family secret

The Family Secret fooled this fine Opening Day brook trout. (STEVE ANGERS PHOTO)

Anglers, by nature, are a secretive lot. Finding a body of water that contains an angler’s favorite fish is held close to the angler’s vest. If an angler shares his fishing spot with you, you are viewed as a trustworthy friend.

One of the places that I fish on a regular basis is known as “The pond that shall not be named.” The pond was shared to me by the previous angler shop owner, Bill Thompson. He asked that I not share the name of the pond with customers as the pond would then be overrun with anglers. To this day, I have honored Bill’s wishes.

This gets dicey when other anglers in Bill’s circle come to the shop and want to talk about the fishing.

Invariably, an angler who is listening in to these conversations will ask, “What is the name of this pond where you are catching fish?” Almost in unison the answer comes out — ”The pond that shall not be named.”

Anglers walk away shaking their heads. But they understand the need to keep pressure off select waters.

Surely, these anglers have waters of their own that they keep within their angling “family.” It has been this way since the beginning of time.

Whenever anglers gather to fish, the first person to hook a fish gets asked, “What did you catch it on?”

Most times you will get a response like, “Something with white marabou.” Or, “a little dun-colored bug.” Or, “a gold spinner.”

Even when it comes to flies and lures there is secrecy.

This secrecy has led to some flies receiving their names. My favorite story is from Joe Bate’s book “Streamer Fly Tying & Fishing.” Dr. Ed Burke, creator of the Dr. Burke streamer fly, was fishing with his guide on the upper Kennebago River in Maine. The fishing that week had been particularly slow for everyone in camp. Anglers fished every pool on the river with little angling success.

Burke and his guide were fishing the Island Pool with a fly that Burke had created to try and change things up from all the regular flies used in the Kennebago River. While fishing the Pool, another sport and his guide appeared. Disappointed that the Pool was occupied, the guide asked if they could watch Burke fish the Pool.

Burke gave a nod and proceeded to land one fish after another. Watching this when the river had appeared to be fishless, the guide yelled across the river, “For Pete’s sake, Doctor, what fly are you using?” Burke answered back, “That’s a family secret!”

Burke’s guide grabbed Burke’s arm and said, “There’s the name for your new fly.”

The Family Secret became a regular streamer pattern in the Rangeley area for years after this story took place. The fly is simplicity. The tail is 10 peacock sword fibers. The body is silver tinsel with oval tinsel rib. The throat is a thick bunch of guinea hen. The wing is comprised of four white saddle hackles. I use white marabou. Finish the fly with a jungle cock eye.

It was fitting that the Family Secret produced trout on Opening Day at “The pond that shall no be named.” Fishing the Family Secret on a full sink line successfully brought several trout to hand — the largest being a 15-inch holdover brook trout. Like anglers, the trout couldn’t resist a good secret.

Tip Of The Week

When fishing New Hampshire Designated Trout Ponds, look for those ponds designated "quality waters." Quality waters have a bag limit of two fish, with all fish between 12 and 16 inches being released immediately. Only one fish over 16 inches may be kept. Consider releasing all fish as these ponds are the best chance to catch the brook trout of a lifetime.

Steve Angers, a native to the Conway area, is the author of the book “Fly Fishing New Hampshire’s Secret Waters” and operates the North Country Angler.

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