Saturday, December 21, 2013

A fitting end

to the season
Yesterday I made my final-final outing of the year, to where else but the Swift River.  The forecast was for overcast skies with temps in the mid-40s.  A bonus was a few hours of sunlight to make it feel even warmer.  As I made my way down River Road towards the turnoff to the USGS gage parking area, I saw a car on the side of the road with two guys getting out.  It was two NH buddies looking to sample the Swift River fishing.  They had fished above route 9 before, but not downstream.  In particular, they wanted to fish the vaunted hatchery pipe area, but had no idea where the access was. I told them I was going there and to follow me and I would show them around.  Ronnie had fished with me on the Androscoggin a couple years ago and we had been on a salmon river trip together a few years before that. I had met Herm, but not fished with him before.  Ronnie is the nicest guy you would ever want to fish with and I discovered that Herm is just as nice a guy as Ronnie.  With all the snow we have had over the last week, the road was rutted with snow and the parking area was even worse.  There were a couple people fishing the pipe outflow and a couple more fishing downstream.  Herm and Ronnie were concerned about crowding other anglers, but soon got into the Swift-River-synchronized-cast-and-drift-without-snagging-your-neighbor's-line scenario. Ronnie was sandwiched between Terry and George (Swift regulars) and got some tips and flies from them. As all this was going on, now and then a fish would sip one of our tiny offerings and add a little spice to life at the pipe. 
It struck me as the day went on that this friendly environment meant more to me than the occasional strike of a slob rainbow.  If we were fishing in Montana or even the White Mountains, we would all have been trying to get out of sight of other fishermen.  If somebody ventured within 100 feet he would receive a dirty look or a curt comment to ward off the unwanted approach.  Not at the Pipe.  I can't quite put my finger on it, but the total package of standing in crystal clear water with slabs of rainbows swimming around your feet and eying your tiny fly with disdain is part of a shared experience unlike few others.  Yes, everybody stakes out a small piece of liquid turf. But that little fishing territory is not vigorously defended.  The entire Swift River experience is so unreal compared to most fishing environments that it seems to foster a different set of unwritten rules of etiquette.
When I first started fishing there in the 70s there was a certain novelty about being able to fish over nice specimens twelve months of the year.  But the often crowded nature of the small river with localized concentrations of fish put me off.  In the last few years I guess I have mellowed.  I understand that some people look at the Swift with disdain as not being "real fishing."  Stocked fish; crowded conditions; limited hatches, etc. Fly fishing junk food.  I am not certain I could take a steady diet of it, but there is enough variety available most of the time, so you can get away from the crowds if you want.  There may not be as many fish, but you can still fish over nice fish in solitude if you are willing to do some walking and exploring. Enough philosophizing for now. It's not for everybody, but it serves a purpose when you just need to get out and have a shot at a fish that will put a serious bend in your rod. I know Herm and Ronnie will probably get their fill of fishing it over the next few weeks.
I have a few more days of cleaning and organizing my gear for next season before I head to Florida for the winter.  I added a couple more flies to my salt water box, made sure I have some stout tippet and cleaned my 8 weight line. Now I need to organize my mayfly dries, and my nymph boxes, so I can hit the ground running when I get back in April.

I have posted the calendar for the June Androscoggin Special Package trip, check it out and let me know if you want to go.  It is an especially good deal for singles.

Merry Christmas to all and a Happy 2014!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

SE NH Late-season

Yesterday Dick and I fished the Lamprey River. We started by scaling down a cliff at Packers Falls.  The rapidly changing weather chased us out of there after we fooled a few lethargic rainbows on egg patterns.  We then moved up to Wiswall Dam area and got a royal skunking in the run below the dam.  About 30-minutes was about all I could handle in the misty, breezy, cold environment.  Based on the forecast, that is surely my last foray for 2013.  (Maybe one more outing if the temp creeps above 40F.)

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Swift memories

Yesterday I went fishing with an old buddy.  Actually, I went fishing with the bamboo rod he made for me right before he passed away a few years ago.  Every time I use that rod I remember Dan.  He was a good guy, a real gentleman. I have a lot of rods. A couple I wrapped myself that I particularly enjoy fishing. But as the years go by, what I fish with means less to me. Not that I don't appreciate the high performance characteristics of the new technology.  New rods are so light and powerful, they almost cast themselves.  I also appreciate the craftsmanship of the various bamboo rods I have.  But a rod is just a tool.  How you use the tool is what counts. To me the satisfaction of fishing with a fine tool is to be able to get the most out of the tool. To fulfill the vision of the rod maker. If the rod doesn't get in the way of my fishing experience, that's enough to ask for.  When I fish with Dan's rod I know that it does what Dan wanted it to do.  The taper he designed creates the smooth action. The craftsmanship he put into the construction and finish of the rod clearly show the pride he took in his work.  A little bit of Dan is there in the rod.  He would be glad to know that his work was fulfilled on the Swift River yesterday.
Tomorrow I'll be fishing with my friend Dick on the Lamprey River. It is one of the "Three Rivers" that get a late season stocking. I hope I tie into a rainbow or two to equal the ones from the Swift.
If you are looking for some winter fly fishing entertainment, check out our events/presentation page for some ideas.