I think I was the first on the river.
Two deer were grazing by the gate at Beat 16. I haven’t seen deer in the park for some time although there was a young buck, his spikes in velvet in the field across from the barns this morning, as I came in.
I floated a Joe-Stack in the whirlpool
…and had no reaction. Peter and Richie came by heading downriver. I set up on the next beat and I think Tom Cooney was below me. We both volunteer for Project Healing Waters and find ourselves often watching other people fish. It is nice to be the fishers this time. I changed to the Montana Monster and drifted it close to the bank under the tree. A pair of lips came up but missed it. I tossed a few more before giving it a rest.
My leader is old
…and tying some 5x tippet to the stump of an old leader is just not good. I sat for a while and replaced it, adding an additional 2-3 feet. In the summertime dry flies benefit from long leaders. It also adds to the float but not so much to the control.
I missed him again on the first pass.
I worked other spots within range and then fished upstream a while. Moved a fish but no hook up. Its early I tell myself. Back to the original fish, I put on a fresh fly and manage a drift in just the right spot after a few that were short. I was hoping for lips but I got the whole fish, he slammed it and we were on!
I find if I take it slow,
…cast half as much as I want to and think about what I want the fly to do, I not only have more luck but also am more relaxed. It is more restful than fretting over when the bite will happen.
I move past Tom and stand on the bridge over the spring at #14.
A fish is startled by my sudden appearance and races back and forth, not sure which way he wants to go, up the spring or out into the river. Good size brookie. I just stand and watch, like a tree in my grey green shirt and waders. I see him or his cousin coming back.
After not moving for some time, I dap the fly into the water.
The flow is very slight and it takes a long time to go anywhere, but I wait. And wait. I see him in the shade, under some weed just holding his spot. I wait. I had to pop it back a bit, at the speed a bug would swim and then let it drift again. He sprang out of his lie and swooshed right by it. Maybe he tasted it but that long leader at close range, I missed him.
I am also fishing a 6 foot 6 inch 4 wt. Neuner. It behaves beautifully but when dapping like this the rod would have been better a few feet longer. I try to adjust, taking in some leader through the tip top. Verboten I know, but what is one to do?
I repeat the process and am amazed at the fish coming and going, truly believing I am a tree I guess.
I move into the river upstream a bit
…and fish both ways picking up a nice one from under the watercress. I make a wide arc staying clear of the spring outlet that I hope to fish from below. The stream gets deep here, deceptively so. Worse, the bottom is soft in the hole and I feel myself sinking too much. I work my way out and cling to the edge trying to be stealthy but send muck and weeds a drift, clouding the river for a brief while.
I move to my casting position
…such that I can cover the mouth of the spring outlet as well as toss a fly under the trees and even up to the bridge, if I can thread the needle so to speak. I grease up the Montana Monster and make a few passes, fish react, none take. One rises under the tree, tight to the bank. I open up my cast and flip it in, it sits, I mend, mend, mend. Bang!
Fish on, another nice rainbow. Although I first saw a brookie here I have not seen one since. I look down and there is a tail sticking out from the weed I am in, a brookie tail.
Ted comes by and we chat.
He is trying to get some video of the fish and was nice enough to take a photo of me. He is the one who runs this outing every month for the Long Island Flyrodders which is more work than it seems. Thanks Ted.
I work the bottom on Beat 14 and then head upstream. It is about 11 and I need to leave at 12.
I want to give the Joe-Stack another try.
Tom is on 15 and teasing the fish with his mop fly. He invites me to take a shot and I drift the Joe-Stack here and there. There is no fly on this river that looks like it or even resembles it in size, color or form. Yet it works. I fish it dry, I skidder it, I let it sink and twitch, I even strip it like a streamer at times.
Tom moves up and I follow.
We are both on 16a now, me on the dock and him below. I cover the white water a few times, mending and recasting to see if anyone is watching. There are days when it gets hit right away and others when it takes a while, but usually there is some reaction. Not yet.
I toss it up the sluice
…and let it tail out, sinking. I move it gently into the space between the two flows. Suspended by the interface of the currents. Well sunk, I twitch it, pop it, move it and go to retrieve for another cast when something grabs it and is not happy to find a hook in its jaw.
The rod is small, the reel is small and the man is old with a sore shoulder.
I am thinking this fish just may win this one. I get off the dock and into the water, holding the rod to my chest to take the stress off the shoulder. Reeling in what I can, him taking what he can out. Tom is watching and remarks about the bend in the rod. Neuner rods may be fine works of art but they are also tough and strong. I don’t want to fight him too long, this being summer. I want to release a healthy fish so I test the strength of the 5x and my knot, dragging him into the near water and out of the depths he was looking to stay in.
I grab the net but he runs again.
A second time he comes close and I manage to sweep the net under him, with his head and tail extending over the wooden mouth, his body weight draws him in as I lift. Nice fish.