Saturday, November 21, 2015

Book Review: In Hemingway's Meadow

In Hemingway's Meadow
Edited by Joe Healy

This is a book that's been on my Amazon wishlist for quite some time. I'm not sure why I didn't buy it earlier, but I'm glad I finally got around to it. The book is a collection of Award-Winning Fly-Fishing stories that offer a wide range of settings and characters.

The first story to really grab my attention was For Keeps by Gary Whitehead. The story is of Larold and his brother Rich fishing on the Battenkill. Though, to say this is a fishing story (like so many throughout this book) is to miss the point. This is about life's regrets and trying to make peace with the past through fishing. Childhood mistakes had come to haunt their relationship and the passing of their father left them estranged in ways hard to describe. Rich had a mental disability and growing up Larold made some mistakes that he was having trouble forgiving himself for. Thoughts of their father's treatment of Rich while growing up also clouds the time on the water, though they seem to find closure by the time you get to the end. Edith's Rule by Seth Norman is essentially about the same thing, but of course, the answers are as varied as the characters. This story is about an older fisherman that has become somewhat of a fishing hermit. The widower spends time on the water thinking of his loss and reflecting on what he calls Edith's rule. The idea that certain items just belong to certain people, what to whom only she seems to know. It all comes around and by the end of the story Edith's rule helps the old boy make connections with the people around him and, potentially, find some healing.

I loved the majority of the stories in the book, and only liked the other, so it was no surprise when I stayed up way too late and finished the book long before I was ready to be done. It's a good read and I whole-heartedly suggest you read it.

"I'm no philosopher. Not even a therapist. So, can somebody explain to me how 15 years of friendship comes down to two guys up to their knees in maybe the most beautiful river in the world with nothing but clear, empty water connecting them in any real way?
I didn't think so.
I said, "Dave, sometimes you just lose them.""

Pg. 116 Opening Day by Richard Chiappone

Buy it on Amazon HERE

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Keep it Going

As I surveyed the stream for any active fish in the cold light of the morning I had to take a second and appreciate the fact that I was again standing in a stream, about to fish. I really wasn't expecting to see anything, but I didn't want to blow an opportunity just because I was in too much of a hurry to recognize it. Today was about slowing down, trying to find a groove and enjoy just being in the moment. The fishing, I kept trying to convince myself, wasn't the real reason I pulled myself out of my warm bed and drove down to brave the cold in my leaky waders. I'd pre-selected my fly, a black simi-seal leech, and tied it to what was left of my leader. Lots of people don't like tying on a fly until they've looked at the water but I've always felt that an act of confidence can't hurt your chances too much. 

The far side of the stream held more than it's fair share of the water in a run that continued for about 25 yards. Not huge by many standards, but for this stream it's about the best you can hope for. The 5wt rod felt a little foreign in my hands because I hadn't fished it more than twice in the past year, but I knew that I'd get familiar with it again pretty quickly. This was one of my favorite rods, the first I ever built. It's a great feeling rod, but not the prettiest build I've ever spun. It was a good fit to the fishing that was ahead and as I made the first cast that fell just short of the opposite bank the anticipation of a strike took my mind off of the equipment. I was fishing. 

Nothing on the first or second cast, so on the third I mended the line upstream to try and get a little more depth to the swing. Whether this was the determining factor or not, a healthy little brown trout attacked my fly and soon I had him in hand. After a quick picture (he was, after all the first fish of the day and perhaps the last) he regained his bearing almost instantly and set off to the other side of the stream to sulk. The next cast provided an almost perfect replay, but this time a little rainbow came to play. He was slightly smaller than the first fish, but he had a little more weight to him and fought well for his size.

I continued to have success on the swing as I worked down to the end of the run. Several fish would follow the fly all the way through the swing and then commit on the next cast, or hit the fly a few times before I hooked them. I was working my way upstream, but fishing down so that meant getting out of the stream and walking up past the water I planned to fish. Then I would get back in the stream and fish the run down. Two steps forward, one back. The action was consistent, even if the fish weren't huge, so I was willing to put in the extra effort. 

After the sun had found it's way high enough to find the water the streamer bite slowed. Instead of switching over to a nymph rig I added a soft hackle dropper off the back of the streamer and found some more willing fish. They seemed to like this idea a lot better on a dead drift so I threw on an indicator and began fishing upstream more like a gentleman, but I still let the flies swing below me before recasting and found a couple of streamer eaters this way. 

The day warmed considerably and by afternoon I was down to my shirtsleeves and wishing I'd have put more water in my vest. It was probably time to call it but the warm air had me hoping that a solid hatch would come off and I could end this day with some dry fly action. So I kept fishing and working my way upstream, even coming across a confused little cutthroat to round out the trifecta. The streamer/soft hackle system continued to work through the afternoon and once the sun hid behind the peaks on the western bank I started working my streamer more aggressively again. The fish were more than cooperative and I felt like I could've continued catching fish all night. It seemed like as good of a time as any to call it and head back to the car. I knew the walk would be a long one so I snipped the fly from my line to avoid any distractions. 

Hope you can get out, be safe, and enjoy nature. 
- Kidder

Monday, November 2, 2015

Back to Fishing

It's been way too long since I've been fishing. This is the thought that's been keeping me awake more and more throughout the month of October, a month in which I didn't fish at all, especially since the white stuff started creeping down the mountain. So, despite getting home late on Halloween and the fact that no one wanted to go with me, come hell or high-water I was going fishing to start November out on the right foot. So the only thing keeping me awake last night was the decision of where to go. So I tried to weigh my options (should I fish a stream? which? a lake? kick-boat?.....) as I slowly got down to getting a couple of hours before light. 

Pretty cool to see wild turkeys
Finally, I was heading out the door with enough fishing gear to fish no matter what. I brought the backpack loaded with everything I needed for a hike. But, just in case, I also brought the waders and everything I'd need to hit a stream for a back up plan. Once I reached the jumping off point I noticed that I was above the snow line and the wind was making a valiant effort to flip my car. Typical Kidder attitude took over and I mounted up and started on the hike. 

The hike wasn't too bad since the deepest snow was only a few inches, but I knew the hike out would be a muddy mess. Along the trail there are a couple of small ponds where I swear I've seen fish out of the corner of my eye but they always seem to disappear before I can get a second look. Well today those fish materialized in the half light of dawn and I even hooked one before moving on towards my intended destination (not without promises of another try on the way out of course, more on that later). 

Kink of a weird pic, but there's fish in that hole
Once I reached the small reservoir that was my main objective for the day I noticed that the summer weed beds were still out in force and the water was lower than the last time I was here. That's not a very good combination as it leaves very little of the water table open for fishing, especially since I was stuck to shore fishing. I hurried over to a spot where I've been pretty successful and spooked the only fish in the neighborhood (a nice brook trout that I'd have liked to had a closer inspection of). I continued fishing my way around the small reservoir, but I only spotted two other fish and had no success. Thoughts of the back-up plan resurfaced and if I'd have been on the right side of the water for a quick escape this story would've ended very differently. As it was, I was on the far side, away from the trail, and although it would make my escape slower I decided to keep close to the water to keep an eye out for anything that might change my fortunes. The beaver lodge that made an outcropping far enough into the water to give me access to deeper water was exactly what I needed and after tying on yet another new fly I had a nice brookie follow. On the second cast I let the simi-seal leech fall through the water column a little longer and it was more than he could stand.

Mighty fine brookie
After reviving and releasing the beauty I made a couple more casts from the lodge, making sure to let the fly sink as long as possible, and picked up another fish. This time it was a decent little cutthroat and I was thinking that my day was finally picking up. 

I love the spot pattern
Too bad no one told the fish. Those were the only two fish that would come to hand from this reservoir today, so I made the muddy hike back out to the car. Along the way I stopped at one of the ponds but the fish had gone back through the worm-hole and were nowhere to be found (where could they go, the water's only a foot deep at best?) but followed the water up the hill to find a cool little waterfall before finding the car.

It seemed a bit bigger in person...
It was getting a little late to make the drive to a stream that I've been itching to fish, so I elected instead to fish one of the many small reservoirs in the area that I often overlook. I knew the fish probably wouldn't be large ("probably", isn't that the great part of fishing? We never really know) but figured that I might be able to scare up a few more before heading home. I was right, and I landed quite a few on my leech before they started surfacing. Of course I made the switch to a dry and enjoyed casting to riseforms and watching the small rainbows inhale my Parachute Zebra Midge until it was past time to head home. It felt great to fish again! Hope you can get out, be safe, and enjoy nature.

- Kidder

A good place to finish the day