From the Sea to the Trout

Back to Big D…

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We were to meet up with a colleague of mine in Hancock that morning.  We got the call of where to met Greg, but first stopped to pick up some sandwiches in town before heading a few miles up the East Branch to Greg’s brother’s place.

KG turns his truck down an over grown lane leading, at least on the map, down to the river’s edge.  As we slowly pull down the lane, there are the frames and remnants of single man pontoons littered everywhere.  No pontoons, just unloved and forgotten frames.  We keep going until we see the first few campers.  Where we were staying was a misfit fisherman’s trailer community.  This was going to be an adventure.

It was mid week, so none of the other inhabitants were up on the cusp of the Catskills from NYC, Philly or Jersey…except Greg, KG and me.  We had full run of the joint.  We dropped our gear, picked out our rods, waders and packs and hopped in with Greg to get the grand tour, lay of the land, and to catch some fish.

We motored back into Hancock and went up the West Branch a little ways to a place we could easily wade and still cover a good bit of water.  The hatches were minimal at the moment, early June sun unclouded overhead.  Fishing was going to be tough, but we would make do.

The three of us slide into the river and make our way up the long flat to the first bend.  We hug the bank and continue to move up stream. Suddenly, KG screams, “what the fuck is that!?”  A sea lamprey is startled out from its hole along the undercut bank by KG’s six foot four frame.  This was the first KG realized that this “trout stream” runs uninhibited to the atlantic ocean nearly two hundred miles away.  If it swims, it can make it to the West Branch.

We walk on up river, and pass a days old white tail fawn laying in the tall grass by the river’s edge.  This is a wild river and it’s creatures are everywhere above and below the water’s surface.

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Up around the next bend with our thighs burning for a good mile and a half march against the river’s current, we come to a nice riffle dropping down into a pool with three distinct seams.  All looked fishy.   This was perfect stonefly water, and the pool deep enough to chuck some big streamers.    A few caddis were flittering around, but in the bright sunshine, not a single one of the West Branch’s trout inhabitants seemed to care.  Fishermen were everywhere today, the fish stayed hunkered down biding their time until the dark, angler free hours of the night to feed heavily.

We stayed in this spot and fished hard for a solid hour with nothing more than a few bumps.  I’m nonchalantly fishing, carrying on a conversation with Greg when suddenly my rod doubles over at the bottom of my drift.  Fish on!  I’m brought back quickly to the real reason I traveled across the commonwealth.  The fish is giving my five-weight a good test and peels line off of my reel on several good runs.  After a few minutes, the fish cools and KG puts his net to good use, lifting a beautiful 18 inch West Branch of the Delaware brown trout into the afternoon air.

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We delight in this fish’s beauty for a few minutes then let him go back into his home.  The three of us fish on a few more hours.  After a while we wonder back down stream to Greg’s car to head up into Deposit.  This little side trip was a bust.  There wasn’t enough open water for the three of us to fish comfortably without crowding each other, or the dozens of anglers on the water that evening.  Sometimes you have to go back to where you began.  The bridge access where we started the day was now empty and we saw several heads up on the long flat upstream.  We tried our luck.  Until dusk settled in too deeply, we cast to dozens of fish with dozens of different flies to no success, other than watching the sun set on one of the North East’s crown jewels of fly fishing.

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The waders are peeled off and back to the trailer we go.  Greg brought some cured meats, we eat and drink around the fire until we’re too exhausted to speak.  Not before we went to check out the neighbors a few trailers down the lane.  The biomass here is exceptional.

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In the morning we’ll hit the diner, then float the East Branch…

– Steve-o

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