A kayak is one answer to crowded trout streams. Last week, while camping and fishing in northern New Hampshire, I was discouraged to find three or four vehicles at every riverside access. So Mrs. Merwin and I loaded our kayaks in the truck and headed into the backcountry.

It was a great choice, despite–or perhaps because of–some rough woods roads we bumped along on our way to various remote ponds. Being able to soak up the September sun while casting for brook trout (which is what I’m doing in the photo) was pure pleasure. And best of all, there was nobody else around.

The fishing was good, but not spectacular. These were 8-inch brookies, after all, and not 20-inch rainbows. But the worth of the fish wasn’t in the size or fight but rather in the way they so suited the surroundings.

The bog ponds were in fall colors. Hardwood trees on the surrounding hills were blazing yellows and reds. The trout, when I found them, were likewise colorful in the way of all brook trout that makes them such special fish.

A small muddler minnow twitched in the channels did the trick. Periodically there’d be a swirl and a tug and then a little brookie flopping next to the kayak as I unhooked and released it. Then I’d sit back and sip from a Thermos of coffee.

There was no pressure to do anything. I wasn’t having to compete with other anglers for space in a pool or for fish. And having caught a few small trout, I could catch another if I wanted. Or not. It didn’t seem to matter much, and bobbing around in my kayak was as nice as anything.

It was thus about as relaxing a fishing day as I can remember–all thanks to a kayak and a willingness to get off the beaten track.