Monday, January 26, 2015

News, Events & Music - Winter 2015


An Introduction to Tube Flies: Fishing and Tying

News 

The first bit of news is that the Fly Shop is sold out of just about everything, save for a few odd flies. I tie up a small inventory during the summer, mainly for sale in the fall. I'm happy that sales have been good, though it's hard to predict which flies will sell the most before the season starts. There was a lot of demand Ally's Shrimp this fall. I ran out quickly and had to tie a lot during the fishing season. That's a "good problem," as far as I'm concerned! Anyhow, I took down all the PayPal "add to cart" buttons until I can restock. I plan on starting tying earlier this year to boost inventory for next fall. In the meantime, feel free to contact me if there are any flies you need for winter, spring, or summer. They can be flies listed on the Fly Shop page, or something else you might have seen here or elsewhere. Often times, I am contacted to tie flies a shortly before an angler's salmon fishing trip. If possible, a little more lead time would help since I don't tie full time. Spring/early summer and fall are usually my busiest seasons in the music business (see below). I have plenty of time for custom orders this winter, however. Give me a holler now if you need flies for the upcoming Canadian or European Atlantic salmon season, or for any other fishery. 

A new addition to my website is the Presentations page. Information and summaries of each presentation are available on this page.  My "Traditional Techniques for Broodstock Atlantic Salmon" has been well very received at local fishing and conservation club meetings. I'm happy to offer a new presentation, "An Introduction to Tube Flies: Fishing and Tying," which will be debuting next month (see below). I've notice a local reluctance to try tube flies, even when I've given them out for free. This presentation should help clear up any confusion as to how to fish and/or tie effective tube patterns for all species. 

I decided to take a break from tying anything in January and thoroughly clean my tying room (I cheated a little). It was too cluttered for too long and I was beginning to get annoyed with it. I finally took the time to razor the pile of trashed flies that had been accumulating for several years. I'm most of the way through the cleanup and reorganization job now and it's starting to look a lot better. I'll be ready to hit the ground running come February. 

I tend to ignore the gallery section of the website until I have make major changes. I added a few new fishing and tying pics. I will add more to the Fishing Gallery and Fly Gallery throughout the winter.  Check back every now and then! 

Events

I have a couple of presentations scheduled this winter. It would be great to see some of you there! Here are the details:


“Introduction to Tube Flies - Fishing & Tying”

February 17, 2015
7:00pm

Port 5 Naval Veterans
69 Brewster St.
Bridgeport, CT 06605



“Traditional Techniques for Broodstock Atlantic Salmon”

March 11, 2015
7:00pm

Michael’s at the Grove
42 Vail Rd. 
Bethel, CT 06801

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Litchfield Jazz Festival 2013
(photo by H. Judd)
Music

By night, I am a professional jazz musician. I mention it here on occasion, but I thought I'd plug a good gig I have coming up at the end of this month. 

Ben Bilello, Laurence Hobgood & Henry Lugo
January 30, 2015
8:00pm-11:00pm
$10 cover  

56 Orange St. 
New Haven, CT 06510

The 9th Note is a great new club and you should definitely check it out. The trio with Laurence and Henry is very dynamic. I love working with both of those guys. Laurence is a fellow fly fisherman, so feel free to talk fishing with him, too. 

As a side note, I am giving a free brush playing clinic before the show. It will run from 6:00pm to 7:00pm. I'll take a short break, we'll run a brief soundcheck, then start the show at 8:00. Check benbilello.com or the9thnote.com for more information. This will be a very exciting show...one not to miss! 



Monday, January 19, 2015

Weighing Hooks and Tubes

Copper tube (thick walled) 1.5" = 2 g
Partridge Code Q Double sz. 1/0 = 1.5 g

My friend Wayne sent me a handy little Christmas gift a few weeks ago. I intend to use this scale mainly for modifying shooting heads and fly lines, but I'm not totally set up for it yet. In the meantime, I decided to weigh some tubes and hooks, just for kicks.

Left: G.P. on Partridge Q Double 1/0 = 1.8 g
Right: G.P. on copper tube and Loop double (#4) = 2.7 g


The first experiment was comparing a thick walled, HMH copper tube (1.5") to an old Partridge Code Q low water double (sz. 1/0). I wanted to tie a flies of a similar size and compare total weights. The fly of choice would be the General Practitioner. The Partridge hook is quite heavy (1.5 g), but the tube alone was 25% heavier. (2 g). When I added materials to both, then a #4 Loop double tube hook on the tube G.P., the tube fly became significantly heavier. I've tried to cast the tube version of this fly before. It's not pleasant. The flies are roughly equal in length, but the tube version weighs quite a bit more (see pic above). I should try this again with a thin walled copper tube and see what I get for results. I think it would end up about the same weight as the conventional fly based on the Sunray experiment below. 

Daiichi 2271 (#2) = .5 g
Aluminum tube (1.5") + Owner SSW (#2) = .5 g


The next experiment was less scientific. I wanted to compare a Daiichi 2271 streamer/Dee hook (sz. 2) to an aluminum tube. Then, weigh a fly tied on the 2271 and compare it to substitutes tied on an aluminum Shumakov long range tube and a conventional aluminum tube. I didn't bother doing all the permutations. I feel like I had a good idea of how everything compared. In the example above, I wanted to see how long of an aluminum tube I'd need to equal the weight of the hook. The total length of the tube and hook is a bit longer than the 2271, but the tying space on each is roughly equal since we don't typically tie on the tube hook. So, this heavy streamer hook weighed about as much as a similar sized aluminum tube and single hook.

Shumakov tube (alum.) + Owner SSW (#2) = .8 g
The Chief - Daiichi 2271 (#2) = .66 g

The example above is the least "scientific" of the group. The flies are different, but I most likely wouldn't tie a feather wing streamer on a tube. I would have no problem fishing this Shumakov-style tube fly in place of The Chief, however. I had this in mind because of what happened to this particular streamer. I was fishing for landlocked salmon at the base of a concrete dam. I thought The Chief would be a good option. All it took was one errant backcast and I knocked the point off a decent streamer fly. The fly, which didn't live long enough to catch a fish, has since been relegated to casting practice. I weighed an intact version of the same fly. It also weighed .6 g, so the missing hook point doesn't weigh enough to make a difference. 

The Shumakov tube fly is a hare longer and fuller, though I doubt the materials add much to the toal weight. Even though the tube fly weighs a bit more, I doubt it would sink faster than the streamer. The streamer is slim and cuts through the water. Maybe they would sink at the same rate? I don't really care enough to take this experiment that far. Anyhow, little was learned from this experiment other than that Shumakov bottle tubes weigh more than I thought they would (especially the brass and copper bottle tubes). I discovered that by weighing them on their own.

HKA Sunray/Bismo (1.5" alum.) + Owner SSW (#2) = .8 g

Next, I decided to weigh an HKA Sunray/Bismo tied on the aforementioned 1.5" aluminum tube. The finished fly weighed just as much as the Shumakov tube fly, also .2 g heavier than the streamer. Again, it's not The Chief, but I would have no problem fishing this Sunray variant in place of a conventional streamer fly. It's interesting to note that the HKA Sunray weighed a full .3 g more than a slightly smaller Sunray Shadow (see below). I think the UV resin head adds most of the additional weight to the HKA Sunray. Also, I tie it fuller than a normal Sunray, though I can't imagine the materials themselves weigh all that much. Maybe the UV head, the extra .25" of aluminum, and the extra material added .1 g each? Like I said, not very scientific...(stop cringing, Mark!)

The most important lesson gleaned from this has nothing to do with weights or measures. When you're fishing in front of a concrete dam, use the tube fly instead of the streamer, dummy! 

1.25" Sunray Shadows + #4 single hooks
Plastic + TMC 105 = .3 g
Aluminum + Owner SSW = .5 g
Copper (thin walled) + Owner Flyliner = 1 g

To me, the last experiment was the most interesting one. I tied three virtually identical Sunray Shadows on tubes of different materials. The metal tubes were each 1.25". The plastic tube was a little longer to make up for a lack of junction tube (which adds a little length to the overall fly body). The flies were all the same total length. I used a light wire hook with the plastic tube, a medium wire hook with the aluminum tube, and a heavy wire hook with the copper tube. You can see the results above.

I was surprised how close in weight the plastic and the aluminum tube flies were. The difference, .2 g, is hardly anything. My friend John told me he raised a salmon (twice) on an aluminum tube fly I gave him. I was surprised to hear that he fished it hitched. I had never heard of anyone hitching an aluminum tube fly before, but I guess it worked just fine! 

The copper Sunray was twice as heavy as the aluminum Sunray. It would be interesting to tie and weigh a brass and a tungsten Sunray to see where they end up on the spectrum. My guess is the brass would weight around .8 g. I have no idea what the tungsten would weigh, but I wouldn't be surprised if it weighed twice as much as the copper. I'm not sure a tungsten Sunray would be very useful. 

I need to get to Harbor Freight tools soon. I need a heat gun and some shrink tubing so I can start messing with lines and stop weighing tubes and hooks! Oh well, it's something to do in the winter. Thanks again, Wayne! 


Monday, January 12, 2015

Gear in Review 2014 - Soft Goods

Simms Coldweather Shirt and Pants

Clothing

In warmer weather, I got a lot of use out of two pairs of lightweight Simms pants (not pictured). One pair was the Flyte pants and the other was the Bugstopper pants. Both were from an older line and have since been discontinued. I didn't buy the latter for its bug stopping ability so much as I liked the look of them. Both pairs were very comfortable, both in and out of waders. A big plus is that they both looked like fairly normal pants, so I was fine with wearing them around town either before or after fishing. Actually, I liked the fit enough to wear them around when I didn't plan on fishing. I'm sure new models have replaced those which are discontinued. I would buy either again (or their new equivalents). 

Simms Coldweather pants...money very well spent

In the fishing clothing department, the best purchases I made in 2014 were Simms Coldweather pants and Coldweather shirt. Along with my Islander reel, the Coldweather pants were the best purchase I made all year. Both are lined with textured fleece and are really warm. The pants are especially warm. By themselves, the Coldweather pants were warm enough for most days. I didn't bother wearing a base layer under the pants unless I knew it was going to be really cold.  Another nice feature is the velcro cuffs. Just cinch up the strap and there's no need to worry about my pants creeping up my leg inside my waders. I used to use velcro-backed neoprene straps to prevent the leg creep, but the built-in velcro straps worked well enough on their own. 

The Coldweather shirt was really nice as well, though not a total knockout like the pants. It's not like there's anything undesirable about the shirt so much as I've found the layering on top easier to do than on bottom. If anything, I think the shirt looks better on its own than the pants do, though it's nothing I'd want to wear indoors for too long. The fleece lining is quite warm. I'd buy either again, especially the pants. 

Simms Headwaters Large Sling Pack
@ Pool 74 "Dambar" - C Sector, Bonaventure

Packs

Simms Packs

I'm sort of a pack junkie. I don't really want to be. I just want to find the system that's right for me. I'm still searching for the ideal setup.

The first packs I used this season were the new Simms Headwaters sling pack (not pictured) and the Headwaters large sling pack.  I used the former mainly for trout fishing. My first impression was that, when it was worn on my back, it was much more comfortable than my old Orvis sling packs. Of course, that might be because the Simms pack came with a waist strap*. It wasn't too bulky, but it was big enough to hold all I needed for a day on a trout stream.

The Headwaters large sling pack is pretty much the same pack as the regular one, just a lot bigger. I used this pack for salmon fishing. It has an extra large compartment, but no water bottle section like the regular pack has. I don't know how I feel about the large pack. I think it was too big for me. I might want to carry a lot of stuff with me at one time, but there's no reason why I need access to all of it all the time. Sure, the pack was more comfortable than my old Orvis Magnum sling pack*, but it is less comfortable than a backpack. I think I'd rather use a smaller pack for a couple fly boxes and throw everything else in a backpack.

Here are my main gripes with both packs. I don't need so many places to store forceps or pliers. I don't really know of anything else I can keep in those black sheaths, so having three seems kind of a waste. Plus, I didn't really trust the magnet in them. I sort of expected my forceps to slip out (though they never did). What I could use is a couple d-rings or attachment points for whatever I want to attach. Even more velcro would have helped out. The packs look nice and streamlined, but I'd trade looks for added functionality in a heartbeat.

I don't like the fold-down "workstation." I didn't wind up using it as intended. It's a good idea, but a full pack sort of gets in the way, especially in the larger model. It's too much to get my arms around just to use the workstation. I'd rather have an empty compartment for fly box storage. Or line it with better velcro so I could stick things to it. I didn't want to keep my tippet spools on the outside of the pack. The velcro didn't stick well on the inside and they slid all over the place.

Despite all the features, which I'm sure a lot of thought went into, these were both just packs to me. They're just a place to store things. I didn't feel like either made my life any easier. Because of the lack of outside attachment points, I feel like they actually made my life a little trickier. I like having access to gear on the outside of the pack so I'm not constantly zipping and unzipping. I'll probably keep the small pack and use it for trout fishing next season, mainly because I already own it. I doubt I'd use the large pack again. I think I'm just not too into sling packs. All that rotating around my upper body gets annoying.


William Joseph Eddy - I'll probably save it for other uses

William Joseph Packs

I tried two small, no-frills William Joseph packs this season. The first was the William Joseph Eddy. This is no more than a water resistant shoulder bag. It's not really much more than a pouch. Like the sling packs, a couple of attachment points or velcro would have been nice, but no big deal. This pack was made to be pretty basic. The front pocket was small and hard to get my hand into. I think I used this pack once or twice. It didn't really work for me, though it might make a good pack for my night fishing gear. It was inexpensive, so I'll keep it and find a use for it. I might use it as a travel fly tying bag. 

William Joseph Rip Tide Hip Pack - Not a bad little pack
The second pack I tried was an older William Joseph hip pack. This was the first time I've used a hip pack. I liked it. In the course of a day, this pack would loosen and slide down my waist, but it has no shoulder strap to help keep it up. This particular hip pack is pretty basic. The zippered compartments on the belt were a nice touch. Overall, it was more useful than the Eddy was. It's a pretty small pack, but it worked well when used in conjunction with a backpack and/or wading jacket. I think I want a little bit more from a hip pack in the future, but this one wasn't too bad as long as I kept it light.

Conclusions

Rotating a sling pack got on my nerves this season, but rotating the waist pack didn't bother me as much. I'm in the market for a new hip pack for next season. I like the hip pack/backpack combo best of all so far. I have been using a Simms Dry Creek day pack, but it's sort of small. I might look into getting one of their new Dry Creek backpacks. Instead of trying to cram everything in one pack and carry it on me at all times, I'd rather carry the essentials and leave the rest on the bank.

The Simms clothing is good stuff. It's pricey, but there are always deals to be had in the off season. I might try to pick up some more Coldweather gear if it goes on sale in the spring.

*My old Orvis sling packs didn't come with waist straps, though they came with buckles for them. I contacted Orvis to get a replacement waist strap. They offered to send one at no charge. They never sent it. 

Monday, January 5, 2015

Gear in Review 2014 - Hardware

Danielsson L5W 8twelve and the Banana tube fly


These reviews aren't going to be anything earth shattering. Most of these products have been around for a while, but are new to me. Some were purchased as used items. Regardless, it might help someone make a decision, so here goes...

Rods & Reels

My first new acquisitions happened just after returning from Quebec. I found a good deal on a barely used Sage TCX 7126, more commonly known as the "Death Star." I pared it with a new Danielsson L5W 8twelve reel, a couple Beulah Elixir V2 Scandi heads, and a Rio GripShooter running line (more on the lines below). It would be unfair of me to review the rod and the reel at this time. Aside from a little casting practice, I've barely used either. I'll wait, catch some fish on it next spring and summer, then write a more thorough review next year. I wish I had thought to buy it before the Quebec trip. I'll have to take it up with me in June 2015.  

My next purchase was a new (used) reel for my Sage Graphite II 9' 7wt. I got a great deal on an Islander LX 3.6. One of the first salmon I ever hooked was on my guide's G. Loomis/Islander combo. I remember liking the reel, but it was a while ago and I don't remember much more than a general impression of its performance. This deal was too good to pass up, so I decided to roll the dice. I'm glad I did. I LOVE this reel! It's a little heavy, but not heavy enough to be a burden. My old Sage rod is heavier than a new rod, so it balances ok. The Islander's Teflon and graphite-impregnated cork drag is buttery smooth and has a huge range of adjustment. I really like the feel of the handle. This reel is a real pleasure to fish with. I have my eyes peeled for another, larger, Islander LX (whether I need it or not). 

Islander LX 3.6 (used on Sage Graphite II 9' 7wt.)
 Danielsson LW 6nine (used on Sage Z-Axis 11' 6wt. switch rod)

I purchased another previously owned reel shortly after buying the Islander. Though my new Danielsson hasn't seen any action yet, I am already a big fan. A new friend gave me a good deal on his old, Loop-era, Danielsson LW 6nine. I figure it's about ten years old, but works like it was brand new. This reel went on my trusty Sage 6110 switch rod. It's a little light for that rod, but wasn't too bad. It got less action than the Islander and didn't fight as hot of fish, but I was still very impressed. The drag is just as smooth as the Islander, though not quite as "buttery" feeling. I can't explain it exactly...you just have to trust my choice of words on it! What the Danielsson reel loses in feel, it more than makes up for in dependability. The sealed drag seems impervious to dunking, cold temperatures, etc. I definitely have more faith in the Danielsson late in the season than the Islander. I own both, so I guess I don't have to decide between the two if I don't want to! 

I really do like both reels. I'm constantly scouring the internet for good deals. Plenty of used Islanders come up on eBay. However, when I found out Danielsson is only selling direct to consumers now, and also having a holiday sale, I pulled the trigger on a new L5W 6nine. The new one is a little different from the older one I bought used. It's the little brother to the reel I am using on the Death Star. The new reel is a little heavier than the old reel and holds more backing. Also, I think the drag on the new reel has a wider range than does the old one. I am going to use the new Danielsson on the aforementioned Sage switch rod and move the older one over to my main salmon single hander, a Vision GT Four 9' 8wt. 


Clockwise, L to R: Berkley Big Game 30# mono, Beulah Elixir V2
Scandal Head, Omnispool Switchbox & Rio GripShooter

Running Lines and Shooting Heads

When I first starting using a trout-sized switch rod a couple of years ago, I made the decision to use a monofilament running line (Rio SlickShooter). I liked the performance of the mono more than I thought I would. This season, I decided to switch all my running lines over to mono. The first running line I tried was Berkley Big Game in 30# test. At first, I bought the wrong color. I bought Green, which became virtually invisible in the water. I bought another spool, this time in Solar Collector (a fluorescent/hi-vis green). I can't really find much bad to say about the stuff. It shoots like crazy, has minimal memory once stretched and fished, and it's cheap. Like, really cheap. It's nice to avoid paying the "fly fishing tax" every now and then. I saw this post about using rubber tape to reduce mono slippage. The Temflex 2155 rubber splicing tape works like a charm! 

Rio decided to go a different route when it came to getting a good grip on slippery monofilament running lines. The Rio GripShooter has a coated front section that feels like fly line. It is a pleasure to use, though much more expensive than Berkley Big Game. I've only tried it a few times, but so far I really like the GripShooter. I figure I'll use it for a while and see how it holds up. If the coated section is durable enough, I'd consider purchasing it for other setups. 

Not being one who can pass up a good deal, I bought several Beulah Elixir V2 heads at reduced Sierra Trading Post prices. I think the heads have some sort of cosmetic imperfection, but I have yet to find any. I bought heads for two different switch rods and two heads for the Death Star. I liked the original Elixir. The fine front taper makes it a great head for surface presentations. I prefer other heads when using sinking polyleaders, however. The Elixir V2 seems to turn over better for me than the original. The taper is still pretty fine, so I continue to use it mainly for intermediate-to-floating polyleader applications. I especially like the Elixirs made for switch rods. No complaints so far! 

Accessories 

I have only one item to review in this category, but it's an item I really enjoy using. The Omnispool Switchbox is one of those little inventions that just makes our lives that much easier. I never really minded moving fly lines between spools and reels, but the Switchbox kit makes it so much easier. It really doesn't get much easier. In fact, I'm starting to wonder how I lived without this before. It couldn't be any easier to switch a line alone and virtually anywhere...at home, on the riverbank, in a boat, etc. It's a piece of cake. It's so much easier, it's almost a pleasant task. The kit costs between $20-$25, which seems sort of pricey for plastic parts, but it's worth every penny. I'm actually less inclined to buy spare spools for my reels now that I can switch lines with so little hassle. I'm not going to explain how it works. Go to their site and watch a video. 'Nuff said! 

Next week, I'll be reviewing some packs and clothing. Check back! 


Monday, December 29, 2014

Naugatuck River - Fall 2014 - Top Flies (plus a little data)

This fall's favorites, small and large: Sugerman Shrimp,
Green Machine w/White Tail (G/R butt) & German Snaelda

I suppose the most surprising turn of events for me this season was the deposition of my perennial Naugatuck favorites, the Mickey Finn and the Same Thing Murray. Both flies hooked one salmon each for me, but that was it. I'm surprised but not disappointed. They were replaced by two of my confidence flies in wild salmon fisheries, the Sugerman Shrimp and the white tail Green Machine. Rounding out the top three is the German Snaelda, which was the only top three holdover from last season.

I'm happy to see the Sugerman Shrimp tied for top honors. If I had to pick one salmon fly to fish for the rest of my life, that would be the one. I don't know why it has worked better for me abroad than at home, but maybe the trend is changing? Two sizes worked for me this season, sz. 2 and sz. 10. As you can see, small or large, it's a terrific fly. 

The Green Machine made the cut because of its performance on one day of fishing, hooking and landing three salmon (in the same pool) in a very short amount of time. For some reason, when there are salmon in this particular pool, they seem to like buck bugs. I haven't found that to be the case in other pools, at least not to the same extent. My first grilse of the season (Bonaventure) was caught on the same fly, so it must have had some good mojo attached to it. 

The German Snaelda wins the medal for top tube fly of 2014, same as last season. Like the Sugerman Shrimp, it was effective in different sizes, from the diminutive micro conehead tube to a medium sizes Snaelda, tied on a .5", thick walled, copper tube. I didn't move anything on the larger, 3/4" copper Snaelda this season. I was sort of surprised by that. I hate tying Snaeldas but I sure like fishing them. 

 A drink called "Bawls"???
Ummm...no, thank you! 

I didn't keep track of how many trips I made to the river. I think it was a little less than last year given the late start we had this season. I hooked sixteen salmon and landed all but two. I'd venture to say almost everyone hooked far fewer salmon this fall than last fall. That was definitely the case for me.  In a typical season, I average about two (salmon) hookups per trip. Last season, I averaged about 2.5 per trip. Without exact figures, I think I averaged a little over 1 per trip this season. My landing percentage was up from last year, however (by about 8%). Some years I keep better data than others. I didn't do a very thorough job this fall; basically just salmon number, fly, size, and pool. I have very little written record of 2012, so at least I did better than that. I looked back at my 2011 record the other day and that has incredibly detailed data. It's very helpful. I am going to try to get back to that next season.

Oh yeah...I didn't lose a single pair of hemostats this season! Amazing!

The Sugerman Shrimp is a killer in virtually any size 


Anyhow, here is a list of flies that worked for me this season and their sizes:

Conventional Flies:

Sugerman Shrimp (sz. 10, 1 salmon; sz. 2, 2 salmon)
Green Machine w/white tail, green & red butt (sz. 4, 3 salmon)
M1 Killer (sz. 10)
Same Thing Murray (sz. 8)
Black Bear Red Butt (sz. 8)
Catch-A-Me Lodge (sz. 7)
Mickey Finn (sz. 6)

Tube Flies:

German Snaelda (.5" copper, thick walled, 2 salmon)
Micro Conehead German Snaelda
HKA Sunray/Bismo - Orange (1.25" aluminum)
Grape (1.5" aluminum)

I don't know whether this means anything or not, but I didn't lose any that I hooked on a tube. I lost two on conventional flies (Mickey Finn & Sugerman sz. 2). Of course, I hooked just over twice as many on conventional flies as I did on tubes, so maybe that has something to do with it.

I'm going to cut some flies out of my online fly shop and add others. I should have a supply of Sugermans and Green Machines ready to go for next season. As much as I hate tying them, I'll probably add some Snaeldas, too.

I might do a little fishing in the winter and spring, just to keep cabin fever at bay. I'll try to post some reports if I go. After a little break, I will be doing some tying for spring, most likely Sunrays, Mummichog Muddlers, Gurglers, and Samurai Dogs for sea run browns and stripers. I also plan on posting more tying videos, so check back for them.

The next couple of posts will be gear reviews. Stay tuned and happy New Year! 


Monday, December 22, 2014

Naugatuck River - Fall 2014 - Summary & Observations

The annual beach ball sighting happened late this season.
I was worried I might have missed it! 

While fall 2014 wasn't a total bust, it certainly paled in comparison to seasons of the recent past. Last fall, salmon were practically jumping into anglers' nets. Unless one lived close to the river and could fish often, the fish seemed a lot harder to come by this autumn.

The main problem was a lack of water for most of the season. The first group of salmon were stocked on September 30 which, due to poor conditions, was almost two weeks later than they were stocked last year. Losing two weeks was discouraging. In reality, however, many of us lost more than two weeks up front. After my first trip, I vowed not to return until the water came up. The river was just too low and I was fairly certain I'd kill any salmon I might hook. As such, I didn't start fishing in earnest until the second week of October. I prefer to fish secondary pools (ones which require a walk). Without rain, salmon don't move into those pools. So it became a waiting game.

It felt like we waited forever. I didn't find fish in the secondary pools until the end of October. A major problem, also caused by the lack of rain, was that the river didn't run clear at the optimum flows. We had colored water when the water was at its best level. As such, we had to wait until the river became low again and the water cleared. Usually, we have a few days of great fishing after the high water recedes. This season, the window was much narrower. If one had good timing, he or she could hit it just right.

Then November came and I got the flu. Then I gave it to the rest of my family who, unlike myself, were vaccinated. That took me out almost two weeks. Then it got cold. It felt much colder than it should have been at that time of year. The first two weeks of November are usually a salmon bonanza, but that wasn't the case this season. The end of November brought frigid temperatures and the water temperature plummeted. I recorded a water temperature of 36ºF the last day I fished in November. That's usually a mid-December temperature. The water gets cold quickly when there's not much of it in the river.

I only fished twice in December. The weather (and water) sort of bounced back for a briefly. Unfortunately, both trips were short ones. The first trip was early in the month. The air and water temperatures were warmer than they had been in late November. For a short period of time, the river was at an ideal level. If I had all day, I think it could have been one of my best days of the season. After that, the cold weather returned and then we were pounded by heavy rains. The river was very high and unfishable for over a week. The river dropped very slowly. I thought I might catch it on its way down, but more rain came. I fished in high water (850cfs.), but had nothing to show for it. With the madness of the holidays quickly approaching, I decided that the fall 2014 season was officially over for me.

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Fish on! The immediate scenery reminds me a bit of the Kola.

We had very low water throughout much of last fall. There are a few pools (in the lower river) that fish well when the water is low (around 150cfs.). Once the river falls below about 130cfs., even the low water pools get tricky. I think the river was trickling along around 75cfs. on my first trip. That's really bad. I like fishing in "lowish" water, but the ultra-low water is a depressing sight. It was like fishing still water. Hopefully we won't have to worry about this next season. I don't see how it could get any lower, though I recall saying the same thing in 2013.

I really like being able to salmon fish in September, however, some fish caught last September were a little tough to revive. That was prompted me to buy a grilse-sized Brodin net. Given the extreme low water (and resulting low dissolved oxygen levels), I'm quite certain a lot of salmon weren't able to be revived early this fall. While it's nice to be able to catch them while wearing a t-shirt, I'm beginning to wonder if it's more prudent to go back to stocking them around the second week of October? 

In terms of tactics, not much changed for me this season, though I did fish with a sinking polyleader more than I did last season. The benefits of sinking a fly in low water was hammered home this season. I had luck with it in 2013 and results this year seem to reinforce the effectiveness of the technique. As far as topwater goes, I had resolved to fish the hitch more, which I did, though nothing grabbed a hitched fly. I did raise a couple of salmon with the hitch, though. I'll have to try it again next year when we (hopefully) have more moving water.

So it wasn't such a great season, at least not for many of us. I did OK considering I had a tighter work schedule and more family commitments (and illnesses) this year . I had hoped for better, but I'll take it. I fished when I was able to and, unfortunately, that meant fishing in some pretty miserable conditions. Oh well, I try to make the best of it. I'm not going to catch anything sitting on my couch. 

My 2014 data is not as comprehensive as what I recorded last year. I did keep a record of all the flies that hooked a salmon for me this season, however. I'll go over the data I have in my next post. Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Naugatuck Report - December 3, 2014 - Winding Down

Last one for 2014?

Last fall, I posted about a trip that went exactly according to how I envisioned it. I figure I get one day a year that goes exactly according to plan. It took almost all year for it to happen this year, but today was the day. Despite being far less dramatic than last year's equivalent, it was just as greatly appreciated.

This morning, I told my slightly agitated wife that this would be my last trip of the season. Did I actually mean it? Probably, though I could be convinced to go again, so long as it doesn't land me in hot water.

My first fish of the CT broodstock salmon season took a sz. 10 Sugerman Shrimp, my favorite salmon fly in my favorite size. I wanted to catch my last salmon of the season on a Sugerman, though it would have to be much larger than a sz. 10. I already had a few tied, but I didn't like the look of them. I tied another, more suitable shrimp on a sz. 2 hook.

On a whim, I cut 2.5' off of the tip of a 350 grain Rio Steelhead Scandi head while waiting for the lacquer to dry on the Sugerman. That particular Scandi head is a little heavier than I like on my Sage Z-Axis 6wt. switch rod, plus the taper never turned over heavier polyleaders very well. I knew I would have to get down to the fish a bit today and I had hoped cutting the head back would turn over a 10', extra super fast sinking polyleader a little better.

Nice to see you again, old friend

The babysitter came at 12:45pm and I was on the river a little over an hour later. I decided to fish a couple pools that are new to me. I fished them my last time out, which was in cold and high water. I got skunked. The water was lower and warmer today, 350cfs. and 42ºF. The air temperature was about 47ºF and it was overcast with light rain. Those conditions are pretty good for this time of year.

Within five minutes, I decided that the modified Steelhead Scandi worked like a charm. I've decided to do some line welding and modification for a winter project. I really should have used a micrometer and grain scale to fine tune the line, but I don't have either yet. Looks like I got lucky this time.

Within ten minutes, I had hooked and landed a salmon in the tail of the first pool and my trip had quickly fulfilled my expectations! Maybe I set the bar low today, but this season definitely hasn't been the broodstock salmon cornucopia 2013 was. I fished through once more and decided to move down to the next pool.

The second pool is much larger and required longer casts. Seeing how the sun sets at 4:25pm, fishing it thoroughly and methodically would have taken too long, so I opted for the run-and-shoot approach. I lost my original Sugerman on a rock, so I replaced it with a lesser model of the same size. It didn't matter, that fly was the right one, too. I had a subtle take, but felt it too late to get a solid hookset. I had a salmon on, but it threw my hook in its first leap. Oh well, I already had my fish for the day.

I wanted to explore some unfamiliar water I found on Google Earth, but there wasn't enough time left in the day. I headed upriver, to a pair of familiar pools, to close out the afternoon. I didn't see any salmon, but that's okay. These short trips can be a gamble and this one paid off.

I would like to get out at least a couple more times, but I don't know if it's in the cards. We'll see. I'm going to give it a couple of weeks before I post a short season summary. In the fly department, two of the perennial frontrunners have been deposed this season, replaced by two of my Canadian confidence flies. More on that later...