Sunday, May 1, 2011

Old Water, New Water

I just got back from the gathering of the menfolk up in New Hampshire. It's a gathering of my brothers, Dad and Uncle up at the house north of Keene where we basically spend a couple of days eating, drinking and generally pursuing manly pursuits such as replacing the window that the grouse flew through (miraculously surviving and leaving bird crap and feathers strewn about), replumbing the kitchen sink and telling and retelling family lore. We've been doing this for years.

This year my eldest son attended for the first time. It was very satisfying to add another generation to the table. The time is well spent and I always get a bit of fishing in as a bonus. More on this trip, it's fishing and insight soon. For now, I must roll back the calendar to last week.

Tuesday night, I fished an old friend. It's the river on which I caught my first trout on a fly, a Brown Trout, on a Grey Ghost swung near an undercut bank. She's a pretty piece of water flowing through suburban landscape. She's been abused by the development, pollution and other affronts that rivers such as her must endure. But she is sustained by a fair number who people who defend her and by a stunning natural resiliency.

I hadn't fished this river in close to a year. Last year the flows during the summer and fall were very low. It wasn't until winter that she started to get some water again and by then the snows had started. The worst   snows in decades. And even I, one who fishes regardless of temperature, was prevented from visiting the banks of this river for several months.

With snow came snow melt. For a few weeks in March a river that fishes nice at around 100 cfs was anywhere from 1,000 to 4,000 cfs. Undercut banks were cut away. Trees were felled and the river straightened itself by cutting new channels.

I arrived at the river in the late evening after a day at work that went longer than originally planned. My plans were to eliminate the stresses of the day with a fine cigar and some effortless casting. And maybe even a bit of catching.

I wasn't sure whether the fish that are stocked in this section were still about. It fishes well year round but I was in the mood for some dumb fish. The particular spot I picked has easy access, in fact it runs along the parking lot of a small shopping center, so it gets pretty heavy pressure on opening day.

Since it was ten days past opening day I walked the banks to see if I could see any fish. I was surprised to not see empty bait containers lining the banks but the telltale signs of heavy foot traffic were present. The far bank of a deeply shaded run was one of those spots you could get fish pretty regularly and I did see the flash of trout behind the likely rocks. Ascertained of the presence of fish, I grabbed a rod, a small fly box and lanyard.

Nymphing was the ticket as there were no bugs in the air and no rises on the surface. Fish came on Pheasant Tails, the Worm from San Juan and Lightning Bugs and were a nice mix of Browns and Rainbows.

After working the one run that had been channeled I moved up river. None of the riffles, pockets, and pools were where I remembered them being. The shallow spots were now deep and the deeps spots seem to have been filled with sand and gravel. The near channels were far and vice versa.

Fishing one run I realized far too late that where I was putting my fly in the shallow far seam (which used to be the far deep seam). As the fly swung into what I thought was unproductive water I lifted the rod to cast. Two, count em two, trout took a swipe at the rising fly. Not to self, work that close water next time.

Now that I had my brain reoriented I worked up the stream till dark. Fish came in spots where they should have, except for that fish that jumped clear out of less than twelve inches of water, though not in the areas where they used to. While I was disappointed that the usual spots were no longer the usual spots it was cool to discover again this gem of a stream.

When I returned to the car it was too dark to see the mayflies coming off the water, but they were there as evidenced by the few that had landed upon my car. The Hendricksons were in. So some things hadn't changed. The season of rising fish will soon be upon us.


  1. Nice...enjoyed it
    See mine at

    Eastern CT fly fishing TEAM 7x

  2. Nice post Steve. Always good to get back to some of those old haunts and spend time with family.

    Thanks for sharing.
    Passinthru Outdoors Blog - Sharing the Passion