Looking for Holdovers

Last weekend I needed some alone time. I love fishing with my buddies, but sometimes I just like fishing alone. But where to go? The Deerfield was still too high to wade fish. The Housatonic was too warm. The East Branch of the Westfield was a little farther than I wanted to drive.  I suspected the Swift would be crowded. I wanted to save a trip to the Farmington for when I had some company to drive down and fish it with me.

So where did that leave to fish? Freestones and blue lines.

In April, Doover2 and I enjoyed some fantastic fishing on a freestone stream right after it was stocked.

Loving me some pocket water.

We found several areas off-the-beaten-path that had numerous, vigorous 14” rainbows. We caught them until we felt guilty for de-flowering so many innocent stockies – and moved on so as to share the pool, and the thrill, with whoever was fortunate enough to come next.

Out of curiosity, I returned to the same pools in this freestone in mid-July. By that time, the rivers of the state had been through a serious drought, followed by a mid-summer soaking. I’d been tracking the river gauges and wondered if any trout had remained in the river during the drought when the flow reduced the current to a trickle. When the flow came back up, I tried the river again to see if any trout remained.

To my great surprise, I was able to catch three to four solid rainbows out of each of the three runs that I fished in April. They were in the same places as before, and they were taking stoneflies and soft-hackle Pheasant Tails, whereas, in April, they ate more junk food than a kid at Halloween – mostly Squirmies and Mop flies.

But would there be any trout left in mid-September?

At the first run I stopped at, I started fishing with a Pat’s Rubber Legs and a soft-hackle Pheasant Tails. I fished upstream in 30 yards of good-looking pocket water without moving a fish. I was almost to the top of the run when I felt that weird sensation. Something was different. I set the hook and felt the wonderful pull of something solid, but not solid like a rock.  Solid like a living creature that was pulling against me as hard as I was pulling against it.

A worn-out-looking rainbow couldn’t resist a mop fly.

A large rainbow was fighting angrily, with head shakes and runs, back and forth in the deepest part of the river, playing give-and-take with the drag of my reel. I saw that he had taken the Pat’s, and after several runs, I felt confident that the size 10 hook would hold.

Like a fool, I clamped down on the fly line with my index finger and started pulling it towards me. When the hook pulled out of the trout’s mouth, I mentally kicked myself. That LDR was on me. If I had been more patient and worked him slower, I would have had him.

After that, I worked the run again, going downstream this time with a chartreuse Mop fly and a Perdigon.  No dice.

I drove to the next of my favored runs and started fishing it with the Mop and Perdigon. The areas that I thought were target-rich turned out to be target-poor. Just to be thorough, I cast to some skinny water. I don’t think the Mop had a chance to hit the water before it changed directions and started moving towards me. A worn-out-looking, 15” rainbow came to the net.

I switched the Mop fly for a Pat’s and rolled a trout that caught me by surprise. I had to give myself a stern lecture about paying more attention.

The beauty of the morning.

Properly chastised, I went to the third pool. There, I landed three 16” rainbows, two on the Pat’s Rubber Legs and one on a Sexy Walt’s Worm. These trout were in perfect condition and fought like champions.

I left that river feeling great. I was happy that stocked trout could make it through the summer in that freestone. I was happy that I could find fish in places that weren’t obvious to the masses of bait fishermen who fish it unmercifully after it is stocked. I was happy to be enjoying such a beautiful creation as the world we live in.

On the way home, I stopped at another nearby freestone and fooled an 11” rainbow. Then I found a blue line stream and caught a half dozen brookies on a Stimulator.

It was a good day. It was a good day to fish alone. It was a good day to be alive.

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3 thoughts on “Looking for Holdovers

  1. It’s hard to say for sure, but it seems like the 14.5″ rainbows I was catching in April are now in the 15.5-16″ range. And they were all thick. But none seemed too happy to be caught, though I assured them that they would be released quickly.

  2. So glad those trout were kind to you on a day when you needed it. Beautiful fish and great storytelling. Happy for you, Bill.

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