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! 


Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Warmer days

Children's Lake at sunset

We were visiting family in PA this past weekend and I was able to spend a few afternoon hours before sunset fishing.  Lately the days have been a welcome change from the frigid temperatures and ice earlier in the month and it was nice to be out without all the extra layers and frozen hands.

When winter offers these brief interludes, it's good to take advantage of them and I was fortunate to find some wild browns willing to take the small stuff.

Sometimes, we "out of area anglers" can have success fishing flies that the fish don't typically see.  This is especially the case in pressured waters.  But this particular afternoon, none of the out of the ordinary small nymphs I tried drew any interest.  The final switch was to a red zebra midge and a small rainbow warrior with a little split shot to get get things down. 


Monday, January 15, 2018

Fish the bridge!

Alan, Kirk, and I met up for some small stream fishing today.  At mid morning the temperature was in the low teens and I don't think it got much warmer.  We did ok with ice on the line and in the guides early but when we headed up a small tributary the ice became almost unmanageable.  We were a bit surprised to see how much water the brook was holding from the heavy rains late last week and the large number of ice dams all along the brook.  Eventually we got frustrated with the iced up gear and called it a day.  Kirk had managed a small brown and a brookie and Alan had a couple bumps but I blanked.

Not wanting to get shut out for the second straight outing of 2018, I decided to try one last spot.  When it's the bottom of the ninth, with no runs and no hits, it's time to fish "the bridge".  In winter when the flows are higher and cold, bridges often provide some deep holes with softer water were fish can take refuge.  I've played this hand before on slow winter days.  After a quick thaw of the gear in the heated truck, some hot coffee, and renewed optimism, I went looking for bridge! Desperate times call for desperate measures and I am not above fishing junk flies.  It wasn't long before the squirmy connected with the first fish of 2018, a hefty rainbow especially for a small stream!


Thursday, January 4, 2018

Winter storm tying

We are in the middle of a strong nor'easter that is blanketing the east coast with snow, cold, and high winds.  There won't be any fishing for a little for sure.  I saw a picture yesterday of Church Pool on the Farmington River frozen solid!  Typically this tail water remains open and Church pool is well known for it's winter caddis hatches and rising trout all winter long.  Needless to say this winter has been a record cold one.  With all this cold weather, I figured it was time to change the blog background to a winter scene!

I've been tying some small nymphs lately.  This morning I was working on some small olives.   Stay warm everyone!


Olive nymph
Hends 354 #18 nymph hook
UTC 70 DN thread
Coq de leon tail fibers
XS gold ultrawire rib
2mm gold tungsten bead
olive squirrel dubbing and UV brown ice dubbing blend


Small Pheasant Tail
Hends 354 #18 nymph hook
UTC 70 DN olive thread
Coq de leon tail fibers
2 pheasant tail fibers
XS copper ultrawire rib
2mm copper tungsten bead
olive squirrel dubbing and UV brown ice dub blend


Olive quill nymph
Hends 354 #18 nymph hook
UTC 70 DN olive thread
Coq de leon tail fibers
Olive polish quill body
Loon UV fly finish over the quill body
2mm copper tungsten bead
olive squirrel dubbing and UV brown ice dub blend

Monday, January 1, 2018

First outing of 2018

Well it's New Year's Day 2018 and Alan, Kirk, and I didn't want to let our traditional New Year's Day outing go unobserved this year.  No one had any illusions of catching fish on a day when the temperature barely reached 5 degrees and finding an open patch of water to drift a fly was challenge.

Alan, Kirk and myself on a very cold Jan 1, 2018

However, fly fisherman are to varying degrees irrational optimists and we each found ourselves at some point with our feet in frigid water thinking this little opening just might produce a fish.

Kirk working a patch of opening water
Pete's pool, did anyone remember the auger?
We headed back to the vehicles around 12:30 and with some coaxing managed to fire up the stoves to heat up some homemade soup.  While this year's outing was brief and devoid of any piscatorial entanglements, the fellowship of small stream anglers willing to brave the most insane conditions for a hot bowl of soup and a walk in the woods is all that is necessary to enjoy the first day of the new year.  Happy New Year everyone!