Monday, October 17, 2011

There's no tonic like the Housatonic

Cause there's so much PCBs
and mercury in the water.
GE: Imagination at work
The stress of urgent tasks was just the opposite of what I was pursuing on Saturday yet that's precisely what I felt as I drove north. I had forgotten my cell phone which required a twenty minute detour to retrieve.  But still, the emotion was wholly unjustified. I had plenty of time for the task; it was just past noon and I wasn't due back until shortly before seven.

For much of the drive up Route 7 a white van ahead of me just couldn't go fast enough. I urged it to turn off at every opportunity. It's broad back obstructed the view of the road ahead. It was as if that thing that I was chasing was just beyond; constantly moving ahead just out of sight. When the van turned off half an hour later the road ahead was finally clear. The thing finally felt closer; within reach.

Leaves didn't show a preference
for black or yellow.
The Housatonic sparkled through fall foliage browned past peak. The strobe of glimpses through bank-side trees beat shadows on the dashboard. The occasional laggard Sugar Maple or Poplar jazzed up the scene with brilliant reds and yellows but I was mostly focused on the water. The gauge said it was running at 1,400. The water showed that it was running at perfection. Solid. Wild. But not too wild.

I had received a solid tip on a section of water that was fishing well. I hadn't fished that section before though it was just a bit upstream from a section that Jonny and I have a habit, perhaps a tradition, of fishing last on our Thanksgiving trip. Yellow streamers. Large Prince Nymphs. Rainbows. That was the word so that's what I fished.

I have a 150 grain sinking line that is a great pair with my 5 weight. It used to be a bit of a bear to cast but since perfecting improving my double haul in Alaska I could now cast it well even with a yellow marshmallow* and a black zonker at the end of the leader.

A very wet and chewed Marshmallow
The first pool gave me a Brown quickly -- maybe the third cast -- and a meaty Rainbow shortly thereafter. Both took the yellow fly. Then nothing for about a half hour. I went back to the bank to rig up a nymph rod and was interrupted by the arrival of the circus. Guide and video star Aaron Jasper arrived with what was eventually about half a dozen folks and a drift boat. The camera guys took up residence in the best place to wade and fish so I moved downstream.

A stocked Rainbow fell for the yellow.
Between where I started and the next pull-off there is about three hundred yards of water. Three long runs with pocket water or riffles in between. Most anglers fish the water with twenty yards or so of the pull-off. I'm not sure if these anglers are lazy or if they're just habituated to walking into water and standing still. I walked upstream about two-thirds of the way back the the last pulloff and scrambled down the steep bank. 

My first Smallmouth in the Housy
I swung and stripped the two fly rig back downstream over the next few hours. It was easy fishing and the catching was pretty good too. It was likely my best day of streamer fishing ever. I had short strikes, fish on briefly and a mixed bag of Rainbows and Browns to the net. Two might have pushed sixteen inches with the rest between that and ten inches. I even managed a small Smallmouth. True to the tip I got most of the fish came on the yellow fly but the black fly got action as well.

When I counted the days since I'd last put a fish in the net I was surprised to see how many it was. I'm often in denial about how often I fish. Ann keeps a better count though I suspect over counts a bit as she does when she counts the length of my business trips. Between the two of us we probably have a count that's about right and by most measures I'm lucky to get out as often as I do. But that count of forty days was surprising. Life has been busy.

Summer ended quickly and Fall is already steaming aggressively ahead. It seems as if just the other day I was commenting that the leaves hadn't changed and now they're accumulating on the lawn at an astonishing rate. The natural world seems to be racing as quickly as my professional and private life. But as the stream bed slows the water, the press of the current and the rhythm of our sport slows my pace. 

On days such as this I can look up and notice the unnoticeable. I marvel at an impossibly large Maple leaf wafting to a gentle landing on the water; a small pram sailing seaward. And then am jerked into the most immediate present as a another spotted and striped therapist tugs on my line. 

I'm counting days again. Hopefully the count will be low.

The hills must have been colorful before they went brown.

A small stream that just begs to be hiked
and fished. Logged for my next trip.

The Aaron Jasper Traveling Menagerie

*This is a fly I tie. It's an "original" pattern meaning that I cooked it up one evening while sitting at the vice. It's all marabou; they whole thing. I put a nice fish head with an eye on the front. I'm sure others have cooked this up in the past


  1. Lovely tale.

    I toasted marshmallows on my fire-pit. Not the same, but quite relaxing.

  2. Toasted marshmallows are awesome! The fishing was good. You were missed. Do you have Black Friday calendared for a trip to the Housy?

  3. "...But as the stream bed slows the water, the press of the current and the rhythm of our sport slows my pace."

    Life is moving too fast out west as well. It's nice to have those "therapists" to help us forget about it for a little bit.

  4. Steve - I will be there. With fruitcake. We should start where we usually end!

  5. Sanders: Amen

    E.J.: Agreed! I'll have to show you this new spot. It would seem the perfect complement to some of our normal places.