Seeking Trout

“Momma caught a trout, Poppa caught a tree.”

—Clem Fullerton

At this time of year, the main problem for a flyfisher is finding water cool enough for trout. If you fish the West Branch or the Upper East Branch of the Delaware, this is rarely a problem. When we fish the Main Stem or tributaries or perhaps the Beaverkill or Willowemoc, temperature is the key as to whether Barb and I will fish. Our rule of thumb is, under 72 degrees we will fish. At 72 degrees or over we will seek another area. Higher water temperatures lower the amount of dissolved oxygen in the water. Just as we have difficulty breathing in the thin air of high altitudes, the trout suffer when water temperatures go higher than 72 degrees. Even if you practice catch-and-release fishing, there is a large chance of a trout dying after being hooked and played in warm water. An accurate stream thermometer should be in every fisherman’s vest. It takes but a moment to ascertain what the water temperature is.

Friday, August 18, found Barb and me seeking an area where we would find cool water. I had a strong hunch where this would be. A short visit with Richard Bradley, the proprietor of Fir Brook Flies and Supplies in Livingston Manor, confirmed that I was headed in the right direction. Along the way, we stopped and ate our lunch at a spot where we could observe the river. It was nice-looking water, but there was no sign of trout activity and the water temp was 74 degrees. We drove on upstream to the area we hoped to fish. I had never fished this stretch before, so I was unsure what type of water we would find. After a fairly long walk, we reached the section I wished to explore. At this point, the stream runs through a heavily forested area. Sunlight reached the water only in scattered patches. The scene was so enchanting that for a time my girl and I just sat on a rock outcropping and watched the water slide by. Eventually, I checked the water temperature and found it to be a perfect 66 degrees at 2 p.m. Today, we would be fishing only one rod, each of us taking 15-minute turns. If, before your time was up you caught a fish, you surrendered the rod. Old legs can wade longer when they receive periodic chances to rest.

Being such a sweet fellow, I insisted that Barbara Ann fish first. I carefully knotted on an A. K. Best style beetle imitation which I had tied using Roan Antelope hair. This little dry fly was easy to see as it floated between patches of sunlight and shadows. Barb missed the first hit but moments later exclaimed, “Aha.” I looked up, and sure enough her line was stretched out tight towards the far bank. “Good one?” I asked.

“No” she replied, “a little fellow.”

The fish turned out to be a pretty little brook trout who had taken the fly so deep that I elected to cut it off rather than try to remove it. When Barb released the fish, it promptly swam into a tiny hiding spot made by a large stone. Though he thought he was well hidden, we could still see his tail waving back and forth in the current. I was tempted to reach in and touch his tail but decided against it. This fellow had just gone through enough excitement for one day.

As for me, my catch of the day was a huge hemlock tree, which gave me a terrific fight before I could retrieve my fly from its clutches. Now wait, that’s not the whole truth. I did catch a chub, three inches long. Unfortunately, Barb and I only count fish that have spots on them.

I think I have discovered why the little lady does so well. Sitting on the bank observing her, I noticed she has a particular rhythm. Pick up the fly, one false cast, and back on the water goes the fly. I, on the other hand, make three or four false casts while carefully deciding where I will place the fly next. Her method seems terribly random; however, her fly is forever on the water. As you may have noted above, the only things you catch when your fly is in the air are trees. Jim Serio has gently suggested that I false cast excessively and in a recent article, Lefty Kreh railed against too much false casting. Barb’s casting mechanics would make Joan Wulff cringe, but she does catch fish. Hmmmm? Has the little lady shown the tangler the way? Stay tuned.