Saturday, January 23, 2016

The Last Salmon...

     Another season has come and gone and with the passing of the days brings a chance for reflection.  As I look back on my last day of fishing the upper Connecticut River this past year, I can't help but smile.  The conditions were about as perfect as I could have hoped for, the company was right and the fish were willing.  My father and I have been on many fishing adventures over the years and really it was him who put a fly rod in my hand for the first time when I was about six years old.  The funny part is that he was not a fly fisherman at the time.  It was just a way to keep an energized child busy while the adults were able to "really fish."  I will leave the details of my introduction into fly fishing to another day, as this story is about living in the present. 
     We woke up on the early side, as I like to get to the river as the world is waking up.  I had a spot in mind to fish, it wasn't a secret spot, and to my enjoyment there was no one else around as we popped through the foliage.  The end of the season presents itself with many opportunities that are plain and simply not available during the hot summer months.  Lake run fish make their way back into the river and some can be very large.  To me, when this happens, it is as though you are looking at a river that you know as well as your best friend, but now your friend has a few new toys to play with.  It is a refreshing of the system with cool water and higher flows that create new areas for the legendary fish to haunt. 
     This was one of those mornings.  I knew what had been working recently as far as flies go, and I got my father situated before I took my first few casts.  Dad hooked up right off the bat with a nice leaping salmon that unfortunately flew the coop before we could get him to net.  It was a good sign of things to come though for sure.  We kept at it and eventually I hooked into something big.  It was bogging me down and not showing itself, which made my first instinct to think it was not a salmon.  After ten more seconds though, it was a different story.  The fish made a surge for the surface and exploded out of the water with such power and reckless abandon, that I assumed it would snap my line.  I attempted to keep the rod tip low as the large salmon displayed countless cartwheels throughout the pool.  The key here would be to keep this fish in the area directly in front of me.  If I allowed it to get around the bend it would be over, as it turns into rapids which are not where you want to play a fish of that size.  Things seemed to be slowing down and I even let a feeling of relief creep in as I saw the fish slowly roll on the surface in front of me.
     The feeling of relief was quickly followed by a feeling of sheer panic as the once defeated fish magically turned back into the flying dragon it had been minutes before.  Before I could even think of what to do next the fish made a U-turn and headed directly into the rapids.  Really!? Meanwhile my father was constantly asking me if I would like him to net the fish and per usual, I said I would like to try it on my own.  When the fish went down river, I did ask him to turn my video camera on though, as I knew this could get comical.  I charged down the side of the rapids following the fish as quickly as I could.  It was not easy to say the least.  I must have slipped a half dozen times on my way downriver, all the while my father is in the woods attempting to get some footage. 
     After about a 200 meter battle, mixed with raging white water and near swimming sessions, I was able to find a back eddy and ease the fish over to my net.  My father was still scrambling through the woods mumbling something about his "pole" still being on the ground where we started when he saw the fish in the net.  "That fish is huge!" was his response to laying his eyes on the beast.  Though it was not my largest Pittsburg salmon, it was certainly one of the most exciting I have ever caught.  It measured 21" and must have been pushing somewhere between "obese" and "overfed" on the weight scale. 
     Once again the end of a season in Pittsburg did not fail to impress me.  We went on to catch many more fish that day and enjoyed the scenery and each others company as we did.  When we left the water it was a feeling of sadness at first.  It would be months before I could get back to see my friend and feel her rush against my legs.  That feeling was quickly replaced by a sense of calm in knowing that the river would be there waiting, ready to welcome me back for the start of another season that was just around the bend. 

My father

My last Pittsburg salmon of the season

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Pterodactyls and Brown Trout

To call him uncle Mike is a bit misleading.  He is indeed not my uncle, but rather my good friend Kevin's uncle.  He is new to the sport of trout fishing with a fly rod, but has joined us on many a Salmon River steelhead trip.  I have called him uncle Mike since the day I first met him and will continue to do so for the rest of my days. 
We set out on our day to the river with one goal in mind, get uncle Mike fish!  I knew the fish were around and I knew that it would not be too difficult to get him into fish quick.  We popped around to all of the usual spots and caught many nice stockies just to get the rust off.  All the while uncle Mike was soaking in the scenery and just enjoying being on the river with friends and family. 
Then it got a little interesting.  The shadow came from above and it felt like a scene out of the movie "Birds." Swooping down and landing within feet of our run, the monstrous bird was on a mission.  I wouldn't call it an attack, it was more like a well played chess match from there on out.  The great blue heron was enormous! So much so that I started to think maybe it was a pterodactyl.  We tried our best to ignore the beast, but it was relentless.  We would drift and it would take a step closer.  We would move away and it would follow us.  When we hooked fish, it got that crazy look in its beady little eyes and lunged at the end of our lines.  For the rest of the afternoon, we would move to different spots and sure enough here comes the big bird!  He never did steal one of our fish, but I have never been so close to a bird of that size.  I think we were eventually able to ditch the bird due to a slow motion karate / fencing routine displayed by my 65 year old father in the middle of the river.  It must of either scared the bird or embarrassed him so much that he didn't want to be part of our group anymore. 
We made one last move to a spot that was a little more out of the way, and hoped to get uncle Mike into one last good fish.  As the evening was winding down, I hear uncle Mike say, "I'm on." The fish immediately sped downriver to where Kevin was just below us.  I yelled to Kev and said, "good fish."  After a bulldog battle we were able to land a nice 17" brown trout that topped off the day.  For most people this would have been the highlight of the outing, but I truly believe that uncle Mike was just enjoying the whole process so much that if the fish had snapped off, it would not have been a big deal.  I got a couple of nice pictures and sent the brown back in to grow to be another Connecticut River monster in years to come. 
We headed back to camp, laughed our heads off about the bird and told stories of our time on the water for the rest of the evening.  It doesn't get much better than that if you ask me.

"The Pterodactyl"

"Uncle Mike"

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Fishing with the Future

     A handful of years ago I was able to meet a young aspiring fly fisherman.  He had signed up for the NH Trout Unlimited Kid's Camp and was looking to learn more about the sport.  The funny part was, that he already knew more about what "real" fly fishing was than most of us.  I remember guiding him on the first evening down below Murphy Dam.  We walked downstream a ways to an area I refer to as "The Grail."  Needless to say Jake seemed pumped up and ready to hook into some fish.  I was not really sure how he would be able to handle the current or casting in tight areas as we had really just met, but after two false casts and a double haul, I was starting to feel pretty good about our chances.  Now it has been a while since this story has taken place, but to the best of my recollection, Jake caught a beautiful 16-17 inch rainbow within his first few casts and pretty much told me that the evening was a success regardless of how the rest of the night went.  As the evening went along and the sun was getting lower in the sky, Jake kept hooking fish.  Each time taking a second to admire his catch and letting it slip away into the water unharmed for others to enjoy.  I started to realize something about Jake.  He was not in this fly fishing thing just for catching the most fish.  He was there because it was a part of who he was even as a young adult at the time.  Well I got to know Jake better and better throughout the week and eventually with his dominant performance in the casting competition, he earned the nickname "Rocket Man" from a few of us counselors.  The kid was 15 years old and could double haul a 5wt farther than anyone at the camp, minus maybe Tom Jutras. (I would have liked to have seen that competition!) After the camp most of us were in agreement that Jake would fit the best for a counselor in training role the following year.  Luckily Jake did come back and has since become a full counselor for many years.  Jake is now in his 20's and has had many adventures that I can only hope to continue to hear about from him over the years. 
     Last July, Jake came up to my camp and spent a couple of days fishing with me.  We fished hard.  The type of hard that I remember fishing with my friend Kevin when we were just truly getting into the sport.  Sunup to sundown with a five mile run in the middle of the day so that we didn't get lazy.  Jake didn't want to just fish for big fish on this trip either.  We hit so many hours of small water hooking 4-8 inch wild brookies that we lost track of our numbers.  We got back to the camp at night and told stories with my Dad of days gone by and while this was taking place I realized something.  Between my father's childhood stories and Jake's most recent ones, we were covering a span of 60 years of fishing tales.  It hit me at that moment that for the past two days I had been fishing with the future as well.
Jake with a wild brookie

Jake in his element

Sunday, January 3, 2016

The Year of the Fish!

I am not going to get into the whole story, but for those of you who know me well, fly fishing has been the biggest part of my life for most of my years.  Along with running, fly fishing has been a constant positive aspect of my life since I can remember.  Well, sometimes LIFE gets in the way of pursuing the things that truly make us who we are.  This time however, LIFE has changed me for the better.  Since my last real post back in JULY, I have made a few large life moves and though some were very difficult, I feel as though the struggle to obtain happiness has certainly been overcome this time.  I have finally bought a house with the love of my life and on Christmas Day I was able to ask her to be my wife in front of her family.  She said "YES" and we are now on our way to forming the life that we both see for ourselves in the future.  The best part is that our future does still coincide with Fish Story Guide Service!  I have been getting lots of little messages from people in the past few months about why the blog is not up to date and how things were going and I certainly appreciate all of the inquiry.  Well this post is to shed the light and show you where this road is headed.  This road is leading to "The Year of the FISH!"  I am going to slowly post some pictures and stories from this past fall as the winter moves along, but at the same time start to map out 2016.  I am fully ready to dive into guiding this year and hope to make Pittsburg the main focus.  I am already receiving calls and emails from repeat clients about next spring, summer and fall and I am really grateful for that!  For anyone who has been thinking about trying to get up to Pittsburg this year let me know your thoughts and I can help make your plans come to life!  I hope that this little memo finds everyone happy, healthy and ready for "The Year of the FISH!"

Feel free to email me anytime!

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Ready.... Set... GO!!!

In my next post I will go into a little more detail about where I have been and what I have been doing, but for right now, just know that 2016 will be the year of the FISH!  More to come very... very... soon!