Saturday, November 27, 2010

Turkey Sandwiches & Fruitcake

Black Friday started with the patter of rain against the skylights in the bedroom. Fortunately, it was the gentle tap of rain that telegraphed "no impact" to river levels. The ground and small streams would absorb the run-off and it would easily be twenty-four hours before the Housatonic saw any effect, if at all.

Even before I got out of bed I knew that the river was running at just over 800 cfs and the spitting rain would end soon yielding perfect blue wing olive weather. Technology certainly has taken some of the wonder out of the sport.

I met Jon at the commuter lot in Danbury and we drove together to Starbucks and then on to Housatonic Meadows to meet up with Don. We expected to be nymphing all day and Torrey recommended egg patterns when we stopped by the shop on our way up.

The day started of slow for Jon and I as we worked to find the right water and dial in the right fly combo. Don had things under control with a couple of fish to hand in the first hour or so. The pink egg and the red Brassie worked well and that was to be the pattern for the day -- eggs and midges. Jon and I struck out at the first spot but our fortune soon turned.

Catch and Release
Noon came far too quickly but because of a late start we had only been on the water for about two hours. Jon came through with an awesome packed lunch of turkey & stuffing sandwiches and fruitcake. It is my opinion that the day after Thanksgiving, leftovers are at their best. One hasn't yet become sick of the monotony of turkey, turkey, turkey. Stuffing has a delightful texture and taste that can only be achieved after sitting in the fridge overnight securely in Tupperware or, ideally, in its original serving container covered with tin foil.

Don shared a new piece of water with us after lunch. He had good intel on how to wade it and where the fish were hiding. The wade was tricky for those unaccustomed to such things but we were able to find solid footing from which to begin our assault on the trout bastions.

We were all into fish in this spot. Don again was high man and the midge and egg, in both pink and yellow, were king. Surprisingly, I didn't get any interest in the heavily weighted Yellow Stonefly that was my upper fly. Last year, same day, the Yellow Stonefly was the go-to fly. I suppose the super low flows this past summer had taken it's toll on the stonefly population much as it did with the trout but we were happy to find flies that did the trick. My favorite fish on this run was a thirteen inch rainbow that spent more time in the air than it did in the water. With the forty-three degree water numbing our toes we gathered stream side to determine next steps.

My first fish of the day

Don demonstrated his nymphing prowess picking up fish throughout this pool.
Don decided to call it a day and Jon and I were determined to finish the day on a piece of water up north that has become the traditional "last hole" of any trip to the Housy.

Jon and I agreed that the structure of the hole had shifted slightly since our last visit. The slot seemed shallower. In fact, in maneuvering to what I thought was the seam near the ideal holding location I actually ended up standing in the ideal holding location. I did manage at least one tug on the line but decided to regroup a little lower in the run to spot I erroneously thought was fishier.

Jon, much like last year, demonstrated why this was one of his favorite pieces of water. His first fish was a very healthy Brown -- thick and long. The fish was a bit uncooperative for the standard grip and grin photo but we did manage a quick photo as Jon wrestled with him. He then followed that up by catching the twin brother of the first and then a sprightly Rainbow.

Jon with the best fish of the day

It was only 3:30 p.m. but the sun had dipped below the hillside, the clouds had cleared and the temperature had dropped about ten degrees into the low 40s. It was a good day of fishing and it was time to go.

There aren't too many fishing days left in this year but I may sneak out again when the women-folk gather for the day of cookie baking in mid-December.

I can't really complain. This has been a good year.

Like most years there's been far too little fishing and far too much work. But the paycheck has been steady, the work interesting and we made good use of vacation time to try and reconnect with our two boys who are growing too damn quickly.

In this season of thanks, I'm thankful for a spouse who accommodates my fishing habit and ensures that the important things in life remain my priorities. I'm thankful for two friends always willing to share good water and for trout willing to take a fly and return to the waters until that time when we're ready to play again.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

826 cfs


There will be rain tomorrow, but the fish won't mind.

Playing Hookey

I had booked yesterday as a vacation day but had so much work backed up that I planned on sitting at the desk most of the day getting caught up. Without the structure of back-to-back meetings my mind wandered. I scheduled lunch with Ann, puttered about the house, surfed the web and basically did everything I could to avoid the work that I had set about to do earlier.

After lunch, with a car full of fly fishing gear, I decided that a quick swing by a small stream near the house was in order. Of course, it was purely for scientific purposes. The water had been barely a trickle all summer and I wondered if any trout had managed to survive in some deep cool spot.

The wind was howling as I came down to the stream. I tried to fish the usual runs along a farmer's field but the wind gusting across those fields made casting a nightmare. My flies spent more time in the stream side bushes than they did in the water.

With frustration building I decided it was time for a cigar and a rest out of the wind. I marched upstream to a more sheltered spot with the stream took a turn up a valley. With a Hemingway well lit I proceeded to work up Corner Hole Pool. This delightful piece of water can hold fish through out so it's important to work it from the tail to plunge at the head.

Corner Hole
The tail held nuttin but by the time I had worked to the head I had managed a few strikes on a PT dropper and brought a ten inch  Brown to the lip of the net before he shook off.

I felt like I had caught a hypochondriac trout. As soon as he was hooked he went into "I gonna die! I'M GONNA DIE! I'M DEAD!' mode. The fight was lackluster and even when he shook the hook he laid there on his side floating in the water. I could just hear him thinking "I'M DEAD! WOE IS ME!". As soon as I realized he wasn't swimming away I went to net him again and that's when he came to life and scurried upstream to nestle beside a rock in the water. Strangeness.

Brookie Run
With the light fading -- had I really been on the water for three hours already? -- I moved up to a piece of water I call Brookie Run. It's relatively shallow water with a cobble bottom. It's water that looks, at first glance, to be too shallow to be good holding water. However, the softball and basketball sized rocks on it's bottom have plenty of nooks and crannies in which fish can shelter.

The PT brought a small brown to hand, all three inches of him, about mid-way up the run but I otherwise went fishless all the way up to the riffle.

I was happy to see trout in the stream though catching a Brookie would have been a bonus. Their population hasn't fared well over the past couple of years though a wild population of Browns and an occasional Rainbow seem to be doing okay.

I'm going up to the Housatonic on Friday with a bunch of good friends. Looking forward to the camaraderie of this annual post-Thanksgiving trip. Even if the fishing is poor the day will be most excellent.

Tip of the Day: Tom Rosenbauer had recommended over weighting small stream rods so they load quicker. Today I gave that a try with a 5wt line on my 7 foot 4 wt rod. Worked like a charm. Definitely recommend this to all small stream junkies.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Cold Fingers

The cold weather fishing season snuck up on me.

When I last fished, almost a month ago, I was still fishing in a shirt. Sure, it got down into the mid-50s by the time I left the water, but it was tolerable in that "I'm not going to whine about anything whilst fishing" sort of way.

Yesterday afternoon was different. The temperature gauge in the car read "48" on the drive up and was hovering in the lower 40s by the time I pulled off a small road and suited up for the walk to the river. I had all the cold weather gear I required and wore fleece pants to stave off the cold of the tail water. I also layered above to make sure I didn't get a chill. However, I drew the line at fingerless gloves and a knit cap. Mentally, my brain said you don't need gloves in October. Of course, it's not October anymore. I should have brought them along.

I can guess what the ache and inflexible fingers of an eighty year old arthritic feel like because I have tried to tie a Surgeon's Loop in 5X tippet when my fingers absolutely refuse to work. It wasn't that cold (38 degrees by the time I returned to the car), but I did get the message; next time bring gloves (and perhaps a hat).

The fishing was not good. I got on the water late just as the sun was moving below the valley wall. Any hope of their warming rays was gone though the valley wasn't so deep that it got dark early. It just got dim.

There was a steady BWO hatch coming off the river though I only saw a single rise in the two hours I fished. The flies were those micro #24 or smaller flies that are best imitated with a small hook with thread for a body. I fished the likely spots with a nymph rig fishing a golden stonefly, a pink egg, zebra midge, caddis larvae, brassie and probably a half dozen other flies.

Not so much as a tug.

I did have a fine cigar.

And it was nice to be back out on the river after so long on the road and so many hours in front of the computer and on the phone.

This Friday I'll be on the Housatonic with a bunch of close friends for our annual Black Friday mall avoidance trip. The weather is sure to be gray and cool. But that's what winter fishing is all about. I'll bring the gloves this time.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Water, water everywhere and not a rod to spare

I can see the Danube lots and lots of leaves from my backyard.

I can't see any water from my house but I've seen a bunch of water over the past two weeks, mostly the Danube River. I haven't seen anyone fishing much less done any fishing myself. This weekend will surely be filled with all those things one doesn't get to do while traveling on business. Sleeping. Raking leaves. Etc.

I recommend Budapest as a place to spend a long weekend. Beautiful city even though I didn't see a single fly shop.

No one fishing the Danube.

Bratislava should be skipped by anyone who doesn't appreciate overcooked pork. They'll over cook anything that comes from a pig. I think they discovered Pork Jerky and just don't know it. For those looking for a home away from home whilst in Bratislava, The Dubliner has ample Guinness on tap and Steak cooked western (Europe) style. Definitely recommend it as a haunt.

Slovakian fisherman emerging from the river.

While roaming about not fishing I've stayed sane by visiting my friends at the Trout Underground, Singlebarbed and OrvisNews.

Inspired by some discussion re: Tom's quiz I created the following short video.