One more cast

October 2, 2020 – Caleb Smith State Park

Called the Park to get 6 and 7

…but those beats are not open due to trees down from the recent storm.  I ask Deena what is open in the morning? Beat 2 is her reply. I need 2 spots so we go through the days of the week and the place is almost booked solid.  I switch to afternoon, Beats 2 and 3 are open so I take them. I let Chuck know and he confirms.

I go to start the car and the battery is dead.  The charger starts it but am worried about what I’ll do if it happens again after fishing.  Jumper cables are in the trunk so I should be okay. Besides, the 20 minute run to the Park should give it a good charge – if the alternator is working. This is what loving a 14 year old Volvo is like. 

I meet Chuck at 11:30

…and rig the 6.5 4 wt. rod he made for me. Beats 2 and 3 are narrow and fishing it together will be tight. We work it out as we always do.  He asks my preference. Before we get in the water a fellow comes up behind us, “One of you guys left your lights on.” Nuts!

I know it is me as I was fooling with the light switch to try and reduce battery draw. I leave my stuff and hike back. It’s a good walk and it’s warmer than I expected, I am overdressed.  By the time I return my glasses are fogged up and I am sweating. I sit for a while to cool down as Chuck heads up Beat 2.

Upper River at Caleb Smith in October

I relax and get into the fishing,

…heading downstream on 3, starting with the Golden Darter, working the holes below me. I walk through fish that didn’t care for my fly choice.  Later, in a nice bend, I hook up with a fighter at the base of a stump on a Black Nose Dace.  He runs down and then across, reversing his tactic and heading upstream and back into the hole, behind a log and then…gone. Good fish, nice fight and I have forgotten about the battery.

Beat #2

I walk up the path

…and see Chuck, tipping him off as to where I saw the fish, then move up through 2 and on to what was Beat 1.  It is narrow, the water very cool.  The springs, which are plentiful here, are at 56 degrees, the river about 59.

Upper River springs – 56 degrees

Working my way back down with another Black Nose Dace, this one with a little weight to it as the flow seems substantial.  It turns out it is not enough to keep the fly afloat and it continually catches the steam bottom.  I change to a Mickey Finn but it too has trouble remaining suspended on the long leader and when it does, it catches more leaves than fish, my adrenaline jumping with each snag. I decide to move down to Chuck, dabbling a few times in some attractive holes to no avail.

Getting ready to nymph

He is on the bench having just caught 6 – 7 fish

…on a small scud under a wool indicator.  He offers me the hole and the fly, even ties the indicator on.  Nice guy. I step into the stream and cast, covering the area as he coaches.  I get one to bite and I miss a few more hits. We switch to a caddis worm but the fish need a rest.

Beat 14, Caleb Smith State Park

It is almost time to go

…and we want to throw a few casts at the cruisers in the canal and on Beat 14. He steps out on the platform, scud still on and is hauling amazingly long casts with the short 5 weight he is using. He has a good hit as I watch from the far side. I run (figuratively) to take a photo but before I get there the fish is off.

Water’s cold, fish are strong!

I move back to the beach and flip an Iris Caddis to a few fish. 

Chuck calls out that he is going to try something different.  Whatever it was, it worked. He has a nice brookie with a firm, strong body. I think this pond has much more food in it than the river. It gives these trout a chance to not only grow in size but in strength. I come over for a photo, leaving my rod by the beach.

Chuck’s Brookie

It’s almost 4, he reels in and asks me if I’d like to take a last cast.

I tell him I never take one last cast and accept the rod.  Rises are frequent and seem to be from heavy fish.  I cast half as far as he does but place the fly in a few likely spots.  He points to the left, by the tree to the right of the beach. I let out some line and manage to put the fly on top of where the last rise was.  We wait.

Bam!  Chuck is screaming “You got him, you got him!”

…and so I do. The pond is filled with weed and has a few spots where it looks like they are hiding branches or submerged logs.  I am thinking about the last fish I had on and his log strategy that worked so well for him. Chuck is reminding me to take it easy, take your time, no rush.  This fish shows herself and we are both startled by her length.

She works the drag and I take in line as I can

– out and back, a number of times, covering a good part of the pond and running into the muck where I suspect a branch is hiding. Once in there she calms down. I think that I lost her but he says no, as she shows herself again, the line coated in long weeds.

I lift to get the weeds off hoping the fly stays put. Miraculously, the weed comes off, for the most part, and she runs a few more times.  “Take your time, take your time” he reminds me. She is tiring, as am I.

We don’t have a net.

Not a big mouthed, long handled one that I would tell anyone fishing this type of water to have.  Mine is safe and sound at home. All we have is my tear drop and it is attached to a not so long spring line.  Chuck takes it and is on his knees as I try to steer her in.  The net is a joke.  He tries and misses once, then puts it on her tail and it barely covers her wrist.

I am managing the short run that follows each attempt,

working over Chuck’s prone body. What a scene! Next pass he tries for her head and even that is not enough to lift her.  In the end I am not sure what he did but suddenly she is on the deck.

I lost my breath, I am speechless.

Perspective – Net is 19 inches long

Perspective – net is 10″ deep

“Where’s your camera?” he says. We snap a few and I go to put her back in. The weight takes me by surprise as does the height of the dock, she leaps out of my hands and slips into the weeds, quietly.

Made my day with just one more cast.

My largest Long Island Trout

Note – I have fished for these behemoths who make their home in Vail Pond before and even had a few hits, but to land one is just an awe inspiring event.