North Carolina's hatchery supported trout waters open for fishing on the first Saturday, in Apri each year. Typically this means large crowds of anglers lining area put and take waters which are designated by the sign you see here. While bait fishing dominates the day with nightcrawlers and corn being two of the primary lures favored by anglers, a few fly fishermen might venture out just to prove a point. I usually try to avoid fishing on opening day but have ventured out with my fly rod a few times in the past..
One opening day event that I will never forget happend near the posh little mountain town of Blowing Rock, North Carolina. Several of us had fished all morning long with fairly good success and had stopped for lunch in the parking lot of a local hardware store. I had just opened up the season's first can of potted meat when a SUV loaded with a family of four pulled up beside me. The driver rolled down his window and motioned for me to come over. As soon as I got within earshot he asked if I knew where he could clean his fish. I answered that we usually took care of that sort of thing down by the creek as it made a lot less of a mess that way. He looked rather puzzled then indicated that he hadn't seen any designated fish cleaners when he and his kids were fishing down by the creek. The kids had caught some fish and they needed them cleaned. That is when I realized that this fellow was expecting someone to clean his fish for him. Immediately the country boy that my father raised found this to be funny as I would have never dreamed of anyone not cleaning their own fish. That would have been almost like paying someone to change your oil for you. We just hadn't heard of it.
Once I got over my shock, I told the obvious yuppie that I would be happy to help him out. The gentleman, his wife and kids piled out of the SUV and one of the kids produced a bulging brown paper grocery sack. I emptied the sack onto the tail gate of the truck and to my surprise out came four large rainbow trout. Each of them must have been at least 17 inches long. The family gathered around me and stared in amazement as I produced a pocket knife and began to scale and gut the fish. As I was in a parking lot and did not have a supply of water to wash up with, I am certain that I was making quite a bloody mess. The kids thought this was very cool but mom and dad seemed a bit squeamish. I took full advantage of this and to their horror, made sure to point out all the anatomical details that I could locate within the fish's innards. When I got to the stomach I cut it open thinking that I could give the kids a lesson on the diet of the noble trout. I was surprised to find several very large gold hooks still baited with a full loads of corn.
It was at that point, noticing that Mom and Dad were getting green around the gills, I gave up on my lesson and quickly finished the job at hand. The family thanked me and quickly took their fish and drove away. Leaving me waiving goodbye with my blood soaked hand.
Like I said before, I won't ever forget that opening day of trout season. I would wager that, out there somewhere, there is a family of young urban professionals who still talk about it from time to tome over their glasses of chilled white wine.
Copyright 2006 Flyfishmagazine.com
The Designated Fish Cleaner of Opening day