Monday, April 16, 2012

Opening Day

H: April 16, 2012: My opening day for trout was this past Saturday on the Delaware river. After my bonefish trip, I was relishing the thought of fishing in the company of women, but it wasn't meant to be. In fact, it looked like it was going to be a solo trip. Josée was going to Boston. Marcy would most likely be in Mexico for work. I even asked Shannon and Margaret, two fellow Juliana's Anglers, but no one was available.

I recently started reading Paul Weamer's Fly-Fishing Guide to the Upper Delaware River. With water levels so low, I thought this would be an excellent opportunity to wade and explore areas that normally are not easily accessible. I've heard so little spoken about the Main Stem from other anglers. I was curious to find out why this is so. My plan was to make a quick morning stop at the West Branch Angler to check out their "Hell or High (Low ; ) Water" event, pick up some flies and river intel, then head over to the upper Main Stem to fish.

Exploration of uncharted waters, quiet time on the river, get re-acquainted with Mr. and Mrs. Hendrickson, and hopefully catch some beautiful wild browns and rainbows... What more could a flygirl ask for? Well, as luck would have it, Craig was going to be fishing the Delaware on Saturday. I asked if he wanted to fish with me. I fully expected another refusal, but instead, he asked that I meet him in Hancock at 10 am. He was going to visit his friend Richard on the lower East Branch. He invited me to join them. I happily accepted.

East Branch of the Delaware river, NY
The lower East Branch of the Delaware, just downriver from Richard's cabin.
I met Craig in Hancock and we drove to Richard's cabin which is situated on a lovely piece of riverfront property. After introductions, Craig and I geared up and hit the water. The river was very low (20% normal levels) and clear and we ran head-on into an aerial traffic jam of caddis and hendricksons. Craig quickly walked downstream in search of rises. He meant business—he was a man on a mission. I took my time walking down, soaking in the lovely views, marvelling at the clouds of bugs, enjoying the pleasing coolness of the water through my waders. I felt like I was back home...

Well, at least until I started to cast into some fishy looking seams and eddies. Having cast an 8- and 9-weight for over 3 months, the 5-weight felt like a feather in my hands. You would think this would be a good thing but it felt as foreign as the 8-weight had just a few months ago. It didn't help that I was ill prepared for my trip. All I had with me was a hastily assembled fly box containing a few flies I picked up at Urban Angler—a couple of hendrickson duns, quill gordons, blue quills, and rusty spinners—along with flies from the tail end of last season. Even my lanyard was not properly set up (I had removed my nippers and forceps to take with me to Andros). I was quite disorganized, which is unlike me.

I looked downriver and noticed that Craig had a fish on. He was walking towards the bank. I figured he was planning on taking some pics for his blog. He waved for me to come over. He had a handsome large male brown in his net. We took a few pictures before Craig released him. There were several rises by the far bank, so we went over to fish. Craig started coaching me. I know he was only trying to be helpful, plus he can't help himself, he's a fly fishing instructor. But I wanted to do this on my own. After all, the trout river was my element. It would come back to me. Well, I missed a few hits after changing flies about 5 times. I scowled at my fly box—I didn't like anything in there. My casting was rusty. I couldn't see my damn fly... I was happy to break for lunch.

Between Richard and Craig, they seemed to know just about everyone in the fly fishing industry (east coast). They talked shop all day. I felt like a third wheel. Perhaps it's been a while since they've talked and they had a lot of catching up to do, or this is just their natural dynamic. I learned that Richard was working on a fly fishing book, a series of interviews with the fly fishing legends (I had no idea Lefty Kreh is one of just a handful of people that have survived exposure to anthrax). But most of what and whom they spoke of, I had no clue. When they weren't talking about the biz, they talked about birds and trees. As a city-bred girl, I had little to contribute. Sure, I know my NYC pigeons ; ) and can tell the difference between an oak and a maple... Okay, so maybe I know a bit more than that, but definitely not in their league. At least I was able to help Richard decide on upholstery and a new rug for his cabin ; )

Richard was a gracious host. I enjoyed some delicious food and wine in his charming cabin by the river. He even gave me one of his hand-tied comparaduns which I successfully fished with later that afternoon. Despite my earlier frustrations, I finally caught my first trout of the 2012 season, a lovely East Branch rainbow. I gave her a quick gentle hug before releasing her. She made my day. In fact, I had a great day fishing with Craig and Richard. Craig would laugh exuberantly like a school boy (or a mad fly fisherman ; ), every time he had a fish on—his infectious laughter cut through the silence of the river and would make me smile. And the easy camaraderie between Richard and Craig reminded me of fishing with Josée.

Flygirl Hyun Kounne with rainbow trout, east branch, delaware river, NY
Opening day trout—a lovely East Branch rainbow. Photo courtesy of R. Ross.
I recall Andrew asking me towards the end of the bonefish trip, which I preferred, trout fishing or bonefishing. It's like comparing apples to oranges, crisp and sweet vs. juicy and tart—or better yet, sometimes you feel like listening to Mozart, sometimes you want some good old rock 'n roll. They both have their own unique challenges, rhythms, and rewards and there is definitely room for both in my ever-expanding fly fishing world. I will absolutely go bonefishing again next year. Meanwhile, I have some lovely trout to focus my attentions on...

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