Sunday, August 18, 2013

East Branch Croton

This has been an unusual season for me- I have somehow managed to spend more time fishing the East Branch Delaware than the nearby East Branch Croton. Not a bad thing by any means, but I was thankful today that I was able to fish the one that I can consider my home stream. Maybe because it's the place that I learned to fly fish years ago, but I really do think it's an outstanding stream. The variety of pocket water and the size of the fish that you'll find there make it a real gem. If it sounds like I'm setting the stage for some sort of epic day, I'm not. In fact, it was kind of an unlucky one.

My morning of unproductive nymphing was cut short when I walked to a spot that is a somewhat reliable place to find rising fish this time of year. And they were there, rising as I'd hoped. Better yet, I could clearly see a very large rainbow feeding from the surface every minute or so. I tried to get a sense of its rhythm and then watched it swim right up to the elkhair caddis I drifted through its lane. It took a good look and rolled away in refusal. I tied on a small blue wing olive and tried again. I made the same cast and held my breath as the fly got closer and closer. Sure enough, it took another look, but this time it casually inhaled it and I felt its bulk as I quickly lifted my line. Right away it made a lightning quick run across the stream and the slack line flew through my fingers. It was now on the reel, which was a relief. It took another run downstream a bit, taking drag, and when it stopped I put a little pressure on it to coax it upstream. I felt it shake its head violently. And that's when it got off. That's also when the swearing started. Sure, it happens and I don't know what I could have done differently that would have landed this fish. But this would have easily been a personal best on a dry fly, so it stung. And I have lost so many big fish this year that it's getting to be a pattern. I'll try not to whine about it any more, I won't even get into last week's EB Delaware heartbreaker, but it's becoming a theme that I'm not too thrilled with. They're not breaking off, so the only remedy I can think of is getting a hook sharpener. And maybe working on a firmer hook set. Otherwise, I think I need some good luck.

So that happened. I was so rattled that as I pulled out my box to get a fresh fly I somehow spilled the entire contents into the stream. I quickly grabbed most of the dries, but about two dozen nymphs sank and drifted into the depths. Ouch. I had a feeling keeping them loose in a box was a bad idea and this confirmed it. I guess it could have been worse- that big rainbow might have appeared and gobbled up the stray dries that were making their way downstream. Ok, that's a stretch, but it felt like the kind of day where that kind of thing could actually happen. It wasn't a total wash- small consolation, but I did get a decent stockie brown shortly afterwards. And I got reacquainted with my home stream. More importantly, I also saw a real slab of a brown there behind a rock that I plan to return for. And I sure as hell hope to land it.