Friday, October 31, 2014

Good bye to October

The last day of October, and the air felt more like November than October. The trees are losing more of their leaves every day and just the odd golden beech or orange of red maple or oak remain. The days are getting noticeably shorter as November approaches and with the return of eastern standard time, darkness is going to be coming an hour earlier.

It's been a while since I've fished a small stream so plans were made to meet Alan (small stream reflections) on a small stream that he has been exploring.  We walked through stands of hemlocks and mountain laurel in the bottom of a rocky ravine in the dull gray light of the overcast afternoon.

The remnants of an old dam

The landscape was typical of CT with old rock walls running throughout the forest and a stream plunging and tumbling over the rocky earth.  Adding to the sense of familiarity was the company of a friend who also appreciates simplicity of this type of fishing.  

This was an afternoon to fish dries.  I started fishing a mini muddler while Alan fished a bomber and Parachute Rapidan.  Early in the afternoon, I sent the muddler into a long slow pool and we were soon admiring the first nicely colored brook trout of the afternoon.

The first nicely colored brook trout of the afternoon
I fished the muddler for a while and then switched to a Royal Wulff when large sections of pocket water predominated.  The Royal Wulff fooled a handful of good sized brooks.  As the the gray afternoon darkened, I enjoyed a quite walk out among the hemlocks and mountain laurel stopping every now to take a picture or enjoy a view.

A boulder the size of a small house
The last bits of color

Monday, October 27, 2014

Fall days

Fall days are here.  The kind of days that bring mix of everything, sun, clouds, rain showers, wind, and falling leaves.  I don't know why I love these kind of days but I do.  The bird hunters were out but I guess most everyone else was inside staying warm and dry.

Spots 1 and 3 where a bust but location 2 produced some dark rainbows and a couple of browns.  It was definitely a subsurface day and it took switching to a heavy anchor fly on the double nymph rig to connect but after the switch I was finding  fish.  After nymphing through the second run I tossed and stripped an articulated streamer and picked up another rainbow.

A dark hooked jawed male

This rainbow chased down the streamer

The days are getting noticeable shorter so it was it was a quick outing but the solitude did my soul good.

One of those "perfect" fall days...

Thursday, October 16, 2014


In anticipation of some expected rain, I was able to get out a twice this week.

The first outing was to a smaller local “river” which was predictably low but my intention was stop at a  deeper  and wider section in search of fish that might be sipping small olives or midges.  In years past, this river/small stream has provide some fun dry  fly action in the fall.  Armed  with a  couple small Adams parachutes and a couple hours, I was able to get some practice targeting fish with small flies at a distance.

The woods are showing a lot of color these days

The rises were gentle and sporadic but after observing for a while you see that the fish were cruising around and not staying in one place.  More observation indicated  there were general areas that fish were working in.  I finally figured out that the best approach would be to lay out a nice long cast  in the general area of a group of rises, let the adams sit for a while and then slowly bring it closer and let it sit etc.  A handful of rainbows fell for this tactic which made for an enjoyable couple hours out in the fall air after work.

Yesterday afternoon I headed up to the Housatonic River.  The Housatonic is known to rise quite a bit after a decent rain and stay high for a while, so I wanted to fish it before the coming rain.   Yesterday was one of those gray, stormy looking days.  The combination of the hillsides now ablaze in the reds, oranges, yellows of fall scattered among the green pine stands all set against the gray backdrop of the sky was quite stunning.  Unfortunately with the coming weather change the wind was really picking up over the course of the afternoon.

Euro-nymphing provide some solid action early with a handful of browns and a hefty rainbow taking the frechie anchor fly (#12).  One brown did take a liking to a small tungsten torpedo but the anchor fly was getting it done early.  By late afternoon, the wind was making it difficult to nymph and it all but shut down any hope of some dry fly action.  Ever the optimist, I did stick it out until dark hoping the winds would dampen after the sun set.  There were some fish working in the tail of the pool I had been fishing right before dark.  It appeared that they were sipping small emergers or spinners but with the strong upstream wind still blowing hard, I could safely reach them.

Notice the olive cast on these holdover browns?

A hefty Housy rainbow

As I drove home, the showers started and as I write we are getting a steady soaking.  The rivers are all on the rise and hopefully the smaller stream will be restored to healthy flows for a few days.  The Housatonic has now doubled in flow and is still rising so despite the wind,  getting out yesterday was a good call. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

To walk in the woods

It's been a while since I've walked along a small brook.  My hope was that a recent rain had brought the water level but that was not the case.  The trees were well colored, the leaves starting to fall and the air crisp and sweet with the familiar but indescribable smell of fall.  I took along the short 3wt and a camera, not much else was needed this afternoon.

Small brook trout were willing to chase a parachate Adams in the tiny riffles, but most were not able to hang on.  Occasionally I would see the swirl of a larger trout that had been holding close to the bank.  While the fishing was not that remarkable, it was a perfect day to walk in the woods.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Back at it

It was another nice fall day in Northwestern CT yesterday.  I drove around a bit in the early afternoon taking some pictures.  This is my favorite time of year in New England and it was so nice to be able to see the trees starting to show their fall dress.

Later in the afternoon, I headed to the Housatonic River. I had come to try out some recently tied sulfur parachutes in the expected size and color from observing on my previous trip.  The isos did not make an appearance this afternoon and things were quite early. At one point a large osprey came cruising downstream calling as it flew. Unfortunately my camera wasn't handy as it flew very close and I got a good look at the birds size and wingspan.

There were a few fish sipping olives here and there and I managed one on a small parachute Adams and one on the streamer.  Later in the afternoon the olives started getting some more attention and I picked up another on a #22 snowshoe emerger and stung another.

As the daylight faded the sulfurs show began and I picked up a handful of nice browns on my modified sulfur spinners and parachutes.  But to say I had it all figured out is not completely accurate. The sulfurs last night were a bit smaller and more orange/yellow in color reminding me that rivers change from day to day and there is always a need to observe and adapt.

A couple of nice Housatonic Browns at dark
Hiking out in the October moon light

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Lessons learned on a big river

So what place to big river lessons have on a blog about fishing small streams?  Well it’s all about observing and learning wherever you fish.  Here are some observations made over two visits to the Housatonic River in Northwestern CT over the last week. 

The Housatonic River on an early fall afternoon

The Housatonic River is a big, wide river and the largest one I've fished.  The river’s flow is no longer controlled and has reverted to “natural flow”.  In the spring, the water levels can be quite high diverting fishing pressure to it’s neighbor to east, the Farmington River.  As spring turns to summer, the river temps rise and the trout find sanctuary in thermal refuges around the smaller feeder streams that are off limits to fishing.  During the summer the Housatonic is known as an good smallmouth bass fishery.  But come fall when the water levels are down and the cool evening temperatures moderate the river temps, this river can often offer great dry fly fishing over fish that have been in the river for sometime.

This past Sunday morning we had some much needed rain fall on our area. With the rain came warmer temperatures and much more humidity than we have been seeing in days prior.  With the overcast skies and the threat of more showers, I was hoping to see a lot of olive activity on the river.  When I arrived I saw lots of rising fish in a flat water section known to produce some nice olive hatches.  I fished small olives but only got a couple looks.  The fish were taking something small on the water so I took a closer look.  I should have been more observant. After all it was a hot humid fall day after rain, conditions known to produce flying ants!  Sure enough they were all over the water and me as well.  After switching to a #18 black flying ant, I broke one fish off, landed one, and missed another taker.  Lesson #1 – observe what’s on the water and yourself.  When it’s a humid fall day be ready with flying ants.   Lesson #2 – leave cruising fish alone.  I spent too much time trying to cast to rises only to see the fish move.  I would have much better off getting into a spot with a good flow of ants and consistently rising fish then chasing cruising fish.

As the day marched toward sunset the fish were ignoring the ants and were turning their attention to something else.   Light yellowish/brown spinners were in the air and on the water but my poly wing spinners and usuals were being ignored.  I did have one rise to a sulfur comparadun but that was it.  I left the river frustrated at having never figured out what was going on.  But the observations made that evening would become important a few days later.

With the return of the fall  weather pattern of cool evenings and moderate, dry afternoons, I was on the river again.  I Euro-nymphed a nice run early in the afternoon before any real hatch began.  I picked up two nice holdover rainbows on a super simple nymph, one with a very bright pink stripe and cheek that had obviously been in the river a while.  In addition to the rainbows, I also hooked a couple of smallmouth bass.  I’ve never fished for smallmouth before but these fish definitely impressed me with their strength and smarts.  One nice one managed to get himself wrapped around the only log in the area and I had to go and try to dig him out!

As the shadows lengthened, I headed to a more remote area of the river to see if I could find a decent hatch of isos.  When I arrived I had a vast expanse of the river all to myself without another soul in sight on a glorious early fall afternoon and the fish were starting to rise to the isos that were coming off.  It didn’t take long to hook a buttery holdover brown on an isonychia comparadun.  For the next couple hours I slowly worked my way up a long riffle casting the comparadun to rising fish.  I can’t honestly remember how many fish I caught but one in particular proved quite challenging.  From the rises, I could see this was a decent fish that was sitting between two currents in a calm pocket that was protected by some large rocks.  After repositioning myself several times to get a decent drift, I finally managed to have the distance and drift down.  As the comparadun drifted over its location, no time was wasted in taking the impostor with authority.  Once the brown felt the hook it headed downstream and across in a hurry.  By the time I could turn it, it was about 50 yds away and nearly on the other side of the river with lots of rocks between to use to its advantage.  Although it tried to bury itself in a couple of rock piles, I did manage to bring a nice hold over brown to the net.  While not a trophy by any stretch, I was very satisfied in knowing that I had landed a nice fish that was holding in a very challenging spot.

As sunset approached the iso comparadun was getting less and less attention even though more fish were rising.  Now they were clearing the water chasing something that was perhaps rapidly rising through the water column.  The air was becoming heavy with the same yellowish/brown spinners I had seen a few days before.  I tried yellow poly winged spinners and usuals again and coming up empty again.  I did get one fish on a #16 white comparadun but that’s it.  After looking through my box, I decided to try a #16 sulfur parachute and picked up a couple fish before the activity slowed.  But the parachute was the key to what was going on.  This time of year yellow quills are around and their wings our mostly transparent.  The slender body of the parachute along with dun hackle was a good match for the transparent wings of the spinners and is probably why the white poly winged spinners were being ignored.   Yellow quill nymphs are also known to be active swimmers and if the trout were chasing the rapidly rising emergers that could explain why  I was seeing trout clear the water on both evenings.  So yet another lesson learned on the big river.  Next time I will be ready with some more parachutes and grey antron-winged spinners to see if that doesn’t solve the riddle! 

Observing, learning and then applying that learning is one of the things I find so interesting about fly fishing.  But I have to say that the pure simply joy of being outside in God’s wonderfully beautiful and intriguing creation on clear, cool, fall day is hard to beat.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Olives late

The last friday afternoon/evening venture of the summer.  Things were slow in the afternoon but as the day cooled the fish started getting active.  At first they were taking small emergers and I fooled a couple on a #22 CDC emerger.  Then the fish started clearing the water chasing something.  There were small spinners hovering over the water and I think the fish were leaping for them.  I've seen this before but I could not tell exactly what they were after.

As darkness fell there were swarms of spinners and I was hopeful there would be a spinner fall but it didn't material.  I did manage to fool one brown on a #20 rusty spinner but that was it.