Game One: Team Cohiba Rides Again
Back when we used to get up early and go on Opening Day proper — we’re talking decades worth or fishing here — there was a guy who would always fish the same pool on the Salmon River as my father and I. Because of our omnipresent cigars, he dubbed us “Team Cohiba.” A few years back, dad and I had an epiphany. Why get up at 4am and battle crowds and cold if we’re going to release the fish anyway? Thus was born the new Culton tradition of fishing the Friday before Opening Day. We start at the rather civilized hour of 10am. Cigars will be lit. Trout are plentiful. Yahoos are few and far between.
I’ve been fishing with dad now on the the third Saturday in April — or the Friday before — every year since 1971. Okay. There was that one time in the 80s when he had to go to a wedding and I flew solo, but other than that it’s been a tradition as reliable as the firmness of the earth. And so we went forth on the 18th of April to match wits (or lack thereof) with dumb hatchery trout.
Me and he who taught me. His name is Paul Culton, and I watched him like a hawk when I was a kid because some day I wanted to be as good an angler as he was. Thanks for taking me fishing, dad.
The Salmon was down to 490cfs, a good height after all of last week’s rain, running cold at 44 degrees. Some years we get a good caddis hatch. On this day it was a few measly midges. The Woolly Bugger hatch was outstanding, though, and browns, rainbows, and even a tiger trout found my olive and white offerings to their liking.
Game Two: You can’t catch stripers on the surface in 44 degree water (except when you can).
Traditionalist. Creature of habit. Call me what you will, but I’ve been going striper fishing on Good Friday for years. What better way to honor Simon Peter, who, as you may know, was a professional angler before he became a Saint.
Today, the answer was yes. I expected the water to be high and a little off-color, so I tied up an opaque (by my standards) fly made of fluorescent white, fluorescent yellow, fluorescent chartreuse, and light blue bucktail, along with a chartreuse marabou collar. Think the stripers will be able to see that? Saints be praised, they attacked it with gusto. The fishing was so good, I decided to tap into my inner iconoclast. If I can catch a bazillion dumb schoolies on a floating line with a four-foot sinking T-11 sinking head, why can’t I catch them on the surface? Water only twelve degrees above freezing? Hah! Off came the T-11 head. On went the white Gurlger. Second cast, a spirited follow. Third cast, BAM!
I took over a dozen fish on the Gurgler, and had dozens more cartwheel hysterically at the fly. We soon discovered that simply dapping a standard-issue bucktail on the surface 20 feet in front of you was enough to draw follows, boils, and strikes. As they say in the UK, tremendous sport.
The last fish of the day came on the Gurlger. I was cold. I was tired. I had striper thumb. But I fished with my dad, reconnected with some old friends, and had more fun that any guy wearing baggy waterproof pants has a right to.
It was a good, Good Friday.