Thanksgiving Trout

November 19, 2018 – Connetquot

It is the monthly LI Flyrodder‘s day at Connetquot. Trout fishing open during Thanksgiving week – how lucky are we?   I checked the long range forecast and it looked promising so I let Ted Bany know I’d be coming for the afternoon session.  

It is a nice benefit of belonging to the LIFR.

A day when we can come and wander the grounds with others we know, unrestricted by being assigned a single beat. This day there are about 5 guys and a gal fishing the morning and 7 this afternoon: Peter Dubno, Bill Smith, Kenny Arstark, Mike Postol and Ed Howard among them, along with Ted who coordinates the day each month.

Norm  comes by on his way to the hatchery

…and we chat about the fish and the park.  It’s nice to be familiar with the inner workings of it all. Norm has done a great job of keeping the fishing enjoyable since he arrived and we are lucky to have him. 

Fall afternoon light

I like fishing above 20  in the Old Canal.

The upper reaches are left to do what they may, no stocking (and no wading) which keeps the crowds away.  Norm is fairly certain that many of the fish put in below 20 make their way upstream. Apparently they acclimate well to the environment and become very reclusive. 

Ted Bany Releasing a Connetquot Rainbow
Ted Bany Releasing a Connetquot Rainbow

I get my permit from Ted

…in exchange for $25 and head upstream.  Determined to figure out how to catch fish up here,  I head up as often as I can.  I tell Peter that I will meet him downstream later. My plan is to walk up above 23 and fish a streamer down, hitting all the logs that are lying across the stream,  then stop for my sandwich before heading below the hatchery.

I watch for fish

…in the water as I pass but do not detect any, not even in lower 22 where they usually are visible. It is nice out.  Light wind, some sun but mostly a winter gray sky.  The woods are quiet and leafless. It’s beautiful. 

Black Nosed Dace

Above 23 I start with the Dace. 

It rides high in the water and requires slack and a drop back to sink it.  Covering the face of the log, I explore it deeper.  Nothing.  Patiently working the water and managing the line, I have low expectations which keeps the pre-strike anxiety in check.  Switching to a Green Woolly Bugger with some weight, a cone head, the line needs to be tight to keep it off the bottom, the opposite problem of the Dace.  I move it out a bit and then work it back.  If there is a fish here, and there may be as I thought I saw a shadow scoot downstream, he is not buying what I am selling.  I move down.

Killer Fly – the Green Woolly Bugger in Olive

Repeating the strategy in each section,

…I try to cover as much water as possible from a distance to avoid another spook. In an hour and a half I have worked my way back to the Rainbow Bridge and walk to the car for lunch.  Mike is working 17 and the others are further down.  Hot coffee and a good ham and swiss on squishy white.  Hmm-hmm good.

Ted comes along

…and we walk to 16 together.  I toss the Bugger into the whirlpool and let it sit for a minute. Bang, a nice Brookie.  Ted takes a photo and moves down.  I switch to a Joe-Stack and have 3 out of the foam and then walk below to fish the next section.  A spunky Brookie was lying under the bush and took the Joe-Stack. Nice to feel the tug of a fish after my dry spell upstream.

First of the day on Beat 16

I stay with the dry fly

…and work down through the top of 12 where I find Peter releasing his 7th fish on a nymph rig. Bill Smith is below him so I continue to 11.  The glassy water allows for some nice drifts but no takers.  Lower 11 looks promising with a few sporadic risers.  I fish to them and a few take a look but no bite.  Kenny is down from me and apparently dry flying as well into the lower part of 10.  I stay above him and watch as he lands a few. “A parachute Adams” he tells me. 

Kenny Arstark smiling after a clean release

I am getting attention in this section,

…in fact a few hits but I miss the strike on 2 and the others never really connected (although the fly jumped from their close looks). This is nice water and holds a bunch of fish. They are feeding and one is torpedoing out of the water and back down chasing something, I know not what. It certainly keeps me entertained.

Kenny gets out

…and moves upstream of me, continuing to connect.  I move down and finally get a taker, a big guy, and he is off. Nice. I clean the fly and grease it up.  Now the sun is starting to drop, must be near 3 pm, and the fish seem to get more aggressive.  I have one and then a few more, all Brookies.  Have not hit a Rainbow yet, and none of the few Browns Norm was telling us about. Sean appears below me.  He had a good afternoon down by 9.  “A good fish day” he says. He moves above me as Kenny has headed up.  He hits a big boy who strips him of his fly. Exciting.

Well used Joe-Stack

I have a few more

…and then get wrapped in a tree above me.  I don’t want to lose the Joe-Stack. I move out and gently pull the leader until the branch is within my reach.  On tip toes I work the fly free and see two more hanging there.  I pluck them out and let the branch snap back.  The snapping launched my Joe-Stack and it is gone. All that effort to save it and I rushed it at the end.  “Haste makes waste” as my father used to say. At least I have a new caddis and nymph in return.

Sean and I walk out together,

…passing the other guys who are still in the water. At 16 I toss another Joe-Stack into the foam and show Sean the technique. Lips and tails are slapping at it.  Fish on.  A little Brookie and then another. Kenny comes by and I try to demonstrate again but the fish are over stimulated.  It takes a brief rest and a few tries before one climbs on board. The guys head for the cars as I try one last time. Bang.

What a great day. 

Good friends, a beautiful place and fish on a dry fly.  What could be better? At the car Peter asks if I would consider going steelheading with them on the Salmon.  We had talked earlier of our encroaching age issues.   

Again, I am tempted

…by the thought of powerful steelhead but remind him that I need to slow down, to take it easy, to enjoy shorter, simpler days on the river.  I owe Peter for many of the amazing trout experiences I have had: in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming; Yellowstone, the Tetons, Henry’s Fork, as well as the tributaries of Lakes Erie and Ontario.  I thank him for all the wonderful memories but then decline the invitation.  I will look forward to the photos and the stories upon his return.

Peter’s Altmar Steelhead

I head for home, thankful for this day,

…this park and these friends. So much to be thankful for during this Thanksgiving week.

Chuck Neuner 7’6″ 5 wt. Heavenly.