Wednesday, October 8, 2014

A Warm Autumn Day for Trout

I have been working hard and have done little or no fishing these past months. I needed to relax and unwind from incessant work stresses.  

There’s nothing like a warm autumn day on a trout stream to meet the need. And so it was last Friday that I extinguished residual obligations and drove an hour or so to the Farmington River. I would be meeting Todd, who is the human embodiment of a comforting autumn day. His company, beside a clear running river, would be good for me.

I was almost there – around Collinsville, I think – when my left leg registered the merest slip of the clutch pedal. I imagined that I’d imagined the difference, the way we men hide from pending disaster, and drove on to the river. Boy, was it glorious out – warm, right enough, with caddis coming off and huge maple leaves floating by in perfectly welcome numbers. We’re only fifteen minutes into what will be a reassuringly long time by water, but it’s time to move up-river (Todd having already landed the first fish of the day: a very respectable brown trout.)

A respectable brown trout (Salmo trutta) 
There is a point in any day when one should face that you are well and truly fucked and should give up. Here  was that point, manifest as a clutch, depressed, never to rise.

Despite his protestations, I insisted (repeatedly) that Todd get back to the water. If I couldn't fish, he surely must, and my tow would be here before too long. Such was my imaginary hope of a quickly fixed car, all at  minimal cost.

Five hours in a parked car does not equate to the healing properties of a warm, autumnal trout stream [manuscript in preparation]. Multiple calls to an insurance company and to all manner of rural garage owners (many of whom don't actually exist) are no more medicine than are hours of false positives, during which time one could, had one known, have been fishing [Atherton et al, personal observation].

It is fall, and I remain, sirs, in need of relaxation from recent stresses.


Sunday, September 7, 2014

False Albacore

These fish hold a sort of revered mysticism round our way. The man we call Bob once slept in his car just to be in the right place to land his first one. Todd and I braved rough seas just to be within a quarter mile of them, but they wouldn't stay wherever we paddled. For those of us without a proper boat, albies aren't really a staple of the calender, so we tend to forget about them. 

Tommy and I heard the jungle reports on the same evening and plans were made to drive to RI for a look. Two rods would be needed - heavy fly rods and spinning gear.  Strong wind was blowing into faces, but I started with the fly rod and within 10 minutes of our arrival a pod of albies suddenly appeared in front of me at the exact same moment adrenalin combined with a fumbling fit to override any prior understanding I may have had about the basic workings of a fly cast. I've never had stage fright in front of a fish before. 

Backs to the wall stuff
Four of us fished in line for the next 4 hours, blind casting some but mostly waiting and watching, trying to be poised and ready for the next frenzied pod to break the surface. It was good to have more eyes on the water, and we settled into an informal pattern of chatter, casting or eating - always with one or two heads keeping sentinel. Four or five pods visited us over a similar number of hours. I entirely fluffed my lines a second time (this time seemingly forgetting that I'd switched from fly rod to Deadly Dick; the resultant shot into the frothing blitz was laughably inadequate), but listen here: this shit ain't easy. You have about 10 seconds in total to perform many synchronous tasks:

1. Train your eyes on the school of fish. Try to predict their direction of travel;
2. Train your hands and brain to retrieve your previous cast (which invariably is inconveniently located nowhere near where the fish have appeared);
3. Ensure that all manner of things that want to go wrong have gone perfectly right (no weed on your fly, fly line free of all tangles, no-one walking behind you?)
4. Flip bail arm/start false casting;
5. Start winding/stripping double handed, very quickly;
5a. Do all of this twice (impossible with a fly rod);
6. You're at 20 seconds, the fish are long gone and you feel mugged. For some unfathomable reason, you now believe that this is a wonderful experience and you promise yourself you'll be super ready for the next school.
7. You light a cigar and watch the ocean.

One of our four - a nice fellow who calls himself Flyfish4tuna on Flyaddict - hooked a fish, and instead of fishing to the same pod, I picked up the camera so that you, dear readers, could share the joy. The photographs don't convey the sound of the drag, but I heard it and that's why I'm dribbling, and this from a relatively small albie.  

His line picked up another along the jetty and the fish is now trailing more lead and hooks, but he finally brings it along side, and we realize that one of us has to clamber over car-sized boulders to get it. I am the photographer, so not me. Mr. Tuna's friend has had one fall already today; it won't be him. The pictures don't begin to explain how unpalatable the scenario was, but Tommy was an Eagle Scout, so we'll leave it to him.
I ain't going down there.

Send an Eagle Scout

Mr. Tuna's tuna

Just what I need; another horribly addictive fish.


Sunday, August 31, 2014

With Foam all things are possible


I worked on the trim around the new bathroom closet door most of the afternoon, plus some other shit like that. It's hot and humid and miserable so when we got done I thought I'd go fish before I finally got cleaned up and showered.  River is still a bit high and off-color and I was fishing by myself (wading), all of which means I almost immediately got discouraged.  When a kayaker came by and said he'd floated about five miles without a bite, I got more discouraged.  When my leader got tangled fiercely, I almost broke the rod over my knee.  Instead, I just pulled the tangle snugly until the knot it created resembled a pit of snakes.  Because I knew I wasn't going to catch any fish.  So who cares if your leader has a giant knot.  Right?

I shortly thereafter caught the small bass, in a spot exactly where a bass should have been.

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Colorful and sprightly, but small.

This was a little encouraging so I decided to fish a little farther just so I could cover a few submerged rocks and work some weeds along the near bank.  There was a very dark calm back eddy under some overhanging tree branches that looked inviting so I put my fly there on three consecutive casts, each one just a foot or so farther downstream than the last, and on this third one the big bass took the fly in an explosive take that probably made me piss myself (I was wading, so it was hard to say.).  When I set the hook, there was absolutely no "give" so I knew the fish was solid.  It jumped and I could see it, and that's when I started to get nervous about the leader.  The fish left the back eddy and got into the main current, which was shallow and fast, so the fish was really pulling.  It jumped once more, and then eventually after what was a fairly long fight I steered it over to the backside weeds and was able to lip it.  The fly was ruined and I was satisfied, so I walked back upstream to the car and sent you that text.  I was on the water for perhaps 45 minutes, and covered about 600 feet of river.

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Now I'm drinking a beer.

Yellow popper was my most productive fly on this day.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Summer in the midwest: a user's guide

May:  Summer begins in May when the last exams are graded and final grades have been submitted.  This summer, I prepared for three in anticipation of Jonny's and Zakur's visit.

With foam all things are possible

I did a little point hunting before the corn got high.  May was rainy, so fishing was difficult.


Scouted for carp, largely to no avail.  The few I saw did not play nice.

Carp proved challenging.

Explored a bit in the new kayak on those rare occasions when the river was navigable.

Navigable water: rare for this spring

Got the boy out a couple times.


Attended a minor league game on a beautiful summer evening.


She let the boys eat ballpark junk food, a minor miracle and they knew it.


June:  Like May, June was wet.  Real wet.  Second wettest June on record.

To put it in perspective: I like to fish this water at about 350 CFS.  May and June are dead to me.

All plans to float for smallmouth had to be nixed.  Instead, when EJ and Z arrived we headed to the lake country for a bit of camping and, hopefully, some quality largemouth bass fishing.

EJ and Z set up camp.  I've lived in apartments smaller than this tent.

Rain.  The boats were there in case we needed to escape.

Photographing a frog early in the trip; enthusiasm still high.

Still raining.  EJ pores over a vintage Gray's Sporting Journal, circa 1978 (which is also when he bought those socks.)

Morning breaks moderately clear.  EJ fries bagels in leftover bacon grease.  Pure genius.

Our evening ritual: three casts and you're out.


Shoving off the first morning; manageable drizzle.

Small, but an honest-to-God fish, dammit.

Skies clear; fishing becomes tough.

We load for another lake.

It begins to rain again.


The weather on the lakes was unpredictable.  The fishing was, unfortunately, quite predictable.  We managed a few small fish and decided we'd had enough.

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We leave the lakes, defeated.

We stopped at a small stream that had dropped to wadable levels, but it was still off-color and largely non-cooperative.

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Z works the fast stuff.

EJ works the slow.

Only fish from the small stream: a straggling white bass.  Jonny adds a new fish to his life list.

Jonny and Z left to chase eastern trout, and I started to explore some other local waters.

I found a beautiful little stream, near to home and with enough willing fish that I can probably say it saved my mind.





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Did a bit more point hunting with a friend.


One field gave up six cups of these black raspberries.  This is summer in Indiana.


July:  Rivers were still moody, but I found time to get some fish on waters familiar and new.

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First gar: a strange and interesting fish.

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Aftermath of a whitefly (Ephoron species) hatch.  I wish I'd been there yesterday.

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Ben took me to one of his locals, just a trickle but full of small willing smallmouth, and a few bigger ones as it turns out…

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We knew it was big at this point.

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My turn.

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August:  By now, the tomatoes in the garden were pure perfection and for reasons unknown, a pond that I had written off started producing largemouth again.


Ben and I floated a long stretch of new river, reputed to be one of the best smallmouth rivers in the state.  It was a challenging river to fish, but worth it in the end.


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The home river continues to be fickle, but gives in now and then.

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Tricos, I think.

And the pond…well, she and I both do our best to squeeze out the last of summer…

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