Sunday, May 19, 2019

Stripahs on the fly

I am a Pennsylvanian, born and raised where trout fishing was king.  As I kid, we would occasionally visit the shore but never fish there.  Since moving to MA, everyone around here talks about fishing for Striped bass.  Not know a thing about fishing tidal water, I was hoping to tag along with a friend who could help me get started.  When my old neighbor from CT called and asked if I would like to join him on Cape Cod to fish for Stripers, I said WHEN!

Mike is also from Pennsylvania, so after a fair bit of ribbing about the sacrilege of fishing anything but sweet water, we made plans to meet up early in the morning later that week.  My wife thought I had really lost my marbles when I told her that I was getting up at 3 am to go fishing.  Mike was gracious enough to provide some flies and he thought I could get by with my 5/6 Spey rod.

We met on Cape Cod at 5:30 in the morning.  Mike made some calls to other guys he knew that were fishing in the area and he picked the spot to fish the incoming tide.  We were fishing an estuary that was about 1/2 mile from the Atlantic Ocean.  I was amazed at all the wildlife around us.  I watched a small crab making his way along the bottom and later a pair of horseshoe crabs that were cruising along the bottom.  There was lots of bird life as well.

Mike's first fish

Mike's son Dave was the first to hook up followed by Mike and before long I had my first striper on the fly.   We had pretty steady action on schoolies until the tide turned.

We stopped for a bit and had some breakfast and checked out another location but the wind was blowing too hard directly into our faces so we re-grouped and headed back to our first location.

Using the two hander

Mike reached out to another friend who was fishing on the other side of the inlet from us.  Phil said they were doing pretty well so we headed over and did really well on the incoming tide.

My first linesider

Phil caught the best fish of the day while we were there.  We all caught a handful which included my best fish of the day that I caught on the 7wt single hander.  This fish was a bit stronger then the others and ran hard after being hook and peeled line of the reel, making me wonder if I had brought a knife to a gun fight.  I eventually gained the upper hand.

My best fish of the day in the rain

Phil with the best fish of the day

I had a blast! and learned a lot from those who were fishing with us.  A special thanks to Mike and his friends for introducing me to Stripah fishing.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Wild things

Dame's rocket or sweet rocket (invasive)
A couple of quiet morning hours were spent on the Yellow Breeches in south central PA enjoying wild things.

The intoxicating fragrance of Dame's rocket filled the moist air and the flower fleabane and honeysuckle added some color to the light green of the spring woodlands.

A few wild browns and rainbows were brought to the net along with their stocked relatives using a small pheasant tail and zebra midge, the trout approving of both equally.  All these things working to refresh the mind.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Searching for brook trout in MA

Marsh Marigold
My first thought early in the morning was to head back to CT and fish a favorite small stream that would likely not be effected by the rain we had the night before.  However, rather than running back to the familiar, I decided it was time to start exploring some streams closer to our new home in MA

With some helpful suggestions from Will (Hibernation) I decided on a spot and headed out to check it out.  There were two streams close together, so I decided to explore a little bit of both.

The first stream was a bit disappointing, feeling more like a boggy swamp then the high gradient small streams I am accustomed to fishing.  Skunk cabbage and marsh marigold were everywhere as were clouds of small biting gnats.  After hiking up it a bit, the bugs eventually got the upper hand and I decided to move on and explore the other branch.

In some ways the second stream wasn't a lot different, very tannin stained but there was a lot more gravel to the stream bed and there were a fair number of riffles and runs which was encouraging.  

The very first run I came to is pictured to the left.  As I drifted the Ausable Bomber with a bead head gold hare's ear dropper behind it, a brook trout slammed the dry a foot off the left bank.  After a spirited battle, I was holding a 7-8" wild brook trout in my hand.  Unfortunately, it was off and on it's way while I was fumbling with my camera.  Encouraged that this second stream held brook trout, I carefully explored a small section and found several decent sized brook trout willing to take the Bomber off the surface.   Despite the disappointing start, the day ended well with me finding brook trout in my new home state.

Friday, May 3, 2019

hare's ear soft hackles

Here are a natural and olive gold bead hare's ear nymphs that have been working well lately.

Hook - Hends BL144 jig hook (#16)
2.5mm gold tungsten slotted bead
natural or olive hare's ear dubbing
UTC small gold wire rib
English Partridge hackle (1 turn)
Veevus 10/0 hot orange hot spot

Saturday, April 27, 2019

An afternoon on the Letort

A gorgeous spring afternoon on the Letort
Since my daughter started college in south central PA, I have wanted to fish the Letort.  The history associated with the Letort has always interested me.  The early experiments in fly development, presentation, and stream conservation of Vince Marinaro, Ernest Schweibert, Charlie Fox, Ed Shenk, and others has always intrigued me.  There is certainly no shortage of literature that has been written based on observations from the laboratory that is the Letort.

Despite this desire to explore the Letort, the reputation this spring creek has for being extremely challenging and frustrating to fish has to this point, kept me from the river.  Many of my visits to central PA are brief and without sufficient time to invest in getting to know a challenging river like the Letort.

Over the past 2 ½ years of fishing in south central PA, I’ve talked to Neil Sunday of the TCO fly shop in Boiling Springs, PA a few times and found him to be extremely helpful so when I saw a video of him fishing the Letort last summer (video is linked here), I decided to look for an opportunity for him to give me a tour of the Letort and we were able to work out our schedules to spend an afternoon together.

Stealth is absolutely necessary on the Letort
Photo courtesy of Neil Sunday
The day started with a great nymphing session on the Breeches and after a brief sandwich in town, I headed to shop to meet Neil.  I had to smile when he pulled out is camo shirt, apparently I’m not the only who doesn’t dress stupid

Neil gave me a fantastic overview/tour of the river as well as the history of those areas as we walked along.  We visited three areas and fished through each one "at the pace of nature" (Neil's words).  We covered lots of ground at a paced that seemed perfect to everything around. 

Casting dries on the Letort Photo courtesy of Neil Sunday
Four observations stood out from the afternoon.  First, there is certainly a lot of truth to the idea that this is a tough river to fish, sometimes downright impossible.  The fished don’t easily show themselves and they are lightening quick in slashing at a fly and disappearing into the caulky depths. Second, I was surprised by the depth of what is a fairly relatively narrow river.  Thirdly, this river moves along!  It seems like a placid river at first but don’t be fooled, this river pushes a lot of water through its banks.  Finally, it is not easy to “read” this river due the caulky nature of the water and the light colored bottom.  Other than the abundant weed beds, it was difficult to see any structure to target.

In the sections we fished, we stayed well back of the banks so as not to alert the fish of our presence.  The only time I stepped into the river was to try and reach a seam across the river with some nymphs and I was quickly taken to task by the soft bottom.  I was up to my knees in muck in no time and cold spring water was rushing into my rolled down hip boots.  I tried to back out quickly but soft bottom just wasn’t let go easily.  I stayed out of the water the rest of the afternoon.

I had two browns on briefly while fishing a small nymph paired with a weighted cress bug.  Both were decent sized wild browns since I got a good look at each before they threw the hook.

About mid afternoon, we switched over to a dry dropper and managed to coax a couple of fish to slash at the caddis dry.  I don’t really know if they felt the hook or not since they were gone so quickly, never to return. 

At the end of the day we finished up in Vince’s meadow.  As we walked past the monuments to Vince Marinaro and Charlie Fox the sense of the history of the place was palpable.  

Fishing Vince's meadow
Photo courtesy of Neil Sunday
Neil was convinced that we would have one more opportunity and he was right.  Near the end of the evening one more fish rose to a small dark parachute and was gone as quickly as it came.  With darkness starting to envelope the meadow, we walked out together, satisfied that we had found fish and had put one in the net.

Special thanks to Neil Sunday for guiding me and for the pictures and to Brad Bashore for encouraging me to give the Letort a try.  I hope to fish there again soon!

Monday, April 22, 2019

A few days on the Breeches

I had the chance to spend a few hours over three days on the Yellow Breeches in PA this past week as I had been invited to give two lectures at Messiah College.

I left early in the morning the day before the lectures so that I could spend a few afternoon hours on the Breeches.  When I arrived I went to the TCO shop in Boiling Springs to talk to Neil about what was going on and to firm up our plans to spend an afternoon on the Letort (more on that later).  I would highly recommend this shop if you are in the area.  It is well stocked and the staff are very friendly and helpful.

The afternoon I arrived the Breeches was high and discolored from rain the previous day so I fished “The Run”.  There were a lot of fisherman on the lake, but I had The Run to myself.   A mix of stocked rainbows, browns, and a couple of very colorful brook trout were brought to the net using small flashback PT's, copper-beaded PT soft hackles, gold-beaded hare's ear soft hackles, and olive Lafontaine caddis pupas.  It was a wonderfully warm and bright day to be outside and the fishing was great.

In contrast to the previous afternoon, the following morning was a rainy, raw, and cold.   However, as soon as the rain  showers started the fishing really heated up.  I shared The Run with a Blue Heron that had obviously found a good source of fish based on the number of I caught with scars on their backs.  It was a fantastic couple of hours, nymphing the shallow riffles before I needed to head off to meet some students and prepare for the lectures.

A wild brown in the morning mix
On my last morning in the area, Neil had provided a couple other areas on the Breeches to check out which I was very grateful for.  When I took a quick glance at the river early the next morning, it still high and off-color to me, so I figured I would fish "The Run" again before our afternoon on the Letort.

One of a few wild rainbows in the Run
I had to adjust to smaller flies this particular morning since the flies that had worked previously were not of interest to the fish.  I could spot fish sitting in the shallow riffles, and from their movements it looked like they were feeding so I downsized to a #18 flashback PT and an olive zebra midge.  This was the best morning of my trip since I was able to really dial in my small nymphing game.  The fish were very quick and the takes subtle, so I need to work at keeping the nymphs quiet and drifting naturally so that I could detect subtle changes in the sighter.   Once I worked things out I was catching fish pretty regularly and the strongly healthy fish in the run put quite a bend in my short 3 wt!

Wild browns like this one make fishing "the Run" a blast
One of the things I love about fishing "The Run" is the fact that I always find wild fish.  This particular morning I landed a few tiny wild rainbows and a nice wild brown.  It was a fantastic couple of days on the run and the afternoon on the Letort was one to remember thanks to Neil (check back for the next post in a few days).

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Wishing you a wonderful Easter

I love the lyrics of hymns, the good ones have a way to stating the truth in a way that is both beautiful and profound.  The lyrics below are from one of my favorite Easter hymns that describes how the resurrection of Christ from the tomb changes everything!

Wishing you and wonderful Easter everyone!

Christ the Lord is risen today
Earth and heaven in chorus say.
Raise your joys and triumphs high
Sing, ye heavens, and earth reply!

Love's redeeming work is done
Fought the fight, the battle won.
Death in vain forbids him rise
Christ has opened paradise! 

Lives again our glorious King
Where, O death, is now thy sting?
Once he died our souls to save
Where's thy victory, boasting grave?

Soar we now where Christ has led
Following our exalted Head.
Made like him, like him we rise
Ours the cross, the grave, the skies!