Season Opener – Tom’s Fishing Journal

I journal each time I go fishing, well most times anyway.  This one is the first of the 2016 season. You can find 2014 AND 2015 on the blog. Postings include photos of where I fished and how I did as well as some tips on location and technique. Hope you enjoy following me around!


Wednesday, March 9 – I said I was going to wait for the season to open, April first that is, but the weatherman predicted 74 degrees and sunny when the average for this time of year is 47. I called Connetquot and reserved a spot for the afternoon session.

Most who are familiar will tell you that of the 30 plus beats on this beautiful river about 10 are consistently productive and they are awarded on a first come first served basis on the day of the reservation.  No advance assurance of getting the beat you want. Indeed this morning every beat on the river was taken, a new trend since they started their comeback in 2015 after years of fish issues that depleted the fishing, almost entirely.  The word is out that the Conny is back.

So many possibilities - Connetquot
So many possibilities – Connetquot

I was fortunate to get my second choice and headed up river early, knowing I couldn’t start fishing until noon. I sat to watch the river flow and spied some bugs that I hoped would be swallowed but they continued downriver un-accosted.

I walked a path and came to a pond I have fished before with some success. I was standing on a crossing, my shadow unmoving as if I were just another tree blocking the sun and the birds of prey.  A big fellow sauntered over and found my other self of comfort.  He seemed to be mouthing some nymphs or other invertebrate. I didn’t move a muscle.  In a few minutes another joined him, in my shadow, and more after him. I had created a new umbrella allowing them to spend time where they normally would not.  I was amazed at the size and number.  This pond is seldom if ever stocked, as far as I know.  Fishing it is difficult especially if you hook one.   There is no place to land a fish of any size.  I was thinking of the fellow who spoke at the last Flyrodder meeting and how he was telling of the spookiness of spring creek trout; how the flash of a rod and certainly the movement of a fisherman will send them for cover.  I moved my arm and they scattered like 3 Card Monty boys on a city street when the cops arrive.

It was time to get geared up.  I had planned to sort out my flies, to put them in order, to triage the selection in some way to match the order of probable hatches. The winter ended before I got to open my pack but I had most of what I needed.  Spring on the Conny is streamer time for me and my wallet had at least one of each.

I saw Armond and Joe in the parking lot and we walked the path to our beats together. I invited them to come down if they cared to and they offered the same. Another fellow had the beat in between us or, as it turned out, two fellows.  They had each taken a beat but apparently preferred to fish together. A jovial and sociable duo. I can hear their chatter as I launch my Green Woolly Bugger into the current, thinking that their voices may have the same effect as my arm did up at the pond.

I wrote a new Tips & Tactics post last night about reading the water and how one needs to think about where to place the fly and to do so with intent.  Now I find myself not following my own advice as I scout with the fly instead of planning an approach. I smile and tell myself that I need to be more tolerant with those who ignore my advice.

I stop and take in the scene.  No fish to be seen.  I need to stay still and watch the river.  In a while some fish come into view. One actually rose to some subsurface emerger. I make my plan and move into position to execute it and wait again. Quiet except for the chatter from above.

I work the near water and move the fly up and down, allowing it to sink and sit, scooting it a bit, then not. The deep sitting fish doesn’t seem impressed. I allow it to go past him and bring it back, several times, he doesn’t react. Wrong fly? Maybe, but it’s a Green Woolly Bugger, bumping the bottom for gosh sake.  I move my feet.

Connetquot Beat #9
Connetquot Beat 9

Next is an S turn in the current, although the river seems uniform in its track. A fallen tree provides cover. I allow the fly to sweep past the front edge of the tree and then work it deep into the blow down, risking a snag.  One of the park rules is to only allow hip boots.  A snag in a deeper pool means a lost fly.  On the other hand the fish are in the deep pools, where the snags occur.

I drop it into the S zone which is narrow and not easy to guide the fly into. I allow it to pulse a bit, dropping it back and down, then forward and up. He likes it and makes a spectacular take. It’s a big rainbow who chooses to run upstream rather than break me off in the brush, lucky for me. I play him thinking of the net and the camera but decide it is early and release him from the barbless hook untouched. I go to fish the area again but remember it is better to rest it.  There is plenty of untested river to fish.

My friends from above come down the path continuing their conversation in voices that alert me to their approach.  They ask how I am doing and I give them the name of the fly that worked. They move to their second spot, downstream, and offer me the one above, should I care for it, although they tell me there are no fish in it.


Connetquot River State Park – Beat 11

I fish what I had planned and then go up since it was the beat I had asked for when I came only to be told it was already taken.  I love this part of the river, all of it.  One spot may be better than another at times but all of them hold some promise.

I start at the top and again stay quiet and still, watching.  Two fish show themselves.  I launch my fly without a cast and work it both in the deep pool and the undercut far side without a reaction. I give it some time and do it again. Then work my way down. Work that area, rest it, and work it again. Fish are coming and going in a casual manner.

When they stocked the river last year trout were stacked up like cord wood.  Now it is more natural. I move toward the lower end of the beat standing in midstream but fishing 30 – 40 feet downriver, making adjustments to the drift and varying the retrieve.

I seldom retrieve more than a few feet of line, preferring to leave it in the zone but guiding it from front to back, side to side, up and down – slowly with a few jiggles mixed in. It works sometimes, but not here. Not today.  I sit down to eat my snack and drink some water, the warm day making it very comfortable.


Rod and Golden Darter by Chuck Neuner

I take off the Woolly Bugger and put on the Golden Darter.  I only have one with me.  The other is at home on my tying desk waiting to be analyzed and copied.  It’s a Chuck Neuner innovation and it has worked for me each time I have tied it on. It is unweighted, unlike the cone headed bugger but there have been a few rises so the fish just may be looking up. Besides, I can slack the line if I want it on the bottom.

I have it under the tree and in the swifter part of the current although none of it is really very swift. I do as before and when it reaches the edge of the current, toward the far shore, it is attacked by a not insignificant fish. Wham. My leader is 10 feet or so with a 5x tippet tied with a triple surgeon’s knot, usually adequate for these waters. Not for this guy. He runs me into the roots and heads downstream, snapping the leader at the knot.  Damn. He took the Golden Darter.

I put on a Grey Ghost and work up and down the two beats then change flies.  I have a small Black Nose Dace on and a fish follows it as it swings down and across. He continues to follow as I strip it back only to refuse it as I drop it on his nose.

Mickey Finn
Mickey Finn – Love the name as much as the fly

The Mickey Finn is next.  The one I have is well-dressed.  I tend to like them skinny. This one floats for a while but then begins to behave as it takes on moisture. I am at the end of the lower beat and two fellows come by heading upstream.  We quietly chat and as they walk on the Mickey Finn, which I am working into another brush pile, connected with a jumping brown.  Three jumps before he comes to the net. Remarkable. They turn to see the result and take a photo.  I am thinking of doing the same but when fishing solo in mid-stream and your phone is the camera, it is awkward – so I send him on his way.

Promising Hole - Connetquot

Promising Hole – Connetquot

Contact with three fish on the 9th of March. I am a happy camper. I check the time and it’s about over.  I start back, watching the river as I go. There is a slap on the water ahead and I decide to give it a try.

As I walk to the spot a good size snapping turtle is tucked in next to one of the little docks they have, right where I am planning to walk.  I take his picture and think of the muskrat I came upon earlier that was the size of a beaver.  A good day on Long Island.

Snapping Turtle - #14 @ Connetquot

Snapping Turtle – #14 @ Connetquot

I go up a bit more and get in the stream. I send the Mickey Finn down to the riser.  I don’t usually cast here but I wanted to fish it from the far side. As I go to flip it over there a fish jumps almost at my feet startling me and sending Mickey into the trees.  I had to break it off.

I reel in, take down my rod, and head out.

At the last hole (or the first if you are coming in) there is a hiker/birdwatcher in awe of a huge trout that is at the edge of the circular pool.  He asks me to come and see.  I figure he is seeing what we all see but want to be friendly so give a look.

I have never, ever, seen a trout this big, this close, in this hole, actively feeding on some invisible bug in the upstream current formed by the circular pool. He is not shy, cannot be spooked and is nosing up and down, sometimes breaking the surface as we watch. Perhaps a stocked breeder but still an amazing sight. I can still see him now, in my mind. Huge.  I am thinking “Why didn’t I video him?”, then I come to my senses and think “Why didn’t I fish to him?”

A good way to open the season.


For more information on the Connetquot River State Park click here.

For information on my book: How to Fly Fish For Trout, the First Book to Read  click here.

Tom's Fishing Stories

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