Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Opening Daze 2010

The third Saturday of April each year marks the official start to Connecticut's trout season. While these fish can be targeted year-round in designated catch and release areas, Opening Day is the symbolic opening gun and is heavily based around tradition. For almost two decades, my uncle and I have camped and fished together that weekend come hell or high water. He had started this Farmington River tradition some two decades before my time. Over the years, the annual crew has waxed and waned into its present form. Our stay may be a few days longer now, but the core themes remain; good food, great company, tight lines, and serious relaxation.

Weather is always a roll of the dice for mid-April.  In recent years we've had nothing but beach days; this year Mother Nature threw us a reality check of rain and cold.  Of course we did not let the weather dampen our annual rituals, from elaborate cheese spreads to fresh Long Island Sound clams on the half shell.  As always, hard laughs and fish stories around the fire were plentiful, as was the flow of single malt and Guinness. 

The Motley Crew

Although fishing takes somewhat of a backseat to camp life on this trip, it is what brought us all together in the first place.  It's not easy finding a suitable location for a group of five anglers this time of year, yet we always try to make it happen.  We plied some "new" water this year, but a few instances found us all sharing large, familiar runs, with bent rods in abundance. 

Photo credit: Aaron Swanson
Not to toot our own horns, but we caught a pretty serious amount of trout over the three-day span. While most of them were feisty rainbows fresh from the hatchery, occasionally a holdover brown or rainbow would make its way into the net. The competition for food among trout in the river is at its peak this time of year. Unlike winter and early spring fishing, one must now weed through the freshly stocked fish to find the quality ones. Tungsten weighted flies, especially ones woven with green embroidery floss, fooled most of our finned friends. American pheasant tail patterns also produced; rightly so, with the abundance of Hendrickson nymphs that showed up in the seine net samples.

Some piggish rainbow trout were lost and landed on this trip; one gluttonous fish experienced both fates. At one point over the weekend, a few of the crew branched off to hit some unfamiliar territory.  In the head of a sexy looking run, I began drifting a tandem rig of a small caddis pupa above a pink Vladi worm. A large trout struck like a freight train and a brief battle commenced. I saw a thick rainbow flash before the line suddenly went slack; both flies gone. Damn! How big was that bow??  I guess I'll never never know... 

We gave the pool a quick breather before Aaron jumped in. Not ten minutes later, he was got came tight a large trout himself; this time hooked on a green woven nymph. As he tired the fish out, we notice my bright pink fly hanging from its mouth! As I netted the greedy bastard, I notice my other fly in its tail! My dropper fly, twenty inches from my anchor fly, was too close for this fish.  Its tail caught the dropper and broke free both flies--a valuable lesson learned.  Thanks to Aaron, I got some comfort knowing what I lost in the head of that run--a great rainbow trout. It made for a good story and laugh around the camp fire that night!

As we parted ways Sunday afternoon, we all nodded in agreement...another year in the books. This trip is one of those things that you look forward to seasons in advance. It's also one of those traditions that you can picture yourself doing, God willing, until your physically unable to anymore. Once again Opening Day weekend had come and gone in what felt like a blink of an eye, but we had one a hell of a time. And that's what it's all about. 

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