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Bad Luck Larry

Our trip to the Ausable in New York

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A river is like a person's face: Over the course of time, nature etches lines which were never there before. Those lines represent a history of the changing face of time; of experiences and climactic ups and downs. The face never changes or the character of the person, but the newfound course of those lines lead towards somewhere new and unexpected.

For the past seven years, my friend and I have travelled to fish Ausable river in New York. And just as the home waters here where I live, it never ceases to amaze me or my friends what each new year brings, and how the river has changed. Each spring thaw has changed the river so much; boulders which were never there before; The thalweg (principle course of the water) over and deeper than it was; trout and other fish which have differed in size and sensibility; Prime fishing spots no longer there.
This year was no exception.

We always have wanted to fish September instead of the usual June, and did so this year. Average air temperature was between 25-28 Celcius and the waters were between 60-68.
Two weeks before, the region had quite a bit of rain. This week -September 1st -5th- not a drop as was the week before and so river levels were low all around. Now that's wonderful to access all those spots you never could, but it meant that you had to really search where all those beautiful trout could be. And if there's one thing I have learned in seven years of flyfishing, is that even in 1-2 feet of water, trout ARE there; just like wisdom, you have to look hard for them, or, it.

Our week was far more comfortable for fishing than the hot June we're so used to. Join that with the trees starting to change their colours and you have a beautiful setting to search for bright fish.
Tricos, caenis (fisherman's curse), Blue quills,....the overiding fly you had to have had to be SMALL! Trout jumping somersaults and Cirque de Soleil acrobatics; immediately, you KNEW...they had to be taking emergers. Unfortunately, 24's were the smallest hooks we had. Still we managed to take trout. Quigley Cripples (16 scud hook); Micro-shipman emergers (24's in black and white); rusty spinners (in an amazing 16!); and wooly buggers in a 12 were our favorites which always seemed to work.

A lot of fishermen complained about the lack of numbers in catching. But the one thing we've noticed in the last few years, is that though the numbers in catching may not be as high as most fishermen would like, the quality in size and beauty of the ones one does catch, makes up for it. Why most fishermen concentrate on number of fish caught instead of the quality of experience, still baffles me. My friend and I would rather spend all day trying to catch that one elusive trout, than to catch hundreds. If there's anything that the river did do for us this time around, was make us savour each trout we caught.

One of the highlights of our trip was to do some brook fishing off the beaten trail. It certainly was nice because in the warmth of the midday sun, the woods were cooler and the spring waters equally so. It's the first time I've fished a brook mountain stream and the experience has dumbfounded me. To think that a brook trout, 9-10 inches could exist in a pool the size of my bathtub -the only universe it will ever know- and possible remain there for all it's life, amazes me.

Time may change the face of things, but the essential character of life remains the same. River systems and lies, even those who occupy it change in the same way. Though rivers may be low like the Ausable was (and fishermen's spirits along with it), the trout are still there.

And I am always reminded (as my mentor Jack Vanvolkenburgh used to say) : "That's why they call it fishing, not catching."


  1. Steve Molcsan's Avatar
    Very nice piece on fishing with a friend and life.. Memorable...

    Thanks for reflecting here...

    Steve Molcsan
  2. ausable_ny's Avatar

    I was up there the same week you were and fully understand the situation. There were fish to be caught for sure, but it wasn't easy. I caught a few on attractors like a haystack, bomber and Fran Betters wonderful Ausable Wulff. Did you stop in to see Fran? The weather was a little too warm for my liking. I understand it was more seasonal the week AFTER we were there...go figure. (I was there the 1st thru the 7th) My spirits are always high while fishing that river because I know there are big fish hiding there. I tend to park on one of the pull-offs and walk up the river a bit, getting away from the over fished areas. I usually go up there the first week of Sept, but next year plan to make the green drake hatch in June. Maybe we'll meet. Nice reflections of a obviously great trip. See ya!