No Joy on the Chemung
I had arranged to meet Dan, a coworker and good flyfishing friend early on Sunday to fish the Chemung River. I’d never fished the Chemung before but had always heard that it harbored some very nice smallmouth bass. This river drains a completely different watershed – one to the west of where I normally fish – so it offers us “easterners” an option when the rain has fallen in the east.
Sunday dawned beautiful, almost Fall-like in the early morning chill, and I made the 40 minute drive west to Tozier’s Park on the Chemung River. I got out of my car, suited up in my vest and waders, strung my rod, and was greeted with a sight that would warm the heart and soul of any smallie fly fisherman.
I walked down to the fast riffle below a deep hole and very quickly realized something was very wrong. Dan had told me the river was in great shape when I called him the day before, but this water looked like weak coffee. I could barely see my feet in knee-deep water – a Harry Murray rule for judging whether water clarity is good for bassin’, and that was in calm pool water. The riffles were a coffee-with-cream-brown color. The lack of fish response was confirming my worst fear.
Along comes Dan some 30 minutes later, ambling down the river bank with his peculiar walk, wader straps hanging down, big coffee mug clenched in one hand and a weekend’s worth of beard on his face. The look on his face as he surveyed the water around me convinced me that this was not the Chemung of yesterday. “What the hell” I could hear him exclaim. He apologized profusely for having me come all that way. He suggested we try the nearby Susquehanna, but having driven along and over that same river on the way west, I already knew I’d be beating it back home in another half hour.
And so I left Dan, the errant hydrologist, the “I swear the river was clear yesterday” Dan. I asked him if it rained the day before and I got a, “well yeah, a little”, in response.
I drove back home and kept going, thinking a deep run on the Chenango might save the day.
The water of the Chenango was clearer, and cooler, but I did detect a tongue of murky water spilling down through the riffle. The morning was now well gone and nymphing like I did on the Tioughnioga yielded nothing, until a big fallfish inhaled a crayfish imitation I let swing in the deep current.
Catching fallfish is usually a good omen, for I have found they mingle with bass when they are big and will aggressively take streamers and nymphs. Though he fought hard, this was to be the only fish of the day. More on fallfish in another post, and more on Dan when I give him a chance to redeem his anit-hydrologistic (is that a word?) tendencies. A trip to the Bighorn would suit me well, Dan. Tight lines…