Sometimes all you need is a fiberglass rod, handful of streamers and eager bass.
The pulloff for this section of the Housatonic runs along a busy truck route in lower Connecticut. There’s no offramp, so you quickly swerve over the shoulder of the highway and apply the brakes liberally, stopping abruptly on a narrow gravel lot littered with wrappers, bottles and other trash left by careless visitors.
This is not the pristine, pine covered forest that leads to a canopied trout stream. The space is used by anglers of all type, along with others looking to escape the heat of summer by taking a dip in the river. Although it is not a park and there are no tables or benches, I recently encountered a large streamside birthday celebration, complete with portable grills, balloons and adults in various stages of inebriation.
This is a late August evening, and summer is only beginning to show signs of relenting. Most days have been in the 80’s and 90’s, with water temps well out of the range of fishable temps for most local trout streams. But I’m not here for trout. I want to enjoy the simplicity of an after work session of streamer fishing with an old fiberglass rod, streamers and some hungry smallmouth.
The run I’m fishing sits below a local dam. As you can tell from the pic, this time of year there is just enough water to support minimal flow. Most of the large boulders on the river bottom are at least partially exposed, and you rarely find water above your waist.
Walking and wading are not easy. The river bank is covered in rock, stones and slag that make an ankle twist all but assured. I stumble several times but miraculously make it to the edge of the water upright.
The shore contains a number of stone sculptures, makeshift monuments from those who have enjoyed other afternoons.
Wading into the water slowly, I slide over the moss-covered rocks, hoping the studded soles are doing their job.
Beginning to cast, I pull in only loose weeds for the first few minutes. Then it happens.
The line goes tight and the rod bends quickly as the fish jumps from the water, shaking its head in an agitated manner. In an effort to escape, it pulls and tugs my line through the boulders and grass, increasing the excitement and possibility of a break off. I lead it into the fast water, allowing it to tire from the current and tension of the line before bringing it to hand. The speed of departure upon release gives the impression that this fish had plenty of fight left.
Shortly after, I hook a smaller bass that takes me into the slow water and makes it an easy walk to the bank.
Fish continue to appear for the next half hour. Even the smallest give a good fight and put a bend in the rod. They are aggressive and eager to smash the streamer.
Tonight I’m using an 8′ South Bend Black Beauty 5/6 wt., pulled from the corner of a relative’s garage. It looks and feels like a fiberglass rod. It was missing an end cap, so I fashioned one using epoxy and a cork from a bottle of Red Truck wine, one of the previous owner’s favorites. The foam grip is remarkably intact, and the plastic reel seat reminds me that this was most likely a box store purchase. Resurrected, the rod bends deeply but confidently under the tug of smallies and offers decent casting distance for streamer tossing.
I use only one streamer pattern for tonight’s session. It’s a variation of the Baby Complex Twist Bugger found on YouTube’s Fly Fish Food channel. Tied in 8’s and 10’s, I vary the bead/cone and tail colors as a simple product development exercise. It’s surprising how much smallies like bright circus colors such as purple, orange and chartreuse.
Standing in the final minutes of dusk, the best view is downstream. The river has widened and the current dissipated. It holds only scattered foam lines and sporadic rises. And while the water is calm and the surroundings lush and green, the leaves are beginning to fall in my yard, a subtle reminder that autumn is just around the corner. Maybe I’ll tie some trout flies.
After sunset I turn on the headlamp and carefully climb the stone-covered bank, rejoining the short trail leading back to the car. I’m reminded of how lucky we really are, even in times like these.
In the mild evening air I pull off the half-waders, stow the rod, waders and boots, then quickly accelerate on to the highway.
Hope you are finding opportunities for summer fishing, even in unlikely places.