Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Opening Day. Trout Season.

Ross and Heather at the beginning.
I fish every Opening Day, not because it's Opening Day, but because Opening Day is a Saturday. Any Saturday is as good as the next when it comes to fishing and I'm not going to fish or not fish just cause everyone else is doing it or not doing it. I'm going to fish cause it's what I do.

Regardless of the day, I stay far from the known haunts of once-a-year anglers -- you know these places by the piles of worm containers, empty Rapala boxes, and tumbleweed-sized tangles of Stren. I'm usually on some small stream that is now available to me after being closed for forty-five days.*

I took the boys out a couple of times on Opening Day. We visited a trout pond that's stocked by the state. We were there with three hundred of our closest friends. The last time we fished there two small boys fished next to us. The older boy hooked his younger brother on the inside of the mouth with a treble hook. That was the last time we went there. I decided it was safer to stay away from State run enterprises on Opening Day.

This year I arranged for a float trip on Opening Day. This would get us some distance from the masses and give us a shot at some trout on a river I enjoy fishing. Chris shared a boat with me and my friends Ross and Heather were rowed about by Tom Harrison.

The morning was a bit chilly but by mid-day the sun was out and it had warmed up nicely. We nymphed. We swung and stripped streamers. No trout. No fish of any sort. Maybe a few touches. But nothing in earnest.

Last year's floods left lots of beaches where the vegetation was scraped off the banks.
Lunch came and went and we were back to swinging streamers. Still nothing.

As we drifted through one run Dan saw what he thought was a Smallmouth bed. It's April, easily thirty days before the males should be preparing beds, so obviously he was hallucinating but when we saw another we rowed over for a look.

And saw a Smallmouth Bass.

And with a large streamer plunked onto his bed, I caught him. A small guy, likely a male, but it was good to finally have a tug on the line.

Smallmouth #1
So now we were hunting for Smallmouth beds and while they weren't numerous there were some to be found. A few were easy casts but most were in those places where Smallmouth like to hide -- under a branch, behind a log, beside a root ball.

The second or third bass was the best of the day. She was up on a bed wedged in between a root ball and two downed trees. It took a few casts to get in the zone and the wind came up at just the wrong time rippling the surface but an intuitive*** strike put a nice fish on the line.

Now the task was to land it.

I learned a lot about weaving a fish line in and around obstacles. Dan was a great coach with shouts of "rod high", "rod low" and "Oh shit, that's a nice fish, dude".

No pressure, but I got it done.

Probably the best of the day, though there were a few that were hefty.

While the casting wasn't easy, when it all came together the bass made it worthwhile. The six weight rod made the fight even more dramatic and fortunately we were fishing 2x so we could put some pressure on the fish when we needed to urge them away from some sort of woody cover. The fish were nice; all solid. Some were three pounders, maybe more.

A token trout
What's most exciting about Smallmouth fishing like this is that it's sight fishing. The clouds and the wind didn't always coorperate -- so some of our casts resulted in spooked fish or missed strikes -- but when you could see the fish and see the take, it was stupid, good fishing.**

The lower portion of the river we were fishing had been reliable trout water in the past so we were hopeful that the late afternoon would bring some trout to the net. Unfortunately, it didn't happen. I did manage a lone Rainbow late in the day but the last fish of the day was a chunky Smallmouth I took out of a riffle of all things.

I had a chance to fish an Orvis "prototype" rod. It was a 6 wt rigged for streamers. It cast well though I find sinking lines make you feel like you cast far better than you really do.

I thought "The One" was the most hyperbolic rod name ever.
But I think "The Second Coming" gives it a run for the money.

By the end of the day I did have a bit of that "I went trout fishing and all I caught were these lousy Smallmouth" feeling. But to complain about picking up a bunch of hard pulling Smallmouth would seem ungrateful for the fun afternoon that it was and potentially disrespectful to the fish and my hard working guide who found them.

If you haven't done it, Smallmouth on a fly is great fun. Just make sure you're fishing stout leaders and a rod with enough backbone to make it happen. A great way to spend the start of trout season.

*Yes, that is the entirety of the closed season in Connecticut. And there's tons of good water open under the Trout Management Area program. It is a blessing.
** Yes, a tired phrase, but it does describe the activity well.
*** Lucky


  1. That's a nice looking smallie. Well done on the first day of trout season.


    1. Thx, Ben. As Erin points out, rich irony, but a nice bunch of fish regardless.

  2. I'm a great appreciator of irony. :)

  3. It's a toss up, ethically: a small boy hooked fair in the mouth and giving good tussle, or noising-up bass from their important business.

    Yup: I'd say you're about ready for carp.

  4. Wow, what a football of a smallie! Nice. Yeah, that rod should just be named "Egomaniac"... I'm sure it's a sweet cast though.

    1. The Smallies were a pleasant surprise.

      Egomaniac. I like that.