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Mares: Thinking Like A Fish

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Jake Wheeler, East Burke
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Bill Mares finds his Vermont watery bliss not in swimming or in boating, but half-way in between.

Slowly, I edge down the forty-five degree slope, on rain-slick pine needles and maple leaves. I’m in waders with fishing rod and wading stick in one hand, reaching for saplings with the other, and impatient to get to the river.

The distant murmur becomes a roar as it sunders the air, with its awesome liquid parade of millions of gallons of water.

This is my favorite fishing spot in all of Vermont, and I have it all to myself. Only one friend knows of it. The lazy can't see it from the road, and the out of shape can’t negotiate the bank. Occasionally, canoeists will glide by but only nod or wave.

Now, with one hand on the wading stick and the other on the rod, I venture into water up to my waist. Every step requires me to have two points solidly connected to the bottom. In The Odyssey, Homer had his "wine-dark sea" while here, except after heavy rains, I have "gin-clear water."

I try to think like a fish and look for calm surfaces behind boulders, or in the slicks, out of the current where trout can wait for passing snacks large enough to give them more nutritional energy than they expend in getting to that morsel.

With polarized glasses I peer down, and can see perhaps three feet to the bottom, but of course I can't see the sleek trout, which have evolved a protective back color to hide from predatory hawks, eagles and mergansers.

On innumerable casts near and far, my wet and dry flies hook four trout. I release two and bring two to my net, where I admire both their colors and my skill.

Gradually, the light fades and it's time to head home. Gingerly I make my three-point way to the bank. But just as I reach it, I slip on a football sized boulder, pirouette, and land hard on another rock. Even before I feel the jolt of pain, I'm happy to be where no one can see me sit down in the shallow water.

Sore, but happy, I scale the hillside. At the height of land, I mentally thank the people of New Hampshire, who own the waters of this, the Connecticut River – and the people of Vermont, who own the bank.