Don’t Tell Me I Can’t Catch’em on Dries in November

The thing that is amazing about fishing, any form of it, is that as fishermen, we tend to prepare with one method or pattern in mind for a day’s fishing, only to find out that once on the water, we had really wasted our time in preparation that could have been better spent, well doing something much more productive for society.  Then there are other times when mainly by happen stance, the methods we had prepared for were spot on perfect and we get to gloat on the fact that we’re so smart, know the fish better than the fish themselves and walk around for days with the aire of some expert and elite angler.  My trip a couple weekends ago was not one of them.

After looking at the 5 day weather forecast I decide mid week that the Savage was going to be on the agenda for the weekend.  Being that it was November, I figured that I’d try to exclusively stick to nymphing down there because, well, it’s that time of year.  Generally you think that as soon as the calendar rolls over into November, all the leaves are off of the trees, and well every god forsaking retailer has moved into Christmas mode that it’s safe to put the dry fly box in the gear bag only to emerge (no pun intended) sometime in late march for the first of the BWO hatches.  But no!  Dumb bastard me forgets that though the Savage is managed as a brook trout enhancement  stream, the lower reaches are also a tailwater with a stable year-round water temp.  Something key to keep in mind.

Naturally, I start out stubbornly fishing the game plan I cooked up earlier in the week.  I fished below the Garret bridge where in the rushing of the water through the break in the old dam breastworks it’s relatively easy to pick up a few trout lingering in the seams of the white water.  Nope.  I move up river to the head of 7x flat where a nice deep trough runs into the slow water of the flat.

I work the trough, where usually there are always at least a couple trout eager to pounce on a nice stonefly dredged deep just off the bottom.  Again, nope.  As I work the spot for about ten or fifteen minutes I catch what appears to be a rise out of the corner of my eye.  Can’t be, an acorn must have finally given up and left its perch high up an oak hanging over the stream.  I change flies and as I finish up the third wrap of my improved clinch, a trout breaches the surface a rod length’s away.  I look up and then two more, as if in a synchronized swimming routine come completely out of the water.  What the fuck is going on?  My guides are freezing up, there’s still the dusting of snow up on the bank, nothing is flying, the sun hasn’t even reached the valley.

I finish the knot and chuck the now golden stone back into the foam of the rushing water tumbling through the trough, mend some line, then notice something wriggling in the water just off of the inside seam.  It keeps wriggling in the surface film  as I’m about to pick up my line and send it back up river.  Just as I make my forward punch, an 18″ brown absolutely hammers the wriggling thing clearing the water’s surface by about two feet.  Holy shit, what was that?  My cast collapses in a huddled, tangled serving of bad pasta and my heart is beating outside my chest.  Again, fish don’t rise in November in the north east, what’s the deal?  I take a moment to to collect my thoughts, I look down and wriggling around my legs is a handful of small and black caddis.  GAME ON.

The poor little bastards have gone through the emerging stage only to find the air too cold for them to have the energy to leave the sticky pull of the water’s surface tension.  Timing is everything, but if in the next life you come back as a caddis, have the good sense to emerge in the summer when you have a sporting chance of flying away and not end up as a late fall breakfast treat in the stomach of a trout.  I sort out my line, rig back into dry fly mode and tie on a caddis bug the closest I could get to the poor wriggling bastards.  I just happened to have my caddis box only for the nymphs with no intention of using dries so therefore the fly floatant stayed in the bag in the back of La Poderosa, so this was going to be a day full of false casting.  First cast with the little caddis bug, a quick swing and a miss by a nice 12″ brookie.  Several false casts to dry the bug back out, drop it in the same spot, fish on!  I bring in a brookie still in his halloween colors.  For the next hour or so I bring in another half dozen while hooking and/or missing three times as many.

Only problem after catching those fish and going through several flies because they’re hopelessly water logged, I’m running low.  I look down stream and see a guy starting to work the bottom of 7x right under the bridge.  Big decision time.  Do I make a break for the jeep, grab my shake and float and dressing and potentially let the interloper in on my spot, or do I slowly grind myself into a situation where I run out of the fly that’s woking?  I risk it, plus I needed to get the blood moving in my legs again after being planted in the frigid water for over an hour.  I’ve never walked so fast.  How long were these fish going to keep rising?  Did the dude see me punking those fish over?  Is he a greedy and opportunistic sonbitch and he’ll go right into where I was?  This was a terrifying decision to have settled on.  I make it to the Jeep, grab the dry fly junk and power walk it back to my spot trying to maintain an air of nonchalance so to not let the guy have an inkling as to what I’m up to.  Walking to and from La Poderosa I didn’t see any other fish rising, so it seemed isolated to the trough I was fishing.

With a fresh fly treated and ready to go, first cast back in the game a nice brown comes up and then tight to the line.  He puts up a better fight than the browns on the Savage typically do, a quick picture and then back he goes.  The pattern continues for about another hour until the sun is at its peak over the valley shutting down the surface action.  Well damn, that was worth the early wake up and two hour drive to catch fish on dries in the middle of November, the latest into the year I ever have. (not counting midges)

I pull out, exchange the typical fishing small talk with the guy down below, hop in the Jeep to try the upper Savage and eat my samich.  Nifty tip for you.  When it gets cold and you want a warm sammy, crank your heat up, then turn the dial so just the windshield defoggers are on, place wrapped sandwich on top of vents turning occasionally for about 10-15 minutes.  Warms it up just enough to melt the cheese and heat up the meat a bit.  About perfect.

I try the upper Savage for about an hour or so with modest success, poor compare to earlier in the day.  Obviously different scenario on the true free stone stretch.  I had caught enough down low to qualify as a great day anyway so didn’t try overly hard and mostly took in the beautiful afternoon that didn’t care what the date was on the calendar.  Goes to show you, never let any convention in fishing dictate how you fish on any given day.  I had debated not even putting the dry fly boxes or floatant in my gear bag, but figured they may never make it back in next year when I really need them.  You can make a guess, but be prepared for the opposite to happen.  I feel a lot better about using a big overloaded vestpack thing now…and overloaded for any eventuality it’ll stay.

Oh, got new shoes for La Poderosa, she looks good doesn’t she?

– Steve-o


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