Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Just the usual

Fran Better's "Usual"
I was out earlier this week for a little fishing after work.  As I drove up to the Farmington River, I was working through a mental checklist of places to try becuase it's good to have a plan B and C on heavily fished rivers like the Farmington. Spot A was a bust, too many cars, so headed to the next spot on the list which had one other angler in it and there was plenty of water for us to explore.

There were a few sulfurs around early but the river was mostly devoid of rising fish, so I did some nymphing and picked up a couple of rainbows on a Walt's worm variation which has been a rainbow magnet for me lately.  After I saw the first couple rises, I headed back to the truck and put the nymphing rod away and rigged up the dry fly rod.

I toyed around with a sulfur comparadun but after drifting it over a few rises, I decided that I would go to "the usual".  I don't know why this rough looking fly does so well at dark but it rarely fails under these conditions and this night would be no different.  I tie two variations on short-shanked hooks in size 14 and 16.  I use either hot orange or pale yellow thread.  When the fly becomes wet, the body takes on the color of the thread due to the translucent nature of the snowshoe rabbit fur dubbing. With the pale sulfurs I was seeing, I chose the yellow thread variation. There weren't a lot of rising fish until the sun had set but once it did lots of fish were actively rising and I had the most consistent dry action of the season well into the darkness.

There was a brief lull that made be think the hatch was over but the rises started picking up again.  This time the usual, which had worked so well, was being ignored.  I tried a large sulfur spinner but that wasn't the ticket either. It wasn't until I turned on my headlamp to head out that I realized what was going on.  There were huge yellow mayflies (#10/#12) all over the river, either light Cahills or Yellow drakes.  I probably would have enjoyed the encore if I had switched to one of the big usuals I carry.  That's what is so fun about fly fishing, you are always learning to be more attentive to what's going on around you!

As much as I enjoy fishing dries at dark, those beaver tail slaps right behind me still give me the creeps!

Sunday, July 9, 2017

A rainy start

The past Friday afternoon Ben and I met up to fish the Farmington River.  We haven't had a chance to fish together this season so it was good to be able to ride up to the river together and talk about what has been going on with each other.  When we met, it was looking like it was going to be rainy start. On the ride up the rain was pretty steady but the forecast was calling for clearing by mid afternoon and I don't mind fishing in the rain for a little.

I ended up nymphing the pocket water looking for fish.  Things started off a little slow.  I found fish but I wasn't getting a good hook set for some reason but it was good to move fish.  I probably hooked a dozen fish but only landed a pair.  Some were just briefly hooked and others came off when I was trying to pull them out of the heavier current but that's part of fishing this type of water.  I enjoy searching out the seams, the aggressive way the fish take the flies in faster water, and the challenge of maneuvering the fish out of stronger current.

A wild Farmington Brook trout?
Late afternoon we tried another spot briefly before moving to where we wanted to fish til dark.  When we arrived I could see a couple fish taking something small in the surface film. The rises were very sporadic and the small olive dries I threw were pretty much ignored. Once the sulfurs started coming off things picked up a little.  I managed to pick off one brook trout on a small sulfur but the other rises were pretty much out of my reach until right before dark.  I put on a large usual and started fishing it in the the tail of the pool.  I could see subtle rises in about a foot or two of water and wondered if they were just small fish or salmon paar until one grabbed the usual and started running hard.  I was surprised at how strong this fish was running, taking line on several charges.  With one final leap, as if to say "see you later", it kindly returned the fly.  I think those subtle rises were decent fish taking spinners right before dark. With that last fish, we decided to call it quits while we could still make our way across the river and back to the truck.

Fishing in the dark is always a unique experience.  Whether it's jumping out of your skin when a beaver sneaks up behind you and slaps it's tail on the water a few feet behind you or stumbling upon a deer in the dark as you make you way out.  Unfortunately, we also had one more surprise on the way out when a set of red and blue lights started coming towards us.  A very polite officer stopped us and informed us that the area was closed at dark and that we had to leave the area before sunset.  I've fished this spot many times over the last few years and never had any issues with fishing late but I guess the local teens have been causing trouble in the area and the police were doing what they needed to.  The officer just gave us a warning but I we will have to find another spot were we can fish late.  It's too bad because I really would like another shot at the those fish in the shallow water with a large yellow spinner!

Friday, June 30, 2017

A summer afternoon

A survivor strain brown (yellow
elastomer behind the right eye) 
I spent this summer afternoon on the Farmington River.  I figured that now that summer is here, I would spend the afternoon nymphing the shady pocket water.  My hunch paid off as browns and rainbows were found in many of the shallow pockets.

Near the end of the afternoon, I found a stretch of promising water and quickly hooked three nice rainbows.  The sulfurs were just starting to come off in numbers when the skies got dark and I could hear rumbling in the distance.  At that point, I packed up and headed back to the truck and checked the radar and decided it was time to head home.  It wasn't long before the lightening was flashing and the rain was pouring down as strong line of storms moved through as they do on summer afternoons...


Tuesday, June 27, 2017

It's been quite around here for a reason

Father and  daughter
Yes it's been quiet around here at least on the fishing front and there are good reasons.  For most of the month of May were getting ready for a big day in our family, the marriage of our oldest daughter.  She enjoys the outdoors and we have had many adventures together over the years, camping, hiking, skiing and snowshoeing so it was no big surprise that she wanted to be married outdoors.   We had the event at a friends barn and had a wonderful day weather wise at a fanastic location and everything went as well as we could wish.  By the end of the day we were all pretty tired.

On Father's day, my youngest daughter and I went for hike along a favorite small stream.  The last time I fished this stream there were caterpillars everywhere.  Unfortunately, they were gypsy moth caterpillars.  We were amazed at how much of the forest they had destroyed in just a few weeks. The ground was covered with half eaten leaves.  The hillside in the picture below normally would be a lush green but all that the moths left were few half eaten leaves, tree trunks, and limbs.  It was really a sad sight to see.

The arbor I built from Adirondack birch

Last week we were away in the Adirondacks doing some long overdue spring clean up on my mother-in-law's place.  The Adirondacks have been getting a healthy dose of rain all spring and the lakes and streams were quite full.  Needless to say the grass has been growing like crazy so it took a good bit of effort to get things back under control again.  I did take a couple hour break one afternoon to check out a mountain stream.  It was as high and unruly as I have ever seen it in late June and it was tough getting a fly down to where the fish were probably hiding.  I did manage one brook trout to hand but it took a heavy Ausable ugly to coax it out of it's sheltered hiding place.

The firs Adirondack brook trout of the season
With the streams too high to fish, I turned to taking a canoe out in the nearby lake at dusk to fish poppers for smallmouth.  I am not much of a lake or bass fisherman but I do know a few spots that have some underwater structure that will hold bass in the summer.  The first night out I caught plenty of small smallmouth and rock bass to make it fun.

The next night when I canoe to those same spots things were pretty quiet.  I did catch a decent smallmouth on a foam popper so I switch to a small popper with a #14 hook thinking a smaller fly might get some more attention.  As I was working my way back through and area that usually holds fish, something came up and slammed the popper hard and then dove deep and stayed deep.  From the way I was getting towed around in the canoe, I knew this fish was going to be a good one so I didn't try to force the issue, especially with such a small hook that could easily bend.  When I finally got the fish up to the canoe, I was quite surprised to see a hefty largemouth bass on the end of the line, I guess it was roughly around 5lbs.

So that's what I've been up to lately.  I expect things will settle down some now and hopefully I can get back to trout fishing soon.

Adirondack Serenity

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Fishing with friends?

After a line of thunderstorms worked through our area, I headed out to fish a small stream. I met a blue heron as I walked along the stream.  When I would approach the stream, it would move off and I would find it in the next area upstream.  I guess it has fished this stream before because it seemed to stop at all my usual spots! 

I suspect the fish were on alert from it's presence since it wasn't until I moved upstream ahead of it before I started finding fish.  I ended up fishing a foam ant and a mini muddler since the brook was up and a bit off-color from the recent showers.

Now that everything is growing, the small streams are getting less open.  If you want to fish these tiny waterways, you are going to have to figure out a way to get a fly into tight spaces like the one to the right.  But if you can get a fly to drift in the right channel you will often be rewarded.

The rewards

Monday, May 22, 2017

Small streams and Sunday afternoons

I love fishing a small stream on a Sunday afternoon.  I just enjoy the time to reflect after church on a Sunday morning.

I fished a few of my usual dries but they did not bringing up the brook trout I knew where there which left me a little puzzled.  I ended up putting on an ant and that changed things.  It seems a little early for ants but that what the fish were interested in this afternoon.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Making the best of a poor decision

As someone who works full time, deciding to spend a vacation day to fish involves some calculation. It can be a bit of a juggle between work calendars, necessary meetings, weather, and conditions.  We are all thankful for the rain we've been receiving this spring.  It has brought a number of small brooks back to life after a summer and fall of drought but it has presented some challenges for me in terms of timing fishing breaks.  When I have an opening afternoon on my work calendar it's been either raining or recently rained and everything is high.

Fishing under the watchful eye of Mama
Each year I like to fish a couple days of the Hendrickson hatch on the Farmington river. This year has been a bit strange.  We had a couple warm days a few weeks back that got the hatch going but cold, wet weather stalled it. I didn't get a chance to get out when it was just getting going and so with a warm day in the forecast, I decided fish yesterday afternoon. The only problem was the river was running much higher than I usually fish.  I should have known that the higher flow would make fishing most of the areas I know tough but I went anyway.  I thought a couple of spots would have water calm enough for fish to rise if a decent hatch took place but when I waded across the river at the first stop, I had serious reservations about the probably of success.  I needed a backup plan.  I stuck it out in the first spot until it was obvious that 1) the hatch was over in this area and 2) the small caddis that were all over the water would not draw any interest from fish in the heavy current.

I thought about potential small stream options and other locations but that would involve more driving so I opted to try and make the best of it under the conditions and focus on areas along the edges and inside bends where there might be some softer water out of the main current that fish could hold.  

My next stop looked like a good choice considering the river level.  As I got into the water, I noticed a pair of canadian geese in the brush along the riverbank about 10ft directly behind me.  As I watched them, I could see some young so I kept a close eye behind me.  This spot was just what I needed to get a couple fish in the net which included a couple of  survivor strain browns stocked into the river this spring and a very healthy rainbow.  The state of CT marks the fish with an elastomer that indicates when the fish was stocked.  The largest was an 18" female that was stocked this past spring.  As I got ready to move on, I must have gotten a little too close to one of the geese judging by all the hissing it was doing at me.  Encouraged by a little success I went looking for more suitable water.

A big survivor strain brown with a clipped adipose fin

Left eye/Red - a 2 year old stocked in 2017

At my third stop I found another rainbow, again on a soft inside seam. Talking to a couple other fly fisherman, I realized that trying to figure out where a spinner fall might take place with soft water where fish would rise was going to be difficult with the limited information I had so I opted to try one final spot before heading home.

At another inside bend I picked up another two very healthy rainbows that put up strong battles in the heavy current.  Heading home I realized the warm sun and wading in the heavy current had left me pretty tired but satisfied that despite a questionable decision to fish in the high water, I had still managed to bring to the net my biggest fish of the season so far.

The last rainbow of the day