Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A Return and a New Year

Well, it's been a while. As planned, the past couple months have been both a blissful blur and a thoroughly exhausting time caring for our new son Oscar. He's perfect in every way and we are so grateful to have a healthy and (mostly) happy little guy. And his timing was impeccable- what better time to hole up and nest than the dead of winter. But, a little fishing on the side sure wouldn't hurt. When I manage to sneak in some sleep,  I still dream of casting to willing trout. And this is a fishing blog, after all. So with much needed extra help for the wife at hand yesterday, I got the green light to get out in the world. With temperatures just over my comfort baseline of 40 degrees, there was no way I'd pass up a day of sanctioned fishing. But where to go? From what I'm hearing, the East Branch is far from productive these days. The water is colder than most winters, which seems to have slowed things to a crawl. So, I swallowed my pride and headed to the Mianus.

I've written about it in the past, but the Mianus is essentially a dog park with a trout stream running through it. It would be easy to write it off entirely if it wasn't a great trout stream. And in late winter, when cabin fever is peaking, it becomes dry fly heaven with an impressive early stonefly hatch. This being mid winter, however, I really didn't know what to expect. When I arrived I was relieved to see a nearly empty parking lot. I geared up and started hiking upstream, where I eagerly fished the first pool I came across. I had already rigged up a tiny WD40 nymph dropper from a size 14 black stonefly (to cover the bases) and commenced to drifting. I was enjoying being reacquainted with the lulling pace of dragging an indicator rig up and down when suddenly the yellow thingamabobber dipped. I lifted the line, probably not as sharply as I should have, and felt the tug of a trout. The excitement of having hooked up so quickly faded as the trout came unbuttoned after a brief tussle. I caught a glimpse of it- it was a fairly thick brown that I would have loved to gotten to the net. Disappointing. I was also dying to know which of the nymphs it had honed in on, but I took this as a sign of the good day to come.  And not for nothing, a reminder to man up on those hook sets. I pushed on and worked my way through the other runs I'd fished last year.  Without all the people around, this place really is a gem of a stream. The water was gin clear and I could see all of the places where a trout could lurk. Though there are a few sections of solid nymphing water, I realized that this is really more of a dry fly stream. The frequent stretches of slow water are ideal for long drifts. I tried a dry dropper rig for a while, just on the off chance I could induce a rise or a take on the nymph, but ultimately that first missed brown was the only sign of life in the stream I saw all day. Not a single strike. I was a little surprised, and disappointed, but just barely. This is winter fishing after all. Being out there in solitude and shaking off the rust was well worth the trip. Even with the cold. Maybe the Mianus isn't so bad.

As it got dark and my thermos ran dry, I made the hike through the barren woods back to the warmth of the truck. That early lost fish was still nagging at me, so I made one final stop at the first pool where I had started. Maybe the lone wolf brown was still hungry. I was on my third drift when suddenly a big stick landed in the water about two feet from my indicator. Then I saw the yellow lab that was furiously paddling towards the belly of my line, making a beeline for the stick. The owner apologized profusely as I reeled in. "So sorry, I didn't see you there. I didn't even know you could fish here!"