_by John Merwin
Gray and cold here on Cape Cod, Mass., this morning, with a brisk north wind. Although we’ve hauled our powerboat down here for the week, today isn’t the kind of day I want to spend shivering out in the bay while seeking stripers. Fortunately, we’ve also brought a pair of kayaks. Here in the land of striped bass, bluefish, and tuna, that means that freshwater trout are an option, also.
The Cape is dotted with small kettle ponds, bowl-like remnants of the last glacial era. Such ponds typically have no real inlets or outlets, but are filled with groundwater that seeps in and is filtered by abundant sand and gravel. The water is clear, cool, deep and in many cases generously stocked with trout. The fishing can be excellent, even if not as well-known as the saltwater action a scant mile or two away.
Several lessons from many years of pond trout came to mind last evening, the first being to find flat calm water to find rising fish. So we paddled to a leeward shore, where calm water extended for a hundred yards or so from the bank. Trout can see emerging insects more easily in such conditions and thus tend to rise more readily. And rise they did.
Next, forget the dry flies. Absent a significant hatch, the fish are cruising around and surface sipping whatever they find–a caddis here, a midge pupa there. The trouts’ movement is pretty random, so I position the kayak in the general area of some rises and start casting. Unlike fishing a small dry, which just sits on the surface waiting for fish, I am slow-stripping a size 16 hare’s ear nymph. The fly’s movement is key, and helps the fish to find it as a target.
Ah-ha! After a while there’s a swirl and a tug and a nice rainbow goes skittering along the surface trying to shake the hook. I slide the fish back into the water and hope to myself that it swims deep quickly. We are sharing this shoreline with a pair of hunting ospreys that also seem to find the lee of the wind gives them better visibility into the water.
Tomorrow it might warm up, and maybe the wind will die down just a bit. Then we’ll be chasing stripers in the salt. But for right now, a long 5X leader and a little hare’s ear are fulfilling my heart’s desire.
(As an aside, I should explain that this blog post comes courtesy of AT&T cellular data networks via my iPad. If I had not forgotten to bring the little connector gizmo, there would have been a photo, too. It just strikes me as so unbelievably different from my earliest trips down here in the 1970s, when I typed out dispatches on a little Olivetti manual typewriter and sent them to a magazine via overnight courier. Will wonders ever cease….)