Now that the colder weather is here in New England, it's time to spend more time tying. I like to look back through my log book and make a list of flies I want to tie for the coming of spring and new flies that I would like to try this coming year. With this in mind, I was looking back through my log and remembering what a great year this has been. My log is filled with lessons learned and new experiences. It’s the continual learning that I find so engaging about the art of fly fishing. Here are some of the highlights...
This past winter I did some reading on wet flies and soft hackles. I’ve always appreciated old things and old ways and the nostalgia of fishing in the older English and Scottish tradition attracted me coupled with the advice of Gary LaFontaine “to catch more fish you have to fish how other fishermen don’t”. Inspired by books by Dave Hughes and Sylvester Nemes, I tied several soft hackles and looked forward to the coming of spring. In mid-April of this year I had my first chance to experiment with what I had learned. This year the Hendrickson hatch on the Farmington River in CT started a couple of weeks early in mid April and provided my first opportunity to fish some Hendrickson winged-wets. I was very pleased with the results and for a brief time I was an “expert” with my secret weapon. The Hendrickson wet accounted for a bulk of the fish I caught during this wonderful time of year. Just remembering is getting me stoked for another spring! Another lessoned learned this year was how productive a two fly rig can be. Fishing the Hendrickson wet dropped off a Hendrickson comparadun proved a deadly combination and the comparadun served as a great indicator when the wet was fished upstream where takes can be very difficult to detect.
Following the Hendrickson hatch came a couple nights of blizzard caddis hatches on the Farmington which provided more opportunities to try classic wet flies, this time the partridge and orange and partridge and green. I was surprised on several occasions by how strong the takes can be on the swing resulting in several fish snapping off the fly and the entire tippet. Olive wingless wets produced several fish in the weeks following. Here the technique was to swing the wet through the subtle rises. The experienced I gained this year fishing wet flies was definitely a highlight of fishing this season.
This year was also my first year to experience a Hex hatch. My friend Ben invited me to tag along to a favorite spot of his at the end of June. I could not believe the size of these insects ! The resembled the toy helicopters they sell in the Mall more than an insect ! As we stood in the river in the dark it was difficult not to flinch every time one buzzed by and a few fish were fooled with a size 6 (yes you read that right, size 6) White Wulff connected with a few fish in the dark.
|A nice mid summer Farmington rainbow|
In July our family traveled to the Adirondacks for a week’s vacation. This year I decided to do a little exploring. Using my favorite Adirondack fly, the Ausable bomber with a gold-ribbed Hare’s Ear nymph dropped off the back produced some nice wild browns on larger river that I had not fished before. I’m looking forward to going back in 2011. The bomber also produced on the Farmington this year and dropping a pheasant tail off the bomber fooled a few sizeable fish. It was fun to watch the big browns and rainbows gently roll on the bomber. Quite a different experience than the explosive strikes this fly elicits from native brookies in the Adirondacks! I can still see in my mind’s eye a nice 17” rainbow taking the bomber and then proceeding to put up a strong fight to the net.
Later in July the sulfurs and summer stenos were starting to produce. On one particular humid evening I managed to take 3 16+ inch rainbows and a very nice brown on a snowshoe emerger that I was experimenting with. This fly proved a winner on several evenings and in the hands my friend and fishing buddy Pete. I’ll have to tie some more of these this winter.
In August, I had the opportunity to spend a few days in Pittsburg NH on the upper Connecticut River. The river was low this year and I was able to get around more easily than the previous two years I’ve tried to fish this river. Again the two fly rig paid dividends. The last day of the trip started off overcast and eventually by mid day it was raining pretty good. After a brief lunch out of the rain, a rusty stimulator with a red Copper John dropped off the back produced three nice rainbows. Later as the sky cleared and a high pressure moved in I moved into a long section of faster pocket water. The stimulator/copper john produced fish in almost every pocket I fished it in. That was an afternoon I will remember for a long time!
Early September brought another first for me, my first trip to Europe and an invitation to speak at a conference in Belgium. The flight over was a long time to be crammed into coach class but I survived. At the end of the conference, I had arranged to fish with a guide in Wallonia (south western Belgium near the Luxemburg border). The train ride to Wallonia was an experience in its own right, trying to figure out what train was the one I should take in a busy Brussels’ station with everything in French and Flanders. With the help of a kind English speaking gentleman I managed to get on the correct train, Whew! Things were a little tense as the train I was expecting was delayed and a few later trains pulled up to the platform. Fortunately, I staid put until I was sure I was on the right train. My hope was to catch some native European browns and my first Grayling. I was surprised at how caulky and deep the water was that we fished. Even though the streams were not wide they ran very deep right to the bank. The first fish of the day was the best brown of the day, a nicely colored native brown. Shortly after, we moved up into a deep softer pool and I had my first experience with grayling. I saw the indicator go down very subtly and when I lifted the rod there seemed to be a smallish fish on. As I continued to lift the fish came to the surface and revealed itself to me a massive grayling that began thrashing about in an almost snake like manner. It was bending from nose to tail and then the opposite direction nose to tail. After a brief battle the fish was off and I knew I made missed a chance of a lifetime when the guide, still shaking, whispered – that was a huge fish! After a few more browns and a change in location the day was drawing to a close and the rain was moving in. Fishing another deep slow section of another river brought out of the deep muddy water another grayling in the very same way, almost no fight at all until the fish reached the surface and then the unusual thrashing motion followed by several runs and then into the net – my first grayling!
|First Belgium Grayling|
The rain then let off and we finished the day fishing to browns sipping olives under tight cover. What a beautiful country side and again some memories that I will not quickly forget.
The months of September and October were spent fishing familiar waters in CT and in the Adirondacks. But November brought another first for me, the opportunity to fish for Steelhead in the Lake Erie tribs. The day and a half that I was able to spend on the water were two of the nicest days that I could have been out. I’ve always associated fishing for Steelhead with brutal cold weather. But with temperatures reaching into the mid 50’s and bright clear skies it was dream come true. Weather was surpassed by the fishing, although I was told that this year was an off-year for steelhead in Western NY. My guide was a wonderful gentleman who was a pleasure to fish with. A split shot and indicator rig with bright brown and black stoneflies was the ticket and I was into a fish within 30 minutes of getting on the water. I was not prepared for the strength, speed, and size of these powerful fish! After the first run, I quickly found out that these fish were not trout and that a strong hook set was needed. I soon had another try and this time I managed to land my first steelhead a nice bright fish. In a day and a half I was able to land 8 quality fish and tangled unsuccessfully with another 5. This is something that I definitely hope to do more of in the future.
|First Lake Erie Steelhead|
As I have been writing all this down, I’m realizing what a tremendous year this has been and I have been truly blessed to have traveled, experienced, and learned so much in a single year. This year, I also started this blog and I would like to thank those of you who have read my posts. I hope this blog has been fun to read. As winter approaches, there will be less time spent fishing and some more time spent tying so I hope to post some patterns that have worked for me this past year as well as others that I hope to try.
Merry Christmas and blessings to you in the New Year!