So off I headed with the temperature only in the teens; 18F according to the car thermometer. I picked one of my favorite spots on the Farmington River that is just above Riverton, got out of the car, geared up and headed out. I found a spot that had no footprints leading down to the water.
So I headed down the gentle slope through the recent snowfall from last week to a spot that I determined would have room for me to "swing" flies. I tried to find some spots where I would catch some sun puddles in the river but at that temperature it didn't really make a difference.
I had a couple of hand warmers in my pocket, my turtle fur pulled up over my head and my fleece jacket zipped all the way up. No doubt it was cold. I could hear the chickadees, sparrows and many other small birds all in symphony around me. I was amazed that no matter how hard I tried to look I couldn't see them, yet I could hear them. Go figure.
I finally settled on one spot and took out some line at the same time feeling the cold of the water through my waders and all the layers of fleece I had on. I picked a spot on the opposite bank as my target and started casting. The first couple of casts weren't so great, but after a spell I was getting better. It seems that each time I head out to practice I spend less time getting the rust off my casts and more time with improving and having better casts. I was able to work a couple of different casts keeping in mind river right and river left (how you stand to the flow of the river determines how you cast). I was working hard at slowing things down, watching the anchor and not letting my D-loop fall flat. There is so much to Skagit casting that it can boggle the mind, however, I am trying to get to the point with my casting where I am not as methodical as I currently am. Not that that is bad, mind you, but I just want to be able to cast and flow as I work down the river. I want it to feel more natural.
At one point I noticed a rock that had a bush with branches overhanging the river. Then I remembered my first time at this pool on a warm summer day. Perhaps it was wishful thinking, perhaps it was the handwarmers in my pockets, perhaps it was just the peace that I find on the river. Either way, my thoughts drifted back to a summer day about 8 years ago.
On that particular day I had dared to venture out to the river alone. It was a big step for me and I couldn't really tell you why. But there I was, with my 8'6" 5wt. Loomis with an X-wing caddis tied. I really had no clue as to what I was doing, I had not taken any casting lessons, hadn't read a book about it. Nothing. But I could see that there was a fish that kept rising right over by that very same rock and bush and I was doing my darndest to get that fly over to it. So I remembered how my son would cast and tried replicating what he did.
I did have one slight problem - and this is the God's honest truth. I didn't know what the hell I was going to do if that fish did take my fly! Part of me wanted so much to land a fish while at the same time part of me was thinking, "You have got to be kidding. Just how are you going to get it off the hook?"
Undaunted, I kept casting and casting to the rise. He must have seen my fly pass over his head so many times that I am sure he was bored with my antics. So I was feeling pretty confident that as time went by I had less and less of a chance of hooking him which meant less and less of a chance of having to get him off the hook.
So I was happy as a fool, casting to the fish, feeling the sun on my back when all of a sudden "it" happened. That dang fish took my fly.
What happened next? Well, I remembered what my son did when he landed some fish in the very same spot. Keeping in my what Brian did I reeled him on in right up to me and next to my leg. I then made a quick look around to make sure no one was watching the show and then I gently reached down and jiggled the hook out of his lip.
Once he was off he darted right back to his spot and I thought to myself, "Gee. What was all the worry about? That seemed easy enough."
The rest is history, which brings me back to today. Today I was out two handed casting which is something I never thought I would have done. I have fished the Madison, Ruby and Yellowstone Rivers. I landed numerous rainbows in Clark Canyon Reservoir. I fished a couple of rivers in North Carolina and Virginia. Yes, I am lucky that my sons live near these rivers so when I get a chance to visit them I can also fish. I also have the Farmington right here in Connecticut and not too far away are my beloved steelhead in the Salmon River. I just love it.