A start to the 2019 fishing season: the pleasant surprise of connecting with a fish

I opened the 2019 fishing season on two small streams in Rensselaer County.

Before describing the trip, I want to share a newly discovered fishing resource. If you are fishing with bait or lures east of the Hudson and discover you forgot something, Tremont Lumber, on Route 43, in Averill Park has a well-stocked fishing section with an in-depth selection of hooks, sinkers, split shots, lures, spin cast rods, and assorted other tackle.  

My first stop was a small stream where, some years ago, I watched with awe when the water came alive with trout hitting caddis flies on the surface. Even though I was likely in view of these fish, they were recklessly rising, coming up out of the water and eating the fly from above, rather than a delicate, Downton Abbey sipping rise.

Since caddis hatches begin appearing in May, I returned to this stream. No caddis. No rising flies. In fact, it was almost no stream. A beaver dam had blown out, leaving a confusing set of muddy flats, braided stream and mud on tree trunks showing the former depth of the pond.

After seeing no opportunities, it was on to another stream. When I got there, it was windy, and the water was high and discolored. On the first cast of a Woolly Bugger, the current caught the fly and shot it downstream.

When a fly rides high in the water, the angler must add weight to the leader, even though that ruins the smoothness of casting.  

After adding a BB-sized split shot, on the second cast, the fly stopped moving. When fishing weighted flies, this usually means the fly has snagged the bottom.  

But then, “the bottom” started moving. A fish, and not a rock or twig, was on the end of the line.  

I got the fly line on the reel and played the fish from the reel, which led to anxious moments with a stubborn fish, strong current and light leader.  

When the fish came into the shallows, it was a fat brown trout, about 13 inches long.

After releasing the trout, I went upstream and fished awhile longer. While it was great to cast and prospect for places where the fish would be, the fish were either not there or not interested in the way I was presenting the fly.

An issue with fishing small streams is that there is a seemingly inexhaustible supply of places where the fly gets hooked on a back cast. Also, a weighted line makes it harder to cast. If anyone has any advice on that, please write in.  

Mid-spring angling can be windy but the weight on the line seemed to offset the fly blowing off target from the wind.

On the way home, I saw a noticeable number of boats on the Hudson River. It is likely that anglers on these boats were pursuing the migratory run of striped bass that graces the Hudson each spring.

If you do not yet have a fishing license, or need to renew your license, you can do either transaction at several nearby locations. Guilderland Public Library on Western Avenue sells licenses. The library also has a good selection of maps and fishing books. If you do not yet have tackle, you can check out a spin-cast rod from the Library.

Licenses are also available at Phillips Hardware on Route 146, Guilderland Town Hall on Route 20, Dick’s Sporting Goods in Crossgates Mall, and WalMart in Crossgates Commons on Washington Avenue.  Phillips Hardware also sells some fishing tackle.

A New York State fishing license is issued from a computer-generated system with an online connection. Before going to buy or renew a license, it is worth calling ahead before going to a place to buy a license. Sometimes, the computer is down or the printer for licenses is not working.  

If you plan to pursue migratory fish in the Hudson River, remember to ask for a Recreational Marine Fisheries Registration. This credential is free of charge and, if you request it, can often be added to the document that is your freshwater fishing license.

The weather can be discouraging for fishing. For example, this weekend when I was pond fishing, it was a struggle to fly cast with a steady, off-the-steppes-of-Russia kind of wind.

But if you have time, please go out and see what happens. With a combination of skill and luck you too may experience the pleasant surprise of connecting with fish!