Monday, November 3, 2014

Mend Left, No Your Other Left: The Elusive Trout

Mend Left, No Your Other Left: 
The Elusive Trout                       By Leroy Dickey

            By Thursday morning I was quite excited about the upcoming Trout Unlimited trip to the Deerfield River in Charlemont Massachusetts.  Our plans began six months early, shortly after our spring outing at the same location; now it was October 30th, I was sitting at my desk unable to stop myself from looking at the clock every 30 minutes, willing it to speed up.  I already knew that I was going to use my six weight with a “ham and egg” nymph setup, with a [pink?] San Juan worm with a peach egg dropped 18 inches below, considering that the browns finished spawning about a week earlier.
            Mark showed up at 10 minutes early, which was perfect because I could not take it anymore and left work 15 minutes early. A quick transfer of gear from his stripped Ford Ranger to my plush Chevy Equinox [I make the payments at least, while my wife gets to drive it 99% of the time], and we were off.  We talked a little about everything on the 90 minute drive, both of us looking forward to meeting up with the remainder of our group at the Mohawk Trail Campground just as much as the three days of fishing we had ahead of us.  And considering the weather forecast with high temps ranging from 50 degrees on Friday to 37 degrees with chance of snow and wind gust to 30 MPH on Sunday, the fireside stories of past trips, coupled with one too many alcoholic beverages was sounding a much better than wading the river.
            Our 6:00AM wake-up call Friday morning, after a wonderful night’s sleep listening to Grumpy Ed talk in his sleep, “Getting to damn old for this fishing shit”, Mark snoring on the bunk below me  and the rock hard bed that creaked causing me to fear falling through and unexpectedly crush poor Mark in his sleep with every breath I took .  We rubbed the crusties from our eyes, grabbed a quick coffee and brushed the cob webs off our teeth before heading off to meet the Harrison’s for those that were taking the guided float trip, amazed by the clear sky and 47 degree temperature.  I paused for a moment to thank God for the beautiful day as Richard walked by saying, “what a wonderful morning.”
            “The best morning ever,” I replied.
            The Tom Harrison confirmed that the “Ham and Eggs” would be the setup of choice and we set off for our preplanned sections of river, hoping that someone was not already there.  Come to find out, we were the only ones on this 6 mile section of river Friday morning. BONUS!!!


            Mark and I headed off to wade, followed by Brad and Lou, while the others set off for a day of drift boat fishing. 
            After making conquering the steep 100 foot drop, we distanced ourselves about 75 yards apart on opposite sides of the river, fishing the slack water below the runs.  On my third cast, an insane rainbow took a swipe at my 1” Thingamabobber.  As usual for this section of river it was, “go big or go home.”  Not having any large egg patterns in my box, I dropped the two biggest Pheasant Tail nymphs that I could find [#12’s with a fatter than normal thorax], made two more casts and “Viol La”.  Fish On!
            After a wonderful attempt at escape, the 1-2 pound rainbow was in my net.  I now more than touched the fly, perfectly lodged its upper lip and the barbless hook gently slipped out making for a perfect release.  As the fat, darkly colored rainbow, zipped back into its holding spot catching its breath, I thanked God once again for this fine morning.  I looked down river soaking in the beauty of left over foliage, some 4 weeks past peek, as the sun shown over the steep hillside, amplifying every morsel of color in the dying leaves that would soon fall, adding their nutrients back into the soil.
            Two hours later, we moved above the high water mark, knowing Fife Damn was scheduled to increase its flow from 200cfs to 900cfs in five minutes.  In the time it took us to climb back up to our vehicles; the dry rocks I was standing were now three feet below the rushing water.  The large rock I had sat on earlier this morning to re-tie my wading boot, was now most likely providing some fat rainbow, sanctuary from the current while pounds of aquatic insects are helplessly swept directly to its mouth. 
            Taking advantage of the unwadeable water, we drove back to camp where Lou served us another incomparable sausage, egg and English muffin breakfast, cooked on his used, green two-burner grill.  We relaxed for a bit inside the 80 plus year old cabin talking about our experience that morning and shared what we had learned about the new section of river.  With a warm meal and fresh coffee settling in our stomachs, we contemplated on the best area to fish that afternoon, deciding that the area directly below the damn would be perfect. Our thought was that the daily flow would stop just before dusk, allowing the fish to move back into their deep pools, where they could relax until the next flow began around noon the following day. Unfortunately, the flow did not stop until four hours after sunset. 
            We stuck it out and drifted nymphs in the bubble lines along the edges.  Fishing the upper pool, Lou hooked into a gorgeous rainbow within the first 10 minutes, confirming that we had made the right decision. The upper pool was about 150-meters long and 40-meters across with a large granite shelf forcing the water to depart through a 15-meter opening on the near side where it dropped about 2-meters into a larger pool.  I made a cast into the nearest edge of the heaviest current, allowing my double nymph rig to pop out along the edge of the pool as if swept in from the pool above.  I made a downstream mend to keep my line ahead of my float and droppers, managing a nice 15-meter drift.  On the second cast my indicator dove under, I gently lifted the tip of my rod and the fight was on.  On 10 second run downstream and “Viol La,” a not so perfect long distance release of the one strike I had all evening.


            We gathered back at camp, started the fire and poured drinks as Lou prepared yet another divine meal surpassing any $45 a plate, shirt and tie required, restaurant in the northeast.  I challenge anyone to find a finer meal served in a better atmosphere than our folding chairs set up around a campfire, with stars brightly shining above.  Pumpkin whoopee pies, prepared by someone’s loving wife [I think it was Larry’s wife or perhaps Richard, but cannot say for sure], followed for desert.  My taste buds were more than satisfied.
            Ed and Richard began sharing the wonderful day of guided drifting with the Harrison’s.  Apparently Dick managed to out fish Ed [again] despite some confusion about mending his line.  Ed had us in tears explaining how Tom would instruct him to, “Mend left. Mend left!  No, your other left!”
            Considering that Mr. Bickford has 35 years on me, I could not hold it against him to occasionally, confuse his left with his right.  Hell, I will be happy if I am simply, able to crawl out of bed before I take my morning pee, when I am 82 years old.  Let alone spend an eight hour day on the river, fishing.  

Monday, June 16, 2014

Fishing the Deerfield River

          As I packed the last of my gear into the trunk of my 2013 Malibu on a Friday the 13th with a full moon, it occurred to me that I really need a vehicle better suited toward hunting and fishing, something like the 1990 Toyota Land Cruiser I had passed up in the spring. A full 20 minutes had passed since I last looked at the NOAH weather app on my phone, perhaps they had changed their minds and the rain would stop before I arrived at camp in 2 ½  hours; just as I susphere it is almost 8ected…cloudy with a 50% chance of showers ending around midnight.  On the bright side, tomorrow dropped to 30% chance of showers, windy, gusts to 23 MPH, perfect for making a precision casting with a fly rod.   Two hours later, about 30 minutes behind schedule and at least 20 miles past the nearest town, that would have a place to buy one, it occurred to me that my rain gear was hanging neatly in my closet at home.  Fortunately, the tiny town of Charlemont had enough farmers around to support a local Agway store.  A quick U-turn, legally of course, right after the no U-turn sign.

          Panic set in as I merge of the shoulder and back into traffic with success…looking directly at one of Massachusetts’ finest in the now, oncoming lane.  I found myself praising the sudden down pour of rain that I had been cursing minutes earlier. The state trooper sent me a glaring look that would rival that of my grandmothers when she first witnessed me placing a pinch of Copenhagen in my bottom lip and continued on his way.  Apparently, an illegal U-turn in light traffic is not worthy of causing the trooper to soil his highly polished Calvary boots.  Thank you God almighty.

          After a 10-minute pit stop at Agway, I was back on the road and of course, the rain had let up and the sky was getting brighter, then ten minutes later the rain was falling moderately hard again, as it had all morning.  I pulled into the Mohawk Campground, trudged through the muddy parking lot and stepped inside where I was greeted with all seven patrons looking to see who was coming in; one even gave me a cheekish smile revealing the few remaining brown teeth... Arthur "Guitar Boogie" Smith’s “Dueling Banjos” playing in my head.  After a short talk with the man behind the bar, I learned that I was at the wrong place; Mohawk National Forest Campground was still a few miles away.

          With a better idea of where our trout Unlimited group was camping, I was headed back a few miles to a rest area that had some promising looking water and ignored the fact that thousands before me have probably had the same thought.  Pulling into the parking area, I spotted a grey Land Cruiser with New Hampshire license plates…that has to be someone from our group.  No more than I had finished getting my gear on and rigging up my 9’0”, 5 weight Temple Fork rod with sink tip line a drift boat made its way to shore with three soaking wet men on board.  Ed and Dick had been floating the river for the past four hours with no success.  Although, I had been to a presentation this guide had given about Deerfield River where he told us he would refund 50% of your cost if no fish where caught, full price was paid, plus tip.  Needless to say, Mr. Henault and Mr. Bickford were not pleased. 

          Despite the rain, I continued to fish for a few hours in the miserable weather without the slightest of strikes then headed to camp where I was greeted with the snoring of five fellow TU members.  An hour later and the younger guys were headed back to the “top,” better known as Fife Brook damn and found themselves in the middle of a Hex hatch, Hexagenia limbata for the nerds out there, no offense intended – I say nerd, only because I can never remember the real names.  Hearing this news when they arrived back at camp, well after dark, made me wish I had sucked it up and went with them. 

          Lou provided us with a tasty, steak tip dinner as we sat around swapping stories about the day and past trips taken throughout North and South America.  After dinner I supplied the Scotch [Glenlivet 18 year old] and cigars [La Flor de Gloria] and more stories were shared on topics ranging from teaching the wife to fly fish to who had the best garden.  My favorite was, “my wife and I have an agreement, she doesn’t have to go fishing and I don’t need to attend the ballet.”  With eight of us ranging from in age from mid-30’s to 80+ telling stories, there was no want for entertainment.

          The dilemma, eight men, four beds and me without a mat to place my sleeping bag on.  I opted for my car with the front seat laid back, which learned in the morning, had been the best sleeping arrangement in the cabin.  According to those under 45, “old men snore horribly.”  Some had even considered refunding me half the price of the cabin for sleeping in the car while others thought I should be charged extra for getting a full 6 hours of sleep.  [TO BE CONTINUED]…

Hereit is, nearly a full year later I sit at home on my couch, feeling loopy from the painkillers that were given to me following my spine surgeries. apparently sleeping in my car that night was not a good idea. I ended up with a herniated  disc in my lower back and nearly a full summer without fishing or at least being in pain while I was out there on the wate. TThankfully the New Hampshire neuro Spine Center found the herniated disc after several months of pain and performed surgery. now I am 3 weeks post op and looking forward to this year's spring trip.