Our time together was all too brief. Really, I’ve got to do a better job of planning. Because a mountain brook loaded with native char is not a place to rush one’s self.
The day was overcast and cool — like so many others this spring. Bug activity was minimal. But the brookies were open for business. They ate my bushy dry, North Country spider, and micro streamers with equal fervor. The cigar was a Rocky Patel The Edge corona gorda, and it was a good as the fishing. I made the promise of “three more casts” three times. Depressingly, I followed through on the final declaration.
Sometimes being responsible sucks.
Even brook trout like the fontinalis fin. The old timers used to cut the fins off and use them for bait. This one remained on the fish, and he’s swimming around in the same pool I caught him in as you read this.
I found a long run that held a few occasionally rising fish. I couldn’t see what was coming off, but I tied on a size 14 Winter Brown North Country spider and swung it along the length of the pool. I took several brookies, then prospected some deep plunges with weighted mini buggers and ICU Sculpins. This was my last char of the day. A perfect fish.
Out to the Farmington today to take some scenics for my upcoming feature in Eastern Fly Fishing. As you might have imagined, the warm weather brought out anglers in force; it seemed like every major pool or run had a rod probing its depths. Didn’t see any fish hooked. Wished I was fishing. But I had decided to visit a small stream after my photography work was done.
Not surprisingly, much of it was unfishable. Part of this brook flows through a hollow, and the sun had yet to work its melting magic.
I did find some relatively open water. Not a touch for me today; again, no surprise, probably due to snow melt which tends to drop that water temp. Here’s a helpful small stream hint: sometimes I purposefully cast my line or leader over a rock to hang up the fly in the current. The waking fly is particularly attractive to kamikaze wild trout. I try to make sure the fly is holding over a likely lie. In this case, I was fishing a dry/dropper — this is a great tactic for a submerged soft hackle. You can see the leader going over the left third of the rock; the fly is at 10 o’clock.
I’m a count-your-blessings kind of guy, and to be able to fish for wild native char on a secluded woodland stream is certainly at the top of the tally sheet. There’s something both poetic and romantic about catching a fish whose direct ancestors lived in the same waters for tens of thousands of years.
Even in winter. A dark horse from February.
200 years ago this was a farmer’s property line.
Biggest small stream brookie of the year, taken on a micro bugger in deep plunge pool. An old fish who made it through flood, drought, and bitter cold, I didn’t even take him out of the net for a beauty shot.
Time to go for a long walk in the woods with a stick and a string. The thin blue line was running medium high and cold. And the air temperature, which started out in the 30s, hadn’t climbed much higher by noon. I fished upstream with a bushy dry (size 14 Improved Sofa Pillow, up from a 16 to discourage hooking the younguns) and, in some of the deeper pools, dry/dropper (size 18 2x short SHBHPT). I pricked dozens, landed an honest 12 or so, and had my usual festive chuckles at their kamikaze antics.
At the turnaround point, I switched to subsurface, with the intent of running tungsten bead head micro buggers through the deeper recesses of select pools. White first. I felt a nip, then on the next cast saw what was for this brook a behemoth char follow the fly. I couldn’t get him to eat, so I switched over to black. (I like to fish black or white streamers when there are leaves in the water.) Another tug, but no commitment. Just when I had resolved to try something smaller, the fish hit for keeps. It was my best wild brookie of 2018, a handsome old buck that was no doubt the tribe elder in this sacred water.
After lunch, dessert: a JR Cuban Alternate Montecristo #2. Delicious.
My prize refused to sit still for a formal portrait, so I had to settle for a shot in his temporary home. Of course, it’s only my opinion, but these fins beat the pants of any peak foliage. I thought about how long this char has been alive — at nearly a foot long, a giant in this tiny brook — how many redds he’s fertilized, and how many of his progeny I’ve touched before. Then, back he went.
The cathedral was built at the end of the last ice age. As the glacier receded, it carved out the path of the stream and dotted its edges with granite boulders. Tens of thousands of years later, I came to worship at its altar.
In one of the Beatles’ Christmas records, John Lennon waxes romantic about the Elizabethan high wall. Here’s to the New England low wall. What was once farmland is now dense woods, and every once in a while you stumble across one of these gems, as if it were part of some random design plan.
I’ve been fishing this stream for years, and in late May you can always count on a good hatch of yellow sallies. I spent 15 minutes sitting beside a pool watching the char rise in earnest to both midges and stoneflies.
I started with a dry (Improved Sofa Pillow variant)/nymph (Frenchie variant) dropper and had interest in both. I switched out the nymph for a North Country spider, the Partridge and Orange, to which the answer was a resounding yes. White micro bugger, ICU Sculpin, Squirrel and Herl — they liked them all. Pricked dozens, landed a few less, and spent most of the morning giggling about it.
I love how the brookies change their colors to match their environment. This guy came from a shallow, well-lit run with a light stone bottom…
…while his cousin came from the depths of a plunge pool that may only see sunlight for a few days each year.
I noticed as I was driving through my neighborhood that every dog owner seemed to be out with rover for walkies. Same deal in the other residential areas I passed through. Who could blame them? With the sun cheerfully sharing its warmth, it felt more like early April than late February. But would the fishing be for the dogs?
My original intention was to throw streamers on the Farmington. Time and space got in the way, so a quick shot to a local brook was the new plan. The water was high, clear, and very cold — I’d guess upper 30s. Any snow and shelf ice had long since made its way to the Connecticut River or maybe even Long Island Sound. The trout were still holding in their winter lies. I fished a bushy dry/dropper and a couple micro streamers. Pricked five, landed three, and all of them came on the subsurface fare. (This tells me that while we may be dreaming of spring, the char are still in winter mode.)
A fine example of local folk art. This handsome native took an ICU Sculpin that was swung and then jigged through a deep plunge pool.
There are two ways to look at this mess. Both are emotional: Thanks, Mother Nature, for totally cocking up this neat little section of water. Or, what a great place for brookies to hang out! I feel that come spring, the intrepid angler who can figure out how to drift a bushy dry into this wooded Gordian Knot will be richly rewarded.
Last week I visited three local small streams, partially because I could; partially because the weather didn’t suck; partially because I was curious to see if anyone wanted to play; but mostly because I just plain love small streams.
I began Wednesday afternoon at Stream A. The air temp was just about freezing, and there was still a solid white shelf of ice framing this woodland brook. Didn’t see any bugs, and the action was slow. No love on a bushy dry/nymph dropper, so I switched over to an ICU Sculpin. I was jigging the fly in a plunge pool when I felt some weight. The next thing I saw was an open mouth rising from the depths. And then the char was gone. That was enough to keep me smiling, though.
Remnants from the last ice age. This stuff should pretty much be gone by the middle of this week. However, I’d still expect the water temperatures to be very cold.
Streams B and C are in more urbanized locations. They’re not for everyone, especially if you desire the unspoiled by humans angling backdrop. So while they lack the classic beauty of the high-gradient mountain brook or lilting meadow stream, they are, nonetheless, charming in a “cool, I hooked a section of heater hose” kind of way. I went Friday, and I thought that with the heavy cloud cover and late afternoon timing, I might get an offer to buy with my white mini bugger sales pitch. Nothing doing. Although I did have a rather tasty cigar.
So much depends
a brown tree
glazed with rain
beside the white