Last day of summer at the Park

September 21, 2020 – Connetquot with LIFR

Last day of summer

…and it has been cool for the last few days.  The sky cleared of the smoke from the western fires and northerly winds bring fresh Canadian air.  Always love this time of year.

Joe, Tom, Mike and Marc are in the Catskills.  They invited me along.  Decided to stick to home and our spring creeks this year.  LIFR day at the Park is where I am heading. The hatchery parking lot is full when I arrive as all those who shied from the heat of summer are back in business. What a crowd, all friends and friends of friends. 

Can’t get lost here

My plan is to fish Beat #8. 

I have not fished it in a long time and with all these Fly Rodders on the upstream section the choice makes even more sense (especially with the virus still lurking) although I miss the camaraderie. I pay Ted for the session and jump back in the car to head down stream.

Scott Radian R905/4 inscribed Long Island Flyrodders 1 of 1

I brought three rods, 5 weights as the wind has been blowing for 3 days with all these tropical storms passing by. The Scott Radian that I won in a LIFR raffle last year has not been christened yet so I rig her up.   It is a powerful 9 footer and Beat 8 is wide and can be deep.  This rod should get the fly most anywhere I want from the pier. I tie on the Cricket.

Cricket

I stop and look at the water below the spillway.  I toss the fly from Beat 2 and the rod roll casts nicely. After a few I get over zealous and it ends up in a tree behind me. Time to move. I walk out on to the pier at Beat 4 with the wind blowing at about 15 mph across the lake and into my face.  The rod, cast low to the water, put the Cricket where a cricket might be, but no bites.

I hike up the road and explore Old South Country Road to the gate by Sunrise.  I am thinking of bushwhacking over to Rattlesnake but then think about the brambles tearing my waders and ticks enjoying me for lunch. I head back to Brook Road.

This is the way!

At G, where the USGS Gauging station is, a tree has fallen covering all the water up from the path.  This was always a productive spot for a fish or two fished dry or with a streamer. I look it over and keep hiking.

Tree down at “G”

Beat 8 seems further than I remembered. It is a good walk and a recent fawn looks up at me as I pass. Once there, I assess the situation thinking I might just fish from the pier which extends a good distance into the river.  I am thinking I could have left my waders in the car. A fish rises aggressively below me. 

Beat 8 on Connetquot River

I back off and set myself for the first cast.  I add more tippet and stick with the Cricket hoping for a hit on it which has yet to occur. First the near water, dapping it in on the downstream side and trying to hide myself behind the bush. I let it float in the still water, then twitch it.  Twitching has been very effective of late and I do it with every fly after some drag free drifting.

I step out a little more,

…exposing myself to the downstream fish which logically are looking this way.  Norm had warned me that there is a lot of weed and he was constantly cleaning flies or hanging them up. The rise I saw was behind a clump.  How to get it there?  I tried to float it alongside, on both sides, hoping to draw the fish over.  Then the one time long shot of trying to place it behind the weeds without hanging it up.  I got it there but slapped the water, not being used to the power of this rod. Needless to say, no fish.

Downstream from Beat 8

There are sporadic rises upstream as well, beyond reasonable casting distance. I put the fly up there and across the stream and just about anywhere I can reach from the end of the pier to no reaction.

Must be the fly, right?

I sat and looked at my box.  Ants.  The crickets may be done due to the cool weather but with all this wind ants should be peppering the water. My favorite terrestrial pattern is what I call the Montana Monster, a fly I fished on 6 rivers one summer out there and had fish on all of them. I later found out it has a real name but I still call it what I call it.

The original Montana Monster

I repeated the scenario above after resting the water long enough to eat a PBJ. A fish rose upstream but within reasonable distance.  I flip the fly over and hang up on a log. I had already broken off one fly back on Beat 2 and didn’t have another one of these in my kit. 

I tried to get it with the rod tip

…but then thought better of it, not wanting to break a tip on a brand new rod for a fly. I look. The water seems deep and I didn’t bring a wading staff, although I meant to. There are also a lot of muddy spots. I ease into the water from the pier, which takes some maneuvering since it is relatively high compared to the upstream ones.

I find hard bottom, waist deep. 

I cautiously proceed, remembering that I am a long way from anybody, and retrieve the fly. Once wet, I probe further upstream, testing the muddy spots and sending clouds of debris down to the fish below. I pick a spot and start to cast. A sunny voice says “Hello” from above.  I look up to see a Park worker standing on the pier with gear to take a water sample.  “Catch any?” she says.  Not yet is my reply.

More rises keep giving me targets

…and I work the ant near shore and mid-stream.  Remember the twitching?  Well it was only when I twitched, drifted and twitched again that they came for it. Wham!

Without moving my feet, casting in different spots, drifting and twitching, I had rainbow after rainbow, some modest and a few very healthy. So what do I do?  Do I move my feet? Nope.  I decide to try another fly.  I had tied up some October Caddis and some unusual Usuals this morning and wanted to see if they worked. 

The unusual Usual

The caddis was tied so lean that it sunk too fast.  I did have one on the sunk fly, but wanted to fish the top.  I switched to the unusual Usual and cast a few in the direction of the previous successes. Nothing.  I twitched and it sunk. A usual Usual would have popped back up but this one didn’t.  I let it continue subsurface. Nothing.  For some reason I retrieved it like a streamer.  Don’t ask me why. Bam!

This guy had shoulders

…and took me up and down and around, finally breaking me off on some obstruction.  Wow.  So now I have no tippet on about an 8 foot leader.  I am getting tired and a little cold (water temperature is about 60 degrees) so rather than taking the time to tie on more tippet I take out a weighted Black Nose Dace. 

Black Nosed Dace
Black Nose Dace

I put it in the water and had an immediate hit, a gap opening fish that made the already barbless fly into a quick release model.  But they love it.  Can’t say how many hit it and self-released before I finally have a good one, about 16 inches, in the net.  Whew! (No fish photos folks since I was mid-stream and not about to move. The iPhone stayed safely in my pocket to avoid taking Siri swimming again.) Had I put the Dace on first…well anyway, I pulled in the line and headed out.  As I walk, there are schools of bait fish all around the pier.

I did put the dace in the water under the tree at G and again at 2 with no results, before heading for the car. 

For those of you who have not fished Beat #8,

…add it to your list.  What weeds there are may challenge you but the fish are there, and bring along a Black Nose Dace, just in case.

Flies of the last day of summer