Friday, April 23, 2010

First Cast

My near 6 year old daughter wants to go fishing, all the time. She asks me a lot. Last summer she caught her first sunny on sweet corn, but last weekend we spent an hour on the Hammonasset River and she made her first casts with a fly rod. I set her on a rock, made a few demonstration casts, then guided her briefly through a roll cast. She angled the rod back, achieved a nice, full loop, and the line flew out beautifully as she punched my little 7' 4 weight forward. I have to write this down somewhere because I want to remind myself how wonderful this was to me. She was a picture of concentration and focus. She made it look easy. She'd done something that was important to me. Then she turned around after three perfect roll casts and said: "Thanks Daddy, I've had enough now." Priceless beginnings. -- JA

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Southern Pictoral

I visited The South for the first time last week - staying in Beaufort, South Carolina with family. Our house was on Lady's Island and overlooked a vast marsh area. It was flat, hot, and beautiful. The trees, palms, and flowering plants were just breathtaking. The house even had its own golf buggy, which I used to transport my spreading, fat arse and fly-rod to the creek each evening to fish. On the advice of locals I fished one half day in a beautiful lagoon from Joe's inflatable boat, and I did see a lot of frisky mullet (in April!) A further three evening sessions on the creek next to the house, but being in a new place I like to do the right thing - not catch anything. It's rude, you see, to turn up and catch gobs of fish. Any fish really. It's much more interesting to spend one's week assimilating a new place. Besides, according to the local guides the fishing was off; red fish weren't on the feed yet; blues were sporadic; cobia were a month off; speckled trout were patchy; May would be better. I did hook one sting ray, which I was glad to see get away, but at least some fish and bait were there, and it was great to see something and somewhere completely different from what I'm used to. Each eve I jumped from the dinner table (okay - I lumbered under the weight of too many shrimp), and hopped aboard the fishing cart down to the creek to await the incoming tide. Within seconds of the turn, bait would concentrate and fish (later I learned these were rays) would set about the helpless "glass minnow" prey. It was a spectacular sight. So in the end I just sat and smoked a cigar as the rays slurped and hoovered and the tide rolled in. It was pretty darned good to spend the entire week catching absolutely nothing.

Fishing Cart

Paddling the lagoon, casting to mullet.

Waiting for the tide

That was quick

The Dupree Spoonfly

Raining bait - the rays move in.

I saw this place and it reminded me of all my good angling chums in CT.


Missed you, gents.


Saturday, April 3, 2010

Fill yer boots - it'll be a long season

The early season striper bonanza is always something to relish. But after the recent deluge, Steve, Bob and I didn't really know what to expect as we crested the last hillock before the river. As is the way with The Spring Bounty, what we saw was bitter-sweet; anglers aplenty in a long line, every one cracking a smile with rods bent into lively striped bass.

So we joined the melee where we could. Which, in my case was a piece of unproductive water. The gent two up the line was hammering the bass, largely because he was in front of the fish. When I did hook a good fish, it fought hard and broke my line (I lost another good fish later to the same frail mono - never, never, never again will I buy nylon from that oh-so famous US fly-fishing company that starts with O. The whole of last season I didn't lose a single fish. Clue: different brand mono). This didn't make me particularly happy, but it's spring; I was fishing; it was a beautiful, warm early April evening. I wasn't in the sweet spot, is all. My nylon had killed my confidence though and my sinking line was unmanageable in the flow - my flies were down on the dangle in seconds, close to garroting the fellow close below me. (Side note: last night was also a reminder, as might be necessary every year, that it takes the first few fish to recalibrate - to know instinctively which bass will tip the scale and require the reel, and which ones are small enough to overcome with a series of hand strips).

Steve and Bob fared better, but as darkness fell I began to feel tapping fish - small ones that couldn't consume my 6" fly. A good thing, because the fish I did catch were a little bigger, though not as big as the stout 30"+ animal that Bob wrestled to his waiting thumb in the gloaming.

Tonight was a reminder that not all nylon is created equal. Much more importantly, this trip was the annual pilgrimage that recalls the reason I started this game three short seasons ago. For an angler still more familiar with the comfortable runs of typically-sized trout, tonight a return to the supreme joy of connection with the surge of a powerful, spring striper.