Thursday, August 9, 2018

Taking a break for a little fishing


We are getting close to having our home ready for sale so I did manage to take a couple short breaks from work this last week.  It’s been a few months since I last fished the Farmington so I’ve been a little out of touch with what’s going on up there but it’s icy waters were a welcome change from all the heat and humidity around home.

The first evening, I was joined by a young deer who wasn’t all that concerned with me.  By the time I had my camera ready, she was a ways off.  I started the early evening off nypmhing my favorite pheasant tail and caddis puppa combination with no interest.  I had noticed a few isonychia, so I switched over to a dry dropper combination (a larger parachute adams with a #20 rainbow warrior).  I don’t know why I selected the rainbow warrior but on the first drift a brown took the small nymph but quickly shook the hook.

Taking the clue, I tried a couple of small nypmhs on my tight line rig and found a half dozen willing to take the small warrior but like the first fish, all but one wild brown managed to toss the hook.  I did miss another wild brown on the parachute adams and landed one nice wild brook trout on that same dry later in the evening before I headed home. It’s always nice to find some wild fish on the river and it was a pleasant few hours to be outside breathing something other than fresh paint.

After missing quite a few fish on the previous outing, I was looking for some redemption.  A few days later, there was another break in the work and I decided to try again.  There were a good number of fisherman out and even my generally overlooked spot had a pair of fisherman that most likely had worked through the water I was hoping to fish and another gentlemen in a run below that.  Still, I thought I could find a couple fish and took up the challenge of fishing behind another pair of fisherman.  Recent rains had the river up and a little off color so I tried a small frechie along with the rainbow warrior.  Both flies connected with fish this particular afternoon and I only dropped one.  I was pretty pleased to have landed a couple solid browns, a couple of smaller wild browns and a small brookie all while fishing previously worked water.

A nice brown that took the #20 rainbow warrior

Later in the evening I headed upriver to see if the small sulfurs were still coming off.  As the sun set the sulfurs came off in good numbers but few fish were noticing.  I did find a group of wild brook trout that were taking the small bugs along the banks under the cover of some limbs brought down my active beavers.  A small usual connected with the three I saw rising before things got quiet at dusk.

Hope you all have been getting some fishing in this summer!  Tight lines!

A cold fog hanging over the river at the end of a hot and humid day

Thursday, August 2, 2018

The wisdom of Pete

I am re-posting a short piece that my late friend Pete sent me a while back.  Pete was master at fishing a fly we jokingly referred to as "Pete's Fancy".  I don't know how many of them I tied for him but he could catch fish in any stream at any time of the year with a simple bead head pheasant tail nymph with a couple turns of partridge hackle behind the bead.  I hope you find it as informative as it was therapeutic for me to read again the words of a good friend.

"I was asked to write a guest post by Mark, who dubbed me the Zen Master of the Pheasant Tail. While I don’t know if I am quite the Zen Master, I can tell you that the Soft Hackle Pheasant Tail has become one of my “go to” flies, and I have caught many, many trout using this fly.


I first started fishing soft hackles flies after reading Sylvester Nemes book on soft hackles in the mid 1970's. Initially I preferred to fish the Partridge and Peacock soft hackle on some of the smaller local streams. 

About four to five years ago while fishing the Upper Connecticut River, in New Hampshire, I came across the Soft Hackled Pheasant Tail in a fly shop and purchased a few of them. When I returned home, I started to fish them with some success on the larger rivers in the state of CT, the Housatonic River and Farmington River.  I think that the Pheasant Tail represents a myriad of different insects to the trout and this is what makes it so deadly.

I prefer to fish the Soft Hackle Pheasant Tail in size 14-18, with and without the bead head, depending on the time of year, depth of the water, and what is hatching. Early in the season I fish size 14 with a bead head to get down to where the fish are. As the season progresses I just adjust to the conditions on the water I am fishing. I use a 9 to 12 foot leader in 4x or 5x, once again depending on conditions of the river I am fishing.

Generally I use the Soft Hackle Pheasant Tail as a searching pattern if nothing is hatching. I cast the fly quartering across and upstream, letting the fly just swing in the current, and as the fly gets to the end of the drift with no takes, I slowly retrieve the fly, using short 4-6 inch strips, or twitch the fly. Working the fly like this has proven to be deadly for me and when the trout takes  this fly they hammer it. There is no doubt when they take the fly. Another favorite trick of mine is to target trout that are sipping something under the surface. I try to work into a position above the fish and cast the fly a few feet above their feeding lane. Let the fly dead drift and often this results in a hook up. Another tactic is to blind cast up and across, letting the fly dead drift like a dry, make a mend or two, watching your leader. When the leader stops, set the hook and most of the time you are into a fish.

There are times when the trout will take the soft hackle, as it starts to rise up through the water column, at the end of the swing. Usually these takes are really solid and leave no doubt that you have a fish on. Just another reason I only use 4x and 5x leaders. I fish the Soft Hackle Pheasant Tail in all types of water, slow, fast, moderate and pocket water.

I have taken trout in every river that I have fished the Soft Hackle Peasant Tail, including small wild trout streams during December and January. It has been my “go to” fly particularly in the Farmington River. Mark and I have fished with several other fishermen from a forum that we all belong to and each one of these fine fly fishermen can attest to effectiveness of the venerable Soft Hackle Pheasant Tail."

Here's a video if you are interested in tying a few!


Friday, July 13, 2018

An Adirondack morning


Last week I had the chance to spend a few days in the Adirondacks.  With temperatures reaching into the upper 90’s in most New England, the Adirondack Mountains did not escape the heat wave as they often do.  The heat coupled with dry summer conditions meant that most of the brooks I usually fish were too low and potentially too warm to fish but there is one that usually remains cold through the dry summer months. 

white compagnon
I was up before dawn to take advantage of the cooler morning air.  The cool night air had brought a heavy dew on the white compagnon, daisies, and chicory growing along the roadsides this time of year.   When I reached the brook, I could hear the gently tumbling water but the stream was low.  A quick check of the water temperature, indicated it was in a safe range to fish.  I fished a black foam ant in the heads of the small plunges and caught a few smaller brook trout.  Switching to a larger tan caddis seemed to bring a few larger fish to the surface.

As I picked my way downstream along the boulder strewn brook, I approached a favorite shelf of exposed Canadian Shield.  Along the shelf there is a break in the rock that forms an underwater ledge with some current running along it.  I often find fish hanging close to the ledge.  As the caddis floated along the ledge, I watched a nice brook trout rise, inspect the fly and turn away.  Most brook trout that I run across in these relatively sterile Adirondack streams don’t typically refuse a well presented fly so this was a bit puzzling.  I waited a bit and then tried again, this time with no response.  Switching to a foam ant, and then lighter colored usual, also failed to interest the trout.  Reasoning that the fish had inspected a tan colored fly, I tied on an Ausuable Bomber and floated it along the ledge.  This time it rose and took the fly but the barbless hook didn’t hold and the brook trout headed back to the safety of the ledge.  Not wanting to give up on nice fish, I waited some more and tried the bomber once again and was surprised that it rose once again.  This time the hook held and I was soon holding a lightly colored Adirondack brook trout.  You can see the exposed Canadian Shield in the background.  I find the fish in this particular stream are generally lighter in color, this may be due to lack of tannin in the water (often found in the Adirondacks) and the lighter stream bed formed by this rock.



I continued to fish until the morning air started to bear the heat of the coming day and then quit.  I would have like to fish more while we in the mountains but the temperature and the dry conditions didn’t allow that but I was thankful for one morning to fish in the mountains we love.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Remembering a friend

Last week my friend Pete (TROUT1) passed away after a long bout with cancer.  I had a chance to visit with him before he passed and we laughed about the adventures we had together over the years.  Despite everything he was going through he always managed to have a positive attitude which is something I will always remember.

One of many New Year's Day spent
together
I first met Pete after an email exchange during which he graciously offered to show me around a local stream that he had fished for years.  That first meeting turned into a friendship that took us fishing small streams and larger rivers all over Pete’s home state of CT.  Having spent his entire life in the same general area, he was wealth of information that he was gracious enough to freely share.  I would have never started fishing the Farmington River without his encouragement and guidance and it was Pete that introduced me to tight line nymphing.  
Pete fishing the Farmington on a cold
November day

Pete was an well rounded fly fisherman who was at home fishing dries, nymphing, or swinging streamers but he was a master of fishing wet flies. At Christmas time or his birthday I would tie him some of his favorite bead head pheasant tail soft hackles and he would proceed to catch more fish on the flies that I tied for him than I ever could. A fact that he would remind me of frequently.

I will miss you friend!

Our last outing together, Opening day 2018.  Pete with his son Matt,
Alan and myself

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Laurel, brook trout, and a bomber

We've been working hard on our home but I needed a break.  A solitary walk along a favorite woodland stream was just what was needed.  Air filled with the fragrance of multi-flora rose, mountain laurel starting to bloom, a hardwood forest alive with birdsong, the quiet of a lush canopy of green under cloudy, overcast skies; these are the elements of fishing these tiny waters that bring perspective, joy, and refreshment.  Yes, the stream was alive with aggressive brook trout eager to attack a bomber multiple times but there was so much more to be sensed, enjoyed, and to be grateful for.


Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Hendricksons Part III

I was still hoping to catch a decent afternoon hatch so Ben and I made plans to head up to the river a few days after my previous attempt and try a little further upriver.   

A lovely day on the Farmington River
We arrived before things got started and I headed up into some riffles to do some nymphing.  I found a couple of pockets with a few of the recently stocked survivor strain browns.  They were easily identified being about 12 inches long with a bright green tag behind the right eye and a clipped adipose fin.  

Notice the green marker
It wasn’t long before I started to see the egg laying spinners being blown downriver and then the duns started hatching.  A couple of guys were work the tail of the run so I opted to stay put and switched over to a dry fly rig.  There were a few rises out of the main current, but fish were willing to take a dun drifted through the riffles even if there were no rises evident for as long as the hatch lasted.  Even though the fish weren't big, I prefer fishing dries in pocket water vs slower water.

After the hatch wound down, I hiked to another stretch of the river and did a little more nymphing and landed another rainbow and a brown.  All the fish I caught nymphing took a bright green caddis puppa.  I never did find an effective second fly in my double nymph rig despite a good bit of switching around.

We finished up the day fishing the spinner fall that evening and both did quite well with a egg laying spinner first and then a rusty spinner later.  Early on I managed to find a pocket of wild browns of various sizes which is always nice to see. 


A few days later I was able to fish another spinner fall.  I caught a couple nymphing the early part of the evening and then had fun evening sharing the tail of a pool with 3 other guys.  Two of the guys I had met years before.  I usually run into them during the hendrickson hatch year after year in this same location, the third I had met during my last two trips.   Even though there were 4 of us fishing in a smaller area we all had rising fish to cast to and when the evening was done, one commented “that was very civilized!”  It’s always a pleasure to share the river with friendly, considerate people, which is generally the case even on a heavily fished river like the Farmington.

At this point, the hendrickson hatch is winding down and it’s time to dig in and get our home ready to sell and prepare for our relocation to the Boston area this fall.  Needless to say things will be quiet around here for a while so I wanted to take the opportunity to wish all of you a wonderful summer.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Give them something different! - hendricksons Pt II

My second trip up to the Farmington was on a bright clear warm afternoon.  As I surveyed some spots working my way up the river I spotted some hendricksons coming off and an area where there were some rising fish and only a couple of fisherman. 

The rises were mostly in the same spots but they occurring in water about 1-2 ft deep and the slower current made it difficult to get into position to cast without sending ripples.  The fish seemed to notice when they were being approached as the rises would stop and then start in another area. Every time I would move the rises would move back to where I had just been.  I did see a few fish take duns off the surface but when I looked carefully in the water, I couldn't believe what I was seeing.  There were a dozen or more dark nymphs drifting in every square foot of water as far as I could see.  After a couple hours of frustration, the hatch died off and things got quiet again. 

A thick brown that inhaled the Bomber
I was beginning to question my sanity waiting for spinner fall with the wind blowing as hard as it was.  Almost ready to pack it in and count the day a loss, I saw a single solid rise right in front of me.  I tried several hendrickson dries (comparadun and spinners) with no response and then I remembered a friend's advice - "when all else fails throw them something different".  I looked in my box and the craziest thing I had with me was an Ausable Bomber.  Wouldn't you know it, on the first drift a solid brown came up and nailed the Bomber.  I couldn't believe it! While I was working on bringing it to the net I wondered if I had foul hooked it but it had inhaled the bomber like it was the last meal it would ever see.  After seeing another lone rise further upstream, I cast the bomber, mostly out of curiosity, and sure enough the fish came up but I missed setting the hook.  

Who knows what the fish saw in the Bomber but by this time the wind had settled and the spinners were in the air.  I started off with a size 12 but then switched to a size 14 rusty spinner and picked up a nice holdover brown.  It was one of the survivor strain browns that are removed from the river as a large adult, taken back to the hatchery to breed, and returned to the river.  From the red marking behind the left eye this one was released back into the river as an adult in 2017.  It's always encouraging to see fish holding over well in the river.  As darkness approached the fish were still rising but they were ignoring the #14 spinner.  I suspect they were taking something smaller.

If you look closely behind the eye you can see the red elastomer
It was a frustrating day to start but redemption came in the last hour.