Friday, August 5, 2011

Novices Fly Fish the Flatbrook

The pictures are a little out of order since I cancelled a couple to select others. We began the day's adventure catching snakes on Wildcat Mountain. As I've noted before, my son wants to become a herpatologist. Snakes are fascinating and hard to find, but I can't believe the variety of species Matt's discovered over fairly recent years, beyond my wildest dreams as a boy when I was into this. He counted 14 copperheads yesterday, and caught three of the larger with his professional snake tongs. But the largest of these was much smaller than the mammoth we saw last time. He also caught a hognose snake, his first, and tried to get a watersnake on the Flatbrook. The hognose extremely agile, I had thought hognose slow. It flattened its head like a cobra, puffed up its body, and hissed like a cobra too.

We began fishing the Flatbrook at Shaffer's Bridge upstream. Many trout in one of the long stretches, but of course with the clear water and our novice fly fishing skills we got none to hit besides a three or four-inch brookie, and a few more about the same size in some pocket water. We spotted a couple dozen from about seven to 12 inches. We followed 615 down to Roy Bridge after following Flatbrook Road upstream from Shaffer's and trying another length. The deep pool below Roy looked promising, perhaps for a smallmouth. I had tied on a big, ugly size 4 nymph. And Matt did catch a tiny largemouth on his smaller nymph. That seemed ironic on the Flatbrook. Another pool downstream yielded nothing but the watersnake attempt.

We ended up visiting Buttermilk Falls and looking for more snakes in a fielded area with some flat boards to lift and find nothing but ants under them. We hoped for rat snakes and Matt felt surprised none had taken to the obvious cover where field mice surely abound. Further down we found a beautiful pool, but my big ugly nymph yielded nothing, nor Matt's smaller. I thought a smallmouth at least might hit. We saw nothing in the slightly tannic water, no minnows, smallmouth, panfish, trout, nothing. At Shaffer's Bridge the brook full of baitfish enticed, but finally we wound up at the bridge that leads out towards Route 80 and etc. Dusk fell as Matt reported a single splash rise and a hit.

That's a lobelia, cardinal flower, I photographed. Haven't seen this plant in several years. About 10 years ago some organization in Bernardsville actually grew them along the bank of the pond (protected by fencing) in town near the fire station beside Route 202. Believe it or not, trout holdover in that pond. Another organization stocks them for the kids. We catch them in August, at least we did every year we used to fish there. I once caught a 13-inch rainbow on a five-inch Senko intended for a bass. And the first time I fished the pond, caught a 14-inch rainbow on a 3/8th-ounce spinnerbait.

Very satisfying day. My only regret is that I never thought to suggest that Matt use his fisheye lens on the mountain ranges. In total, 149 miles of driving, and that number sticks out in my mind, because it's the figure of Jim Morrison's reported IQ. The leader of the rock band, the Doors, and poet in his own right, although unfortunately, he never developed his art to the degree he hoped. Ride the snake. 

I didn't expect to walk and wade the Flatbrook for a very long distance. I decided instead to sample pools along most of its length. Once I knew we weren't going to catch any trout in a pool full of them, I started thinking smallmouth anyway. But that photo below of my son in the deep dusk is a good one, and he took a hit as I might have yet expected, if only slightly.

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