November 11, 2018 – Connetquot
11th Hour, 11th Day, 11th Month, the war to end all wars ended. It has become a day we recognize and honor veterans, remembering those who have served in all the wars since that war.
It is also a day that we gather with veterans and future veterans on a stream to catch trout and enjoy what this life has to offer. Cadets from the West Point Fly Fishing Club, led by Lt. Col. Ron Hasz, drive down to the Island to join the Project Healing Waters Vets along with volunteer river guides from the LI Flyrodders on the Connetquot. This is our second annual gathering. Jimmy Gilmartin brings the coffee and donuts as we get our gear on and pair up.
Richie Cosgrove introduces me to Sean
…who is a plebe at the Point and grateful to be on the trip. He hails from Virginia and his fish of choice, up until now, is catfish. We walk along the river looking for a spot to slip in. At Beat 12 we see Ray (Class of 2003) and move into the river just downstream of him where Fred Thorner, the PHW coordinator, is trying his cane pole which needs some repair work. He gives us the hole as he heads back to the car.
A Green Woolly Bugger
…is my best bet to get our catfish’er into some trout. He understands that the current can transport the fly into the zone, the target area. He gets the hang of it with strips and jiggles and drop-backs to get the attention of the fish.
The river is very full and cold.
The extra depth makes the usually clear view of the fish more difficult. Moving the tip from side to side he works the water when a good one jumps almost at his feet. Then he sees one lying in the water in front of him, as his eyes adjust.
He backs up to fish to him
…and more join the party. A hit but not a hook up. Switching to a nymph with indicator, we work down a little and have another hit as Fred rejoins us with his other rod. We have been in the pool for a while and so give it back, the courteous thing to do, and move downstream.
Beat 11 and 10 are being covered by other teams led by Kenny Arstark, Roy Placet, and John Cosh, with some success; Mike Postol, Joe Hutter, Tom Cooney and Bill Smith are upstream. Nine is wide open.
As we survey the water
…Sean sees a number of trout in front of a log which is usually out of the water but now offers the fish some cover. He has a nymph on. The situation doesn’t lend itself to the technique. Better to go upstream and drift a streamer down to them. We put the Woolly Bugger back on.
Allowing the current to carry it
…is more difficult here as it is slow and the fly sinks before we want it to. A little adjustment, some casting and careful line control solve the problem. The Bugger moves into the zone. Sean is working it well and picks up a big brookie on the left side of the log. A good one in fall colors. He is officially a trouter.
A few more follow
…before we head for lunch. He is smiling. When we reach Beat 16 he asks about fishing it. The fellow who is on it invites him to wet his line as he has to re-tie his nymph rig anyway. Once re-tied, he gives it to Sean and coaches him on how to present it. After a few attempts (and with a little help) he has a fish on. More smiles.
I want to show him another way to approach this hole but it’s time to eat.
After a good meal, on this cold day, of Chili and Cheeseburgers we take the group photo:
Most of the guides,
…their missions accomplished (everyone caught fish!), are heading home to family and football. The Cadets have the river to themselves. I stick around to show Sean how to dry fly Beat 16. He has a buddy who is new to fishing. Sean excuses himself from my company as he is excited about showing his buddy Beat 9 where we had success. I think he is hooked. I give him an extra Woolly Bugger and wish them luck.
At 16 I tie on a Joe-Stack
…and pop it into the foam. A fellow just downstream is watching as I pull in the first fish. Another comes up as I pull in the second and offers to net the third for me. I clip off the fly, grease it a little and hand it to him. “Just flip it into the foam and let it sit. Try not to let it drag too much. Watch for the lips to come up.”
Fish on! More smiles. He invites his buddy to come over and try it. That’s the spirit!
I wish them all well and head for the car.
Looking forward to next Veterans Day when the cadets, the vets and the Flyrodders meet again, to celebrate the freedom we have thanks to those who have served.
In the meanwhile, why not look up your local Project Healing Waters group and get in on the fun.