By Patrick McArdle
Unlike many anglers, Brooke Flewelling seems to appreciate fishing more than bragging about the big ones she landed, but at 7, maybe she’s just learning some things about the sport.
There are some aspects she’s already mastered. While ice fishing at the Chittenden Reservoir on the last day of 2016, Flewelling, who was 6 at the time, pulled a 24-inch walleye out of the water by herself.
Flewelling, who will be starting second grade soon at Rutland Town Elementary School, did the same with a 30-inch pike a year before when she was 5.
“I just like catching them and eating them,” Flewelling said last week.
While she has accomplished much as an angler on her own, some of the skill might be inherited and some of the knowledge has definitely been handed down. Her father, Joel Flewelling, is a specialist for the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department in their Rutland office.
He said Brooke has been fishing since she was a baby, and the two of them have never missed an opening day for trout season, although he admits they’ve only caught an opening day fish a few times.
“I grew up fishing the streams and I wanted my daughter to have the same opportunities,” Joel Flewelling said.
Brooke needed some coaxing to talk about the fish that would allow her to qualify in the youth division as a “Master Angler.” After all, she pointed out, “it was so long ago.” But with a little prompting, she describes what happened once she saw the flag going up which let her know there was a fish on the line.
She said she ran to try to bring the line in. She wanted to make sure it didn’t get away but realized it was “really heavy.”
“I pulled it out slowly so it wouldn’t just go all over the place to get itself out,” she said.
Brooke said she called to her dad for help, but managed to land the fish herself while other anglers around her didn’t even know what was happening.
“Like (when Joel Flewelling was) halfway there, you just see the fish come up and then when I yelled, they’re like, ‘Wha-a-a-at?’ They keep looking and looking and they see the fish that I pulled out. So funny,” she said.
Even at 6, Brooke realized she had attracted attention, and that the other anglers wanted to be by her spot because they realized there were fish there.
Brooke was willing to give some advice to other anglers who haven’t had her success.
“Try and go in the middle of the lake to catch the best ones ’cause they’re always in the middle,” she said.
She has lost at least one big fish, and had some advice she learned from successfully landing two big ones by herself.
“I pull it up really slow, but a little fast at the same time, but not too fast or else the fish will go away,” she said.
Brooke doesn’t seem too eager to tell fishing stories. She said only a few of her friends in school know about her hobby or share it.
But, she said, she likes the outdoor activities she shares with her father, which also include camping, hiking and hunting, although she’s only been a spectator on hunting trips so far.
Brooke said she likes to catch brook trout and helps with cooking the fish she catches. Joel Flewelling said she’s not yet cleaning the fish they catch, but they ate the fish she caught on New Year’s Eve and Brooke said it was good.
Joel Flewelling said he thought fishing was a great activity for families.
“Kind of remove yourself from technology for a little bit and get out there on the river or on the lake. Let things quiet down. Then you really can focus on each other and have conversations that you wouldn’t normally have a chance to have,” he said.
Right here in the Rutland area, Flewelling said, there are many opportunities — like East Creek, where trophy trout can be caught, or Otter Creek and its tributaries, and the nearby Chittenden Reservoir, where Brooke has landed some big catches.
He said he also values the chance to pass on his knowledge, of fish, wildlife, habitats and nature.
“It’s always a learning experience when we go out,” he said.
Brooke is responding. Asked what she wants to do when she grows up, she said she wants to work for Fish and Wildlife like her dad.
While Brooke Flewelling didn’t have a dream river she hopes to fish someday, she does have a goal she has hoped to meet since she caught the 30-inch pike two years ago.
“Maybe a bigger pike than 30 inch. A little bit more,” she said.