Vail Pond

May 7, 2020 – Caleb Smith State Park

I called and the only beats open were 2, 8 and 9.

I asked for a site on the pond.  She said most people like 14, I said okay.  14 is the small pool at the end of the connecting canal to Vail Pond, the main body of water.  No one else was on any of the pond sites so I could go where ever, well, not really.  The new rules are you have to stay on the spot you are assigned so they know where to find you if they need to find you.

She asked if I wanted to book another day, when the better spots on the river are open.  I said no, that this was fine.  I had a plan. The plan was an opportunity to string up the new Scott rod I won last year at LIFR and fish to monster fish which inhabit the pond but are inaccessible once the weeds grow.  This being early May I figured the weeds would be just starting.

I had a vision of a day in April…

after a late snow when I stripped a streamer across the pond and caught several nice fish which I immediately cleaned and stuffed with snow to keep them fresh.  Had to be in the late ‘70s. I can still see how that fish followed; I had to slow the strip down and then jerk it to get him to bite.  What a day that was.

Today was not like that. 

The good news is that my friend Joe Pepe was there with fellow LITU’er Bob Zucker. They were fishing the river. Good to see them.  More good news is there were 3 no shows so we had the place to ourselves. 

Joe Pepe on the Nissequogue

The not so good news is that when I put the Scott rod together and went to fix the reel on it, the reel seat would not accommodate my Battenkill. The foot on the reel seemed too big.  I could have put the Hardy on but I didn’t want to use the Hardy, not on the huge fish I was envisioning.  Plus I wanted to try the new line I bought to match the new rod. Nuts. (Once home I figured it out)

Scott R095/4 from LIFR

I took the rod down and put it back in its tube.  Unsheathed my good old Loomis GL (that Sue bought me which has been my go to rod for over 30 years) and headed for the Pond.  I walked down the west shore line and the first casting platform is completely engulfed in weeds and muck.  That is also  not good news. 

To get to the next platform…

I had walk a plank that is precariously connected to another equally dangerous plank which has a tree bisecting it such that I had to wrap my right arm around the tree while holding the rod and net in my left, kind of swinging myself around the tree while maintaining my balance on plank #2. I got there.  The next casting platform was surrounded by muck but I could reach some “open water.” Not really open as the weeds are just below the surface.  I had on a streamer that had some weight to it which made working this water tough.  I gave up after a few attempts, walking to the next one.

Now on the south east side of the pond…

the water is still covered in slime, and weeds are reaching for the surface, but it is deeper and there are a few holes I can put the fly in.  I change to an unweighted one. It sits on the surface and slowly sinks to the bottom giving each cast more time to dance the fly around what little open water is available. A fish saunters by.  About 18 – 20 inch fish as fat as a football. 

I might as well tell you now…

that I didn’t catch him but also that all of the other fish I saw this day were clones of his, or hers. Rainbows all, from what I could tell.  And there were a lot of them.  As I moved to the rest of the platforms, I probably saw 8 or 10, just like the first one, none of them having any interest in my streamer.

About now the ranger came by in his truck and I confirmed that the people who reserved 3, 4, and 5 did not show up.  Once he drove away I walked down to find Joe and Bob to let them know.  They were both on upper 7, by the gauging station.  Bob was staring at 2 or 3 fish just like the ones I had on the pond only his were at the top of the spillway. He entertained them with his nymph but they had no interest either.

I had complained…

that they were not stocking fish anywhere other than beat 4 as it is easy to dump them in there.  In the past they were 12 – 14 inch brookies and rainbows.  I have seen big fish in the pond before but not in the river.  Not like these. This is new. Joe was upstream a bit. I let them know no one was above them, although with these big fish here, why move? I headed up to 14 where I was assigned.

I could go through all the fly changes and close calls and accurate but useless casts of the day but suffice it to say I got skunked. 

They were eating something,

a few of them making a ruckus.  Others finning on the surface, perhaps picking up some emerger but I saw very few flies. And no bait fish. The water on 14 is clear, open and there is little structure.  There is plenty of gooey weed but it tends to stay on the perimeter.  Joe came up to beat 4 which is just across from 14 and Bob followed later, working his way up in the river. Joe had 12 fish!  On a pink nymph.  I am not sure how many Bob had but I could hear the hooting and hollering as he hooked a monster.

Bob Zucker working Beat 7

I had a nice day. 

My Loomis worked beautifully, as it always does.  I was not inclined to nymph but did tie on some emergers.  In the end, I put a Joe Stack on with a small unweighted pheasant tail nymph tied to its bend. Even that didn’t work. 

Not meant to be.  Not today.

I drove home much less tired than on Monday.  The arm hurt, but less.  Life is good, in spite of the virus.

Why not get over there and try the pond before the weeds take over the rest of it? Caleb Smith State Park. 

Vail Pond in October