The first thing I did, when I received a review copy of 50 Best Places Fly Fishing The Northeast by Bob Mallard ($34.95, Stonefly Press), was flip to the Montauk section. Because even though the book is dominated by the region’s top trout waters, when I fall asleep at night I dream about salt. So I was pleased to see that the person selected to contribute the Montauk intel was Brendan McCarthy. While I have never personally fished with Brendan, I know a lot of people who have and he has an excellent reputation. Next I flipped to the Maine chapter and the section on Casco Bay. Eric Wallace wrote that one up, and he pioneered sight fishing for striped bass there.
Knowing that Mallard’s choices for those two contributions are legit makes it easy to extrapolate that he picked people who know what they’re talking about to profile the other 48 fisheries. Stonefly Press has a stable of these 50 Best Places books, including the 50 Best Tailwaters To Fly Fish.
This installment includes several venerable locales from Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Places like the Ausable, Salmon and all the Catskills spots in NY; the Housatonic and Farmington in CT; Cape Cod in MA, the Saco in New Hampshire and…well…there are 50 of them, you get the picture. So if you fish the Northeast or plan to, consider this a starting point, reference guide or inspiration to fish new waters.
The first trout I ever caught, in upstate New York, came courtesy of the New York DEC stocking program. The first trout I caught on fly came courtesy of the fish hatchery at the Connetquot River. I spent a lot of time in the 1990s learning how to fly fish by targeting those stocked trout.
Though I agree with everything Kirk Deeter wrote in his Fly Talk post about hatchery fish, I was sad when the Connetquot hatchery closed in 2008. And I am happy with the report from Andrew Cuomo’s office that the hatchery is reopening in 2015.
I’ve listened to others mock the Connetquot for it’s prior reputation as a trout fishing fantasyland, and I’ve written about my own conflicted thoughts about it here before.
And of course you can take it deeper and delve into why growing trout in a hatchery only masks the larger problem about why wild trout populations in the region would be unsustainable. That is all true.
But for all that it is and isn’t, the Connetquot is an excellent resource as well as a learning ground for teaching angling ethics and stream stewarship. The place demands it, and the threat of a year-long or lifetime banishment for violations is not a vacant one. (Read about the rules and etiquette on the Long Island Trout Unlimited site.) I look forward to taking my daughters.
People are catching stripers right now, that’s documented. Also documented is what anglers out almost every day are seeing–and not seeing.
Here’s a post from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation about how oxygen depletion is affecting striped bass.
Here’s another from Reel-Time where Capt. John McMurray details who’s really killing all the bass.
Here’s a follow up from McMurray on why we should eat bluefish not bass.
Here’s a post about how recreational anglers have lost the high ground.
There’s a 1@32pledge going around.
But maybe, for now, let ’em all go.
The Amish had the tops raised on their buggies as they trotted into town on the gravel shoulder along the road. I sped past them on the opposite side, wheels spitting dirty water off the rain-slicked asphalt. In front of me, a young man in britches and a straw hat ran across the road. He ducked into a small farmhouse and on the periphery I noticed a discretely placed satellite dish.
It reminded me of the time we bought chairs from a local furniture maker and, walking behind his barn, we passed a trash bin and spotted an empty bottle of blackberry schnapps. (As some astute person once opined: Whatever the conviction, everybody breathes the same way.)
The fields and front yards along the road were all flooded with water, and the river running alongside swollen over the banks, the last insult of the harsh winter. But passing by at 70 mph, it’s easy to neglect to appreciate how disconnected you are from everyone else’s resultant hardship. Because you are on your way to go fishing.
And you’re going to meet people and drink beer and eat all the food you are not supposed to–eggs and salt potatoes fried in bacon grease, brats and kielbasa and pepperoni, bricks of cheddar cheese and bags of garlic flavored curd, chocolate chip cookies from Wegmans and beer. Beer for lunch, for dinner and for the first second third fourth fifth sixth and seventh hands of Texas Hold Em.
I’m not sure why at every meal we always eat and drink the things that are bad for you. Even the vegetables are sprinkled with bacon and a layer of shredded cheddar. Maybe it’s just an act of defiance, a tiny mutiny against the notion, which is never mentioned but implicitly understood, that we are all born to die.
The water was cold and the fish were cold too. They had not yet crossed the fine line between preservation and predation. When their metabolism finally speeds up they will get hungrier and hungrier until they can’t resist anything that passes by, but in the moment they moved slowly, eating maybe out of spite, or just to keep going for another few weeks until the water temps rise and the reaffirmation of everything that is hardwired into their brains begins.
I used to count fish. Most probably do when they start fishing as a way to catalogue it, or for whatever reason. I stopped mostly after reading Longest Silence–if you did you probably know the exact passage about “trout number seven”–and also because it is a nonsensical way to record a fishing experience.
Looking back on my fishing journals, I recorded a day in the year 2000 where I caught 30 just-stocked brook trout on a river where I paid for a beat. Should that carry more weight than the trip that year down the Rio Hatiguanico in Cuba? The one with the ornithologist who served me rum and helped me hook my first tarpon on fly? By numbers it does.
So I started counting days. In 2008 I recorded over 100 excursions with a fly rod and I knew with the birth of my first child that year that the pace would not last unless I moved to Florida and/or won the lottery. In 2013, I recorded 52. Once a week seems more than reasonable for someone in a northern locale with a full-time job and family, and who is not a guide.
Still, counting days is not a perfect math, either. The year in my head doesn’t add up to the numbers on the page–a notion my wife would find insane¹. Maybe it’s because I turned down as many invitations to fish as times I actually spent fishing–I am probably the king of the “Yeah sounds awesome oh wait I can’t” response. Maybe it’s because of the skunk days I withstood trying to force carp to like me. But likely it’s because much of my fishing time came in clusters or consisted of stolen moments².
Either way, in 2013 I got to be on the water in some of my favorite places in the world in both Florida and New York with some of my favorite people and also got to watch my two daughters catch panfish on little pink Ugly Sticks by the dozen. So, yeah, 2013 was good. And as the great Neil Young sings, “numbers add up to nothing.”
Happy New Year.
1. (And most likely is.)
2. (In the Wordsworthian “Spots of Time” vein.)
The website space.com has an article up detailing the lasting effects of the interstellar object, estimated between five and miles in diameter, that crashed into earth at the spot now known as the Chesapeake Bay Crater.
Without this epochal event, there is no Chesapeake Bay and no striped bass fishing as we know it today. Stuff to think about, walking the beach.
The sun came out and the shallows warmed and fish moved into them. Others held fast in the current rips, poised for ambush, and still others patrolled the drop-offs or took cover in the newly thickening weeds. The fish hit the flies of those who were there and the pics are for those who could not be.