Wednesday – Caleb Smith State Park, Beat 7
I am fishing this beat too often. The truth is, in the old days, I would kill for this beat but now I prefer the smaller and more secluded upper locations. But 7 always seems to have action and since it is 29 degrees and early in the morning, I guess I am lucky to be here.
I am alone, at least for now. There is a mist coming off the river, it being a warm 52 degrees on this cold April day. I am layered up 3 times over plus have on my finger-less army surplus gloves. I don’t plan on changing flies or tippets much so I start with the 5x that is on the reel and a small Black Nosed Dace. I tie it with brown bucktail over black bear hair on top of white bucktail, and very sparse (I think I will go to calf tail for the white next time – it’s finer and crinklier), silver Bill’s Body Braid and a red wool tag. I bought the red wool in 1978 and haven’t gone through half of it yet. It’s a small tag. No rib as I think it makes them spin more.
I stand, as is my custom, and just look. Take a few photos. A great blue heron lands on the tip top of a tree just as I put the camera away. He quickly flies off and his shadow crosses the water. The sun is just up but already it is warning the fish of the danger to come, be it the heron or me. I try to stay concealed in the brush.
My line is stiff and not flexing as it should as I work my cast-less presentation. It is coated in ice. I soon notice the guides filling as well and shortly thereafter the line is fixed to the rod. I am in a promising zone so I work with the line that is out, hoping a fish will shake the ice off for me. That doesn’t happen. I hook the reel seat on a branch and work each guide free.
The dace is doing its job on a leader of about 10 feet. Some would say that is too long and having missed 2 or 3 soft hits, I am beginning to agree. They are mouthing the fly and rejecting it rather than the usual hit and hookup. I feel like I am nymphing. It must be the cold and early morning hour that has them sluggish. I clip a few tips off the back of the fly to shorten it rather than the leader. Stealth is my main objective and the long leader helps.
I choose a target further downstream, letting the fly sink and flutter, then twitch-twitch. Strip-Strip. Drift back. I see a bulge in the water. I drop it back some more and then retrieve to check for weeds. Clean.
I go back to the spot and work it slowly. The rise was mid-stream and seemed a significant fish, fearless of the herons in the area. I twitch, strip and bam! He is on. A nice roll showing his side. He spit the fly after a short run. I am counting this one.
The day went on with a few in the net, all rainbows freshly stocked I am sure. I did see a colorful one go by of about 18 inches that may have been a hold over. I searched the lower part of the beat and worked some likely areas for little brookies but no luck.
Once my time is up I drive to where the river crosses the Turnpike by Givens Park. I hope to have a shot at some of the “out of the park” stockies they put in last week, and always hope for a possible sea-run. The tide is in and the river too deep to wade. I flip my Dace and then a weighted Green Woolly Bugger (on a shortened leader to help keep it off the bottom) as best I can from the brush filled shore with no response. I consider switching to a nymph and indicator, given the circumstances, but my fingers are cold and I am hungry. Its been a good start to the Nissequogue season. I head home.
I love Long Island spring creeks but am yearning for the Catskills…and Hendricksons. Soon.
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