Monday, April 16, 2012

Bigger Water

Hendricksons. Again.

A buddy of mine told me that Hendricksons hatch around 2 p.m. each day. He may have said three, now that I think of it, though two still sounds about right. Regardless, he said the time that I've now forgotten with a certainty that made it so and that telegraphed that this was a truth; just one of many found in our sport.

I thought of this around 4:30 p.m. as I drove north. Of course, I was fishing my favorite time to fish -- when I was able to do so.

As I've told you before, the Hendricksons were early and I was driving up to the Housy to see if I could find some rising fish. I had never targeted the Hendricksons before but that seed was planted and now was the time to harvest the thought with action.

I think I have the size and color correct. If only the
trout were eating them.
I intended to fish this one hole that runs right up against the Route 7. It's a popular place; good dry fly water. I expected that on an unusually sunny and warm Saturday afternoon I'd find the pull-off packed. Fortunately, there were only four cars in a lot that can hold eight or ten.

There were also three anglers, only two of which were in the water. The third, a wadered guy leaning against a cherry red Dodge Charger, watched the water. He said, casually, that he hadn't seen a rise all day. He told of Hendricksons on the water, he had seen them since early afternoon, but the fish weren't on them.

As I opened the back of the car, he wished me luck and rumbled south.

Evening was coming. The sun was rolling over the western ridge. The far bank was still in the brilliant sun that had marked the day but the shadows were deep on the near bank and that's where the fishy water was. I thought it a good sign. Good cover. Few anglers. But still no rises.

When I'm driving to fish I generally take my time. The roads to most of the places I like to fish are scenic and invite a meander. I don't dawdle, but I don't rush either.

Though I have this somewhat idle attitude whilst driving, when the car stops, suddenly I am in a rush. It's inexplicable. If I rush, I get on the water in ten minutes. If I take my time, it'll probably run about twelve. Regardless of the logic, I'm moving with purpose. Time's a wasting and the sun'll be gone in two hours or so. The heart rate is up. The trout beckon even though they refuse to rise.

By the time my feet were wet I no longer think of time. Just the craft.

The first thing that struck me as I hit the water was the smell. I hadn't smelled it in a while. It wasn't the damp peatyness of the Farmington but the smell of the Housatonic. Damp, too. But different.

It is said that smell unlocks powerful memories. Walk into a grade school anywhere and that smell -- probably some cleaner or floor varnish they've all subscribed to for ages -- will bring you right back to 3rd grade.

This smell does just that. Memories. Of trout.

I'm coming up through the tail of the pool. The head is the best water and I left it to the two guys already there though as soon as I'm halfway across they abandon the post. Perfect; though I have a bit of walking in deep water to do.

With nothing on the surface I'm staring at an indicator bobbing above a Lightning Bug and a soft hackle Green Caddis. The only excitement for the first half hour is a moment when I'm on the verge of swimming. Apparently the four foot long boulder I stepped on has a dunking mechanism. It tips 45 degrees and my foot slides rapidly downstream. I am still not sure why I didn't go down. Magic. Angels. Something.

Shortly thereafter I'm into a good fish. Energetic. Strong. Upstream. Downstream. Near. Far. Taking line. On the reel. Plink. My flies are gone. That got the heart rate up enough to stave off the evening chill and reminds me not to set the drag on the reel so damn tight.

A guy fishing from shore spots a rising fish too far for him but a long yet manageable quartering cast upstream for me. I swap out to a series of emergers but all I manage to do is spook the trout.

I haven't cast forty feet of line in a while and it's good to exercise the muscle. Long casts are fun though I find in trout fishing managing all that line usually means you're missing trout even if they take a swipe at the fly.

I recall one time a long cast worked out well. It was up on the Deerfield. A trout was rising tight to a boulder in thin water sixty feet away, downstream. Head and Tail. Big Fish. I move closer. But it's still fifty feet of line and I'm worried about spooking him. The first cast is short by six feet; second cast is spot on. It was a lazy, big fish cause it graciously waited for me to move fifty feet of line before the hook sank home.

Up in the heart of the pool there's easy wading up the middle with channels on both sides though the west side is the better of the two. Again there is a paucity of risers and I'm nymphing again.

I net a black, neoprene Lamson reel case. If you dropped one, I've got it.

A splash upstream catches my ear as I watch the indicator downstream. I glance back but can't see a ring. A few boulders that obstruct the west channel disturb the current enough to obliterate any fish sign.

A few minutes later I hear it again. And then again. And my peripheral vision snags the movement. He's right on the far edge of the first boulder. He's rising steady now. It's too dark to see to what but my gut tells me it's time for a #12 Rusty Spinner.

I wade upstream of the boulder so I can avoid the current as it splits around its mass. The top of the boulder is just below the surface but the ripples are drift killers.

I make a few casts short of the boulder just to test if I can see the fly on the water. Once I've got it's form nailed I start for the trout. Two casts are not where they need to be but the third is clearly in the zone. And it floats by unmolested.

The next cast is also in the zone. And the trout rises on cue and sips it eagerly. In that moment, seconds last minutes and in those intervals hope is born.

The tug on the line is strong and the fish is downstream. Slick wet line slips between my fingers as the slack is taken up and he's on the reel and the drag is light.

The fish slips into a trough and starts headshaking and making dogged thrusts for the bottom. The rod tip bobbles and weaves. The current is strong and I try to unbalance him by putting some side pressure on him. It's a great tactic. Unless, of course, your fly has the most tenuous of grasps on trout lips.

At least I am allowed to retrieve my fly. Sadly, without ever having seen the fish.

For the next five minutes I cast a glance about the waters near and far hoping for another riser. None are visible. I wade across the head of the pool and climb the bank for a better vantage point. Still no risers.

The ride home was also idle. There's no rush to return while visions of splashy rises replay in one's mind; there are new memories to savor. And the hope that was born by the sip of a trout lives on for the next time spinners are on the water.

I think it's time to tie a few more Rusty Spinners.


  1. Nice piece. Sometimes hope is enough, no?

  2. ...and there's always a next time.

  3. Yes. Which was last night. One Rainbow netted from behind that same rock.

  4. What a great read this was Steve! Good luck for the next time.