Saturday, March 26, 2016

Ya Just Never Know

The asphalt turned a rust color as I launched the car forward at a good clip on Route 8 Northbound in Connecticut.  The white birch trees flung loftily out of the craggy rock along the roadside with their pine counterparts.  I haven't seen the beautiful tree in some years in my neck of the woods.  A shame really.  They were abundant here in lower NY state as a kid.  I was happy to see them flourish just an hour and a half north east.  To me, they represent innocence.  An old white birch was once first base in a decade long Wiffle ball game in my best friend's backyard many moons ago.  Now just a stump, the memory of the tree and the friendships made last a lifetime.  The sight of them as I breezed by just after dawn brought a lump to my throat.  We humans, like the great trout that we seek, are certainly complex.  Happy to be tooling along on an adventure to a new stream (for me) with comforting tunes at one minute and a somber reflection of the rapid passage of time the next.  Those trees and the image in my mind of that old stump painted the morning in a different hue.  'Tis yet another reason why I love a solid fishing trip.  Ya just never know what you'll get.

CT had treated me well back in late February where a turn in family plans left me with four hours open on a Sunday morning.  The temps were in the low 60's and the Mianus River is just a half hour jump away from me, so off I went with promises of a late winter Stone fly hatch that never surfaced into much.  Be that as it may, I was able to find some good pocket water in front of a plunge pool, a stretch of about 15 yards, that consumed me and my pheasant tail nymph long enough to net 3 or 4 fish and lose another couple along my happy outing.  Nothing like taking the waders off of their lonely garage hook.  The season was unofficially uncorked.  Upon returning home, and knowing that my local stream, the East Branch of the Croton, has recently been snobby during the winter and early spring, I set my sights upon March 24th as my day to hit the "Farmy".  I had this past week off from work and, knowing that my duties as a "handyman" husband and father could be managed early in the week while the kids were at school, I pegged the date a month in advance.  "Honey, I'm going fishing all day on March 24th.  From dusk 'til dawn.  You won't see me that day."  Period.  Exclamation point.  If there is one thing I've learned about a fishing addiction it is to call your shots as early as humanly possible.  I was able to bank the date and make good on it.

The Farmington River appeared just as it had in pictures.  Beautiful.  Quiet.  Nary a fisherman in the first run I set my sights on.  Driving along Route 181 and armed with the same successful pheasant tail as a dropper to my hare's ear (I know, I'm so original) I veered the vehicle onto the dusty shoulder.  I had just passed some fast water that looked yummy on the seams and I was able to drive slowly enough by it to know that I wouldn't have much company.  I bounded down to the bank like a 12 year old in a 42 year old body which is to say that my brain was certainly more able than my legs.  Tripping hard over a raised root, I tumbled for a good spell.  First checking the one and only rod I brought and then my ankle and knees, it was decided that none were worse for wear.  After a quick flashback to my wife saying she always worried when I went off venturing alone, what if I got hurt, etc, I continued on and began to fish.  To my surprise, within twenty minutes, and pretty much exactly where I thought things looked fishy, I hooked a solid trout.  I played him with a stunned silence all too familiar to most fishermen.  I also showed my 2016 honeymoon face as I just kind of stared at the line darting down and ripping off of my reel.  In other words, I froze.  I have done this several times, mind you, and have yet to learn my lesson.  When a big fish is on, one should not just hold the line against the rod and pontificate on how much line to let the trout take.  Instead, one must let the trout take as much damn line as she very well pleases.  Oh well.  Maybe by writing this, I will finally remember it.  Needless to say, I 'lost' the trout.  As Theodore Gordon once said though, "One can never lose what he never had to begin with".  Either way, a good start to the day.

After a couple of hours of feeling dejected and not having another single "bump" at the end of the line, I decided to change location.  I had moved up and down this beautiful stretch plenty and never spied another soul.  Actually, I didn't even really see a boot print on the banks.  This was curious to me as I had read online about how crowded the Farmington could be on a somewhat warm day in late March.  I got in the car and drove upstream.  Within maybe a mile and a half I saw them all, probably 10 of them, swinging their rods over the water within fifty yards of the bridge at Route 318.  I was dumbfounded.  All of this gorgeous, wild looking water and here they all were, jamming up the lanes.  I was cold and thawing out from a good stretch of time in the frigid water, so I parked the car in the dirt lot and warmed for a bit.  I thought about food and hot coffee but decided I may as well take a look and see if anyone was having any luck.  I left the rod in the car and strode down to the stream.  A few guys were nymphing, one was chucking a streamer, and a couple of guys seemed to be swinging wets.  I sat on a bench in the radiant sun and watched for a spell.  Another guy came up behind me and waded in.  Then another.  "Shoot," I thought, "when in Rome."  I went back to the car, slung on my vest and grabbed the rod.  I walked briskly back as if to beat a run on the bank, literally, and waded into the river.

My first fish wasn't for two hours.  The pang of hunger and lust for coffee was replaced by promise.  Ya just never know.  That's always the thing with fishing.  I finally saw a few sipping in some soft water by the bank as time drifted to past noon and beyond.  I tied on a blue quill dry.  I quickly and excitedly collected a nice buttery brown and another after that.  The guy with the white beard behind me was slaying them on streamers.  I asked his favorite color after some chit chat and he told me that, of course, it was olive.  I took that to heart, slapped on an olive woolly bugger, and netted another feisty Farmington brown.  This day had really turned on.  It seems that sometimes the crowds are onto something.  A couple more misses on the dry fly and I decided to relinquish my spot.  I got in the car, drove back to find the 'one that got away', never did, and I hit the road.

I had told my wife that she wouldn't see me until well past dark.  That March 24th would be a long day for me.  I was wrong.  I was on my way home and it was before 5pm.  I missed the kids.  I missed my wife.  I had had my fill for the day.

The white birch trees waved goodbye to me on my way back to Route 84, New York, and home.  When I walked into the house, she asked me why I had returned so early.  I told her that with fishing, ya just never know.



  1. Great early season outing there, Mike. White birch innocence to begin and end with, with some nice fish lost and found inbetween. Can't beat that to get the season rolling!

    1. It was a pretty darn good start, Walt. I see yours is moving along already as well. A cold snap due next week! Gotta love the unknowns of early season fishing.