There is a pond in Northern Maine, far from interstates, offices, computers and telephones, where the brook trout are large and have lived in that pond and that pond only their entire lives. There is a definitive list of things you'll need to camp and fish this pond and it includes things you'd expect, like a tent, sleeping bag, tarps, bacon, beer, a lot of beer, a square stern and outboard, not to mention your 5 and 6 weights. But, you'll also need your Woody. Don't get me wrong, I'm no expert on this pond, but I have learned that you can have some confidence to hook some fish if you've got your Woody. I'm talking about the Woodville Special, Woody for short.
For over 30 years, my father and various collections of his friends have been fishing this pond. That's a long time. The fact that anyone would return to the same body of water for that many years says a lot about the spot, the water and the fish therein. In 30 years, my father and others have come to the conclusion that, with your Woody, you will hook fish in this pond. They have also concluded that, with your Woody, you can potentially hook a lot of fish, potentially a lot more than others fishing the pond at the same time.
I asked my father on this past Spring's trip, "So Dad, do you think you've figured this place out?" Nine times out of ten, you ask my father or his buddy John, "What you got on?" and they'll reply, "Woody." Nine times out of ten, you ask my father or John what they got their last fish on and they'll reply, "Woody." I find this very intriguing.
My father smiled and shrugged as he attempted to answer the question. I didn't get a definitive 'Yes' out of him - I would hope that no angler could ever "figure a place out," I don't particularly like that idea - but he reiterated that in 30 years, this is where they've ended up. I think that says a lot too.
A woolly bugger, perhaps your most commonly used subsurface trout fly, will hook fish in this pond. I've done it. In three Spring trips, about seven full days of fishing on this pond, I've hooked seven fish. Five of them I hooked with my Woody. Now, one might say to themselves, if you fish with your Woody 90% of the time, it makes sense that you hook fish with your Woody 90% of the time. I agree. So I decided to do some tests this past trip. I put my Woody to the test.
There are many ways to fish your Woody. You can fish your Woody deep. You can fish your Woody shallow. You can add a dropper to your Woody. You can add two droppers to your Woody. You can make your dropper your Woody. The tests I conducted involved fishing two or three flies, one of which was my Woody. I thought that this way, if a fish did see my flies, and did make a strike, the fish would've had to make a conscious decision to take my Woody or take another fly instead of my Woody. I was extremely interested to see which fly my second brookie this past trip had taken when I got a hit while fishing my Woody along with a Light Edson. Sure enough, when the fish was in view, it was my Woody that had induced the strike. Wilkie and I chuckled as we discussed the experiment after the fish was released.
Another thing I do know about this pond: the fishing can be slow. Real slow. Wilkie and I had our first fish of the trip in the net at 5:30 am on our first day. We released him, resumed fishing in silence until I said, "Thing about that, is that we may not see another one of those for a long while." Wilkie smiled and shook his head in agreement. Fortunately that wasn't the case as Wilkie struck next late that morning.
Fish will rise on this pond but it's not because there's a hatch. Not that I can tell anyway. So when, during our last full day of fishing, Wilkie, my father and I found ourselves anchored near some sporadically rising fish, and we weren't hooking any using our Woodys, it was clear something needed to change. Dad was the first to change things up. A strike, a brief fight and a shook fly. Then, another strike, a longer battle and a fish in the net. Then, yet another strike and another fish brought to the net.
It appeared as if The Master had figured it out, yet again: full floating line, Hornberg Streamer, Horny for short. Our conclusion for that afternoon: Get Horny, get bent. As I said, the fishing in this pond can be very slow. Five anglers fished the pond hard for two full days and a morning, bringing a total seven fish to the net. Not exactly lights out fishing. Of those seven, four were landed in a three hour window that rainy afternoon when Wilkie, my Father and I got Horny.
So after all that discussion on, thought about, and experimentations with our Woodys, the fly that was our go-to, our money-maker, our bread-and-butter, all it took was us getting Horny to figure out that particular afternoon on the water. Funny how that works - just when you think you know something about something, you realize you don't at all. Thanks for the reminder, Poseidon.
If you are lucky enough to visit this amazing piece of water, be sure to ask yourself if you've Got Wood? Next Spring, we'll be there, ready with our Woodys. And ready to get Horny, should our Woodys go limp.