Monday, August 29, 2011

Hurricane Irene rains down on the Farmington River

My husband and I took a short drive up to New Hartford to see how the Farmington was holding up. That area got clobbered with rain yesterday from Hurrican Irene and the river shows it. At the time we went up the flow rate was over 11,000cfs. I had plans to spend my last day before school starts tomorrow fishing, but I think you will agree that my plans have changed! The picture below is taken from the bridge in New Hartford center and looking back to the town hall.

This is the infamous Church Pool. I was only on the bridge for a short time because it was vibrating from all the water rushing by it. The sound was also amazing. This next shot is looking upriver from Church Pool.

This is looking up to Whittemore's just down from the People's State Forest and campground.

This is looking down from the Callahan Park in New Hartford at the bridge where people usually park and fish from.

Today the skies are bright blue and there is not a cloud in the sky. The air has dried out and the temperature is in the 60's. The flow rate has dropped considerably since yesterday but I can only imagine the changes to the river from all this water.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Lucky as hell

This is something I wrote in March, 2009.
Well, here it is. Almost April, and I got to thinking about Montana. Hey, truth be told I can think of Montana any day of the year and at any moment. It doesn't take much and I can prove it. Take faculty meetings for example, start one of those up and I hit the mental replay button and skip town! Poof! I'm out of the meeting and on the Ruby River.

But this didn't happen during a faculty meeting. No, I remembered this particular trip to Montana after going through some photos of mine when I just happened to find one of a bunch of caddis on my leg.

I was out visiting son #1, aka Brian, five years ago during my spring break. Brian was going to Montana State University, which is in Bozeman. And if you know about fly fishing you know what else is close to Bozeman. The Madison, Gallatin, Yellowstone and Big Hole Rivers, just to name a few. I actually think he went out there for the fly fishing but he really did graduate with a degree and he is employed so maybe school really was the reason he hit the road. Anyway, he started fly fishing the summer before he left Conn., which is also the time I got into it. I just couldn't stand watching him in the Farmington River having a blast landing trout while I was left on the bank of the river just watching. Before long I was right out there with him and I quickly found out just how much fun it is. Not only was it fun fishing, but it was fun fishing with my son. It was great. But then he announces that come Jan. he is heading out to MSU for "school".

Now at that point I was still just getting into fly fishing. I hadn't started tying flies yet, hadn't even thought of the possibility of making my own rods yet, but I found it pleasant enough that I believed I would keep it up as time went by. So when my April break came along I thought what the heck, I would head out to Bozeman for the week and visit the kid.

I packed light, so light that I didn't bring any fishing equipment. Yeah, stupid is as stupid does. But like I said I was still relatively new to all this and so I was going to Montana. Ok. No big deal. But just so you do know, I have seen the error of my ways and have since returned to Montana with my fishing gear - thank you - and spent a month or so out there but that's a story for another day.

As I said, I went, visited with the kid, drove around hit the Museum of the Rockies (which is excellent, by the way!) and spent a couple of days reading along the Madison river. Unbelievable! Not because of the fantastic mountain scenery, the bright blue skies with eagles riding the thermals and warm spring breeze. Naah. Unbelievable because I was a complete moron to be sitting at a picnic table, reading some book that I can't even remember what it was about when I began to notice these bugs.

Caddis flies to be exact.

Now Brian had told me about the caddis hatch out there but hey, what did I know? Obviously not much if I am sitting next to a river reading a book, right?!

So as the afternoon gets progressively warmer and I take a break from my reading to enjoy the beauty, peace and quiet, I notice a couple of bugs on the water. Whatever, at that point I wasn't sure what I was seeing. A few minutes later I look up again and I remember thinking, "Humm. Seems to be a few more bugs flying around here." Then back to the book.

Then I feel something crawling up the leg of my jeans. I look down to see some of these bugs on the ground. I shake the critters out (yes, there were a good number of caddis that fell out) and, come on, you guessed it! I go right back to reading. Now I am not sure exactly how long it was before the ol' light bulb went off but I finally looked up to really take in the view and the view was bugs. Nothing but caddis, size #12. Thousands of 'em. Everywhere there were caddis flying, crawling, landing in the water. You name it.

They were thick. At times they moved upriver in clouds, like nothing I had ever seen before. There was no hint of a breeze but they would pulsate up and down the river just the same, moving along, driven by instinct. By now my shoes are covered with caddis that are just poking around minding their own business. Caddis are all over my jeans and when I go to put the book down on the table I had to brush them off first or make caddis soup. So there I am, sitting and watching millions of these brown caddis just fill the air. No lie, they were so thick if you kept your mouth open they would have flown right in. And yes, I am speaking from experience. I couldn't take a step without killing a bunch of 'em.

It lasted for hours. And I do mean hours. Brian was back at some silly chemistry class and it wasn't time for me to go and get him yet for some evening fishing. I watched those caddis for two hours and during that time their numbers only increased. I was sure that by the time I went back to Bozeman, picked him up and drove him back out they would be gone.

Eventually I walked to my car to find that it was literally covered with caddis and that the small valley that I was in was teaming with caddis flitting around in the late afternoon sunlight. I picked up Brian and his gear and we hustled back and the hatch was still on and I swear there were stil more of 'em than before. It actually looked like brown snow blowing around in the air.

Well, Brian did gear up and fish and despite the multitude of food on the water he landed some nice trout that afternoon. Me? I was still high and dry on land but the sight was just awesome. There he was, standing out in the river silhouetted against the sun casting here and there with caddis flying all around. This wasn't some "River Runs Through It" movie vista, this was the real thing and I was damn lucky to witness it.

I didn't really appreciate it at the time but looking back and knowing what I know now I have come to the conclusion that not only was I lucky, I was lucky as hell.