September 7, 2020 –
Project Healing Waters is on hold with the virus still about.
The first Monday of the month is PHW day at the Park and even though there are no sanctioned activities by the organization, they still have the Park reserved so those who are involved, guides as well as Vets, are welcome to come but need to pay their own way. A good deal.
YouTube of Beat 23 – Click Here.
I arrive and Tom Casey is here with his son Tom and his grandson Tom! Tom is passing on the fishing and the name.
Its 9:30 and so far it is Fred, the coordinator, and 4 Toms. Ed comes and others follow. Bill, the Elwood Flytier, pulls in next to me. He has a cast on his foot so will be hanging around the near water and maybe go for bass in the back pond with some of the cool frogs he recently posted. The fallen trees from the hurricane have been cleared and the path upstream is open. Great.
I was thinking of using a three wet fly set up that was discussed by Connecticut guide Steve Culton at the Long Island Flyrodders Zoom meeting last week. Actually, the fall version of his rig would be a floating hopper up front followed by an ant and then a subsurface wet fly. I put my wet flies in my bag before I left home. I thought about it a bit but decided that the game here is more precise targeting than sweeping triple rigs. I will give Steve’s method a try another day and maybe another place.
Sight fishing is the game for me here.
I don’t usually cast until I see a target. Recently there were a load of fish on 20 and there are usually a good number on 21 and 22. I am passing 23 and have not seen a fish yet. (There is a map of the beats in the Park at the bottom of this post.) I am in my wading boots but no waders. I realize I forgot to use bug spray and so need to be careful of the ticks. The path seems narrower than usual, probably due to the summer’s growth, and you can see the scoured spots both on the path and in the river due to the hurricane and trees that had fallen.
I see white wings around the turn. Egret? Nope – a swan. This big boy is sitting square in the middle of the path and not moving. I give him a few clicks, and hoots. He just stares at me as if to say “I was here first.” I back off and watch the water which I had already determined had no visible fish. I went back to the swan to plead my case but he would have none of it. He sat down and preened himself.
YouTube of the open water near Beats 22-23 – click here.
I back off and decide to take a few casts to pass the time. It is one of the few open areas on the upper river and I test my accuracy with the #14 Stimulator. Practice is all it is but its fun. I reel in and make my way back to the swan who has jumped in the stream. I was about to do that myself to get around him.
At the next break in the stream-side brush, the black of the stream bottom highlighted a good 20 inch Rainbow’s silver back like a neon light. I step back behind the brush and look at the canopy to see how a cast would go. I often fish down to them up here because a sidearm or overhead cast is so difficult, usually ending up in the trees. I have some room and pull line off the reel after setting down the long handled net I have been carrying since you can’t (or shouldn’t) go in the stream here. No Wading.
The back cast is, of necessity, accomplished by leaning out over the open water and throwing it downstream, not using too much line and with a long leader. Bringing it forward with just enough power to turn the fly over, afraid of spooking the fish. No false casting here. The fly lands a few feet up from her and comes down to the left.
Will she turn for it?
Yes! First cast and she is on and is not all that upset about it, until I set the hook. I did not have much line out given the restricted open space and she tightened up running line off the reel before a good body twisting jump.
She wasn’t happy and gave me a few runs, no more jumps. I managed to step on to the sand bags exposed by the recent events and had grabbed the net. It is the first time I am using this one formerly owned by Ed Koch of Pennsylvania fly fishing fame. She was coming reluctantly until she saw the net, then zoom – back downstream and Ping! She is off. Had to be 20 inches, maybe more. I caught my breath, had a sip of water and moved on upstream.
This next fish did not look like a neon light.
Dark on dark. Brookie most likely but I am always hoping to find a brown up here. When I walk I am careful to walk lightly and not to swing my arms too much or otherwise give away my position or presence. The fish up here are spooky. Especially since they don’t stock, and the residents don’t often see traffic, so anything startles them, including an osprey dropping out of the overhead. As I contemplate how to present to this one he disappears.
The pier is just ahead
…but if I scared him from behind a bush how can I consider fishing from a position in clear sight, even if I am wearing dark colors? I think about it and come to the decision that I already spooked one fish, I can’t do much more damage, so I tip toe out to the edge and flip the fly into the flow.
A friend, Jeremiah, told me he had luck adding a little motion to his offerings
…up on the Nissequogue the other day. This drift is dead still and I get a large swirl. I recover and flip again, dead drift then a few twitches, returning to a dead drift with a small mend and more line. I even pop it a bit. One fish chased it as I pulled it out to drift again, so it is good to mix things up. Thanks Jeremiah. This hole, which is long and has a number of different lies, produced a surprising number of hits and hook ups – but none in the net. I was smiling as I moved on up.
It is warmer than I thought and I have only one bottle of water. No cooling off in the stream and I have long sleeves and slacks to ward off the ticks, but not the heat. I need to hydrate when I am sitting on the couch these days so am aware of not moving too far, too fast.
Next up is the lower section of the Bunces Bridge Pool.
The lower pier is one of the better ones on the river in this no wading zone. I step out and just watch. Nothing seems around but then a swirl here and there, sometimes it’s a Dragon Fly emerging or hitting the water, other times it has a tail showing as it concludes.
For whatever reason I abandon the Stimulator which has been working so well and put on a Hopper. I grease the little knotted legs so they stand out and then flip it in. After a few refusals I question why I switched. I send it down into a bubble stream and bang!
The fish fights well although he is not huge. As he comes in, for some reason he pulls me into midstream instead of the deeper water below me. I apply some pressure but he insists. It is about this time that he darts under a log and hangs me up on a branch on the far side. Doubling back he has me wrapped good. I can hardly move the leader but with steady pressure I see him being dragged toward the log.
What am I doing?
I need to get the leader off the log, not pull him to it. I give him slack hoping he will run further to the other side and maybe slip the loops of leader off the obstacle. It seems to be working but then not. Some time has passed and I decide it’s time to break him off. I point the rod at the log and pull the line and slowly it slips around whatever is holding it. The fish comes to the log and I pull him out of the water – his head looking up at our mutual dilemma, his tail kicking up mud. Oh man, what now?
I give it a quick pull and snap the 5x,
…luckily the fish pulls free and is gone. I look up and there is a small audience on Bunces Bridge applauding. I smile. The Park is full of hikers and strollers, couples and families. So many enjoying our state parks during this Covid-19 mess – one of the silver linings to the pandemic: discovering the beautiful Island we live on.
YouTube of the Bunces Bridge Pool – click here.
Next is the beat right off the approach to the bridge. This is a tough place to fish with a trees hanging all over the place and bushes acting as defensive re-bounders to any cast that makes it past the trees. With the Stimulator back on (my only Hopper is still in that last fish) I flip it into the flow exploring both sides as well as the water below. I catch the tree and it gives me back my fly. Thank you.
There are a lot of fish here
…and they are not shy or spooked. These are probably some of those which were down at Rainbow Bridge a week or so ago, their silver somewhat chaffed as is the skin of recent hatchery releases. It is stupid easy compared to what I have just been through. I hook a bush and break the leader at the 9 foot knot so I switch to a weighted Black Nosed Dace I brought for the occasion and search the deeper water on the shorter leader. I find what I was looking for but he was not interested in meeting me and breaks me off on something down below.
I have been meaning to pick up some more tippet spools.
I usually don’t buy more than one spool at a time, of any one size, as I want my material to be fresh. I pull out the last of the 4x (the leader now broke at the 7 foot knot), tie it on and pull out the last of the 5x which is not enough to make the length I want for more dry fly work. I look at it and debate with myself about changing leaders or going with what I have. I sit at the Idle Hour Memorial Bench dedicated to one of its past members who loved this spot, and changed leaders.
I work the water before the gate which says “Trail closed due to dangerous conditions,” not realizing that same sign was on all the other gates I have already passed through. I see some rises and tempt some fish but nothing hooked.
I generally turn back downstream and re-fish
…all the spots that worked on the way up, but my water bottle is now empty and I am a bit worn out. I make tracks for the car, stopping only briefly at a few spots. It has been a good day. No sense exhausting myself way up here where, if anything happened, no one would be near by to help. Getting old sucks.
I meet Bill on #20 and we chat.
He had a few, including some bass in the pond. I take my leave and head for the car. It is only 2 pm and we have until 3. Maybe just a few more casts, now that the long walk is behind me. I go to beat #18 as #17, where a fish is usually hanging out down in the corner, is occupied by some hikers. More casting practice but I did pull in a nice stick I hooked and chatted with Fred, who also had some bass today.
The people leave 17 and I move down passing 3 kids
…whose mother tells me there are baby turtles all around. The kids are having a ball catching them with little butterfly nets. When she sees my net she exclaimed “Oh thank Goodness, nets are legal here,” relieved that the park police would not be incarcerating her little ones.
Floating a caterpillar-like fly
…into the corner of #17, which gets refused, I put on a beetle. I hear footsteps behind me just as the fly gets inhaled. It is Paul and Julie of RiverBay Outfitters. They had luck downstream and are rounding out their day before heading out for Labor Day Lobster Rolls.
I net the fish and call the kids
…over to see it, once unhooked, in the net and in the water. The whole family came to see and touch a Trout, impressed with the slash of colors on her side.