September 3rd, 2007

Kiss and Tell
By Dave Pearson, PA

We left the lake on a Thursday. Wednesday was reserved for packing, which left Tuesday as my last possible New Hampshire fishing day. I made the most of it with an all-day excursion to the headwaters of the Ellis River.

I read about the Ellis in an issue of Fly Fish America. You know the magazine. It's the slick publication which is available gratis in many fly shops and sporting goods stores. It has a few feature articles and a host of regular columns. Al and Gretchen Beatty write a fly-tying clinic which in and of itself makes the magazine a good read. There is a section that features regional fishing "hot spots," and that's where I read about the upper Ellis. The article was short, and informative. I was told exactly where to fish (along Rt. 16 in the White Mountain National Forest) , what patterns to use ( any attractor dry fly in which I had confidence), what rod to use (a seven ft. 4 wt), and what fish to expect (Brook trout under 8 inches). The stream sounded ideal. The pictures showed water of stunning clarity and trout of graceful beauty. I had to go.

I arrived at the Ellis at 5:30 am and was suited up and down at the river by 5:45.

The water held promise – all pockets and pools with a few white water runs. The grade of the river was steep. Fishing upstream meant climbing boulders and slabs of granite to peep my head over the top of the rise and get an eye level look at the water next to be fished. I was fishing on the vertical.

The fish were numerous. So much so, in fact, that I ate one for lunch. Fresh trout on a bed of ramen noodles. And fresh coffee. All cooked on a small canister stove. No open fires for me. I practice stealth 'leave no trace' fishing.

There were quite a few larger fish, that is, larger than the promised max of 8 inches. But these were caught with caution and care. If I crouched and walked slowly to a promising spot and cast my fly, I was rewarded with a fish. If I actually crawled on my hands and knees and made my cast from much farther away, I was often rewarded with a much larger fish—provided the cast was drag free.

So the game was the same on these rough-and-tumble waters as it is on the smaller headwater streams of Pennsylvania—to be there and not be there. It can be so hard. How can Godzilla tip-toe through Tokyo unseen? How can you present the fly and not be close enough to present the fly? Yet, we do it. I do it. I did it on the Ellis. I peep over a granite slab and raise my arm until it is at eye level and make a short cast inches above the water to a likely looking spot. Then I crawl over the top of the slab and lie on my side. I cast again; this time whilst horizontal. I hide behind boulders. And I catch good-sized fish.

As the day wore on I started to wear out. Less crawling and more crouching. I hid upright in shadows. And the fish were smaller toward the end of the day. I thought it was the time of day. Then I remembered. It was me. So, at 4:00 pm I crawled slowly up to a promising-looking pool. Or I should say, I tried to crawl up to a promising-looking pool. My body was just too tired. I crept the best I could and fished the pool anyway. I caught a couple of okay fish. But not the really nice fish I know live there. It was time to call it quits.

I made my way back to Rt.16. Imagine my surprise when I got to my car less than half an hour later. Ten hours to fish away from the car and less than half an hour to walk back. It looks like I fished about a miles worth of road from my car, which means I fished about a mile and a half of river in 10 hours.

The Ellis is a long river. Next summer I will be quite busy. ~ Dave (black gnat)

About Dave:

Dave Pearson lives in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania with his loving wife, Gillian, and two dogs, Casey and Booboo. His passion is small mountain streams. He teaches guitar for a living. You may contact Dave at: pdewey2@aol.com

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