Monday, October 15, 2018

Red berries, red leaves, and orange bellies…

I hope you all are taking the opportunity to enjoy this fall.  This is my favorite time of year in New England and I am trying to take advantage of it before the business of the coming move takes over.

 The rain continues to come and the streams are as full as I’ve seen them in a long time.  I haven’t seen many of the red maples turning but I am seeing the leaves on the ground.  The last of the late summer New York asters can still be seen but a recent cold snap has left very few behind and the male brook trout are sporting brilliant orange bellies, dark throats, and kyped jaws.
Even though there is a lot of water moving through the small streams the brook trout are still eager to rise a well presented dry fly.  As the fall progresses, the fish rarely let an opportunity for food pass overhead.
I did fish a dry dropper for a little but cut the nymph off after it was pretty obvious that fish were willing to aggressively rise to a large dry like an Ausable Bomber.   Occasionally a fish would sail over the bomber signaling it’s disapproval of my offering but plenty were willing to take the Bomber without a second thought, some rising 2-3 times to the same fly even after briefly being stung by the hook.  In addition to the brook trout's beauty, their aggressiveness to take a dry and the spirited fight that these small fish display are a few of their endearing traits.

I ended up fishing upstream with the Bomber and then switching to an Adams/Wulff on the way down and catching some of the fish I missed on the first pass.   Forget the football games and get out there and enjoy the season before it’s a distant memory.

Monday, October 8, 2018

October days

The signs of fall are everywhere in the woodlands now.  The leaves are turning yellow,  the reds and oranges will soon dominate the landscape.  The lush green ferns of summer have turned golden as if to echo the changes in the canopy above.  The steady rains of late summer have continued and the streams are full and flowing in full strength, adding their voices to the symphony of color that is fall in New England.  Even the air has that distinctive smell of fall.

I was honestly surprised by how full the brook was and wondered whether a dry was going to be effective.  I did have a couple smaller fish slash at the adams/wulff variation I had used previously.  I decided a dry dropper was a better choice so switched to a larger Ausable Bomber with a lighting bug nymph as the dropper, thinking that a bright, olive-type nymph was a good choice for fall.

A lot of trees were down from the summer storms making delivering the pair of flies into various seams and undercuts a bit more challenging then usual but such is small stream fishing.  Sometimes it's all about getting into the right position to guide the flies gently downstream into the right current seam.  Sometimes this involves perching on a rock midstream and using a bow and arrow cast to flip the flies alongside the base of an overhanging tree and with a little patience mending the line you can get the flies to drift right along the base of that tree.

On this particular October day, a fish rose from under that tree and crushed the Bomber.  I saw a red flash and thought I had hooked a small rainbow but after a brief struggle I was holding one of the most gorgeous brook trout I've seen in some time.  The deep orange underside was indicative of a fine male getting ready to spawn.  The colors on this fish was stunning and I was so disappointed that during my fumbling to get my camera ready and keep the fish in the water, it managed to get back under that tree in a flash.

 I continued to fish the dry-dropper for the remaining hours of daylight until dusk began to envelope the forest.  Hiking out in the near darkness, I was thankful for the opportunity to enjoy a day afield in my favorite season of the year.  I hope each of you are able to enjoy these October days as well!

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Tiny nymphs in high water?

The Breeches over it's banks and
running over an island
Central PA has been getting an awful lot of rain this summer.  My daughter’s college, on the banks of the Yellow Breeches, has been warning students to stay away from the river, and this weekend I saw why!  While there was no foaming white water like you see in the spring in the mountains, one can’t help but feel small at the site of a heavy mass of water moving along in such a way as to overrun anything in its path. Not a place to wade into if you had any sense about you.  About the only option to do a little fishing after a quick visit was to try "The run" over in Boiling Springs.

The run is typically an intimate tributary of the Yellow Breeches where water from a spring feed pond flows down a short run to join the main stem of the river.  The Cumberland Country Trout Unlimited chapter has been doing habitat improvement work there and their efforts have created a lovely stretch of water.   I had hoped that the protected nature of the run would render it more fish-able under the conditions but even here there was more water moving through than I’ve seen since I started visiting after my daughter first started college.  I had the place entirely to myself which probably tells you more about the conditions that anything else since this is a heavily fished area.  The water was as crystal clear as it typically is so I thought it was worth fishing for the couple hours before heading home.

Small victories
On spot that I typically find a good number of fish had too much water moving through for the fish to find any refuge.  I tried a couple tiny nymphs and added plenty of shot to slow things down.  I had one brief hookup before moving on to find someplace where the current was more moderate.

Most of the fish I’ve caught in the run have taken a #20 nymph or midge so it was a little odd fishing such small flies with enough small shot to keep them where they needed to be but I did manage to hook a rainbow and a feisty brown that popped off at the net.   I’ve certainly had better mornings in the run, but I was still pleased to have hooked a few fish under the circumstances.  I guess you can fish tiny nymphs in high water!

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Fall is in the air

It's been a hectic and stressful summer around here but the good news its that we have a buyer for our home and managed to find a new home in MA.  The final details are being worked out but the plan is to be our new home in late October.  In the meantime, I hope to be able to fish a few of my favorite places before moving. 

The first brook trout of the morning
When fall rolls around I usually fish a lot of Adams variations so I decided to tied a few Adams in the Wulff style and test them out.  I used some woodchuck guard hairs for the tail, white calf tail for the wings, grey superfine dubbing, and brown and grizzly hackle. 

Yesterday, I took advantage of some fall like weather to fish one of my favorite small streams.  The first test of the adams wulff was along the log pictured above.  As the fly drifted along the last two feet of the log, a nice brook trout aggressively took it and headed back under the log.  I was able to keep it from getting back under the log for a little before it managed to free itself.  It wasn't too long before the wulff connected with another brook trout. Most of the fish caught were showing signs of getting ready to spawn.

As I worked my way along the stream there was a definite sense that fall was in the air.  The day was cool and overcast and the forest was taking on that early fall yellowish glow.  The New York Asters were still evident.  The adams wulff would be all that was needed. 

The best brook trout of the day went completely airborne and took the Wulff on the way down as it drifted through a gentle run!

I don't know if I will get to fish this little stream very much in the future but today I enjoyed walking along it's banks once again during on of my favorite time of year.

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.