October 23, 2020 – Connetquot
I haven’t seen Joe in a long time.
We cancelled our early spring trip to his cabin and then I backed out of the Neversink trip with Joe, Mike and TLo. He went up to the Riverside this fall with the guys but I decided to stay home. No LITU meetings, at least no live ones, and it is hard to trade flies on Zoom. He has a dozen Joe-Stacks for me so we schedule a day at Connetquot.
I made the reservation and he arrived early
…to draw a good number in the beat lottery that is their policy, first come – first served. Most will get up early to get the spot they want, the coveted Beat 12 being a popular one. Years ago I got tired of my fishing turning into a competitive rat race and decided to leave things to fate. I arrive at a leisurely pace and take whatever is open. This evolved into a desire to fish every beat in the Park which has been a wonderful experience and yes, I usually catch fish no matter where I am, although I was skunked once on 12.
Anyway, Joe gets there at 10:30 and draws number 3. It didn’t matter because our plan is to fish the lower river. Beat 1 and 2 to be specific, the out flow from the lake which is also tidal water. Few choose this area other than as a default.
It wasn’t always this way.
In the early days of Park management you could not drive to the hatchery, regardless of what beat you drew, unless you were a senior citizen which we were not. You had to walk up the Hatchery Road. Some guys did it in their waders, others carried them in a back pack. You could also walk up around Main Pond to beat 8 -16 if you wanted to, but many chose to fish 1 – 8.
They were the preferred beats for those who wanted to spend more time fishing than walking. I recall a guy fishing off the dam before the “viewing platform” was built and hoisting a good size fish up on what was his father’s Leonard, breaking the tip in the process. Those who knew what he did groaned in horror as he explained “No problem, it has another tip.”
Joe checked the tide charts to make certain it was in a low stage as wading that water at high tide can be sketchy.
Beat 1 is on the east side and Beat 2 on the west. I have never been too clear on exactly where they end. Today we are going to find out.
He is already suited up when I arrive and there are about 5 other fishers getting ready. A dozen size 12 Joe-Stacks are slipped into my hand. I had planned on having some Crickets and October Caddis for him but the few I tied didn’t perform as expected. I need to work on the design before they are worth putting in anyone’s box.
We have light rain and then a heavy mist.
Not soaking but damp. Good BWO weather so I stow the new flies and tie on a size 14 BWO from Paul’s, tied parachute with a synthetic post/wing. They are very durable and float well with no Gink. Tug on them and they pop back up (which is very attractive to some fish). Thanks Paul.
Joe was up on the Delaware
…and heard from a reliable source that if you want to catch any fish on the river use a size 22 BWO. That is what he has on, ready to haul in some trout. He rigs up the bamboo he bought some years ago from Northwoods Rods. I choose the Scott Radian I won at LIFR as I figure I will need to haul some casts as we move down to the muddy area near Sunrise Highway. The rod is a canon.
Before going to our beats we walk the west side downstream to what I thought would be a decent access point to the unknown waters below. With the tide low, some gravel is showing near the bank, and then dark mud. As Joe holds my rod, I test the firmness taking one step at a time. The first 3 steps held up but on the next I sunk in to the top of my boot and that was before I shifted all of my weight to it. We could have looked further but decided to go catch some fish first.
I take the west side (2) and Joe the east (1). Are all these numbers driving you nuts yet? Wading is easy and the fish cooperative. My BWO is bigger than anything on the water and I am sure Joe’s comes closer to matching the hatch, if there is one. But I can see mine and have 4 hits in the race way water with two healthy jumpers spitting the hook and two in the net. Joe heads downstream to begin our exploration.
You’ll have to ask Joe to be sure, but I think seeing the #22 in that water is tough. I see him change to a few other choices and soon has some fish on. I cross over the dam and drop in below him. He has already scouted down river and tells me it is navigable.
I work my way down the edge of the water testing the bottom with each step. The first 50 yards or so I can see stream bottom all the way across. I keep moving as the goal is to find the end of the beat as well as to see what’s here more than to fish it. A short way down I discover the missing beat marker. There is a wooden post on the west side almost obscured by streamside brush with the number 1 on the south face of it indicating that from here up is the beat boundary. Interestingly it is on the west side of the river where I always thought beat 1 was.
I hear cheers from above.
A school group is on the dam watching Joe land another fish and giving him a rousing applause.
I move past the end of the beat and there is a sort of island in the middle of what appears to be a shallow pond.
The current concentrates here and so I try to fish it. Flipping the BWO in, it moves slowly and to no response. I put on an ant and get the same. I can’t see how deep it is but reason that the flow probably both attracts the fish and maintains the depth. An unweighted Green Woolly Bugger is next. Cast and then let it sink. I work it all around the area. There are a lot of bait fish. Tons of sculpins as well as other bait fish and when I clean my fly of gunk, there are nymphs crawling on it. Rich habitat.
I don’t move past the Island as the edge seems muddier and the tide is coming in. The outflow under Sunrise is down and to the west. I would like to get there but not today. It can probably be accessed from the other side but then there are the ticks. Bushwhacking here can be hazardous to your health. Maybe this winter would be a good time for the next stage of this exploration.
I move back up and toss the ant to some logs
…and then under a tree on the far side. Fall colors are approaching their peak and the gentle falling leaves show where the current is. Once past the narrow section below the tail water the current splits, one leg going to the west-side of the island, the other to where I already fished. With the Scott rod I easily roll cast to the west flow and test it, looking for lips. Nada.
Joe is working the out flow.
I fish along with him for a while and then he moves to the east platform (1). It allows him to access the deep eddy that moves slowly back to the outflow. Fishy looking but challenging to cast. A slot clearance in the trees allows you to roll cast through, otherwise it is pretty much a flip and wait. There are ways to work the current using mends to direct the drift, eventually, to where you want it. The second challenge is if you hook one how will you land it? Even at high tide it is a high platform for a standard net to be effective. We left the long handled one in the car.
Joe moves to the west side (2) and hooks up. We both have more fish, moving around to the various points of these beats. It certainly is big enough for two of us to enjoy a session together, which is a nice change from solo fishing upriver. This place can also be different each time you come based on tide, time of year, force of the flow from upriver. Largemouth bass are here as is whatever wants to come up from the Great South Bay.
Beats 3 and 4 should be considered as well.
They are the south end of Main Pond, on each side of the dam. 4 has more room to work plus a platform but 3 offers some very fishy water that the ospreys can’t get to. There are days when monstrous rises occur with some regularity and drifting tiny nymphs can be effective as well. Long handled net is required. Today I took a few casts and had no luck.
If you want to try this spot I would suggest you do it with a buddy and take Beat 1 and Beat 4 so you can cover both the lower river and the south end of the Main Pond. If you have 3 guys take Beat 2 as well.
So that was my day on the lower river, here is how Joe’s day went:
(Joe Odierna – Guest Contributor to the Blog)
I get a text from Tom saying, “Looking for adventure? Let’s fish beats 1&2 at Connetquot” with this picture attached:
I’m up for an adventure.
Friday at noon works. Living nearby I arrive early and get #3, that is like a draft number. I get to be the third person to pick where I want giving me a chance at most any site on the river, but Tom and I have a plan. With time to wait, I ask the attendant if I can go up to the dam to check the conditions. She says sure. On my way I go straight towards the river to check out the spot Tom was describing.
It looks very interesting but it brought back some bad memories of when I went to Bubbles Falls
…last year and tried to assess the pool from the west side. I was stuck in the mud for well over a half hour and was so scared that I wouldn’t get out, I called my kids to come help me. Thankfully the muck let go and I freed myself before they arrived, after nearly dislocating my knee from my body. Not recommended. The water does not flow there very well so all the sediment settles causing a very muddy bottom. Three steps in and I was done.
I continue up to the dam.
The weather isn’t the greatest, heavy mist and a slight drizzle, but a few hours of fishing is still in order. From the dam I can see both beats 1&2. I believe site 1 is the east platform and path and site 2 the west, both next to the old mill. The stepped platform next to the dam is a “viewing platform” and not meant for fishing. Downstream I see rings of a rise, or is it just the rain collecting on the branches and sending big drops to the water? Well, I guess we will just have to find out. I head back to the parking lot and suit up.
Tom pulls in and parks right next to me. We spend some time catching up on family, friends and life as good friends do. He opens his trunk and sets up his new Scott Radian. What a beautiful rod. Black and inscribed with LIFR 1 of 1. He won it at a Long Island Flyrodder meeting! It is kind of surprising that Tom was using a graphite and I was using bamboo. A change of pace for each of us.
We head to the check in booth. The guys with numbers 1 and 2 have chosen their beats and I, with #3, ask for Beat 1. (A beat few ever ask for even if there are no beats left.) The clerk was surprised, and so was the guy behind me. I felt like I just committed a mortal sin in front of the Pope. For him it was probably an answer to his prayers.
“Last time I fished that beat all I caught were bass.
I turned my ticket in and asked for another beat” the guy with number 5 exclaimed in disbelief. I tell him that my buddy and I have a plan and we are sticking to it. Tom eventually takes Beat# 2.
We head immediately over to the spot Tom sent me the picture of. It looks quite fishy, BUT I warn him of my fear. He looks at me and hands me his Scott rod. That little devil on my left shoulder says “Well, at least you get to keep his rod if he sinks in.” I tell Tom to be careful and to remember my story from Bubbles. He cautiously takes a couple of steps in and looks and me shaking his head. We walk up to a second spot where I try it and get no farther. We head up to the posted beats by the dam.
Tom heads in below the mill
…with a nice parachute BWO about 10x the size of the one I had on, and I head over the dam to a path I saw which put me in the river at the foot of the outflow.
I walk down stream, exploration being our primary mission.
This side of the river is much more stable, and I scout down to a big opening of what looks like a pond. I fish my way down, casting to all those spots I previously saw rising rings, and what do you know, raindrops instead of rainbows.
I don’t see any trout.
Some baitfish mind you, but no trout. Maybe another day they will be here. When I get back near the platform on east beat 1, Tom shows me 4 fingers from across the water. He had four fish on while I was scouting. That man is good. He later tells me two to the net, and two other jumpers who tossed the hook. Dark, energetic fish, Brookies I think he said.
I plant my feet and start fishing the outflow.
I can’t see that size 22 BWO in that flow so I try a size 14. As I’m tying on my new fly, Tom leaves his spot to go explore the area I was just in. No sooner does he get in behind me when I cast the new fly and BAM, into a nice rainbow. Tom shouts encouragement and heads downstream searching.
Fish on while Social Distancing and mask in place!
As I release the ‘bow he jumps the net and snaps off my fly. Ok, time to tie on another. This time I try Tom’s number 1 favorite, a Joe-Stack. As if right on cue, a school group stops to look at the view and my casting and I hook into another ‘bow.
This one put up more of a fight and I am getting cheers
…and shouts of “you got him” from the gathered crowed. No pressure here Joe. No pressure. Thankfully I land this guy and hold him up to show the kids. “Yea!!!” is shouted as I bow to the ‘bow. Glad to make their visit to the park more exciting and hopefully some will be back to try their luck.
They leave, and the pressure is off, once again. I try several other dries but didn’t have much luck, so I put on one of my favorites, the Olive Woolly Bugger, in a size 6.
I land several more in no time at all,
…but the truth is I must have lost well over a dozen. The Park rules are for barbless hooks and I intentionally tied these buggers up on factory barbless hooks.
I tell you, these fish are well educated. For each one I land I lose three, maybe more, but what fun while they are on. I am able to see most as they come toward the tip of my rod, others are on and off, long distance releases. No jumpers today, but great fun.
We got to explore the lower portion of the river
…and I fished a section I had never fished previously. We still need to figure out how to access the lower pond which we now believe is below both Beat #1 and #2, but that’s for another day.
Thanks for another great adventure Tom!
This is a great park so don’t short change yourself by always running to the more popular beats. Explore it all, after all it’s about the fishing not the catching, right?
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