October 11, 2019 – Connetquot
Friends of Connetquot Annual Outing
I arrive late but am in no particular hurry to get on the river. My hand and shoulder have put me on the injured reserve list since June. This is my first day and I am wary of it causing a set back. I waited until the last minute to tell Ed Kelleher, who organizes the day, that I’d like to come. “Send me a check and see you there” he says. This is a fund raiser for the Park as well as a way to introduce folks to Friends of Connetquot.
Walking the near beats with my coffee, I am just looking. Above the hatchery is usually not stocked and those fish that are here know how to hide. I continue to the junction of the ponds but the cloudy day makes the water so dark, the glare precluded any sightings.
(Most people, almost all, fish below the hatchery, beats 16a to 9; that is where they put the fish. They don’t stock above the hatchery, beats 17 to 30, at least not usually. So people ask why I want to fish where there aren’t any fish? I guess its because there aren’t any people either! Besides there are fish, you just need to work for them. You need to be happy with a sighting, a rise or a bite/break-off. You need to accept the disadvantages the river presents. That’s the way it is upstream.)
Beat 21 has a few fish and I startled a big one on #22
He was spooked as you know they can be, darting up, then down and disappearing under the cover on the far bank. I mark him for later and try to walk slower and as far away from the edge as this narrow path will allow. I keep moving wanting to make it to #30 and back before lunch. “I am only going to cast to likely successes” I tell myself, in the best interest of my shoulder.
It is a beautiful, cool fall day and the walk in the woods is invigorating. A few turkeys cross my path as I walk. At each break in the stream-side brush, I stop and take a look. This section of the river is bank fishing only, no wading, and each beat only has a few openings (as well as a small dock) to get at the water.
Another above that, around #23
The second fish of good size doesn’t go into hiding but settles in a deep groove by a log, clearly visible to me (and I assume me to him). I change to the white caterpillar I had tied for the occasion and put it over his head a few times, resting between each cast. He didn’t care. Then a beetle pattern; nope. Next a Joe Stack – Nada. I left for upstream planning to visit him on the way back.
Scouted each beat
No more startled fish but a singular rise on #25 behind thick brush. I go up further to fish down to him. No reaction. Afterwards I thought I may not have dropped the fly far enough back.
Fished at #27 by Bunce’s Bridge
…just a few casts in each likely spot. Lost a fly on #28 trying to cast lefty. Walked up to #29 and then #30. The path abruptly ends at #30. Dead end. I recall there being a #31 and #32 with a path along the river all the way to Vet’s Highway. At lunch there was some talk of opening the upper reaches to the fishing public again. I hope so.
Returned to #23
I had a plan – Chuck Neuner’s Golden Darter worked for him on the Nissequogue last week, so I try it on this guy (or gal). I have one left in my streamer wallet, pretty well worn. Tied it on and dapped it in the near water. It floats like a dry fly until it gets wet and the current takes it under, but there is barely any current here and I don’t want to spook the fish by putting it out farther. I rub some mud on it which helps but it still takes a while to go subsurface.
It finally sank, just an inch or two. I flip it out and the current brings it about a foot to the right of the fish. Surprisingly, he takes a look; didn’t move you understand but turns his head. I let it fall behind and bring it forward, letting it play in the current alongside him. Nothing.
I retrieve and give it a minute or two’s rest before launching again. I want to get it in front of him, on the nose. It started on the far side but again the current brings it to the same spot. He looks again. I repeat the drop back, come forward and flutter it. He looks again.
If I had a 10′ rod I could probably get it on his nose, but I don’t, and if I did I probably wouldn’t use it here as the canopy and brush would make it more difficult to maneuver than my 7 footer.
I give it a longer rest this time,
…4-5 minutes, stepping back from the stream edge, behind a tree. I contemplate what I need to do to move it closer to him. Moving upstream farther would not do it because of debris in the water; going behind him was also not an option. When I put it in the current it moves to the same spot as before. I leave it there, moving it slowly up and back, giving it a jiggle once in a while.
When I bring it by his side he turns and takes!
A 10 foot leader and 7’ Neuner rod make bringing him to the net a challenge. I need to tire him out which I would have preferred not to do. The day is cool as is the water, and he has a lot of strength. After a bit I sit on the bank to be low enough to scoop him into the small net I always carry. He eventually comes within range but is as big as the net is long, or longer; he flops out. Takes another short run and then he is in. What a beauty. 18-20 inches, fat. In full fall colors, a rainbow. Gorgeous. I forcep the fly out, a quick photo in the net, and then turn him into the current – he flashes away. Wow.
It is lunch time so I head for the club house for some butternut squash soup from the Snapper Inn. When I arrive Ed meets me on the lawn: “Lunch will be an hour late. Should have stayed on the river” he says. I take a walk up to G and run into Mark Soley and his friend Frank (who has never been here before, a Delaware River guy). That’s them in the top photo. At lunch I sit down and go to introduce myself to the guy next to me – who is it but Bill Smith, of Elwood Freshwater Flies (look for him on Facebook). We ate our fill topped off with Rita’s homemade cake.
I am thinking about fall runs coming up the river from the bay and head to the tidal water below the dam (beats #1 and #2). There is a super moon and even bigger tides due to a tropical storm just off the coast. When I step in the river it is up to the top of my waders. Nuts!
Back up to the hatchery
I didn’t want to push my shoulder, in fact this morning I cast very little, mostly hunting and hoping rather than blind shots in the dark holes. I figured I would do beats 16-14 for the afternoon and Bill did the same, along with a few other guys. Mark and Frank went down to #9 which they later said “was on fire!”
I took off the streamer
…and replaced it with the caterpillar I had tied for the trip. No reaction at 16a. I put on a beetle. Nothing. Moved down to 16 as Bill was climbing out. Let it rest a bit and worked the beetle as close to the far bank as practical. One on. Okay.
There is a fish below the curve of the fallen tree, almost 1/3 to the near bank, moving side to side, and front to back. Feeding. I managed to put the beetle in his range a few times with no reaction. Put on a Joe Stack. Nothing. Put the Golden Darter back on. Same. Time to move.
At lower 15, where the springs come in,
I wade into the outlet, keeping as still as I can. A fish is feeding on something coming by, facing the springs. The water moves imperceptibly slow here. You have got to really let the fly sit and try to keep the line off the water. He took a look and scooted away.
Just beyond him, in the interface between the fresh spring water and the current from upstream, a good size rainbow sits, just below the sluice. Trick would be to put the Joe Stack in the sluice and let it come over him. No reaction. Next flip was into the still water at that interface. It sits right on the edge while leaves and debris move past it. He looks once and then takes! A bad knot left the fly in his lip. Nuts.
There were more fish this day, a brookie on the beetle and the rest on Joe Stacks, fished dry. Love that fly.
Another great Friends of Connetquot Outing.