Sawyer Brook flows past the Eastman Community in Grantham, NH, winding its way through white pine forest and down granite ledges before joining with the Sugar River, where I first cut my teeth on fly fishing in moving water. My father and I found our way there because it was marked in our NH Gazetteer with the icon of a leaping fish, and the key in the back of the battered red and white covered book suggested that it was home to brook trout.
Up until just before this period, I couldn't have told you what a brook trout looked like. I had assumed that "brookie" was a term for small trout the way "schoolie" referred to small striped bass. It took me by surprise to learn that these little trout (char actually, although I didn't know what that meant) were the only trout native to New England, and that the ancestors of the feisty rainbows and browns we caught in the Sugar had traveled to New Hampshire, like most of it's inhabitants, from other parts of the world.
The water was slow and torpid, and the mud concealed whatever swam deeper than a couple of inches below the surface. My friend at the fly shop in Boston, a New Hampshire native himself, had sold me a handful of small yellow, black and white streamers call "black ghosts" that he assured me had been catching brook trout for generations. I stripped my black ghost skeptically through the water, thinking all the while that I would probably be better off with an olive wooly bugger (which was the only fly I really trusted in the first year or two of fishing). Just as I was about to reel in to change the fly, a seemingly massive shape emerged from the muck to grab the fly and dive back into the protection of the dark water.
In the handful of years since I held this beautiful little fish in my hands, I have come to appreciate the unique beauty of a native trout in it's habitat. I don't think I am the first to note how native trout and other fish just seem to "fit" in their environment. At the time, I don't know if I understood this, I just knew that I was happier after catching this little trout than after catching any other, larger fish.
--Posted by Eben