Upsets! Not The Electoral Variety But The Watery Kind

My recent close personal encounter with the chilly waters of Redacted (not its real name) Pond brought to mind other, similar incidents in the past. Over the years, all four of the Trout Boys — me, the Old Man, brother Peter (the Bro) and Bob Oakes (whom I customarily refer to as Trout Boy) — have suffered, and survived, capsizings in the waters of various trout ponds. I was the last to take the plunge, so to speak.

Some years ago, maybe 30 years back, the Old Man and I were fishing on a lovely trout pond deep in the Maine woods, a pond that had to be accessed through a locked gate to which the Old Man had a key, courtesy of a friend whose family had the only camp on the pond.

The Old Man in his homemade boat, unhooking a nice trout.

The Old Man in his homemade boat, unhooking a nice trout.

I was in a canoe, and I was fishing the shoreline of a cove and having some success when I seemed to hear a shout. I couldn’t see the Old Man, who was in his little homemade pram, anchored in the shallow end around the point from me. I stopped fishing and listened, and heard another shout. What could be the matter? I hauled anchor and paddled around the point.

What I could see from that distance was the low silhouette of an overturned boat and in the water beside it a round object which turned out to be the Old Man’s head. He had capsized. I’m not sure how long he had been shouting, but even at a distance he looked pretty pleased to see me. Mind you, the Old Man [real name: Capt. Amos Stone Mills, Jr., but called Pete — go figure] was a sea captain, hence the “Old Man” honorific, a merchant mariner who held papers entitling him to skipper any ship in the world. Tankers he could handle; a 10-foot pram put him overboard.

Now, many years later, I can’t exactly recall the mechanics and hydraulics of getting him and the boat back to shore, but somehow we made it. He stripped off his wet clothes and laid the clothes and fishing vest and the contents of his wallet — I don’t know why he had taken his wallet out fishing — on the grass in front of the camp to dry in the warm sun. I have a photo of the Old Man in his underwear with the rest of his belongings spread out before him on the ground, but I will not embarrass his memory by posting it here.

In short order his things dried out enough so that he got dressed, relaunched his little scow and set off for the same spot, where he had been catching fish before the unfortunate incident. I paddled off to the same cove where I had also been catching trout. About a half-hour later I heard him shouting again.

“Dad, what the hell?” I thought. “Have you done it again?” Once again I weighed anchor and paddled to where I could see the Old Man. This time, his boat was right-side-up and he was sitting upright and not bobbing in the water, but his flyrod was bent in serious fashion. When I got closer, he yelled, “Do you have a net? I left mine on shore.” He had a nice trout on the line and hadn’t wanted to risk losing him by horsing him aboard. I pulled alongside and netted a beautiful 16-inch brookie.

The Bro watching the Old Man tussle with a brook trout.

The Bro watching the Old Man tussle with a brook trout.

The Bro and Bob got their dunkings together, by performing a beautiful synchronized rollover in a canoe on Quimby Pond. In those days there was a little dock behind a farmhouse on the eastern shore and they had put their canoe in beside the dock. The Bro got in and centered himself. Oakes got in and immediately the canoe rolled over. They were in shallow water so they waded ashore, emptied the boat and started again, fishing wet this time. So now all four of the Trout Boys have managed to put a small craft wrong-side-up in a pond. My misadventure this October completed the grand slam.


Nick Mills

About Nick Mills

Full disclosure: I was not born in Maine, alas! I was born in Massachusetts, but the family moved to Maine when I was eleven, and I grew up in Thomaston. My dad was skipper of one of the draggers that sailed out of Rockland, in the days when it was a rough-tough working fishing port. When he came in from the sea his favorite activity was freshwater fishing with me and my brother, Peter. We learned together to flyfish for trout in the Alder Stream in Eustis. Once hooked on the sport, pun intended, I fished at every opportunity in every place I could -- in the rivers, streams and ponds of Maine; in the mountain ponds of Utah, where I was stationed for a year in the Army; in high Andean lakes in Colombia, where I served as a Peace Corps Volunteer; even in a lagoon that surrounded one of Saddam Hussein's palaces in Baghdad. I tried once to go trout fishing in northern Afghanistan, when the U.S.S.R. occupied that country; a landslide blocked my path, but that led to a more interesting adventure, which I will tell you about in a future post.