Fiddleheads and Trout
©2011 Brent N. Reece

Aroostook’s Fiddleheads are Late!!!

In all my days upon this earth there has never been a greater time than spring. Nothing more signifies nature’s renewal and God’s blessing upon us. Than the bounty to come represented by two very simple, but yet priceless things. Fiddleheads and trout!

Oh there are other things to eat and the grocers are getting fuller and fresher by the moment. But there is just something innately cool about going out and harvesting your own food!

In my youth I have filled a canoe or two with fresh fiddleheads and carted them down to Harrigan’s Market. He paid better than anyone else around, but wanted those big silver dollar sized beauties. Woe to the picker who tried to sell him them quarter sized leftovers.

In those days guys like Gerald Jackins, Houlton’s self appointed Fiddlehead Warden, were the dominant pickers in the area. He had him a route better than most, but shared with some. I know, I lived in the same neighborhood and it was a yearly competition to see who was going to get to the sweet spots first. We both canoed or boated the Meduxnekeag and knew the best flats.

I often got ahead of him, since I was a kid and he worked at the local JC Penney. But he beat out everybody for sheer quantity. He harvested so many fiddleheads; his church held a fiddlehead supper every year for 20 years or more! He gave his pickings as a tythe to the church each year. It raised a lot of money for them and made Gerald a local legend. In honor of that someone gave him asset of signs for his old green truck. Declaring him our official Fiddlehead Warden.

The second part of that spring feast of my youth was fresh brookies caught by the droves. In my home area trout can be found in just about every bit of flowing water you can see. I know places if you drove by you would swear it was drainage and nothing would live there. Drop a hook and worm in the deep wash out below the culvert and see dozens of voracious brookies “piranha” your poor worm. I had a spring ritual around my trout fishing and for years went on Opening day and fished the same “ditch-brook” for years. Most of the time I went home with my limit of ten fat little 8 to 10 inch brookies.

Now the hard part was putting together enough of both to feed my clan. See I am the next youngest of nine. But the older four were well away by the time had come for me to be doing this. But even with five of us it was hard because you had to add in two parents and a lot of the time my Uncle Royce was in on it too. That works out to be seven hungry folks who aren’t just there for some greens. Now even my sisters were good for two trout each. So I had to catch a good 20 trout every time Mom decided to have it again.

Now I was lucky that my parents saw the advantage in a boy who could catch up a lot of trout and never gave me a hard time about going fishing. Nor about being the fiddlehead picker either. To be honest, I got away with murder. Times were tough back then and my meager efforts may have made it a little easier on my family.

But to be honest, I did it because I just love fiddleheads and trout!

– Brent

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