Tuesday, October 26, 2004: My friend and I arrived in Pulaski, NY on Thursday, October 2, at 12 noon. We intended to stay for four days and catch a bunch of salmon. While we were standing along side the Salmon River putting our waders on, my friend suddenly complained of a cramp in the back, and within seconds, he had collapsed. He was rushed to St. Joseph's hospital in Syracuse, where he was diagnosed as having suffered a ruptured aorta. He is, today, five days later, recuperating nicely from emergency surgery in which part of his aorta was replaced by a synthetic tube.
The point of my writing is to advise everyone to take some basic precautions when you go off the beaten track to do some fishing (or for whatever reason). 1. Make sure you have a cell phone. 2. Make sure you can tell emergency responders your EXACT location. 3. Take the added step of making sure that you give someone who is with you a phone number of a family member to contact in case of emergency, and obtain such a number from your companions. I was very lucky in this case. I had a cell phone, and a car pulled into our vicinity at exactly the right time. The driver knew the name of the road and area where we were located. An ambulance got to us within five minutes.
After my friend was admitted to the hospital, I was unable to contact any of his relatives. I called my wife (in Pottstown) and after several calls, she was able to find my friend's son who gathered up his mother and flew from Limerick to Syracuse. We were very fortunate, but I learned several lessons about being prepared for an emergency. I just thought it would be good to remind others.
Monday, October 18, 2004: We went to Montauk twice last year and basically caught squat. Jeff, Steve, and I went again this past week and things turned out better. The trip started with a nightmare drive through NYC and western Long Island, trying to find a suitable route for boat trailering that didn't feature low clearance underpasses (see Lessons Learned for additional info). We finally got to Snug Harbor at 5:30 am and were up at 7:30 am, raring to go but staggering around. We finally got the boat in the water, gear and lunch packed, and out on the water at the crack of 11:00 am. We found some pods of albies in the rip off Montauk point. Since this was Steve's first time fishing for albies and I'm no grizzled veteran either, we both proved to be quite excitable and managed to butt-hook the boat and each other a number of times. We chased some pods, got some shots, and ended up the day boating two albies, 7-8 lbs. Dinner! featured Guinness drafts, wings, and other delectables at the Shagwong Grill. Entertainment was provided by a series of photographs hanging on the wall by our table, of a TV news correspondent getting gored and trampled by a rhinoceros. And here we'd thought that albie fishing was exciting.
We got out early on Thursday and found lots of albies breaking in the lighthouse rip on incoming tide. The lighthouse rip is sort of like a riffle in a trout stream, multiplied about a gazillion times. The water is 20-40 feet deep, and the rip seems to be a mile wide and several miles long. On incoming, the fish seemed to prefer the head of the rip, just downstream from the slick water above. We drifted through numerous times, had many shots, and boated maybe 8 albies that day, 5-10 lbs, including Steve's first, second, third, etc! Way to go! We also sacrificed some flies to bluefish on outgoing, but quickly learned how to tell breaking bluefish and albies apart. Fish were active on both tides, but took a break during slack tide, so did we. The weather was decent; moderate to pesky wind, overcast, with a little rain here and there. Wind against tide situations made it tough to cast or even
stand up at times; heavy seas but nobody barfed. We wore life vests and anyone who fishes out there should do the same. Friday we got out at o'dark thirty, were in the rip at first light, and oh my... many, many fish were working that day on incoming; we drifted through some areas where albies were busting all around the boat. Fire drill city: "Two o'clock, forty feet! cast! oh wait, 6 six o'clock, thirty feet! Scott! what the hell are you doing!? cast for gods sake, cast! you caught the bow rail again!? Steve! three o'clock, 60 feet! there ya' go! fish on! zing!" and so forth. We had a number of double hook ups and came close to hooking up a triple once. At one point, Jeff saw some fishy looking marks on the
fish finder in 30 feet of water, dropped down a 2 oz jigging spoon, and hauled in a 19 lb striper, all in about 5 minutes. That one went in the fish box.
We were drifting along towards the end of slack tide and saw some albies come up close by. We cast and then saw a big black dorsal fin poking out of the water, "What the hell...". Turned out to be an ocean sunfish, looked like a 20 foot long fish with the back 17 feet cut off. It swam right over to the boat and flirted with Jeff for a bit. Very homely critter but a cool encounter. We ended up the day very close (~100 yards) to the beach not too far east of Montauk inlet, followed another boat (that was captained by an attractive blond woman, no less) over there. Found breaking fish, turned out to be mixed albies and blues. They were almost reachable from shore and a kayak would have put a body right in them. I think we ended up the day boating 15 albies, and a couple of accidental bass and blues. The weather blew up the next two days and we didn't get out in the boat. We did
some shore fishing and napping, Jeff got a bluefish on his surfcasting rig, and Steve and I blanked on flies. Oh yeah, almost forgot, there was a
head boat, like 50 feet long, running and gunning for albies. They'd come charging up the rip right into a pod of fish and about 30 guys would start chucking Deadly Dicks every which way. Very unusual tactics...
When trailering a boat on Long Island, don't go on any road that is called a Parkway, the overpasses are specifically designed to rip t-tips off of boats.
Size matters - we caught fish on small anchovy flies, 2-2.5", #6, tan/white. I got a number of refusals on a fly that was only slightly larger, maybe 3" long. However, one albie that we caught puked up a 6" long bluefish...
Identify your quarry - lots of birds working in one area means bluefish, small groups of birds moving fast means albies.
For flyrodders, Montauk is pretty much a boat gig. Like many places, you can get bass and blues, and maybe albies, from shore if you're in the right place at the right time, but we all know how often that "right place, right time" thing comes together.
Contrary to what some people say, you don't need to strip like a lunatic to catch albies. It seems better to just strip fast enough to keep your line tight while maximizing the time your fly stays in the strike zone.
Use a stripping basket when fishing from boats. For sure.
Multiply the dollar figure that shows on the Montauk Harbor gas dock pumps by a factor of 10x. This is for real, a sale that says $10 is actually $100, they've
recalibrated the pumps to account for high gas prices combined with big gas tanks on boats.
Albies really do fight harder than any other fish I've caught. After catching a number of 5-10 lb albies, I stripped in a couple of like-sized bluefish, never used the reel.
If your Okuma fly reel stops working, take it apart and put it back together, that makes them work again.
Don't let your fly line wash under the boat towards the spinning prop, Beavis.
Capt Jeff, proprietor of Rail Catch Guide Service, is becoming highly adept at running the boat to good advantage. He repeatedly put us on fish, with the boat turned at the most advantageous angle to hook the GPS transducer on a
back cast. Seriously, Jethro put us on fish in top notch fashion, and Steve and I had ample opportunities to blow good shots in a variety of creative ways.
Tie good knots, even the ones halfway up your leader count.
Monday, September 20, 2004: Mr. Freeman and I ventured out to the end of Sandy Hook in search of albies on 9/18. An o'dark thirty departure put us on the water pretty close to first light. Conditions were fair to decent: SE wind at 10-15, moderate swells, solid threatening overcast, but the water was clean. We started in the bowl, blind casting and looking. After a few minutes, we saw airborn albies further north towards the point. We headed up there, did some more blind casting, and saw periodic breaking schools of albies within easy (like 30 feet easy) casting range of shore; enough action to let us know that our quarry was definitely in the 'hood. We kept at it and I managed to hook one up on a "blindish" cast, thrown in the general direction of a break but not landing anywhere near the zone. The hook set was solid and in due course I drug him ashore. It was on the small end of things, maybe 4 lbs, but a genuine ! al! beturkey nonetheless. I was throwing a small (#6, 2.5") tan/white Surf Candy-style anchovy on a long leader with 12 lb fluor tippet at the time, intermediate line. So we thought, oh boy, this might turn out good. But, very soon thereafter, a big black cloud that was dispensing lightning bolts with alarming frequency came our way, and sent us first walking, then scurrying, then sprinting towards the car. We got a 3/4 of the way back when it became apparent that the cloud had blown well past us. So we hung a u-turn and headed back out. The wind was picking up, whitecaps were starting to show, and within 10 minutes the sky opened up and it just friggin poured monsoon-style rain; the kind where you're soaked to the bone in about 20 seconds. And soon after that, the wind abruptly changed from SE at 15 to NE at "hang on to your hat" velocity. Whitecaps reared up, the breakers went from 2 feet to knock your silly ass do! wn! height, and the temperature dropped amazingly fast. &nbs! p;So our next strategic move was a run to Dunkin' Donuts, followed by a trip to The Fly Hatch.
If you go, hit incoming tide, concentrate efforts where the incoming rip comes closest to shore, and keep your eyes peeled, breaking fish only showed sporadically and briefly. Tomorrow or Wed should be perfect for an a.m. run up there. Hope they're still around Oct 4-5 weekend! Fish on....
Tuesday, September 7, 2004: Joe King dragged me up to the Little J and Fishing Creek on Friday through Sunday. Weather was great but I wish it was cloudier. Not much hatch activity going on except a few isonychia, caddis and some white mayflies on the Little j. I fished
dries the first day and did okay on isonychia colored comparaduns. Joe did a float
(he drove, I dropped him off and picked him up after he floated the miles...nice fishin'
buddy..huh?). Joe caught a bunch on green weenies.
The next day on Fishing Creek was also interesting. Joe caught a nice 18" rainbow on a green weenie above the bridge to the hatchery and some
nice browns in the afternoon. I messed around below the bridge and picked up maybe 10 rising fish on various
dries including beetles. I should have gone with the weenie.
Sunday I dropped Joe (again) off at the Little J above Spruce Creek and he floated down to Jenny Springs. He hammered a bunch of big guys on
the weenie again. He can fill in all the wild details. I used the weenie and started off really good with a few big browns but then things got tough. I thought things would turn around when it clouded up in the PM and the Baetis started coming off but I only managed to hook 3 of maybe 10 fish I had a chance at with a 20 Baetis CDC comparadun. Oh well..it was a great weekend nonetheless.
Tuesday September 7, 2004: Amazingly, good weather, decent water conditions, and an available day all occurred simultaneously yesterday 9/6. I dropped Mary Beth off at the
airport early, cruised home, gathered up smallmouth gear and headed west.
The Susq hydrograph said 4.5 feet at Harrisburg, too high; so I was headed for the Juniata. Turns out that the Susq was not only high but muddy
too, but the Juniata looked prime. I started above Newport and hit an area of riffles, rocks, and islands that I'd fished last year (when conditions
and fishing were poor). Conditions were great this time but the fishing was only fair. Maybe that particular spot just sucks in general. Took a
few decent fish and a number of dinkers on a white slider bug and then fished back through with that rubber-legged, lead-eyed hares ear crayfish thing
that I tie. Caught about 3x as many on the crayfish during the second pass through. Caught some super-sized chubs on the crayfish too.
Then I drove downstream a ways to just above Watts and repeated the process. A couple bait guys were whacking them good on crayfish in a
deep riffle. One guy landed and kept a dandy channel catfish too. I was losing motivation and getting douche chills at this point but caught a
couple dandies and a few smaller ones on the crayfish, but blanked on the slider bug. Saw a big ol' snapping turtle surface close by too. Nice
water down that way; parked on 322 southbound just before the Watts exit, and stumbled down the steep bank through poison ivy thickets. There
were lots of crayfish and minnows in the shallows.
` If if feels cool enough to maybe need waders when you leave home, bring the friggin' waders.
` The air and water were both on the chilly side and I experienced considerable shrinkage when wet-wading deep.
` If they're not looking up, dredge with the nasty weighted crayfish with whopper lead eyes, even though it casts like a billiard ball and hurts
when it whacks you in the head.
` If you're not spooking bass while wading the shallows, fish the deeper spots, even on a cloudy day.
` A stripping basket comes in handy to make longer casts easier, but really sucks when you're trying to wade through submerged boulder fields.
` Retie after you catch 8-10 fish, even if they're dinks.
That's all for this installment, bring on the albies. I'm looking to wet a line somewhere this coming weekend too, let me know if interested.
Saturday May 28, 2004: My friend Jack and I
fly fished the Green River in northeast Utah May 16-19. We wade-fished 2 days and had 2 guided float trips. In summary,
it's a great river and I would highly recommend you trying it someday. We caught the river on the downside of its scheduled annual high water release. Each night they decreased the flow by 400 cfs so the river looked a bit different each day. We caught enough rainbows, browns, cutbows and
cutthroats to keep us happy each day. Most were caught on midge patterns, scuds, and San Juan worms. We had some good dry fly fishing as well using a black cricket pattern and one evening I did well using streamers. The fish ranged in size from small rainbow stockers to 20", most were in the 15-16" range. The water is crystal clear and you can see fish cruising in some of the backwater pools. We fished mainly in the 7 mile "A" section below the Flaming Gorge Dam which is the most popular section. Weather was great, wind was a pain and the scenery is awesome.
My friend Jack went on to fish the Provo River in Utah for 2 days and he caught a number of fish but the flows were pretty high which made it a bit tough for
fly fishing. I went on to Montana to visit friends and squeeze in a day on Armstrong's Spring Creek at
O'Hair's Ranch on May 21st. After a slow start in the morning I caught a few nice rainbows during the short Baetis hatch. I then resorted to a black
woolly bugger that hooked several more fish before I left for the day when the wind had the rain moving horizontally.
Monday, May 3, 2004: Went to the Jersey shore this weekend to celebrate Craig and Chris' (Craig's twin bro) 40th b-day.
Terry P and Chris' buddy John from Connecticut rounded out the herd of goofballs. We stayed in Seaside Heights and spent a couple days fishing the bayside of Island Beach State Park. We fought a pretty stiff south wind the whole time and lets just say that the bite to cast ratio was pretty low; a couple bass and a bluefish were landed though. Notable encounters included the two bikini-clad teenage girls who wiggled, squirmed, tugged at their bikinis, and just about got naked trying to "get the sand out"; a guy soaking clams on the bayside at night who had about a ton of enthusiasm and a nice 31" striper in the cooler; a woman trying to paddle a cool inflatable kayak into the teeth of a 20 knot wind (she must have burned 500 calories and got exactly nowhere); and a brave and/or foolhardy guy who was launching a kayak a night, with plans to travel about a mile upwind to fish the
sod banks at Sedge Island.
On day 3 we wised up and changed locales, headed to the tip of Sandy Hook. Chris and John set up with clams and got into some schoolies right away. Us fly guys worked up toward the point, casting without effect. Until . . . I came across a clam soaker who was unhooking a bass, said he'd caught nine so far (!). He also said there were two flyguys around the bend who were catching. And he also had a picture of a 25 lb black drum caught there the day before. Hmm... I kept walking and found the two
fly guys, parked right in the middle of a sweet outgoing rip. One guy hooked up as I watched. I though, "Gee, maybe I should try a cast here". As luck would have it, I had begun experimenting with a 12.3', #8/9 two handed rod the previous day and found that if I set up with a short double spey cast, I could shoot a pretty good distance with a single overhead. So I set up below! the
fly guys and faced a pretty long throw to reach the rip. I was fishing an intermediate line and semper fly, got no bites, and started thinking I wasn't getting down quick enough. Both
fly guys were hooked up now. So I switched to a heavy Clouser, heaved in out as far as I could, and caught a schoolie.
Seemed like the key was to get the fly down in the rip and swing it without any retrieve, just like steelhead fishing. I just kept the line tight and when it came tighter, set up hard. Fish number two took out a
butt-load of backing and I spent the better part of 10 minutes coaxing him back. Turned out to be a dandy (in my book anyway), 12-13 lbs. I kept casting, caught a few more schoolies and one about 8-9 lbs. Terry and Craig found their way down by then and hopped in as well. We hooked and caught for about 30 minutes, then the tide, and the bite, died. Bluefish were around as well as I got cut off on two consecutive casts and then saw the bait guy land one about 4 lbs. One of the
fly guys hooked up and according to Craig, almost got spooled. After about 15 minutes of give and take, he beached a bass that bottomed out a 15 lb Boga grip. Nice fly-caught shore fish for sure.
That was it for me, had to head home. Craig, Terry, and Chris are in all probability fishing that same outgoing rip as I write this (Monday a.m.). Hope you guys are whacking them good, look forward to hearing the report tomorrow. Tight lines to all . . .
Monday, May 3, 2004: Capt. Norm Bartlett and I started out around 06:30am on the Flats to
fly fish for stripers. We were optimistic since Norm and his clients managed to get 4 stripers the day before. We fished hard till noon but no fish. There were about 50 boats around Turkey Point but we only saw 3 small fish caught. Norm spoke to his guide friends during the morning but no one was catching any fish. To save the day we decided to go upriver to fish for shad. We fished just upriver from the I-95 bridge on the west side of the river. We anchored not too far from the bank and began tossing small jigs. It didn't take long before we began bringing in those
scrappy shad. Over the next couple of hours we caught enough shad to make us happy and I even caught one white perch and a 6" striper.
Saturday, March 28, 2004: Just got back from 4 days in the Arkansas Ozarks. This area has extensive limestone geology; abundant caves, sinkholes, and springs. Hit the north fork of the white river, above Norfork Lake on
Wednesday. This stream is spring fed, about the size of Penns Creek, and has wild browns and rainbows, no stockies that I saw. In short, the place was awesome. Pretty good fly water, hard to access (lots of thrashing around in briar patches), nice riffs and runs but separated by long stretches of frog water. Caddis were hatching, fish were rising, and I was obliged to fish dry flies for the second time this year. The fish rose as only thoroughly duped fish do: whooomp!, none of this careful inspection followed by a tentative sip or refusal business. Caught a bunch of fish on dries, nymphs, and a few on streamers too. Had the place to myself. Tan caddis pupae and tan elk hair caddis dries were the flies.
Met up with Paul Turley and his brother Steve on the Little Red River Thursday morning. Little Red is a smallish
tail water, maybe the size of Spring Creek. Amazingly, the all tackle world record brown trout was caught there a few years back, just over 40 lbs (!). A good bit of the river is very deep and slow, with undercut banks, submerged trees, and oddly enough, numerous floating docks where people keep motorized
john boats (aka - hillbilly drift boats). The fish are stockie rainbows and wild browns that apparently eat stockie rainbows for a living. The dam was shut off the day we were there, the fish had pretty much retreated to the deeper pools as the riffles were 6" deep. We caught a bunch of rainbows and a few beauty wild browns, no honkers though. Size 22 serendipity was the fly.
Days 3 and 4 were spent on the main stem White River below Bull Shoals Dam. Its huge, about the size of the lower Juniata. The dam is operated for hydro energy without much regard for the downstream fishery, water levels may change by 8 or more feet (yeah, feet) in a few hours. Makes for interesting wading. Once, again stockie rainbows and cannibalistic wild browns were the quarry. Fishing was spotty, good during favorable flows (rising water), and more difficult during high or dropping flows. The flies that did best for me were #12 or 14 squirrel nymph (aka Bullwinkle), or a #4 olive zonker. We also caught fish on buggers, eggs, worms, caddis pupae, etc. Managed a good day on Friday in a place called Rim Shoals on rising water, including a brown of about 4 lbs. All fish caught on Bullwinkles.
Serendipities on a dropper went untouched. Found a flooded bank later that day further upstream! , deep drop on the inside of a bend. Ended up wading through some peoples flooded back yards, chucking a zonker on a 8 wt with sink tip. Was slow going but stuck with it and ended up dragging another couple long fat browns ashore.
Overall, the fishing was negatively impacted by a huge number of threadfin shad that came through the turbines when the water came up. They looked like peanut bunker and came down by the thousands at times. But very few were eaten. The fish had been on them for several months and were basically all stuffed like pigs. Would be interesting to hit the first few days of the "shad hatch" though.
All in all, good stuff. Would like to go back in late Sept: more stable low flows, aggressive pre-spawn browns, and lack of overabundant food source (the shad hatch occurs Dec-Mar). Good river for a pontoon boat float. According to a recent shocking survey, the
main stem White has 188 brown trout per mile that weigh more that 5 lbs! Don't know about the overall trout population but its huge. With more fish friendly flows, the White could possibly be one of the best trout streams around, might be anyway right now.
Friday March 27, 2004: I fished the Heritage Section of Falling Springs for the first
time today. It was a gorgeous weather day. I started downstream from the Edward Ave access and after
a short while managed to have one fish break off but then landed a nice brook trout on a small red San Juan Worm. I walked downstream and fished the deeper holes but no fish. I
re-fished the nicer holes near Edward Ave and caught 2 more nice brook trout on a silver colored streamer. I was surprised not to see another
fly fisherman. Next I went downstream to the next access point on Quarry Road where I caught 1 rainbow on a
gray WD-40. I stopped at the Fly section of Big Spring creek on the way home and fished for about 2 hours and hooked 3 fish in the faster water just above the bridge but
didn't land them.