Thursday, May 26, 2016

A weekend to remember, for life!

Its been an amazing spring so far here in New York State. For the first time in years, we have had a rainy enough mid-spring, which helps to make up for the lack of snowfall. Conditions have been absolutely perfect for fishing for weeks, and I've been out so much that I find myself falling behind in my reports... Now that's a good problem to have!

The NYC chapter of Trout Unlimited had scheduled some conservation work in the form of tree planting and temperature monitor installations and we set out to do the work, but also to fish the Neversink River.

The Neversink is a beautiful Catskills river, and is my favorite kind of water because, well, its as if they just stacked a bunch of small streams side by side... plenty of features, plunges, and cover for fish. We were rewarded with one of the most varied and epic hatches I've seen here in any of my visits.

As we arrived and set up, we were literally trembling with anticipation - the fish were rising EVERYWHERE. And to pretty much everything, as well. What a joy.

Sight fishing to 17 inch browns, while grabbing brookies on dry flies right in the next current line is an experience that is hard to match, no matter what kind of fisherman you may be...

Not only that, but there were some "wild cards" too, like this sucker that we saw flashing in the current and mistook for a brown trout until it was on the line. Hard to see, but it had gnarly talon marks on its sides... this fish was a survivor, to say the least.

Spring is the time to fish this river... as the summer heat sets in, the main stem heats up and the action moves into the tributaries. The fish are also often spooky in the slower sections, but on this weekend we found no such situation.

Being mid May, I hardly expected to see the mix of different insects... it seemed we had everything from march browns to caddis, blue winged olives and beyond. No need to match anything, the fish were hungry and they took anything that was the correct size, and that was presented nicely.

The scenery was also unmatched, from the car-sized rocks and huge pines... the wild flowers and the beauty of the early-spring forest floor.

The patterns on this stick, where the bark had cracked and then slowly decayed, left nature's thumbprint behind for us to enjoy.

On this day I also caught what I consider to be a "trophy fish." It was a beautiful wild brown trout and it bent my rod almost in half. It took a nymph after we had already "cleaned" out the pool with dries...

I rarely get photos with my fish... a benefit of fishing in small groups. Don't mind the Beatles-style mop-top, it happened on its own... one day they call me Elton, the next day Ringo. Ha!

There were plenty of fish to sight-fish to, and we spent hours just walking the stream, hooking one after another. It was a day of paddle-tails for sure.

Eventually, after having my fill of the larger wild browns, I allowed myself to become "distracted" by a small tributary. I fished up it and caught a couple of small brookies.

These fish swim down into the main stem and grow bigger... and then some of these larger fish swim back up the tributaries later on. Mid summer tributary fishing can be wonderful, and often yield fish much larger than the one I caught, below.

One of my favorite fish of the day fought much harder and longer than a fish of its size normally would. It couldn't have been over 14 inches but it seemed every bit as big as the 17 incher from earlier that morning.

This part of the river is not stocked, and we surely had our fill of wild brookies and browns.

It was hard to know that there would be an end to this weekend on the river... memories that will surely last a lifetime were made, as were some new friends.

 Below, my fishing buddies for the day take a moment to soak it all in, watching a rising fish brazenly feed just yards away.  Unable to walk away, Mike said "I'm going to go catch that one before we leave." And he did.

On a side note... wet wading. I love it. Yes, I wet waded this river over the course of two cold days, without an issue. Enter the Daiwa Neo NG-400 Gaiter. It fits over a neoprene sock, and keeps you warm. There is a gel knee pad as well, and I rarely leave home without them.

I happened to have imported a few pairs from Japan, and if you'd like to try them out, get in touch and I'll ship a pair your way.

Some more photos of the weekend...

Planting trees with the TU crew! Horse Brook is looking good.

Finding quite a lot of caddis at the site where we placed our temperature monitors. 

So much more to say, but that's all I have time for now... and I won't blame you if these images haunt your dreams the way they've haunted mine for the last month. I can't wait for the next time, and I sure hope next Spring brings similar conditions, for I will surely return.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

To re-learn a stream...

A few weeks ago I had a chance to re-visit a stream that I used to fish as a teenager. I have many fond memories of fishing this stream, but the truth is, I had never really learned it...

This particular stream will soon be the focus of a new TU conservation/rehab project, and as such, I figured it was time to revisit and to see it once again, albeit through "new eyes..." and with a Tenkara rod in hand.

The first brown of the day was absolutely beautiful. This stream sees wild and holdover browns, some (or most) of which swim up from the reservoir each spring.

It is important to get there early, or to fish it on a week day, when the crowds of other fishermen are away. Frustratingly, there are a lot of spin fishermen and this spot gets fished out each year (and each busy day, to some degree.)

This weekend was the first real spring weekend of the year, and the flowers and ramps were starting to pop. The sun was warm, the breeze was light and I was feeling great.

There are many features to fish here, from slower runs to fast riffles and foamy eddies. And the fish are in all of these spots, just as one might expect.

Many of them were easily spooked, and I did miss quite a few nice ones.

But I was able to bring many to hand, some of which I photographed and that you see here. Others I released after enjoying their beauty alone.

The water runs clear but after a busy weekend day it begins to take the color of some silt. On these busy days, the fishing is much worse in the evening - pressure is a real concern if the goal is to catch fish in the best lies.

Luckily I was able to time my visits this spring on a weekday afternoon, and a weekend morning before the crowds. I was rewarded with many beautiful fish.

The forest that this river flows through is beautiful and varied. It supports many kinds of wildflowers, trees and grasses. It is protected as an arboretum of sorts, but luckily the hiking trails are nowhere near the water.

In this pool below, as I fished, I heard the sounds of a tweeting bird. Thinking it was chirping an alarm to other birds, I thought nothing of it and continued to fish.

But after a short while, my the sound returned to the forefront of my senses, and, looking around, I discovered a little duckling that had seemingly been separated from its family and was swimming in circles, trapped in an eddy and unable to swim back up stream in the rougher current. It began to swim my way, only to turn and flee when I moved toward it.

Thinking logically, I decided its family would be upstream at one of the nearby pools above. It took all of my resolve not to pick it up and cuddle it, but the fear of the mother rejecting it based on a human smell lead me to net it instead.

I carried the duckling carefully, as it trembled in the net until I saw its family scurrying into the woods. Carefully, I released the duckling near the edge of the woods where I saw the family run away, and then I walked up stream. The family soon returned, and I presume the duckling was reunited and safe, at least for this moment.

Walking up from there, the sun was dipping and the afternoon light resulted in a nice hatch. I fished a prime lie and came up with one of the nicer trout of the day.

The red spots were very bright, and the olive & yellow contrast made this fish stand out.

On the next visit, returning pretty much to where I left off, I fished up many more beautiful sections. 

I switched to kebari flies and spent most of the day fishing without the weight of a bead. This stream is shallower and the wind was not strong, it was a perfect day for soft hackle flies.

Just as the fish had taken my bead head flies, they too were interested in the Kebari, and many more were brought to hand.

On one of the days, I fished farther up into a section that I had not fished often. It was more ideal than I had remembered.

The drifts were shorter and more difficult, but the fish were there nonetheless.

Coming up on what appeared to be an old mill, I discovered a section of stream I had never fished before, somehow.

It was beautiful, and as the sun began to set, I took a few more photos and thought about the amazing times I had enjoyed over the course of these two days.

In many ways, I had re-discovered this stream. A new perspective, a new understanding, and more fish to net than ever before had me smiling the whole way home. 

 I'm looking forward to participating in the rehab of a section of this stream, and to the next time I can spend a day walking its shores.