Archive for the Trout Fishing Category

Looking Back on 2013

Posted in Fishing Conditions, Fishing Reports, Flies - Local Favorites, Saltwater, Smallmouth Bass Fishing, Trout Fishing, Uncategorized with tags , , , on April 3, 2014 by stflyfisher

It’s always helpful to take a look back before moving forward. And while this post is a little late as we near the close of March, for most Southern Tier fly anglers, the traditional fly fishing season has not quite started. So, here’s the way I see 2013 from the fly fishing rear view mirror…

Early season fly fishing for trout in 2013 was very good. I started the season, per tradition, fishing Cayuta Creek with fly fishing friend Dan. The stocked browns never fail on Cayuta and offer a great way to shake off the dust and rust from a long winter. The creek was in great shape and full of that blue-green early season water fly fishers love to see. Particularly noteworthy was catching my first fish on my own fly – in this case a Picket Pin – and an early season favorite.

First fish on one of my own flies...

First fish on one of my own flies…

I also caught what I believe was a hold-over or native brown on a JJ Jigs Picket Pin streamer, a first for me. I once briefly hooked and saw the flash of a very large brown under a downfall and lost another good one in the same spot.

A nice Cayuta brown caught on a picket pin streamer...

A nice Cayuta brown caught on a picket pin streamer…

As was the case in 2012, pre-spawn smallmouth bass did not disappoint. And it was a good thing, because 2013 was one of the worst fishing years for smallmouth in my record books, one that I’ve deemed “the summer of no smallmouth“.

A nice pre-spawn smallmouth...

A nice pre-spawn smallmouth…

Blame high water and lots of it combined with working for a living and not always being able to capitalize on flows settling down to wade-able levels. It seemed there were many weeks when I would drive by the rivers on the way home from work, watch them clearing and dropping, only to watch them rise again with late week or weekend rains. There were a few good outings, including a jaunt on the upper Susquehanna in Windsor where a wooly bugger soft hackle streamer I tied scored some very nice smallmouth.

This early fall smallie took one of JJ-Jig's "home invader" streamers on the swing...

This early fall smallie took one of JJ Jig’s “home invader” streamers on the swing…

Blues off New Jersey were quite simply and truly ‘the blues’ this year. As reported on the Miss Barnegat Light website, it was a weird fishing year with such a lack of bluefish that the boat switched to fluke fishing all summer for the first time in over 20 years. What happened to the blues? The word is that they were far offshore and could be had if one was willing to go for them. One boat reported finding the big guys in abundance offshore where they normally hunt tuna – in this case upwards of 40 miles out of Barnegat Inlet. Based on economics, party boats would rarely venture out that far for bluefish fares. So, aside from one day of tussling with a bunch of big ones in the fall, it was a lousy year for blues.

Getting back to trouting, I was introduced to two great subsurface patterns that really impressed:

I fished a sulfur soft hackle during the sulfur hatch and did quite well. This was not a first for me – I had been introduced to soft hackles way back on a trip to the Bighorn River in Montana – but it was a first on the West Branch of the Delaware. Along with some nice browns, I caught a bunch of dandy rainbows.

A beautiful West Branch rainbow...

A beautiful West Branch rainbow…

I also ran into a nice guy named Tom at the parking access. We got to talking as anglers are apt to do. Tom had not fished Ball Eddy so I offered that I’d be glad to show him around and I was glad I did. Not only was Tom a great fly fisherman, he also introduced me to the caddis sparkle pupa – some he tied up himself. I was fishing a different caddis pupa pattern and not getting nearly the action he was. He threw me a few and as they say, I became a ‘believer’.

The fall streamer bite on the Catskill rivers was so-so for me this year. Conditions were classic when I went in the fall and I did hook up, but it was nothing like I’ve experienced in the past.

A new old rod… I made it a point to cull my ‘stick’ inventory and sold off some in order to purchase a classic Scott rod that I intend to wave above local waters in 2014.

Scott 906/7 BT

Scott 906/7 BT

This Scott 907 BT (“Bass/Trout” rod) was built in the original Scott factory in Berkeley California. The original owner purchased it in 1993 and it has been fished far and wide, including a trip to New Zealand. It’s a “907” rod with a twist – a 6 weight trout tip and a 7 weight bass tip. I’ve always loved my Scott 907B and look forward to putting many more miles on this rod.

‘Turnover’ in the fall is always an interesting time. The science behind this event is that as the temperatures cool, the surface water of ponds and lakes cools, sinks, and displaces the relatively warmer bottom water. This turnover creates up-welling of the bottom water which continues until water temperatures are consistent, top to bottom. Before this process is complete, the water can turn stained or dirty, but afterwards, it’s clear as can be, and refreshingly so on our pond, which is normally murky and weedy in the summer to early fall. I took my kayak out on the pond in mid-November on an unusually warm day and experienced some incredible streamer fishing. I fished my St Croix 5/6 weight with a sink tip line and short leader tipped with one of my weighted bugger / soft hackle variants and had a blast “sight fishing” to deep-cruising largemouth. It was neat watching them inhale the fly in water as clear as the Caribbean. And many of these bass put quite the bend in the rod.

Stripers were hit and miss this year, as recently posted. I managed 2 pool-winners and caught a total of 6. I missed another big one right at the boat. The bass followed my flutter jig right up to the boat, took a swipe, and then bolted! It’s always exciting to watch big bass in feeding mode!

A great way to end 2013...

A great way to end 2013…

 

 

Shaking Off the Dust on Cayuta Creek

Posted in Trout Fishing, Uncategorized, Writing with tags , , , , , on May 20, 2013 by stflyfisher

Cayuta Creek has become an old friend. With the coming of each early spring I find myself drawn to her. Part of that attraction is her beauty. Sweet and petite, her waters bring out the best of early spring, before wildflowers and green leaves fill the woods around her banks.

Cayuta Creek's beauty shines even before the forests come alive...

Cayuta Creek’s beauty shines even before the forests come alive…

And part of that attraction is her ability to help me shake off the dust and lose the rust after a winter spent indoors. Her trout, some stocked, some holdover, and some wild, are always there waiting and often times willing.

Early season fly fishing on Cayuta is largely a stonefly game – little black stones – though traditional nymph patterns and streamers can also work well. Some years, like last year, the unusual early season weather brought caddis and mayflies in abundance leading to some very good dry fly fishing.

I usually fish Cayuta Creek at least once before the opener with fly angling friend Dan, profiled here before. We’ll meet up at a pull-off, rig up with nymphs or wet flies, and fish down or up – more or less walking the length of the special regs section above the Wyncoop Creek Road bridge – catching up, commiserating, celebrating the new season, and conjecturing on what the year might bring.

We met up the weekend before the opener and Cayuta Creek did not disappoint. It was Good Friday in more ways than one! I fished my standard early season pattern – the venerable picket pin – but this time it was one of my own. I fished it as the tail fly to a weighted prince nymph and to my delight, caught a feisty brown on my third cast.

First fish on one of my own flies...

First fish on one of my own flies…

Dan and I fished the lower stretch of the creek that day and found one particular section that was loaded with hatchery browns. We caught them dead drift and on the swing with our nymphs and wet flies. Sometimes they’d even jump a fly stripped in for another cast.

I fished Cayuta the next day, this time on my own, and I did nearly as well. The sun was out and later in the day little black stoneflies were hatching with abundance. They fell like heavy snow, on and off it seemed, and would float and skitter clumsily downstream. The trout did not ignore them, rising aggressively as they sailed down the creek. Unfortunately, I was ill-equipped. I did not have anything that matched those stoneflies, though a black caddis seemed to draw the trout up for a look. A picket pin fished weightless on the swing worked pretty well, though greasing one up to make it float would most likely have been better (again, ill-equipped – no floatant on hand!).

I returned to Cayuta Creek the Friday after Opening Day. I found a very different creek on that overcast and cold day. The water was up and had a dark green stain to it, no doubt the result of snow-melt and recent rains.

A brooding looking Cayuta Creek...

A brooding looking Cayuta Creek…

I fished a nymph with a picket pin tail fly and found little success and I wondered at one point if this disturbing finding on a section of the creek that allows artificial lure use only had anything to do with it…

What fly or lure angler would use a 'Y' stick...

What fly or lure angler would use a ‘Y’ stick…

Later I decided to switch up to a streamer – a picket pin streamer tied by Dave Pelachik of JJ’s Jigs. I fished it upstream dead drift, then stripped it on the swing. Wading downstream, I swung the weighted streamer through a deep run and felt a solid whack and then the head-shakes of a good trout – one bigger than the stockie fare. After a good tussle I landed a brown in excellent condition, heavy-bodied, silvery colored, and quite possibly a wild trout from what I could tell.

A nice Cayuta brown caught on a picket pin streamer...

A nice Cayuta brown caught on a picket pin streamer…

I fished a little more, lost another decent trout and had a few more swipes from what seemed to be stockies. At one point, a nice older gentleman stopped by to check things out. He spoke to me from roadside, across the creek and I could tell from our conversation that he was an experienced fly angler. He was new to the area, having moved from Pennsylvania and thought he’d check out Cayuta Creek. I fed him with all sorts of good information on this favorite little creek. After a while of pleasant chat, he bade me good luck and told me he’d leave a glass bead midge larva pattern he’d recently had luck with on Kettle Creek. In a way I suppose, it was my ‘little gem’ thanking me for all the praise…

Looking back on 2012

Posted in Fishing Reports, Saltwater, Smallmouth Bass Fishing, Trout Fishing, Uncategorized, Writing with tags , on February 2, 2013 by stflyfisher

By most accounts, 2012 was a strange year for fly fishing in the Southern Tier of NY. Local anglers I’ve talked to didn’t know what to make of the wild seasonal swings, and fishing seemed to be mixed, at least according to my journal, with phenomenal days followed by not so good outings during other parts of the year.

Thanks to a warm spell in late winter / early spring, fly fishers enjoyed great fly fishing for trout. Instead of a bone-chilling opener, anglers basked in relative warmth and fished near gin-clear water conditions. Even the pre-opening fishing on waters that were open, like parts of Cayuta Creek, shown below, was excellent.

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Some anglers reported early season dry fly fishing – as early as March 7th – which is unheard of in these parts. Note the water level and clarity of the West Branch of the Tioughnioga (below) in late April! I didn’t have my fly rod when I took this picture but brown trout were actively rising to caddis, leaving me drooling…

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While the trout angling got even better in April, another surprise opportunity was the smallmouth bass fishing in local rivers and streams. Rivers were at low levels thanks to the lack of snowpack. Normally, bass fishing on the larger rivers is not possible until late spring at the very best. I kept eying the “big four” in our area – the Tioughnioga, Chenango, Chemung, and Susquehanna – and watching the USGS water gauge. Even the main branch of the Susquehanna looked enticingly fishable as shown in this picture taken in late April. As a reference, the point to the left in this picture would normally be covered by 6 feet of water at this time of the year…

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After reading a post by fellow fly fishing blogger, Dave Pelachik, I decided to give the Susky a try and boy was I glad I did, as detailed in a post I did soon after my trip. My only regret is not spending that entire day on the river…

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Fly fishing in general was outstanding on the Catskill Rivers. The tailwaters were able to maintain flows throughout the season: the freestone Willowemoc and Beaverkill were not quite so lucky. In any case, the only ‘off’ part of the spring was the effect the weather had on the hatches. They were in some cases very strong and early and in others, such as the March Brown hatch, reported to be non-existent. But the trout were hungry. One observation I noted in my fishing is that I did not see the same proportion of rainbows to browns that I normally do, but the browns were certainly in very good health.

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While the smallmouth season started out with a bang for me, late summer fishing was for some reason a bust, at least on the Susquehanna where I fish it. It got downright befuddling at times, to the point where I began to hunt the smaller Tioughnioga and upper Chenango. Interestingly, these rivers fished better than the main branch of the Susky. Noticeably absent during much of my fishing on the Susquehanna were the younger year class bass, which normally prove to be a nuisance.  These fish were present on the smaller rivers but their absence in the bigger water is a mystery to me.

The West Branch of the Delaware continued to fish well into June…

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While summer fishing was slow in some ways, the largemouth bass on the pond out back of our house were ever willing to slam anything tossed their way. And the white fly hatch in early August on the Susquehanna was epic, but didn’t seem to bring out the bass for me, at least.

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Saltwater fishing was also a mix. I fly fished Meyer’s Hole near Barnegat Light, NJ on the July 4th holiday, and was fortunate to run into schools of very willing shad that clobbered my clouser streamer to the point where it was nothing more than a jig with no tail feathers. These mini tarpon were a blast, leaping on every hook-up. These were 1 to 3 lb fish, but mingling among them were houndfish, a gar-like fish that on two occasions attacked my clouser streamer and ripped line as they streaked across the surface of the water like an airborne torpedo. My houndfish were not quite the size of the monster shown below (but they were a good 3 feet in length), but these are respectable game fish, and keep your hands away from the business end!

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The party boat fishing was also a mixed bag. I went with my cousin Mark over that same July 4th weekend and we caught ‘cocktail’ blues on jigs. We won the pool, believe it or not, with a blue just shy of 2 lbs. We split the winngins at $65 a piece. Go figure…

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Later in the year in September I fly fished the bay again with nothing to show for it – then headed out on the Miss Barnegat Light for blues and did nicely, again using jigs. These were 6 to 14 lb fish – the kind that leave your arms sore and put a big smile on your face. Anglers drifting chunk bait in the slick did better than us jiggers. The fish seemed a tad picky – unusual for the ever-hungry bluefish.

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Bass fishing in late summer seemed to pick up for me. On one morning I did very well fishing the tail of a pool in the Susquehanna. I had noticed the distinctive water disturbance left by bass chasing baitfish and positioned myself to swing a white Murray’s streamer across the tailout. These fish were very aggressive and were marauding the very shallow parts of the tailout. I landed 4 very nice bass and lost 2 more before the action slowed. One fought like a snag the first few seconds, then had his way in the strong current before I lost him.

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The Finger Lakes trib runs never happened unfortunately. I was ready and willing, but the rain just never came strong enough to trigger staging fish to move up the creeks. Oddly, rain did hit the Catskills late one week in October and I knew it would be the perfect set-up for streamer fishing for pre-spawn browns with attitude. I hit the West Branch of the Delaware with the river settling but still nice and murky. The streamer fishing could not have been better. 8 browns, colored up, the males with kypes and besting 18″ came to hand, with as many or more electrifying short takes including one practically a rod’s length away from me.

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Striper fishing in the fall was an absolute bust thanks to Hurricane Sandy. I took a trip Thanksgiving weekend with my son, Chris, and no one on the boat caught a fish. I also caught a skunk on the Salmon River in November. The salmon were done then, and steelhead were caught, but not by this angler. Sometimes a river demands its dues before it graces your net.

It was certainly an odd year for me, book-ended by absolutely bests (early smallmouth and fall browns) and filled with some days when an angler should have stayed home and got some things done. What’s most important though is the learning and the loving of the outdoors. One often forgets a day not fished is one less day fishing.

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Serendipity on Cayuta Creek

Posted in Fishing Conditions, Trout Fishing, Uncategorized, Writing with tags , , , on April 12, 2012 by stflyfisher

I’m a believer in serendipity, which I quote, as follows, from Wikipedia:

Serendipity means a “happy accident” or “pleasant surprise”; specifically, the accident of finding something good or useful without looking for it. The word has been voted one of the ten English words hardest to translate in June 2004 by a British translation company.

Just so happens I found it along Cayuta Creek, a favorite trout fishery of mine and one that has been profiled here before. I had stopped by on a recent Friday evening for a bit of after-work fly fishing and as usual, the “little gem” did not disappoint…

One of many Cayuta browns that couldn't resist a picket pin streamer...

Fishing one particular stretch that evening, I quickly got into quite a few brown trout – a mix of stocked fish and holdovers. My peaceful 2 hour interlude was interrupted only once by a spin fisherman whose pick-up came to an abrupt stop, with a roar of its exhaust, near where I was fishing. He climbed out of his burly red truck, rappelled down the creek bank, simply outfitted with spinning rod, sunglasses and cigarette, and briefly stopped to ask how I’d done. He then walked downstream, casting his spinner from the bank in rapid-fire fashion. After just a half-dozen casts, he dashed upstream and out of sight.

I found the trout willing to dance with a Picket Pin streamer that had been sent a few weeks earlier, gratis, courtesy of Dave Pelachik of JJ’s Jigs. All it took to produce that magical buttery brown flash of a trout from the greenish depths of the pool was a cast across and upstream followed by a mend to get the fly deep and a few short strips on the swing. There were more short takes than I could count, but for a good while, this tactic produced a number of stockies along with several nice fish. Later, clouds of midges or tiny olives – I’m not sure which –  started hatching, with a few caddis interspersed, and the game changed. On went a Picket Pin wet and Godfather (pheasant tail) emerger. One out of every three or four casts was followed by classic staccato grabs on the swing that every wet fly fisherman dreams of in the depths of winter.

The fishing that evening was so enjoyable, I couldn’t resist another shot the following day. With my wife up in Rochester tending to my collegiate daughter, I figure I’d enjoy another day of the relative solitude that pre-opener fishing brings. I drove west from my home that Saturday and then north in the mid-morning overcast, belly full with the contents of the oh-so-good / oh-so-unhealthy Sausage Egg McMuffin I’d picked up along the way. It was another cool and damp day with spritzes of rain thrown in for good measure.

Driving along the length of Cayuta Creek, I saw only a few cars parked bank-side. But once I reached the special regs section above Van Etten, I noticed a somewhat familiar car in the exact spot I had parked the evening before. The tall gangly figure walking upstream along the road quickly confirmed my suspicions; it was none other than my long-lost fishing pal and former coworker, Dan…

I caught up to him in my car, practically squeezed him off the road, and extended a hearty hello. After parking, Dan patiently waited while I strung up – something I pointed out to him with emphasis since most times he’d be thigh deep in the creek before I’d barely donned my waders.

We fished the same run I’d fished the night before, then walked upstream to a favorite riffle below the bridge pool and fished the creek back down to where we parked, all the while catching up on goings on, re-telling old war stories, and enjoying the willing participation of the creek’s enthusiastic browns. I asked Dan why he hadn’t sent more flies to me, good tyer that he is, and he countered back about not getting him a ticket to the Al Hazzard TU banquet. Through it all, we both seemed at a loss to pinpoint exactly how long it had been since we last shared a day on the water.

Looking downstream on the "Little Gem".

I came that day not looking for anything but some quiet time fly fishing a special little creek, but as happens every once in a while in life, I found something else. As we worked one particularly deep hole, Dan mentioned the sudden passing of some former coworkers, and I could tell it was really bothering him. Interestingly, I too had just gotten word of a colleague from my past who had died at a still relatively young age. We talked about it and continued to fish, but maybe in the silence of each cast, we pondered our own tentative place on this good earth. Our banter picked up after that, as did the sharing of more good memories and the promise of more time on the water in each others company.

We fished every part of the creek on our way to where we parked. After climbing out of the creek and breaking down my gear at the car, all I could think of was a passage from T.S. Elliot’s poem, Little Gidding:

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

It’s one thing to call up a friend and arrange a day of fly fishing, but quite another to arrive at the same place and pick up as if it had been thoroughly planned in advance. Serendipity is a good friend, indeed, and one I will cherish as long as I can wade a beautiful piece of water and cast a fly…

Short Casts: Could be a soggy opener for PA

Posted in Fishing Conditions, Fishing Reports, Trout Fishing, Uncategorized with tags , , on April 15, 2011 by stflyfisher

NY trout fishing has been open just shy of two weeks. Reports have been mixed – from really good fishing to “not-a-thing”. The variation can at least partially be attributed to the whipsaw weather we’ve enjoyed – and most around these parts know what I’m talking about.

This past Wednesday and Thursday are a classic example – an all day soaking rain and chilly temps on Wednesday, just in time for bluebird skies, a warm 60 degree day-time high, and…

The lower section of Nanticoke Creek on Thusday, 4/14 - robins singing, the sun is out - what more could one want...?

high water with a distinctive muddy stain to it on Thursday. The picture above was taken by yours truly while on lunch break. I hate to admit it, but on beautiful days when I have to work, and could be enjoying the inspiring environs of trout, I’m selfishly glad for high water.

Thanks to two days of drying out, local creeks and streams are settling back down to decent levels, as evidenced by this pic of the Owego Creek gauge…

Owego Creek is back to good fishing levels - just in time for more rain...

and just in time for Mother Nature to throw more slack in that drift with a forecast of steady rain and cool temps for Saturday, which just happens to be the opener to the south of us in Pennsylvania.

Dark green is not good for anglers...

Early bird anglers will be cold, but best off, as the rain isn’t really supposed to kick in until noon. Water levels could be back up by late afternoon with the ground as saturated as it is, so if you plan on hitting the opener in pee-aayy, or some of our local re-stocked creeks in NY, don’t sleep in.

Tight lines…

Listening to guides…

Posted in Fishing Conditions, Fishing Reports, Trout Fishing, Writing with tags , , , , , , on October 12, 2010 by stflyfisher

When local fly fishing guide Wayne Aldridge recently spoke to our Trout Unlimited chapter, I took copious notes. Part of my studiousness was in the interest of writing a report on his presentation: “Fall fly fishing on the West Branch of the Delaware”. But most of my note-taking was out of pure self-interest: I have learned to listen to guides. This past Sunday was a perfect example of how listening to a guide can pay off.

After recent dousings of rain, the weekend had looked like it might be the perfect set-up for fishing the Cayuga Lake tribs. A good push of water along with the sting of some frosty nights this time of year is typically what sends a love message to the landlocked salmon and brown trout staging in the lake. The fish sense that the time is right and move up the tribs to spawn, giving fly fishers a golden opportunity to catch the fish of a lifetime. But timing the run is never a sure thing, and while monitoring the USGS river gauge and the weather report are key, there’s nothing like being on the spot and testing the waters to really know when the run is on. And so, an email inquiry was quickly dispatched to fellow blogger and trout bum extraordinaire, Artie Loomis, and the inquiry was just as quickly answered: “Fall Creek isn’t happening yet”. As I stared at those disappointing words early Sunday morning, I immediately started thinking about plan B…

Plan B...

A quick glance at the Hale Eddy river gauge showed perfect wading flows, but the potential for dirty water loomed large in my mind. The tailwaters are known for producing a turbid discharge in the Fall, the result of turnover in the reservoir that feeds the river. Most fly anglers would not even give discolored water a chance figuring the fish can barely see their nose in such conditions. But the advice of Wayne Aldridge suggested otherwise – that stained water in combination with the presence of spawned-up male brown trout in a bad-ass mood can make for some truly outstanding fishing. What’s good for a guide is always plenty good enough for me…

Shortly before 9 am I crossed the river at the Rt 17 / Deposit overpass. The Gentleman’s pool was flowing picture-perfect and its banks were totally void of anglers but the river water was the color of dirty wash-water. I made my way to the river road and was butt-deep in the 45 degree water in no time, armed with my Scott A2 9 foot 6 weight streamer rod, a vest stuffed with flies, and hope in a guide’s advice.

The river was in its peak autumn glory and I had the entire stretch of river to myself. Mist rose off the water and encircled me like cigar smoke, but despite the frosty morning temps, the constant casting, mending, and stripping that’s required when streamer fishing warmed me up in no time.

I started the morning fishing a white conehead zuddler on a river braid above the pool. The water was cleaner there – the channel was fast in spots but the far bank was undercut and laden with thick cover. A downed tree created a deep green pool with a gorgeous back eddy as well. I had once streamer-fished this braid on an early spring morning and experienced one of those vicious, arm-jerking strikes that momentarily stops one’s heart and left my 1X tippet clean of any fly.

The channel failed to produce, so I made my way to the riffle at the head of the pool where two spin anglers had taken up position and now broke the morning solitude. They were throwing what appeared to be spinners based on the glint of light that beamed off the end of their lines. It wasn’t long before the taller of the two caught a small brown, and then another. That was enough for me to change my fly. Tucked in my fly box was a black maribou streamer with a zonker-style body of gold. I figured the gold flash and contrasting black color might show better in the murk of the pool.

I walked downriver below the spin anglers and worked the water thoroughly, hanging up every now and again. Losing flies, especially streamers, can get pricey, but I chalk that up to the price of success after another “guide-ism” that states; “if you’re not losing flies on the bottom every once in a while, you’re not fishing deep enough”. I quartered my cast upstream, then stripped it hard, down and across. After every few casts I moved down a few steps and continued this way, eventually hooking up with a few feisty browns, small but full of spirit.

Mid-morning, I headed back to the car for a break, my legs numb from the cold water. The spinning anglers had also left the river and we chatted a bit in the warmth of the sun. These guys were from New Jersey and had apparently done well on a Saturday float trip of the Main Stem. They inquired as to the fishing of the West Branch and I told them that fall was regarded as the best time to catch the brown trout of a lifetime. Indeed, towards the end of his presentation, Wayne Aldridge had gone even further stating that every year the river gave up a fish in the 27″ – 30″ range.

I returned to the river fishing tandem streamers, starting at the head of the pool and slowly working down-river. Partway through I changed flies again (another guide-ism – to change type and color often when streamer fishing) and this time tied on a snow-white bead-head zonker as my lead fly with a black ghost riding shotgun some 2 feet back.

Halfway down the pool I snagged what I thought was the bottom but then watched in disbelief as a very nice brown launched airborne and tail-walked across the river at the end of my line. The fish fought deep – a solid heavy slug-fest and much more in character with what brown trout are known to do so well. I gradually worked him out of the main current but saw little of his size in the discolored water. Minutes later and after a few misguided attempts, I finally got him part way into my woefully inadequate net…

The pay-off...

After releasing this beautiful male brown, regaled in spawning colors and sporting a pronounced kype, I thanked the good Lord for two things: the advice of guides and ears to listen with…

Tight lines…

Fishermen…

Posted in Fishing Conditions, Fishing Reports, Trout Fishing, Uncategorized, Writing on September 8, 2010 by stflyfisher

I managed a few hours on the West Branch of the Delaware recently since the local warmwater river haunts were still somewhat high and discolored from a previous spate of rain. While the West was flowing at nice levels, it too had a bit of a stain to it. To those who plan on fishing the tailwaters in late summer / early autumn, be aware that as the weather cools, turnover begins taking place in lakes and reservoirs. Dropping air temps cool the surface water which turns more dense and sinks. The sinking colder water displaces the underlying warmer water, causing an upwelling effect. This cycling continues until water temps reach equilibrium. Any time turnover is occurring, the tailwater drainage picks up color. And as I drove home from fishing on Saturday, the upper section of the West indeed, was very stained, much more so than it was at Ball’s Eddy. When these conditions prevail it is best to fish the lower West for clearer water, and the farther downstream the better.

We fishermen are an odd lot; anyone who plies the waters on this good earth in search of fish is indeed one who remains a little set off from the mainstream. And the ways we ply our trade vary widely: I may be over-simplifying, but on one extreme are bait fishermen – “fundamentalists” – and, dare I say, at the other are the purists, those who seek to elevate the techniques of angling, such as casting, for perfection’s sake.

I set about Saturday morning to nymph a long run that always seems to yield nice trout. I cursed the stain in the water as I fished into mid-morning; the wading levels were ideal and around 9:30 clouds of blue wing olives began lifting off with the strong breeze that moved up-river.

Another fisherman soon joined me. He was an older gentleman, clad in olive drab waders and vest, topped with an old camo hat. He waded into the river slowly and confidently like a king grizzly arriving to partake in a fresh salmon run. He had a bait canister hanging low from his neck and was using a fairly stout spinning rod. Every so often I would turn around and watch this river rat as he worked the water below me – deftly and deliberately following his bait with his rod high in the air. Occasionally he would lift up almost imperceptibly as if he was allowing his bait to swim just above the every rock of the river bed itself.

After a short while I could tell he was into a nice fish – a brown, no doubt – and he played it with this same slow and steady style, carefully working it shoreward. I watched with dread expecting he’d kill the fish, unceremoniously string it up, and then return to his baitfishing ways, but I was relieved when I saw him do the exact opposite; releasing the fish with the same care he seemed to apply to everything he did. So good was he, in fact, that he never touched the fish in unhooking him – and the fish seemed to realize the gentleness of his soul, because it barely thrashed as he held its head slightly out of water and with one flick of his wrist, dropped it back to let it fight again…

The goodly bait fisherman at work...

The old gentleman continued his crawl downstream and caught another nice brown in due time. I could smell a smokey cherry fragrance of pipe tobacco on the air and noticed a cloud of smoke about him as he fished. I let him be after a little more fishing of my own at the head of the pool. The river was not prejudiced in its reward as I caught two feisty rainbows before deciding to call it a morning.

Heading back to the parking access I stopped briefly to watch a dry-fly purist in action. This younger man perched in a fine drift boat, anchored at the tail of the pool above the run I had just fished. His gaze was fixed on the glassy water below him, rod extended and cocked for action. I soon saw what he was after: trout were sipping the water below him at irregular intervals. I watched him awhile but suspected that in the bright light of late morning in such shallow clear water, his chances of hooking up were slim-to-none. I left him too, not wanting to distract him from his match-of-wits game…

I reached my car and began the process of breaking my equipment down and shedding my waders. The parking lot was filling up with anglers setting out for the day, most with drift boats in tow. But one angler was not at all anxious to fish and I immediately recognized him and his blue Jeep from many past outings.

The caster at work...

This older gentleman always parked in the same location, had the back-end of his vehicle open, and would either be carefully practicing fly casting or sitting in a chair by his Jeep taking a rest. He was a very competent caster based on the loops I saw him throw. Perhaps he does this to improve or maybe he does it just to dust off “his wings” prior to the evening hatch but whatever the case, he represents someone dedicated to his craft.

Sometimes you go fishing and catch fish. You come home feeling good and tired and happy, full of fish stories, and a little more schooled about your quarry. Other times, for me at least, you come home a bit wiser about the ways of fishermen. You learn from them in interesting ways and in so doing, realize that just maybe you are a better fisherman because of them…