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Fishing: Meccawe Club out of sight but not out of the picture

  • Meccawe Pond, in Reading, Vt., rests in the seclusion of a natural basin surrounded by low hills. (Coleman Stokes photograph)



Special to the Valley News
Saturday, June 01, 2019

The Meccawe Club, in Reading, Vt., was founded in 1900. Hidden in a pristine location surrounded by low mountains, its seven-acre pond is fed by three streams and several springs. Each year the club stocks the pond with brook trout, rainbows and browns. With holdovers from the previous season, Meccawe Pond sports an estimated 1,000 fish.

I accepted an invitation by a club member, Don Neely, who had read one of my articles about fishing offshore. He wanted to try a technique that involves Power Bait presented on the bottom, a method that has been effective for me. Naturally, I was a little nervous as I felt the pressure to produce some fish.

I followed Route 4 through Woodstock, heading for the turnoff at Curtis Hollow Road in Bridgewater Mills. Curtis Hollow quickly turned into a narrow dirt road winding through thick forest that rose on both sides. After what seemed like a couple of miles, I turned onto Meccawe Road.

The rural byway narrowed even more. I finally entered an open gate with a sign announcing: Meccawe Club, Private Property.

I parked at the clubhouse, the original structure built in 1900. When I got out of my car, I looked down at the pond, which filled a natural basin. The afternoon sunlight illuminated the trees on the slopes. I had never seen anything like it in all my fishing adventures in Vermont and New Hampshire.

The caretaker, a friendly gentleman, greeted me with a handshake. I explained that I had been invited for an afternoon of fishing by Don Neely. Neely had not arrived yet, so the caretaker ushered me into the clubhouse for a quick tour.

The clubhouse stood pretty much as it had been since it was erected 119 years ago. It has been carefully maintained, so everything is original. On the headboard walls hanged taxidermy replications of huge trout that had been caught over the years. There is also a hat that belonged to President Calvin Coolidge.

The lodge is been comfortably furnished with sofas and a wooden table with chairs. A full kitchen allows members to cook their catches. Though catch and release is not prohibited by the club, members are encouraged to keep any trout to prevent the pond from becoming overpopulated. Too many trout in a small pond can stunt the growth of the fish.

Upstairs were four bedrooms for anyone who wants to spend the night for a mere $5. An enclosed porch looks out over the pond. If you searched for fishing lodge in the dictionary, there might well be a picture of the Meccawe Club.

I signed the guest book and went back outside. Neely, a dentist from Norwich, had arrived. He immediately began to tell me of the stewardship that had gone into maintaining the club. A lot of work is required to keep the place looking pristine.

The pond had suffered from silt buildup over the years, so it was dredged to make the depth (around 12 feet) more even. A dam at the western end of the pond been damaged by a tropiacl storm and had to be completely rebuilt. The club has also done quite a bit of work in the surrounding area, creating habitat for the local wildlife as well as many hiking trails.

With introductions out of the way, we grabbed our gear and headed for the grassy bank of the pond. Neely explained that a healthy crayfish population kept the trout well-fed. I could also see salamanders flitting about in the clear water. Plenty of forage for the stockers.

The technique I apply is simple. Using a fluorocarbon leader that is invisible in the water I attach a small golden hook that would hold the ball of “Rainbow” Power Bait. Then I tie on a double swivel to secure the egg sinker above the leader.

Trout were already rising in the water, so I was filled with enthusiasm.

Of course, trout are the most finicky of fish. After an hour or so, we had only experienced two weak bites, probably brookies. So we switched spots, moving to a place called Goose Point. Still no luck. I had another tap, but the fish didn’t take the hook.

Neely had to attend a board meeting in the clubhouse, so I stayed for a while but still didn’t catch anything. Another angler, who had replaced us on Goose Point, did land a small brookie. At least someone hadn’t gotten skunked.

Back at the clubhouse, I took one last look as the sun descended over the trees. I was impressed with the view and with the work the 66 clubmembers had done to a preserve this historic site. Such stewardship should be implemented everywhere.

Anyone wanting more information about the organization may simply Google The Meccawe Club.

Coleman Stokes can be reached at stokecoles@gmail.com.