On one of the less storied stretches of the Housatonic River there's a long riffle that pauses twice creating two very fishy places. I've fished this spot regularly over the past few years. While these spots are no great secret, they attract far less traffic for a variety of reasons. First, they're relatively harder to access than other spots. The well worn paths go upstream and downstream. Second, during most water levels they look relatively featureless with little obvious opportunity for holding water. Finally, the folks who fish it keep mum about it.
On Saturday the water was low. I expected some exposed riffle based upon the gage reading but what greeted me when I got there was a surprising lack of water. I was still thirty feet from damp ground and the main current was on the far bank. A short ways upstream an angler sat high and dry upon a boulder that was normally under water. He was just at the edge of the first good spot so I walked upstream over the dried cobble to the second pool.
This time of year you can run into both low water and high water temperatures which makes the trout fishing more dangerous for the trout. This year mild air temperatures have kept the water temps totally trouty and they were rising sporadically to a mixed bag hatch. Over the next hour or two I managed a few trout on a combination of an Isonychia emerger, a Parachute Adams and a tiny Olive dry. The catching was steady enough to make the fishing satisfying and even when I didn't hook up I did manage to get a slashing rise.
As the sun was preparing to dip below the ridge I heard voices behind me. It was a group of three anglers that I saw earlier about a hundred yards downstream. It was clear they were contemplating my piece of water; the water I was actually standing in and fishing. I continued casting to a sporadic riser on the far bank, ignoring the menace.
Before long one of the party hailed me from far too close. He was going through the motions of rebuilding a leader or putting on a fly while informing me that he hadn't fished Housatonic before and was really enjoying it. His two buddies, perhaps his sons, were going upstream but he clearly wanted in on a piece of my water. Making angling motions while standing two rod lengths away is not neighborly behavior in my mind, so I let him know that the run above and the small pool below held fish and would be good spots for him to start.
He looked to be moving upstream to the run but then upon entering the riffle made for the large boulder where Jeff had caught a nice rainbow a few weeks ago; not easy casting distance for me but well within range. I barked at him about walking through water above where I was fishing and he made the proper course correction. I'm not sure what irritated me more, his lack of any angling etiquette or the fact that this total noob was on my water.
After a bit the fishing had slowed and my interest was waning so I moved downstream a few miles to a piece of water that's easy to fish at dark. The parking is close by and the wading is relatively easy. A couple fished in the sweet spot at the head of the pool. Though I had expected more folks to be here it was only them and one other guy further down. Perhaps the cooler weather is starting to take its toll. I stood back on the cobble beach watching the action contemplating whether to go upstream or down.
The guy noticed me and invited me to step in much closer than I would have ever asked. The woman enthusiastically joined her companion in inviting me to cast to the numerous fish that were rising right in front of them. I thanked them and waded in a little bit further downstream than they indicated. I don't even fish that close to my buddies and it just felt wrong to be standing so close to a stranger's cast.
For me fly fishing is a solitary sport even when done as part of a group. I think most fly anglers would agree. The casting itself makes close proximity a challenge as anyone who has fished from a drift boat knows. But there's something else to it. When I'm crawling into my own brain and succumbing to the rhythms of the sport I'm not looking for good conversation, affirmation or even acknowledgment. I'm just looking to be in the moment, focused intently on a drift, hoping that something happens to interrupt this specific thing. All other interruptions are anathema.
Steve Zakur would prefer if you stay out of casting distance on the rivers of western Connecticut. He also writes at sippingemergers.com and for various magazines when he's not fumbling through his fly boxes in the dark.