Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Mice Fishing the Farmington

H: August 12, 2011: We drove up to the Farmington river, excited to try our hand at fishing mice patterns with Antoine that evening. Josée even purchased a wading staff for the occasion. When we get there, Antoine has had a very long day--having fished early that morning on the Battenkill in Vermont followed by an afternoon guiding trip on the Farmington. The last thing he wanted to do was fish mice patterns late into the night with 2 inexperienced flygirls. But he generously agreed to take us.

A very realistic and tasty looking mouse pattern, compliments of Antoine Bissieux.

It was a beautiful night on the Farmington as we watched an almost-full moon rise into a clear midnight sky (not ideal mice fishing conditions but perfect for a first try). Walking into the black still water at Greenwoods, with all senses heightened, was a surreal experience. It reminded me of the first time I went scuba diving at night. Listening for the sound of rises, splashes, and the possible territorial beaver smacking its tail in warning; Feeling your way through the water over invisible rocks and fallen logs; Hearing your line and the mouse fly through the air and trying to feel the weight of it extend behind you; It was rather intimidating at first and then surprisingly liberating. It makes you feel at one with the river, the night, and all the creatures around you.

Antoine demonstrated the technique we should use to activate the mouse--alternating strips and slack to imitate a struggling, swimming mouse. Josée was going to start first. As Antoine effortlessly false cast the mouse back and forth, shooting line, she stood like a shadow alongside him, mimicking his movements. I couldn't help chuckling. When it was her turn to try, she started sidearm casting like Antoine, which is completely different from her normal overhead style. We looked at each other and burst out laughing. Imitation, in this case, was the sincerest form of flattery. But Antoine must have thought we were crazy!

I won't pretend it was easy casting that mouse in the dark, relying purely on feel and sound. Antoine standing right next to me, watching every bad cast, didn't help either. Josée was about 30 feet away, very slowly and cautiously making her way down river. I could hear the rap-tap-tap of her wading staff against the rocky bottom. Antoine periodically yelled at her, "keep walking." She would shout back, "I just got here!" She had a strike but was so startled she didn't have time to react. Antoine fished for a bit and also had a hit but missed the fish. He left to make sure Josée was ok. She was done and was talking to an angler who had joined us on the river.

While they were on the bank, I finally fell into a rhythm of casting, waiting, lifting, stripping, lowering... It felt magical, incredibly peaceful. Before I knew it, I too, had a strike. I saw and heard a large splash where I sensed my mouse was. I felt weight on my line but I lifted my rod too quickly. So much for the research I had done beforehand on fishing mice patterns: wait till the fish has completely taken the mouse into its mouth. It normally takes the tail first and brings it down (unless it's a huge monster trout).

It was close to 11 pm when we left Greenwoods. Too late for dinner, we headed back to the Hillside. I couldn't sleep that night. I was still wired from the night fishing. My senses, on overdrive, refused to shut down--plus my stomach would not stop growling. I can't remember the last time I went to sleep on an empty stomach... The last meal I had was lunch around 11:30 am, not counting half an heirloom tomato from the local farmer's market that afternoon. I would do it again in a heartbeat. Next time though, the moon won't be full, but our stomachs will be : ), and hopefully we will catch a nocturnal monster.

3 comments:

  1. http://youtu.be/A4pOOMpFW_8 check this out, i think you will enjoy it.....jim http://youtu.be/A4pOOMpFW_8

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  2. H: Hi Jim, hope u r well. Yes, I've watched that trailer for Once in a Blue Moon many times. It looks amazing but I have yet to see the movie. I will also be going back to fly fish in New Zealand some day. That was the very first time I tried fly fishing--after a friend's wedding--Huka lodge, LakeTaupo. It was so pristine and beautiful. I will never forget it.

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  3. J: I have not written much since our night out at the Farmington river. I had such a good time though.
    The weather was prefect, I was afraid to freeze but no, we were super comfortable.
    We had a full moon so we had quite a bit of light which I was grateful for.
    That very same day I had bought a wading staff so that I wouldn't kill myself on my first night outing but I broke the thing within the hour!
    I have to admit although I was excited about catching a fish that night a big part of me didn't really want to have to deal with bringing the monster trout to my net! I was hearing stories about the size of the mice eating trouts and I was a bit scared, I must say.
    And then came the stories about territorial beavers coming really near you making sure you notice them as they want you to get the hell out of their river. Thank God we had Antoine, even though he was a bit pushy with the "moving along down the river at an Olympic speed!" I was glad to learn from him the mice fishing technique.

    I would definitely do it again, my friends.

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