Friday, May 17, 2013

This Creek Is Clearly My Favorite

(This post first appeared on June 14, 2011. Updates including today's appear below in chronological order.)
June 14, 2011

My mentor Alois “Louie” R. introduced me to stream fishing for trout in 1961. He was quite an outdoorsman: he had a “camp” in the Southern Tier, rifles and shotguns, a beagle named “Pepper” that was poison on rabbits, deer heads on the wall, and an old bamboo fly rod with an automatic fly reel that he used to drift salted minnows downstream. His son was grown and chasing other things by 1961, so Louie picked me up as a sort of “project kid.” I thought he was 10 feet tall.
One day around 1980, I was drifting salted minnows down stream with absolutely no luck when, after maybe 500 yards of work, I bumped into a father-son team fishing dries upstream. The father was maybe 65, the son 40ish. I asked if I might follow behind them to watch how this here fly fishing stuff was done. They said sure, come on along, and with that they continued fishing up through the stretch I’d just spent an hour wading through.

I was dumbfounded. They immediately began catching fish - nice fish for that stream - in water I had just muddled through. They were fishing one rod, alternating with each fish caught and released, and they must have caught 8 or so in the next hour. It may have been a good or average evening for them, but it was transformational for me. Clearly this fly fishy stuff worked.

Within a week, I caught a trout on a fly for the first time. It was on different water - Tonawanda Creek, to be exact - and the fly, of all things, was a #12 Hornberg that I’d picked up at the local Orvis shop. I’d initially been apprehensive whether I could make the dry fly thing work, so I asked the salesman to recommend something wet. How he suggested a Hornberg, and why I bought it, both seem a mystery now.

It didn’t take long after that for my personal dry fly style to emerge and solidify. I like to fish when I like to fish. That is, if I have four hours free and the fishing muse is chewing on my ear, then away I go. It doesn’t matter to me at all if it’s “the wrong time,” or whether the right hatch is coming off or not, or the solunar tables say “stay home.” The fish better accommodate my schedule, dammit. I realized that I didn’t need several boxfuls of flies to match all the hatches if I wasn’t going to dance to their tune anyway. I bought a bunch of Adams in #14 and #16 and I was off to the races. I later learned to add elk hair caddis flies in the same size. That was that until my eyes couldn’t follow a #16 black caddis or Adams as well as they used to. I added Ausable Wulffs to the box and got happy again. So now I have a 6-compartment fly box about the size of a pinochle deck for all my fake bug needs.

Today I fished the creek where that father-son team first slipped me the fly fish Kool Aid 30 years ago. There’s no need to keep it a secret: it’s Clear Creek, home to lovely little stream bred rainbows.

I immediately hooked up with a good fish for that water - it had my new 4 weight rod quite excited - and, desperately wanting to get a good photo of it for this blogpost, I tried to “get it on the reel.” Why I tried that with only 15-20’ of line out is beyond me. Needless to say, the fish broke off.

But I soldiered on and, after landing another fish that broke off in my attempts to photograph it, finally caught a fish who didn’t mind having its picture taken. For those who haven’t tried it, it’s easier to catch ‘em than to photograph ‘em. We’ll try to post some photos that are a bit more impressive as the summer rolls along.

This wild rainbow from Clear Creek took a #16 Ausable Wulff

May 17, 2013
A sunny 70° afternoon was forecast today, so I headed south around 11 after finishing morning chores. I parked at a favorite spot and walked a mile downstream to my usual put in. “The Office” was looking quite friendly today.

I was not on the water 2 minutes when I hooked a silvery 9” - 11” rainbow at the head of a blue-green pool. It was easily the best fish of the day. As with a similar brown I hooked two weeks ago, the fish elected to pre-lease about 5’ from my eager mitts. I was terribly crest fallen; the fish would have looked spiffy in these pages. But I got over it and soldiered on.
In the next pool, I realized I had the same fly on now which lost that nice brown two weeks ago. It occurred to me that the hook maybe had a dull or bent point, so I swapped it with a fresh #16 Adams Wulff. Two pools further, I landed the first fish of the year!:

Some fisherman might choose not to display this photo. I attach it, however, as absolute proof that I did not "lose" the previous two fish; on the contrary, my dull hook hypothesis is definitively substantiated.
An alternative explanation is Ed Zern’s observation that fishermen are born honest, but they get over it.
Several pools later, I landed a slightly better fish after changing to a #16 Royal Wulff. It was flopping around quite actively, and I wanted to get it back in the water ASAP, so please forgive my shadow in the photo.

The last and best landed fish of the day also took the Royal Wulff at the head of a long, slick, “you gotta fish me” run.

I’m considering getting a net so that I can land fish and keep them in the stream while I photograph them. I’ve never yet had one go belly up on me, but it just seems like the right thing to do. When I find a net I like, I’ll probably bring it home.