Monday, November 10, 2014

Naugatuck Update - Early November, 2014 - The Fish of 1,000 Casts

Not a salmon, but still a welcome catch

The Atlantic salmon has long been known as the "fish of 1,000 casts." My friend Phil says something along the lines of, "If the Atlantic salmon is the fish of 1,000 casts, I'm owed about 250 salmon." As humorous as it is, he's probably right! Allow me to present two scenarios...

My father has a luck streak when it comes to fly fishing. Even he will admit that it can't be skill, since he has only fly fished three times in his life. His first day of fly fishing ever, he landed a 5-6lb. rainbow trout, which also happened to be his first fish ever caught on a dry fly. His second time fly fishing was on the Miramichi. He landed a grilse within his first few hours of fishing. The fish of 1,000 casts? I'm quite sure he was well under 1,000 when he landed that fish. The point is, there are days when even the most elusive of gamefish can be caught by someone who knows little more about fly fishing than which end of the rod to hold (no offense, Dad!). 

Here is the other end of the coin. I've never seen so many "sharpshooters" out on the Naugatuck as I did over the past few days. You had the regulars...stalwarts who know virtually every nook and cranny of the river. Some are fly fishermen and some are spin fisherman. Others are anglers with vast amounts of experience. I've never seen so many anglers with actual Atlantic salmon fishing experience (read: wild salmon) out on the Naugy at one time as I have over the past few days. These are anglers who, despite not knowing all the nooks and crannies, know the species really well. 

How have they been doing? Overall, not very good! Collectively, I would say we've put in well over 1,000 casts per fish landed. Why such meager results? If I had to guess, I would say the number one culprit is the lack of precipitation. It's not just that the river is low, but the fish are acting like their wild brethren. They get dour. Not only would rain move them around, but some fresh water might stimulate them to take better*. I'm looking at the USGS streamflow website right now. In the past week, the closest we've gotten to the median daily flow is about half of it. 

Until this past Friday, the flu had me off the river for almost two weeks. Prior to getting sick, my last day on the river was a skunking. I was itching to get back out there and redeem myself. In terms of weather, last Friday was miserable. It was cold and very windy. I caught a beautiful rainbow trout earlier in the day. I was fishing a run not known to hold salmon, but it was on my way to the next salmon pool. At first, I was disappointed a trout took my Catch-A-Me Lodge and not a salmon. My disappointment faded when I netted the pretty rainbow pictured above. 

I worked my butt off all day. I got my salmon five hours into my fishing day and one hour before sunset. She took a Grape, a pink, purple, and black marabou fly, tied on an aluminum tube. The water was low, but I still had to sink the fly with a super fast sinking polyleader. That was the only salmon action I had that day. That was the only action any of my friends had that day. Since then, a couple of the guys have landed fish, but plenty of others are on their 4,000th cast by now. 

Marabou Tubes: Grape, Slime, Black & Blue, and the Canary

Does this mean we should stay home until it rains? No way! The clock is ticking and Old Man Winter will be here before we know it. This is what salmon fishing is. It's not easy and it's not for the impatient. We have to take the good with the bad. The more we're on the water, the more we'll learn how to deal with tough situations. That doesn't mean that we'll find the "magic bullet." I certainly haven't found it yet. 

Though I'm talking mainly about broodstock salmon fishing in Connecticut, I have seen this scenario on wild salmon rivers. I have been the guy who catches the only fish. Conversely, I have been out-fished by my father. He's the guy who looked at my wallet of tube flies and asked, "How does a salmon get hooked on one of these things? What is this, some sort of joke?" 

Get out there and make every cast count, whether it's #1 or #1,000. Keep your fly line landing straight and your fly swimming at all times. Stay on the move and vary your techniques. If you happen to hook a salmon, savor every minute of it!

*For more information, search for documents and texts which investigate the taking behavior of Atlantic salmon and its relationship to rising and falling thyroxine levels in the fish. 

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Naugatuck Report - October 24 & 25, 2014 - *CRUNCH!*

This salmon set out to murder my poor Green Machine

Saturday, October 24

I thought it would be a good day, but Saturday wasn't all that great. The river didn't rise all that much from the Nor'easter. The water level was actually good. It hovered around 250cfs rising and falling throughout the day. The day started with semi-murky water that seemed to get dirtier as the day went on. I think the heavily colored water put the fish down.

I did land one salmon within the first ten minutes of arriving, but it was the only fish I saw all day. He took a #7 Catch-A-Me Lodge. It was my first fish ever landed on that fly, so I was pretty excited. The take was a little unusual. I miscalculated and threw a bit too much line. The fly hung up on a small boulder. It freed itself after a couple of tugs. The salmon grabbed the fly moments after it fell in the water. Oh well, I'll take it!

Sunday, October 25

Today was much better overall. The water dropped to just over 200cfs. More importantly, it cleared overnight. It took a little hiking, but I found some willing fish. I hooked four and landed three. The first fish took a #6 Mickey Finn. I could it was a male by his head shakes. Eventually, he threw the hook.

I rested the pool and switched over to a #4 White Tail Green Machine. As I arrived at the middle part of the run, a salmon gave the fly a dramatic pull. We have a player! I rested him for about 30 seconds and casted again. He came back for the fly, but didn't take. I rested him for about a minute and went back at it. He didn't want the fly on a slow swing. I waited a few moments and casted again, this time stripping the fly as soon as it approached the lie. *CRUNCH* The salmon crushed the Green Machine. The fish was all over the pool. I had a few uncomfortable moments when the salmon abruptly changed directions and jumped against a belly formed in my line. That scenario always makes me uneasy. It happened three or four times in the course of this fight. After a few more leaps and a couple of strong runs, I landed and released the fish.

Again, I rested the pool for a moment before heading back to the top. The fly was intercepted on what must have been my sixth cast. Fish landed...rest...go back...repeat for fish #4.

It was a beautiful day and the fishing was great. Some new spey casting friends also had a very good day today. Nothing wrong with more long rods on the river!

*Observation*

Though recent rains have definitely improved conditions, the low water of early fall still has a negative impact on us. Since the baseline flow is still low, the river rises from rain and gets dirty while at what should be a normal flow. So, we show up to the river with great water levels, but bad water. Fishing only gets better when we head back towards a low level. It's a bit annoying, but I suppose that's the hand we were dealt this season. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Naugatuck River Salmon Fishing - A Couple of Reminders

The Release

In my experience, it has been a little bit more of a free-for-all out there than usual this season. Here are a couple of reminders for those who care:

Rotation

I know it's not ingrained in our local trout fishing etiquette, but please try to rotate pools and runs as much as possible. Refer to this post for more information. I've been low-holed (cut off while fishing downstream through a run or pool) a couple of times this season. It's not that unusual or surprising. It just gets a little annoying when the few people who observe the rotation get stepped on (knowingly or unknowingly). 

A couple of weeks ago, I was low-holed by an Atlantic salmon fisherman who should know better. To add insult to injury, I had just given him a tip on where to look for fish. At one time, I would have kept moving downstream until I invaded his personal fishing space. Now I just pack up and move on. Most of these type of offenses happen in a couple popular pools. The unpopular pools can be just as productive, so why stay?


Poachers and Rule Breakers

I haven't seen anyone illegally retain a salmon this season. I have seen multiple instances of anglers disregarding the rules of the seasonal atlantic salmon fishery, however. From the CT Anglers Guide 2014:

"Fishing for Atlantic salmon to use of single fly or artificial lure with a single, free-swinging hook. Additional weight may not be added to the line. Snagging is strictly prohibited."

I've seen at least three fisherman using bait so far this season. I landed one fish for an angler fishing a spinner with a treble hook (he seemed genuinely unaware of the regulations and was quite apologetic).

In my opinion, it's best not to be confrontational. I want the angler to want to change his or her behavior. I usually inform the angler of the rules and say something like, "It's not worth getting fined and losing your gear. Just letting you know so that doesn't happen to you."

Most seem to change their ways or at least leave the pool. I'd like to give most the benefit of the doubt and think that they're generally unaware and willing to change. A few others just don't care and keep doing what they're doing. Should that happen, make note of the angler's appearance and exactly where he or she is fishing. Call the DEEP T.I.P. line (Turn in Poachers) at 800.842.4357. It's up to us to protect our fishery from the few bad apples who attempt to ruin it for everyone.


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My big wave of autumn work seems to be mostly over and I'll be happy to spend more time on the river in the coming weeks. November is usually a hot month. Go get some before Ol' Man Winter creams us like he did last year! 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

A Passion for Atlantic Salmon



This morning, I had the pleasure of watching a nice short film by Bill Kessler. For new or inexperienced Atlantic salmon anglers, it's a great primer. Many of the images, videos, and illustrations in Mr. Kessler's video are culled from books and DVDs that would be very helpful for the neophyte. I encourage those who would like to know more about salmon fishing to watch the video and make note of the source materials Mr. Kessler lists at the end. Enjoy!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Naugatuck Report - October 13, 2014 - Bit of a Weird Day

First customer on the Micro Snaelda. It works! 


I have to get ready for a recording session in the morning, so today's report is another quick summary...

Water = Pretty much at the "too friggin' low" level again

Fish = Showing like crazy all day, but very reluctant to take a fly

Spin Fishermen = Hammered them today

What to do? = Put a fly in their face

The Fly = Micro Conehead Snaelda, fished slowly

Only one salmon for me today, but I landed one each for a couple of spin fishermen. One was a real brute, probably 8-9lbs and in great shape. 

Bizarre Naugy Event of the Day = Two teenage girls in street clothes crossing the river, then going about their business. It was like they were crossing the street. wtf??

There's supposed to be some rain on the way, thank goodness. 




Saturday, October 11, 2014

Naugatuck Report - October 11, 2014 - The Ol' Cat and Mouse Game


I upgraded to an Islander LX 3.6 reel for the fall.
So far, I absolutely love it. 

Rain! Just what we needed, though I wouldn't refuse even more. The river was pretty low at the beginning of the day but, again, better than it was a couple of weeks ago. Every little bit of rain helps. I was excited to get a whole day of fishing in today. It has been a while for me. Even better was the fact that we wouldn't have to worry about bright sunshine today.

I was able to visit many pools throughout the day. Some are still vacant. We need a good bump of water to move the fish around and into some of the less frequently fished pools. I got a reading of 58ºF in the water today, which isn't too bad. It's a fair bit cooler than it was at this time last year. 

I had a fair bit of action today...three salmon landed, one pricked, and one broken off on the hook set. The action started within five minutes of arriving at the first pool. My first salmon took a sz. 8 Same Thing Murray and was off to the races, making my new Islander reel sing. 

My second fish landed absolutely hammered an orange HKA Sunray/Bismo. He immediately took off on a long run directly upstream. He jumped his way back towards me, then took off on another blistering run, this time downstream. He was a real slab of a fish and he made my Islander sing even more than the first one did. 

My third fish landed was caught at the pool where I started the day. I returned several hours later. It was another "first five minutes" scenario. This fish took a sz. 8 Black Bear Red Butt. The same fly was taken by another fish later, but the fish was not hooked. I think it felt a little too much of the iron to come back, unfortunately. By the end of the day, the river was noticeably higher than it was when I started. 

This fish couldn't resist a fly fished really fast

The most interesting part of the day happened in shortly after landing my first fish. I made my way back up to the top of the run, still fishing the sz. 8 Murray. I rose a nice looking salmon, but he didn't take. I rested him and resumed casting. He rose again. Very long story, made short...that salmon and I went at it for about 90 minutes. I got him to rise 10 times, but he never took any fly. It was a series of cast, rise, rest, cast, rest, fly change, cast, rise, rest, etc., that went on seemingly forever. Wet flies, a dry fly, riffling hitch and sunk tube...you name it. Here is the list of flies and presentations that piqued the salmon's interest:

Same Thing Murray sz. 8 (two rises)
Shady Lady sz. 10
Mickey Finn sz. 6 (two rises)
Split Wing Bomber (blue/brown) sz. 6
Sunray Shadow-hitched (two rises)
Haugur (micro tube)-hitched

I even tried crossing the river to change casting angle. At some point, the fish either moved on or had enough and stopped rising. I've never had a salmon rise so many times before. After a while, I threw in the towel and moved. I figured I should rest the pool. Interestingly enough, that same pool is where I caught salmon #3 of the day. It was lying a little further upstream than the "ready riser" was. Was it the same salmon? Maybe he moved upstream a few yards? I'll never know. I was just happy to play the chess match, even if the salmon check-mated me this time around. 

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We're entering prime time and the fishing is heating up. The river is still low for my tastes, but the forecast calls for pretty consistent rain almost all week. I think the fishing will only get better as the conditions improve and the fish spread out. 

If you're interested in a fun and educational, guided broodstock salmon fishing trip, please contact me. Dates have already been booked, so act fast! 

Friday, October 10, 2014

Naugatuck Report - October 10, 2014 - Quick Report

Fall colors...I wish they lasted longer

At this time last season, I had already landed quite a few salmon. This season, I've had a hard time even getting out until now. I went once at the end of September when the river was down to its bones. No luck and I didn't stay long. I went again last week right after the rain and was greeted by a river full of chocolate milk. I had a couple hours to fish this morning, so I crammed in a quick trip. 

The river is still quite low. I would say it's as low now as it was as its lowest point last season. Relatively speaking, that's not such a bad level compared to what it has been up until now! We still need plenty of rain to spread the fish out, however.

M1 right in the scissors

Brief summary....

Pool #1 - Occupied, so off to next spot

Pool #2 - Landed a very acrobatic fish on a #10 Sugerman Shrimp. Nice fish, about 5-6lbs...bigger than I expected to see. He was laying right where I expected to find one in low water. Most people miss a very subtle lie that's close to shore. Every now and then, a little "blip" of water discloses a submerged rock the salmon seem to like year in and year out. 

Back to check on Pool #1...still occupied, no angler movement. Time to call an audible. 

Pool #3 - Audible pays off...Landed a smaller fish on an M1 Killer first trip through the pool (pictured above). Later, rose another four times over the course of 30-40 minutes (#6 Mickey Finn). It was time to head home, so I had to leave that salmon for next time. 

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I'm going to try to post reports as often as I can this season. They might not be as frequent or as wordy as last season's reports, though. Sorry...lots of work and family obligations lately. Good luck out there!