Saturday, July 1, 2017

Loud and Clear

"You're fishing for only one fish with that kind of fly," my brother said as he dug in at the oars, ferrying us across the current. I could hear the grin on his face. I pulled my gaze from the too-large yellow articulated undulation I was leading along the bow on a fluorocarbon leash to look back at him and nod, and smile.

---

This morning the river was high and off color, 1400 cfs and holding when it is said to fish well at 400, and this was our first time angling it. We'd heard of big brown trout and within an hour of shoving off we met what we sought. Mark placed his streamer tight to an undercut root ball and a big fish breached but missed. As we ripped past in the current he cast upstream to replace the fly, twitched it once and the fish came back. Twenty-two inches to start the day and a memorable eat to start our week together on the water.

I was up to fish and decided to try a streamer cooked up during a winter evening of altered consciousness. After an hour or three its form emerged from the hazy crucible, fixed in the vice atop a heap of hair, fur, feathers and flash. My fingers were bloody from hidden hook points. When I returned to it in the morning with clearer eyes I knew the fly would hunt. It called to me whenever I would consult the meat locker but it hadn't aligned with a river and the water until now.

That the trappings from the bodies of terrestrial and aerial organisms can be arranged to create something that acts like it evolved in the water is one of the reasons I love fly fishing.

Mark is better at the oars. In the lee of a small island he began to inch us quietly upstream into a narrow side channel. We entered an eddy across from a large boulder sheltered under the branches of a leaning hemlock, deep in shade. He told me where to cast. At the splash, unseen, a big, beautiful fish peeled off from her lair in the slackwater as I swam the fly lazily back to the boat.

Holding starboard in the current the yellow streamer fluttered like a descending angel until a quick, white hole opened beneath it, a singularity, folding the fly into itself, vanishing. The fish turned and I clamped down. It thrashed on the surface and the black water frothed. I was in shock and the fish sounded. When I brought her back my brother was there with the net. He knew it was the best trout of my life.

That the fish was severely gill hooked threw a wet blanket on our enthusiasm pretty quickly. Clouds of red billowed from the net and dispersed downstream with its fading heartbeat. We cursed as it died in my hands.

I'd forgotten that fly fishing is also a bloodsport. We consume a resource whether or not we catch and release, and what we take from the experience, flesh or memories, should be able to justify our continued participation.  I took the oars for a few hours and led us down this healthy river, watching my brother practice his art from the bow, and suddenly aware of the imbalance between what these waters have given to me, and what I've, thus far, given to them.

That evening, with a few miles left on our float, my brother asked if I was ready to fish. I pinched my barbs and stood in the bow, looking for likely holding water.


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Calibrating


Arriving. Black bear eating berries at the turnoff. Making camp. Stepping into a familiar and favorite river. Several beautiful, wild fish in the afternoon. Fishing slowly, methodically. Soaking it in. Being changed. A long glide for magic hour. No takers. Tying some flies in the firelight. Pouring rain overnight.

The new moon. A wet morning. Off-color water. Rigging up at the truss bridge. A family of mink chirping among the riverside stones. Fog on the green water. Setting the tone with a gold bar on the first cast. Losing count of trout by mid-morning. Breaking for a riparian lunch. Losing a nice fish during an unplanned swim. Then, my largest brown from this river to date. Seventeen, sparsely spotted, fleshy adipose, slight hookjaw on a head too large for its body. Wild. Contented, driving to investigate some native brook trout water. Hitting a chipmunk on the road. Low summer flows. A return for the evening hatch. A turkey vulture eating my dead chipmunk. No takers from a new tailout.

Breaking camp. Phoning to plan the upcoming rendezvous with Mark. Returning to the river because I have some time and the fishing is good. Several beautiful fish, again. Two perfect brook trout among the golden browns. Midges, pheasant tails and stimulators rigged as a hopper-dropper. One last fish on top and that was that. Hitting the road to meet my brother.

My river was kind and is still beautiful. All was now well, with many days on the water still ahead of me.












Monday, June 5, 2017

Creek Stalking


Every Spring I make a point to fish some local Delmarva creeks for a myriad of species. This usually occurs as the leaves are reaching their peak and the shad run is basically over. I mostly target carp, but I also have the chance to catch largemouth and smallmouth bass, hickory shad, perch, catfish, and some leftover trout. Sometimes, I try to catch all of the aforementioned species in a short after work session. More often than not, I just focus on the carp. This year, I only fished two sessions and was able to tangle with a few quality specimens...

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Localities


Pennsylania's finest...

It was a wet Spring filled with prolonged days of rain and ending with many nightly thunderstorms. Appropriately, a lot of my fishing was done with heavier rods, sinking lines, and a wide variety of articulated streamers. On most weekends, I found myself driving home to where I was born and raised. Over the years, several friends have been catching some amazing trout in waters I never ventured to nor explored in my high school days. From afar, I was curious and a little jealous. Being local, they were able to time everything right. With streamer fishing, timing can be everything. For a weekend warrior living a few hours away, I was never able to take advantage. This year, I finally did. Although I was able to catch some big trout and a few other species, I will be haunted by several big browns that got away. These fish viciously t-boned my flies before cartwheeling through the air and tossing the hook back at my face. Moments like those won't be forgotten and will surely keep me coming back for more...

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Three Year Anniversary


A little slice of heaven...

Time was of the essence as I left work to travel several hours into the heart of Pennsylvania. Reports suggested uncommon mayfly activity for this time of year and I was eager to arrive in time to catch the evening "hatch". This time of year, the march browns were out in full force but hendricksons, quill gordons, bwo's, and blue quills were still making an appearance. Reports also suggested that the first sulphurs were beginning to emerge producing a symphony of evening mayfly activity. With the car loaded down with camping and fishing gear, I decided to cram in one last item: a mountain bike. A secret weapon of sorts, I planned on riding my bike to a far flung hole and returning via headlamp. I arrived a little later than expected, unloaded my bike, threw on my waders, and rode down the gravel road and onto the trail. I didn't go as far as planned, but managed to find an opening at a productive hole. March browns littered the air but so did a lot of the other aforementioned mayflies. I settled on a size 12 mahogany spinner to produce a silhouette in the low light. With limited backcast room, I fished downstream at a tailout and managed four fish before dark. The ride back was pleasant. The cool Spring air chilled my face and the smell of old growth forest, campfires, and roasting meat put a huge smile on my face. I eagerly looked forward to Katie's arrival as well as a few friends the next day. A three year anniversary was at hand...

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Training Wheels


A stunner...

After our inaugural float with the Stealthcraft Hooligan XL, we witnessed the potential of our home river from a radically different point of view. No longer were we tempted to drive an additional few hours to fish the Upper Delaware. In fact, we ended up fishing the Upper D zero times this Spring despite it being the main reason for obtaining the three person raft. The Lehigh proved too tempting to pass up and usually had no other people on it to compete for runs, pools, and rising fish. Our first float produced two stunning wild brown trout, one on a nymph and the other on a Quill Gordon comparadun. On this float, we broke out the streamer rods and Ryan drummed one up from the deep. The fish, whether a holdover or a wild brown, was absolutely stunning and was another reminder of the potential that the Lehigh holds...

Friday, April 28, 2017

The Keys


Sunset Over Little Torch Key

A trip to the Florida Keys has been several years in the making. This Spring, Katie and I decided to finally head south for three days of visiting friends, sight seeing, birding, and fishing. Having been away from saltwater flats for so long, my only goal was to get a shot at a bonefish or permit at some point on the trip. A shot. With a shortened window of time, no skiff, and no guide my hopes were a little ambitious but it actually ended up happening. Several other cool moments did too. Our short taste of the Keys left us with a burning desire to head back and explore even more...

Monday, April 24, 2017

Evolution


Homewater

We are all products of our environment. We've spent 20 years walking through the fertile Keystone waterways of our home while only recently picking our feet up and into some fishing-specific kayaks. The accessibility they allowed was intoxicating, but their limitations quickly became apparent. They didn't quite hit the mark.

Monday, April 10, 2017

The Opener


The trout openers of my youth are a lot different than the most recent first days of fishing I've experienced. When I was little, my father, brother, and I would stop by the local bait shop to pick up some mealy worms, night crawlers, and two dozen minnows in eager anticipation of the first or second Saturday in April. We'd often arrive early, but not early enough, to compete with hordes of other anglers intent on taking home their limits of freshly stocked rainbows, browns, and brook trout. I can state for a fact that I had no idea what a "wild" trout was. All I knew was that there was fish in the water and I could take them home with me in a bucket or on a stringer. Most often, I felt guilty about keeping a trout and we kept the fish alive in a bucket until it slowly asphyxiated to death. I look back on those moments of childhood horror as one of the main reasons why I have caught and released almost every fish I've caught since. Anyway, as I transitioned into the sport of fly fishing in my early teenage years, opening day was just another day of trout fishing. I came to seemingly look down upon stocked fish (although I catch them all the time) and now anticipate wild places and the stream born fish that reside in them. Over the past few years, I have looked forward to the NY opener and it has officially replaced those eves of my childhood with something similar yet different at the same time.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Sojourn


Washing away the daily grind...

The middle of March has two faces, Winter and Spring. This manifested itself in the latter half of the month when I was wearing shorts, a t-shirt, and flip flops. A few days later, I was shoveling 12+ inches of snow and enjoying the benefits of a day off of work. These climatic variations show themselves on fishing trips too. March finds the angler layering and delayering clothes in order to stay warm and cool on the water.  Despite this, March is a great month for fly fishermen and women as its usually when the fishing starts to get good, the bugs start to hatch, and the fish begin to rise. Katie and I planned a short weekend trip to take advantage of the good weather but it ended up being even shorter than planned. It wasn't due to a poor fishing and/or camping experience but due to the constraints of work and school. The day and half on the water proved to be a stress reliever that we both needed in order to head back into the real world and the daily grind of adulting.