Saturday, June 16, 2012

Deep Thoughts on Fishing for June 16, 2012

Deep Thought #1 — When fishing a small brook, think big.

"Eh?" sez you.  "Shouldn't I get out the 2-weight and tiptoe around, putting tiny flies on gassamer tippets into likely pools?"

Sure, if you want to. But it's not necessary.

Case in point — Race Brook in Sheffield, Mass. Located along a popular hiking trail, it's a typical steep mountain brook that fishes better with a lot of water in it. When it's medium or low flow, as it was the other day, whatever stealth advantage that might be achieved with back-breaking creepatology is lost because the fish can see an angler coming a mile away anyway.

So the secret is a combination of harboring zero ambition for the stream, plus the willingness to stand plumb spang in the middle of it and flip some big hairy thing into the pool above. Preferably in whatever churned-up water is available. This gives the hungry but skittish brook trout about a quarter of a second to make up its mind.

I like the Royal elk-hair caddis (size 12) and a Humpy in any color (size 12 or 14) for this kind of work.

If you do this right, after hours of futility you will catch a handsome monster like this six-incher out of a pool like this. True, if killed the trout would provide just enough meat to cover a Saltine cracker, but nobody's going to kill them, right?

Deep Thought #2 — What fly should I use?

I ran into Freddy Bashi-Bazouk on the Blackberry the other night. (Not his real name. His real name is Cornelius Manglehofner.)

A veteran fly-fisherman, he nonetheless confided his deep existential angst over what fly to use in a given situation. 

"Imitation vs. presentation" is fly-fishing's version of "nature vs. nurture." It can be argued inconclusively for hours or decades, depending on the stamina of the participants. It's great fun and keeps everybody's pores open, but doesn't produce much in the way of results.

I lean toward the presentation side myself, because a trout has a brain the size of a dried pea. Mine is the size of a big juicy fresh pea, so there.

And if I can't outwit a trout then it's time to take up bridge and the hell with it. Pass the digitalis, Maude, and all of that.

So on an evening following a day with the water temperature getting dangerously high for trout, and itty bitty tan things hatching with no visible takers, I had two options — an itty bitty tan thing fished wet, or a big hairy thing — in this case, the Kaufman Stimulator, which has been stimulating trout named Kaufman for decades.

Well, Kaufman was lurking in the deep cushion in front of a big rock, as Kaufman trout are known to do. They are famous for it, in fact. Cole Porter tried to write a song about it, but gave up because nothing rhymes with "Kaufman."

So I tied on a Stimulator in the Royal configuration, a size 10, flopped it in there and got Kaufman on the combination swing/skitter.

See, the Stimulator imitates an adult stonefly, which is the insect equivalent of Lumpy from "Leave It to Beaver." Clumsy, in a word.

So achieving the perfect mix of tippet diameter and dead drift really isn't necessary. Especially not at 8:45 p.m.

Kaufman, excited perhaps at the prospect of a square meal at last, after nibbling on itty bitty tan things all day, slammed into the fly so hard he bent the thing almost in half. (See photo, of normal fly above, and bent below.)

When the water is low and warm it's crucial to get the fish back in fast. This fine video clip, which I took by accident because I forgot to reset the camera, is about how long the fish was out of the water. A 15-inch brown, fat and sassy, name of Kaufman, and a nice way to end the evening.

A trout named Kaufman video.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Adventures in Fishing, June 8-10

I was out on Lake Wonosopomuc with Coach Urso in his rowboat Friday, trying in vain to annoy some bass or lobster or whatever's in there, when this whacking great storm boiled up out of the west and we had to take cover on someone's beach. Luckily they weren't home.

Coach said there's a federal judge with a house on the lake. Hizzoner has received death threats and has a detail of extra-savage bodyguards around. We were half-expecting black helicopters and guys in ninja suits shinnying down ropes.

Meanwhile in Phoenicia, N.Y., the Esopus was nice and low and pretty clear for a change. I fished Saturday night and cleaned up; ditto Sunday morning from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m., when I got dizzy and figured it was time to go home, eat something and take a nap.

My timing was good because when I went out for the evening round the river was up from 300 cfs to 550, and considerably murkier. I checked the portal discharge online and it didn't indicate any major spike, but that extra water and turbidity had to come from somewhere.

Saturday afternoon and evening and Sunday morning to 1 p.m. I probably caught 40 trout, including some of the famous "silver bullet" Esopus rainbows — feisty little buggers who punch way above their weight class.

And I caught all but a couple on wet flies. Olive and yellow soft hackles, regular old Light Cahills and an absolutely deadly Hare's Ear (with gold ribbing) in a wet configuration. Also a little thing that looks like a deer turd with a Royal Coachman's tail.

Go to a good fly shop and they'll have zillions of flies — dries, nymphs, streamers, terrestrials, salt-water, bass bugs. And maybe they'll have one little drawer with cobwebs on it marked "wet flies," and many of them mislabeled.

The Esopus is an egalitarian river. Here an old-timer fiddles with his bait-casting rig. Minnow rigs, I'll bet.

They're not always huge but there are a lot of them.

Esopus Creek, looking downstream toward the big swimming hole, off Herdman Road in Phoenicia. 7 a.m. June 10.

I used to tell visiting anglers to just follow the train tracks to get to the remote parts of the Esopus. Have to revise that a little.

There used to be a bridge here, but it got Irened.

A stray guard rail, part of the new post-Irene Esopus landscape.