Sunday, February 11, 2024

Traprock Brookies

 I've fished wild trout streams through all sorts of substrate and geology. Classic limestoners, freestones through limestone bedrock, marble, quartzite, granite, gneiss, schist, sandstone, brownstone, conglomerate, alluvial substrate from clay to cobble, glacial till, even muddy lake beds. But it occurred to me not long ago that I'd never caught a brookie in a stream flowing out of and through traprock bedrock. 

Traprock is a reminder of our continent's volcanic past. Millenia ago, tectonic motion let magma seep up into cracks in the Earth's crust in what is now the Mid Atlantic and Southern New England area. This magma hardened into the two kinds of rock referred to as traprock: basalt and diabase. Basalt is generally extrusive, meaning the magma cooled on the Earth's surface. Diabase typically cools below the surface. Of the two, basalt is a little more common in Connecticut. The massive, imposing mountains and ridges that run North from New Haven to Holyoke, then arc east to a terminus between Belchertown and Amherst are all volcanic remnants. Today, we drive on a lot of this, and I don't mean that our roads go over these rocky slopes. Basalt is very uniform in it's crystallization and also very hard, so it makes great aggregate for road and railroad beads, and is used in concrete and asphalt as well. Basalt is a staple of the development, industry, and infrastructure of our world whether you knew it or not. Unfortunately that means the quarrying of it has negatively impacted the species that utilize the environments that evolved around these geological features. That includes species like red cedar, blue spotted and Jefferson's salamanders, northern copperheads, red squirrel, and peregrine falcons.

Female Northern copperheads often rely on the crevices on open trap rock ridges to gestate and birth their young.

But what about brook trout? Are there any small streams on or along these traprock ridges, and do they have brook trout in them? 

The very nature of these geologic features doesn't make for an ideal situation for a coldwater stream habitat to arise. First of all, spatially they aren't huge, so there just isn't that much room. Traprock ridges are narrow and tall, their shape lends better to streams running along or between them in the sedimentary rock they intrude rather than on the dykes themselves. But there are a couple streams that emerge from them and run some distance, and they have heavy spring influence so those that aren't season seem to stay cold. 

My decision to try to catch a traprock brookie was followed by the sort of oddball research I don't often hear about other small stream anglers doing but which isn't at all unfamiliar to me. I lined up bedrock maps with topographic maps to find streams that ran not just near trap rock but through it. Then I examined some satellite imagery to get an idea of the stream's consistency. I have enough experience to tell when a mapped stream is likely to be the sort that can hold water and therefore fish year round. It also gives me an idea of the forest type and what I might be in for as far as bushwhacking. Eventually I found one that looked very promising. An added confidence booster, though it had never been sampled another in the watershed had been with brook trout, albeit very few, in the 1990's and there were no dams preventing cross pollination, if you will, between the two streams. Some culverts could throw a wrench in that. Access would suck though, with questionable parking and a long circuitous walk. When the time came though, I suited up and hit the road. 

My parking spot turned out to be legal, thankfully, but proved to be a reminder of why I got an off-road capable vehicle. I parked grabbed my rod and sling pack quickly, as I had a decent distance to walk down the road and I hate being seen with a fly rod in hand. I hustled to a bridge, not on the stream I wanted to fish but the one it flowed into. This was down in the basin, in mudstone rather that traprock. I then traversed this low gradiant creek down. There was one ominously deep pool in about a half mile of difficult to negotiate water and I hooked a brook trout there. Not only did that put a new stream on my list automatically but it gave me even more hope as the survey site at the rod I'd parked on had no brook trout in the two years it was sampled. This was likely just wintering water though. Eventually I reached my stream. I looked at my map quickly as I'd saved where it crossed the line from basalt to sedimentary bedrock on the bedrock map as my starting point. It also didn't look very favorable at the bottom end, very straight on the map and shallow in real life, but where I wanted to start there were some bends and much steeper gradient. So I hoofed it upstream, staying out of the water but stopping to fish the two decent looking runs I did see. 

Just as I reached the point I'd marked I could see a good deep, slow pool upstream. The hope was there to put this goal to bed and fast. I had on a size 12 Ausable Ugly and was fishing each pool upstream, which would work well with this one as it was blocked by brush near the head. I covered the tail- as there is often at least one fish in the tail of a pool like this in the winter -to no avail. But as I extended my cast the water I was fishing held promise in the for of exceptional depth. I let the fly fall and there was a discernable but delicate tap. The next cast in the same spot I was ready and the fish was on. Success! The fish was diminutive and far from the most colorful example of her species, but that was all I'd needed. I continued upward and caught one more fish and missed some others, all very small, and decided to bother them no more. The day had been a fantastic one already.

 Though this may seem like an extremely trivial goal to have achieved and perhaps an unnecessary one for just a couple tiny brook trout, I think many anglers miss some significant keys to the understanding of fish and fisheries. Frankly I'll be blunt... I've only twice been legitimately impressed by the comprehensiveness of understanding an individual trout angler had of not only wild trout but the totality of their habitat, movement, behavioral patterns, and the nature of their whole lives. The geology of the land and rivers plays a HUGE roll in how trout survive, grow, and behave and it is one of the foremost factors I look at to understand a stream and what potential it has. And though I may only very rarely fish traprock trout, it is a piece of the puzzle and another step toward my end goal of having the most thorough understanding of the natural world I can. 

Thank you to my Patrons; Erin, David, John, Elizabeth, Brandon, Christopher, Shawn, Mike, Sara, Franky, Geof, Luke, Noah, Justin, Sean, Tom, Mark, Jake, Chris, Oliver, oddity on Display, and Sammy for making Connecticut Fly Angler possible. If you want to support this blog, look for the Patreon link at the top of the right side-bar in web version.

Saturday, January 27, 2024

Fly Fishing for Quillbacks in Ohio

 My now-partner-then-friend Emily dropped me off next to an unfamiliar river in an unfamiliar town in the middle of Ohio. Unfamiliar to me, that is. Emily had grown up around there, but I'd actually never fished in Ohio before this trip. Now I had about an hour to figure out a short stretch of river full of unknown-to-me species, and there is nothing more exciting to me that literally just that- getting dumped next to a random river full of fish species I'd never caught with a fly rod in hand. A low-head dam below a bridge immediately called to me... these sorts of things are a fish magnets by default, being that they are choke points at best an migration barriers at worst. I had an Ausable Ugly on... what else... and went about tight-lining the spill over. The first fish was a smallmouth bass. Leave it to the aggressive and ever-present Micropterus to beat all else to the fly in such a situation. Unlike home, though, smallmouth were native to this place. These creeks and drainages in Ohio had been teaming with smallmouth for ages before they were dumped in Connecticut. I do love a native fish. 

A couple more smallmouth later I decided to move down into the slower water and look for some suckers. Though they'll often sidle right up to the base of a dam in the faster water in the spring, many of the sucker species will settle back into the deep, slow pools for the summer and fall. That's exactly what I found. In a lovely deep hole bellow a bridge were various redhorse, quillback, and some white suckers. The quillback immediately became my primary target. Quillback carpsuckers (Carpiodes cyprinus) are so named for their similarity in appearance with carp. They aren't carp, but unfortunately the unearned poor reputation carp have long held in this country also carries over to species like carpsuckers and buffalo. Given my exceptional reverence for these species it seriously hurts to see photos of them dead on the bank with holes in them... I won't apologize, bow fishing is a scourge and the bad characters in that community FAR out-weigh the good ones. Every time I see a "carp" being foisted on a spear that is actually a native sucker, quillback or buffalo it gives me both mental and physical discomfort. But these ones were safe, save for a little prick in the lip. At least that was my hope. Quilbacks are notoriously fickle and even more so on an artificial fly. I know a small number of people that have caught them and there are no defined tactics. Unlike bass or trout you can't pick up dozens upon dozens of books, watch hundreds of videos or find magazine articles galore about how to convince a carpsucker to eat a fly... this was something I'd have to find out on my own with whatever time I had left to fish this spot that day. I do love a challenge. 

I stood pretty much on the same rock for the rest of my time there, studying the behavior of the quillback. They were fairly active foragers, moving around and feeding methodically. I noticed that the focused most of their effort is spots that had a little bit of vegetation or small collections of detritus. They sifted through this stuff, presumably looking for tiny insect larvae and nymphs, their small mouths working much the same way a sucker's or carp's does. I estimated that I'd need quite a small fly to dupe one of them, and tied a size 20 Pheasant Tail onto 6x tipped, with two shot just above it. For a while I tried to present to specific fish, and this didn't work at all. Either they ignored the presentation or I lined them and they spooked. Eventually I got smart and realized that they were so methodical with their feeding pattern that if I dropped the nymph stationary on an algae covered rock or in a pile of detritus, one would eventually make its way to the fly. They weren't feeding in the drift anyway, but on stationary things. So I found a suitable spot near where two were feeding and settled my nymph in a clump of moss green algae and waited. It was probably only three minute before a quillback started rooting around in that clump of algae. I payed close attention to my shot- I couldn't see my fly but I could see the weights -and hoped that if the fish picked up my fly they might move. 

My anxiety was high as I watched the fish feed and my shot sit stationary on the bottom. This was one of my most coveted North American fishes; I really, really wanted to catch one of these. My shot never moved though and that individual moved on. I stood there for another five minutes trying not to move my rod too much and dislodge my fly before another moved in. This one seemed to notice the fly and move directly to it. The shot twitched on the bottom and I struck. In retrospect, I hit that fish way too hard. The anticipation had been killing me. The was a bright flash of a brassy color and a momentary sensation of tension, then the fish hurried off and my fly and shot landed in the water behind me with a plop. I slumped my shoulders and groaned. I didn't know if I'd get a better shot than that. 

For a while the quillbacks went quiet. They clearly didn't appreciate that disruption. So I decided to present to some redhorse. These fish were in slack water and up in the column. Bad targets, really, I can't recall ever getting suckers that were resting high in the column to eat. But I'll be darned if the first one I sunk a Walt's Worm past didn't immediately move to it and take! As interested in the quillback as I'd been, I'm an absolute redhorse freak. I adore this diverse genus and the crazy challenge of catching them on flies. 

Lifelist fish #199, Moxostoma erythrurum, golden redhorse. 

Though my time at this spot was about to wind down and I'd failed to catch a quillback, just getting to stand in the midst of an unfamiliar community of fishes and catch a new species was full filling enough. Even better, I had come up with a methodology for targeting quillback with the fly that should be sound and, if I ever encounter them feeding in the same manner again, should produce one. I will target them again, that much is a guarantee. 

Thank you to my Patrons; Erin, David, John, Elizabeth, Brandon, Christopher, Shawn, Mike, Sara, Franky, Geof, Luke, Noah, Justin, Sean, Tom, Mark, Jake, Chris, Oliver, oddity on Display, and Sammy for making Connecticut Fly Angler possible. If you want to support this blog, look for the Patreon link at the top of the right side-bar in web version.

Thursday, January 18, 2024

Giant Brook Trout

 I can catch oodles of eight inch brook trout in Connecticut. Those are wonderful, special little fish, and I never take them for granted, but I try to make a point not to travel for a fish I can catch at home. Maine has big brook trout, still. Certainly not as many as it once did, but they are there. When I go to Maine, that's what I want to catch: brook trout that thoroughly dwarf those I could catch back at home. That hasn't always happened, but I've gotten better and better at manufacturing it with each trip. 

Back in Late September with Noah, I'd already gotten some fantastic and healthy fish to hand (read here), but was very much hoping for something even a little bit larger than those. It had become fairly clear from that experience that fairly thoroughly covering quite a lot of water would be necessary in order to find larger fish in these small creeks with lake runners, as they were clearly not evenly distributed and even some of the nicest looking water may not be holding. 

Though we were only about six hours from home, this was very different territory. I traversed high grassy banks along shallow, gravely runs before dropping onto sand bars pocked with moose tracks, staying low and moving swiftly but with intent so as not to spook any fish that might be in shallow, visible lies. I didn't really see fish for a long time, it was clear that most were holding in the very deep, slow pools. That made sense, it wasn't spawning time yet so there was little need for the fish to put themselves at risk in the shallow tailouts and pockets just yet. They were likely hopping from deep spot to deep spot on their way up, with some time in the faster runs with lots of cover as well like where I'd caught them the day before. 

But even those didn't always seem to provide the pull I was looking for. Then I came to one dark, deep bend pool with an overhanging tree and loads of wood in the water. This one had to be harboring something large. The head looked extremely juicy, with the main current dumping over a beautiful gravel shelf into the depths of the pool and a foam covered eddy on the other side with branches sticking through. I dangled and tightlined the big, heavy Ausable Ugly through the faster current, then pulsed and retrieved it through the eddy. Not believing there wasn't a fish there to be caught, I then went back through it again making extra certain the fly got down deep. As small one obliged, maybe 10 inches... that wasn't it. I moved on to the heart of the pool, counting the fly down and retrieving gradually, forming figure eights with the line in the palm of my hand then raising the rod tip in little jumps as the leader neared the tip. Still no satisfying thump. I had moved down to the tail when Noah rounded the corner. We both remarked how incredible this pool looked and that there must be a large fish in it. Looking back to what I was doing I saw a large dark shadow streak out from one of the many logs. I struck, my rod flexing as the hook point found purchase, and said "Oh there she is!"

Large brook trout often don't have the piss and vinegar of other salmonid species, and though this was one of the heavier trout I'd stuck in a while it wasn't terribly hard to control. We had it in the net in just a short time. The fish of the trip was indeed a hefty one, and dressed up in proper brook trout finery. 

It had been a number of years since I'd tied into a Maine brook trout this size, and to do so in a lesser known fishery made it all the more satisfying. It was yet another reminder of the magic these fish I've long adored hold. Brook trout were one of the fish that brought me to fly fishing and made me obsess over it, hiking and biking sometimes 60 miles in a day to try to find new streams before I could drive. I'm less brook trout obsessed than I was back then, but they do remain a driving force in my angling- the hard headed, gaudy, and aggressive native that they are. It is hard to deny the appeal. They stand both for wilderness and the fact that we haven't quite snuffed out wild things yet, even when we've done our damnedest to do so. In Connecticut, there are still wild brook trout swimming behind shopping centers and through neighborhoods. In Maine, there are still big, darkly colored brookies residing in lakes and ponds and a few rivers. They are a stubborn relic of what this land once was. 

Thank you to my Patrons; Erin, David, John, Elizabeth, Brandon, Christopher, Shawn, Mike, Sara, Franky, Geof, Luke, Noah, Justin, Sean, Tom, Mark, Jake, Chris, Oliver, oddity on Display, and Sammy for making Connecticut Fly Angler possible. If you want to support this blog, look for the Patreon link at the top of the right side-bar in web version.

Sunday, January 14, 2024

Cow Calling

 Kevin Callahan wanted his boga grip back. As he eased his Maverick Master Angler out of the launch and got on plane, the breeze, clouds, and chop lead me to believe that would be a long shot. But maybe the fish would bite. Large striped bass like it sloppy. Really, I think the boga retrieval was just an excuse. I think Kevin and I both felt like we were in with a really good shot at some gigantic bass. The ride wasn't as quick as the slick night we'd made this same run about a week prior, and though some fish were had that night and even more were seen, this felt a bit different. There was a feel to the weather. The changing barometric pressure and the color of the water spoke volumes. We spent probably 20 minutes looking for the gripper after arriving at the spot, but the sheet of vegetation on the bottom did volumes more to conceal it than even the chop and clouds could. That was a lost cause. 

Kevin moved us into a rocky area and began slinging a large topwater plug known as the Doc. If you aren't aware of the Musky Mania Doc and you striper fish in the northeast, you live under a rock. Nowadays its really unusual to see a boat leaving the launch for a day of striper fishing that doesn't already have a doc hanging off at least one of the rods. The lure shortened the learning curve for a lot of anglers to catch big bass both on the plug itself and on the fly. In fact, the first use of it in the Northeast striper fishery is as a teasing lure, with Joe LeClair being one of the first to employ it around Block Island. Not long after, Ian Devlin and Mark Sedotti brought in to Western Long Island Sound, and from there it started being used with hooks to actually catch the fish when it became clear that in some scenarios it was great for drawing strikes from big bass but not as good for teasing. Now there are multiple knock-offs of it specifically advertised to striper anglers. Some even cast better than the original, which has a shape and weight distribution that makes it hard to get the lure to consistently fly true. I was fishing a simple derivation of Mark Sedotti's synthetic slammer. This one had two little foam baffles and lead wrapped on the shank but no keel. It was 10" long and all off-white. Not only was it ideal if a teasing scenario set itself up, but also a fantastic generalistic big striper fly. 

After a little inaction around a school of tinker mackerel that were flicking and boiling, we pushed further into the structure seeking resident fish just holding. Confirmation of life came in the form of an almighty wallop on Kevin's lure. Stripers often hit the plug repetitively, sometimes popping it up into the air with their head, sometimes even slinging it with their tail. But sometimes they also just hammer it and get it cleanly in their craw on the first go, which is what Kevin's first fish of the day did. We knew ahead of time exactly what sort of fish were in this spot, so it was no surprise it was a 40 incher. In fact, we were hoping for something quite a bit larger. What came around was a bit more than we bargained for. The first fish to eat the fly took on a blind cast fairly near the boat and from was a clone of Kevin's. Not a giant, but very nice on the fly. That fish started to act a little weird partway through the fight though. All of a sudden, the water erupted in one of the most spectacular displays of predation I've seen in person as not only one but two brown sharks each attacked my hooked fish, one from the head, the other from the tail. They churned the water to a froth, tails thrashing as they made the striper a lot less mobile in a real hurry. One of the two followed as I stripped what was now half of a striper towards the boat, making another last attempt to get what was left pretty much boat-side. Incredibly, Callahan was rolling video through the whole event. 

Screen captures from video, courtesy Kevin Callahan

This is a scene that is playing out more and more frequently in Connecticut in recent years as brown sharks rebound and expand in range. It is an interesting new dynamic. I personally don't feel that its a bad thing, just something we'll need to adjust to. Unfortunately, be-it bulls and hammerheads at Bahia Honda, seals at Monomoy, or many other situations where a predator species has rebounded and is eating fish off of angler's lines, most are unwilling and uninterested in adjusting or understanding, and instead are inclined to just be angry about it and I expect the same to happen with sharks in Long Island Sound in the coming years. 

Kevin and I didn't lose another fish directly to the sharks that day, at least that we knew of. And that was a relief because we were about to tie into some beasts, fish that would wow just about any fly angler. In fact the next couple of hours were such pandemonium that the memory is like a fractal, with bits and pisses missing and blurry, others sharp as a tac, and much of it out of order. The first fish I boated intact was about 46 inches and ate the fly a bit behind Kevin's plug while multiple others were on it. Unlike the fish that got sharked, this one and many of the others  chose, smartly, to run into the shallows rather than out into deeper water. The result was some spectacular mid-fight thrashing and even, for Kevin, 30 plus pound fish going airborne on the hookup. Keeping them out of the structure was a chore but far from impossible, as I put the screws to them with my 11wt Echo Musky Rod. 

Photo courtesy Kevin Callahan

The next hookup was a much, much larger fish that was one of a simultaneous double up right at the boat. In the mayhem I didn't really get a good hook set. I was more is shock than disappointment when the fish when it came off and I turned to Kevin and asked "You see the size of that mother f*****?"

It couldn't have been more than ten minutes later that Kevin and I doubled up again, this time at a substantial distance from the boat. I knew the fish was quite large and the fight was a long one, but I didn't quite grasp the enormity of it until I had the thing much closer to the boat, at which point it became very clear that this was my largest fly rod striped bass. I hoisted her over the rail, grunting under the strain of her mass, and Callahan fired off a few quick photos. I remember looking at the size of her lower lip as I carefully got her back in the water, mindful that there could very well be an even large fish with much sharper eating implements nearby. I was pleased that she kicked off very strongly and aimed in to the shallows again, away from potential danger. 

Getting a bass of this caliber isn't terribly uncommon in certain areas with the current state of the fishery. Frankly, at time its just easy. But getting two giants locally without beating up numerous 30 inch class fish in the process is a lot less common, especially in clear, clean, and very shallow water. This was, to put it lightly, a pretty sick bite, and one we hope we'll be able to replicate again in coming seasons. 

On the way back in we stopped at a rip line that usually holds a lot of life and had smaller fish ravenously chasing the plugs and flies in and eating with reckless abandon. It was a lot of fun to watch, and a reminder that there are so many facets to this fishery we have on our doorstep. Many of those things are taken for granted, even by me. With yet another poor recruitment year in the Chesapeake behind us, recreational anglers under severe disillusions that everything is fine because the fishing is incredible where they are right now, and head boat captains pounding their fists and yelling to be allowed to kill as many of these fish as they want at meetings, I worry for the future of my favorite species to cast flies at. I'm not even fully sure stricter regulations will stop a complete crash of the most important spawning ground on the coast, but I sure do know it wouldn't hurt. 

Thank you to my Patrons; Erin, David, John, Elizabeth, Brandon, Christopher, Shawn, Mike, Sara, Franky, Geof, Luke, Noah, Justin, Sean, Tom, Mark, Jake, Chris, Oliver, oddity on Display, and Sammy for making Connecticut Fly Angler possible. If you want to support this blog, look for the Patreon link at the top of the right side-bar in web version.

Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Wet T-Shirk Muskie Contest

 Muskellunge are a critter often associated with massive amounts of time, effort, and dedication to catch. Especially on the fly. I hadn't put in anywhere near the amount of effort typically associated when I trudged through the early fall woods on my way to a pool in a river in which I might possibly be able to find a muskie. The day prior my good friend Drew Price and I had floated a different stretch of the same river and I'd stuck a hook in my first muskie (the short story about that has been on Patreon for a while), And I'd increased the number of muskies I'd moved with a fly from one to... frankly I've forgotten the number, but it was a lot. We saw a tremendous number of fish that day. That bumped my experience a bit but not much. And now I was in unfamiliar territory again. Drew had told me there were muskies there, but other than that I was pretty much left of my own devices to try to catch one on foot. It was very much the sort of mission this angler is comfortable with. If you've read these chronicles long enough, you've read of many a grueling, ill-advised DIY effort that resulted in netter fish than I had any right to be able to catch. So, although I had no expectations, I felt very comfortable setting out with just my wading boots, shorts, a sling pack, and a couple rods to pursue one of the most notoriously difficult to catch predator fish in the country. 

Shallow riffles and pocket water weaving through the trees gave way to a wide open pool, slow and dark and flanked by steep grass-covered banks. The bottom turned from rock and gravel to mud, and parts of the pool were lined with spare weed beds. This pool looked like a place some Esocids would inhabit, and in this case the top predator wasn't the pickerel and pike one would find back in Connecticut. I decided to work my way around the pool clockwise, starting at one side of the the head of the pool and working around the edge to the tailout, cross, then coming back up the other side. Though the head of the pool didn't show anything, I barely made more than 10 feet down the bank before I moved the first muskie of the day. It came slowly behind the fly, a small male of maybe 30 inches, shadowing with interest but not about to commit to eating.  Working my way around the pool I'd move three more small muskies and one larger one. The small fish emerged from the weed bed, while the largest one materialized from the gloom of the middle of the pool. I'd noticed the day before that the largest three we saw weren't on the edge or in the structure, but rather out in the middle of the river. I found this odd, but many of the fish I target have larger predators to be worried about. A muskellunge doesn't really have that. A big old adult muskie isn't getting eaten by too many things. They can afford to hang out pretty much anywhere they want to that offers them the hydraulic needs to maintain their metabolism. As I ran out of pool to fish, I paused to take a break. I sat down in the tall grass, trying to avoid putting any exposed skin in the abundant stinging nettle, and grabbed a granola bar out of my pack. By that point it had become fairly clear that I was going to get clipped by the southern end of a line of thundershowers. 

I sat and enjoyed my granola bar and assessed that there was very little point in trying to rush back to get a rain jacket. I'd be in a fairly safe spot as far as lightning, I'd just get a bit wet. That's okay, my bottom half already was anyway. I made my way to the tree line, looked at the canopy and tried to pick a place that might be fairly dry. The rain came loud and heavy, big droplets slapping the leaves and bubbling the surface of the river. My little spot was barely enough to keep my bag dry, and mostly because I hunched over it. The rain lasted probably 15 minutes, leaving a soaked angler trying to shake off and wring out his t-shirt while looking downriver at the next pool and wondering if the passage of that shower might have changed the mood of the fish. The day before, a big storm rolling through had seemed to turn the bite off. I worried that those listless follows might be as much as I'd see of a muskie on this trip. But the next pool down looked promising anyway. It was bigger and round, and looked like it could be harder to fish effectively on foot compared to the one above it. I was pretty much stuck with the head of the pool, which was the only chunk of the one above that didn't seem to be holding a fish. Not knowing if that really mattered, I set about working the head of it as thoroughly and consciously as I possibly could. I mixed and matched retrieves, but favored keeping the sink tip of the bottom with a steady two hand with occasional accelerations. I worked river right first, fanning twice, then crossed the stream to work the other side. The number of casts made on that side couldn't have been many when the line went tight. It wasn't a violent eat to feel, and I didn't see it, but the fish had to have eaten with some force because before coming tight there was actually quite a bit of slack. Then there was a moment of uncertainty where it wasn't fully clear to me that this was actually a fish. But it was. And not one of those little one either. The fight wasn't remarkable outside of the immediate urgency and fear I had of losing the fish. I don't experience it to the level I was in that moment very often. It would have hurt a lot if that fish came off. But it didn't. Everything somehow went to plan. The same angler than had stood under the trees with a slight frown just a short time prior now knelt in the water next to the river bank shaking with what must have been a look of sheer elation on his face. 

Muskellunge, Esox masquinongy. Lifelist Fish #198. Rank: Species

Muskie are a not insignificant fish in my personal history, despite my minimal time and effort targeting them. One of my first memories is seeing a muskie in the water at a lake in Northwestern Pennsylvania near where I was born. I'm not sure where on the timeline it fits exactly, nor is it the clearest memory I have, but it's the first fish memory I have. You might think that would make muskie fishing a somewhat bigger part of my agenda. I'm not really sure why it isn't outside of simply not having them around. With a fish so notorious for frustration, skunking, and heartbreak and an angler who frequently likes to have to work hard to catch the target, it would seem to be a match made in heaven. Maybe someday I will get totally muskie obsessed. It would seem to be a high likelihood. But for now, with a helping push from Drew and a bit of patience and persistence to get it done on foot in water I'd never seen before, I can be pretty satisfied with my first muskie on the fly. 

Thank you to my Patrons; Erin, David, John, Elizabeth, Brandon, Christopher, Shawn, Mike, Sara, Franky, Geof, Luke, Noah, Justin, Sean, Tom, Mark, Jake, Chris, Oliver, oddity on Display, and Sammy for making Connecticut Fly Angler possible. If you want to support this blog, look for the Patreon link at the top of the right side-bar in web version.