September 16 – Caleb Smith State Park – Nissequogue River
I signed up for beat 6 in the afternoon: 11:30 – 3:30 when at Caleb Smith working with Casting For Recovery gals. on fly tying Saturday. I had heard that the PHW Vets had a good day on the Nissequogue and was hoping they were not just talking about beat 4. When I arrived I asked if anyone was on 7 and if not, was it okay to switch? No problem.
I rigged up the new JD Wagner bamboo rod I won at Long Island Flyrodders. Sure it is valuable but what good is a rod if you don’t use it? The ferrules were a little sticky, in need of some fine tuning – or some nose wax as Jerry used to do. I had a hard time fitting the sections together; probably due to not being used in the 15 years since its varnish dried. I put a 5 wt. line on and tested it in the street. Threw a nice line. (I called Jeffrey when I got home and he said to send him the rod and he would take care of it – no charge, just shipping!)
I walked in at the top of 6
I knew no one was there (since up until a few minutes ago, I was supposed to be there). I had a Black Nosed Dace on and worked the usual spots. That is, those that are still accessible with the late summer grasses filling the water. No reaction but I didn’t spend a lot of time as I moved down to 7.
The guy from the morning session was still fishing, working the weir. I looked at my phone to see the time: 11:29. He had another minute. I sat on the Boy Scout bench and waited a while. He never looked up so I walked over and said hello. It was Bob from the Flyrodders who I have met before. He just got back from Montana and is fishing with his Brother in Law. No fish.
I told him he could walk up 6 and he headed that way as I worked the Dace in the bushes. I was very patient and deliberate, hoping to find a willing participant. Then behind the bushes, in the upstream flow by the dam and then below that, taking my time but getting the sense that it was not going to happen today, just like it hasn’t happened the last 4 times I have been on this beat. I keep hoping things will be different, channeling memories of the good old days.
We used to blame poachers
Or otters but I think just maybe they are not spreading the fish out, not giving beats 7-9 their fair share. Maybe. Or maybe too many fishers are keeping fish. Whatever it is the stream seems empty.
I think about this as I look at the pristine water, the abundant cover, the thousands of bait fish scurrying around in water that is cool and clean. It is a perfect environment for fish to survive and thrive, yet they don’t. Why?
Stocking may not be the best solution here. Perhaps we need a native brood stock to take over the stream, at least the lower section of 7 through 9. It used to have many browns, some huge, as well as healthy rainbows and a few native brookies. I switch to a beetle and ant combo working the dark recesses of the bank, under the trees and along the edges.
It is the same at beat 9
I sit on another bench and have lunch. A twisting, turning caterpillar-like bug goes by, unmolested. I can see a small rise downstream by the wing dam. Again and then again. I finish eating and walk very slowly toward the spot, staying out of sight as best one can in this open part of the stream.
I flip the beetle/ant and miss the drift. Do it again, then again before I get it right. That probably ended my chances but I persisted. A few more on target and then a rest, a few more. Re-position. Another. He is not there.
I finish beat 9 and consider getting out and taking the path back. It is hot and I am over dressed in these waders. Maybe I can slip in upstream by 3, 4 or 5 – where the fish are. I catch myself and think about what I may see walking back in the water. It is easier to spy fish when walking upstream. If I can just see one, or scare a few, I will feel better about the Park, if not my ability to connect.
I walk in the water
I am pretty tired when I reach the top of 6 and have seen no fish. I consider walking up 5 but someone may be on it. I get out and walk the path along the ponds, which are fetid with weed. At beat 4 I see Bob and his Brother in Law who just released a large rainbow. “They are rising to caterpillars” he says. The same type I watched float by unmolested while I ate lunch earlier.
Bob had a few on a dry and I could see them swimming around in search of a meal. We talked some more and then they had to go. I turned to the handicapped area at 4, which was empty, and tossed the beetle – slurp! Fish on.
One of good size if not season. A fresh stockie I presume, but he did put up a good fight. I called to Bob and they came over. I had three more while we talked and then I had enough. Tim came down from 3, heading out, so I went up as I said goodbye to the boys one more time.
There were fish up there and they were rising and chasing flies
I gave them the Beetle which they didn’t like so a Green Woolly Bugger was the next choice. I had a nice hit but none on and I realized I was all jazzed up. Not relaxed and patient like downstream, where there were no fish. I was blowing it here, where they are. I got a grip and moved down, worked the deep hole by the bend, patiently but with no response, then climbed out. I headed for the big trout.
It is very deep and the bank is lined with slim but menacing trees. Its narrow and full of fish and turtles. One swims by as I look, a turtle that is. Then a big boy follows along. There is a splash above me and then one below.
I don’t have a White Woolly Worm to imitate the caterpillars. Nor a green one, so I put on a Usual. It looks buggy even if the color is off. I flip it up and then down, snag it a few times and then some more. No takers, even as they continue to rise. I embed the fly in a branch that is sticking out from my side of the bank and go over to free it from the line so I can pull it in without losing the fly or tippet. As I go to tie it on again I realize it is time to go.
Time is up – Done
I didn’t get skunked but I feel like I did because I didn’t catch the fish I thought I could, only the ones I knew I could.
I think about how to communicate what I am feeling about the lower beats. I am sure they get lots of cranky fishers with too many opinions on how they should be doing their jobs. I don’t want to be one of those people. I need to figure out how to ask the question – what are you doing to improve the fishing on the lower beats and is there anything we can do to help?