Lying In The Sweetgrass – Part 2

It has been six months since my Sweetgrass Pent arrived in the afternoon mail. Conceived as the ultimate Catskill summer rod, Jerry Kustich and Glenn Brackett created this eight foot four weight to do everything I need a fly rod to do in summer. It has waited through winter and spring, waited for the season it was born for, to meet the rivers of my heart. Along the way it was paired with a very unique and intriguing fly reel, designed and built far away in Kharkiv, Ukraine by VR Design, the Trutta Perfetta. That reel has waited along side the rod.

Our summer weather started early, in the middle of May. A frigid reprieve was granted over the Memorial Day weekend, with daily highs of 48 degrees and a strong dose of rainfall, but summer is here, everywhere except on the calendar. Today I packed the special summer rod and reel in the car for my morning fishing.

I stalked a favorite pool a few hours after sunrise, hoping to put the new outfit to the test. The Sweetgrass rod had been designed to my specifications: an eight foot dry fly rod with that something extra that comes with five strip bamboo construction, to be paired with a four weight line. I asked for a rod capable of as much distance as I might need, with complete delicacy of presentation near or far. My summer rod gets called upon to place flies beneath overhanging vegetation on a regular basis, so tight loops are paramount. Lastly, I need a rod with the backbone to fight big, wild trout, and the supple tip to protect 5, 6 and 7X tippets and light wire hooks.

When I discussed these ideas with Jerry Kustich last summer, he stated that he felt an eight foot four weight was the most difficult taper to design. After I piled on the attributes I felt such a rod must have, he agreed to accept the challenge. I never doubted that the Sweetgrass shop would turn out an amazing rod. They more than made the grade.

As I approached the first riser, I pulled enough line from the reel to make the presentation. I had knotted a freshly tied Cornuta TP Dun to my tippet, as I hoped to be lucky enough to find a few of these mayflies on the water. I lofted the line into a back cast, false cast twice to lengthen the line, and delivered the fly right on target for a gentle landing. I didn’t have time to think about the beauty of the rod’s casting action, as the little dry fly was readily engulfed in a solid rise.

The golden cane glistened in the sunlight as the rod bowed heavily and a good trout streaked away, the Trutta reel beginning one of many lyrical solos this day. The brown fought hard in the cold water, and rod and reel performed flawlessly, bringing a well muscled nineteen inch wild brown trout to the net at last. Released, he was kind enough to pose for a shallow water photo.

The next riser required a short stalk before I unleashed my next cast. As I watched the drift of the fly, I saw the surface murmur and a dorsal fin flick the meniscus as he turned down with his breakfast. Moving around a bit eh? I’ll just give you a bit more room to find it… My second cast dropped the fly ten feet further upstream, and it was taken after three feet of drift. The Trutta raised the chorus again, as this fish took nearly all of my fly line before the far bank turned him just enough for me to pull his head around my way. The rod tip absorbed his darting, side to side rushes, as our battle continued. A valiant twenty-one inch Catskill brown graced the mesh this time.

I covered another five yards as slowly as possible when another dorsal flicked the surface after the gentlest of takes. This trout wasn’t more than ten feet from the last one. The cast was about sixty feet, quartering upstream to put the fly above my moving target while keeping the glistening coils of tippet away. He took like he had been waiting for my fly all morning, and we were off on another steeplechase!

The water flew from the reel as another fine brown headed for points west. I saw the backing, but nubbed his run just before it found a path through the guides. I gained line, then lost it, keeping the rod tip high when the fish headed into one of the boulder fields this pool harbors. When he came clear I lowered the tip to use the butt to turn him back to my bank, but he shot away again. At long last he was close, and I reeled half of the sixteen foot leader in through the guides, leading him in tight little circles right into the net.

The largest of the three, this heavy bodied brown measured twenty-two inches, and I laid him and the rod on a deadfall long enough for a quick photo. He was tired enough to comply, but shot quickly back to the depths of the pool when I placed him back in the icy current.

I took a breath and scanned the river around me. The activity was slowing as I checked my watch. I’d taken more than five feet of wild brown trout in an hour, a fitting test of my ultimate summer rod and reel.

I continued up toward the head of the pool as the last rises dimpled the surface. These fish were cruising now, and none of them had showed within casting range. The morning rise was finished.

Wading slowly back down the pool, as morning lengthened into afternoon, I took a quick shot and placed a size 20 caddisfly over a lone serious rise, adding a plump eighteen inch brownie to my morning total. There seemed to be more than a little magic in the air this day, perhaps the result of all the karma stored up around the Sweetgrass Pent and Trutta Perfetta, waiting patiently for six months to get their turn. Then again, there’s always a little magic on bright water.

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