco and whiskey were banned.
Troutman honored that decision and joined the Old Timer with cranberry juice over ice and a lime. Troutman handed the Old Timer a drink and sat down to join him.
He was silent for a moment as the two watched the sun disappear behind the mountain and the spring seers began their chorus. Somewhere a woodcock hissed, calling for its mate. Spring had arrived early this year.
“I’m glad the ice went out early this year,” Troutman said. “The fish should be a little more active than they were last year.”
The Old Timer smiled. Memories of freezing opening day mornings danced in his head. This year was going to be the exception to the rule.
“Have you fastened my outfit for tomorrow?” said the Old Timer. “Just because we have an early spring doesn’t mean the fish are looking for anything other than usual.”
Troutman reached into his back pocket. Every winter he tied the flies for opening day. A box for the Old Timer and a box for itself.
“I’ve tied a lot of white marabou streamers to you,” Troutman said. “I tied them up in a variety of sizes as well. I know you’ve been loving this fly ever since you found out Ted Trueblood placed it in his top 10 fly.
“I added Little Brook Trout Bucktails and Pink Lady Bucktails to the box,” Troutman said. “You have to change things up a bit.”
Troutman returned the fly box to the Old Timer. The Old Timer couldn’t wait to see the flies Troutman had tied. Troutman included Royal Coachman wet flies in the Old Timer box as a surprise.
“Royal Coachmans,” exclaimed the Old Timer. “This is the first fly you used when deciding to put down the spin rod and pick up the fly rod on opening day many years ago.”
A lump formed in the throat of the Old Timer. Troutman had been the Old Timer’s fishing buddy since he was 6 years old.
“I will never forget that day,” Troutman said. “Everyone at the river was throwing worms without catching anything. When I asked for my fly rod, you gave it to me ready to fish.
The Old Timer knew that young Troutman would want to fly fishing that day. He had seen his son play sports and knew he wouldn’t be fishing any longer.
“You caught the biggest speckled trout that day on the Royal Coachman. A nice outfit of about 11 inches. Everyone on the creek paused and watched in amazement as you landed and released this fish. Your conversion to fly fishing took place that day. “
The Old Timer had a tear in his eyes.
“Thank you for taking me under your wing and believing in me,” Troutman said, a lump forming in his throat as well. Opening day meant so much to him and his father. “Let’s hit the bag. We have fish to catch tomorrow. “
April 24 is the opening day of designated trout ponds and the busiest fishing day on the water each year. Remember to leave plenty of room for your fishing buddies, whether you are fishing on foot, float, or boating.
Steve Angers, originally from the Conway area, is the author of the book “Fly Fishing New Hampshire’s Secret Waters” and operates the North Country Angler.