By Vic Attardo ( ON THE OUTDOORS )

This rainbow must have been a fan of track and field, specifically the long jump.
When Paul Davidson hooked the trout in a fast run of the Lehigh River, instead of taking off downstream like 99 out of 100 rainbows will do, this one came up-stream. And as it came towards Davidson’s driftboat, it made a series of horizontal leaps over the surface that were all of four or five feet long from point of departure to point of landing.
But before Davidson could retrieve enough line to catch up to the streaming, screaming fish, it was long jumping by the side of the boat where, like a track star, it must have dug its heals into the bottom because the line caught around a rock and the rainbow athlete got off.
For a few seconds, Davidson and I stood in the 16-foot long high-hulled driftboat in mild shock. It had been a big fish.
I don’t know who spoke first but one of us said “Did you see that?” Then another said, “My gosh, that was incredible.”
“Holy Cannoli,” Davidson said, and I’m sure it was him who said that because though I think cannolis are really good and a great one might be worthy of sainthood, that’s not a phrase I use. “Holy Cannoli,” Davidson said again.
Despite losing that particular fish, it was one of those days you pray for on the Lehigh River. Guide Davidson (610-379-5469) and I smoke them. Changing some pronouns on Julius Caesar – who I doubt invented cannoli – “We came, we saw, we conquered.”
Together the guide and I landed between 15 and 18 fat healthy trout, the best number I think we’ve ever landed together on the Lehigh. Also we had strikes from, or slightly hooked, or fought and lost, near again that many. The action was terrific so Davidson got to say, “Holy Cannoli” a lot.
And that was something in itself because when we started the day, Davidson was skeptical we’d do anything at all. He had just had a lousy outing two days before, and the morning was a cloudless, warm one with all the makings of a burnt cannoli shell without its delicious cheese filling.
But I wasn’t skeptical at all because I recognized this weather as the third day of a stable pattern with a front scheduled to blow in by evening. I’ve seen these third-day patterns before in bass, trout, stripper, crappie and even sea robin fishing, and I know the last day can be good. Also I knew that on the third day, despite all otherwise logic, the best fishing will take place in the middle of the afternoon. In the evening, the fish will most likely turn off because they’ve probably had their fill of cannolis, but that is hours away.
And guess what? That’s what happened. We had a terrific bite starting about 11 o’clock continuing to about 4:30, and just when all the fishing books say we should have enjoyed an evening of the freshest, richest pastry, the baker went home refusing to make anything else. But we didn’t care, we also had our fill.
Still, you should know that you can’t have a Holy Cannoli day without proper ingredients, and on this day it was a mixture of flies and lures.
On the fly rod, we used double rigs. Mine consisted of a yellow and brown Wolly Bugger – and excellent Lehigh River color – with either a Flashback Pheasant Tail or a green, copper wire beaded caddis pupa. Davidson also used a flashy Wooly Bugger and a caddis pupa.
For lures, I threw a yellow Crickhopper for one or two fish and we both tossed a bunch of Rebel stickbaits. Davidson used a two-and-a-quarter inch rainbow-pattern Tracdown Minnow while I went with a four-and-a-half inch purple/chartreuse Holographic Minnow, another bait I’ve discovered to be a Lehigh River killer.
In my estimation, stickbaits are the unsung tool for big-water trout fishing. While I most enjoy using the fly rod, when I get into water over seven-feet deep with a current that turns fly line into overcooked spaghetti, I reach for the spinning outfit and a big stick.
The Lehigh, with a temperature of 57 F. in the morning and 60 degrees by noon, was so clear you could see the good-luck pennies on the bottom. Under these conditions I had a lot of confidence in the flashy wobbling of the Holographic Minnow, but I still had to figure out a trick before I really started hooking fish.
As we drifted downstream in late morning, I saw two or three trout charge at the lure, even swim with it, but I couldn’t connect. Disappointing.
The one rainbow followed the bait across the Lehigh all the way to the side of the boat. I could see it as clear as day and was surprised the fish didn’t notice us and take off. But this ‘bow was so in love with the bait that it came right on, swiping and trying to catch the fake meal but being unsuccessful. With the bait and the hot bow right at the boat, I suddenly stopped the retrieve and the Rebel dropped back two or three feet in the current whereupon the trout was able to grab it and the fight was on.
Davidson saw the whole show as well.
“Holy Cannoli,” he said.
After that, we realized that if we spotted a trout flash at our stickbaits, but without a connection, we’d stop the retrieve, allowing the bait to momentary sink in the current, thus giving the trout its best grabbing chance.
This tactic worked. With the still-stick tactic, ‘bows and browns were able to bite some part of the bait. If we were lucky enough, and the fish was unlucky enough, it would get the hook, and the fight was on.
Of course, that initial success didn’t mean the trout was landed because, after all, this was the Lehigh and the river doesn’t give up its cannolis for free.

Comments are closed.