Archive for west branch angler

Big Rocks

Posted in Fishing Conditions, Fishing Reports, Trout Fishing, Uncategorized, Writing with tags , , , , on May 23, 2010 by stflyfisher

Stephen Covey, the noted personal development author, has a philosophy on time management that classifies all activities into 4 quadrants – Urgent but Important, Urgent but Not Important, Not Urgent but Important, and Not Urgent but Not Important. Covey preaches that the second quadrant (“Q2”), or those things in life that are not urgent but important, are the tasks we should truly prioritize above all others. They are often preventive in nature, much like regular exercise, which is not urgent, but when delayed or worse yet, ignored, can have significant negative consequences on our health over the long term. They may also be an important aspect of personal development, like the earning of an advanced degree. They are the key to a life well-lived.

Covey illustrates the importance of “Q2” with a demonstration where students are asked to fill a jar with a set amount of sand, pebbles, and rocks. Most students err when faced with this challenge by filling the jar first with the sand and pebbles and find to their dismay, there is no room for the rocks. Covey uses the demonstration as a metaphor for life, placing the big rocks in first, adding the pebbles, and finally pouring in the sand. The big rocks, of course, are the important, not urgent things in life. By placing them first, all of the smaller things fit in around them, leading to a full life of few regrets. By not placing the big rocks first, they never fit in because of all of the little things in life.

I was reminded of this demonstration this last weekend. On Saturday, my sister called and in the course of talking about all of the small stuff in our lives, she mentioned that someone she knew had just lost her husband. The couple had gone to bed the night before and when the morning dawned, this woman woke to the tragic realization that her 40 year old husband had passed on in the night. We talked about what matters most, how short our time in this world can be, and how dearly we must approach our time.

So early on Sunday morning I decided to start my day, in the words of a very close soul, reinvigorating, rejuvenating, and recreating – a definite Q2 activity by Covey’s definition – and a priority. The smallmouth bass spawn was winding down on the rivers and I figured the fish would not be such willing takers after participating in their own “Q2” work over the last few weeks! The river gauge for the West Branch of the Delaware was looking very attractive with flows of 500 cfs and the weather forecast was fine.

I got up early that morning and drove Rt 17 East through that good country of Windsor, crossing a somewhat murky Susquehanna and the West Branch at the Deposit “quickway” bridge. Looking downstream from the bridge, I quickly ascertained that the Westie was flowing like a trout river should; beautifully blue and dotted with whitened riffle water. Best yet was the fact that not a soul was fishing the expansive glassy water of the Gentleman’s Pool.

I made my obligatory stop at the West Branch Angler, which, oh-by-the-way, was sporting a new addition and lots more gear. Larry Finley, the Fly Shop manager, was able to suggest some nymph patterns, including a caddis emerger, that would end up being the ticket. After my stop, I drove downriver on the hard pan river road and by 9:30, I was knee deep in the 48 degree West Branch at Balls Eddy.

The beautiful West Branch of the Delaware River...

The river level, flow rate and water clarity of the river were all perfect. Early on, there were a few caddis coming off, but little else. I rigged up with a small beadhead caddis larvae and a March Brown spider soft hackle and began a slow methodical search for fish. At the head of my favorite pool is a fast riffle with an interesting pocket where rainbows love to hang. In a previous post I referred to this spot as “the rainbow’s den”, but working my 2 fly rig through this wonderful hold did not elicit a strike. I kept moving down the pool, changing flies, adjusting weight, then working back upstream, each time changing my pattern selection a bit.

Around 10:30, the caddis began coming off more steadily. The hatch was certainly no snowstorm, as it can be later in the day, but it signaled that things were warming up and that the trout might be moving a bit. It was at this point that I tied on the WBA-recommended caddis emerger pattern as my trailing fly, behind my beadhead brassie attractor.

After more dredging of the pool, I finally hooked up with a nice brown. This fish did the normal “brown” thing – holding like a rock in the current, then getting pissed off and suddenly reversing downstream to the safety of deeper water. There he slugged it out a while, finally coming up but still swinging like a punched out boxer.

Nice Westie brown...

Getting the first fish to the net is always a confidence booster and I quickly got back to business after releasing this beautiful wild brown.

I have found I’ll often pick up rainbows on the swing when nymph fishing so I never end a drift until I’ve let my flies tail out, occasionally noodling the rod a bit as they hang in the current below me. On one such swing I felt a strong tug and set the hook on my second fish of the day. The initial response was as predictable as hooking a smallmouth; this rainbow launched out of the water like it had JATO (jet-fuel assisted take off) rockets strapped to it and threw another leap into its repertoire halfway through its electrifying fight.

The rainbow with JATO...

I fished a little while longer and had another, much smaller brown, somehow pull off a short distance release (SDR) as it shot downstream between my legs. The stunt left me bent over in the middle of that majestic river, searching my wader crotch for a very hard-to-find #16 caddis emerger! Score one angler-humiliation for the trout…

After extricating myself from that situation, I decided to call it a short but pleasant day on the river and head back to the parking access. When I got back to my car, I lit up a cigar and took time to actually enjoy the end of my trip – breaking down my rod, pulling off my waders, stowing my gear, watching other fisherman pull in and rig up with all the hope in the world plain as the day on their determined faces.

Then I drove home, windows open, puffing away, thinking of the little rocks waiting for me – the lawn to mow, the weeding to do, the breakfast dishes, the dead tree to take down. None of that really mattered, however; the big rocks were already in place.