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.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Hendricksons part I

The first fish of the afternoon that took a Frenchie
The Hendrickson hatch has finally made it to the Farmington River and last Sunday afternoon was my first chance to get up to river.  It was a rainy, damp day, the sort of day that you don't usually see Hendricksons.  I fished for a while in an faster run that dumps into a long deep pool.  I thought I could nymph the faster water and if a hatch occurred, there might be rising fish in the pool below.

The faster water produced a brown and a pair rainbows.   After spending a winter and spring chasing small wild brook trout, I had forgotten how strong the fish in the Farmington are and the first brown of the afternoon quickly reminded me.

The highlight of the afternoon was an epic baetis hatch.  It wasn't the hatch I had gone looking for but typical of a grey, rainy spring day.  While the fish were largely ignoring the bugs, the swallows were all over them.  I just sat back and watched.  There were so many birds in the air at the same time, that I wondered how they didn't run into each other.  I didn't dare cast a fly into the swirling, darting mass of birds for fear of injuring one.  If you've ever watched the areobatic flight of swallows then you can imagine what it must have looked like!

I finished up the afternoon checking out one more spot and picked up the last strong rainbow of the afternoon.  In a future post on two, I'll have more to say about the Hendricksons.

   

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

early study with long exposure

I’ve been interested in experimenting with long exposure photography for some time.  After doing a little research to get familiar with filters and settings, I figured that I would need a neutral density filter and a 10stop filter seemed a good place to start for what I was interested in doing.

The first opportunity that I had was an overcast afternoon, so I chose a small stream that I’ve been fishing with a nice waterfall.  The brook trout were active and many were hooked on a bead head pheasant tail that I had dropped off a royal wulff dry.  A few fish took the dry but the strongest fish hit the pheasant tail hard and then ran for the roots and undercuts and were able throw the hook.  The late spring snow storms have left a lot of debris in and around this small stream making it difficult to get a fly to where the fish were and even more challenging bringing a feisty brook trout back out!
  
I spent the last half hour experimenting with the camera and the filter.  Other than the out of focus twig on the right side, I was pleased to get the effect on the water that I was looking for.  The 10stop filter was a but much for the overcast day but it should work nicely in situations with more light or longer exposures.  This first study gave me a little better understanding of the variables I will need to control when using the filter.


Sunday, April 22, 2018

Observation

One of pleasures of fly fishing in general and small stream fishing in particular is watching and observing all that surrounds. I continue to be fascinated with the natural world and how it is constantly changing and yet there are patterns and cycles that are repeated. Here in New England we are blessed with 4 distinct seasons that each have a unique beauty and I love to watch one transition into another.

Some streams I will fish only in a particular season while others I will fish throughout the year.  The streams I return to often are like a well worn pieces of clothing, familiar and comfortable.  You get to know by experience what will be blooming and where the fish will be holding under various conditions.  But that familiarity does not wear old.  With each visit there is something new to observe, something unique to discover, if you are alert to little details such as how changes in the landscape indicate changes in the stream.  Because nature runs in cycles, what is blooming on the forest floor will often be connected in some way to what insects are active and where trout will be holding as ground temperature is indicative of water temperature.

My last visit to this particular stream was on a cold day in February when snow still covered the ground.  While the early morning had a chill in the air, the spring-ward track of the sun was evident and there was a sense of new life that was about to enter.  Heavy rains earlier in the week had filled the banks with water and the evidence of flooding was easily seen.  Buds were just starting to appear on the trees but the woods are still are clothed in the brown and grey of early spring with the exception of a few coltsfoot blooming on the southerly facing banks of the stream.

The chilly early morning air and the heavier spring-like flow suggested the fish would be out of the main current and would probably not notice a dry fly floating on the surface so I rigged up a dry dropper rig with an easily seen royal wulff and a bead head pheasant tail with a couple turns of partridge trailed behind the dry.

Hiking along the stream with the early morning sun reflecting off the moving water brought a bright pleasant warmth inside.  After a winter that seemed to hold on long past it's time, a welcome change was in the air.


I experimented with various dries and nymphs but my initial choice turned out to be the best combination and I enjoy a marvelous morning afield, leaving reassured that the brook trout have survived another winter and hopeful for even brighter days ahead.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

An opening

This yea's crew
What amazing weather we had this year for the opening of trout season in CT.   For those of us who love fishing smaller water for native trout, the opening day is day to get together with old friends to fish the small streams we love once again.  Even though this spring has seemed like an endless February, the day dawned bright and warm and Alan and I enjoyed a fine morning.  There were trout lilies everywhere just starting to pushing up through the leaf litter of last fall.


Trout Lilly
We had arranged to meet Pete and Matt at around 10:30 a little further downstream so we moved on and enjoyed some coffee and muffins while we waited for them to arrive.  They arrived soon afterward and we chatted for a while and sipped more coffee before heading off to fish.


Alan was the first to raise a brook trout on the Hornberg he was fishing.  After trying to coax it back to the fly he headed downstream and Pete and Matt headed up a small tributary that has treated us well in years past.  I decided to send the dropper/dropper I was fishing through the run where Alan had raised a trout and connected with my first brook trout of the morning which took the pheasant tail dropper I was trailing behind a royal wulff.

I decided to head a bit upstream and found a nice deep run to drift the dry dropper through.  On the second or third pass I spotted the flank of a decent fish that must have turned on the pheasant tail.  I replaced the dry dropper with a pink squirmy worm with a tungsten bead, thinking that a big meal might get some interest and sure enough the first drift produced the solid pull of a hefty brook trout that put up quite a fight in tight quarters.

This one was a handful!
After discussing potential options to see Pete land a wild brook trout, we moved to another stream.  Pete and I tried a couple spots before we headed back to the car and said goodbye.  I looked around a bit for Alan but decided to leave a note and headed upstream to find some more brook trout.

The warmth of the afternoon was getting the brook trout active and rising fish were starting to show themselves.  I continued to fish the dry dropper but later in the afternoon the fish were turning on the royal wulff more frequently.  The recent late spring snowstorms had left a lot of limbs down in the woods and the small stream was quite choked with limbs and debris.  I had to pass on many good looking spots simply because I just couldn't get a fly into them.  The bright sun made a stealthy approach challenging and I saw more than a few dark shadows rocketing for cover but a few more gorgeous wild brook trout were brought to hand and released.  What a great way to spend a spring day with good friends doing what we love together.  


the first wildflowers of this spring (marsh marigold)


Monday, April 9, 2018

Snowdrops and rainbows

Snowdrops - The first flowers of Spring!
Yesterday afternoon was my first opportunity this spring to fish the Farmington River in Northwestern CT.  It was so nice to feel the warmth of the sun on my face after what has seemed like an endless February even if it was a blustery spring day.  This past weekend probably drew a fair number of anglers out of hibernation and with limited areas open to fishing prior to the season opening, I figured it would be challenging to find fish that were still receptive to a well presented fly.

During a conversation earlier in the week with my friend Pete, he reminded me of an area where he has seen a lot of suckers in the spring.  That observation had me wondering if there might be some trout following the spawning suckers looking for eggs.  So after fishing another area near by with only a bump on a streamer to show for my effort, I decided to check the area out.

As I drifted my tandem nymph rig through the run, I spotted the flank of of fish and felt a slight tap.  I continued to work the run and got a second tap further down indicating that there might be a few fish interested in a fly.  Changiung things up (walt's worm and a cased caddis), produced the first fish of the afternoon, a strong, thick shouldered rainbow that took the cased caddis.  It was good to feel a nice bend in the rod from a strong and active fish.  I continued to work the area and found the fish of the day, a thick male hold-over rainbow.  From the color and the look of the jaw, it might have been getting ready to spawn.  The run produced another two rainbows.  Thanks to the observations of a friend, I enjoyed a couple hours out on a blustery spring afternoon.

A net full of rainbow

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Is it really April?

More snow
The calendar might have said it was April 2 but it sure didn't look like spring out my window when the sun came up.  The snow was flying and it looked like we had jumped back to February. We seem to be stuck in an endless February around here.  In spite of the snow, I decided to fish a local trout management area for a couple hours after work. By the afternoon the sun had come out but it was still cold.  This particular management area gets a lot of preseason pressure and the stockies are getting a little gun shy.  I found fewer fish with each visit, which is pretty typical.  Yesterday afternoon things were dead, a variety of flies run through the typical holding areas produced nothing but cold hands and feet.

Figuring it was futile to keep trying, I started to head back.  On the way past a stump that I had seen several stockies hiding out under, I decided to sneak in upstream and try to drift a fly under it.  I wasn't sure if I could get anything close without getting hung up in the roots but we all are hopeless optimists at heart!   As the flies swung in front of the stump a cookie-cutter rainbow nailed the tiny nymph hard.  In the final 15 minutes, I pulled 3 more rainbows out from under that stump.

I am really looking forward to opening day when the small streams open up again.  This "stockie thing" is getting old...

Monday, April 2, 2018

The Connecticut Yankee: The Fight for Roaring Brook

Please consider voicing your opposition to the proposed development of the Love's Travel stop at exit 71 of Interstate 81 in northeastern CT.  For details and the potential impact on native brook trout in the area  check out the following link  The Connecticut Yankee: The Fight for Roaring Brook:

Saturday, March 31, 2018

"He is not here, He is risen just as he said"

This Easter day we celebrate the rising of Jesus from the dead.  The words of the angel to the women who had come to embalm his body will be repeated many times in services all across the world today. "He is not here, He is risen just as he said"!  These words proclaim the fact that Jesus' sacrifice on behalf of sinners was fully accepted by God for the forgiveness of sin.  Sin and death have been forever conquered!

May God richly bless you and your family this Easter day!

"Death has been swallowed up in victory! 
Where, O death is your victory?  
Where, O death, is you sting?  
The sting of death is sin, 
and the power of sin is the law.  
But thanks be to God!  
He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!" (I Cor 15:54-57)

Friday, March 30, 2018

A Mediation for Good Friday

This is the day Christians remember the great cost of our redemption.  It took the lashing, the beating, the mocking, and the crucifixion of the holy and sinless Son of God to fully satisfy the righteous wrath of God over our sin and to provide the only acceptable sacrifice by which that sin could be forgiven without forfeiting God's justice.

Jesus was not a victim, but willingly chose this path of pain and anguish so that a greater victory could be purchased, peace between God and man.

I cannot fathom the brutal violence and physical pain that Jesus experienced, still further beyond my comprehension is what it was like for the sinless to become the sin bearer and be abandoned by God the Father, but through this act of supreme love the enormous gulf between God and man was bridged.  What wondrous love is this! Today we remember the cost, on Easter we will celebrate the victory over our greatest enemies of sin and death.


Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Surprises

This time of year in CT the only areas open to fishing are the specially designated trout management areas.  I am fortunate to have one close to where I live so that I can stop by after work and fish for a couple hours before dark.  This is a "put and take" stream that does see some significant fishing pressure before and shortly after the season opens.  Before the season opens it's strictly catch and release but by early summer there really aren't many fish holding over.  I typically fish it in the month of March, mostly because it is close and there aren't many other options.

On occasion, I've been surprised by something I've hooked in this area and a quick trip last evening was no different.  I had hooked a couple of stocked rainbows on flashy nymphs before I hooked into a heftier fish.  When I got my first look, I realized it was a good sized sucker than had taken a flashy caddis pupa off the bottom.  The funny thing is that I've caught a sucker of similar size in this same spot in march for the past couple of seasons.  I don't know for sure, but it might be the very same fish!  While I am not one of those people that enjoy targeting carp or suckers, they are strong fish and wild as far as I know.

It was good to get in a little pre-season nymphing practice but everyone now and then you see something encouraging like a little wild brown!  I'll take one of these over a net full of stockies.

The red rays on the tail and the edge of the adipose make me
think this one might be stream born

Monday, March 19, 2018

Early stone flies


As March rolls on, here are three stone fly nymphs that I've been fishing.  The fly on the left is a cross between a black zebra midge and a soft hackle.  I've tied this one in size 18 and 20.  This simple fly uses black thread, an extra small silver wire rib, black peacock ice dub, a gun metal tungsten bead, and a few turns of dark hen hackle.  I've caught hold-over browns and rainbows as well as wild browns and brook trout over the last couple months on this fly,  It also fishes well as a dropper behind your favorite winter dry fly.

I also tie this one in size #16 (to the left) for the more typical size of the early stone flies.  The materials are the same and instead of the extra small wire, I use small silver wire on a #16 competition nymph hook (lately I've been using the Hends BL 254 hooks).

I had a few pink metallic tungsten beads kicking around so I tied this last one just for fun.   Who knows if I will ever fish it, but I like the look of it.



Sunday, March 11, 2018

Learning new water

If truth be told, I like to fish familiar places, places that I know well and that I have invested the time in to learn.  I would be willing to bet that I am not alone in this regard.  When we do have some time to get out, we all head to stretches that we have a decent chance of finding willing fish.  However, if you really want to learn to be a better fisherman, you need new places with unique and different conditions and challenges.
 
Since my daughter has been attending college in central PA, I've been taking advantage of the trips down and back to spend some time on the Yellow Breeches.  The Breeches, while not a true spring creek is a bit of a hybrid between a spring creek and a freestone stream.  It is quite a bit different from a typical New England freestone which I am more familiar with and the learning process has presented some challenges to work through with each visit.  I typically use a long rod with weighted flies on a mono-rig, but one of the sections of the breeches is too small for a long rod and when you are fishing #20 nymphs you need another way to get the flies down to the fish.  By trying out different setups and experimenting with split shot, I've been learning how to be a more effective nymph fisherman.
This past outing I was taken to school on fighting fish in tight quarters with a small nymph in their jaw.  The first handful of fish I hooked quickly came lose when they would charge around the small pool I was fishing.  Eventually, I figured out that by keeping the rod tip low and using side pressure, the small hook would hold and fish could be landed.  It is challenges like these that fishing unfamiliar water presents.  These challenges require us to solve new problems, learn new techniques, and strategies that in the end make us more complete fly fisherman.  So go fish some new water!  You will probably catch less fish at first, but in the end you will be a better fisherman!

Thursday, March 1, 2018

The last hour

As of this morning the trout season in CT is closed.  There are special regulation areas that remain open all year long but those of us who enjoy fishing the small streams that are not stocked and off the beaten-track, will have to wait until April to fish them again. 

I had been watching for a break in my schedule and the weather to check out a small stream I fished back in the spring and yesterday afternoon was my last chance.  The ground was damp from all the recent rains and the brook was full and healthy.  The skunk cabbage is breaking through the ground everywhere now, it's distinctive smell noticeable but not overwhelming.

With only an hour or so of daylight, I moved quickly to cover a couple runs that I thought might hold fish.  The dry-dropper that had been productive on another stream proved useless.  A pink squirmy worm with a tungsten bead confirmed the brook trout were willing to pick up something that looked like a meal.  After a few light bumps on the worm, I switched to an Ausable ugly which connected with the first brook trout of the afternoon.  I continued to fish the "ugly" and found brook trout just were they were supposed to be, in the deeper, softer sides of the runs. I am looking forward to returning in April knowing that the native population had survived the past summer, fall, and winter.

Even though my time was limited, I was thankful to close out the last hour of the season on a small stream!

This is why I fish small small streams!

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

For a walk in the woods

The woods were bright and clear with the morning sun reflecting on the snow which had recently fallen.  The air was warm and there is a growing sense that winter's grip is weakening.  There will be more cold and snow before spring finally arrives in full measure but winter's days are dwindling.  The days are noticeably longer now but the water remains cold, barely above the freezing point, cooled by melting snow and cold evenings.
The mind, legs and lungs were looking forward to a rigorous walk in the woods, covering lots of ground, but the wet snow kept strides more measured and careful.  Nevertheless the warm air and bright sun were a welcome respite from winter's more typical days.  The brook trout seemed a bit more active although one wonders if the changes we sense on land are noticed in the still icy currents of small streams and brooks.  A dry dropper proved to be good choice as fish attacked the dry as well the small red brassie trailing behind although the sub-surface offer was more preferred.  The upstream trek continued until graying skies and wet feet brought the afternoon to and end.

 Salvelinus fontinalis - God's amazing canvas

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Two are better than one

A little bit of spring like weather this past weekend had me thinking about fishing a small stream.  I’ve gone out a couple of times this past month but the frigid temperatures made the effort mostly futile.  What a difference to be outside covering ground with the warm sun to brighten the mood.  On warm winter days after a long cold spell the water can still be quite cold and it was.  My thermometer read a chilly 36.  I decided to hedge my bets and use dry dropper rig, two is better than one!  I’ve seen small stream brook trout take dries on days like this before but also having something small down where they could see it just made sense.  You probably don’t think of the dry/dropper rig as a winter strategy but on small streams where brook trout will occasionally look up for a bushy dry, the double rig often bring rewards 


The Ausable bomber is a great dry for a double rig having plenty of hackle to float well with a weighted nymph off the back and being easy to see, it makes a great indicator.  Thinking there might be some small black stones in the warmer air,  I tied on a small black soft hackle with a tungsten bead off the back and headed into the woods. 

The first brook trout to show itself slammed the Bomber of all things but it quickly popped off.  As I hiked up the stream it was clear that the past fall and winter had changed things a bit with new trees down in many places.  I paused at a long deep glide that I usually fish from the upstream side and realized some limbs and leaves had made a small dam at the head of the pool that would not allow me to drift flies downstream so I consider alternatives.  Keeping a low profile I tried to ease into position from the tail of the pool.  After working around a few smaller trees I managed to put the Bomber and the black soft hackle at the head of pool.  As the Bomber drifted down along the bank it paused and went down.  I lifted the light fiberglass rod and the biggest brook trout of the day started tearing up and down the 10’ x 4' pool darting from side to side all while I was trying to get my rod on the other side of a tree to bring it to the bank and avoid falling into the chilly water.  The whole scene had me laughing to myself with the rod tip going all over the lot and me trying to past the butt of the rod around a tree.  With all the fooling around, the hook eventually came free and the brook trout darted under the nearest bank for safety.


At some point in the late morning I switched to a small red brassie and stuck with it for the rest of the day, picking my way upstream exploring each little pocket of deeper slower water.  By early afternoon I had brought a handful of brook trout to hand with a few taking the bomber and many more interested in taking a swipe at it but it was the brassie that brought most of the fish to hand.

Before I needed to head home I decided to take to hike to a couple of bridges to see what I could turn up.  Mostly I just wanted enjoy a good strenuous hike in the fresh air.  I replaced the dry/dropper rig with a weighted squirmy and drifted it in the deep water below the bridges.   Below the second, the "fish the bridge" strategy paid off once again, this time with a hefty small stream wild brown.  Don't forget to fish those bridges!