Sunday, June 13, 2010

Channeling Fran, 6,.12.10

Apologies for the length. I just got a bit carried away. I hope you'll think in a good way.
Yesterday's chores were neither numerous or onerous but they had to get done. And they were by mid-afternoon. An occasional glance at the weather radar told me that the mid-day storms were likely raising water levels, improving trout habitat. However it wasn’t clear if the event was of the "good for trout, okay for fisherpersons" variety or the "chocolate milk, swirling waters of death" type. At a minimum, I figured they were convincing the crowds to stay at home on a Saturday afternoon so I'd have some elbow room on the water.

As I drove north on Route 8 the clouds played their little game with me. First clearing and giving hope and then racing back pressing down from above. I certainly wasn't expecting sunny skies but something a bit more optimistic would have been appreciated.

The water was cool and rising. Not muddy but certainly stained and full of the minor flotsam that rising water sweeps from the banks including a Red Bull can that floated by just out of reach. I knew the junk in the water would mean more than a few false strikes on the nymph rig as I caught a twig here and there but such is the price of fishing when one can, not when you want to.

A popular run with a large triangular rock was my starting point. Ross was there on Friday morning and managed a twenty inch Bow, fat and spunky. Such good mojo is bound to rub off and while I wasn't catching twenty inch fish I did manage a few in the fourteen plus range. All came to a #16 Lightning Bug ignoring the PT dropper.

Triangle Rock

As I moved up into the riffle the fishing slowed though I was drifting my rig over water that I knew to be productive. It's one of those spots that most people will wade into without fishing. It's the place you're standing that holds some very nice fish not the deep water beyond. It’s one of those places where a little experience on the water can dramatically improve results.

It wasn't until I got a vicious strike on my indicator -- one of those twist on pill shaped things -- that I figured out the fish were looking up instead of down at my nymphs. As I considered my fly options I did glance at the emerger that had worked earlier but something about this water said "Usual".

And then I heard Fran Betters telling me back in 2007 what a great fly the Bomber was for fast water. So on went a #14 Bomber. It got lots of interest and a couple of fish from a three inch Parr to a fourteen inch Brown (while being skated at the end of the drift). Again, Fran’s advice to give the fly a little motion played out well.

Along the way I met, Ira, a new Resident down at Yale New Haven Hospital who had been given two days parole from the hard labor that is Residency. We swapped some tales, a fly, and I shared a few good places to find fish. I don’t miss that whole period where you’re new at a career. Career maturity is a much more comfortable place.

Ira fishing downstream from me

My goal for the evening was a flat piece of water where I had a bit of spectacular fishing during a Sulphur hatch last June. Around 7 p.m. I walked up there and gazed upon water that appeared lifeless despite a nice hatch of what looked like March Browns mixed with Sulphurs and Caddis. The head of the pool nymphed well so I decided that would be my target until I saw something on the surface.

By the time I got to the head of the pool a light, sporadic rain had turned to something a bit more earnest. And it was the fat drops that just shouted “Thunderstorn”. No flashes or booms, but it just felt wrong. So, rather than risk a shocking, abrupt ending to my fishing career I headed back to the car, not to quit the field but, to find water where the air wasn’t quite so damp.

Another large pool downstream was both dry and sparsely populated. By the time I had the vest back on one of the three cars had departed and the sweet piece of water I intended to fish was devoid of fisherpersons.

And so I went to work with a nymph rig.

Here the Lightning Bug was ignored but the Pheasant Tail did the yeoman’s work. The best fish of the evening was a 18+ inch Brown that took the PT. The PT had caught the fish by only the slightest margin on the upper lip but the hook held and the fish came to hand.

A Brown from the Pool of Death

The most rewarding fish of the evening was a wild Brown in the eight inch range. The fight was vigorous and the fish simply stunning in both coloration and patterning. Unfortunately, he was so spunky he managed to slip the hand in between hitting the shutter button and the flash firing. At least he’s out there to grow larger and wilder.

I swear there was a fish here a moment ago

The rain followed and began to alternately spit and pour with brief respites in between. There were a few risers in the normal lanes but nothing steady. The evening’s dry fly events were not to be. I cast a bit with an emerger and a spinner but it was that half-hearted prospecting that is done when you know it’s over but don’t want to let go.

It was an evening.

As noted by others, the fishing has been good this spring. Perhaps too good. Nature has a way of sorting things out, achieving equilibrium. It might turn out to be a slow summer. Or a maybe a bad year next year. But make no mistake equilibrium is coming.

Let's just hope that the fishing is good till then.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Small stream, low flows, 6.8.10

I got out the other evening with Ross for a quick fishing trip. I was hopeful that some prior sitings of Sulphurs would mean a nice hatch on a small stream near the house. When we got to the river there were fish working steady in several spots and while we tempted a few to the surface to our flies none got on the hook.

Flows were very low for this time of the year and water temps were relatively high at sixty degrees though still well within fishable range. The rain we had yesterday was just a start. Clearly, we need more rain (though not when I want to fish).

We moved upstream to a pool that has lot of fish but also a lot of over hanging brush. After having made several sacrifices of flies to the bushes, Ross decided to watch me fish for a while. No fish were rising but I did get a small, wild Brown on a caddis pupa dropper.

We then worked our way back to the car putting a few casts to each likely spot as we walked down. I managed a second Brown about the same size as the first in the last pool. I wish I could say it was my perfect presentation but he took the fly as it skittered across the surface as a I began my back cast. Sometimes luck trumps skill.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Return to the Farmington, 6.5.10

Prior to Saturday, I hadn't fished the Farmington yet this calendar year. I've been focused on the Housy for no particular reason though the lessons that Don and Jon gave me last fall on certain pools probably has something to do with it. That and the fact I was catching fish pretty regularly.

The higher temperatures and lower flows on the Housatonic over the past week or so lead me to head further east last night to the Farmington. I can't recall the last time I fished the Farmy but it was probably last fall after Ross returned from Iraq. The fishing was slow though Ross got enough action to shake the desert dust that had accumulated in his fishing memories.

The first thing that struck me as I approached the water was that burst of cold air that swirls above the tailwater. You don't get the temperature gradient practically anywhere else I've fished in Connecticut. Sometimes on a late summer evening on a small, spring fed stream. But never in this volume. It's massive coolness. It also has an unmistakable smell -- earthy mixed well with something that says "trout live here".

I started at 5:30 pm in a run above a popular pool I had fished last year with some success. As I walked upstream I found a vest and rod leaning against a tree in the middle of no where. It turns out they belonged to a guy who had made a quick trip to the car to get a sandwich. He seemed truly surprised to see me fishing the run when he returned. Perhaps he felt his totem was enough to ward off anglers. I left him to his guarded water and fished up near the head of the pool. Perhaps the totem worked after all.

Thirty minutes yielded nary a bump on either a dry or nymph so I headed down into the TMA for other water that generally fished well. Again I started in a run where nymphing was productive but with only two bumps and fish on only briefly I heard the beckoning of some nice dry fly water just below the next riffle.

There was a spin guy fishing the head of the pool catching fish pretty regularly. I sat and chatted with him a bit while finishing a Hemingway and ensuring my flask was not lonely. He's heading up to Alaska in early July for his trip of a lifetime and was pretty excited. Two weeks of river and lake fishing where the sun never sets and the fish grow large. I couldn't help but smile to hear the joy in his voice.

I started casting in earnest to the sporadic rises around 7:30 p.m. The was a sparse mix of Sulphurs, March Browns and Caddis in the air so I went with a #16 Sulphur emerger and was quickly into fish. A couple of near misses and then a nice feisty 12-14 inch Rainbow.

The next fish was a joy. He hit the fly with a take that was so subtle if the light wasn't at just the right angle I would have missed it. I saw him rise deliberately to the fly turning downstream to intercept it and then with a gentle suck take the fly from the surface without a disturbance. He was then off like a bullet and only by tightening my drag a bit and walking downstream a dozen yards did I begin to tame him. While I would have sworn him larger based upon his heft on the rod the Brown Trout taped out at just a hair over eighteen inches.

I managed a near copy of the Brown a short while later and then the gathering darkness and a promise to be home had me moving back to the car leaving fish rising for next time.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Not the Farmington, 6.2.10

Last evening I was planning on driving up to the Farmington but with the storms decided I didn't want to spend two hours in the car and then have the storms keep me from the water. So, a small local stream would have to suffice. At about 7 pm the skies cleared sufficiently that I wasn't going to risk an electrical end to my fishing career and I zipped out to the water.

The stream was a bit murky from the run-off but this was actually an advantage. This stream runs clear and cool and the trout are normally very spooky. With a little color in the water I didn't have to be half as stealthy as I usually do.

In my rush to get out of the house, I forgot that I was wearing a bright red t-shirt. This color wasn't going to cut it as small stream garb no matter how mixed the water was so I swapped it out for my green wading jacket. While it was just the right color it made the fishing a whole lot warmer than it should have been.

The hatch was a mix of March Browns, large pale flies (Cahills?) and tiny sulphurs. This stream hosts a wild population of Browns that range from three to nine inches. At the first pool I fished a Sulphur Sparkle Dun and got a few swipes but no fish on. My guess was the three inchers were playing with my fly.

I worked a few more runs downstream with similar results though one good fish, perhaps nine inches, was on just long enough for me to feel the tug and see the splash. I also spooked a fawn (or as I like to call them, walking Comparadun Hair) or maybe he spooked me as I walked through a hemlock grove. I was just thankful Mom wasn't around. I don't like getting in between mothers and children.

Next came a series of small pockets and pools. I switched to a nymph rig sporting a single fly -- I'm not sure how to describe it, it's essentially a chartreuse brassie except that I tie with a clear tube body over chartreuse thread to give it that glowing look. It's very similar to some caddis nymphs that I've seen in this water. I doubly figured that flashy, bright colors would help in the swirling, post-thunderstorm murk.

It worked.

Working the pockets I had six fish on and three to the net in the next twenty minutes. All Browns. Two at the nine inch end of the range and one at about three. With dark almost upon me and a half mile or so walk through the woods I made my way back to the car.

Of course, I couldn't help but stand for a bit and watch the rising fish near the bridge pool. By their rises, the trout seemed small but there's something calming about the cadence of fish rising during a good hatch.