Tuesday, July 31, 2012

You don't know what you have 'til it's gone.

Fortunately, this title is not as morbid as it may first appear.

We lived in New Hampshire for about 10 years, mostly on the Seacoast and a couple of years on the Vermont border in a tiny town better suited to the Witness Protection Program than a family with infants. Our home on the Seacoast allowed us to be at the beach in 20 minutes and the mountains in about 90 minutes. We were spoiled. I've said it before, as much as I was born and raised in CT, New Hampshire is home and I feel like I am currently living in CT until the time is right to be back in NH.

We decided to take a rather convoluted path to our final destination to avoid the highways and the traffic that comes with summer weekends. We wound our way up 91, and hopped off just over the MA / VT border and began our trek across NH. Just outside of Keene, NH we began to see hot air balloons filling the sky. It was a beautiful evening and I imagine their view was spectacular. As we were about to round a bend, an oncoming car flashed their head lights and I instinctively slowed down as I expected a New Hampshire trooper to be waiting around the corner. Surprising, I was not greeted by the flashing lights of a speed trap. Instead, a hot air balloon had made an emergency landing just off the road...literally.
Luck of the Irish for a safe landing?
Our first week of vacation was spent in one of my wife's favorite haunts - Perkins Cove, Ogunquit Maine. We've rented the same house the last 5 years and I'm not sure who looks forward to this trip more, my wife or the boys. When we lived on the Seacoast, we lived about 30 minutes from Perkins Cove and made the trip numerous times each year, preferably when the tourists were not around. This trip has fallen into a bit of a routine - beach, pool, eat out, visit friends and buy Taffy - we'll get back to the Taffy later.

If you find yourself in "The Cove", I highly suggest Amore Cafe for breakfast. One of the week's specials was Irish Eggs Benedict, so good, I had them 4 days straight. I compliment Cafe Amore for a string on great morning meals and a wonderful wait staff. I thought, as we sat each morning, what a tough job they have to do. Waiting tables is tough enough and adding in the element of tourists makes it that much more difficult. Kudos to your staff for being up beat, polite and on top of their game!

Amore Breakfast - Shore Road
Breakfast was followed by trips to the beach or walks on Marginal Way, a winding footpath that hugs the coastline. At the right time, you can hope off the path and explore the rock formations and pools left behind by the outgoing tide.
tough to make us out climbing this rock
a moment of quiet
this gull let me get closer than I thought I could
D's favorite boat, the Sarabeth
While Maine isn't know for its beaches, the sands in Ogunquit are a gem. The beach has some unique geography as there is tidal river on the "back" side of the peninsula that provides warmer water temps than the sands directly on the Atlantic. At low tide, the receding waters leave pools that warm in the sun's rays and these provide a welcome respite from the shocking ocean waters. Low tide also provides a fun opportunity to looks for crabs. Having forgotten my net this year, this task was a little more challenging however, we still managed a bunch.

Mom and baby, all crabs were released, unharmed.
low tide
One overcast and drizzly day gave way to a road trip to the largest trolley museum in the country in Kennebunkport. The gentlemen who volunteer on the trolley rides and tell us tales of bygone days are ideally suited for their task. They talk with a fondness for trolleys as I might for a day on the Farmington River. Sadly, the organization survives almost solely on donations and many of the prized trolleys are housed, awaiting funds for restoration. 

all aboard!!
And, in typical tourist fashion, what trip to Kennebunkport would be complete without a drive by Walker Island, the Bush family compound. I'm pretty sure the clan was in residence based on the number of Secret Service clearly visible that day.
Walker Island
As I mentioned previously, our week in Perkins Cove involves trips to certain institutions, one of those being Goldenrod, at York Beach. Hands down, the best salt water taffy I have tasted.

best Taffy around!
All these places, that are now so cherished by my family, were common place destinations for us not to long ago. my wife and I spoke of how we didn't realize what a truly special place we lived in until these places became ones that were annual instead of monthly visits. Love where you live and, as much as I am not in love with CT, I need to find the hidden treasures that I am sure reside within this State.  Already looking forward to next year...

Friday, July 20, 2012

Pressed for time...

Not so much pressed for time fishing as I am to make this post but I wanted to get the images up...

I had planned to meet up with TROUT1 aka Pete to fish for a few hours. I arrived a bit before out scheduled time and fished a back channel below a popular pool. The back channel produced nothing for me however, as I was just about back at my car, I was walking above the river, on the bank, and noticed a fair amount of good sized fish close the edges. The water was crazy clear and presenting a dry fly was a bit difficult. After spooking a few fish, I changed tactics and tied on a huge Double Humpy with a tiny PTBH dropper. This change in approach produced a few nice fish...the water was so clear, I could watch the fish approach and my only concern was setting the hook before the fish took the fly as my adrenaline kicked in with each pass.

15 seconds of fame
holy clear water Batman!
After leaving this area, I headed to search for Pete. I found him at a place he has told me much about lately. I was truly amazed at a stretch of water he showed me as I fish right near this spot fairly often yet, I overlook this area as it appears to be pretty shallow. Foolish me! Yet again, I need to reinforce, to myself, not to pass by any water as the run that I thought was shallow has some great depth to it and Pete told me of his catches in this area in recent weeks.

I nymphed some of the faster water while Pete stayed above swinging wets and nymphing. I picked up a few small browns and this one beauty...

wild?? not sure...any thoughts?
After a bit we switched to another spot as I anticipated the evening hatch and some dry fly action. Unfortunately, Pete had to take off and I moved to settle into a spot for a bit. Things started of very sloooooowwwww.

Again, I started sniping to a few consistent risers placed so far against the opposite bank it was almost out of reach for my casting ability. It did make for good fun and practice. When I did hit the cast and drift correctly, things worked out.

a good fight!

The action was not as steady as it has been and the hatch was not nearly as strong as it has been the past couple weeks. As darkness feel, I wandered downstream and cast, periodically, to some perceived rises as it was tough to tell at this point.

I size 12 Usual tied on at the moment and a cast to a spot where I thought someone was home and the last fish of the evening came to net.

bow knows fishing...
A nice Rainbow to net and, unfortunately, the colors were washed out in this image as it was really a beauty. Another good night for the books and my head is once again in balance. Thanks for the Gatorade Pete...I was dying at that point...Looking forward to hitting it with you again before the summer is over.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

A night out.

There are a few fishing forums where I participate with posts or comments about my fishing experiences. These forums remind me how fortunate I am to have such a wonderful tailwater fishery so close to home.

It had been about 10 days since my last run to the water and I was in need of a chance to wet a line. I spent a long day working in NY knowing that my evening would be spent knee deep in a productive pool of cool water. As I reminded myself that I did not need to set a land speed record to get back home, I pulled into the worn dirt patch and was surprised to see no other cars. Changing out of a suit on the side of the road while trying not to get said suit dirty is no easy task. Having accomplished this, I geared up, grabbed my 5wt and headed to the water. It was HOT! I was casting in some faster water with only beads of perspiration rolling down my face to show for my efforts. I decided to wander the stream side woods for a bit in hopes of cooling down in the shade. I'm always humored by the randomness of the items that I see as I hike along.

I understand that storm runoff and high water level lends to debris being strewn about the river and I could start a show store with the number of sandals and sneakers I have run across - even the occasional car bumper. However, the ladder in the photo above was perplexing. I looked up into the tree and there was nothing above the would suggest someone was climbing this tree. Who knows...

I wandered for a solid hour, observing the flows, checking out new spots and cooling off. I headed toward my final destination for the evening and again, nobody around. I was beginning to think I missed the memo that the River was closed for the day. 

Over the last couple of years, in part due to my individual learning curve and also from fishing with some folks who have amazing skills, I have learned to look at all sorts of water and not neglect areas that I assume would not hold fish. As I crossed the river, I took a moment to blindly cast to an area near the far bank. Landing my fly just into a tiny foam line, the 3rd cast was taken. Strangely, this fish immediately made an upstream run, right in front of me and my hook became dislodged before I had a chance to reset. No worries though as this continued to reinforce the need to fish all waters.

As I carefully waded upstream, there were a few sporadic rises and, appearing on the opposite bank, a spin fisherman set up virtually across from me. Given that there was no one else around, I moved jsut downstream of him and settled in for a bit. Again, as the rises were sporadic, I felt like a sniper, attempting to pick off single targets as they appeared. I figured that this would be a difficult endeavor as the fish might be a bit more discriminating as they fed. Two false casts and a release to target...short drift...bam!

Reload and acquire next target...a couple false casts, oh no...the dreaded belly...hold on just another couple feet...bam!

the pipe dream
This fish was a pipe dream. A couple of rises, just feet from the far bank, behind a rock...a good 45 feet from my position. The fish were becoming more and more selective as the minutes ticked by however, I did notice my spin fishing partner having little luck. As he departed and wished me well, I wondered if things were shutting down for the evening.

It's grown darker and the rises have begun to increase in numbers however, I cannot key in to what the fish are taking. I went big, I went small, Attractors, Emergers, Spinners...nothing. I had fallen into my basketball philosophy...I never leave the court having missed my last shot. So here I was, total darkness, casting to picky fish. I tied on a sz 14 Adams Parachute and continued to cast away. Luckily some of the rises were close enough that I could still see my fly and after a number of passes, a solid take occurred.

This fish was a bully. I was not expecting to see what I ended up bringing to net as this was yet another surprise offered up by the Farmington.

one of my larger Farmy brookies
Even as the fish neared my net, I was intrigued by the colors that were displayed. I knew it wasn't a brown but I did not expect this size brookie.
my last shot
As I began my wade back to the car I felt as if I were passing through various micro climates. All at once, hot humid air would almost choke you and within a few yards, a coolness would roll in and you could see your breath as you exhaled before it was back to humidity. Amazing! All in all, an evening of lessons learned.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Glory Days

This past weekend, we took a road trip with some friends and headed to Cooperstown. Our destination being one of those places that needs no introduction, the name of the town will usually suffice. Cooperstown, our link to tradition, days of old and the memories of our own youth...The Baseball Hall of Fame.

The Hall
I wasn't sure if our boys are to young to even begin to appreciate the HOF however, it was worth the trip regardless. I hadn't been to the HOF in about 18 years and, happily, not much had changed. Our journey through the HOF began with a short multi media presentation and, if out time had ended after the presentation, I would have walked away happy. The "movie", while only 13 minutes, brought me back to my youth. The days of summer when you would leave the house at the crack of dawn with only the need to be within earshot for the dinner call. For me, these were days spent roaming the woods near my house and building forts with the neighborhood kids. We even had a sizable expanse of land where we did battle with the vegetation all summer in the hopes of crafting a ball field. This short movie really struck a chord and left me thinking about how much our times have changed. I understand that progress, in general, is good and that we must keep moving forward, I am one who longs for the past. Simpler times before computers and email, IPhones and GPS, video games and DVD players in cars. For God sakes kids...look out the car windows during a long ride, play punch buggy or count signs. By and large, I think kids today are at such a disadvantage when it comes to being kids. 

The movie, having ended, allowed us to begin our walk through some of the most amazing artifacts of baseball history. One of the first baseballs, Hank Aaron's uniform from his historic season, balls gloves and hats from Don Larsen's Perfect Game.

the original IRON MAN
Cobb, Ruth, Wagner, Johnson, Mathewson
before my time, but always a favorite
Ok, can you tell I am a Yankees fan? Growing up south of Hartford, it was natural that you followed the Bombers. North of Hartford and you were a Red Sox fan. The tough part is, as a kid, you don't expect to find yourself living in the heart of Red Sox Nation during your adult years.

The Baseball HOF, in my opinion, is the best and most storied of the major sports HOF's. There is a simplicity to the building that houses our past and you can feel the un-bridaled youth that percolates from every corner of the town. Cooperstown feels like a place where it's ok to be a kid again.

making chalk lines with stones
Saturday was spent wandering through Cooperstown and on Sunday, we started the ride home with the thought of stopping at Howe's Caverns. Discovered 20 years before the Civil War, Howes Caverns is a network of underground caves, rooms and rivers. It wasn't the history that brought us to Howe's rather, a giant hamster ball was the siren's song that pulled us off the highway.

who could resist
The hamster ball was discovered by our friends, the Murphy's, who were with us. This was just the sort of thing for 2 crazy Irish guys...sober no less. Now, bear in mind that these hamster balls were on the website and printed in the pamphlets placed at all the local hotels and businesses. We get there, ask some young teenager which way to the hamster balls, which was phrased in a more comical manner, and, much to our dismay, the hamster balls are still not ready. Apparently, it's been 2 years and they still are not ready. WTF, a bit misleading and at best, false advertising however, we decide to make the best of it and look around. In back of the facility was a cool ropes course that I figured I could do with my boys. There were 2 levels, approximately 20 to 40 feet off the ground. I paid the price of admission - we'll get back to that later - and we were off. I figured my 8 yr old might have a little issue with this as he is not into heights at this time. He was a trooper and made it through 2 obstacles before turning back. My little guy was a mad man. He willed himself through this course and overcame his concerns for the height...I could not have been any more proud of him than I was that day.

not as easy as it might appear
lending a hand
Having finished the ropes course, we decided to get some lunch before hitting the road and this leads me back to the price of admission so to speak. Now I don't mind paying a FAIR price for things however, pardon me for being crass, if I am going to get screwed, I would like some foreplay first. The climbing wall was the only thing that was reasonable. Lunch consisting of chicken nuggets, fries, a couple panini's and drinks - $56.00 - come on...not like a received a complimentary tube of KY with the check.

All in all, a great weekend and a brief trip back to days of my youth that seem so long ago. I am also a big fan of the movie and former television series M*A*S*H and this trip made me think of a line from the show...every so often, a psychiatrist, Dr. Sidney Freedman, would make an appearance and in one episode, when life was particularly stressful at the hospital, Dr. Freedman implored the camp to " pull down your pants and slide on the ice " and this is my parting request to you...do the same and have some fun this summer.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Out and About

On short notice, we made plans with friends from New Hampshire to come and spend the weekend.  So they loaded up their 2 kids and the new puppy and made the trek down to our place. Mike, my fishing partner on the Battenkill trip, was eager to try out his new Echo Carbon 5wt and I had just the place for us to go. After some strategic negotiating with our spouses - the girls ended up with dinner and a movie on Saturday night - the boys ended up with early morning and late evening fishing on Sunday.

I wasn't overly excited to get up at 4am on Sunday morning however, the prospect of introducing a friend the Farmington was enough to wake me up. We fished from 4am til about 10:30 before heading to meet our families for a day at Stanclift Cove. Early on we were chucking some big ass streamers and we were both having issues with hook sets. Switching to my nymphing rods, we hit some fast water in search of some playmates. Initially, I introduced Mike to many spots that are familiar to me however, after a couple hours I gave him the option of water that was completely new to both of us or more of my go to spots...he opted for new water.

I had always wanted to check this one particular area out and today was the day. We fished some of the faster water, both hooking up quickly and both losing our first hookup. I proceeded to worked the run rather fast and landed a couple nice browns. After working the run, we wandered up the length of the back channel to the base of the dam. The back channel provided an opportunity for 1 great bonus fish. While walking upstream, we happened upon 2 spots, within 20 feet of on another. Being the gracious host, I suggested Mike take the first one and I would grab the second spot. Both areas were slots that you would only drift once or twice and you would know, immediately, if there was anyone home. We both dropped into position and, first drift, a decent sized brown struck my woven nymph.

bonus catch
We wandered around a little longer and ended back at a familiar run with a nice mix fast and slow water that is usually good for some feisty Rainbows. Mike was still eager to land his first of the day and, after a few adjustments, he was into a beautiful bow.

In the process of landing this one, Mike lost his net and it was quickly carried away downstream. As we continued to fish, another angler, walking the road above us, yelled down that another gentleman had found his net about 200 yards down stream so Mike quickly beat feet to retrieve his net. Our thanks to both anglers for their assistance.

Later that evening, around the backyard fire pit, it wasn't looking to good for the evening run to the water. However, our understanding wives could see that we were both chomping to get back out for the evening hatch. Gear up and squealing tires let the girls know we were off...26 minutes later, we were walking into a nice long stretch of smooth water just as darkness approached. Fortunately, we had about 30 minutes of light left and this allowed us to get acclimated as it grew dark. We both settled in and, after 2 fly switches, I was into the first of several nice browns.

camera shy
For the last 18 months, I have really been in love with euro nymphing, almost to the point of neglecting other methods. This summer I have enjoyed a return to the absolute rush of your fly slipping below the surface and the bend of your rod that follows. This is made even more exciting when you add in the element of darkness. In past years,  I was usually off heading off the river around 8:00. Perhaps it was a lack of confidence in my skills however, this year, all convention is out the window and trying new things is the order of the season.I have been amazed at the volume and close proximity of rising fish, the quantity and SIZE of the bugs that come out at night and finally, secretly in awe of the absolute solitude provided by the absence of the sun. I have had many a peaceful day on the river however, there is something about nocturnal fishing that heightens the senses. The early morning and late evening of fishing left us both exhausted as we arrived home to some cold beer and pizza. Sadly, as I drove home, the thought occurred to me that I won't be able to wet a line for 8 days due to work and family commitments...damn...as usual, I'm glad that's one of my worries these days...life has been kind to me as of late and I am always mindful of that fact! Whatever your current status, working, retired, young, old, single, married, divorced...enjoy what you have in front of you - do not pine for what you wish for as you are likely to miss out on what is right in front of you.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Lest we not forget...

Happy July 4th!

As we go about our day enjoying the company of friends and family, bar-b-ques and beer, let us not forget what it took for our nation to get to this point. Let us also remember that we are currently still involved in 2 conflicts that have been largely forgotten by the media and the general population as well.

The 4th, of all days, should remind us that we are fortunate to live in such a free society and that we must continue to voice our opinions, fight for what we believe in and, most importantly, VOTE!

Enjoy your holiday and be safe.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

5 versus 2

This was the the dilemma I was confronted with on Monday, 5 versus 2. I could get up crazy early on Tuesday morning and fish for 5 hours or I could go out Monday evening and fish for 2. If all my dilemmas were this difficult, I think my hair wouldn't be graying at such an exponential clip these days.

Two hours it is! This was a spur of the moment, after dinner, run to the water. I hadn't really planned on fishing but I could not get the thought of gentle rises and splashy nettings out of my head. My ever understanding wife wished me luck as I took off in hopes of finding a decent spot given my late start. When I make these last minute runs, I usually forget something important...yes, I have gotten to the river only to find I had no boots in the car. This time, I was good to go and even thought to bring my headlamp which I neglected last time.

I arrived at my destination to find the pull off full. A valet would have been desirable however, I was able to squeeze into a spot nearby. Everyone must be car pooling as it wasn't until I was geared up and down the bank that I noticed just how many anglers were scattered throughout this area. No worries, for some reason, I just thought that they were on their way out and if I hung around, I would be able to settle in to the stretch I was looking for tonight. I'm glad it worked out this way as I fished the far bank, to a couple rising fish. Again, a lesson learned, I was fishing this slot to kill time before moving the the area I really wanted to be at...wrong...I stopped casting to these couple of fish and just watched. I watched the rises, the rhythm and the bugs, all the while, trying to determine an attack. I had blinders on at this point, as I could tell there was 1 nice fish in this area. Even though it looked like the America's Cup of big bugs floating down the lanes, I tied on a sz 18 EH Caddis and went to work. Casting from the middle of the river, with varying current speeds was making this another interesting test of my developing skills. Somewhere around a dozen casts later, a gentle sip, a proper hookset ( for once ) and it was on.
Wild, I think but I may be mistaken
I was fishing this same area recently and it was packed with Rainbows. Bringing this Brown to net made the catch even more enjoyable. By no means am I a fish snob, really, I am happy to hook anything and size doesn't matter...at least here. I know bows feed with a great reckless abandon than Browns and this is why I am always pleased to fool a Brown.

Once I had finished the photo op, I looked upstream and noticed lots of room had opened up. I waded to the far bank and trekked up a couple hundred yards before wading back into the mix. I spent the next  30 minutes casting to consistent rises without even a nudge. I switched from caddis to sulphurs to spinners and could not buy slurp. The anglers below me were sporadically hooking up but the guys above me were lighting it up big time. Fortunately, I don't get frustrated when fishing. I view the refusals as me needing to be more in tune with what the fish want. As I was rummaging through the fly box, I heard one of the guys above me say something about a "Usual" - thank god sound travels well on water as these guys were a few hundred yards from me. With no "Usual" in the box, I decided to to go with a feeling. I tied on a sz 10 parachute Adams and, first cast - no shit - first cast, fish on. 

Adams was the ticket
Now to see if that fly selection was a chance occurrence. After checking the knot, I continued to toss the Adams and was now regularly into browns. I'm glad this fly was working as the size combined with  the hi visibility foam on top made picking up the fly in the diminishing light that much easier. The last fish of the night was a a really cool hook up. At this point, 9:30 or so, I couldn't really see the fly so I was casting straight across from my position and working on feel. A few more casts across and I set the hook to a splash and immediate down stream run. A short battle ensued and the final fish of the evening found his way to me.

I've spent more time fishing dries lately and, with each cast and mend, feel more comfortable on the water. Euro-nymphing was / is a great way to start of catching fish however, I am glad I stuck with the dries as well. Tightlines and Happy 4th of July!

A day of firsts.

I recently purchased two Redington Minnow 5/6 wt fly rods for my boys. As much as I really like to support my local fly shop, I was able to purchase 2 rods for the price of 1 through Sierra Trading Post's website. For a kid, how can you beat a rod, reel, line, backing and leader for $49 per rod...hell, as the purchaser, how could I beat that price.

I have to hand it to Redington for putting a decent set up out there that allows you to introduce kids to fly fishing without breaking the bank. I tried my hand at casting the Minnow across the front yard and was pleasantly surprised by the solid action of this rod. After a Saturday of modest casting instruction on the front yard, we headed out to Black Rock State Park in Thomaston for some action. I figured this would be a great place to start given the amount of smallies and sunfish in the pond...I really just wanted to boys to feel that first tug on the line.

We arrived at the pond and I tied one a meaty looking Hare's Ear to each leader. Initially, I spent my time bouncing back and forth dealing with tangles and knots however, each boy finally started to get it. I was attending to Nate when Declan's voice permeated the morning air and low and behold - FISH ON.
First on a fly rod.
Size was of no consequence as the look of accomplishment on his face made every tangle worth it. I don't think I have ever seen him more proud of himself as he cast and hooked this little smallie all on his own!

Not to be outdone, Nate was soon into a fish of his own. Again, with the exception of a little help removing the hook, Nate's fish was all his own work. This kid has me worried...he is focused, determined and already seems like he has the bug...I better lock up my Z-Axis.
couldn't be more proud!
This was the first time both boys caught fish with no help from me. As much as I tried to find an area around the pond that would make for easy casting, they still had some trees to contend with and, in the end, they did just fine! I'm looking forward to playing this scene out over and over again as time rolls on...