Sunday, March 11, 2012

Peace, Snow & Skunk

Peace, Snow & Skunk
We saw the sun on Friday morning.

It was a pleasant change from the previous day that opened warm and "leaden" (Jonny's poetic words) and proceeded to get cold and "friggin' wet" (my words).

Jonny and I were fishing in Pulaski (pronounced "Pull-ass-sky" for those of you not in the know), New York hoping to mess with the Spring Steel. Early Thursday morning we visited Whitakers to gather some intel. The prognosticators and hangers-on at the shop postulated that the abnormally warm weather caused Spring Steel to be weeks early and perhaps we were too late.

I caught a bigger one on Friday
but it slipped the hook.
The fishing on Thursday seemed to confirm those reports 'cause we ended the day utterly fishless. I say confirmed though there are myriad excuses reasons that fish were not caught. The fish could indeed have been early and now gone. The fish could have been elsewhere.  While highly unlikely, perhaps the fish were just fine and it was the fisherman who were at fault.

In an odd twist, Stoneflies had
picked this carcass clean. I made
that up. Jonny picked it clean. I
made that up too.
Regardless, by day's end we were both beaten men. We had walked and fished aggressively over a mile of river with naught to our credit. We retreated to the lodge for restoration before seeking the fine dining that can only be found in Pulaski.

After wings and pizza and two cold beers we were slightly restored and wandered into Fat Nancy's for some cigars and more intel. Without prompting, we got the low down on where the fish weren't. Not surprisingly, that's exactly where we had fished all day - Sportsmans, Trout Brook, etc. I can hear T.J. cackling as we speak.

Apparently some of these lower river runs are too shallow to hold at the flow levels we fished and we should have been fishing elsewhere, with lighter tippet and more weight. We bought cigars. And lighter tippet. And for free, we got a tip on where elsewhere was. We crashed early wondering if our feeble bodies would be restored enough in the morning to one again face the river and its paucity of fish type things.

Friday was sunny. Not blue sky sunny, but there were hints of blue sky and enough holes in the gloom that we were lead to falsely believe that, while colder, the day's weather would be more forgiving.

A place where no fish were caught
The water we received a tip on didn't appeal. It just didn't look promising of Steel. The near water was a bit too slow to afford any manner of drift and the water with current looked armpit deep. This spot just didn't say "fish" to us though in hindsight, who are we to judge? So far our instincts were 100% wrong.

On the way to this water we passed two pools that we had fished successfully in the past. They were devoid of other aspirants and as such appealed greatly to our misguided judgment. We suited up and headed to the water.

The fishing was just that for a couple of hours. Fly changes were routine. Split shot were added at an alarming pace. Leaders were lengthened. And still the fish remained unimpressed.

Shit you take pictures of
when you're not catching
As we were settling into the routine of disappointment and regret I saw my indicator disappear in a manner of a fish striking aggressively. Of course, I mistook it for the tick of a large boulder and set the hook weakly. Imagine my surprise when the line shook and the indicator started swimming upstream. Fish on! [INSERT GOOFY WOOT! HERE]

I struggled to maintain a tight line and had to strip line and flee as the fish swam towards me. Soon enough the run started and the line swirling near my feet began to disappear. The fish rolled at the surface and looked silver and of the appropriate size that makes one feel that something is now being accomplished. Such feelings are then dashed by the parting of the leader and a Sweater Nymph™ remained with the Steel.

The only satisfying action we got in the morning was a cup of coffee made through the miracle of the JetBoil. When I'm not catching anything, there's nothing like a good cup of coffee to go with the voice of T.J. Brayshaw ringing in my ears.

The early afternoon was a repeat though with the mood enhancement that can only be found from gently falling snow. I hooked the fish on the far seam of the run so we decided that instead of spending time casting long distance to the far seam's holding water we'd cross the river and make the far seam the near seam. It didn't help.

Jonny trying to reach the far seam. Twelve foot of leader. Thirteen Split. Chuck. Duck.
The gently falling snow soon turned into snow in earnest and the wind picked up and our fingers went numb. While we sought comfort in the nobility of suffering it soon turned into pure foolishness and we beat a hasty treat to the comfort of the car and the road south.

Yeah, I'm happy. Satisfied and happy.
It was a crap day and a half of catching but a fishing trip that I'd do again. As those who have done it know, there is something about the hope of Steel that keeps you going back even when you know that it's probably hopeless to begin with.

Bonus Feature!

One of the tips that we picked up at Whitakers on Thursday morning was a technique referred to as Sweater Nymphing.  I hooked all my fish on Friday using this new technique. I'll share some of the Sweater Nymphing System secrets that I used to good effect at some point in the future. To whet your appetite, here's an excerpt:
"I'd used all the normal "go-to" flies that you find drifting in Pulaski's waters -- eggs, stoneflies, bedazzled hornswogglers -- but the Sweater Nymph Technique was new, exciting, and devastatingly effective. In the words of it's inventor, Archibald Lechansky, 'The Sweater Nymph has all the Steel attracting power of fuchsia egg sack tinged with the sad regret of fashion seasons gone by. Horny Steelhead really can't resist.'"
More on Sweater Nymphing in the future.

Prayers went unanswered


  1. I wore my skunk hat yesterday. I'd do it all over again if necessary to have these types of adventures.

    1. Yes, we set our expectations low as well though the smell of skunk still makes the eyes burn.

  2. by the amount of shit you have on your lanyard I find it hard to believe it was a skunk..... you holding out on us? lol

    1. The lanyard was a nod towards a vestless approach to fishing though you're right, it's now got all the shit that used to be in my vest. Given the score on Friday, all I need is a nail clipper and something to squeeze split shot.

  3. I really don't know what to say, other than what I've said before.

    There's an old aphorism that goes something like this: there is little to be learned from the second kick from a mule.

    1. A bad day of fishing is still better than a good day of getting kicked by a mule.

  4. A fishless outing is part of a fly anglers life. But having to travel the distance you did and fishing those cold, wet conditions makes it tougher. One consolation may have been the fine cuisine of Pulaski.

    1. Brk Trt - as you well know the dining really is a reward in itself. It's a hub for pizza and wings in the Great Lakes region. And generic lagers could not be more plentiful.

  5. Good god; I was wading rather deeply. Splendid fun Z. Just what the doc ordered, to be sure.

    Finding an extra cigar? Doesn't happen every day.

    1. Yeah, you were out there reaching for the seam. Hardcore.

      And at least the fishing gods smiled on the need for a cigar.

  6. That was a great read Steve! Glad you had a good time. Nice captures too.

    1. Thanks, Liam. It's amazing what good fun you can have when you're not catching fish and it pissing rain or snowing sideways. A truly amazing sport we pursue.