Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Getting Into the Spirit

Tying for a trip is my favorite kind of tying

Until this fall, I had never entered a preseason draw on any Quebec salmon rivers. I bought ten tickets for the Grand Casapedia wading sector and five for B sector on the Petite Cascapedia. Though I would love to fish the little river, I really want to fish the Grand. I didn't think I would win anything. In fact, I questioned why I was throwing money away. It's a little easier to stomach throwing money away when the exchange rate is favorable, however.

Anyhow, I didn't come up with much on the Petite Cascapedia. I was reservist #175. To my surprise, I drew #13 on the Grand Cascapedia! I still can't believe my luck. Not bad for my first try. I booked one day on the Lake Branch (89 run w/guide & canoe) and two days on the Salmon Branch. Since I'll be up there already, I'll pad the week with a few days on sectors C and D on the Bonaventure and try to score some more water in the 48 hour draws. 

Usually, I don't plan this far in advance. I like to shoot from the hip. Sometimes it works well, sometimes it doesn't. I decided to take a chance on a last minute trip last season and didn't end up going at all. It's nice to know I'm definitely going next year. 

I'm looking forward to getting my first shot at the big June Cascapedia salmon. I'm glad I bought that 13'9" 9 wt. rod, even if I didn't have plans to use it. I am going to practice with it often this spring. 

I can't wait to start tying for this trip over the winter. I mainly fish Miramichi-style flies everywhere, but I look forward to embracing some styles of salmon fly tying that are less familiar to me. I decided to kick off the trip tying early with a style I know fairly well. The Lady Amherst (pictured above) seemed like the most appropriate place to start. 

I'm not done with fishing yet this fall, but my thoughts are consumed with the anticipation of next June!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Naugatuck Quick Report - November 20-21, 2015

Excerpted from "Flies For Connecticut Atlantic Salmon"

I don't have much to report. Last season, I lost November fishing days to the flu and a stomach virus. I've stayed pretty healthy this year, thank goodness. Late October and early November have been work, work, work....I'm not complaining. I love working. I love fishing too, though. My recent trips have been limited to an hour here, or 90 minutes there, most of the time during the worst part of the day or on an altogether bad day. I just wish I had more time to fish before winter rears its ugly head. Thankfully, there are few signs of winter on the horizon just yet. 

The last day I had to fish all day long was way back on November 1! I had that chance again on November 20. Too bad Mother Nature wrecked it. I fished a couple of pools and called it quits early. Rain brought the river up quite a bit and the Naugatuck at 1010 cfs and dirty isn't very fun or productive. I've had success in flows near that, but only when the water was relatively clear. Yesterday, I got tired of hooking the floating debris and leaves and went home early. 

The river was in much better shape today. The water temperature was between 46º-48º, which is warm for this time of year. The air temperature was about the same. The water was slightly off color, but not too bad. The flow was good, averaging around 350 cfs. I managed to squeeze in a couple hours and made one pass each through four different pools. 

I hooked one salmon in the second pool of the four. It didn't hit very hard and I actually thought I had hooked a branch. Then the branch leaped out of the water. I brought the salmon within a leader length from me before he jumped and spit my sz. 5 Picasse into a tree. It was better than nothing.

The madness continues next week with the most difficult in a series of recording sessions I've had in the past couple of months. Instead of fishing, that's probably what I will be doing. Maybe I can sneak out once during Thanksgiving weekend and get home in time to shower and make it to wherever I'll be playing that night. Like I said, I'm not complaining...just going through a slight fishing withdrawal! Get out there and prick one for me...

Friday, November 13, 2015

Dirty Water Dog

Happy client, unhappy salmon

Well, it's about the midpoint of the fall Atlantic salmon season here in Connecticut. I'm happy with how things have gone so far. Fall 2014 was the worst in recent memory. Even though the water has been dreadfully low this season, the fish have seemed to be much more aggressive than they were last season. Despite the good fishing, I am sad to signs of the upcoming winter. Most of the leaves have fallen off the trees in my yard. The sun sets early enough where evening trips to the river no longer make sense for me. Though I look forward to catching a big fish on a two handed rod and a copper tube fly, I'm going to miss fishing long leaders and small wet flies.I had today off and originally planned wetting a line. The 20-30 mph winds kept me home practicing music for an upcoming record date (which I should be doing anyway) and catching up on some much needed sleep.

You'll notice a lack of regular reports lately. It's not that I haven't been out on the water, I just haven't been fishing. Guiding has been in full swing and many salmon have been caught. Flies of choice so far have been the Mickey Finn (6 salmon!), the Green Machine, and the Grey Ghost. We even had some success on a subpar day, fishing in high, stained water. When fishing highly colored water, I have the most success with large tube flies. When the river is moderately stained, an Ally's Shrimp is my fly of choice. When it's heavily stained, I use a Temple Dog-style tube fly.

Here is a fly that was successful in very dirty water after our biggest rain of the season. It is essentially an all-orange Temple Dog. I sink the fly and fish it slowly to give the salmon ample time to see it. The Dirty Water Dog is an obnoxious looking fly but, if it saves the day, I don't mind one bit.

This particular color variation is new to me this season, but I have recipes for the original Temple Dog and some of its variants in my ebook "Flies for Connecticut Atlantic Salmon: How to Tie & Fish Them." I did not make a Temple Dog fly tying sequence because the best possible source is already out there.

Click here to watch the creator of the Temple Dog, Håkan Norling, tie his original fly. 

Dirty Water Dog - For fishing the filth
(Note: Only single hooks are legal for CT salmon fishing)

Dirty Water Dog

Tube: Nested 3 mm & 1.8 mm plastic or 1.8 mm plastic w/clear junction tubing
Tag: Oval gold tinsel
Butt: Fluorescent orange floss or Uni-Stretch
Tail: Hot orange Fluoro-Fiber
Rib: Oval gold tinsel
Body: 1/3 Holographic gold tinsel; 2/3 UV orange Ice Dub
Body Hackle: Hot orange rooster saddle
Throat Hackle: Orange hen saddle
Wing 1: Hot orange arctic fox with gold Angel Hair
Wing 2: Orange arctic fox with gold Flashabou
Wing 3: Orange snow runner with gold Angel Hair
Cheeks: Jungle cock
Head: Black or conehead (optional)

Note: If I plan on using a conehead, I do not weight the fly. If I don't use a cone, I wrap a layer of lead tape around the tube beneath the space allotted for dubbing. 

Light and dark versions

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Naugatuck Quick Report - November 5, 2015 - Rolling the Dice

Just about out of time

I've had some strong hunches in the past. Some have ended up being big scores. Some have not. In general, the stronger I felt about one of these hunches, the more likely it would pay off. I had one yesterday. The salmon have been all over Mickey Finns my last two trips. First, the trip Sonny and I made resulted in five salmon hooked on a #4 Mickey Finn (and one on the Same Thing Murray). I guided this past Tuesday and my client caught two on Mickey Finns, though slightly smaller than the one that worked last Sunday (#6 and #8).

I wanted to take advantage of this November "heat wave." The only problem was my lack of free time. I saw a window of opportunity. I would drop my son off at nursery school at 9:00am. It would take me almost an hour to get to the river. I would fish for an hour, then head back for a noon pickup. I had convinced myself I would catch at least one salmon, and probably more, on a Mickey Finn. Solid plan, right?

Well, it didn't quite work out. I got to the river on schedule, but they wanted nothing to do with my sz. 6 Mickey Finn. No worries, I'll try something smaller since the river was lower (122 cfs). I tried a small Same Thing Murray, tied on a sz. 10 Mustad 3399A. No dice. I was surprised given the temperatures, 56º water and 64º air. Ok, I would try a small, heavy Snealda, which has been a good "last resort" fly for me. They wouldn't take that, either.

I was out of time. I was shocked that my plan didn't go how I envisioned it. I was due, however. This was my first trip with no action at all. Maybe something would have happened if I got there earlier, stayed later, or just fished longer. It was sort of a crazy plan. I drove twice as long as I fished. The way I figure, it's that kind of optimism that makes the difference during the course of a season. It didn't pan out this time, but I will probably do it again the next time I get a hunch.

I arrived at nursery school with three minutes to spare.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Naugatuck Report - November 1, 2015 - The Big Payback

The only non-Mickey Finn salmon of the day

I owed a friend a big debt. Last spring, Sonny helped me get started fly fishing for American shad. I had a very good spring and caught many shad. Since my normal springtime sea run trout fishing was a bust, I was grateful to have shad fishing there to take its place. I promised Sonny I would reciprocate this fall when the salmon fishing was hot.

I warned Sonny that, unlike shad fishing, salmon fishing is a low numbers game. It's often a lot of work for brief moments of intense excitement. I made sure I stressed that it is not unusual to get skunked, especially when new to this type of fly fishing. Sonny didn't need my warning today, however.

It was a overcast day, ideal for salmon fishing. The temperature climbed into the upper 50s and the water temp rose by one degree (52ºF). The water has fallen to an acceptable level, one that is just about the minimum needed to fish with a two handed rod (175 cfs). I was happy to be able to use a switch rod again. I was even happier when I got on the board early, landing a salmon within a few minutes on a sz. 6 Same Thing Murray. Sonny turned up shortly after and we gave the pool a shot, albeit fruitless.

Sometimes the smaller ones fight harder than the big ones

We moved to another good pool and came up empty handed. We decided to get back in the car and try a third pool. The water was just right and the fish were really "on." A pass through with my Murray yielded nothing, but Sonny hooked up quickly on a sz. 4 Mickey Finn. He lost the fish moments after its first jump. I got out of the run and made my way back to the top of the pool. Sonny was on again! He landed the second fish on his little switch rod, which started its life as a single handed rod. It was his very first Atlantic salmon!

I figured I should tie on a sz. 4 Mickey Finn, seeing how well it was working for Sonny. Before I could get back to the top of the run, Sonny hooked up again! Crazy!! He lost this fish, unfortunately. I was cracking up. The luck on this guy!

After what seemed like an eternity, I finally got my Mickey Finn in the water Within a few minutes, I was tight to a salmon. This fish wasn't a jumper like Sonny's salmon were. This fish was a runner. It was a white knuckle fight. The salmon ran right past a rock, one which past salmon have successfully used against me. I thought it was over for me but, luckily, the salmon ran past the rock and jumped next to the far bank. Meanwhile, I was running as fast as I could downstream in order to get the fish away from the rock. My scrambling paid off and I was able to steer the crazed salmon into the open water and eventually land it.

Ol' faithful does it again

I went back to the top of the run. On the way up, Sonny yelled that he had rolled yet another salmon. I was giving him the instruction to wait and rest the fish for a moment when he cast again and the salmon took. This fish put on quite an aerial display. Sonny was hootin' and hollerin' with every leap. It was the biggest fish of the day. Sonny fought the salmon like a pro and I netted the fish for him. He was elated and I was very happy for him!

Sonny with his leaper

Hooking up just once is a good day of salmon fishing around here. Going two-for-four on one's first day of salmon fishing is incredible. I told Sonny he should just give up now, because it probably won't get much better than that. My two salmon hooked and landed, a more "normal" result, was my only action. I was perfectly content with my pair. More importantly, I was happy for my friend and was glad I could return the favor...in spades!

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Naugatuck Report - October 24, 2015 - Shumakov to the Rescue

Sometimes it pays to bring the oddball flies

I knew better than to expect a repeat of my last trip. Both the air and water temps have dropped quite a bit since last Tuesday. Today, the air temperature topped out around 50º and probably didn't stay there for very long. The water temperature was 51º when I checked it around 11:30 this morning. Going into today, I knew ultra aggressive salmon were not going to be in the cards.

Last night, I thought about which fly might be the one to use. A #10 Almost has been my hot fly this season, but I figured I'd need something a little bigger, heavier, and more colorful to tempt a lethargic salmon. I remembered a tube fly I had tied for a trip Russia's Kola River back in 2012. The pattern is called the "Golden Shrimp." It was created by the late Yuri Shumakov, a very innovative Russian fly tyer. I definitely didn't fish the fly while in Russia. Before today, I'm not sure I had ever fished anywhere. Sometimes a particular fly speaks to us. For some reason, this one spoke to me. I chose to listen and I'm glad I did.

An original Golden Shrimp
Tied by Yuri Shumakov for the Kola River

I almost always make my first run through a pool a conservative one. I fish a relatively small, unweighted fly, hoping to bring a salmon to the surface. I can't remember what I tried first. Maybe it was an Almost, but I'm not sure. Anyhow, it didn't work. I went right to the Golden Shrimp on my next pass. About 10 minutes later, I was tight to a salmon. If I had my druthers, I'd have caught it with a two handed rod, swinging a size 6 or 8 wet fly just under the surface. Instead, I had to settle for putting a small, heavy brass tube fly right in the salmon's face with my 9' 7wt. Sage. I'll take it. 

I explored some other water today, but didn't find much going on. I was even reprimanded for parking on a private road! I've never had an issue there in the past. I've had locals ask me how the fishing was and make small talk. I guess I just ran into the wrong dude today. Oh well...be careful where you park. 

Eventually, I made my way back to the original pool. I fished a sz. 8 Sugerman Shrimp through the run. Normally, I would swing the fly. The flow is still so weak (80 cfs) that I had to strip it. When the salmon are lethargic, don't expect bone crunching takes. Under these conditions, they often nip at the back end of a fly. A salmon grabbed my Sugerman Shrimp, but I pulled the fly out of his mouth while stripping. The fish felt the steel and it was game over. 

I wanted to get home early, so I decided to try the "Hail Mary pass" when I went back to the top of the run. I stripped an HKA Sunray as fast as I could and got another short strike (from a different fish). I rested the fish and tried again. The salmon came back for the fly, despite feeling the hook. I was surprised. I got the fish up once more on a hitched Sunray Shadow. Unfortunately, that was as far as I got before I had to head home. 

Under the circumstances, I'm pleased with how today went. If nothing else, it made me realize I need a better plan for low water salmon who prefer to nip at the back end of a fly rather than grabbing it with gusto. I have plenty of flies for those fish when the water is up (this behavior is common in the winter and early spring), but not as many options for cold conditions in unusually low water. The gears are spinning and I will be well armed next time. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Naugatuck Report - October 20, 2015 - Adrenaline!

Yes, they will take dry flies.

Whew! If I provided a fish-by-fish account of today, this post would be way too long! I can't even remember all the details. "Pandemonium" is the best way to sum it up.

Fish were all over the same sz. 10 Almost I used to catch my last salmon. In fact, I hooked five salmon on that fly today. I landed all but one. They pursued it very aggressively. It was really intense.

Better still, I managed to hook and land two on dry flies, as well. One absolutely exploded on a sz. 8 Grizzly Bug, then went totally berserk, cartwheeling all over the pool. The other took a sz. 6 Split Wing Bomber (green w/brown hackle). That fish also went nuts, though the take was a little less explosive than the first.

This Almost is ready for retirement.

The grand total was seven salmon hooked and six landed. Interestingly enough, only one took the fly on the first pass (the smallest fish). Every other fished showed anywhere from one to five times before finally taking. Both dry fly fish initially showed for the Almost.

I pricked a couple others on dries, but did not connect. I rose one early in the day on a sz. 10 Cascade, but could not get the fish to come back. I had my hands full today!

The details...air temps topped out in the mid-to-upper 60s. The water was 58ºF. Flows are still excruciatingly low, around 80 cfs. Sometimes the fish can overlook the low water, I guess.

Today's action aside, the water is so low, I've found it difficult to get into a rhythm while fishing wet flies. Because of this, I have been fishing dries more often lately. I hear a lot of anglers say that, in order to catch these salmon, we must fish deep with heavy flies and/or sinking lines. While that can be true under certain conditions, there are times when they are willing to take a fly from the surface. Not every year is conducive to good dry fly fishing. Right now is the time to fish dry flies. Get in on it while it lasts!

My ebook "Flies for Connecticut Atlantic Salmon" provides tips on when, where, and how to fish dry flies for broodstock salmon. Check it out!

Today's trio of winning flies