Bang! Fish On

Bang! Fish On

It was a tough week last week.  Up at the crack of dawn, gear up, head out to the water, check the flows, the temps.  Trudge out to some old reliable spots to see how the course of the streams may have changed over the winter and after spring runoff.  Hike out to explore some new water.  Hike and fish from sunup ‘til after dark, then drag myself back to camp where I can have a bit of dinner and a couple sips of whiskey next to the campfire.  Crawl into my tent.  Curl up in my warm bag.  Then get up the next day and repeat the same grind.  Fish and fish and fish.  For five days straight. 

These are the sacrifices that I make to keep this enterprise going.  I gotta make sure I keep my skills sharp, right?

Do you know what that does to your shoulder?  Casting a fly line for 8 hours plus every day? And then pulling in 18” rainbows and 20” brown trout?  Of course, they’re all not that big (okay, a lot of them were), but the weather is a warming up and even the 14”-16” fish have a pretty good spring in their proverbial step right now.  I won’t lie, I was pretty sore at the end of the week.

And the bugs.  Don’t get me started on the bugs.  March Browns, Gray Fox, Sulphurs, Golden Stones, Olives, Spinners.  And Caddis everywhere.  Tan Caddis, gray caddis, shad caddis.  It’s like a buffet table for hungry trout in the Catskills right now.  Sure, these guys don’t bite like the Adirondack black flies (or even land on you really), but you still have to figure out which one the rising brown on the opposite bank is eating.  You might have to change flies a few times to catch it!

On day number one, I thought I’d lost my mojo, and that Greg and I were gonna have to get out of the guide business altogether.  The first fish of the day was a 16” brown that grabbed a size 10 March Brown emerger, and I thought all was right in the world.  But alas, the trout gods were not with me that day, and I only saw 3 other rising fish all day (caught 2 of them).  That just isn’t gonna cut it.

But on day two, things turned around.  Maybe my mojo wasn’t gone after all.  Maybe I just needed a full 24 hours out of the city to harmonize my chi with the flows of the upper Delaware River watershed.  After coffee, I walked into an old favorite spot and took my time.  I watched the water.  I looked for bugs in the air.  I turned over rocks on the bank to identify underwater insects.  Remember, this is hard work, people.  Finally, eased, in tune, but nervous with anticipation and harboring the seeds of doubt from the day before, I began to cast.  Slowly, close, methodically covering the water, calmly, not just racing to get my fly to where I thought the fish would mostly likely be.  No more hurrying, just casting out the preconceptions and trying to be one with the water.

BANG!  It might have been the third cast, the sixth, or the tenth, but it didn’t take long.  Fish on, fast water, rod bent double, line screaming off the reel.  Let him run, reel in, run, leap, reel in, bring fish to net, remove size 18 pheasant tail from corner of jaw of respectable size brown trout.  Release unharmed.  Relax for a moment.  Check rig.  Regroup.  Cast again.  Two steps downstream.  BANG!  18” rainbow launches out of the water.  Rinse, lather, repeat.

Dear reader, I won’t bore you with the rest of the details.  In fact, I don’t really remember the rest of the details.  I was back in the zone.  Locked in.  How many fish did I catch over the rest of the day and the next three?  Couldn’t tell ya.  But it was a lot, and there were some big ones.  

After a week of some serious research and development, I can say with a great deal of confidence that barring some cataclysmic event, it looks like we’re gonna have a real good fishing season.  But man, my shoulder is sore.



Autumn is Coming

Autumn is Coming

Summer is slowly slipping away, and life in the city is taking on a more familiar routine.  The kids are back in school.  Swimsuits are packed away until June for those not fortunate enough to have a Caribbean holiday on the calendar.  Friday traffic to the Jersey Shore has reverted from agonizing to tolerable, and if you're lucky (or unfortunate) enough to have a car, finding parking on the weekends is competitive again.  Rather than spending lazy Sundays with a towel and beach chair far from home, we now gird ourselves in hometown colors and join like-minded compatriots in raucous celebrations of the shared values of beer, nachos, and football.  The lingering rays of sunset will soon be replaced by the neons of Broadway, fully lit once more, and the Metropolitan Opera season opens on September 26th.  The dog days have faded, and the literary, cultural, and artistic entertainments that are the heritage of every New Yorker take center stage in our lives once more.

Rejoice, New York!  Your days of idleness and ease are past, and you now return to your natural state of industry, bustle, and haste.  Oh, and did I mention football season started?

But for some, there are other reasons to cheer the approach of autumn.  The forests to the north and west will soon be more colorful than the inside of Buffalo Wild Wings on a Sunday afternoon; an explosion of yellows, oranges, and reds.  And far more peaceful.  Formerly steamy nights will become cool enough to sleep, and a campfire will provide a welcoming warmth.  For these plucky souls, there is delight in packing air conditioning units and beach umbrellas into storage and pulling out 20 degree sleeping bags and merino baselayers.  Streams that have been low will fill again, and the plump brown and brook trout that have sought shelter from August’s heat will begin to stir and feed before their fall spawning.

Linger a little longer in the outdoors, New Yorkers.  Relish the shorter days and invigorating crisp nights.  Feel the crunch of the fallen leaves on the trail under your boots and drink the panorama of color in the canopy.  Gather round a campfire with companions to warm yourselves and laugh at those who returned to the city too soon.  You probably can’t get tickets to Hamilton until January anyway.

Fly Tying, Gotham Archery, & NY Outdoor Expo

Fly Tying, Gotham Archery, & NY Outdoor Expo

Holy cow, what a super busy weekend.  We started off on Friday evening doing a little fly tying with our friends at Gotham Archery.  They were kind enough to give us some room to do what we do, and it was very cool to hang out in their space for a couple hours.  That place is awesome, everyone should check it out.

Then we had an early Saturday morning departure to Plattekill Mountain resort for the first annual NY Outdoor Expo.  The rain held off for the most part, and the views from the mountain are amazing.  We want to extend our thanks to the team at Upstate Adventure Guides for a wonderfully executed event, and Plattekill Mountain looks like a great place to ski in the winter.  Their mountain biking looks pretty insane too.  You can ride the chair lift to the top of the mountain and then cruise down the ski trails.  We were busy manning the booth, but that looked like a lot of fun.  I'd be remiss if I didn't give a shout out to Shawn and Ben from Orvis Sandanona.  Those guys can really cast a fly rod.  Just to geek out a little bit, Shawn was able to take the 7'6" 3-weight and cast all 80' of the fly line with it.  I mean, that's just amazing.  We got to check out their new line of Helios rods too, those bad boys cast real nice.

And then the rain came down.  And boy did it come down.  I mean, it poured all night.  So you gotta give real big props to Dave from Destination Backcountry Adventures for getting that fire started in those conditions.  And additional thanks to the lean-to for keeping us dry.  A good campfire and good people on a rainy night are pretty awesome companions.  Sometimes I wonder why we ever leave to come back to the city.

Wild Edibles and Old Growth Hemlocks

Wild Edibles and Old Growth Hemlocks

A very happy 4th of July to all!  That picture above, folks, is what Freestone is all about.  We had a fabulous couple days, and we couldn't have asked for a better group of guys.  Happy Birthday, D.J. and best of luck with the nuptials!

Let's fire off the fishing report first.  Water levels were even lower than last weekend, which is saying something.  Our friends at Hudson Valley Weather were reporting drought conditions late in the week.  Creek temperatures in the areas we were fishing were in the mid to upper 50's though, which is pretty ideal for the brookies, and the crew definitely got into them.  D.J. is reporting that he got somewhere north of 30 fish, and that doesn't seem like too much of a stretch.  Jeff got his first fish on a dry fly and 4 more after that, which is a pretty good showing, given that he'd never held a fly rod in his hand before Friday.  Great job Jeff!

We're getting this post up later than usual, and we have had reports of some strong thundershowers since we got back, so hopefully the streams are now a little higher.  We'll be upstate again this weekend, so please come back for a full report.

Greg took the lead on the trail, and paid the price in spiderwebs to the face.  It certainly hadn't seen use in a while.  This was a pretty easy hike by Freestone standards, only about 2.5 miles and without too much change in elevation.  Without a lot of water options, we're a little more limited in our hiking choices.  This is a beautiful walk in the woods though, with plenty of wild edibles and old growth hemlocks along the way.  Greg also managed to get a side bushwhack in with Brett and Ben to the hidden pond off the trail.  There were plenty of frogs up there, and Greg offered to catch some for a frog leg dinner appetizer, but the boys wanted to relax in the hammocks back at our riverside campsite.  Streamside camping makes the guides' lives a whole lot easier for water purification, and it's always awesome to fall asleep in your tent or hammock to the sound of running water.

We all had a great time around the campfire, the boys had some celebratory birthday s'mores, and Ben had us cracking up all night.  That guy is one funny dude.

Time for the critter update! Not necessarily in this order, and with some seen in the car on the drive up:  Wild turkeys, 2 pairs of mama deer and fawn (one fawn was super tiny, couldn't have been more than a few weeks old), a pair of foxes, more woodchucks, maybe 3?  There was a fresh bear print spotted as well, so while we haven't seen one, we know they're out there.

Happy guides, happy clients, another beautiful summer weekend in the books.  Thanks again fellas!