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November 3 and 4, 2005: How many 70 degree days will we see in November? If you didn't wet a line this weekend you'd better have a really good excuse...I had none, and so...
Fished Pickering on Friday, hooked up with a nice Brownie (about 12"). Most of the stocked trout are still hanging around the footbridge where they were probably all thrown in. I caught a few trout there on a royal humpy, and if you stand on the bridge you can see about 30 of them lined up from about 10 yards upstream of the bridge to about 15-20 yards into the pool below the bridge. I decided to play the 12" down to the lower edge of the pool and release him over the rock ledge down to the next pool. (So at least 1 trout is now in the rest of the stretch)
Saturday I decided to try Tulpehocken Creek since Joe said he was slaying 'em there last week. It was fairly crowded below Reber's Bridge so I decided to see what was happening above that point. The stretch above was empty except for one lone fisherman working the inlet to the pool just upstream of the bridge. I worked the longer slower stretch upstream. I managed to find a group of trout sipping midges about 70 yards further upstream. I had quite a few takes on the copper john I was tailing behind my royal humpy, but the only hook up of the day came on a flashback scud pattern, a small skunk chaser, but I'll take him. Even though the trout were rising for about 3 hours, I never got the hook set on a single dry (everything from elk hair down to rs-2.)
October 17 2005: Left the house on Thursday the 6th around 10AM, arrived at B&B in the Catskills for a little R and R (it's not my fault that the B&B just happened to have a private stretch on the Willowemoc) On the way to the B&B I picked up a NY State fishing license (valid through next fishing season). Went down to the stream around 4:30 to discover an extremely parched reach filled with suckers, no trout. Oh well, it looked like my hiking and fishing week just turned into a hiking only week. Then came the rains that ended the drought of 2005. By Friday night, the Willowemoc was bank full and still rising. In the morning on Sunday before breakfast I went out to check out the stream, it had begun to clear, and I saw two hefty brownies battling over some choice real estate near a deep undercut by a large tree. I was unable to wade across the creek, and decided to wait until evening to give it a go.
That evening I hooked a 16-18" brown. I was standing in about 4' of pretty swift current screaming for my wife to bring the camera while I tried to edge closer to shore, meanwhile this trout is swimming around me in circles going nuts. I was concerned that I might get swept downstream if I moved to quickly so I was cautiously moving toward shore when I glanced over for a split second to get my bearings, I turned back around and the trout was gone. That was the only trout I caught on the Willowemoc. The Beaverkill never really dropped enough to fish before it was time to go home, but I did get a chance to hike into Trout Lake. (about 2 miles, also known as Cables Pond on some maps). I caught a couple of small 10" but pretty brookies on this lake that were rising during the
brief 20 minutes of sunshine that occurred that week.
I returned home Wednesday night to discover that all but Joe King and I had dropped out of the newly established annual DJL Central PA Fall Fishing Trip. No worries, just more trout for us I figured.
Joe and I set out from Phoenixville around 7:30AM on Friday for Fishing Creek (the one in Lamar). We were on stream and hooked up with a couple of trout before lunch. After a brief lunch, we moved on and fished our way up to the fish hatchery. We caught a fair number of trout along the way, and called it day around 6. We found our hotel in Bellefonte and hashed out our strategy for the rest of the weekend. On Saturday we would make our way out to the Little J. and Sunday we would forego the 1 hour ride back out to Little J. and fish Spring Creek instead (about 1 mile from the hotel.)
We fished the Little J. all day on Saturday. Joe started hooking up pretty early as he changed from "dry and dropper" to nymph rather quickly. The "rookie" on the other hand continued banging away with the dry and dropper combination for the better part of the morning. I managed a nice sized rainbow out of the reach below the gorge area, but really didn't have as much success as my "more experienced" counterpart.
In the afternoon, we hiked into the main gorge section and fish from the 1st railroad bridge upstream to just past the 2nd. I finally gave up on the dry and dropper combo after much cursing, many lost flies and two leader changes (it was real windy and the rookie wasn't cuttin' the mustard on punching through the wind). Just above the 2nd bridge the fly fishing gods smiled on me and I started nailing 10" browns on an Isonychia nymph that I had purchased at FCO Thursday night. I was hoping to catch something bigger, but I was pulling 1 out about every 10 casts, so I was not complaining. I was about 100 casts and 10 fish into my little massacre when Joe appeared high above on the bank to let me know we were leaving.
Sunday was another interesting day. We got up early so we could hit the College Diner in State College for Grilled Stickies and other breakfast fare, and still be on stream by sunup. Being a Penn Stater really paid off on this trip as we had two successful breakfast hookups without a hitch (now that was money well spent... HA!) Once on Spring Creek, I started out with a midge pattern since that was the only thing I saw around the creek. There were a few rises in some of the slack water so I thought I was going to hook up quickly. None of these trout were interested in the midge. I switched over to a searching pattern, I didn't have my trusty Royal Wulff in a 20 so I tied on a #20 Royal Humpy. Joe was walking up the bank behind me as I set the hook on my second cast.... missed it... :"whoa" I heard from the bank behind me. I caught a handful of fish (one real pretty Brown all decked out in spawning apparel).
Joe meanwhile was getting some serious attention from the skunk. I told him I was using 7x Frog Hair tippet with the #20 Humpy and suggested somethin' with some red in it. No luck. I pointed Joe in the direction of the last pool I had last seen rising trout in and told him I would see him back at the car in an hour or so. Meanwhile I was off in search of "larger" trout. I had yet to hook anything larger than 12" the whole weekend. I worked my way back down to a large deep pool near the car, and found some rising trout. I had some takes but no hookups. As I waded back upstream a few yards toward the car I looked down at my feet and noticed a big lunker brown staring up at me as if to say "not today pal." Oh well, Joe was back at the car with a big smile on his face, seems he was able to chase the skunk away in a pool I had worked several times to no avail using his patented streamer pattern he calls "the bullet".
So all in all, an excellent trip. We even got to watch the second half of the PSU vs. Michigan game at a crowded bar in Alexandria. Great game, stinky outcome (never say one second doesn't matter).
Tuesday, October 4, 2005: Not sure if Capt Jethro is going to send out a report today, he's busy tying flies to restock depleted boxes and getting ready to go out tomorrow, so I thought I'd send a report out. Matt and I fished with Jeff this past weekend for two days, in the Sandy Hook/Breezy Point area. Once again, many lessons learned...
Summary for Saturday, "turn up the suck". We basically went for a long boat ride. Nice weather, plenty of bait, very few fish. We got in the tail end of some action along the south end of Sandy Hook. Of note was a multi-species cast, hooked an albie that ran away with all sorts of line, spit the hook, and a bluefish latched on before I got the fly back to the boat. Tally for day, much fuel burned and the world's most expensive bluefish landed. Raritan Bay is chock full of peanut bunkers being harassed by snapper bluefish. If/when real gamefish show up in the bay, look out. We gassed up the boat (yike$), dined at Off The Hook, overnighted at the Fairbanks motel south of Sandy Hook (decent place), and planned to go out the next day as we figured Sunday could only be better than Saturday and the weather forecast was sterling.
Summary for Sunday, "it sucks to be a minnow". Based on Saturdays' reconnaissance, we got on the water early, headed south a long Sandy Hook, and ran smack into acres of fleeing bait, wheeling birds, and breaking fish, the whole shmegeggie. It was happening from right on the beach to about 1/4 mile out, we saw lots of bent rods among the shore guys. Hook ups came fast if you were fishing a sinking line. Matt only had an intermediate, stayed with it for a while, and came up empty. Then he switched over to Jeff's spare sinker, hooked up on the first cast, and kept hooking the rest of day. Most of the blitzing fish were bluefish, 3-7 lbs, but there were albies and bass mixed in. We had a dandy bass (~20 lbs) follow a hooked blue right up to the boat. Matt dapped his fly in front of the bass, and a little bluefish zoomed in and snatched the fly before the bass could even consider the option!
After a little experimentation, we settled on sinking lines, 40 lb fluoro shock tippet, and just about any manner of fly; clousers, surf candies, and deceivers, big or small, colorful or drab, flashy or dull, all caught fish. Surprising to me we was the fact that albies weren't put off by 40 lb tippet. The action stayed hot, with a few lulls, for most of the day, and we ended up leaving them biting. Final tally was 2 bass, 6 albies, enough bluefish to make everyone say uncle by 3:00 pm, and no flounders, sea robins, or plastic bags. As we chugged into the harbor, boats were backed up outside the ramp area, and a guy said there was a truck, trailer, and boat in the water at the ramp. Turned out the guy backed down the ramp, loaded his boat, got in the truck, put it in drive, and the whole unit just slid right down the ramp into the water. Talk about a sinking feeling. This particular ramp is coated with algae around the low tide line and is slippery as snot in places; reportedly 8 vehicles have gone in the drink there this season. They called in a tow truck, a scuba diver swam out and hooked the tow cable the truck, and they winched the whole thing out. Turned out that the truck, trailer, and boat were all brand new. Seemed like no damage to boat or trailer, boats float and trailers are made to be submerged. But the truck .... ouch.
While waiting our turn at the ramp, we watched another guy (in a 2WD truck) barely get his truck and boat up the ramp, smokin' the rear wheels all the way. Suffice to say were feeling a little edgy about extracting the SS Rail Catch. But, we waited our turn, loaded the boat, engaged 4x4, and plucked it out without a hitch. Whew. In fact, the whole weekend went off with a major hitch, save that the pool noodle that pads the bow leaning rail blew out and needs replacing.
|1.||Use wheel chocks on boat ramps.|
|2.||Albies wake up early and take afternoons off, 5 of the 6 landed were caught before 10:00 am. Albie #6 came on blind cast amid repeated hook ups with bluefish during the afternoon. Go figure.|
|3.||Don't go boat fishing without a sinking line.|
|4.||You don't need to live chum to catch albies. In fact, for those who are cast-net challenged, catching live chum is more difficult than catching an albie. Matt, practice your cast-net technique so we can catch some peanuts next time.|
|5.||Don't wait to cast until you see breaking fish. We'd drive up to a big school of breaking fish, take shots, maybe get a hook up, and the fish would sound after a minute or two. However, the fish finder would still be massively lit up with submerged fish and bait. We kept casting, counted the lines down deep, and kept catching.|
|6.||Jeff's Corsair Minnows are way more durable than Surf Candies, which break in half at the least provocation (like being double hauled into the engine cover at 100 mph). Corsair embedded in an epoxy fly body acts like rebar in concrete, good stuff.|
|7.||When backing up a truck and trailer and are inexperienced at doing such things, go slow.|
|8.||If you don't like the direction the trailer is headed, try turning the steering wheel the other way. See item 7 above.|
|9.||40 lb tippet is marginal when it comes to keeping bluefish from stealing your flies.|
Time to tie more flies....
Click here for the picture of the day... who can identify what this is and where it is?
Wednesday, September 28, 2005: So we're back from a week of chasing albies in Marthas Vineyard, and the Lessons Learned section of this report is bulging. We had a group of six guys; Terry, Craig, Brian, Kirk, Jeff, and myself, and everybody hooked up. Our landing percentage was considerably lower, creative ways to lose fish abounded.
We also encountered some memorable characters. Man Without a Face (MWAF) was seriously sun-averse; he wore long pants, long sleeve shirt, sun gloves, ball cap, sunglasses, and a full face mask (!), which sort of flipped everybody out. We encountered MWAF standing on Big Bridge jetty one day, and the only part of skin exposed to the sun was his fingertips! He used a sinktip line, big flashy flies, and outfished everybody in sight. "Albie Dude" looked like a middle-aged California surfer guy, reportedly fishes albies harder and more often than anyone on the island, and turned me on to a fly tied with an aquarium tubing body and a tail of pearl flashabou (very innovative!). He also got to albie fish over his lunch hour from work. Dick.
The week started off with a near miss, as hurricane Ophelia turned east before blasting MV and Nantucket. I drove all night 9/17, caught the 6:15 a.m. freight ferry out of Woods Hole, and was standing on Big Bridge jetty, dazed and dopey, by 8:00 a.m. The albies obliged and began crashing bait right all over the place from the start. The reasons I could give to account for why I didn't hook up is too long to list here, but includes things like, "my running line tangled", and "the fish don't stay up long enough". I basically just sucked, hadn't fished for a while and couldn't put it together. I finally managed to stick one from the beach at the end of the jetty, had my drag too loose and almost got spooled before the hook pulled.
Kirk (Man with One Fly) arrived the next day and hooked and landed an albie at Big Bridge. Kirk has built-in fish karma but is prone to flyline mishaps :) Our rental house was great, in the woods just west of Edgartown, and the weather cooperated too. In the interest of keeping this e-mail from getting too long, I'll jump right to Lessons Learned, but suffice to say that despite the low number of fish landed, drinks were drank, jokes were told, casts were made, flies were tied, farts were ripped, and a good time was had by all!
|1.||We cast when we shouldn't have and didn't cast when we should have. Albies typically repeatedly run the beach or jetty in the same direction. Sometimes they break water every few seconds, sometimes they don't. Pick up on this pattern, watch where they show, follow their estimated path of travel even if they're down at the moment, and cast when you figure they're approaching your position. They would break to our left, and then break to our right, and I finally figured out that they just swam by right in front of us while we stood there at the ready. Wish we had some of the time we spend at Lobsterville and Big Bridge back.|
|2.||To maximize your number of shots, set up in areas that have the highest bait densities. Duh.|
|3.||If an albie runs into a group of ten peanut bunker and one silverside, it will eat the silverside.|
|4.||Slack tides often produced the most breaking fish. In fact, we witnessed an awesome blitz at high slack on Wednesday at Big Bridge. Huge pods of bait were just milling around right next to the bridge and after a long quiet period, albies showed in mass and just creamed the bait. Very spectacular. MWAF hooked one up on a fly while standing on the bridge! Don't ask how many we hooked.|
|5.||Make sure your drag is engaged before casting.|
|6.||Ridiculously large and flashy flies catch albies. MWAF was fishing a chartreuse and blue "Mega Mushy" that looked to be 4 inches long and glowed like it was radioactive. The whole fly was made of flash.|
|7.||Ever heard that old adage, "You must cast more far"? Try "You must cast more fast". Overline your rod, and be able to get the fly out there with one or two false casts.|
|8.||Get comfortable with the "rod under the arm, two handed strip", it's the way to go when albie fishing, as you can get tight to your fly fast and stay that way.|
|9.||Don't run on jetties. If you must run, slide your stripping basket around behind you so you can see.|
|10.||It's tough to shoot line, or even stand up straight, when you have 30 lbs of sand in your stripping basket. See item 9 above.|
|11.||Flats booties are the way to go, waders are too hot and sand gets inside sandals and grinds your feet.|
|12.||People who think that flyfishing is introspective, quiet, and methodical haven't flyfished for albies. It is hair-raisingly exciting, fast, and violent. I described it to my non-fishing sister and she said, "cool, drive-by fishing".|
|13.||Based on observation all week, I'd say that shore fishing was more productive than boat fishing, the majority of breaking fish we saw were within casting range of shore, often very close.|
|14.||Bonking an albie directly on the head with your fly often results in a hook up.|
|15.||Don't get your hand in the way of the reel handle when an albie is running line out.|
|16.||The wind is your friend. You just have to turn and face the right direction.|
|17.||Some things are not your friend; rope fences, twisted fly lines, bad knots, and frayed leaders come to mind.|
|18.||Albie fever is very similar to buck fever, creative ways to screw up come easy when albies are busting bait right in front of you. See item 9 above.|
Albies should be hanging around the NJ coast for a while, there's still time to get out there after them....
Sunday, August 21, 2005: I managed to tack a 5 day fishing trip to the end of a business trip to Denver. We left Denver last Friday morning around 6AM and headed southwest to the Tomahawk Wildlife Management Area which is located halfway between Fairplay and Hartsel. The Middle Fork of the South Platte is only a small stream here, but the fishing was awesome. This is mostly a Brown trout fishery. I caught about 6 fingerlings, and about 6 fairly decent sized fish. I started fishing with a dry and dropper combo that was highly recommended by my host (a colleague from work). I was using a Dave's hopper with a Copper John for the dropper. Casting the hopper tight to the banks seemed to produce strikes from the larger fish. The dropper was only catching the fingerlings (nice if you're getting skunked, but annoying after the first hour). I removed the dropper since it was making the cast into the undercuts extremely difficult. Other flies that seemed to work well were Tan Caddis, and a Stimulator pattern. The two brown trout pictured were "typical" size for the day (we caught about 12 over the course of 4
hours). The largest was a 16-17" hog that literally jumped out of the net and somehow threw the hook all in one maneuver.
I picked my wife up at the airport Friday night, and we headed up to Estes Park. I selected a B&B on the upper reaches of the Big Thompson River about a mile or two below the Estes Park Dam. I had not intended to fish the Big Thompson, but since it was literally 40 ft from my back door, I did end up fishing it a couple of times before breakfast, since there did not appear to be any hatches, I fished mostly a tan elk hair. I managed to land a couple of "French Creek" sized brownies, but wasn't able to catch any Rainbow's.
Our first full day in Estes, we hiked into Dream Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park to fish for the Greenback Cutthroat. Hiking into the lake you are rewarded with incredible views and interesting fishing. I managed to land a few Greenback's which felt pretty good since there were quite a few people up there who couldn't figure out what these guys were eating. The fly that seemed to produce the best results was a #24 white fly pattern that I couldn't even find in the fly shops out there. Dream Lake is a very short hike so it get's a ton of fishing pressure and I'm sure these trout were wiser than the typical "back country" fish.
On Sunday I wanted to fish the other side of the rockies for the Colorado West Slope Cutthroat. It had rained and snowed Saturday night, so the Colorado River (really just a stream in the park) was running off color. We opted to drive on down to Grand Lake and fished along the East portal trail. I managed to catch a West Slope above the falls on the trail. Past the falls is the East Meadow which has an incredible brook trout fishery. The fish here aren't huge (10" is considered a whale by the locals), but what they lack in size, they make up for in numbers. I must have landed about 10 fish in the course of an hour.
Monday was the "killer day". I got up at 6AM and fished the Big Thompson for 2 hours. I didn't catch a whole lot of fish, but it was enjoyable just the same. After breakfast, we drove to the Southeast corner of the park known as Wild Basin. Here we hiked 7 miles up into the high country to a lake called Thunder Lake. We arrived at 2:30 and had the lake to ourselves. This is a true back country destination. We did not see but one person the entire time we were at the lake. For the record, the trout here were just the way I prefer them.... BIG and STUPID. I didn't land a fish here under 10", and the average seemed more like 12". The lake is at 10,500 feet, and doesn't normally thaw out completely until June, so... these fish make hay while the sun shines. Basically, these fish hit everything I threw at them. The only thing that seemed to spook them was the occaisional bad cast. The technique here is mostly: cast a big bug onto the surface, wait about 30 seconds for the strike, set the hook, reel.
Since Tuesday was our last day, we decided to take it easy. I fished Cow Creek in the morning and we drove out through the Big Thompson Canyon (down to Loveland) on the way back to Denver. I pulled off the road and fished the Big Thompson just above Drake. There were Rainbow's rising here, but I couldn't seem to catch a single one. I have no idea what these guys were hitting (neither did the three other fishermen who tried their luck while I was there). I tied on a Woolly Bugger and somehow managed to foul hook a 10" Brownie, but he wasn't anything to write home about when there are 15" Rainbow's rising in all directions. Kirk's fly shop in Estes Park touts the "Colorado Grand Slam" as catching: Brown, Brook, Cutthroat, and Rainbow. I was sorta hoping that I would hook one of those Rainbow's so I could claim a grand slam, but it just wasn't happening. My wife recommended that since the Rainbow's are transplants, I could substitute the West Slope Cut and create my own "Grand Slam"... sounded good to me. (Technically, everything but the cuts are non-native species).
Thursday, July 14 thru Saturday, July 16, 2005:
I fished with my brother Randy and two good flyfishing buddies from Batavia New York, Doug and Jack. On Thursday night we fished the Juniata above Duncannon where I had good luck on 2 outings earlier this year. We only got 5 smallmouths between us. On Friday we fished the Susquehanna near the Liverpool access early and late in the day and only managed to catch 3 bass, one being a 17 incher caught where a small feeder stream was flowing in 72 degree water. The water temperature in the main river was 84 degrees and water clarity was good till until we left on Saturday morning. Saturday, Jack and Doug went on to fish for trout at Spring Creek. Randy and I fished Saturday morning for a couple of hours on the Susquehanna without catching a fish. I did see a number of diseased fingerlings near the shoreline with portions of their flesh missing. This confirms Bob Molzahn's email late last week of low catch rates and diseased young bass. I think I will be waiting for cooler water temperatures.
Wednesday, June 29, 2005: The Westslope Cutthroat is really tiny, but it was my first Cutthroat and on a high alpine lake they don't get real huge. The brookie I caught in "Two Medicine" was really nice, again not huge, but remarkably beautiful. Mostly fished Nymphs, the green beadhead Woolly Bugger you see hooked into the brookie seemed to be very good for the lakes, you need to let your line sink and then slowly strip the line in. I caught the cutthroat on a March Brown of all things, I was having no luck with the nymphs on that lake, so I figured I work near the shoreline around deadfall trees where a few bugs were buzzing around. Seemed to work ok. The shot on Lake MacDonald was taken at about 10:30PM. I wish I had more pictures, Montana was awesome. I caught a really small (about 7") bull trout on the North Fork of the Flathead river, not real impressive size-wise, but another species of trout I'd never caught before.
Monday, May 9, 2005: For some reason I decided this evening that although it was already getting late (about 7:30PM) it seemed like an hour of fishing might be the ticket for chasing away the days problems. I wasn't in the mood to drive to the Delayed Harvest Stretch so I pulled on my waders and boots, walked down the hill to my favorite spot above the covered bridge and hopped out on to the remnants of the old mill dam to see if any fish were rising in the pool up stream. Must have waited there at least 10 minutes, not a single rise. Well wouldn't that be the finishing touch to a bad day! I decided to tie on an Adams and fish up through the pool to see if anything might take interest…. Nothin'. With the sun beginning to set, I tied on a nymph and made my way back down to the riffles below the dam breach. I was casually casting downstream (thinking about other things really) just a single hit would have been enough for me at that point, but then I noticed something out of the corner of my eye. There was a swarm of bugs slowly drifting my way from upstream on the gentle evening breeze that accompanies the end of the day as the air begins to take on a chill. By the time it drifted to my location the swarm had clearly grown, in a matter of just a few minutes I was in a blizzard of mayflies. I reached out to grab a few, but they would almost magically move away from my arm as it sliced through tens of flies. I finally latched onto one… light cream colored bodies all of them with their tail sections curled up and holding a small perfect yellow/orange sphere about the size of the split shot I had attached to my line. I was amazed, almost transfixed by the armada of flies around me. I dug through my fly boxes looking for the
Light Cahill poly wing spinners with the little ball of yellow or orange at the end. I couldn't find them…I dug around one more time, looked up the hill toward the house, and then back down across the water where the evening oranges and reds were already fading to
grays and blues. It didn't matter I told myself, the mayflies appeared to be dancing above the surface of the water, none had landed that I could see, and there were no trout rising, no subtle dimples in the water, no
suspicious slurping noises. I found a spot to sit and watch as the armada continued to drift by. The spinner fall will eventually come... probably later tonight, maybe tomorrow morning, then the trout will surely rise…. and I'll be there, with a fresh batch of #14
Light Cahill Polywing spinners with those little orange/yellow balls tied in at the tail end.
Monday, March 28, 2005:
Easter services were held at (where else) Spring Creek, 550 bridge and up, to be exact. Services commenced promptly at 11:00 and were sparsely attended, just Brother Freeman and myself. The weather was good, 40s, solid overcast, no rain (all day), stream was on the high side and just slightly green. It seems that fishing on holidays can be good or bad, depending on what holiday it is and what day it falls on. Turns out that Easter is a great holiday to fish on. While the majority of anglers spent yesterday getting preached to about their sins, hunting Easter eggs, and biting the heads off of chocolate bunnies, the bugs still hatched and the fish still rose. In squadrons, as it turned out.
I put in at 550 bridge, made a few casts on the downstream side just to thumb my nose at the butthead property owner who kicks everybody off that stretch. Immediately spotted a palomino tracer trout, felt obliged to catch it, and of course couldn't. I did pick up a couple unseen browns from the same run, chased the skunk right off the bat. So I nymphed through 550 run, further educating a few of Pete's pet fish; they ate an even mix of #14 Cress Bug and #18 tailed Serendipity. For the first time ever, I wore both sunglasses and 1.5x reading glasses around my neck, having struggled to see small flies and thin tippets the week before. It worked out great aside from getting the croakies all tangled up, I felt like Flip Pallot, or Craig.
About noon I moved up into the big long glide pool above 550 run, know where I mean? Just downhill from the house where sheep stand on the front porch and try to go inside when the owners let down their guard. Yeah, that's the place. So I'm strolling upstream along bank, dodging the refuse that flows downhill from the previously mentioned house, and don't you know the pool is just stiff with rising trout. At closer inspection, the place was stiff with olive mayflies too. I have to admit to thinking, "can't you guys just stop rising, move up in to that run, and start dredging sucker spawn off the bottom instead?" But no such luck there, and I was obliged to hang up my perky yarn strike indicator and beloved Dinsmoor split shot, and retie with a long 6x tippet and a... can I say the word... OK, here goes.... dry fly.
It's not that I don't like fishing dry flies, I do. It's just that the activity lies outside my comfort zone. When fishing nymphs, I feel like an efficient predator, picking my way through rocky chutes and across bouncing riffles, casting, reaching, mending, slipping casts into a pocket here, a slick there, snatching out fish like a heron. And then somehow, when I tie on a dry fly and wade into a long pool full of rising trout, I mysteriously transform from a stealthy hunter to a bumbling hippopotamus. Ever see that Looney Tunes cartoon that features the tutu-clad, ballet-dancing hippo? She tries real hard but the stage always ends up collapsing underneath her?
So I try to ease into the water, slip on the muddy bank, slide into the creek with a splash, send shock waves across the pool like miniature tsunamis, and hang my first cast in the trees behind me. The fish keep rising, impervious to the streamside dunce. But I persist, my feet settling firmly into the silty bottom, my backcasts avoiding the foliage, and after a while, my fly bouncing happily down the current. Having established myself in the game, the deal now became trying to track my fly on the water and to determine if and when a fish might have eaten it. I'm standing in a olive colored stream, on a dull gray day, trying track the progress of an olive and gray spec among thousands of other similar specs. After a few drifts, I raised my rod to cast and came tight to a fish. That's good and all, but not as gratifying as realizing that I actually had a bite to begin with. So I really bore down, scrutinized where my fly landed and tracked it like a hawk. As often as not, the fly I was watching would flutter its wings and fly away. Then a fish took a natural several inches from the spec I was tracking, and a few seconds later the end of my line started swimming away. Guess I was tracking the wrong spec again. I landed him, not sure who was more surprised.
Another thing about dry fly fishing in March is that you freeze your ass off. Standing immobile in thigh deep water is not the same as lightfooting along through ankle deep riffles, my toes turned to ice and I had to pee like crazy, but I just couldn't stop casting. I thought back to frigid winter days spent on the Salmon River, chucking and ducking like a robot, hoping against hope for the tug of a steelhead. What ever happened to the those waders with a zippered fly?
In any event, there must have 15 to 20 trout rising with easy casting distance at any one time. And gradually, the previously bumbling hippo began to transform; casts laid out smartly and dropped the fly onto the water with just so much slack, it became apparent that my fly did in fact look slightly different from the naturals, a trout rose to intercept the spec I was watching, and I came tight to him. I landed the fish, dried the fly, worked out line, picked a riser, and caught him after a few drifts. And so it went for the better part of three hours. Amazingly (to me), I used the same fly the whole time, the thing was both indestructible and unsinkable. It was a #18 comparadun; wispy dun tails, dubbed light olive body (so as to match the underside of the naturals), and a dyed dark-dun, coastal deer hair wing. After catching a fish, I would need to wash and dry the fly and the best way to do so was to press it between folds of my undershirt. A drawback was that the only place my undershirt was exposed and accessible was right underneath my chin, tough to see. I must have hooked the fly in my shirt a dozen times. But in the end, I clipped off the fly, popped it into it's own compartment in the box, ready for retirement and to serve as a reminder of Easter 2005.
|1.||Not all holidays, or even weekend days, are bad days to fish. I saw one other guy fishing besides Matt and myself (!)|
|2.||Wear heavy fleece pants next time|
|3.||Spring Creek is a haven for carcasses. In one day, I saw the following dead critters: one deer, one partial deer, one squashed rabbit, one desiccated dog, and one recently deceased cat.|
|4.||Reading glasses should be called fly tying on glasses.|
|5.||Spring Creek experienced some seriously high water this winter. At the low hanging power line below the riprap runs along Creek Road, the massive tree that formed the main part of the run has been washed downstream about 50 feet, it's now sitting high and dry on a gravel island.|
|6.||How come Pete's reports typically feature 14-16 and sometimes 17 inch fish, while mine max out at about a foot?|
|7.||Some of the best days on the water are those when you are forced to do something different.|
Wednesday, March 16,2005: It seems that the central theme of most fishing reports is some sort of boondoggle; somebody flew 1500 miles and forgot their reel, fell off a jetty, repeatedly flailed acres of fishless water, got their flyline wrapped around the prop, or whatever. So what can you say about a trip where everything pretty much fell into place and came off way better than planned or even hoped for? Here's the tale...
Jethro, Brian, Craig and I met at Philly airport early on March 5 and jetted off to Nassau, with a connection to Governors Harbor, Eleuthera. Everyone and everything got there in fine shape and on time (no small accomplishment there). Picking up rental cars consisted of walking across the airport parking lot and finding two unlocked Nissan sedans with full tanks and keys in the ignition. No forms to fill out, no drivers license, no proof of insurance, no nothing, no problem mon. We jetted off to Rainbow Inn, stopped for a couple cases of Kaliks, and got there around sunset. The Rainbow Inn is a nicely maintained complex of bungalows and a restaurant, sitting on a bluff along the Caribbean side of the island. It's run by an American guy named Ken who's been there 20+ years and is ready to sell (hmm...). As promised, Ken set us up with tide charts, detailed maps of the island, and the "Bonefish Graham" guide to bonefishing Eleuthera. This was a "do it yourself" trip, no guides or boats, just maps, rental cars, and our ability to figure out when and where based on wind direction and tide stage. Eleuthera is about 100 miles long, 2 miles wide, and is pocketed with protected coves and bays that have flats. It seems that at least a few flats are protected from the wind no matter which way it blows.
Day 1 dawned fair to partly crappy, and pretty chilly, as did most days we were there. Having been to Eleuthera before, Brian took on the job of chief navigator and guide, and suggested a number of places to wet a line. We drove to a beautiful protected cove on the Atlantic side on the falling tide, saw singles, schools, and tailers, and hooked nothing. This was good news and bad news. Given the chilly conditions, the prevailing fear was that the water temperature was too low and the bonefish would be hunkered down in deep water, waiting for June before coming up on the flats. On the downside, we had no hookups, the fish were spooky and picky, intolerant of our bumbling.
So we jetted across the island about 5 miles and set up in another spot, the tide being 2 hours later on the Caribbean side. This spot was a small semi-protected bay, with a white sandy bottom but no real "flats". Rather, there were a series of channels and bars running parallel to the beach; we'd fish a channel from a bar, and then move out to the next bar as the tide dropped. And lo and behold, the fish were there and bitey too. Everybody hooked up and landed at least several, and the skunk was chased. I saw (after I scared it away) the biggest bone I'd ever seen (up to that time).
Subsequent days came and went in a flash. We'd be up at dawn, on the road to Promising Flat of the Day, fish, stay or move depending on results, come back at dusk, drink, eat, collapse, repeat the next day. Everybody caught their biggest bone ever, Jeff breaking his own record several times. Craig, on his first bonefish excursion ever, picked it up quick and did especially well on Thursday, picking a good ambush spot, staying with it, and getting repeatedly bent as a result. Brian proved to have uncanny navigational skills, remembering obscure turnoffs from already obscure locations, that led to beautiful and productive flats. Daily catches per person ranged from 1 to 20+, pretty darn good so far as I was concerned. All in all, 5 stars for the trip, the company, lodging, meals, cars, fishing, weather, beer, price, everything was top rate. I want to go back ASAP.
Lessons learned and unlearned:
|1.||New vocabulary terms: Flippernipples, Kalik, Bahamaberry|
|2.||Come prepared to fish for cudas. We encountered hundreds of them on a flat one day, some dandies too.|
|3.||New favorite foods - cracked conch, stewed calamari with rice and peas, Kalik|
|4.||Use as long a leader as you can cast accurately|
|5.||Fill flybox with newly discovered, super double top secret killer bonefish fly before next trip. OK, it's not really a secret: cross between a clouser and a charlie. Tan worked good, otherwise try tan, and if that doesn't work out, try tan.|
|6.||Don't continue wading recklessly down a bar if you can plainly see that it dead-ends in blue water.|
|7.||If you ignore lesson 6, make sure your camera is waterproof.|
|8.||72 degree air and water plus a brisk breeze don't call for shorts and a tee shirt. Check the weather forecast before packing.|
|9.||Pink sand really is pink.|
|10.||Bonefish are not the only inhabitants of the Bahamas; other species caught: jacks (jacklets?), a couple mutton snappers, cudas, pompano, blue runner like things, a remora and a ballyhoo (!), needlefish (pain the ass), lizardfish, and probably some others I've forgotten.|
|11.||Tiny lead eyes have a definite place on bonefish flies, don't carry only beadchain eye flies.|
|Stripping baskets are a very useful bonefishing accessory, I'm a convert. They don't mesh well with a fanny pack, but do serve as an excellent flotation device until they fill with water (cross reference lesson 6)|