I fished the Exeter last Saturday morning with my good friend, Lars. Since we both had afternoon plans, we met up early in the morning.
This trip was a bit of a reset for both of us. The prior weekend, I broke my 10.5′ Cortland competition nymph rod while fishing the Farmington with Jo and his friend Scott. (UpCountry has a complete Euronymphing outfit, with a Cortland rod, here.)
I had to make do with my TFO 9′ five-weight instead. Lars, on the other hand, drew inspiration from Kelly Galoup and wanted to drop-shot.
Temperatures plummeted the night before, and it was in the low 20s from the get-go. I drew first blood almost immediately, but the action soon slowed down. We both picked up fish, but they were few and far between.
The fish we did find were hunkered down in slower and deeper pockets and pools. Takes were also incredibly subtle, and they fought minimally early on.
Eventually, it warmed slightly and I decided to take Lars to a few favorite spots. At one spot, I sat on the bank and coached him into a pile of fish. I stopped and fished a couple spots myself and landed some more fish. Before we knew it, it was already time to leave.
Here are some things I observed today:
- Fish were most active in slower water and areas with sun exposure. These are the “warmest” areas in the river this time of year, and fish gravitate towards them. I didn’t find any fish in the fast water at the heads of runs today.
- They wanted high-calorie meals. Fish were hunkered and fairly lethargic due to the sudden temperature change. Really, they were looking for any excuse to move. Fish will move for high-payoff meals, even in very cold water. It’s an all-or-nothing approach. Jo and I briefly shared notes from our respective outings this evening. He found this to be true with an actively retrieved streamer (prior post here). For me, only my heavier anchor flies produced today, but it was jig-style leech patterns that really stole the show. I got no looks at my droppers. Why go for the chicken nugget when you can have the burger?
- Takes were subtle, especially earlier on in the day. The sighter betrayed takes before I could feel them. Often times, what I thought were rocks turned out to be fish. It made for an uphill battle with a stiff five-weight rod.