Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Saturday morning. Deerfield River. Trout.

Saturday morning I watched the sun rise. I was on the road early when the sky was still deepest black. I would not have been driving north at such an hour if not for the promise of good company on the water and trout tugging on the line but there was an additional bonus that I savored as I drove towards the eastern sky.

Over the hour it took for the orange orb to peer over the horizon I saw the most amazing show of light. The sky darkened from black to that rich, deep blue. Then the first streaks of orange and red yielded to yellows, golds and pale blues. Striking.

Our sport offers the chance to see some amazing places but the landscapes that we most often view are familiar versus exotic. And sometimes those familiar views are the most rewarding. Especially when seen in a new light.

Saturday I fished the Deerfield River with Tom Harrison of Harrison Anglers. His brother Dan had taunted me earlier in the week with texts of large fish (texting pictures or would it be picting?). I was planning to fish on Saturday regardless of the weather as the womenfolk of my wife's clan were gathering at the house for cookie baking. The results are worthy of lingering but the making is a bit like that of sausage. There's emotion and angst and other such non-male things rather than disgusting meat objects but, trust me, it's the same.

I asked Dan if he was free to fish and while he wasn't his brother Tom was and I secured a reservation to float the Deerfield and tempt some fish.

I later discovered that Dan wasn't free because he's expecting his first child early next year. Tom divulged it will be a male of the species. Apparently he and his beloved were attending a birthing class. I think those classes are good primers for what to expect. The technique stuff -- breathing, etc. --- can be helpful though I also recall Ann speaking in tongues at certain times. I don't think that was part of the class but perhaps there's special literature for the women on that subject.

It wasn't too long ago (if fourteen years can be considered not too long ago) that Ann and I were doing the same thing. What strange times those were. Me, responsible for a human life other than my own. Scary shit. But it all worked out. We managed not to kill the little critter though more often than not we thought we were doing something wrong. We now have a pain in the ass teenager who seems no worse for the wear. And as Ann says, he can tell it to his therapist if it comes to that.

I'm sure Dan will be a fine father and wish him and his the best.

So on to the fishing. It was surprisingly good.

The weather gods shone upon us with a reasonably mild day (40ish in temp and no wind) and reasonably mild water with good flows and temps in the high 30s.

I'm not sure if Tom knows I like floating the upper river just below the dam or if he just chose that spot because the flows were good (or both) but that's where we started. There was just enough snow on the ground to make the boat slide down to the water easily (at least Tom made it look easy) but not enough to make the footing hazardous.

With the cold temps, we were nymphing. I decided to use Tom's Thomas and Thomas rods for no particular reason though I did want to try fishing the ten foot 5 wt to see if a ten or eleven foot rod really made a difference. In the end, I decided it did and have added a rod in excess of nine feet to my fly fishing wish list. Especially in the area of mending, the ten foot rod seemed to have a distinct advantage. I wasn't too thrilled with the action of the T&T rod and is was a fair amount heavier than the Orvis rod I would have fished normally.

New Mexican Worms and Eggs were on the menu and the fish seemed pleased. We put the first fish in the boat very quickly -- a nice Rainbow of no more than fourteen inches -- shaking off the ever present, lurking skunk.

Does this large net make my fish look small?
The yellow egg does the trick.

The fishing for the remainder of the morning was sporadic. We'd get a few fish and then have spells of nothin'. The fish generally were in the deep seams of the pools. The rig we were fishing was heavily weighted and the indicator was at the very top of a nine foot leader. Strikes were difficult to detect and I missed at least as many as I hit.

The first few fish were especially challenging as they charged the boat. It was a mad scramble to keep tension on the line and lever the ten foot rod behind me, It must have been quite a comical sight. Comedy aside, we put about half a dozen Rainbows in the boat before lunch which exceeded my expectations in every way.
Fly fishing isn't so much about the fish as it
is about the places you go, the people you're with, and
the things that you feel.

After lunch we had a brief period of relatively stupid fish. In cold water, the conventional wisdom is fish don't move much. It takes too much energy to chase food when you're cold and stiff. Of course, the trout don't read those books. The strike indicator -- a pink Thingamabobber -- was hit by no less than three fish. One came up for a look, circled around for another look, and then came back with a vicious strike. I've got to imagine he pretty much used every store of energy in his body just to take a whack at something that doesn't look very food-like. It got us thinking a trailing hook on the indicator was a product innovation worth trying.

Of course, after the first fish hit the indicator we rigged up a rod with a large foam hopper. We tried to tempt the fish to the surface a second time without luck. Probably because the fish succumbed to the cold after wasting energy on the initial strike. Or maybe they just learned the hard way.

Tom did all the hard work including tying on
flies with cold hands. A great guide.

The pink San Juan Worm continued to be the winner in the afternoon though the egg and a few bright green midges that I had tied worked as well. Double digit fish in the boat and just shy of twenty on the line. One couldn't ask for a better December day on the water.

I'm still waiting for a delivery of fly tying stuff. Mostly more small stuff to make midges with but soon I'll have to inventory the fly boxes and tie up more of what's missing. Winter is the time for tying. And fishing, occasionally, if you can master the cold and the calendar.

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