Research and Development continues

Mike Barker provided a couple of well-crafted crawfish imitations.

Patrick L. Sullivan

Research and Development continues

Saturday, June 15 was clear and blessedly cool, ahead of what the weather ninnies assured me is a massive unprecedented disastrous heat wave.

I had one main item on the agenda, the angler’s flea market in Riverton.

So I figured I would prowl Sandy Brook beforehand.

Sandy Brook in Colebrook is a secondary tributary of the West Branch of the Farmington. I know this because I am a highly trained observer, and because I found a United States Geological Survey map that says so.

I am happy to report that getting the map from the USGS website was simple. Go to usgs.gov and look for The National Map, which is exactly what it says it is.

The state stocks Sandy Brook, twice this spring. With what exactly I do not know.

I’ve fooled around in this stream a couple times before, with minimal results. But I always came at it moving upstream, off Route 8.

This time, coming downstream on Sandy Brook Road (another triumph of clarity in labeling) I saw the stream and a couple of pull-offs with DEEP signs regarding creel limits and so on.

So I pulled off and suited up.

Water temperature at 8 a.m. was 63 in a shallow spot next to the bank. Not ideal, perhaps, but not terrible either.

I noticed the stream running roughly north-south, was almost completely shaded over at that hour, with the sun just starting to get through the canopy from the east.

This is good. Streams that have an east-west flow get the full brunt of the sun during the course of the day. In the summer, this means warmer water.

The first thing I noticed was this bucolic, babbling brook is misnamed. It should be called “Super Slippery Brook.” It’s a lot of rock shelf and getting around is like the proverbial tap-dancing on ball bearings dipped in motor oil. Some actual sand would have been nice.

Next time I will wear felt soled boots with studs.


Mike Barker provided a couple of well-crafted crawfish imitations.Patrick L. Sullivan

I deployed an eight-foot nine-inch four weight rod. There was plenty of room for casting and the four weight allowed for turning over a dry-dropper rig while not making a huge splash.

The rig was a Chubby Chernobyl on top and a size 16 Zug Bug, tied on a jig hook and with a heavy tungsten beadhead, on what started as two feet of 4X fluoro tippet tied to the hook of the Chubby with an improved clinch knot. (And don’t ask what an unimproved clinch knot is because I have no idea.)

This produced an immediate hangup and I lost the Zug. So I shortened the dropper to about 14 inches and put on another Zug.

This produced two immediate hookups of brook trout in the eight-to-10-inch range.

So far, so good.

I clambered downstream, because it looked slightly less slippery than upstream.

It wasn’t.

I found one cleft running into a deep, wide slot that just had to have fish in it. I worked it hard for 30 minutes, abandoning the dry-dropper and chucking the heavy artillery into the depths: Big Bread and Butter nymph, a Walt’s Worm, which has more lead than a .22 short, and Joe’s Weenie.

Bupkis. Infuriating.

Then I went back to the Chubby-Zug Bug rig and proceeded to catch a dozen more fish, including some browns and one lone rainbow.

I have no idea of the proportion of wild to stocked here. I can’t believe the state stocks eight-inch brookies, but maybe there’s some deep fish reason I don’t comprehend.

Around 11 a.m. I packed it in and went down to the flea market, which was in the little public space across the street from the post office.

A modest number of vendors were there, including Harold MacMillan who still runs Housatonic River Outfitters in Cornwall, albeit without the brick-and-mortar shop.

We exchanged fishing gossip, and he sold me a grab bag of bass poppers for an eminently reasonable 10 bucks.

Most of the vendors were selling conventional gear, which doesn’t interest me, but I did spot Mike Barker of Ansonia.

Barker is a garage door installer in real life, and ties flies as a side gig. He said it “calms the nerves” after a busy week driving all over the state installing garage doors.

He’s been tying and selling for about three years.

He had a couple of poppers the approximate size of Oklahoma, which he said were for getting the attention of big fish. Like the star of “Jaws.”

I picked up a couple of beautifully crafted crawfish imitations. I generally make do with a Wooly Bugger for this, but I like to encourage the up-and-comers.

So the Research & Development ratio was nice and balanced. I established that Sandy Brook is not very sandy but has a lot of hungry fish in it, and it probably stays cool enough to be plausible most of the time.

I found a cost-effective way to replenish the bass bug box.

And I contributed in a small way to a young fly tier’s craft.

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