West Branch Ausable, 6/29/19
I had time to sneak in a quick couple hours in the late afternoon. I picked a spot I don’t normally fish, along the Wilmington Notch/Whiteface section of the river. Rather than drive further up Route 86 or even go as far as River Rd I stuck closer to Wilmington for the sake of getting in more time on the water. I knew this stretch, with its boulder strewn course and fast pocket water would afford lots of opportunities for nymph fishing and dry flies. It was sunny and a little over eighty degrees. The water was low, but not distressingly so. I had rigged my 8 1/2 foot six weight with a small pheasant tail and nymph rig. As I picked my way down the ridge to the water I scanned tentatively for other anglers. There was one, just upstream of me casting a spinning rod across what looked to be the upstream extent of good water. Beyond him was a long, flat and shallow stretch. I moved down river a short distance and commenced to wading in.
Just as I was getting my feet wet a modest troop of early 20 somethings came gallivanting down to the water. They were a bit loud, but respectful enough and gave me some space. While I was high sticking my nymph through the roiling water they explored downstream, looking for a place to swim. As a young women in swimming suit and gym shorts waded in waste deep to what looked to be an ideal run I consoled myself with the water I had only just begun to fish and the fact that as long as she and her companions didn’t get rambunctious, the fish wouldn’t get too spooked.
After 15 minutes I hooked a trout which promptly shot down a small set of rapids and into water that would take several minutes to wade to. It wasn’t a big fish and I finagled him back upstream without too much trouble, unhooked him, and sent him on his way. A short time later the young people departed and I worked my way downstream. I took my time and was thorough with the water I fished. Even so, the air was still tinged with the scent of sunscreen and perfume (who wears perfume to swim in a river?) when I arrived at the small, sandy shore where they had been. In short order I had two modest browns landed and had a pair of strikes to my indicator. A few other rises convinced me to switch to a dry fly. With a medium size elk hair caddis at the end of a 5x tippet I got to work. As often seems to be the case, once I tied on a dry the rises stopped. But after some perseverance and careful presentations I did get a 9″ brown to rise. It would prove to me my last fish of the day tho I fished for another 45 minutes.
I conceded the bulk of the water to a pair of fly fishermen who ambled down to the water, and called it a day about 20 minutes later. Given the warm temperatures and low water it wasn’t a bad. The West Branch usually fishes well in warm weather, it’s just a matter of finding deep, shaded stretches. Get the fish landed and get them back the water!