September 24, 2020 – Caleb Smith State Park
The Park closes for fishing on October 15th.
I never remember fish as big as the ones we have seen this year, at least not since they eradicated the big Browns that used to hang out in 8 and 9. These are Rainbows and once in the river a while become wary and tough to get to rise to a dry – when they do it’s like a freight train on the end of your line. Anyway, I wanted to spend some more time here. So many memories. I still talk to Clark each time I go, ask him his opinion on fly choice and probable holding holes. Hard to believe 40 years have passed by.
When I called they said they only had Beat 5 left.
Had to be a mistake as I am sure no one called for 8 or 9. When I arrived there was only one car from the morning session and two others for the afternoon, one guy in each. Neither was looking up as I drove by, didn’t recognize them.
I rig the 4 wt. GLoomis
…and tie on one of the fall colored Usuals I worked on this morning. Big and obnoxious as it is, I am hoping it will turn on a few of the cruisers in the canal that is across from the entrance to the top of Beat 5. I managed to float the fly and disturb two large fish that are sauntering around, but not scare them away. They just turn from the intruder and go about their business, whatever that is.
Once at 5 I cast before entering the water
…and let the current carry the line under the overhanging boards. I twitch and dart, skitter and strip, but no action. I move to midstream which gives me a wider view of the hole below and the ability to work far, near and middle of the run. No go on the Usual.
A few fish are taking something out of the surface.
I look around and there are tiny mayflies, light colored but in the 22-24 size. I didn’t bring anything that small, mainly because I can’t see it on the water and can hardly tie it on. I went with a couple of BWO versions, maybe size 18. They hit it when it sunk but not on top and that is where I wanted them to be. An emerger is next followed by an Ant imitation. They liked the Ant. Multiple fish but all of the same class. Not too exciting.
I move down, changing to a small Renegade,
…which is a Bivisible with a peacock belly. Bang. But just once. I sit on the bench and can see the fish stacked up across from me. I know a Green Woolly or Dace fished from above, along the bank, would hook them but that is not why I am here. I don’t come to just hook fish. I come to try and get the fish to bite what I offer. In this case small dry flies.
Further down at the bend
…I decide to try a streamer but one with no weight and short hook, Chuck’s Golden Darter. I had not fished it much this year, if at all, and want to see if it still has its magic. It does, but the bite was short of the hook, on the long feather. I jerk it to set and pulled it out of his mouth. I fish it a while longer thinking it should work. When I bring the fly in it is fouled. Otherwise it probably would have worked, right?
I try a few more flies
…and work my way to Beat 6, then walk back up the path and do it again with about the same results. I reach the end again and once again go to the top and start over, third time. When you have just one beat it makes sense to fish it this way. It gives all the holes a good rest and you a chance to try each one again, a little differently.
On my third round it is time to go back to the flies I tied for this day,
…the Usual and an October Caddis. I have 5x on about 12 feet of leader and get modest attention to the Caddis. I add about a foot of 6x and tie the fly back on. I am now past the mid-point, at the bend. I have been still for a while and flip the Caddis into the flow just below the log. I am on the same side of the stream so I can avoid sweeping the fly out of the hole. Instead I twitch and then skip it. Skitter too. Make it move like a hopping bug.
Nothing, so I rest a while, but stay where I am. My phone alarm goes off telling me I have 30 minutes left in the session. I am getting a little disheartened. I couldn’t really match the hatch and was missing those quick witted Beaverkill Browns and the freestone waters they live in. I love these parks and our spring creeks and am grateful to have them so close and filled with fish, but it’s not the same. I have to remember to ask Joe how their trip went. I pull myself together and ready my mind to concentrate for a quality presentation of the pretty fly I tied. Let’s see if I can get a real rise.
Long leader with 6x tippet, size 14 October Caddis,
…positioned above the log at the head of the Bend Hole, I cast (one of the few places on this river you can cast) and put the fly on a drift, close to the bank but still in the moving water. The long leader is helping, I can see the fly although it rides very low in the surface film. Slurp!
It is a good fish
…but I don’t know how good until she runs my reel 3-4 times, goes up and down and sideways, twisting and turning, not really jumping, just muscling me. I had to brace the rod butt to my side and then my leg to try and turn her, then I remember I have 6x connecting us. I ease up a bit.
I had her near the net
…at least 5 times and she shied and ran each time. The long leader is working against me – as I raise the tip and stoop to scoop, the net is nowhere near. I have to bring the leader into the tip top to have a chance of reaching her. I let her ride some more to tire her out, the water being cool enough to allow for such a move. If it were still near 70 degrees I would have had to just break her off.
Finally she came to me,
…tired and on her side. I slip the net under her and she flops in, being longer than the mouth of the net. Heavy fish. Whew!
I quickly remove the fly with my forceps, take a quick in-the-net photo and turn my attention to reviving this strong fish. She must have been in the river a while to have the color and strength, as well as the will to fight, that she showed. I grab her wrist to pull her from the net and use my other hand to face her into the current. Her gills are pulsating and she kicks a few times but not hard enough to break my grip. I am not looking at my watch (which I didn’t have on) but from hook up to net had to be 10 minutes. Reviving took another 5 but she kicks free and gives me the finger as she strolls back to her hole.