Fish where the fish are…

April 18, 2019 – Caleb Smith State Park

I had hoped to fish with LIFR on Monday but it was nasty out. Today isn’t supposed to be great weather either but I head to Caleb Smith for the afternoon session anyway. It is cloudy with rain threatening and a big wind.  I bundle up with long johns, fleece top and bottom as well as a vest, rain coat and waders.  I am not overly warm.

I ask for Beat 5

4 was the only one taken when I called so I could have gone anywhere.  I expect to be able to catch a few fish on 5 and then wander around if the rest of the beats are empty. The probability of fish below 5 is low these days but I still like to be down there.  Having a few fish first makes it better.

I suspect that they do all the stocking at the access on 4 and don’t have the resources to carry them to all the other beats, especially the downstream ones.  That is the way it has been for a long while. Beats 6 – 9 are just about stock-less over the past years although I do find one every now and again, a wanderer, a hold-over or stream-bred brookie.  

Clark Fisher on Nissequogue
Clark Fisher on Beat 7

I arrive and check in

…with the gate attendant.  He asks if I have fished here yet this year, after I asked if anyone was on 6.  He knows that I will fish down from 5 if no one is there and politely updates me on some park rules, currently being enforced. 

First is that

…I need to stay on the beat I am assigned whether or not anyone else is in the park. 

Okay, I can get that as long as there are fish stocked on each beat.  If I select 6, 7 or 8, which I love but have had no fish in recent times, it is a comfort to know that I may be able to jump on an empty beat upstream where they stock to round out the day.  He tells me they stocked yesterday.  I ask if they spread them out.  He didn’t have to answer me.  I suggest that there are volunteers who would help do the stocking if they would ask us.  We could take the floating stocking cart down river and make sure all beats are active.  Maybe I will stop by the office to volunteer and see where it goes. Anyone else interested?

Rule 2 –

As with most rules, they come about because people abuse the privilege they are given.  It is tempting to hang around the cars, talking and getting acquainted while the gate attendant has to wait. So the other rule is to drive out of the gated area to change and talk.  If we come out of the river at the end of the session which is 3:30 there is no time to change inside the gate.  We need to drive out in waders and change outside the gate so they can lock it up.  A session is 4 hours of fishing – 11:30 to 3:30. I am in the river until the end and then come out, change and head out the gate.  Are we now supposed to come out earlier to get changed? I said nothing and indeed drove out in my waders. No sense arguing with people who are trying to make a living and are not in charge.

So no wandering and no changing at your car after fishing. I put my thoughts aside and go fishing.

Beat 5

I enter at the top of 5

…and fish from the bank having two hits on the Joe-stack – a sunk one. I put on the Golden Darter and hit 5 fish, one after the other.  The top of 5 is just a bit downstream from where they put in the stockies. They are good looking brookies. 

Golden Darter

No rainbows, yet.

Some Blue Winged Olives are coming off sporadically.  There is a rise or two but nothing steady.  I put on an Iris Caddis and no one cares.  I tied this one with a green body.

Iris Caddis in Green

I switch to a Sparkle Dun. Nothing.  A BWO with CDC wing. Bang!

Blue Winged Olive

Thinking I have figured it out

I work downstream but as soon as I am out of sight of Beat 4, the fish stop.  Not stop biting, stop existing. No fish in the water. Can’t raise one on the BWO, put on the Golden Darter, nothing.  Put on a Black Woolly Bugger, nothing. Put on the Joe-stack, nothing. I work the big hole at the bend. Nothing. Below it, nothing. I finish my walk working every likely spot up to and including the end of 5, top of 6. Nothing. 

I am sure they believe

…that fish will redistribute themselves and I am sure they would in a natural environment; even here they might, given enough time. But not today.

Bottom of Beat 5

I walk back on the path

…to the top of 5 and once again have fish after fish.  I sit and eat my lunch while watching the BWO’s come off.  I tie another one on and work it but get only a refusal or two. I put the Golden Darter back on and have fish after fish. 

Well used Golden Darter

It is such a beautiful river

…and the fish can be so challenging if given the space to spread out.  When they are stacked up like this it just isn’t fun.

Beat 5

A fellow comes by

…and asks how I did.  As we chat I leave the fly in the water.  A fish takes it.  I offer him the spot as I walk out down the river, working the Darter – but once again, out of sight of Beat 4 the catching stops.  We meet at the cars and he is a friendly sort, new to fly fishing with lots of curiosity. He is looking for Brookies, wild ones. 

Young of the year
Young of the year

We talk of LI streams,

the Catskills, Adirondacks; of TU, he just joined Art Flick. He tells me of the Brookies he has fished for in small streams of Vermont. Shows me some photos.  Beauties. As we are talking the gate attendant arrives and we both go to our cars, stopping in mid-sentence, so to speak.

I put my rod under the windshield wiper

…and step into the car with my muddy boots. Ugh.  We both pull over just outside the gate and it occurs to me that there is not enough room here for more than 3-4 cars. Hmmm. I hope they have thought this new rule through.