A Race Against Trout and Time
Brian M. Wiprud
We all know that store-bought trout are
cheaper than the stream-caught variety, and that fly fishing is all about borderline
obsessive-compulsives embracing a challenge. So we insist on difficult casting, light
tippets, lighter rods, smaller flies, bigger fish. Every angler has his or her bests,
which could always be better. Bests are usually quantified as an expression of
large size, quantity and/or difficulty. Big as your leg, on a 6X? How many fish in a day?
The most fish in an hour? And its not enough that within an easy days drive
you have beautiful streams, lakes, bays and an ocean. Lets fly to the Bahamas!
Argentina, perhaps? You mean you havent done the Zambezi?
O.K., so I havent done the Zambezi,
but I will, so help me. (Anybody out there know patterns for tigerfish?) In the mean time,
Ive devised something to help keep me challenged in this hemisphere, and I heartily
recommend it to anyone who feels the need for something different. Its called Marathon
Heres the drill. One day, five
rivers, at least one fish from each. Now you could make it easy on yourself and work
streams in close proximity to each other. Or you could raise the stakes and say each
stream has to be in a different drainage, as I have. Many variables are possible,
depending on where you live, and you could work it so that you catch a fish from an ocean,
a lake, a river, a stream and a canal.
There will be little time for Match the
Hatch. More than likely, youll either fool fish fast with expertly executed
presentations of an Adams, BWO, caddis, cricket, GRHE, etc., or youll have to cut
and run to where the trout arent infatuated with esoteric trailing-shuck subimagos.
However you do it, a marathoner has three major concerns: strategy, pace and endurance.
Allow me to illustrate through example.
8:30 AM, East Branch of the
Delaware, Delaware Drainage:
Off to a late start due to faulty alarm clock (one with a snooze button.) The weather:
Sunny, 70 degrees, climbing to 85. As I had never fished the river on foot before, I was
uncertain where to pull over, but in this game you cant hem and haw. I steer into
the first pull over, Route 30, just off 17. I find a longish rock-bottom pool, a riffle
just upstream, and a large stream bend pool beyond that. A fish rises across from me, and
I roll him but cant bring him up again. I tie a bead head dropper to a small
stimulator; still nothing. Working another fish farther up stream, I switch to rusty
spinner, then an Adams, which gets me another roll. Two small trout are jumping out of the
river like kids on the last day of school up in the flat water at the bend pool, but my
chances for a quick fish are in the riffles where the trout cant take a long look at
the fly. Impulsive, less selective fish are what I need. Time is 9:35AM. The longer I
spend here, the more it cuts into my time on the next stream, and the higher the sun
rises. I put down the remainder of the fish, dash up the hill, put down the convertible
top, and throw the fully-assembled rod in back. Off I go, the day begun badly and me
fearing complete failure. Trout 1, Angler 0. Coffee.
10:40AM, Esopus Creek, Hudson
I know the Route 28 Shandaken spot well from years ago, but found it all asunder from
floods on the marathon before last. I couldnt resist putting it on the docket, if
for no other reason than its good to have a familiar stream or two on the roster. In
past years I put the Beaverkill on the schedule, which served me well but didnt give
me the different-drainage difficulty factor. I find a couple anglers fishing side by side
just below the bridge and charge along the heavilyovergrown railroad tracks. Well
down from the duo, I cross the top of a riffle and start to work the smallish, shadowed
pool below. My bead head GRHE hangs up in tree roots on the far bank, I play fetch and
spook a nice bunch of fish. Things look bad until I start on the pocket water just above
the pool and get a 10 brown on the bead head. I should reel up and run off, but
cant resist a few more casts. I bag two 10 rainbows and lumber back up the
tracks, wondering whether I should get partial credit for the extra fish. The parking lot
now has three cars, fellow anglers carefully un-tubing their rods, cleaning sunglasses,
comparing comparaduns. I chuck my rod in the backseat, jump behind the wheel, and leave
the Esopus in a cloud of dust. Time: 11:40AM. Clark Bar & Lime Gatorade.
Noon, Schoharie Creek, Route 42,
Mohawk River Drainage:
This stream is a quick jump from the Esopus, and I feel Im on a roll from that quick
three fish. I came that close to bagging some rising trout last year on the Schoharie, and
thought if I could find a spot out of the sun, I might do better this time. I pull over
into a different place, but in the familiar farmland setting, the bolder-strewn water
clear and shallow. Not a smattering of tree shade on the water. But I spy a bunch of large
boulders and rashly decide to work the cool aqua edges of the big rocks. My first drift,
from upstream, brings a trout up from under a boulder, but he turns away. By 1:00
its 80 some-odd degrees and I havent seen another trout. Drat. I strip out of
my waders and shirt, getting set for the long haul. Trout 2, Marathoner 1.
Iced teas and two Slim Jims.
Long Haul, New York to
Massachusetts, Half-Time Report:
Route 23 to the Rip Van Winkle Bridge over the Hudson, across the Taconic Parkway, and
into Massachusetts. I begin to doubt the wisdom of hitting so many unfamiliar spots, that
in the future I should include at least two old haunts to give me a fighting chance. One
thing is for sure: the Schoharie, with no shade at midday, is one tough nut. Next
years plan begins to formulate: Stay overnight farther up river, get up earlier,
fish the Delaware River, maybe around Hankins. Then I could race over to the Upper
Susquehanna, backtrack on 17 to 28 and the Esopus. Then make the Long Haul. Id
probably still be hitting the Esopus at High Noon , but at least I have shade and the
confidence factor in my favor.
3:30 PM, Housatonic River, Long
Island Sound Drainage:
Like the East Branch, I havent fished this stream afoot either, and in fact, I
havent fished this far north. At Great Barrington I make a right and head down
stream, looking for a pull over. I finally find one across from a car dealership. I hack
through the bushes down a muddy bank to a murky river. Not promising. I saddle up and head
back north, hanging a left towards the town of Housatonic on Route 183. Zooming into the
first parking spot on the right, I find a boisterous, rocky river with long, deepish
pockets of tannin brown water. To hell with the waders; its 85 degrees. I switch to
widebrimmed straw hat and felt-sole sneakers. I quickly find a fish that pops out
from under a boulder for a stimulator, though I was fumbling with my reel and missed him.
Sure is hot, and Im beginning to fray. Flogging the water a bit now, I suddenly hook
a fish. Im grateful to the benevolent powers of fate, but also come to appreciate
kismets sense of humor. Its a river chub. Nothing wrong with that. But does it
count? I see a blue wing olive float by and decide its time for the tough to get
going, tying on a size 18. Bang! I hook - and loose on the second jump - a nice trout.
Time: 4:30 PM. Its Sunday, I have to drive north through Pittsfield and I have to
pick up gas before stations close. I dont recall if its two hours or three to
the next and last stop, but am parched for another iced tea. Dragging my fly I slosh to
shore. Bonk! A parr nabs the BWO drifting wet. Hey, thats a trout, isn't it? Trout
2, Angler 2, I decide.
A Long Winding Trail through The
I gird myself for the home stretch with a cigar, a cola and a Beethoven Symphony or two,
blazing hairpin turns of the Mohawk Trail and three-state views.
6:30PM, Deerfield River, Route 2:
I take the second parking spot below Charlemont, which I hadnt fished before. I was
unhappy with the picnic grounds to the north Id fished previously where kids are apt
to appear and use your trout pool as a swimmin hole. This locale is long and a bit
too shallow for my tastes, but a ways up river I spy a riffle that looks promising. The
water is crystal and the bottom stones radiant in the late day sun. Im intimidated
by the stark clarity of blue draws below the riffle and my waning energy. Just by looking
at the layout of the rocks and eddies, you know for a fact that the fish are there, and
also by close proximity to the road, that they must see a lot of flies. Welcome to 6X
City. Do I still have the finesse and patience after a full day in the sun and racing
across hill and dale to fish small flies on light leaders? I splash the cool water over my
sun-blazed face, stationing myself on a rock to wait for the sun to leave the water and to
carefully scope my targets as they start to rise. I I'm determine to conserve my mental
strength for selective casts to pinpointed rises. No flailing, I tell myself.
It takes a long time for the fish to
start to rise, and it isnt until 8:30 PM that Ive got a couple targets locked
in. No discernable bugs are flying, so my first guess is that the trout are taking
spinners. I have to cast across some fast water, and the good drift over the fish will be
short. I start to lay out some line well below the target, taking a few practice casts to
get help develop the right distancing. My eye is still on the rising fish, so when one of
my practice casts a submerged rusty spinner - gets mugged, I fail to respond
quickly and miss the fish. That would have been a nice bit of luck, but I force that from
my mind as I stalk my primary target. At least now I know theyll go for a rusty
I get a splashy rise on the first cast,
then a bulge on the second. I tie on a smaller fly, false cast, and just as I bring the
rod forward to place the fly, the trout rises, silver ripples radiating in the purple
twilight. Perfect timing. The fly will waft down right onto the rise and the trout will
gulp my spinner. Well, he might have, if my rod tip hadnt sailed after my fly. Do
harpooned trout count? How about a half point.
That let all the air out of my tires. I
waded back to the car.
Crest fallen? It was a vibrant summer
evening filled with the sounds of peepers, crickets and whippoorwills, the scent fresh
mown grass on the air. My face was warm from sun, my eyes bloodshot from the glare, and I
was exhausted. Trout 3, Angler 2. Id failed not only to get all five trout, but even
to win against the fish by decision. But I have to say I was exhilarated from the trial,
my weary mind filled with the distinctive scent and feel of five notable trout streams.
Id traveled over three hundred miles, explored four new stream locations, and
crossed five drainages and two mountain ranges all in one day. Yeah, the trout won that
day, but I endured the test, crossed the finish line, made all my targets. And Ill
do so again next year. Assuming, that is, Im not casting from a dugout on the mighty
© Brian M. Wiprud