April 4 – Caleb Smith –
Hunter and I fish the salt every year but he hasn’t been trout fishing with me since he caught his first trout on a fly when we were on Mongaup Creek. That was a bunch of years ago.
I told him we can keep a few fish if his dad will cook them. He said he would so I give Hunt the old Orvis Articreel to carry, which I have not used in over 30 years. Maybe that put the curse on us…but I don’t think so.
I reminded him that I brought him here when he was 4 or 5 and he caught a bass or sunny in Willow Pond on the north side of Jericho.
He is a natural fisher.
It is cold but bright. The wind is troublesome but not too bad once down on the river. Friend John is here and comes by to say hello. He had a brookie or two during the morning session and is working the pond as there are a few monsters cruising around. He tells us to go in at 5 as he plans on working the pond for a while.
We have the GL Loomis 9′ and the Betters 7 footer, both 5 weight. A Green Woolly Bugger on the 9 and the other has a Black Nosed Dace. I show him how to set the Bugger adrift and then to move the line to and fro by putting the tip here or there. He picks it up quickly and covers the wing dams, the boardwalks and the corners well – but no fish.
He pulls in his line and I cover the same area.
Nothing. We move down working all the likely places and he continues to improve his line control and fly movement. At the big hole on the bend we put on a heavier fly and he covers it while keeping the fly moving and off the bottom. Not an easy thing to do – but not a bite.
Moving to 6 the Park has cut trees that used to create a nice canopy. The bushes are still there, some of them. He works underneath and moves on downstream. I walk ahead searching for a shadow, a flash, a fish. Nada.
At upper 7 I am hoping against hope
That is that a fish will be in the bush above the weir. He gets into position, moves his fly into the current, sweeps it across the bush and then drops it back into the depth – where are they?
We take a break sitting at the gauging station on the posts that used to support a bench and have a granola bar. I set up the 9 footer with nymphs and a thing-a-ma-bob. After showing him the technique we step into the stream and he begins to cast the flies into the flow.
I give him some tips and he moves them into the reverse flow on the far side, then a mend. He is good. But no bites.
We switch rods, giving him the 7 footer with a Mickey Finn to work the wing dams and boardwalks below. We go past the next bush and I call it: “Let’s walk back up.”
We climb out at the weir and walk the path.
I take him up toward 4 and show him Vail Pond on the way and little Vail when we get there. Two fellows are chatting, my old Van-Man and another. I ask if they are fishing the smaller pond and they say no. I show Hunter how to fish the nymphs here but there are no fish, it was just a demo. Back to Beat 5 (John is still on the pond) Hunter reworks all the holes without coaching as I trail behind.
He has a Bugger on which he will need when we get to the big hole. He works it all well, exceptionally well to be truthful. If the fish were there he would have had one. He snags the Bugger and we break it off. I give him the rod with the Dace and he continues down as I tie on a Mickey Finn.
I had explained to him earlier that this park is the poor cousin of Connetquot; that they stock less fish and that there have been issues here before with low fish populations (poachers or budget, not sure which). It is also a more challenging river to fish. We head toward 6 again and he says:
“Next time we go to Connetquot.”
Anytime you say Buddy!
We finish on the piers of the pond. I give him the 7 footer and he casts well. John shouts over that some are rising. We had seen a good number of mayflies coming off on the river, although they went by unmolested. I put on a Quill Gordon and move to the next platform. I was pleased with the fly and the casts but no bites. It is 3:30. We head out fishless. The creel empty.
On the way home I show him Givens Park where he can fish anytime for free. 4 or 5 wormers are working it and I would guess the recent stockies have been all but cleaned out. None the less, it would be a good place to spend some time. I drop him off and give him a practice rod and reel along with some flies just in case he gets the itch. I remind him anytime he is ready for Connetquot, I am.
When I get home I hear that they just put 1000 fish in Belmont for the fishing festival to be held on Saturday – but with snow predicted they just cancelled the event. I send Hunt a text.
For more information on trout fishing Long Island click here.
The end of an era
Then I saw the post from Friends of Connetquot. Gil Bergen, the Park Superintendent at Connetquot and a fixture there even when it was a private club, has passed at 88. He provided a great service and was a genuine character of the Park and a part of its heritage. I will miss seeing him in his Wellington boots with his little dog and Aussie hat.
Rest in Peace Mr. Bergen.