Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Thanksgiving, Lake Effect Snow and Fish on

On Thanksgiving Rob and I headed up to Pulaski, N.Y. As usual we started to monitor the flow rate of the Salmon River as well as the weather for the Pulaski region. Earlier in the week the flow rate on the Salmon was dropped to 350cfs. which made Rob very happy.  However, the weather conditions were not as cooperative and as the week went by the predicted temperatures were getting colder and colder and then the possibility of snow flurries was also included.
Just a couple of days before we headed out the weather report had a, "Lake effect snow watch". Simply put, that means you may, or you may not, get a bit more than snow flurries in your area.
The day before we left the weather prediction had changed and was now printed in an ominous red type, "Lake effect snow warning." And then another word showed up - wind. Interesting, heavier snowfall and wind.
We got packed up and headed out early Thursday morning. The skies here in Ct. were a dark slate grey but it was still a pretty ride. As we got about 30 miles from Pulaski Rob began to notice that the trees were starting to sway in the wind.
Rob looked at me from the corner of his eye and said, "See that? That's wind." I said, "Really? Ya don't say. It doesn't look so bad," at the same time he was saying, "Swell, just swell."
Now I will have to admit that during the night the wind did start picking up. I kept looking over at Rob to see if he could hear it and I guess he still has pretty good hearing because he would simply give me this look, shake his head and mutter "Swell, just swell". Each time this happened I just tried to stifle my chuckle because I was really trying to see the humor of it all.
You need to understand why I thought it was humerous. Rob has been to Pulaski. He has been up there a couple of times. But each and every time he has mad the trip the weather has always turned south, the water in the river rises and he gets the extra special steelie treatment of wind, rain, snow or some wicked combination of all. He has not, to the best of my knowledge made the trip when the weather was good.
The next morning we were up early and getting dressed in multiple layers of fleece when Rob turned on the Weather Channel for the Local on the 8's. Man, what a mistake that was.
The satellite map for precipitation came on and all you could see over Pulaski was green. A big ol' giant glob of dark green. As you all know, the darker the green the more rain was falling.  To confirm what he just saw on the television he then proceeded to open the door to our room at Whitaker's and looked outside to see rain dripping off the porch. 
Swell, just swell.
It was about then that Rob decided he was not going to head out for the day. Now I don't blame him, the poor guy sees enough bad weather as it is because he delivers the mail. When it is raining, snowing or whatever he has no choice but to go out. But not this time. He said no to a soggy day of fishing and decided to stay in a nice and cozy room where he wrote some letters and took a nap.  On the other hand, I was on a mission. I had a new two handed rod (Deercreek 12'6", 5/6 wt. early Christmas present!!) that I was just dying to try out and I really wanted to land a steelie "on the swing" while Skagit casting.
We both walked over to the store to meet our guide, Loren Williams from Rob broke the news to Loren that he wasn't going to go and even though the rain had stopped we still couldn't get him to change his mind. So Loren took me up to S. Sandy Creek where we were pretty much sheltered from the wind. The rain never came back but we still had some brief snow flurries. It did end up being a rather pleasant day especially since I lucked out and landed three nice fish with my new toy.

That night I tried convincing Rob to come out on Saturday, our second day of adventure. I wasn't sure if he was going to comit or not until morning when he did get all geared up to go.
This time Loren took us to the Douglason Salmon Run. True, the skies were a bit grey and there was a slight breeze but it was nothing like it had been the day before or night. We were all confident that the weather was going to cooperate as well as the fish. We were set up and fishing for about half an hour when all of a sudden a wall of wind came straight up the river. It really did feel like we were getting slammed by the wind and I swear, the water was getting pushed back upriver.
We each tried a couple more casts but to no avail --duhh!!. By now Loren decided it was time to hoof it out and head to another spot where perhaps the wind wouldn't be "so bad." We left the "gale force winds" according to Rob and headed up the stairs and back to the parking lot. Along the way out we were passed by another angler who commented, "I have never fished in a wind that was strong enough to push 235 pounds off a flat rock in the river."
Think about it for a minute. That was a very accurate description of just how hard that wind was. Oh, and did I mention that it had also started to show?  Just enough to sugar coat the ground and some trees.

And Rob? Well, all he could muster up was, "Swell, just swell."
So we drove to another spot and walked down to the river. It was a relly pretty spot and true, it was sheltered from the wind. The plan was  to take turns fishing through this one section. So you would think that we were set for the rest of the day, right? Well, think again. We weren't down there for too long before it started to snow. It wasn't too bad though, until the wind found us again. Swell, just swell.
I fished a bit more because I am, from what I have been told, crazy. Rob sat on a log and was content watching me attempt some Perry Pokes and C-spey casts while Loren tried to ignite the sterno to heat up the meatballs for lunch.
All the time the wind kept-a-blowing and the snow kept-a-fallin'.

I absolutely loved every minute. Even with the wind blowing the snow sideways and packing my reel. Even with Loren telling me to cast closer to the other side of the bank to which I replied, "Sorry! I can't hear you. I have snow in my ear. And bank??!! I can't see it to cast to!"
Swell, just swell.
I can't wait for the end of December when I go back up for some more fishin' adventures. Gotta wonder, what will the weather be like?

The Elixer of Life - Dec. 2009

This was the year that I broke with tradition. The usual Thanksgiving Tradition that is. Instead of the November purchase of turkey, stuffing, vegetables and assortment of pies to take to the inlaws for the usual day of gut feasting and culinary chaos, I decided last year it was time for something different. Plans were made, accomodations arranged and as the time drew near I knew it was the best decision. I wanted to spend the days off from school doing some steelhead fishing.

So as I was preparing for this year's new Thanksgiving Tradition by packing fleece, wool hats, windstopper jacket along with my sexy titanium spiked Korkers (the nearest thing to heels that I own!) I had a brilliant idea. There was something else I needed to bring along.

Some say it's purpose is purely medicinal.

I would say it is a great way to end the day and to prepare for another hard day of fishing.

Either way you look at it, the limited edition of triple distilled 15 year old Jameson was a great addition to the packing list.

After fishing for a full day, some of which was spent in a cold rain and slight wind, the Elixer of Life was removed from its velvet lined box and the golden liquid was liberally poured into my special whiskey glass that comes straight from the Old Jameson Distillary in Dublin. I paid homage to the Fishing Gods as I added just a bit of water to make it easier to go down and I sipped away.

And sipped away some more.
Needless to say, I slept great that night and woke up refreshed and ready for another full day of fishing.

So now it is December and I am on break. The other night I was tying some flies when it hit me.

It was time for some Jameson and fly tying. I gotta tell you, no one tells you at fly tying classes that whiskey and fly tying do go hand in hand. But they do! What a great way to pass the time on a cold winter night.

So I locate my special whiskey glass, get the Jameson out and then I am floored.

What the hell??!!

Where did all that whiskey go?!

And then I remembered Thanksgiving and my new tradition. Oops. Seems I sipped more than what I thought. Not that the bottle was brand new, mind you.

Nope. It had been opened for a spell and the contents enjoyed while grading papers and the like. But now there was a serious dent in my supply.

I had enough to enjoy the other night, that is for sure. But it does look like my Thanksgiving Tradition for next year now requires a new bottle to take along with my special whiskey glass. But then again, why wait until then?

And Then There Was A Spash - Feb. 2010

There are many reasons that I enjoy fly fishing. Sometimes it is to try a new rod that I made, other times to try some flies that I tied. Or even a combination of the two!

But let's not forget the fish. What fly will turn them on? Will they go for the same fly like they did the day before? Just how many fish can I entice to my net? These are some of the questions that I reflect upon while making the drive up to Riverton and my favorite section on the Farmington River. Now, I can't say as I really come to any definite answers to any of these questions. They are just something to mull over during the drive while listening to some Stevie Ray Vaughan or perhaps Dire Straits. I guess some would call it my pre-fishing ritual.

So as I recall, this one particular trip happened three, oh maybe four years ago, the time isn’t really important. I had been fishing for the better part of the day when I decided to climb up on a boulder to see if I could actually see any trout. So there I was, somewhat precariously perched, rod in hand looking for fish. As I stood there taking a look around I heard a rustling from the woods on the other side of the river.

Just as quickly as I was able to turn my head to see what it was, the noise stopped. It happened so fast that I couldn’t really distinguish the location. Hum, interesting. I scouted the far bank as best as I could but my attention quickly went back to the rainbow that I happened to spot. Once again I focused on that fish and just as I made my cast I heard it again. The rustling lasted a bit longer and this time I was able to locate the commotion.

It looked as if a couple of rocks or perhaps a part of a tree was rolling down the hill. That seemed odd though as there weren’t too many loose rocks on that side of the river. For a quick second I thought, “bear?” because the guys are always telling me that there are bears up there. Well, it wasn’t. Whew! Otherwise I might be writing a totally different story!!

Whatever “it” was “it” was rolling down the hill, through the bushes and heading right to the river. As this tumbling mass of sticks and leaves picked up momentum I could also hear a noise coming from it. And then it made a splash.

Shortly after the splash two chocolate brown heads bobbed to the surface. They were very intent on each other and did not give me a second look. What at first appeared as a bundle of sticks and leaves turned out to be two minks that were in a fight. And the fight, which had started up on the hillside had now moved to the river. Wow. How cool is that?

These two guys were really scrapping. It didn’t take too long for me to figure out that one of them was getting his ass whupped! This poor guy would try to stay underwater but his buddy was always looking for him, and when he came up for air he was under attack again. It didn’t matter how long he stayed under or how far away he got, the other mink was right there and ready to pounce. They would fight while floating on the current, fight going down under the water and then back up again.

The fight progressed out to the middle of the river with one of the minks definitely on the run. I could see the look of desperation on his face as he made up his mind to swim to the side of the river that I was on. And as fast as he could swim, the other mink was right behind him, chewing on his tail.

Neither one of them was aware that I had been watching their fight from the top of the boulder. The underdog was swimming his little heart out when he spied his haven of relief. I could tell he had made his decision as he quickly changed direction and with his adversary still gnawing on his tail he began to head for safety.

I was too fascinated to move off the boulder because I wanted to see how things were going to turn out. I had never seen anything like this before and probably never will again. Which is pretty cool, because at that moment I realized where they were headed. You guessed it. The poor little guy was making for the boulder and I would guess it was his intent to crawl up on it and hopefully put an end to his torment.

And just as he got close enough to jump out of the water and onto the rock he looked up and saw me, rod in hand, fly line dangling in the water, looking down at him. I swear, if a mink could speak he would have said, “Oh, no! What the ….?”

At the same time his tormentor also looked up. When he saw me he let go of the tail he had been so preoccupied with.

What happened next was with the same precision as the Blue Angels use when they are in flight. The first mink quickly took advantage of the situation and broke right around the boulder, went around and scrambled up the bank behind me. The second mink dove deep into the water where he executed a split second u-turn because he eventually surfaced on the other side of the river where the fight originated. As he pulled himself out onto the bank and shook the water off he cast one last look back in my direction before he headed back up the hill.

And that was that.

Now I don’t recall how many fish I got that day, but I sure do remember those two mink and can picture this episode as if it happened last weekend.

And if it weren’t for being out on the river at that particular moment I would have missed the entire show.

So while fishing is something that I truly do love to do, there are other reasons why I enjoy heading up to the river. You just never know what you are going to see.

Opening Day Ramblings - April 2010

Well, here it is, April 17th. and another opening day for fishing in Ct. If you haven't been following the latest fiasco in fishing license fees for this state you don't know what you are missing! And for those of you who have been following, especially since some of us purchased our licenses in Jan., well, we do know what we are missing. Twelve dollars to be exact. Some of us purchased our 2010 fishing licenses way back in Jan. so we could fish and do so legally. It never crossed my mind that the politicians would actually come to their senses and lower the fee that they so adamantly insisted was necessary to balance the state budget to begin with. So what a shock it was to read in the Hartford Courant the other morning that the fee was lowered from $40.00 to $28.00 for the year. Holy cow, Batman!! I kept reading the brief article to see if there was any mention about getting a refund if you paid the $40.00 earlier. I was greatly relieved to read that the politicians hadn't complelety taken loss of their senses when they decided not to offer refunds to the anglers who already purchased their license. Politicians. Gotta love the way they reason things out.

Undaunted, my husband and I decided to drive up to the Farmington today for some fishing. It was cloudy, 50F and a bit of a breeze up there. We also took our dog, Cleo. Cleo is not your "out in the woods get wet in the water dog" no, she is a princess. Maybe it's her age or maybe we spoil the heck out of her. Whatever the reason, she is not at all thrilled with these long river jaunts. She would much prefer her pad by the pellet stove.

We picked a spot that really wasn't too crowded compared to previous years when we dared to drive up on opening weekend. Rob was the only one fishing today. I still don't have "permission" from my surgeon yet. I dared to mention to my physical therapist last Friday that it was opening day and I was thinking of heading up and out to the river. You know, there is always a right time to bring stuff up and when laying on a table getting your shoulder worked on (left one this time!) was bad timing on my part. The short of it was Terry gave me a look that would have frozen hell over in an instant. "Yeah, go ahead. You can watch the fishing but that 's all you will be doing." And so that is exactly what I did. Walk the dog and watch.

Eegads. I don't know which is worse. Being told I needed another rotator cuff surgery or looking at some good water conditions and not being able to fish. Humm...let me think.

So up and down the river Cleo and I went. We checked out the Beaver Pool and came up on an angler who had landed a beautiful browntrout and was in the process of gutting it. So sad.

A bit farther down the river and there was Bubba sitting on a boulder and, to put it mildly, Bubba had a prodigious exposure of his behind that made me want to poke my eyes out. Man, with that cold breeze you would have thought he was feeling a bit chilly!

What next?

Then I happened upon a young kid and his dad. The kid was trying to fly fish and dad was standing behind him in a most dangerous spot. His son would start false casting without looking behind him while his dad was doing some serious ducking and weaving to keep from getting hooked. This was fairly interesting. So I did offer some suggestions to the kid and asked what fly he was using. He didn't really know what he had on and they had no other flies. So I told them to hang on and I would be right back. Now the look I got from them was, "What can she possibly mean?" But back up to the car Cleo and I went and then I returned with a variety of 30 flies. They were both very appreciative. In the short amount of time it took to hand over the flies six other anglers converged on the same spot. I don't know where they came from but if there is anything to spontaneous germination of anglers I do believe I witnessed it this afternoon!

After a brief chat with father and son, Cleo and I headed back up to the car. We decided to move on and try the Still River and Sandy Creek. Then we headed up to Sandisford, Mass., and Colebrook. The wind had picked up for sure. I tried laying down on a boulder in what little sun there while watching some caddis flit around the tree branches. I actually got a bit comfortable there on that rock as it was quite relaxing watching the clouds skirt across the slate grey sky.

So there it is. Another opening day for fishing.

Pretty eventful.

But better still, it was great to be on the river.

Guilt Free Opening Day - May 2010

Today was one of those days that started off with gray skies and an odd shower or two in the morning. As the day progressed the gray was slowly replaced by a scattering of cumulous clouds that were gently pushed across a blue sky by a slight breeze. Even the new leaves on the trees were gently swaying. It would have been a perfect time to fish.

Once work was done for the day I found myself heading up and over Avon Mountain in the direction of the Farmington River. What I would usually do at this point would be to continue my drive up Rt. 44, and after a quick stop at UpCountry Sport Fishing, mosey on up to Riverton where I would finally pick a spot and fish.

But that was not the case for today. Today I had another appointment with the surgeon. This was another follow up visit to determine how that dang old shoulder was doing.
And would you believe that during the visit he gave me the go ahead to start fishing? So long as I take it slow and listen to my shoulder I could head on out.

Wow. Just when I thought the day couldn’t get any better it did because this felt like a Papal dispensation!! Why so much relief? Well, last Sunday was a humid 92F and extremely uncomfortable day. My husband and I headed up to the river because he was going to fish. Well, I just couldn't take standing on the shore any longer. I was dying. At some point I headed in the cold water for some relief and somehow my rod was in my hand but I swear it was for only an hour. (I couldn’t take the guilt if I stayed in longer!)

As of today it has been 109 days since my last real and guilt free fishing trip on the Farmington. I remember it well. The river gods were very kind and blessed me with a chunky rainbow in a cold, cold rain just prior to my little “fishing vacation”.

Tonight, Betsy, my 8.5 ft. 5 wt. Loomis fishing partner is tucked in the back of my car along with waders, boots, vest, lucky fishing hat and flies. Lordy, I have packed just about every conceivable fly I have. My mind is already thinking ahead of the possible places to fish. Will I head up and fish behind the campgrounds? How about Ovation Pool? Maybe Greenwoods? Perhaps I will end up at The Boneyard.

You know something? It doesn’t really matter where I fish or if I even land a fish (well, ok, I made up that part) so long as I can fish.

So, many thanks to Dr. Brezenoff at Litchfield Hills Orthopedic Association for his skill at fixing up both shoulders (thank God I am not an octopus!) as well as his patience when I didn’t think I could take it anymore. And thanks also to two great physical therapists, Terry Gauthier and Brian Magna, at Magna Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine, they also helped me get through some tough and painful visits. Jennell, Jan, Torie, Susan and Karaugh - you are wonderful and made all my visits something to look forward to.

Now if you don’t mind, I need to make sure everything is set for tomorrow, because tomorrow is my opening day – guilt free.

My fishin' buddy - June 2010

Did you ever have one of those days when you no sooner sat down to rest your weary feet when you had to get up again? Man, the other day it seemed like I was in and out all day long. I finally relented and decided to lie down on the couch to take a nap. I was dogged tired and well, that seemed like the best idea at that moment.

I was just at the point of the start of a very strange cat-chasing dream when my fishing buddy came home from work and wanted to head up to the river for some fishing. I didn’t really mind getting roused from my spot on the couch or from that cat dream for that matter, as I firmly believe that there is only one thing better than a late afternoon nap and that is spending time on the river.

My partner quickly changed from those uncomfortable work clothes into a pair of jeans and a well worn t-shirt. It didn’t take long for the fishing gear to get packed up into the car since most of the stuff is already there for all the spontaneous summer fishing trips that are surely going to happen this year. I was also up and ready to go and with great anticipation we started the usual drive to the river. I just love the drive to the river. The car windows were wide open, the warm pre-summer breeze sweeping through my hair while at the same time we listened to Bruce Springsteen on the XM Radio.

As with any fishing trip the topic of where to fish always comes up. I sat very quietly and listened with great intent as different locations were brought up. For some reason this always seems to be the hardest part of the trip. I don’t quite understand why this is such a tough decision to make but it ranks right up there with deciding what’s for dinner – steak or chicken. Eventually the fishing plan came to fruition. We would start high up on the river and then fish our way down. I certainly didn’t raise any objections to this plan, as it didn’t really matter to me where we fished that afternoon. Each trip I make to the river is like some great adventure. I just never know what I can scare up from under the bushes or what smells I will detect wafting in the wind.

Even I have to admit that the fishing was pretty slow that afternoon. At one point I was on a sandy piece of shoreline watching as my fishin’ buddy tried some different flies, all to no avail. The fish would come up and nose the freshly tied #10 stimulator or the #12 caddis or the tandem wet flies but there were never any firm takers.

You should know that I am, by nature, a nervous type of soul. It seems that I am always on the look out for the welfare of others close by me and I am particularly fond of my fishing buddy who will, in my opinion, venture too far out. Sometimes I think my buddy doesn't have the common sense that God gave ditch water. So there I am, tied up on shore for a spell when I see that my buddy has decided to wade out into deeper water. Eventually I felt duty bound to head out into that cold, cold water in hopes of getting my buddy to do an about-face for shallower depths. I worked my way out far enough that the water had reached my belly and I was actually thinking about doing the dog paddle when my buddy turned around.

Whew! What luck! Can you say relief? I quickly turned around and took the lead and without saying a word, the two of us headed back to the safety of shallow water. I quickly made it to shore with that cold river water still clinging to my legs. My buddy could not believe that I had ventured out into the deep and unknown water. It was very unlike me to tread that far out into the water especially without the use of a wading stick but I think my buddy was particularly happy that I was just doing my job.

We fished for a couple more hours. By this time I was starting to get hungry and the sand that had accumulated between my toes was starting to bother me. The fish weren’t cooperating much so we eventually headed back to the car. I quickly jumped into the back seat of the car and stretched out on the pad and closed my eyes. I was once again dogged tired and couldn’t wait to get home.

My buddy changed out of her fishing gear, gave me a pat on the head and promised me we would get ‘em next time. I slept all the way home and was glad when I could finally climb back up on that couch to finish that cat-chasing dream I had started earlier.

And there you have it folks. Just another perspective of fishing from me, Cleo, part Border Collie part Greyhound, aka man’s best friend. Or in this case, Mary’s fishing buddy.

HMS Troutfinder - from Aug. 2010

Whew. Another summer is just about come and gone and what a corker it has been. The month of July in 2010 goes on record as the second hottest month since record keeping here in Connecticut. The rainstorms were few and widely scattered. While Bradley Airport recorded almost 3” of rain for the month most of the state was not as lucky.

And now it is the 18th. of August and the drought continues. The Farmington River has taken the brunt of this lack of rainfall. The release from the Goodwin Dam has been dropping slowly but surely since July. Currently there is a 113cfs release from the dam and with a majority of the side channels drying up as well there isn’t much cooler water entering the river to offset this puny flow rate, which is really too bad.

Too bad because until recently I had been doing pretty good at getting back into the swing of things, and yes, every pun is intended! I was heading out to the river on an almost daily basis and relishing every second of it. I figured out what was wrong with my leader, my casting was definitely improving and most importantly I was landing some fish. How sweet it is.

As the temperatures continued to hit the 90F + range (we have had over 20+ days of those) I noticed the river water starting to warm up. Eventually even wearing my waders, which are breathable, got too uncomfortable. So what did I do? I adjusted by purchasing a pair of wading pants for some wet wading. What a great idea that was. I could cool off while practicing my wading and all the while getting into some fish now and then. But as the summer’s heat and lack of rain continued the water level just kept getting lower and lower.

Eventually I wasn’t even cooling off while wet wading because the water temperature was getting warmer and warmer. I was still landing fish but they just didn’t seem to put up the fight like they had been. Were they getting hammered? Probably. Were they getting stressed out with the warming waters and lower flow rates? Probably. So what is a gal supposed to do? I made another adjustment.

Why didn't I think of this before?

I had a Buck's Bag stored in the basement. I even had the fins that you need to kick around the water in. I had purchased this a couple of years ago and never used it. I don't really know why that was, but now it was float tube to the rescue!!

I loaded the HMS (which stands for Her Majesty's Ship, of course, since I am the Queen!!) Trout Finder in my Subaru, packed up my gear and headed up river. I made one stop along the way to air up the tube before arriving at the lake behind the Goodwin Dam.

The world was back to normal as I was back to catching fish and still cooling off at the same time. This is a pretty good lake to kick around in. Kayaks, canoes and electric motor boats are allowed. There is a boat ramp, which makes it very easy to load and unload your gear. Sweet!

There is a sense of freedom with a float tube that adds a new dimension to fly fishing. Not only that but the exercise was an added bonus.

You can head out into the middle of the lake or putter around the shore. The choice is yours. You can still dry fly or use a sinking line and streamers to fish the colder depths of the water. I tend to do more streamer fishing while out on the lake. I had to adjust my casting a bit because with my particular float tube I do sit pretty low in the water. Once I tweaked my casting it was all systems go!

One particular evening last week was extremely peaceful. The few clouds cleared the way for a bright blue sky a small breeze was gently rocking the float tube. The quarter moon was on the horizon and I was the only one on the water. I had been kicking my way along the shore playing with some bass when I realized it wasn't so quiet anymore. All of a sudden a bunch of crows on the other side of the lake were cawing like crazy. They were certainly put off by something, but what? So I took a look up to see what had upset them when I noticed an eagle soaring ever so gracefully across the lake and along the opposite shore toward the crows.

The eagle continued his flight along the treetops before effortlessly changing direction and heading back over to my side of the lake. His flight path took him directly over the HMS Trout Finder. I have to admit that I was mesmerized both by the details of this bird that I could see as well as the sound that his wings made as he continued on his journey, never realizing that you could, if you paid attention, hear the wind moving through the feathers of this bird.

Wow, now that was cool.

Here are some pics of the river at this low flow rate.

Hardly enough water for the geese to swim in.