Thursday, February 16, 2017
The alarm rings early, 4:30 to be exact, as I rise out of bed and straight into some winter fishing clothes. Unlike the previous five mornings, the snooze button is unused. Compared to work, the anticipation of fish is still one of the best alarm clocks one can ever use. I check the straps on the roof of my car ensuring that the previous night's preparation remained true and slide my 8 and 9 weights into the back of the Subaru. I meet Tyler around 5 and we put the kayaks in the bed of his pickup. Along the way we stop at Royal Farms for a little coffee and croissants with chicken, eggs, and cheese. We are on are way for striped bass and only have a small window of opportunity. There is little time to waste and Tyler is in a hurry. At the put in, the early morning light is obscured by fog as we push off into the flow...
The scene is eerie as I try keeping pace with Tyler deftly maneuvering around obstacles and rapids. I pause frequently to take in the silence but Tyler quickly disappears in the fog and I have to play catch up. On ahead, he disturbs a flock of cormorants that appear out of the gloom and fly over the yak. I regret not having my good camera on hand as I miss the photo opportunity. In the distance, I hear the velociraptor like cry of a great blue heron whose morning hunt was just interrupted and catch the faintest sight of a bald eagle. The great bird of prey is perched atop a boulder tearing into a morning snack. These moments are interrupted by my kayak scraping bottom and pin balling off several boulders and ridges as Tyler pulls ahead looking for the secret spot. I eventually catch up long enough to see Tyler take his first cast and instantaneously hook up with the first of countless stripers. I rise and take a few casts with my fly but the action is considerably slower on my end. Tyler gets bored after a few casts without a fish and takes off looking for the right pool. I decide to stay and end up catching several fish, including a bonus smallmouth.
The sun begins to rise and break through the morning fog. It comes and goes in waves creating quite the backdrop for a morning of fishing, especially on a cold Fall day. During one of the breaks in visibility, Tyler spots some active birds in the distance and immediately takes off. I stay back and document nature's display and catch a few more fish. I eventually find Tyler several hundred yards away catching stripers on every cast. I take up residency on the opposite side of the pool and start keeping pace. Tyler's spot cools down and mine starts to heat up. Five consecutive fish on the swing makes him jealous for only the slightest of moments before he changes locations and continues to drop the hammer.
By this time, the sun is out and I am stripping a chartreuse over white half n half near the surface. I go into a figure eight and my largest bass of the day explodes out of the chocolate milk and takes my fly with authority. This occurs a few feet off the kayak and gets my blood pumping vigorously. With every minute of the sun's rise, the action slows. I start to make my way back upriver as our time is simply running out. In the distance, a siren blares. That is our alarm, signally an urgent paddle to the put in. Our focus shifts entirely to the effort needed to paddle against the current. It is difficult and not a straight line paddle. With a hundred yards to go, the second siren blares. Dripped in sweat, I pull my kayak onto the launch as the water level rises several feet in a matter of seconds. It is a close one, but well worth the jaunt.