Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Hospitality along the Ausable

PA. Fishermen in the Adirondaks (part 5)

___________Hospitality along the Ausable (fifth page)____
____________________June 13th___
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After fishing buggers and streamers in a deep section of the Ausable, without any hits, our guide, Pat, drove us downstream for the evening. He brought us to a section of the river he wanted us to fish at dusk. There was a good rush of water that created a falls on our side of the river. Water whirl pooled on the near side, then gradually slowed toward the bank and separated around a long thin strip of grassy island. He told us where he wanted Jeff and I to fish just before dark for the spinner fall.
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Jeff and I walked up the road and followed a path to the river that the guide had pointed out on our drive down. The water was clearer than the day before but still running horribly fast in my opinion.
I cautiously entered the river and took small steps keeping good footage, before proceeding, as I fished and waded downstream in the waist high water. Even with big dry fly patterns it still wasn’t easy following the fly bobbing and weaving in and out of the wavy water. Being near shore gave me little room to back cast so I was limited to casting from right above my head and forward. The strong current against my bottom half, along with the slippery rocky bottom, gave me little confidence of moving further out into the river without being one with the fish. Jeff entered the river about 35 yards or so below and I could tell the precarious looking river was having the same effect on him. It wasn’t pretty!
Pat showed up along the shore, and seeing I was uneasy about the conditions, offered me his wading staff which I took without hesitation. The staff helped somewhat but I still wasn’t going to venture out into the mass of boulder ridden white waters of the river. My fishing consisted of casting out, holding the rod high and follow my dry as it swept the water surface. The whole time, fishing in this method, I tried to keep good balance as water pushed against my waist and legs. My felt sole boots continued to search for stable rocks as the under current swept the fine sand and gravel from beneath them. Seeing a huge boulder in front of me, I skittered the hay stack March Brown across the current and into the smoother water before it. A fish raised and hit the fly and I was able to set the hook and keep my balance all at the same time. Calling out I had one, Pat slid into the chest high water and netted the 10” brown. ‘Oh well’ I thought ‘I was successful, time to get out of here!’
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As the evening started to fall so did the raindrops. Pat headed up to get our rain gear as Jeff and I headed to our evening destination. Jeff fished off the end of the island downstream from me as I positioned and repositioned myself in the knee deep water at the head of the island so I could cast into the breaking falls up to my right. Water ran off a few boulders and swirled into a moving whirlpool off from the main river flow in front of me. Casting my Wulff pattern, just below the falls, wasn’t easy to distinguish the path the fly was going to take. I found by a quick movement of my rod tip I was able to control the fly to either crease the fast running down flow of water to my right or make the fly move with a slower current to my left towards the bank and then flow between the island and shoreline. Every once in a while the fly would get sucked into the whirlpool and I wasn’t sure which way it would exit. With sprinkles and the gloominess of the sky I tied on one of my coffin flies. For the next 15 minutes or so I fished this into the waters before me, along with casting out into the main part of the wide river. On one cast to the falls, the coffin fly followed the crease of the fast water. I pulled the line gently to my left and the fly followed my fly line flowing with the slower current. I was taking in some slack while holding my rod horizontal to the water, just being lazy. A head/nose of a trout appeared a few inches behind the fly and was following it like a trout following a hopper before gulping it in. (This all happened in a matter of seconds but I replay it in my mind in minutes). With my fly line moving to my left, out in front of me, following the flow of the water and the rest arcing towards my rod tip, I was helpless. I watched the fish gain on the fly and then with a big splash it swirled back into the deep. With that swirl my fly disappeared and I really wasn’t sure if the fish took the fly or the big 180* turn and swirl of the fish in the shallower water, caused my fly to sink. I lifted the rod up and back on that instance and even had to pull back line with my line hand to take up more slack to tighten my line. The fly surfaced and dragged across the water towards me….
I blew it! Poof, it was like an illusionary magic act. Now you see it - now you don’t and all you’re left with is feathers as the dove disappears. It happens so fast that later you wonder if it happened at all. I stood there conjuring up what should have happened but didn’t.
I began to frantically cast towards the falls and surrounding area to raise the trout. Downstream I heard Jeff call out “fish on”. I continued to fish my coffin fly without results. Jeff on the other hand…..
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Later Jeff told me that he tied on the big white fly Pat had tied for us back at the shop. When he cast it out the first time, within a 2 foot drift a fish came up and hammered the fly and he set the hook. Pat got into the water to net the fish as he was fighting the fish out of the fast current. Jeff said he got the heavy fighting fish close to Pat but it took off into the fast churning water again. The second time he got it close to Pat, but somehow it threw the hook and was gone.
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After this had taken place Pat came up to me and told me about Jeff’s fish and told me to tie on ’his fly’. I tied on the fly in hopes that something different would fool the trout. It didn’t but I still fished it into the rest of the evening. Jeff hooked into at least two other trout but again couldn’t bring them to hand. I’m sure the rambling strong current had a lot to do with it!
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In darkness and rain Jeff finally walked behind me and said he was heading to the house. After a few more casts I followed. After changing into shorts and dry clothes I entered into the garage where Jan Betters and Pat were talking. Jan had invited us for beer and burgers after our day of fishing. She motioned and said “the beer is in the cooler” and “go inside and make yourself at home.” I grabbed a Samuel Adams out of the cooler and entered thru the garage door into the house. I looked down the hall and realized quickly there’s no way this is like home.
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I passed the doorway leading into the living room to gander at the many pictures and items lining the hallway. To name a few, on the right wall were framed oil paintings of singular flies signed by the artist. The one looked to be a Jock Scott and the another looked to be a Ghost pattern while the other may have been some kind of Scottish Loch pattern. On the left wall was a framed certificate of gratitude and Fran’s certificate of authenticity where he was inducted into the Catskill Fly Fishing Hall of Fame in 2008.
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Upon entering the living room more fishing crafts and articles graced the walls and surroundings. Jeff and Jim sr. were in a hearty conversation about fishing. Pat sat in an easy chair across the room and I sat down on a padded foot rest stool. A couple from Pittsburgh sat on my right who were friends of the Betters and were here visiting. Francis Betters sat in a cushioned chair with a blanket over his lap. He gazed out through the four-panel-wide sliding glass doors that relinquished the view outside. A well placed flood lamp, down by the river, gave off a soft glow through the sparse trees and wooden walk bridge that led to the Ausable. Rays of light danced off the breaking waters of the river where we were just fishing. Though he looked mesmerized by the exquisite view I’m sure he was listening to the conversations that surrounded him. I was in complete awe. Not just because I was in the presence of Francis Betters in his own home but the hospitality that was being shown to us, being that we were complete strangers. I have never been in the presence of a group of people that made me feel so welcomed so quickly.
As time passed, Jim Jr. finished cooking the burgers and Jan entered the room and let us know the food was ready. Along with the burgers were a few side dishes. Jeff and I sat at the kitchen table and had a good conversation with the couple from Pittsburgh. After a few more beers Jeff and I said our gracious good-byes and headed to Pat’s truck.
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On the drive back to our room Jeff and Pat struck up a conversation about hunting in general as I sat back and tried to again conjure up that big fish I missed earlier. At the room I took a quick ’box shower.’ Stepping into the living quarters, Jeff was fast asleep on his double bed. I hopped into the single bed and was asleep in no time.
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We had our clock set early so we could pack up and leave in the morning light. Jim Sr. had told us the state had stocked trout below the Cranberry Dam earlier in the week. Since we had to pass this on our way back anyhow, we decided to give it a try until noon. From there we were planning on hitting a couple of wineries before crossing the state line.
We always try to take all the advantages we can while we have the chance….
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________________________~doubletaper

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

take a break

all, i didn't have time to continue my story with the next page, hospitality on the ausable, this week. i'm heading down to the shenandoah valley thursday to fly fish for smallies out of harry murray's shop. when i get back next week i should have it posted by wed. thanks all for reading and i hope i am still keeping it interesting. ~dt

Monday, July 13, 2009

'Red Legs' on the Saranac (fourth page)


PA. Fishermen in the Adirondaks (part 4)
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___ ‘Red Legs’ on the Saranac ___
__June 13th 2009__
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From the parking area, over looking the Saranac River, looked to be very inviting. The early sunshine beamed down on the wide open river showing good color of the translucent brown tinted water. Green leafed trees bordered the far bank as far as the eyes could see. A cool breeze could be felt as we stood there assembling our rods and gear for a morning of trout fishing. Before us, the water flowed with visible rippling surface current as it flowed over submerged, near surface, rocks in the waist high water. Upstream or downstream, a ways off, the open water flowed around protruding boulders that caused pocket waters if we chose to adventure to these locations. Our guide, Pat, was very knowledgeable and pointed out the deeper runs and seams. He exclaimed that the river is a caddis haven but suggested using streamers in the deeper water of the mouth of the tributary we would begin fishing.
Down at the mouth Jeff and I tied on various streamers and woolly buggers casting them out and then letting them swing before stripping them in. Jeff got caught up in small tree branches occasionally on his back cast while I found a nice opening behind me so as not to get hung up. Once in the water I realized I should have changed my spool to my weight forward line but I had already tied on a fresh 'Fran Betters' 5x knotted leader to my DT line back at the room. My 444 double taper line was new and with a little more effort I was able to cast it out pretty darn far anyhow. After dunking buggers for about a half hour Jeff and the guide, Pat, waded out into the more open waters of the river. I noticed a riser on the far bank and decided to go for it. I tied on a caddis dry but was unable to get the fly to the distant riser after all. After a few more casts aimlessly into the slow moving waters, without a hint of a curious trout, I headed out into the river also.
I noticed different sizes and shades of caddis hovering and tap dancing on the water. Fishing my way, between Jeff and Pat, I saw a splash from a rising trout a good distance out. Jeff and Pat were pretty much glued in their stance and I didn’t want to wade beyond their imaginary line. I stopped at the 'imaginary line' and tied on another shade of elk hair caddis. I didn’t go for the inconsistent riser right off but worked my casts, in steps, towards the distant trout. Switching caddis dries I finally got a trout to take and I called out to the two that I had one on. The brown didn’t have enough wildness in him to make much of a fight so I was able to bring him to hand pretty easily. I raised the trout by the hook, that just pierced his top lip, and shook it with my fingers and the 9” brown flopped back into the water and swam off. After switching again to various caddis imitations I caught another brown. I called out to Jeff that I was catching them on a tan caddis with ‘red legs.’ The body ribbing had to be of dark ginger or brown palmered around a tan body as opposed to the caddis I had palmered with light blue dun. Feeling confident I had the right shade of caddis, I now set my sights on the distant rising trout.
I false cast easily letting line out with each forward cast. At a slight angle, I started my last back cast and pulled line back through the rod guides for more line speed. With the line gradually unrolling behind me, I moved my rod behind and above my head and stopped. At almost the end of my back cast, with my index finger extended on my cork grip, I cast forward straight out in front of me and stop the rod quickly at about the 10:00 position. The line shoots out in a decent loop and I lower my rod as the dry falls just short of my target. I watch it drift upon the wavy water. With the brownish clear water color, it’s not hard to see the fly in the smoother wavy current. My next cast I let more line out and overshoot my target above the riffles. As the fly landed I mended the belly of the line upstream and this put my caddis on the riffles drag free. It was now a little difficult to see the fly waver in the slightly rougher water so I kept my eyes on the targeted fish below the riffles in the slower calmer water. Unexpectedly a fish came up before my target fish and by the time I reacted I was late. The fly pulled back and went air born, than dropped back to the waters.
Normally I don’t get another chance at the same fish with the same fly so I changed my fly to an egg laying caddis after noticing more caddis tap dancing upon the waters. The next cast I sharply cast a tight loop and lay the caddis between the ’two’ targeted fish below the riffles. I was going to wait 2 seconds than lift the caddis back off the water to imitate the egg layers. Within a second, one of the trout took the fly with a surface splash. Not having much slack in the line I easily pulled back the line and set the hook. The fish seamed to hesitate in the riffling water another second and than fought its way as I played it in. I released a fine looking 11” brown.
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For the next hour or so we continued to fish dries in the wide river. From upstream Pat finally called out that we should be moving on to another spot on the Saranac before lunch. I turned towards him and called out “a few more casts.”
Pat mentioned that a trout was coming up about 35 feet or so behind me and pointed his rod tip towards a noticeable riffle in the water.
Jeff said “we couldn’t get him to rise for our flies, give it a try.”
My first cast fell on this side of the riffles and I watched the egg laying dry drift past freely.
“A little further out” Pat said “just below the riffles.”
On my next cast I laid the caddis at the end of the riffles and watched it waver atop the water. Wham, a trout whacked at it and I set the hook.
“Ok, I’m ready to go!” I said as I reeled in the 11” fighting brown.
I didn’t look up at the two but I could picture Jeff smiling at our guide, him knowing I like to show off now and then!
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Our next stop was below a power plant. Pat told us that big trout hang out in the deep discharge water. Jeff waded the wall so he could work his buggers and streamers deep and back towards him. I placed myself where the discharged water entered the river so I could cast and fish both areas. It didn’t take long before I switched from buggers back to dry caddis. After netting a couple small browns Jeff finally entered the river upstream from me. Being that the river was narrower here, it was also deeper and wading out too far looked troublesome.
Jeff found a good seam, a ways out, and started to produce rises and fish successfully.
“What are you using?” I called out asking.
“Caddis” Jeff answered “red legs!”
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Though we didn’t catch any spectacular big trout we were catching trout on dries and felt the morning went fairly well on the Saranac. Lunch was waiting back at the shop and the Ausable was waiting our arrival for the evening.
_______________________________~doubletaper