Reading back through old posts and messages, I was reminded of past outings down in Chatham, meeting BonefishDick and fishing beside him. I didn't know him well, but he was gracious and welcoming to a newbie 10 years back just learning at Monomoy, offering me many private messages of tips and advice. I got to thinking, it's been a few years since I've posted a report, and I think this is one he would have appreciated and will try to do it in his style.
I got to this southern Maine river around 4pm a half hour before high tide, knowing the upper stretch fishes best after it goes slack and begins flowing back towards the sea. With a 4 week old baby girl at home that arrived about when the stripers got here, this was my first outing of the season, and I didn't have much time. I usually take the kayak and like to follow the river 2 miles down to the mouth and fish the tail end of the outgoing tide or, when it's high, go upstream a short ways and follow a few narrow inlets in the estuary. It's a blast when the stripers push bait up into these narrow slots, some that I can just get a paddle stroke through in the kayak. But being short on time, the kayak stayed home, and I raced to get in the waders and lace up the boots. Walking at a brisk pace, I raced past the bait guys sitting near the bridge and worked my way across the mud and marsh grass, most filled now with 6" to 2' of water. I found my first usual spot, at a 90 degree bend in the river that coincides with a deep cut in the mud and a small inlet. I've caught many fish here before so don't skip this spot even though it isn't my primary target for the evening. It had rained hard through the early part of the afternoon and the wind was still up throwing a bit of drizzle around. I threw about 30 casts, my first of the season, and it felt great to just be on the water, hauling through the wind, even getting hung up on my rusty backcasts.
As the tide began to slacken, I moved my way a few more bends upriver to a spot that forks in 3 directions and when the tide reverses, all begins to flow into a converging bowl that then wraps sharply into the main channel of fast moving water. This is usually the spot for me. I casted away, chucking into the normal spots - bumping the sand bar, hitting the mud on the opposite bank, dead drifting down the deepest slot of the mud canyon. I should pause here to say that during my time in quarantine, I finally made good on a yearning to learn how to tie flies. So this was the first time I was throwing self-tied flies. I started with a bigger chartreuse and white clouser, but I didn't like the action and found it was getting consistently fouled. After about 15 casts, I did something I rarely ever do here because I've never found it matters much with the schoolies, and that's switch colors. I switched to an olive and white clouser with a tiny gold flash. I immediately preferred the action of the sparser tied fly and realized I had put too much material, or material that isn't the best, on many of the flies I had tied.
With Mom and baby expecting me home by 5:30 and the clock now a few minutest past 5, I was anxious for the outflow to pick up. I started slowly working my way up river, cast and side step, cast and side step, when I heard what sounded like a splash up river. I looked and saw a disturbance about 50 yards up river. I immediately stripped in my line and began bounding through the marsh, stepping in one hole that sent me to my knees. When I got to the next bend, I just stood still and waited. Then, a swirl on the far bank. I got ready to cast. Then a bigger slap right in the middle of the current. Mistakenly and over eager, I threw the cast on top of the last splash and stripped in quickly to no avail. There were a few more swirls upriver around the bend. This next cast I led out about 10 yards in front of the swirls and counted to 5 before beginning a much slower strip. Just as I began to feel the tension of my line in the current, that good old tug that I've so missed. I quickly landed and released a healthy schoolie, didn't measure but probably 16"-18."
With releasing the fish, I reeled in my line while a half dozen splashes rose in the river. I high-tailed it to the car and raced home to a crying baby:)
So some firsts - first fish of the year, first fish on a self-tied fly, first time ever leaving breaking fish, and first fish as a father. If you stayed with me for just the 1 small fish, thanks for reading.