Mist Rising

It was a lovely soft, rainy morning and my anticipation was high: this was the morning for a good olive hatch! All the signs were good, the mist on the river rising to meet the clouds that were nestled low against the mountain slopes, and olives had been around recently, even on some bright, warm mornings. Unfortunately for this angler, no one told the mayflies this was a perfect morning.

I had expected the tiny olives, and hoped for some cornutes to really finish off the hatch, but what I got was nothing. Each time some stray bit of food caused a small trout to make a single rise I readied myself anew, certain that the hatch was starting, but it was not to be. Such is fishing.

Before I surrendered to the obvious, and the looming storm clouds, I tied on a new beetle pattern and made some casts in flat water. Due to the rain, I carried an 8 foot Winston graphite, as opposed to my preferred bamboo, and the same four weight fly line I had fished a day ago on my Menscer cane rod seemed to land on the water like a brick. The rod companies have been touting “line speed” and “power” for so long they have forgotten all about presentation.

A well designed bamboo rod will make wonderfully long casts in the hands of a good fly caster, just as a well designed graphite rod will do, and it does it without that excess energy and all of that line speed. That energy has to be expended somewhere, and it gets expended upon the surface of the water. Fishing bamboo in this low water for weeks now, I had forgotten to adjust my casting.

I was thinking while I should have been sleeping, that it is time to get a two weight rod and line ready for the next rainy day. The trouble is, my long range two weight also generates “line speed”, though the excess is less with a two weight line and therefore easier to control. There is a solution available.

Friend and rodmaker Dennis Menscer debuted his 8 foot two weight bamboo masterpiece at the opening of the 2019 trout season. He had developed the taper after requests from loyal customers, and brought a rod along to the Catskill Cane Revival in Roscoe. I own one of Dennis’ three weight rods, a 6′ 8″ small stream delight, but I told him I had always considered a three weight to be the lightest practical bamboo trout rod.

When I cast the new two weight, I expected it to be too soft, even after Dennis laughed about the customer that ordered the first of these rods fishing for schoolie stripers with it, and catching a lot of them. For those unaware, schoolie striped bass are fish between 18″ and 24″ that fight with the typical strength of saltwater gamefish. On Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay I fished for schoolies with a stout 9′ 6 weight graphite fly rod, and they were all I could handle on that tackle.

Executed in an 8 foot, two piece format, Menscer’s two weight taper performs more like some four weights, thought it does it with the delicacy of a two weight line! I believe he has designed and crafted the ultimate light line Catskill flyrod for low water summer fishing.

For now I will leave that four weight graphite in it’s tube when stalking low water. It is still a time for searching. Though mayflies continue to be sparse, only some of the trout have been receptive to terrestrials. Others remain ambivalent. My experiments with fly patterns continues, and there have been some encouraging results. Two days ago I watched from close range after a short cast to a minor sip on the surface. A fine brown trout sampled the beetle softly with barely a disturbance on the flat water. The white wink of his opening mouth was clearly visible in the flat, crystalline water. I paused, set slowly, and battled a lovely 20 inch brown trout to the net on my 7’6″ Menscer.

Successes are welcome of course, though I still hope to devise a pattern that will tempt the Uncatchable Trout, strip away just enough of his caution to elicit a take as opposed to the usual follows until drag inevitably ensues. It is good to have a goal.

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