Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Season Finale?

H: Writing this post, probably the last fishing report of the 2011 season, is rather bittersweet. It was a solo trip back to the Farmington river in CT (Josée has long since hung up her waders). "Falling back" the night before allowed me an extra hour of sleep. I leisurely left the house at 8 am, scraped the frost off the windows of my car, and set off to (hopefully) catch my last trout of the season. The plan was to fish till mid-afternoon then drive back for a family dinner and catch the tail end of the Giants-Patriots game : ) As I drove through Putnam county into CT there was quite a bit of snow still on the ground and I spotted more and more felled or partially dismembered trees--casualites of the historic October nor'easter the week before. I wasn't sure what shape the river was going to be in when I got there...

Ovation pool was my destination. There were lingering mounds of snow in the parking lot, broken branches and debris strewn everywhere, and no other cars in sight. A large tree had been uprooted right beside the path down to the river. It didn't look like the handiwork of a snow storm, but rather as if another hurricane had passed through. The river was high but looked safe enough for me to cross to the little island and access the pool upriver. It was still too cool and early for any bug activity, so I decided to nymph and practice once more with my 8 wt. switch rod.

I tied on the exact same nymphs I had used on the Beaverkill: a big momma pheasant tail and a tiny baby pheasant tail dropper (very technical, I know ; ). It still amazes me how easy it is to cast distances and mend long lengths of line with a switch rod and shooting head line. I was able to cover a lot of water, quickly. It wasn't long before I had my first fish on, a good sized one, too. I could actually feel its movements at the end of my line. But with the 8wt. rod, I landed him all too quickly. He was my largest fish of the season on the Farmington, a 20-inch brown trout. Unfortunately, he wasn't very attractive--a mousy gray brown--lacking the fiery red markings and golden hues of the Beaverkill brown caught 2 weeks ago. (Hmmm, when did I become such a trout snob?) I tried to take a decent photo but with my line entangled in my net cord, cold hands, and the size of the fish, I wasn't very successful. I reluctantly post the picture below. As I released him, I couldn't help thinking: Damn! It would have been so much fun to land him with my 5wt.

He was big, but unfortunately, not very photogenic.

I nymphed a bit longer before losing my rig to a submerged rock. I thought I would try out one of my sinking tips and swing a streamer, just to get a feel for it. But as I removed the floating tip from my line, a few small blue wing olives flew by. They were a sight for sore eyes (and a sign from above?). I realized I was DONE--done with nymphing and done with my switch rod. I practically ran back to the car and assembled my 5wt., excited as a school girl. Then it hit me--I was so focused on practicing casting my new switch rod (practicing at the expense of fishing) that most of the joy was being sucked out of my time on the river. It might have been a different story if I was trying to catch salmon or stripers. But manwomanhandling trout with it, even a 20-incher, was utterly unsatisfying. A wise fly fisherman I know recently said, "...while you're fishing is not the time to be practicing." There's truth to that. There's a time to practice and a time to fish. It was time to fish!

I tied on a #20 bwo and proceeded to dry fly fish. It felt like ages since I held my 5wt. and my overhead cast was rusty, but I didn't care. It felt so light and free. I couldn't spot any rises so I blind casted into the slightly faster water above the pool. I started focusing on the fishing: placing my fly in potentially fishy seams, getting the drift just right... It was a splashy rise and agressive take--I set the hook instinctively--fish on! I'd forgotten the simple joy of watching a trout rise and take your fly. And I could feel her every shake and shimmy on my 5wt! She was a lovely 12-inch rainbow but she slipped out of my grasp before I could take her picture. I guess she was camera shy. Oh well... she certainly made my day and possibly salvaged the end of the season.

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