Thursday, March 29, 2012

Damn those Hendricksons!

They're here.

What the hell are they doing here, now?

I don't plan my fishing trips. Hatches. Weather. Fellow Anglers. None are ever a consideration for when I fish. I fish when I can.* In fact, it's my favorite time to fish.

Buy the bugs a calendar!
One guy I know planted this damn "Let's fish the Hendrickson hatch on the Housy" thing in my brain. We've been trying to fish together for a while. I like large mayflies sailing on the water. I like watching trout hit my imitations on the surface. What I don't like is trying to plan this whole thing out.

The hatch chart says late April to early May so we're actually trying to plan a fishing trip in advance. Just getting our personal and professional calendars aligned has been challenging and now the friggin' bugs have gone and buggered it all up.

I've never really paid all that much attention to the waxing and waning of the particular hatches. When I'm on the water I check to see what's "in season" but I don't fish the hatches per se. Someday I'd like to fish some of the more famous hatches, especially the Drake hatches, but it's going to have to wait for a time when my calendar is a whole lot more flexible than it is today.

I don't have enough years on the Housatonic to have the hatch cycles fully dialed in so I consulted the hatch charts and called up the fly shop. That got me thinking about a late April trip, which it turns out is around my buddy's birthday so it coulda been quite the event.

In mid-March, I made a call to the fly shop to confirm the progression of the season and it yielded some distrubing news. The late Stoneflies were waning, the fortsythia was in full bloom and the Hendricksons were expected any day. In fact, the first appeared around the 24th. That's almost a month early?!

So now our late April trip won't be a Hendrickson trip if it's any trip at all.

And now I feel a sense of urgency to actually fish the Hendrickson hatch since that idea has fully germinated in my brain.

And I've got enough commitments over the next four days to fairly guarantee that I'm going to miss this weekend's shot at fishing the hatch.

Which makes me sad.

And angry.

Damn those Hendricksons!

* Excepting the Black Friday Housy trip and the early November Steelhead trip.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Whiskey is for drinking, water is for fighting over

I've been watching rising fish lately.

Spring is very early, which is sorta surreal. A buddy of mine and I are talking about fishing the Hendrickson hatch some weekday in April. The hatch usually falls around his birthday which is in late April. My guess is that hatch'll be done by the anniversary of his birth.

With the bugs being early the trout in locals streams are on them. That's not something I'm going to complain about but, again, it is surreal.

A factor compounding our early spring is the mild winter. Little snow; no snow wouldn't be too far from the truth.

As a result, there's not much water right now. It is startling to look at the USGS Streamflow map and see so much red and orange Those graphical indicators of low flows are something you usually see in the late summer. Water will soon be a problem.

I live a long way, physically, mentally and aquatically, from the Front Range of the Rockies. It's a place where water is managed by treaty and tunnel. Here in Connecticut water is relatively plentiful. So much so that some folks just don't understand why protecting aquifers, wetlands, and rivers is so important.

Talking to people in Connecticut about stream flows can be like talking to Martians about conserving red dust. That said, the laws and leanings of a majority of citizens skew towards conservation, if at times at the speed of molasses.

Fortunately, our primary concern is only mother nature when it comes to water in streams. On the Front Range of the Rockies, it's a whole 'nother thing.

Eighty percent of the people in Colorado reside east of the mountains. Eighty percent of the water is on the western slopes. A cruel trick of nature causes most storms to dump their precipitation before they crawl over the Continental Divide. In any given year, thirty to fifty percent of water going to Front Range farms and faucets is from the western slope.

Population growth of the eastern slopes of the Rockies has been extraordinary over the past few decades and is expected to continue in earnest for the coming decades. In the past 10 years the population has grown around 18% and is expected to grow by as much as 50% during the next twenty years.

Unfortunately those folks are going to need water for drinking, toilet flushing, and sadly, lots of lawns. And we ain't making any more water. Current proposed projects could take up to 80% of the Upper Colorado River's flows and send them into tunnels bound for the Front Range.

As I said earlier, water doesn't feel like a scarce resource in the east, but that's deceptive. The early fishing this year has been good, especially for wild trout. We had a great water year last year and the fish have done well.

But this past winter was dry. The streams are pretty to look at and easy to fish, but come July they're going to be low and warm unless we start getting some rain. Some of the small feeders are already down to a trickle.

Streamflow regulations are something we need to strengthen here in the Northeast and things seem to be going in the right direction with a lot of hard work from people on all sides of the debate. I'd like to see our water laws improved, I just hope it doesn't get to a point where water is so scarce that it's no longer for drinking and only for fighting over.

The Watershed Movie Trailer (via Moldy Chum and TU)
Can you imagine a river where so much water is withdrawn that it no longer flows to the ocean? Damn.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Striper Flowers

First Peepers. Now these. Stripers soon.
They could also be called Early Black Stonefly flowers or Hendrickson flowers. Spring fishing is here or will be soon.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

One more time for Bristol Bay

The folks over at Save Bristol Bay are asking you to send emails to your reps and the President to try and kill this thing.

It's easy. It take about two minutes. Please do it.

Dreaming Big

I have rarely been accused of modest dreams and aspirations. In fact, I can't imagine any situation in which my dreams and aspirations and delusions were anything but grandiose.

One of those dreams has been to do some sort of exotic trip to either Alaska or Patagonia and to cruise the inside passage and fish for large fish and generally get up close and personal (in a dignified, gentrified manner) with the natural order of these places.

Previously, I thought that one of the small cruise/adventure outfits would fit the bill -- the right balance between fly fishing (for me) and hiking/adventuring/etc. for the family. Something relatively modest in an area where things are friggin' expensive.

But now Orvis has taken the dream to a whole new level. Why skulk about on a motor yacht when you can skulk about in a motor yacht with, not one, but two helicopters. And a "fleet of jet boats and Zodiacs". And "9 fly-fishing guides and 3 naturalists". And a "chef and nourish the body and spirit". Do they also have yoga?

My body and spirit need nourishing. Anyone will tell you that.

I think I've found a new dream. I've been far too modest.

Heli-fishing. Is there any other way?

This is gonna cost me a bundle and Ann has already given me "the look" when I suggested we use the boys' college fund. You can send donations to PayPal via the Contact Me link above.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Quick Sip: Fishing For Science

No, there's no opportunity here. We all missed our chance.

In an effort to determine if pressured fish are harder to catch, a couple of academic types at the University of British Colombia conducted an angling experiment.
"Three anglers using similar flyfishing gear and two general patterns were let loose. The first lake (Little Pantano) was fished from a boat for four hours every day for 30 days."
Apparently, pressure matters. Hook rates declined. Profound.

The hypothesis for success over pressured fish, equally profound, is to switch patterns. I'm sure you'll all help gather data on this subject during the coming months.

via Trout Unlimited

UPDATE, 8:50 p.m.: The sublimation of localized small-group cultures is, in the most fundamental sense, the (re)invention of corporeality.

Sunday, March 18, 2012


We've all been there. No time to spare. All consuming passion. A willing partner. You make time. Or you hurry.

Tuesday, my other passion nagged me incessantly. I had a little over an hour between my last meeting of the day and a Trout Unlimited chapter meeting. She called to me in that way that only she can; all sparkly and glistening and cool.

A twenty minute drive left me with thirty or forty minutes to spare. Plenty of time as long as you didn't fall into any small talk or get distracted from the game at hand.

There was this one place I wanted to fish; a bend pool that always gives up a trout. There's a series of low plunges that end in a pool no more than twenty feet long. There's always a trout lurking somewhere in there. More often than not at the head but I've caught trout in the run and at the tail as well.

This spot reminds me of another small stream not because of its structure but because there's another "sure thing" pool. This stream has two pools separated by a rocky lip. When the water is high it all appears to flow uniformly over the lip but if you study the water, or have seen it when the flows are low, you know there's a stronger current to the left that flows diagonally to the right And that's where the fish are. Always.

On the way to the bend pool I have to pass some fishy water. There's a long smooth glide with overhanging maples and willows that is deceptively deep and holds a fish or two. This is patient water. It requires a steady hand and a slow wade and delicate casts. I long for a cast in the pool but pass it by.

Trout robbing tree
A deep pool by the small tributary I'm angling for is also enticing. A fallen tree now blocks a majority of the pool shoving the current to the near bank. This is a new pattern for the water and though the water is a bit murky I sense it's fishyness. So much so that I tie on a chartreuse egg, add a split shot, and see what comes

On the third or fourth drift I am rewarded by the dodge of the indicator and a strong tug. The fish knows his business and surges towards the safety of the recently fallen tree. I can feel the singing of the leader against branches and we are soon parted.

I am happy to see the next temptress is occupied by another angler. It's a difficult pool to fish. From below there's little casting room and from above you have long drifts that require stealth and luck and other magical qualities to hook a fish. The fish are there. They hang just under a pile of flood strewn debris; a conveyor of trout food delivered to a line of trout casting shadows in the late day sun. I exchange pleasantries with the brother angler and continue upstream.

My way was right. Left is only frog water
There's more fishy water above that was changed by last fall's storms but I can see the escarpment above the pool and I walk purposefully along the brush that marks the end of a farmer's field and the beginning of trout water.

This farmer's field used to go right up to the edge of the stream and a stack of aluminum piping speaks to the irrigation draw that used to come from the stream. But conservation efforts, mostly by Trout Unlimited, moved the field back, added a buffer of trees and native shrubs and stopped the water withdrawals. It's now a fine trout stream.

The pool seems changed. Maybe another boulder has come down the escarpment pushing the water further to the left. It's hard to tell. Most of the boulders look old; lacking the fresh, shiny look of a newly turned or uncovered piece of rock though I still suspect one is an interloper. Regardless, the basic structure remains and I take my first fish in the belly of the pool. Not a trout, but a lovely five inch Creek Chub.

Having spooked the calmer water in the battle with the mighty chub I put on a beadhead Pheasant Tail and move to the plunge itself. I fish this plunge with a tight line. If there's a fish in there it's going to strike quickly at the fast moving food. And it does.

A fat thirteen inch Brown comes to hand. I have no net so I have to fight the Brown a bit longer than I would otherwise but it leaves my hand with a strong thrust of its tail and heads to the deep water near a midstream boulder.

One is enough.  Well, not enough, but perhaps for now.
Some short trips feel too rushed. In your rush to get things done, you spar with streamside brush. You snag on hidden twigs, boulders and leaf piles. The wind makes the casting impossible. But this trip was just right. Enough of the troubles to make it not seem too easy but a few tugs on the line and a nice Brown to the hand. And on time to my evening appointment.

Could there be a more perfect way to pass the time between engagements?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


I walked along a small stream with Sam and Ripley over the weekend. As is usual with many suburban streams there was the usual detritus scattered about. We found many old bricks with various manufacturers stamps on them. It became a bit of a game as we sorted through a pile of rocks and bricks near one bend pool.

I noticed the item below wedged between two rocks. Sam guessed its function but didn't realize it was not the type of "stay on can" pull tab that he was used to seeing. The "pull off" tab started to be phased out in the late 70s. No doubt some small stream angler from decades ago discarded it while sampling a fine American lager.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Peace, Snow & Skunk

Peace, Snow & Skunk
We saw the sun on Friday morning.

It was a pleasant change from the previous day that opened warm and "leaden" (Jonny's poetic words) and proceeded to get cold and "friggin' wet" (my words).

Jonny and I were fishing in Pulaski (pronounced "Pull-ass-sky" for those of you not in the know), New York hoping to mess with the Spring Steel. Early Thursday morning we visited Whitakers to gather some intel. The prognosticators and hangers-on at the shop postulated that the abnormally warm weather caused Spring Steel to be weeks early and perhaps we were too late.

I caught a bigger one on Friday
but it slipped the hook.
The fishing on Thursday seemed to confirm those reports 'cause we ended the day utterly fishless. I say confirmed though there are myriad excuses reasons that fish were not caught. The fish could indeed have been early and now gone. The fish could have been elsewhere.  While highly unlikely, perhaps the fish were just fine and it was the fisherman who were at fault.

In an odd twist, Stoneflies had
picked this carcass clean. I made
that up. Jonny picked it clean. I
made that up too.
Regardless, by day's end we were both beaten men. We had walked and fished aggressively over a mile of river with naught to our credit. We retreated to the lodge for restoration before seeking the fine dining that can only be found in Pulaski.

After wings and pizza and two cold beers we were slightly restored and wandered into Fat Nancy's for some cigars and more intel. Without prompting, we got the low down on where the fish weren't. Not surprisingly, that's exactly where we had fished all day - Sportsmans, Trout Brook, etc. I can hear T.J. cackling as we speak.

Apparently some of these lower river runs are too shallow to hold at the flow levels we fished and we should have been fishing elsewhere, with lighter tippet and more weight. We bought cigars. And lighter tippet. And for free, we got a tip on where elsewhere was. We crashed early wondering if our feeble bodies would be restored enough in the morning to one again face the river and its paucity of fish type things.

Friday was sunny. Not blue sky sunny, but there were hints of blue sky and enough holes in the gloom that we were lead to falsely believe that, while colder, the day's weather would be more forgiving.

A place where no fish were caught
The water we received a tip on didn't appeal. It just didn't look promising of Steel. The near water was a bit too slow to afford any manner of drift and the water with current looked armpit deep. This spot just didn't say "fish" to us though in hindsight, who are we to judge? So far our instincts were 100% wrong.

On the way to this water we passed two pools that we had fished successfully in the past. They were devoid of other aspirants and as such appealed greatly to our misguided judgment. We suited up and headed to the water.

The fishing was just that for a couple of hours. Fly changes were routine. Split shot were added at an alarming pace. Leaders were lengthened. And still the fish remained unimpressed.

Shit you take pictures of
when you're not catching
As we were settling into the routine of disappointment and regret I saw my indicator disappear in a manner of a fish striking aggressively. Of course, I mistook it for the tick of a large boulder and set the hook weakly. Imagine my surprise when the line shook and the indicator started swimming upstream. Fish on! [INSERT GOOFY WOOT! HERE]

I struggled to maintain a tight line and had to strip line and flee as the fish swam towards me. Soon enough the run started and the line swirling near my feet began to disappear. The fish rolled at the surface and looked silver and of the appropriate size that makes one feel that something is now being accomplished. Such feelings are then dashed by the parting of the leader and a Sweater Nymph™ remained with the Steel.

The only satisfying action we got in the morning was a cup of coffee made through the miracle of the JetBoil. When I'm not catching anything, there's nothing like a good cup of coffee to go with the voice of T.J. Brayshaw ringing in my ears.

The early afternoon was a repeat though with the mood enhancement that can only be found from gently falling snow. I hooked the fish on the far seam of the run so we decided that instead of spending time casting long distance to the far seam's holding water we'd cross the river and make the far seam the near seam. It didn't help.

Jonny trying to reach the far seam. Twelve foot of leader. Thirteen Split. Chuck. Duck.
The gently falling snow soon turned into snow in earnest and the wind picked up and our fingers went numb. While we sought comfort in the nobility of suffering it soon turned into pure foolishness and we beat a hasty treat to the comfort of the car and the road south.

Yeah, I'm happy. Satisfied and happy.
It was a crap day and a half of catching but a fishing trip that I'd do again. As those who have done it know, there is something about the hope of Steel that keeps you going back even when you know that it's probably hopeless to begin with.

Bonus Feature!

One of the tips that we picked up at Whitakers on Thursday morning was a technique referred to as Sweater Nymphing.  I hooked all my fish on Friday using this new technique. I'll share some of the Sweater Nymphing System secrets that I used to good effect at some point in the future. To whet your appetite, here's an excerpt:
"I'd used all the normal "go-to" flies that you find drifting in Pulaski's waters -- eggs, stoneflies, bedazzled hornswogglers -- but the Sweater Nymph Technique was new, exciting, and devastatingly effective. In the words of it's inventor, Archibald Lechansky, 'The Sweater Nymph has all the Steel attracting power of fuchsia egg sack tinged with the sad regret of fashion seasons gone by. Horny Steelhead really can't resist.'"
More on Sweater Nymphing in the future.

Prayers went unanswered