The Woolly Bugger of Dry Flies

September 6, 2021 – Labor Day on Connetquot

The hurricanes have given the river a good flushing.  The bottom is starkly bright with waves of sand showing where debris had built up over the years.  Each eddy has been cleaned up almost flush to the bank.  The weeds seem to have held their own but even they are less intrusive, at least in the lower river (16-9). Fish show clearly and the osprey is singing his heart out with his good luck and full belly.

The bird and the bright sand have most of the trout grabbing what dark hideouts they can find on most beats. A few are in the main current feeding, but very cautiously.  They move over to my Ant, rise up a bit, drift back with it and then refuse.  In the dark water on the edges, where I can not see them, they hit softly and spit quickly.

This went on for a good part of the day.  Time is almost up and I have but one hit and it was on Joe’s LaFontaine Caddis. The Ants and Beetles I was counting on are off the menu. Jeff had mentioned that the river had not been stocked since August 26 but there are fish, plenty of them. They have been tested and made the adjustments to survive.  They are not where they might have been if the population had been higher and the bottom darker.

All of us had a similar day with Tom catching one on 12 and Ted getting hits without hookups. I worked my way down to 9 where I had some luck just a week ago. There are a few sips under the trees, not soon to be repeated. Ant, Cricket, Dace, Caddis, even a fly recommended by Peter Dubno for use in dire situations such as this, the Antonio’s Quill Midge, didn’t draw a decent look.

Antonio’s Quill Midge (variant)

As I walk out I am mumbling to myself.  Had I done all I could have done?  Should I have gone down to 6x? You get very tired when you have a day like this – and a bit grumpy. I passed Ted who was still working 10 and he gave me some inspiration to try something different.  He told me Joe left and so did Tom and his Grandpa, Chris. 

There is a fish feeding on 12 – the hole I tell everyone to pass up for more challenging spots.  I look in my box and sitting there on the edge of the row is one beat up Iris Caddis.  I usually have more but I have been trying new flies and using a lot of terrestrials as the summer heated up.

Paul McCain of Riverbay Outfitters showed me how to tie the Iris Caddis, a Craig Matthews design.

Some fresh 5x tippet and I am ready to get back in the game. Just upstream there is a splashy rise.  Then a few more.  Something is changing on the river.  I could not see anything coming off the water but the fish sure could. I flip the fly across and he ignores it.  I give it to him a few times and then place it elsewhere without moving my feet.  After a bit I bring it back to him and he comes up and looks, and like the others have all day, refuses.  A few more gentle flips and he changes his mind.  A nice feisty rainbow with a jump or two before releasing himself. 

I tie it in a variety of body colors – today’s was gray squirrel dubbing

Jeff came by and we chatted.  I let him know only Ted and I were left. He watches my antics for a bit and then checks on Ted. More fish are rising with some regularity.  One comes up to the fly presented dry, another when it sunk. 

It is time to go and I say “One more cast” as Ted moves upstream. About 14 casts later I hook a nice one on the far side above the platform. “Yes!”  We walk to 16A where I started and I drift the Iris Caddis in the foam and along the edge and in the divide between the sluice driven rush and the swirling pool, but no one is home – or interested.

I give Jeff the fly as we walk out.  “It’s the Woolly Bugger of dry flies” I tell him.

Meanwhile, on Catskill Creek in Ulster County – or was it Greene – my wingman Joe land’s his largest Brown from that water in – well – forever. Nice catch Joe. 

Catskill Creek on Labor Day 2021