Adjusting Expectations

Looking back on the year, one constant has been high water. The wading boots haven’t been wet in migratory water since late Sept. Every time it looks like the better waters are coming around, BOOM, the Good Mother has alternative plans. In one sense, its quite awesome to have plenty of water for the fish to do their thing. I remember plenty of years where the tribs were dry, and we were doing the collective rain dance. This constant of blown out rivers, is plain getting old. As an alternative, I’ve been doing a lot more upland hunting. Which has been a delicious and enjoyable distraction.

A friend of mine has a cool A-frame cabin very near an (in)famous tailwater. In recent years, the fishing hasn’t been much to speak of. There are many scientific and societal reasons for that, none that I wish to delve into here. This fall the river has seen good numbers of both kings and steelhead, and flows have been super consistent. Back in June we planned a long weekend at The Cabin, and it has been a tenuous mark on my calendar since.

I’ve had a love/hate relationship with this place. Value the time with friends. Despise the antics and bad behavior of fisherman, charlatans, and guides. I don’t travel anywhere without a good plan, so I had the contact info of a good bail bondsman loaded on my phone just to be sure.

Up until last year, this was an annual sojourn. One guy bought a new business and needed to focus on that. I can’t say I was disappointed we skipped a year. The good company was most definitely missed. The rest, not so much. Living right between 2 great swing waters, each 10 miles from my mudroom, makes it hard to travel 250 miles to fish with the bucket sitter brigade. That might sound elitist, but I’m really open to all ethical angling, and will gladly share a run with anyone like minded, no matter their method. It’s frustrating others don’t seem to have an appreciation for a rotated pool.

The years haven’t been especially productive or therapeutic in the fishing sense. Last time there, I got high holed and low holed, simultaneously, by the usual suspects, broke off a beautiful Mahoney gifted by another good friend, reeled in, walked out, got out of my gear, broke out the foldy chair, poured a big gulp of whisky, fired up a cigar, and had a good pout, thinking what the hell am I doing here? My companions returned a few hours later to find me comfortably marinated, and absolutely disgusted by the place. “If I never visit this area, see this river, or fish this water again, I’d be delighted.”

A year off had apparently softened me, and this trip was going to be different. Fisher folks really tend to be optimistic. It’s always the hope of a different outcome that keeps us going, right? Steady flows, plenty of good reportage by the meat shops. Salmon dying off, and traffic getting lighter. Alright! Leading up to the trip, my head was really in the right place. This was evidenced by my gear being organized and packed a full 2 weeks out. An added bonus: we’d be exploring some new water that is damn near impossible to get to on foot. A friend threw me the keys to his river transporter, and this was a welcome option. Spirits were high.

The night before our departure, the flows were jumped 600% in anticipation of another impending deluge. For once, the weather folks were right. It rained in near biblical proportions. The high flow release was set through the following week. What are you gonna do?

We took a 2 hour tour to a few smaller tribs – all were high and muddy. The tailwater was high, but didn’t have clarity issues, so we gave it an honest try. With the water ankle deep up on the foot paths, there wasn’t a soul around. I fished an entire run alone. Even raised one on the dangle, but never came tight. None of our efforts were fruitful, and we never launched the loaned river craft. Can’t say it really mattered. It was just nice to be out swinging a fly in the damp fall air.

Saturday was spent getting a good, small diner breakfast, watching Ohio State eek out another win, eating delicious grilled meats, shooting hand thrown clay targets, drinking, and covering all the conversational topics. The company was superb, and the freezing rain provided a wonderful white noise. Sometimes the fishing goes to hell, sometimes the fishing is hell, so you adjust your expectations, and have a good time. That’s what we did, and did well. It’ll be on the down side of a long winter before I get to share some extended time with these guys. Looking forward to next year, fellas.


Mike Cartechine

Mike is a Rust Belt resident that started fly fishing before The Movie. He cut his teeth on the warm water fisheries in Ohio before moving east. His home river is the Upper Delaware, and in 2017 he founded the Upper Delaware River Native Fish Society, which raises awareness and respect for the native shad, chub, sucker, and black bass of this fabled fishery. He can also be found swinging muddlers for lake run fish on Great Lakes tributaries, and learning more about salt any chance he gets.

Mike prefers medium-fast action 5-weights with clean lines, sharp knives, meats cooked over fire, real Neapolitan pizza, and a well stocked & organized drift boat.

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