Wednesday, April 26, 2017

A Quiet Sunday On the Water

This past Sunday I had planned to fish with my friend Chris and his dad in the Ken Lockwood Gorge section of the South Branch of the Raritan River, but when I got to there, the upper lot in the gorge, and the lot at Hoffman's Crossing, which is a short walk above the gorge, were full.  Being one that does not like fishing with a lot of other folks that may or may not be fishing, I decided to go elsewhere and let Chris spend some time with his dad.   

I headed up river to a stretch that had only a few scattered anglers with plenty of room for one to get some solitude.  It was a perfect spring day; thin high clouds, a slight breeze and air temperatures in the low 60's.  The river was at a perfect level, clear, and so inviting that I didn't bother to take the water temperature.  I figured it was a treat just to be on the water, and if bugs came off, that would be a plus.   Truthfully, with the muted sun and good water level, I tried to will a hatch of caddis or some leftover Hendricksons.

After I parked and geared up, I walked a few hundred yards down river to a nice run where I could wade one side that was fairly shallow, and fish to the opposite bank, where a long, fairly deep slough flowed a few feet off the bank.  At the top of the slough, a large rock breaks up the flow creating eddies and foam lines that fall off on either side of the submerged boulder and continue for 30 feet or so before melting into the water.  Feeding fish tend to sit down stream of the rock under the foam lines and slick areas formed by varying currents, and also in the thin water flowing along the bank under the overhanging stream side shrubs that at this point of the season were mostly bare except for regularly spaced, small, lime green buds that in a few weeks will grow to create a low riparian canopy.  I positioned myself at the lower end of the run, and settled down low, resting my knees on the gravel bottom using my heels as a seat, in about a foot of water.  I watched as small grannom caddis came off sporadically along with scattered tiny midges.  

As I quietly watched the water, I heard a light cough above and behind me. I turned and looked up to the top of the high bank where an old man stood watching me.  His hands in the pockets of his pressed khaki pants, above which he wore a light blue, hard cotton work shirt, and a white, five day old stubble on his leathery face obscured by the smoke of a burning cigarette hanging from his lips. He nodded to me under an old, tattered green baseball cap; the rest of him as still and solid as an ancient oak tree.  I gave him a short wave and a smile, and turned back to the task at hand.  I thought to myself, Either he wants to see if I catch anything, or he is waiting to see if the idiot kneeling in the river with a fly rod will take a fall when he stands up.

In short order, as the old man might say, a trout rose just off the opposite bank and a little ways above me.  The old man saw it; he gave a low grunt as if to say, Let's see what the half-submerged guy is going to do with this opportunity

The second the trout rose, I fixed its position above me in relation to a rock on the opposite bank, and mentally measured how far off the bank it rose.  It had some out from under the brush, so my cast would just need to be above it and close enough to the bank where the trout would feel safe coming out of its lair.  My target would be about two feet above that to give the my fly enough time to settle down and drift into the feeding lane like any other insect that might find itself adrift.

My first cast was a little short, so I let the #16 Grannom caribou caddis drift down below the fish and picked it up to cast again.  The next couple of casts and drifts weren't quite right, with the trout being the ultimate indicator of whether I was getting it right. When this happens, I bring my fly in to check it, blow moisture off it, and take a a few moments to rest the occasion.  After about 30 seconds, and a few false casts, I dropped the fly above the fish.  I watched as a dark shape glided out from under the brush and rose up under my offering before softly sipping it in.  I tightened my line and the rainbow came shooting out of the water before trying to head back into the safety from it came.  After a brief battle, I brought the bright silver, 13-inch fish close enough to grab the fly and back it out, and release the fish.  A short grunt followed from the peanut gallery, and by the time I turned, the man had already taken a few steps away with his back to me.

I spent the rest of the afternoon working my way upstream and covering every fishy looking spot I found.  I caught a bunch more fish, all rainbows, about the same size and temperament of the first fish.  And all of them on the well-chewed caribou caddis you see here.               


Hook: Partridge #16 Dry Fly Supreme
Thread: 6/0 Olive Danville
Trailing shuck: Amber zelon
Body: Dark olive Australian opossum
Rib: Pearl krystal flash - 1 strand
Underwing: Clear zelon
Wing: Medium caribou hair
Thorax: Dark hare's ear - touch-dubbed

Sharpen your hooks.


Mr. Q said...

I would have fished a Gordrickson spinner..:)

TomReed said...

I am really glad that I read this post and tied up some of these caribou caddis before heading to waterloo creek in Iowa's driftless area. They were the best fly of the trip. 14's were the perfect size and in fast riffles they performed really well. At times I dropped a soft hackle with a similar body behind them. I can't wait to try it on my home waters in Missouri. Thanks. Tom