What about Bill?

You’ve read of the steelhead and striper adventures of Cam. Followed the woodland wanderings of Gordon.

So how come I never write anything about Bill?

Last week, Number One Son returned to his natal shores from the far away land of Miami. He had mentioned the F-word several times during his stay. And so it was that father and son found themselves on the Farmington River last Friday evening to catch the evening rise.

Catch? Here’s one: Bill had never fly fished a big river for trout. At least, Grady Allen assured me, he would have a good instructor. I replied that maybe we should get Fred Jeans.

Bill did great. In no time at all he was mending like he’d been doing it for years. I’d like to tell you that he caught a ridiculous number of fish, but it was one of those nights where hook sets were few and far between. He had the right fly (size 20 Light Cahill Catskill dry) and the right presentation — he had one low-teens brown make a good half dozen rises — but a soup-to-nuts complete transaction was not in the cards.

I, on the other hand, had lottery luck. As we were starting, I was greasing his leader, fly dangling in the current six feet below me, when I hooked a nice brown. I handed the rod to Bill, who managed to hand strip in his first trout on a dry. Well done, son. Dad managed a few more later on the Magic Fly, size 20.

We stayed till dark, then re-rigged for night patrol with streamers. No bumps in a half hour had our stomachs arguing with the fishing center of our brains. Cheeseburgers finally won.

My cigar that night was a My Father Le Bijou 1922 Belicoso Bill had given me for for Father’s Day. I was using my father’s old cane rod.

Sometimes it is fun, being a dad.

Bill at the controls, ready to stick that brown. Note the ski goggles filling in for polarized glasses. Marines adapt, overcome, improvise.

Bill Dry

 

Happy Father’s Day from currentseams

I hope you had a good one. I certainly did. A little work this morning in the rose garden, then an afternoon watching Number Two son play in a soccer tournament, and finally off to my dad’s house for dinner. Grilled vegetables, a Caesar salad, and some succulent rib eye steaks (rare for me, please) paired with a delicious California cab with a little age on it (Atticus John 2007). After dinner, the traditional Culton men’s cigar (Flor de las Antillas Belicoso for me — outstanding smoke) and a wee drap (18 year old Macallan).

While we were sipping, dad retold the story of how he took me and my friends trout fishing on the Salmon River in the mid 1970s. There were four of us teenagers, and when we got to the river, dad asked us which way we were planning on fishing. We pointed upstream. Dad’s intent was to get some separation from us, and what with all our hormones, adolescent angst, and noise, can you blame him? He headed downstream. Five minutes later, he turned to see us all in a line, closely shadowing him. Can you blame us? We wanted to follow the master angler.

Happy Father’s Day, dad. Thanks for taking me fishing. And thanks for teaching me where trout like to hang out in a river.

Both of these things are old, but in a good way. He who taught me how to fish, his cigar, and his whisky.Image

 

Stripers-by-numbers

2: Number of cigars I smoked, a Gispert Churchill on the drive down to Rhode Island, and an H. Upmann 2000 Reserve corona gorda on the way back to Connecticut.

5 and 9: The weight rod and line I used. Perfect for the tight confines of the first spot we fished. I could load the rod with a minimum of line, and shoot the rest with a flick of the wrist.

7 and 9. The weight rod and line Jon used.

1: Number of stripers we caught in the first spot (Jon was the successful angler).

4,957: Number of weeds I hooked in the first spot. At least it seemed like that many. I was fishing a greased line swing, then a dangle, and I could feel the tick the moment the weed hit the fly.

1: Number of stripers we saw in the second spot. Jon noticed a wrinkle on the surface in the moonlight. As we worked our way along the bank, I felt a quick little bap! And then he was gone. Other than seeing a few silversides and a juvenile fluke, the place was as dead as Julius Caesar.

86: My heart rate when we got to our last stop and saw a couple fish feeding out in the current.

10: As we were already well past our cutoff of 11pm, our agreed-upon time limit, in minutes, to catch a striper.

1: Number of bass we caught. (My turn.)

2: Happy anglers who made the drive home to Connecticut.

El Rey Del Mundo

I used to work at an advertising agency where the owner would go from floor to floor and ask each of us, “Is this the best job you’ve ever had?” At the time, for me, it was. But as it turns out, now I’ve got the best job I’ve ever had. I work for myself. There are multiple tradeoffs with any entrepreneurial venture, particularly in writing for a living. For example, I don’t get any paid vacations. But I do get to set my own schedule. And no. I’m not trading with you.

Because last Friday, I decided I needed some photos of small stream wild trout for an upcoming article. So while most of the rest of the world was working for someone else, I was heading out into to the woods on one of the Ten Best Days of the Year. You know the kind. Bluebird skies. Sun that coats your body with gratifying warmth. Cool, crisp air you can almost taste as you suck it into your lungs.

When this tree fell, it changed the whole structure of the pool. I don’t often use it for a bridge, but ants and squirrels do.

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The brook was at an ideal height, 60 degrees, and running clear. While there wasn’t much in the way of hatch activity (impossibly small creamy midges and some size 16 tan caddis), the water was teeming with aggressive brook trout. I started working my way upstream on the surface with a size 16 Improved Sofa Pillow. (At first glance, you’d think the fly was a Stimulator, but among its differences are a tail made of soft fox squirrel. I like that material, as it makes it easier to get a hook set with smaller fish.) I pricked dozens of brookies, mostly in the four-to-six inch range. Some of them I could see as dark forms materializing from the mosaic of the streambed, lunging at the fly as it skittered along the surface before resigning themselves to defeat, or stubbornly refusing to relinquish pursuit until the prize was theirs. Others launched themselves clear of the water, cartwheeling across the surface once hooked. All of it made for magnificent sport, and if there’s such a thing as rapture while fly fishing, I do believe I have reached that state many times now on waters like this.

Clearly, Mother Nature needs to have her name added to the list of great impressionists.

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Once I reached the top section of the brook, I switched to subsurface. I discovered a long time ago that wild brookies are of a curious mien; when you introduce an artificial fly into their world, they rush to examine it, and more often than not, try to eat it. Deeper holes that drew no rises to the dry were packed with trout that weren’t the slightest bit bashful about telling me they preferred their dinner wet. I was using some underweighted flies: a black and grizzly beadhead micro-bugger, and a beadhead version of the classic Gray Hackle Peacock wet. Both served me well in the more substantial plunge pools, where I could swing, jig, and strip them across the depths.

The Kate McLaren makes its small stream debut. Stonefly? Salamander? Sculpin? Clearly something that looks alive and good to eat.

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Then it occurred to me. I’ve never fished that size 14 Kate McLaren I tied up last winter. It seemed like the perfect fly for dapping along the broken surface. On it went. Nothing at first, and I began to regret my decision. Surely there would be some takers. Yes? You betcha. There, in that shallower run. On the other side of that seam. Between those two boulders. Just past that undercut bank with the sapling ready to keel over during the next freshet. I was having so much fun, I almost forgot the reason I came out today.

Having a job like this makes me wonder whether, in fact, life actually is fair. I don’t know the answer. But I do spend a lot of time laughing while I’m working.

A picture perfect day. A small stream filled with hungry brook trout. And an El Rey Del Mundo Flor de Llaneza. Surely I must be the king of the world.

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