Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Reflections of '14 and Forward to '15

I have not had too many recent outings late in the game of 2014.  Once in November and once in December, and, other than sight fishing to a picky trout just a couple of days ago who nosed up at a few different offerings, I have a skunking to show for both trips to the stream.  Be that as it may, my boots were in the water and that, to me, is medicine enough.  This is, of course, a time for reflection for so many of us and a bit of solitude certainly helps that along for me.  I've had a pretty darn good year, fishing and otherwise, and I look to the new year to continue to grow; as a fisherman, writer, husband, father, friend, etc. etc.

So, here's a visual look back at what was.  With it, I thank you for stopping by, as always.  Wishing you a happy new year full of tight lines and bent rods, with friends and family by your side.

(Photo courtesy of Mike Batiste)

(Photo courtesy of Mike Batiste)

(Photo courtesy of Nick Boehme)

(Photo courtesy of Mike Batiste)

(Photo courtesy of Mike Batiste)

(Photo courtesy of Mike Batiste)

(Photo courtesy of Nick Boehme)

(Photo courtesy of Mike Batiste)

(Photo courtesy of Nick Boehme)

(Photo courtesy of Mike Batiste)

(Photo courtesy of Mike Batiste)

Cheers to all and Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Fracking Banned in New York State!

Governor Andrew Cuomo banned fracking today in New York.  This, in itself, is worth a sleigh full of holiday cheer.  I'll leave this one to the pros.  You can read about it here: I had a little fun with the title.

Happy Holidays to you and yours!!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Trestle and Thanksgiving

My favorite place to fish is this spot on a local stream called the Trestle Pool. No matter how much I doctor the picture it does not do it justice. 

Hope you all found the time to wet a line on one of your favorite streams this Thanksgiving weekend. I'm thankful for many things; one of them being having all of you around. 

Enjoy the Holidays.


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Honey Hole (epilogue)

Days turned to weeks as the insatiable need to return to the Delaware became too much to bear.  Such things happen when one loses a large trout and then proceeds to lose not only sleep, but also numerous waking hours thinking of said fish. A day off between the two of us back in mid October proved to be all The Mick and I needed to make our trip. It would consist of a two and a half hour drive up, a fishing window of 6 hours, and the reverse trip back.  Would you wake at 3:30 A.M. knowing you would drive a total of 5 hours to fish 6? I believe this might be considered by some to be a form of mental illness but there are those who regularly do these kinds of trips on actual business so, hey, who's calling who crazy? 

It was a relaxed day of fishing with a quiet approach that produced success in both of our nets. As fate would have it, another big guy got off on this fine autumn venture.  This time I saw him, though, as he hung five or six feet from me for what felt like an eternity as I attempted to get him to net. I couldn't reach him and I couldn't horse him. But I saw him. He was glorious. 

I will get out fishing. Maybe Thanksgiving, maybe Christmas, February,  March,  I don't exactly know. But the fish that I hooked on the Delaware late in the game this year have both settled me and fueled me as I anticipate the next fishing season. 

Thanks for sharing my Delaware journey with me these last few posts and I wish you all visions of tight lines as the short days are here and the cold follows behind.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Honey Hole (Part 2)

Gentleman's hours.  That's what we'd been saying for about a week or so before we made it up to Roscoe.  No more waking at 4 a.m. to fish in the dark after sitting around a fire pit until 1 a.m.  We had done this plenty in the past and we'd proven nothing. Time and experience begin to prevail on any number of things in life and sleeping until 7 or 8 on a fly fishing trip is one of those things.  The coffee was good and hot as we suited up quietly for the morning outing.

"Tom," I said, "you're with me, brother. Gotta get down to that hole and get you on some fish."

He replied softly as he glanced up from buckling his wader belt, "Sounds good, man."

We worked our way down the stream in the grey morning.  A couple of gentle rises in the large pool just down from the bridge proved too hard for me to ignore.  Tom hung back and puffed a cigarette.  The purple smoke hung tight to his head in the dewy air.  I cast carefully to the wake of the rises.  Not carefully enough.  Nothing doing.

"Screw it, man, let's go," I grumbled.

He laughed.  I don't like to lose a challenge and my brother knows it.  Ah well, those that know us best...

We trudged across the barren stream.  More rock than water at parts.  I looked at his set up and adjusted it a bit.  Not much was being said between us but what was, was important.  We'd been through something this past year and he's been through more so the sentiment was appreciated by both.  It's funny that even brothers in their forties can have growing pains.  More rock than water at parts, I guess you could say.  It was a simple moment and I don't wish to dress it up as more than it was, but I am still thankful for it.

On to the "Honey Hole" that I had found on the previous day.  We were going to nymph it and we were going to nymph it hard.  I handed Tom his rod and described the drift, the angle, the flip, the repeat, the whole nine.  He stepped up like a champ and began to prove himself a quick study.  A fish was on within the first couple of casts.  An immediate smile burst through the cold slate background.  The rod bouncing and dancing, me coaching, The Mick shuffling quickly upstream to take in the action.  And then,  Shoot.

"Alright," I said, "get back at it.  Hook another one."

He did.  It didn't take long until we had a fish in the net, the first ever on a fly rod for Tom, with more to follow.  It was, as the kids these days would say, epic.  Soon downstream were Big Jimmy and Jay as we all began to line up at "The Hole".  We caught any number of trout  between us that morning as the rain began to happily fall.  I don't think any of us felt a drop. These guys had been coming up here once a year for the past three years with not a whole heck of a lot to show for it only for the dam to finally break.  It got to the point that The Mick and I were competing on hook ups to net ratio...I mean, who's ever had this opportunity?   Not us.  This was an embarrassment of riches and we all appreciated the bounty. The fish, for the most part, were small and feisty, and were barely out of the water before we could get them back in and they would dart back to the depths.  We wondered out loud if it was the same few fish and every once in a while a "brute" would barrel down on our nymphs just to put a thump in the hearts of us and either break off or just bury themselves and spit the hook.  Lots of "the one that got away" fodder for the Bloody Marys that followed back at the cabin.  This window of time on the water was something I know I might never witness again but it will play on "repeat" in the mind for as long as I can roam the streams.

After the late breakfast the rain came harder. The boys were full of bacon and eggs. The breakfast beer paired nicely with the meal but I knew my limit. There was a full day of fishing ahead, and, as you might recall in my last post,  I asked you to decide if the Mick and I were just passionate or straight up fishing junkies, well...

The car rolled out with just the two of us and the "Big D" on the brain.  The wide waterway with it's promise of fat fish in the riffles had us travelling over sodden hills and through farming valleys on the back roads of the Catskills.  I hadn't ever witnessed as many deer as I had along that day's adventures. We'd try a spot where we'd park in NY and then enter and fish from PA. We huddled under the rear hatch as the water pounded down.  It was a quiet business like approach. I made reference to Gierach who once stated something like "some people wouldn't think this was fun."  Of course, who of us, writer and reader, wouldn't?  I always think of that when fishing in the rain and chuckle at the absurdity.

The Mick starts to pound the runs with what he calls "trout candy", a big yellow and brown stone fly with rubber legs, and is rewarded yet again with two handsome and hard fighting browns.  As the rain begins to tame, he decides it time for a stogie and props himself up on a rock for a bit with a subtle satisfaction.  I'm having one of those outings where I'm constantly introducing my ass to my elbow so I might finally know the difference.  I'm happy for my partner but, as it goes, his success becomes my demise.  I am rushing and moving too fast, and at one point I snagged the fly off of my line and probably fished a straight split-shot for 10 or 15 minutes because I was being too lazy to check the rig.  Upon making the realization that I had been fishing a completely useless setup I proclaimed to the hills across, "Like I needed the practice?!?!" to which The Mick bellowed with laughter.  I decide it is a good time for a break as well.

There is the unmistakable wafting smell of camp smoke rising through the trees about seventy five yards or so behind us.  Glancing back I catch a glimpse of a makeshift civilization with trailers, tents, and tarps abound in no particular order. We are close enough to the site to sense that it's inhabitants must all be huddled somewhere just waiting for the weather to break and soon enough a couple or three kids come bounding to the bank upstream of us and begin hurling rocks into the river. They have claimed their freedom from their parents and from the rain and they shine with the essence of childhood curiosity and grit.  We were fishing in Pennsylvania, parked on the NY side, but it felt like we parked in 2014, and were fishing in 1957.

The drive to the spot we had been the previous evening was laden with the scenery of the Delaware.  Low lying sun broke through the day's worn out rain clouds and glimpses of the river through the windshield reflected it's golden glow as dusk quickly approached.  It was a longer ride than either of us figured but there is something comforting in driving along on a fishing trip when no one is expecting you. The guys, we would find out later, had fished some on the Willow and had napped some.  Their only concern of our arrival was whether or not we would be replenishing the Roscoe Beer supply.  We would be.

Our destination had arrived with little time to fish but the Isonychia were soon spotted. I was thankful to end the day with the dry fly and combed the water up and down until I found some risers.  The light was nearly gone.  After fishing nymphs all day, the sensation of snagging the bottom becomes one of muscle memory.  So much so that when the trout hit the dry fly, my brain told me that I had snagged bottom.  I quickly re-calibrated the thought and soon decided that I had a large fish on.  Upon my realization he made a tremendous splash in the dark water and then burrowed down to the bottom.  This fish was powerful and he let me know it.  His runs were purposeful. He peeled line, stopped, hunkered down, and waited for me to walk downstream.  He did this about three or four times and I never even got close to him.  The Mick was fishing downstream from me and at one point, my bicep aching, I looked up at him with the rod doubled over and yelled, "I don't know what to do??"  I was outmatched.  Upon finishing my sentence the line went slack and the fish was gone.  I bellowed out one sweet and clear profanity into the night sky. It was a heart breaker.

We rode home down Route 17 back toward Roscoe.  Trout Town, USA.  The kind of place where both "Honey Holes" and "heart breakers" exist and they are both sealed in in my memory along with the backdrop of laughter of friends and family, both here and gone.

As always,  I can't wait to go back.


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Honey Hole (Part 1)

The water was low but spirits were high.  We arrived in Roscoe on Friday morning with all reports saying to steer clear of the Beaverkill and Willowemoc.  Tough to do when a group of six guys is bunking on the banks of said Willow (  Our annual trip is always full of fishing surprises, the nature of late summer/early fall fishing, and this would be no different.  We'd explore new waters this year but our boots hit the Willow immediately.

The sun was brilliant that morning.  Almost as bright as the laughter which began while suiting up and would run its course throughout the weekend.  Trout were spotted from the top of the Hazel Bridge, lazily finning and sipping below.

"I'm gonna go catch those fish", my brother in law stated as he hurriedly wrangled into his waders.

"I'm gonna watch and laugh for awhile as you spook the hell out of 'em, Mick", I replied.

He grinned as if to say "screw you" but we both knew that this would most likely prove to be true.  We had similar conditions last year and those same fish under that bridge were nearly impossible to catch unless there was low light and fine leaders.  Or better fishermen I suppose.  Be that as it may I couldn't blame him.  To walk away from fish that you can see takes a certain amount of willpower that neither of us carry.  Only reason I wasn't hanging around was because he called it first.  That and I was enjoying a post road trip cigar.  Ah, the simple things.

Two of us, my longtime friends Phill and Jay who were already at it, had arrived before The Mick and I and two followed shortly after.  They pulled into the dusty lot just as my partner had headed for the stream and I had snubbed out the smoke and began to suit up.  They were my buddy Jimmy and my brother Tom.  It should be stated that the only "religious" fisherman (or decide) are the aforementioned Mick and yours truly.  The other four have varying experience with fly fishing but it is fairly safe to say that they basically fish about 48 hours a year; the Roscoe trip.  Not exactly easy to string up and throw a fly line into the Catskill waters without any homework or water time but, hey, the beer (Trout Town Amber) is cold and the fire pit is warm.  Still and all there were two guys left within our hodgepodge group of "Roscoe 6" misfits who had yet, in three previous annual trips, to catch a trout.  One of them was Jay, a guy who'd give you his right arm even though yours was fine, who recently ventured up to the East Branch of the Croton back in August with me where I was able to help him net his first brown.  He's slowly becoming a student of the sport and I think the experience of a bouncing five weight on the Croton will sure help things along up here.  My brother, Tom, has never felt the bend of the rod in any river, excepting maybe the bottom of the stream bed.  I was hoping to change that.  He's the kind of guy that really fulfills the old adage that my Dad used to say, "catching fish is a bonus."  I honestly think he could care less about "catching" but one wouldn't know that until they knew what it was they didn't care about.  Get it?  Either way, I needed to get these guys on fish.

That is where the "Honey Hole" comes in.

Big Jimmy has a knack for well timed dirty humor that is paired with a perfectly sweet kind of "you know you love me" smile and after a few of his famous "guffaw" ribs at me I was on my way.  I had a hunch about a run that I am familiar with just downstream so, smilingly, off I went.  I made it to the general vicinity of where I wanted to fish but before I got to the "spot", I saw a boulder protruding in some shallow riffles that I wouldn't have seen in higher water.  A flip of a nymph just behind this rock brought up a nice feisty wild brown.  First cast.  Wow.  So much for the Willow being "unfishable".  Perhaps it was an accident, I thought.  I should confess that as many fish as I have been fortunate to tangle with, whether on a dry, streamer, or nymph, they still all have the feeling of at least being "partially accidental".  I promptly snapped a picture in amazement and released the small fish quickly.

I ventured a little further downstream with not much success and eventual texts from the others about my whereabouts and whether or not we could get into the cabin and what was for lunch.  I'll tell you the truth I could just about fish all day and forget that I'm supposed to check in or supposed to eat, piss, crap, what have you.  The texts were helpful.  I decided to venture back upstream.  On my way I saw another run that had never existed to the eye before in higher flows.  This was bubbling, shallow, fast water, followed immediately by a plunge pool with depths of about 5 feet or so and the length of maybe two and a half bathtubs.  I figured that with all of that oxygen and all of that cover there had to be trout down there. The Mick had just come downstream to report on all those fish he spooked up in the gin clear shallows as I was throwing a splitshot or two on my rig.  Again, within the first or second cast up came a slender and long rainbow who put up a nice fight.  Boy, this trip was shaping up.

Mick and I discussed those picky fish he was after as we slogged our way back upstream and that perhaps we could get them at dark on some streamers.  We decided as well that I had stumbled across a good small stretch of water and we should get some of these guys on this run at some point.  Lastly, we discussed how low the water truly was and that the Beaverkill would be no different.  We'd gotten some good advice from some friends "in the know" earlier in the week that was sealed solid when we spoke to Dennis over at Catskill Flies upon entering town via exit 94 that morning.  We needed to fish the Delaware.

The boys cracked lots of smiles and a beer or two over "catch up" talk as the early afternoon arched to mid afternoon and pulled pork sandwiches from the slow cooker back home warmed the scene.  The vibration in the fishing lodge at that moment could be summed up readily by a Robert Earle Keene tune that we play up their religiously called Feelin' Good Again and we sure were.  On to the business at hand, though, which was letting the guys know that we'd be travelling a half hour or so west out to Hancock to try our run at some "Big D" rainbows in the riffles.  We'd leave soon and be there 'til dark.  All were game.  We geared up and peeled off.

There is something exciting about venturing to new water.  I guess it goes hand in hand with fishing on a whole; a constant quest for the unknown.  Throwing a line in the water on the off chance that you might find and bring up something on the other end is the crux of the matter and doing it on new water deepens the experience.  Driving to the Main Stem of the "Big D" had me both excited and curious and feeling about twenty years younger than I am.

After a few directional misfires and some confusing signage that led to a section that we were told had solid riffles, we finally arrived.  My brother in law is a no nonsense kind of guy.  He goes about his fishing in as methodical a way as anyone who carries a fly rod.  He doesn't get ruffled and he knows how to laugh at himself.  Something I aspire to.  We make a good pair on the streams and I was really following his lead on this mammoth of a river.  He marched through the pines and onto the bank, he looked carefully yet swiftly at the seams, picked his spot, tied on his stonefly, and he was on fish in no time.  The guy always manages to impress me and then downplays his success.  One thing we do share in common is rooting for the other guy.  We have what can readily be described as a friendly competition with each other but both of us more like to push the other guy than to root against him.  With that said, here he is on a brand new river that's twice as wide as the largest river we've ever been on, and he's got two handsome wild fish in the net, a brown and a bow.  Impressive to say the least.  The sonofabitch.

As for myself, I am moving up and down the river and fishing a nearly identical rig as the Mick, all the while ignoring the fish that are rising around me and wondering why I am not finding the same success.  I start doing everything wrong with my subsurface attempts.  I am moving with no purpose, getting a bit frantic and just plain thinking way too much about the whole business.  I decide to stop and snap a picture of Tom, who fishes just downstream from me.  With a backdrop so quietly beautiful behind him, I am immediately aware in that moment that our father is there in those mountains and that he is pleased.  Now if I could just stop fishing like an idiot and remember why I am really there.  I need to take my cue from my brother and not worry so much about the "catching". 

After giving the proper thanks that this moment has afforded me, I begin to finally listen to my instincts and I change my set up from 4X nymphing to 5 and finally 6X tippet and a nice looking, locally tied, Isonychia.  These big insects were drying their wings all along the stream top but it seemed that the fish were only keying into these bugs in certain stretches of the river.  I wandered around for a while looking closely for what I had ignored upon my arrival; a solid pod of rising fish.  I finally found one and began to go to work.  These were what some would call "smart fish".  I am not sure about this popular theory but I do know that one thing is for sure, and I had just proven this to myself; there are most certainly dumb fishermen.  

After a couple of hours slipped by along with the late afternoon glow, the evening soon arrived.  Tom, Jimmy, and Phill called it quits not before an admirable attempt at trout as the others of us stuck around.  Phill had some important business to tend to and that was, no doubt, prepping and cooking one of his now near "legendary" status lodge dinners.  I have known Phill for more than forty years.  I can't remember all of my life but what I can remember, he is a part of.  To capture our friendship in a couple of sentences would be all but impossible but I can say that he truly gets enjoyment out of others' enjoyment.  Whether it is food, music, or what have you, Phill is there hoping that you are enjoying the experience.  He is also a world class ball buster but he meets his match in the other five of us.  Good clean fun.

Back to the Iso which is proving to earn some interest from the fish around me but I have trouble getting a take.  When I do, it is unquestionable.  The aerial jumps that this beautiful Delaware rainbow makes are numerous and flamboyant.  The fight feels like it is happening in slow motion.  The water droplets that fling off of the airborne trout catch the sunlight as if a photographer was inside my eyes and he had slowed the shutter speed.  I will not soon forget my first trout on this famous river.  I will also never forget the trout I would lose the next evening on the same stretch...

I missed another couple of fish as darkness fell.  We packed up the car in the cool dark evening and headed back up the winding road toward Hancock.  We stopped under the florescent buggy lights of a souped up gas station/mini mart for what might have been one of the best cups of coffee that Jay, Mick, or I had ever tasted.  It was a subdued and satisfying ride home.  When we reached the cabin we were greeted by that warm fire pit I mentioned, good music, great laughter, and a promise to fish tomorrow.  Hell, what more could a guy want?

To be continued...