[ Although I introduced the following subject in a post about a year ago, I’d like to present it once more, this time from a somewhat difficult angle, accompanied by recent photos from the New York home water. Thanks, as always, and I hope that you enjoy.]
I’ve met him several times, most recently a year ago, February. On the famed Letort Spring Creek. A whiskery fellow, rheumy-eyed, with broken teeth, experienced on the water. He enjoys casting with a telescoping black steel rod that almost looks illegal raised above the classic limestone pools. There’s no bamboo involved, no fiberglass, no reel. Just a short tapered leader for a line… And make it stout– enough to wield a heavy #4 Ant.
Talk about original… Nocky Hobbs (not his actual name) calls it “the original American Tenkara rod.” Not that he’s averse to fishing with bamboo. He’s lived along the great Letort for 40 years and fished it with the likes of Vincent Marinaro, Charlie Fox and Lefty Kreh. He’s worked the mystic currents with bamboo but gave up the cane when the cost for its repair became prohibitive.
The well-fed and selective browns of the Letort have always been a challenge, but they scuffle regularly with his banged-up pole, its duct tape spread out like tattoos. This angler catches wild browns on a barbless hook then quickly turns them loose.
I remember it well. My second outing with fly rod, Chester2. Nocky held the new bamboo, looked it over, stirred it in the air and said, to my surprise, “I like it.” I was a dabbler in those cress-filled headwaters, but he made me feel at home.
Letort fishermen generally refrain from wading in the clear flow of the silt-bottomed stream. It’s difficult to cast from the marshy, brush-lined banks, but Nocky finds the stream a little more accessible. The telescoping instrument works wonders there. Originally a 16-footer, the dented veteran is shorter now, but still swings the wet fly where its owner wants it drifted– through the deep rooms curtained with watercress, through aqueous caves inhabited by large reclusive browns.
The Black Ant is a favorite wet fly pattern. It can be effective year around, says Nocky. I accepted one and tied it to my leader, mostly in tribute to Mr. Hobb’s experience. It didn’t work for me that winter day (ants are pretty damned scarce in February, no matter where you fish), so I wasn’t surprised that my first wild brown trout of the season took a different fly– a bead-head Pheasant-tail Nymph.
My best catch of the day? Meeting Nocky Hobbs again. There was more to learn, of course, but talking with him brought the surge of spring, the first birdsong from the banks of the Letort. The chickadee, wren and sparrow sang their witness songs for all.