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The Fisherman

Summer Bonus Days

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There's nothing like a Summer Bonus Day. You've got the day off from work. Sure, you've got stuff to do around the house and in the yard and other personal projects to tend to, but your wife is at the office and the kids are at day camp and by gosh, the Farmington River is calling you. The car is already loaded, the rod is already rigged, and the coffee maker is ready to brew. Peanut butter on toast and a banana and off you go.

 

I took my time getting there, and I wasn't on the water until 9:30. I had just begun working some slow, classic dry fly water when the rains came. What few fish were rising quickly stopped. So I went upstream 200 feet to join my friend Todd. The rain was steady, but not heavy, and Todd reported a few risers. This spot is one of my favorite places on the river. It looks shallow, but it is deceptively deep; not deep enough to go over your head deep, but what you think is mid-calf is actually up to your waist. There are subsurface boulders that create odd current seams and make for some tricky mends during any drift. We had caddis and midges and BWOs and even some Cahills to work with, but given the rain-troubled surface, I decided to oversize my fly. I pulled a sz 14 Tan Caddis out of the box and tied it on. I could easily see it, and so could the trout. They rose to it with splashy takes. Todd was fishing a Stimulator, and we both landed several fish from this pool.

 

Summer Bonus Days call for a cigar, and I lit one up after we decided to take a walk upstream to fish several hundred yards of broken water: riffles, runs, eddys, side pools, perfect for holding fish, but with the price tag of some trecherous wading. Evil slime-covered rocks wait to slip you up or trip you as you plot your next move. One step you're at your knees; the next, you're swimming. They talk about walking and chewing gum; I was wading and casting and smoking. I fell in twice, not enough to get wet, but enough to be thankful that the river wasn't higher.

 

I had forgotten how beautiful it can be when it's raining. A low, dense fog shrouded the river, and formed an impermeable sight barrier past fifty yards. A well-placed raindrop would occasionally hit the ash of my cigar with a stacatto PFFT! The smoke drifted lazily with the mist. Birds worked the woods and the shoreline. It was serene. That's the nice thing about Summer Bonus Days. The weather may not be exactly what you had in mind. But it all turns out nicely in the end.

 

My rig of choice for fishing this stretch was a three-fly brace of wets/nymphs: a sz 16 Ginger Caddis larva on point, a sz 14 Light Cahill dropper and a sz 16 soft-hackle pheasant tail dropper. Bump BUMP! I had hooked a brook trout on the PT at the end of a swing. What a gorgeous creature, with fin tips that were almost fluorescent white. Almost certainly a wild fish. Todd stuck with a dry, and that was the better choice for catching fish today; he took several nice trout in this stretch, while I managed only two with a couple JV Salmon.

 

Infinity tangles aren't usually on the menu for Summer Bonus Days, but I had two of them to contend with today. I had just finished clipping off the remnants of the last when when I saw Todd waving goodbye about fifty yards downstream, in the pool where we first started. It was now 12:30, and it was raining pretty hard. The water was getting a little stained (temperature a full three degrees cooler than yesterday at 57) and the drops were making a significant disturbance on the surface.

 

My thoughts drifted back to an afternoon in 1978 on the Blackledge River where I was fishing with my dad. We were using nightcrawlers and hadn't had much action as we worked downstream. A summer cloudburst hit, the kind with raindrops as big as dimes, and the water began to rise precipitously. Soon it was the color of tea. And suddenly, it was a trout on every cast. Bang! Whack! Slam! We finally had to leave the river for safety's sake, but I have never forgotten that Summer Bonus Day over three decades ago and the bounty of trout it brought us. My father hasn't forgotten it either.

 

I tied on a sz 12 Black Ant. There were three or four seams that looked like they would hold fish. And in them, for the next two hours in the pouring rain, I caught trout after trout. The harder it rained, the more eager they seemed to jump on. It was almost as if they were feeding in desperation: must have that ant! It became a challenge to keep the fly dry, and I went through three ants before the rains and the action slowed. I was, surprisingly, a little chilly.

 

All good things must come to an end, and there were two return-to-the-car options: wade out and walk on the road, or take the long way several hundred yards downriver, fishing as I walked.

 

I chose option B. This was, after all, a Summer Bonus Day.

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Great write up, always enjoy your posts. I had a similar summer bounus day yesterday. The trout were cooperating and the rain was on and off. There's something about fishing in the rain. The sound of the rain drops hitting the water and leaves complimented by the tricking sound of the river. It's almost mesmerizing. Intact I think I enjoy fishing in the snow just as much if not more than the rain. Most people say f*** that your crazy. Maybe but I wouldn't have it any other way. Thanks for the post......Tight Lines

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Thanks, folks. We went back this evening (I guess that would make it a Summer Bonus Evening) to the same place. We all got into fish, and there was a wonderful hatch of Light Cahills that both delighted and vexed us. :-)

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