Monday, June 20, 2011

FISH TALES: My First . . .

Dear anglers,
We all have our share of memorable fly fishing FIRSTS--first fish caught on a dry fly, first trophy fish, etc. I hope you will share some of your favorite firsts with us. Here is one of mine from last year.

My First Fish . . . From a Bridge

H: September 25, 2010. I went to Vermont to fish the Battenkill and met up with my friend and former instructor, Antoine Bissieux. Unfortunately, water levels were extremely low. The evening I arrived, it was a scorching 95 degrees Fahrenheit and the Battenkill was a completely changed river from when I was there last. Turbulent riffles and fast runs had been reduced to exposed rock/gravel beds and sluggish waters. The wild trout in the Battenkill are about as finicky as they get. In these conditions, they would be near impossible to catch.

Antoine says to me, "With the water this low, you can't step into the river. If you do, you will spook all the fish." (Spoken in a French accent!) So what's a flygirl to do? Fish from a bridge, of course. I've seen spin fishermen drop their bait/lures from the top of bridges but I've never seen a fly angler cast from a bridge.

We drove to one of several small bridges that cross the Battenkill. This particular bridge was about 25 feet high. Dusk was falling and caddis were out in full force, skittering upstream to lay their eggs. As we stood on the bridge looking down below, we spotted a slim dark shadow behind a rock. Antoine and I positioned ourselves on one side of the bridge. He demonstrated the technique I should use: casting down towards the opposite bank and quickly stripping in the line to make the fly dance on the water's surface. I watched as his back cast disappeared skywards, his line soaring up and down like a graceful yo-yo.

Antoine took a short break. As he was walking back, I made my 6th or 7th cast and got a fish on! I was slightly in shock but I managed to keep tension on the line, walked to the end of the bridge, and down the steep dirt path that led to the river bank. It was now dark and I could just barely make out the path. But with Antoine's help we netted the fish--a skinny but feisty 17-inch wild brown--first fish I've caught from a bridge.

We would love to hear about your favorite fly fishing firsts, whether they are funny, sad, inspirational, or just plain silly...anyone? Feel free to email us your stories or add them as a comment to this post.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Where's the Fish?

H: Several friends have asked us, where's the fish? They want to see pictures of the fish we've caught. All I can say is that the 2 flygirls are so busy catching fish, left and right, that we don't have the time...just kidding!

I am usually fishing a good distance from Josée (I believe in personal fishing space : ) And when one of us catches a fish, we try to stress it as little as possible--quickly putting him/her back in the water. Hence, few fish pictures.

Regretfully, there have been moments when I've caught some milestone fish--my first fish on a dry fly (a beautiful 19-inch brown), my first trout over 22 inches...etc...where Josée or a camera were nowhere in sight.

We will try and make more of an effort to capture these moments in the future. In the meantime, here's a great picture of Josée with a gorgeous, wild, Montana brown from last summer. (Josée is feeling shy--which is why her head is cropped off in the picture). Enjoy!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Six Degrees of Julianas

H: June 10, 2011: We left NYC early Friday afternoon in some of the worst traffic I've experienced in a while, barring an accident. Seemed like everyone in the city with the will and the means was trying to escape the oppressive heat of the past few days. It took 3.5 hours to reach the Farmington river, where normally it takes under 2.5. We were meeting Antoine there and we were definitely going to be late.

Path to the river
We arrived at Greenwoods stressed and exhausted--actually it was only me that was stressed out. Josée was her usual cheery self. But the previous night's heavy storms, which had downed trees and power lines, had also purified the air. In sharp contrast to the stench of rotting garbage as we crawled through the Bronx on our way up, everything smelled fresh and verdant. I could feel the stress melting away.

The water was quite high and stained, as expected, but we hoped for the best. Antoine suggested we fish till dusk, grab a quick dinner, then come back and fish mice patterns--an ambitious fishing plan. Having never fished a mouse pattern before, I was excited at the prospect of a giant carnivorous brown attacking and devouring my fly. But that will have to wait for another night and another post (hopefully).

20 minutes on the water and the stress of the afternoon drive was a distant memory. Fly fishing really is a panacea for the ills of modern society. We fished till dark but things were slow. On the menu that evening were Sulphurs, Cahills and an assortment of Caddis. Antoine caught a few fish and Josée had one on. We decided to call it a night and headed to Portobellos where they serve obscene amounts of pasta. Richard, an angler from Boston, generously bought us a round of drinks. We watched the Canucks score against the Bruins to Josée's delight and Richard's dismay, then headed to the Hillside to check-in. We slept well that night--8 hours--the most I've had in weeks.

June 11, 2011: It was a cold and damp morning with scattered rain showers. Josée and I headed upriver to a spot where the water levels would be suitable for wading and nymphing. We fished for a couple of hours before heading back to town to warm up our hands, feet, and stomachs with some hot coffee and donuts. Antoine joined us again later that afternoon after teaching at the local Orvis store. We headed off to fish Halford's Run. Josée and I had fished there once before but Antoine was showing us a different route to get there.

As we were suiting up, Antoine and Josée spotted a black bear up the road. Josee was as excited as a school girl--this being her first bear sighting. I on the other hand was not so enthusiastic. A black bear, so close to town and the river can only spell disaster for the poor bear. Plus he was heading in exactly the direction were were planning on going. He crossed River Road and the small connector stream and headed to the island that leads to Halford's Run. Just great!

We crossed the stream and arrived at the island, looking about for signs of the bear. Wanting to make our presense known, Josée began to sing Elvis's Suspicious Minds while I jangled the tools on my lanyard in loud percussion. Antoine seemed amused and completely unperturbed--cool as a cucumber--probably planning his attack on the poor unsuspecting trout at Halfords Run.

Halford's is a gorgeous spot and we spread out below the run to nymph. Antoine had his 10 ft. 5 wt. "nymphing machine", as he called it, with him. And it wasn't long before he was bringing them in. It took a while longer for Josée and I to get a fish on. 12-16 inch rainbows seemed to have made Halford's Run their temporary residence. We fished till we could no longer feel our fingertips and toes. Time for some après fishing with a glass of wine at Greenwoods to wrap up the day.

Josée was done fishing for the day and while Antoine and I scoped out the river, she struck up a conversation with a couple of other anglers there--one of them being Bert Darrow. He asked if we were Julianas. The day before, another gentleman, David Kramer, had asked us the same thing. They both mentioned being friends with Sara Low and Karen Kaplan (Emeritus Juliana's Anglers) through Theodore Gordon Flyfishers. Earlier that morning at breakfast, we sat next next to a man who fished with Paul Rossman, a well-known local fly tier whom we had met through Kat (another Juliana) the year before. Perhaps this post should be 3 degrees of Julianas since the fly fishing world seems to be so very small.

Shortly after Antoine and I entered the water to fish, it started to downpour. Well, at least the wine was good ... and the company.

Josée's frozen feet

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A Sunday on the Housatonic River...

J: Early (6:45) Sunday morning I met Hyun at our usual point de rencontre, half asleep, I'm afraid! We were on our way to the Housatonic River to meet the Juliana's Anglers. When we arrived at our meeting place, the girlies were nowhere to be seen so we crossed the street for a quick breakfast. I forgot the name of the place but I can say with certitude that their coffee was by far the worst coffee I have ever drank in my life!

When the sleeping beauties finally showed up we were introduced to Harold, owner of Housatonic River Outfitters. We then drove--guided by Harold--to a spot down below the TMA. This particular part of the river reminded me of the 405 freeway in Cali. It was very wide like an 8 lane freeway. At that moment I realized that I prefer more intimate rivers. We fished there for 2 or 3 hours. I frankly lost track of the time.

The Juliana's Anglers (from left: Julie, Hyun, Beth, Josée, Alex, Kat,
Michelle, and Linda) at the Housatonic River in CT

When everybody's stomach was screaming for food we gathered on the shore for a consensus on where to go eat! Well... everyone but Hyun who unlike moi and everyone else, was still trying to get a fish out of the water! If there was a Juliana's Anglers' Rule Book, my dear friend on this very day broke quite a few!! Like a Ninja, she left the troops to go fish on her own out of everyone's sight, humm! A big no no! she was told endearingly by the more experienced among us! As we left the river--Hyun still dripping from taking a plunge in the ferocious waters--we (the girlies) headed to Kent for a well deserved lunch!

It was sure lovely to see Kat, Alex and Linda again! I was finally introduced to Michele (amazing angler) and 2 new members: Julie and Beth. As the lunch concluded, Hyun and I decided to fish some more. Michele gave us a new place to go explore...the Elms, where the Julianas had fished the evening before. And off we went! It was about 5 o'clock when we got there. We fished for about 1 hour and then thought it would be wise to wait for a bit more action on the river as there was none!

As we walk back to the car I (we) saw a vision... His name was David.  A lawyer from Litchfield, CT. Beautiful, he was! David was getting his fishing gear ready! Needless to say we made friends : )! In a few minutes he had one of many boxes of hand tied flies open for us to admire and gave Hyun and I each one (Spinner something or other). I forgot as I was not paying too much attention to the contents of the box but rather to the man holding it! Aleluia! What piercing blue eyes he had!

Fishing, we went. David nearby, literally emptying the river of its fish with his bamboo rod and antique reel--so said Hyun. But then luck struck Hyun with 3 rainbows and me with 1. I was in heaven.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Sometimes Beauty IS Everything

Fishing Trout Run

H: Here is Part 2 of our West Branch Delaware River trip. Sunday, May 22, 2011. We awake to a gray morning. But at least, no rain. Jim, an angler from Florida that we met at dinner the evening before, stops by with 30+ boxes of flies and breakfast supplies. He insists on giving us over 50 flies and cooking breakfast. Thanks for your generosity, Jim!

After a delicious, home-cooked breakfast, we decide to walk up to the fly shop to see if water levels have dropped. On the way to the shop, Craig calls and we start discussing possible fishing spots. He mentions a creek that feeds the Beaver Kill where there might be spawning rainbows or wild brookies. It sounds perfect. We check out of the West Branch Resort and head over to Trout Run.

It's a lovely creek and more importantly--extremely wadeable! We fished a multitude of spots as we hiked about a mile upriver. It was absolutely beautiful and we had it all to ourselves--literally--no fish to be seen. But for some reason, it didn't bother me that day. The weather had held out and the pristine beauty and solitude of the creek managed to soothe my restless, wild-trout-starved soul. I guess sometimes, beauty IS everything.

Our next trip will be a day on the Housatonic River in CT with fellow Juliana's on June 5, 2011.