Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Portable Kit for Tying Salmon Flies "In-Hand"

Getting back into the swing of things  

     As a professional musician, a lot of time is spent waiting around. We wait before and after sound checks. We wait during travel. We wait for our perpetually tardy colleagues to show up for rehearsal. I figured there had to be a better way to kill time. With a little inspiration from Adrian Cortes, who seems to tie flies in the most unlikely places, I decided to make a portable kit for tying salmon flies "in-hand." 

Old fly box, repurposed

     I needed to use minimal tools and materials. The first step was portioning out materials that can be used in many different patterns. I gutted an old fly box, lined half of it with cork, and filled it with thread, tinsels, dubbing, floss, wax, etc. I can stick hooks into the cork and keep a pair of scissors, hackle pliers, tweezers, and a bodkin inside and still manage to close the box. If I know the pattern I want to tie, I pre-portion the materials, put them inside a small baggie, and store them in the fly box. This is truly portable.

Time to kill...

The main kit

     To store more materials, I repurposed a case for a portable DVD player. The DVD player is long gone, but the case is still useful. In it, I keep hackle, more hooks, feathers of all sorts, etc. The fly box fits inside this case, so everything is right where I need it. I keep the case in the back of my car, just in case I find myself waiting.

Portable lighting

      Since most of my work happens at night, one issue that has arisen is a lack of light. I bought a small USB power bank from Marshall's and a couple of small USB lamps from Ikea. They don't produce a ton of light, but they're not too back as long as the fly is held directly beneath them. The power bank and lamps fit in the DVD player case. 

Small and very portable

     Viola...a better way to wait around. I'd rather fish in those waiting times, but I'm not usually near bodies of water. Tying can be done virtually anywhere...in the car, backstage, or at the train station. I can even stash the kit in my cymbal bag. I wish I had thought to do this sooner! 

Black Silk and Rosy Dawn...ready to fish!

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Good Riddance, Winter!

First fish of 2018

     Whew! Spring is finally here! Prior to February, I hadn't wet a line since Christmas Eve. A brief, but intense, February warmup made us think that spring would be very early this year. I was able to take advantage of ice out by hitting a local carp pond. It took a little while for the water to warm up enough for the carp to feed, but I waited patiently. It was a good day, bringing three common carp to the net. I didn't move any grass carp, a fish that has been taunting me since last summer, but that's a different story...

      Shortly thereafter, winter returned with a vengeance. March was pretty much awash in snow. I think it has snowed three times in April so far. Unbelievable! But, it melted quick and it was time to start the hunt for spring migrators. Schoolies were on the menu on my first trip, which was fun. Unfortunately, the keeper-sized holdovers moved out a few days before I was able to get to the river, but the migratory fish will be here soon enough. The river is COLD. That might be slowing things down a bit. 

First striper of the year

     I went out today for a couple hours. The river was lower, clearer, and slightly warmer. Today, April 12, the Connecticut River was 41º, which is quite cold for April 12. The schoolies had vanished, but had been replaced with good sized smallmouth bass. It was the "wrong" species but, at that size, I am not complaining. 

     I'm sure it will only get better from here. I haven't felt like writing much, but I do have a few posts planned when I get a moment. I'm experimenting with a new tube fly that I'll test out and, if it works out, will post here. Anyhow, enjoy your spring fishing. I know I will! 

First smallie of the year 

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

News & Events - Winter 2018

A nice December salmon, caught by angler Anthony Lombardo

     The recent Arctic blast put an abrupt end to salmon fishing in Connecticut. It had been productive right up until the changeover. The last salmon I hooked was on Christmas Eve. By Christmas day, it was unbearably cold and the river was on its way to freezing up. Unfortunately, we lost my favorite month of the season this year (October). Despite that, fishing was still good, although we had to resort to late season tactics virtually the whole time. Both guiding and fishing, tubes were the most successful flies for me this season, the best ones being the German Snaelda and the gold body Willie Gunn. Other successful flies were the Ally's ShrimpDirty Water Dog, Green Spey, Out to Lunch, Picasse, Golden Shrimp, and Orange HKA Sunray/Bismo. As you can see, mostly tube flies...

Interesting color, especially for a holdover trout

    The salmon fishing was fun, but the highlight of the season was the number of larger-than-average brown trout in the river this fall. They were a nice bonus and were just as welcome as salmon. The fish pictured above took a big Out to Lunch in high, dirty water. I rested the pool for as long as I could allow, which was only about 30 minutes. I went back at it and caught him again, this time while reeling up a Dirty Water Dog! Based on his color, I suspect he was spawning and highly territorial. He wasn't a wild fish, but still a nice surprise. 

     Now it's time to tie some flies, clean my gear, and get ready for the March thaw. If recent trends continue, it might be an April thaw this year. In any case, I'll probably hit the Naugatuck again when the time is right. Spring can be very productive some years, so it will be interesting to see what is in store for us in 2018. 


Sunray Shadows

     Next Wednesday, January 10, I'll be leading the fly tying night at the Bear's Den in Taunton, Massachusetts. It will be an introduction to tying tube flies. We will be tying the Sunray Shadow, a deadly fly for virtually all species of fish. It is one of my go-to spring flies for salmon, trout, sea run trout, smallmouth bass, striped bass, and anything else that will eat it. It is a simple fly and a great way to learn about the benefits of tube flies.

     On February 3, I will be tying flies at the Connecticut Fly Fisherman's Association 48th Annual Expo at Maneely's in South Windsor, Connecticut. I have no plan to tie anything in particular at the moment so, if you have anything you might like to see tied, let me know. You can comment on this post or contact me here. It's a great small show and one not to be missed. Stop buy and say hello!

Jock Scott 

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Naugatuck Report - November 25, 2017 - A Welcome Surprise

Bruiser brown trout 

     Today was the first day so far this salmon season where I could fish all day long. The day started off with a salmon in net right away. I was betting on fishing close to the surface today, but I threw on a Shumakov Golden Shrimp on my second pass through the first pool. Luckily, that did the trick for a morning salmon, just as it did two seasons ago in the same pool.

    I was still betting on action close to the surface, but it never came. After flogging three more pools, I switched to the sinking rig. It was a bust at the first pool, but it worked like a charm at my final stop of the day. I didn't plan on being there as long as I was, but the fishing was really good, so I stayed. I had to throw long bombs to reach the fish. I used a 5.6 ips versileader and a small German Snaelda, which has been a very good fly for both me and my clients lately. 

    The first pull was a good one, but it fell off immediately. Further down the run, I got my surprise...a bruiser brown trout! And on the Snaelda, of all things. It was bigger, and fought harder, than any of my salmon so far this season.

Salmon and Snaelda

     Then, it was two more salmon on the Snaelda. I switched to a gold body Willie Gunn for a change of place, then nailed one more salmon. It was a good day for sure. The water was 44º and the air topped out around 58º. The flow, 238 cfs, is getting low for this time of year, but it is just right if you know where to go and can handle a switch or spey rod well enough to cover the lies. 

     What do all the flies have in common? They are all yellow, orange, and black, a killer combo for this time of year. The German Snealda and the Willie Gunn can be found in my ebook, Flies for Connecticut Atlantic Salmon: How to Tie and Fish Them. The Golden Shrimp recipe can be found below. 

     There are plenty of good days left this season! I'm looking at the 10 day forecast, and the weather looks favorable every day. Care to take a trip? Let me know, even if it's last minute...


If it ain't yellow, orange, and black, put it back! 

Golden Shrimp (Yuri Shumakov)

Tube: Shumakov Long Range (brass, 4 mm), grooves painted red 
Thread: Glow red or fluorescent orange
Wing: Two sections golden pheasant tippet dyed red (sub natural gp tippet in pic); yellow bucktail; two strands pearl Midge Flash; hot orange arctic fox
Hackle: Yellow dyed badger over orange dyed badger 
Head: Glow red or fluorescent orange

Friday, November 10, 2017

Naugatuck Report - Early November 2017

Small, but always appreciated

     After some major setbacks, courtesy of the city of Waterbury, the fall salmon season on the lower Naugatuck River is finally underway. I was optimistic about an early start this season. How wrong I was. Now we need to make up for lost time. 

     I went out for a couple hours while my son was at preschool. The river was 53º and the air temperature was 48º. The river was flowing at 319 cfs, making the two handed rod viable, which is a welcome change from the past couple of seasons. I fished with a Sage TCX 11'9" 6 wt. with a Scientific Anglers triple density Scandi head (float/hover/intermediate), and a 9' mono leader. The leader was 6' of 20 lb. mono and 3' of 16 lb. mono. I am giving Rio Salmon/Steelhead mono a try this season. It's sort of like Maxima Ultra-Green. So far, so good. 

    I scurried through three pools before I had to drive back to Guilford. I lost the first salmon I hooked, but quickly landed another two. All three took a #5 Picasse. The first salmon landed was small (pictured above). The second once was about 5 lbs. or so. I tied on an orange Bismo and stripped like crazy in my last pass through the pool. A fourth salmon nailed it, but I lost the fish after a minute or two. It was a good way to spend a couple hours. 

     Lately, I have been suffering from social media burnout/overload. I probably won't be posting updates regularly like I have in the past. The archives of this blog has a lot of helpful information, so search through old posts for good tips here and there. Also, never hesitate to contact me if you have any specific questions. I will be on the river as much as possible, both fishing and guiding, so I'll have my finger on the pulse of what's going on. Good luck and I hope to see you on the water!

Monday, October 2, 2017

Killing Some More Time on the Mattabesett Trail

It's that time of year again. 

     Well, we seem to be back in historic low river level territory. While it is alarming, I think we are still a little better off than we were at this time last year. I was optimistic about an early salmon season this year. That's not going to happen, I guess. Maybe I'm foolish, but I think we hit rock bottom last season in terms of precipitation, river levels, high water temperatures, etc. Maybe this year begins the slow, uphill climb back to normal...

     Speaking of slow, uphill climbs, instead of getting hung up on the bad start we're getting in the fall fishing department, I have been enjoying discovering more of the Mattabesett Trail, most of which is only a short distance from my house. The weather might be poor for fishing, but it has been great for hiking. Here are some shots from last week: 

The view from Bear Rock in Durham

Nature, doing what it has to do

Bluff Head, atop Totoket Mountain in Guilford

This turkey vulture is looking for a yucky snack. 

The Hartford Skyline to the north, opposite to a view of Long Island to the  south

Bluff Head panorama 

The Mica Ledges in Durham, overlooking suburbia

The selectmen stones, marking the spot where Durham, Guilford, and Madison intersect

     I'm praying for rain. We all should be. Hiking the Mattabesett Trail is fun and all, but I want to be salmon fishing soon. Hopefully, it won't be long until I'm back on the greasy ol' Naugatuck again. Until then, I still have about 40 miles more of the trail to hike...

Monday, September 18, 2017

Exploring a Different Type of "Blue Line"

The entrance to the trail is three minutes from my front door.

     Five years ago, my wife and I moved into our current home. She was pregnant with our son, who was born in January. Because she was not physically capable of doing everything she would have normally done, I did most of the unpacking and setup. Then, it was time to finish part of the basement for my home rehearsal/teaching studio. Then, a bunch of other stuff everyone does when they buy a house. Before we knew it, we became new parents and didn't sleep again for the next fourteen months. Four years later, my old life is starting to return, albeit in a somewhat diminished capacity.

     In light of how rushed the move (then the birth) was, we didn't do much exploring around our new neighborhood. I knew that our street is part of the Mattabesett Trail, but I never gave it much thought. Even after seeing hikers walk up and down the street all these years, it didn't really occur to me to investigate it. Surely they weren't there to look at suburban homes. Two parents working at either end of the clock was too taxing. At times, it seemed like all we could manage to do was to take care of our most immediate needs. 

     One morning last week, while junior was at grandma's house, my wife and I decided to take a walk around the neighborhood. We have done it plenty of times before but, for some reason, we had never noticed the little blue signs posted to trees just a short distance from our house. I stopped and walked over to the signs. I realized this was where all the hikers' destination. We didn't have time to investigate the trail that day, but I decided to do some research at home. Low and behold, the blue-blazed trail leads to the "Coginchaug cave." Our interest was piqued and we decided to check it out when the boy returned home the next morning. 

The beginning of the trail 

Follow the blue lines

Much like our backyard, there are a lot of big, fern-covered, rock piles. 

     The trail starts literally three minutes from our front door, making our lack of hiking it the past five years all the more pathetic! From the start of the trail, it is about 3/4 of a mile to the cave. The trail is very easily hiked, except when it climbs in elevation. It's hard for a reasonably fit adult, but there were some precarious places for our four year old companion.

This is not the cave. Take the left fork from here. 

I know less than nothing about geology, but I think this is quartz.
There is a ton of it here. 

The view from above

The trail headed down towards the cave was a little precarious for a four year old. 

First view of Coginchaug Cave

The view from inside the cave

     It took about 40 minutes to reach the cave, though it takes much less time without a small child in tow (I've made it there and back in about an hour). It's not really a "cave" as much as it is a huge rock overhang. If you had any illusions about a spelunking expedition, forget about it. The size of the rock is actually sort of impressive, even more so considering our proximity to it. The forest is beautiful, full of yellow birch, black birch, and beech trees, along with all sorts of ferns and mosses. 

     I haven't yet continued along the trail, but supposedly the next sight is the Pine Knob Overlook. I figure I'll wait until the leaves have fallen to check that out. Or maybe I won't wait. It's not like this place is far from home. All it's missing is a little stream, filled with native brook trout. Of course, if it had that, it wouldn't have taken me five years to find it. 

Coginchaug Cave