Monday, April 22, 2019

A few days on the Breeches

I had the chance to spend a few hours over three days on the Yellow Breeches in PA this past week as I had been invited to give two lectures at Messiah College.

I left early in the morning the day before the lectures so that I could spend a few afternoon hours on the Breeches.  When I arrived I went to the TCO shop in Boiling Springs to talk to Neil about what was going on and to firm up our plans to spend an afternoon on the Letort (more on that later).  I would highly recommend this shop if you are in the area.  It is well stocked and the staff are very friendly and helpful.

The afternoon I arrived the Breeches was high and discolored from rain the previous day so I fished “The Run”.  There were a lot of fisherman on the lake, but I had The Run to myself.   A mix of stocked rainbows, browns, and a couple of very colorful brook trout were brought to the net using small flashback PT's, copper-beaded PT soft hackles, gold-beaded hare's ear soft hackles, and olive Lafontaine caddis pupas.  It was a wonderfully warm and bright day to be outside and the fishing was great.

In contrast to the previous afternoon, the following morning was a rainy, raw, and cold.   However, as soon as the rain  showers started the fishing really heated up.  I shared The Run with a Blue Heron that had obviously found a good source of fish based on the number of I caught with scars on their backs.  It was a fantastic couple of hours, nymphing the shallow riffles before I needed to head off to meet some students and prepare for the lectures.

A wild brown in the morning mix
On my last morning in the area, Neil had provided a couple other areas on the Breeches to check out which I was very grateful for.  When I took a quick glance at the river early the next morning, it still high and off-color to me, so I figured I would fish "The Run" again before our afternoon on the Letort.

One of a few wild rainbows in the Run
I had to adjust to smaller flies this particular morning since the flies that had worked previously were not of interest to the fish.  I could spot fish sitting in the shallow riffles, and from their movements it looked like they were feeding so I downsized to a #18 flashback PT and an olive zebra midge.  This was the best morning of my trip since I was able to really dial in my small nymphing game.  The fish were very quick and the takes subtle, so I need to work at keeping the nymphs quiet and drifting naturally so that I could detect subtle changes in the sighter.   Once I worked things out I was catching fish pretty regularly and the strongly healthy fish in the run put quite a bend in my short 3 wt!

Wild browns like this one make fishing "the Run" a blast
One of the things I love about fishing "The Run" is the fact that I always find wild fish.  This particular morning I landed a few tiny wild rainbows and a nice wild brown.  It was a fantastic couple of days on the run and the afternoon on the Letort was one to remember thanks to Neil (check back for the next post in a few days).

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Wishing you a wonderful Easter

I love the lyrics of hymns, the good ones have a way to stating the truth in a way that is both beautiful and profound.  The lyrics below are from one of my favorite Easter hymns that describes how the resurrection of Christ from the tomb changes everything!

Wishing you and wonderful Easter everyone!

Christ the Lord is risen today
Earth and heaven in chorus say.
Raise your joys and triumphs high
Sing, ye heavens, and earth reply!

Love's redeeming work is done
Fought the fight, the battle won.
Death in vain forbids him rise
Christ has opened paradise! 

Lives again our glorious King
Where, O death, is now thy sting?
Once he died our souls to save
Where's thy victory, boasting grave?

Soar we now where Christ has led
Following our exalted Head.
Made like him, like him we rise
Ours the cross, the grave, the skies!

Monday, April 15, 2019

Open the CT trout season

Saturday morning Alan and I marked the opening of the CT trout season on a small stream in search of wild trout.

Heavy rains began the night before and continued through the early morning causing the streams to be high and dirty.  We started off at a spot where we opened the 2018 season with our friend Pete and his son.  At the time, we didn't realize that it would be the last time we would fish with Pete.  Before heading out into the rain, we chatted over coffee and some muffins in the truck, hoping the rain would let up but it didn't. The current and the muddy water was not encouraging in the early going so Alan suggested we try another stream nearby which was a good call.

The second stream we fished was in a part of the state of CT that I had never visited in my 30 years of being a resident.  The stream and the surrounding steep gorges full of hemlock, mountain laurel, and oak were all reminiscent of the Appalachian mountains.  This stream was also swollen and off-color but we did find fish behind a rock or in a seam that was protected from the main current.  I landed three very nice brook trout and had a few more brief encounters.  I was fishing a double nymph rig to get the flies down with a bright weighted green weenie on point and a Walt's worm on the tag.  All the fish I landed took the Walt's.   

Alan took me up a tributary to see a waterfall and we fished the small tributary.  The brook trout pictured below was hiding under the root of a tree. Both of us were surprised by it's size given the size of the tributary and how far we were from the main stream.

The waterfall we were searching for

On the hike back to the car, the rain had stopped and the sun was working on breaking through the grey clouds.  We thought one more stream might be worth exploring. 

When we arrived, I traded my rain jacket for a lighter shirt and exchanged the mono leader with the two weighted nymphs for a dry dropper rig more suited for the stream we were about to fish.  As I was switching out my gear I could see Alan working a brook trout out from an undercut.  This stream had already started to clear and the brook trout were on the ready to grab a drifting dry fly. 

We both found brook trout in most every run that we fished.  I stuck with the dry dropper since I was finding some of the larger fish were willing to take the dropper.  After working upstream together it was time to say our good byes, content to have continued our opening day tradition and to have found fish under tough conditions.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Making a day of it back in CT

Saturday morning I was up early and headed back to Connecticut to fish the Farmington River.  I was missing the fact that I haven't fished the Farmington in quite a well so I decided a trip back was in order.  I fished various spots from the dawn until midafternoon when the wind started to really kick up.

The fishing was slow but I did managed a couple of good sized rainbows.  I was test driving a new tight line nymphing leader that George Daniels described on his blog.  I really liked the way it cast the flies and was easy to spot due to the bright running line and opaque leader material.  It is much lighter and more supple than the leader I had been using.  I am looking forward to getting some more practice with it but the first session was very encouraging.

The first wild brown of the afternoon
Once the wind started to really blow, I decided to start to head home.  My plan was to fish a small stream on the way back which turned out to be a very good call!  When I arrived, the afternoon sun had warmed things up nicely and the wind I was battling on the Farmington was not an issue.  I figured that I would fish a dry dropper rig to start and see what the fish were interested in.  The Ausable Bomber paired with a Hare's Ear nymph was a good combination to explore with and it wasn't long before a small wild brown nailed the Hare's Ear.  I spent a few hours in the late afternoon sun watching wild browns and one brook trout slam both the dry and the dropper.

In the last run of the day an aggressive fish slashed at the Bomber twice but could not be coaxed back for a third try.  I removed the dry and the dropper and replaced it with a more subtle Adam's Wulff.  On the third drift of the Adams, the brown came out of nowhere and crushed it.  After a brief but surprisingly intense struggle, I was holding a beautiful wild brown in my hand before returning it to the water.  It was an amazingly beautiful day to be out fishing again and enjoying the warm afternoon after a long cold winter.

Friday, March 29, 2019

On the board

Back to my roots in south central PA
I haven’t been fishing very much this past winter.  There have been a few trips to the Adirondacks to ski in the backcountry.  Winter skiing is a good way to identify potential streams to explore when things thaw out.  This past week I had the chance to fish in PA for a few hours before driving home after dropping my daughter off at college after her spring break. 

Lesser celandine
Late Sunday afternoon I took a walk along the Yellow Breeches.  The first of the lesser celandine were just starting to bloom.  It won’t be long before the banks are blanketed in yellow.  The recent rain had the river quite high.  While the Breeches never looks “angry” to me, the volume of water being pushed along can make wading very treacherous as I found out last spring.  So with a healthy dose of respect, my plan for the next morning would have to be “The Run” in Boiling Springs; a small feeder stream that flows out of Children’s Lake and into the Breeches.  “The Run” was higher than I’ve seen it previously but still safe to fish and very clear. 

In the first riffle I fished, I connected with a nice wild brown that put quite a bend in my short 3 wt.  It was nice to feel the tug of a good fish again and to have the first fish of the year be a wild brown.  In three of the four riffles that I concentrated on, I found fish willing to take a bead head nymph (#16 soft hackle pheasant tail, #16 soft hackle hare’s ear, and a #18 flash back pheasant tail).  I was fishing a modified tight line leader on a 6’6” 3 wt which worked out well for this small stream.  Fish were holding in the riffles and generally could be spotted. Sight fishing is not something I often have the opportunity to do.  

It was a great morning to be out again, and as the rain started to move in, I packed up and started on the long trip home happy to have had a few hours of great fishing!

the first brown of the year

Sunday, March 3, 2019

The Ausable Ugly

Another of my favorite winter flies is the Ausable Ugly by Richard Garfield, a native of the Adriondacks. I have a particular love for flies designed for the high gradient waters of the Adirondacks.

I've been fishing the "Ugly" for a few years and often pull it out of the box when I need a heavy nymph/streamer to fish in the late winter or anytime the water is up after good rain.  Like the picket pin, it can be fished as a nymph, or retrieved like a mini streamer.  You will notice that I added a fire orange thread hot spot on two just to experiment.

Ausable Ugly Material list: 
Thread: Grey UTC 70DN
Tail - muskrat fibers
Body - heavily dubbed muskrat
Rib:  Silver ultrawire (Sm)
Hackle - grizzly hen, palmered from bend to eye
Rough it up with a wire brush or velcro when finished, it's supposed to be ugly!

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Picket Pin

Bead head and orange head versions
It's a rainy late February day outside so I've been meaning to tie a few "winter flies" for those late winter days when you need a nymph/wet fly/streamer to get down to where the fish are and keep it there.

I first learned about the Picket Pin from my good friend Alan (Small Stream Reflections).  It's not a well known fly, probably because it is an older pattern but if you are looking for a versatile fly for the winter, this one is it.  I've fished it as a nymph, swung it like a wet fly, and with a slow retrieve like a mini streamer.

I tie them with two strands of peacock herl for the body, brown hen hackle, palmered from eye to bend and then caught and counter wrapped with gold wire for added durability.  The wing is natural squirrel tail finished off with a couple turns of peacock herl in front of the wing. I typically tie with them with and without a tungsten bead.  For the unweighted version, I thought I would finish these off with a fire orange thread head hardened with some UV fly finish.