Saturday, April 30, 2016

Shad Time on the Big River

Experimenting finally paid off
(picture by M. Taylor)

     I met up with my friend Mike yesterday to do a little shad fishing. I went out once already, at the first mention of a run starting, but struck out. Instead of fishing a favorite tributary, Mike asked me to join him on the Connecticut River. It's big water. I didn't know what to expect, so I brought a lot of gear. 

     I hooked up within the first few minutes, which was actually sort of a curse. I figured I had my rig all dialed in, which was not the case at all. I was the only fly fisherman there. The spin fishermen were nailing shad left and right. I switched rigs and hooked up again, but it was another lucky take. I tried messing around with leader length, fly weight, and different density tips, but none of it worked. I had the proper distance covered, but I wasn't getting the flies down enough and the floating line/Versileader combo seemed to be sweeping my flies over the lies too quickly. 

     It's easy to get frustrated in a situation like that, but I felt determined to figure out this puzzle. I hiked back to the car and picked up a triple density scandi head. The only one I had with me was a F/I/S2. I crossed my fingers, put it in my pack, and hiked back to the river. Then I realized I forgot the reel in the car, so I had to go back. Now I was frustrated! 

Releasing a nice roe shad
(picture by M. Taylor)

     I added a 10' Rio Versileader (7.0 i.p.s.), 3' of fluorocarbon tippet, and a heavy fly. I crossed my fingers and went back to it. I was hooked up within a few casts. It wasn't just luck this time, either. The new setup was the right move. It slowed my fly down enough to let it sink and to let the shad see it. I had pretty steady action from that point on. I wasn't putting up numbers like the spinning guys, but it was about as good as it could get on a fly rod on this particular day. Eventually, I realized I didn't need a very heavy fly. The line and leader combo took care of it and casting became a lot more pleasant. 

     Experimenting with lines definitely paid off. Sure, it took a couple of hours to get it all figured out, but I was still able to enjoy plenty of action. More importantly, it's another lesson to keep stored away until it's needed again. 

Monday, April 18, 2016

Breaking in a New Rig on the Delaware

A nice view downstream
     Last week was a long one. Since moving into our house almost three years ago, we knew a deck replacement would need to happen sooner rather than later. The old deck was neglected beyond the point of making repairs worth the time or effort. So, during my wife's school vacation week, we tore the old deck out and built a new one. It's nice to have a new and bigger deck, but it felt like a sort of crummy way to spend a week of beautiful weather. Luckily, my friend Harold asked me to join him and guide Steve Taggart on a Saturday afternoon/evening float trip down the mainstem of the Delaware River. 

     The weather was beautiful, albeit a bit too sunny to make most of the trout willing to come up for a dry fly. Despite the effects of the sun, we were able to headhunt for enough large risers to keep us busy throughout the day. Given the funky wind, I probably should have rigged up my 6 wt. dry fly rod, but I wanted to try out my new 5 wt. combo. I strung up my Beulah Platinum 9' 5wt. and an Abel TR2 reel. We expected to see Hendricksons on the water, so I tied on my favorite fly for that hatch, a variation on Bob Quigley's deadly Quigley Cripple. 

Beulah Platinum 9' 5 wt. and Abel TR2

     It wasn't too long before we found a few risers. This was my first time fishing the Delaware, so it took me a little while to wrap my brain around fish that weren't necessarily staying in one place to intercept insects. Trying to anticipate where the target would rise next was tricky. I eventually pinned one down and hooked up to a brown about 16-18 inches. I was surprised at how strong these browns are! They can be difficult to lift. I thought the brown was as good as landed, but it popped off at the last second.

A variation on the Quigley Cripple is my favorite fly for the Hendrickson hatch.

     As the hatch progressed, we moved downstream and continued to hunt for large fish. We struck out in an area with rising fish on the far side of a few complex currents. Throughout the day, we found good targets and managed to prick a few with one of Steve's comparadun patterns. 

     For me, the highlight of the day was when Steve spotted a large trout at the bottom end of a pool. From a distance, it was difficult to tell if it was a trout or a beaver. He was sticking his head out of the water, gulping bugs off the surface. Each time his head went back under, his big back would show, followed by his tail. He was cruising laterally in a fairly broad area. He wasn't traveling in any discenrable pattern, so I tried my best to guess where he would emerge next. 

     After throwing a half dozen casts that went unnoticed, I laid out a cast that happened to landed a couple feet in front of where he was moving. We saw the big head pop up and engulf the comparadun, followed by his back and tail. The hook struck home and it was game on! He didn't run far, but he was very hard to move. I got him on the reel and I was able to hear my new Abel sing a bit. He ran towards the boat and wound up circling us. At one point, I was really worried that he was going to go underneath. I stood upon the boat's middle seat to help clear the line and leader from getting hung up on the boat. 

     The first attempt to net the big brown trout was unsuccessful. The full length of my 12' leader was outside of the rod tip and I couldn't get the fish high enough. He circled the boat again and I prepared for another landing attempt. Steve gave me the order to strip into my leader when the fish got to the stern. I stripped, then lifted the hefty trout off the bottom of the river. Steve dropped the net at just the right time and the brute was finally landed! He had a great big kype and was a real handful at about 22". 

     The big guy was my only fish brought to hand that day but, when the trout are that big, strong, and difficult to hook, I don't feel like I missed much. Given it was my first time on the Delaware, I was pretty happy with how everything turned out. I can see how this river can be addicting for dry fly fishers. I can't wait to get back.

Good way to break in a new rig

Friday, April 8, 2016

I Hate Tying Bombers

Labatt Blue and Green Butt Bombers (sz. 2-6)

     I hate tying Bombers. If well-tied Bombers didn't cost so much, I would consider buying some. I hate tying them for a number of reasons. Here are a few:

1. They are material hogs. The veal industry must be booming considering how much calf tail is needed to tie these things, especially in large sizes.

2. Good hackle is hard to find. At least in the U.S., it is.

3. Clipped deer hair is messy. It gets all over everything.

4. They take me forever to tie. Granted, I could probably get much faster if I tied them more often, but I hate tying Bombers.

     I don't necessarily hate tying all flies made with spun and clipped deer hair. The amount of dislike I have for them is proportional to the amount of spun deer hair used in the fly. I'm neutral on Buck Bugs. I sort of dislike tying Muddlers. Did I mention that I hate tying Bombers? I think tying bass bugs would make me want to stop tying flies altogether.

     I'm writing this post now just to stall. I should be at the vise, tying more Bombers. I might tie some more at the C.F.F.A. Fly Tyers Roundtable event next Wednesday night. At least I can make a mess of a room not found in my house (heh heh). When I watch a video like the one below, I still hate tying Bombers, but a bit less.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Naugatuck Report - March 25, 2016 - RIP Fishpond Nomad Mid-Length Net

My old Fishpond Nomad net in happier times

     Most fly fishers can relate to losing a favorite fly. Often times, it happens when a fly falls off a fly patch. It happens to all of us. It happened to me today, actually. I lost the Picasse tube fly with which I had so much success earlier this season. It was a drag, but not as much as my other loss today.

     I was in a hurry to get home this afternoon. Looking back, I was in too much of a hurry. I heard a little rattling as I drove away, but chalked it up to the rod tubes I hastily threw into the back of my car. I got onto Rt. 8N and drove about a half mile when I noticed my Fishpond Nomad Mid-Length net fall from the roof of my car and onto the highway. On no! Through my rearview mirror, I saw a car drive strategically over the net without running it over. 

     I decided to double back and try to retrieve the net. I was pretty sure it made it to the safety of the shoulder. I got on Rt. 8S and made a big loop, getting back on Rt. 8N. I didn't expect to stop on this pass. I just wanted to locate the net. I did, in fact, locate it...right in the middle of the lane! Oh no! Fortunately, there was enough of a shoulder to pull off and retrieve the net when there was an opening in traffic, but I would have to make another pass. 

     I retraced my steps, exiting, getting on Rt. 8S again, getting back onto Rt. 8N, and keeping my eyes peeled for the net. I slowed down and put on my hazard lights as I approached the location. I saw my three pieces! Oh no! Fishpond Nomad nets are durable, but not durable enough to withstand being run over by an eighteen wheeler, apparently. For a moment, I thought of picking it up to salvage the net bag. Traffic was getting heavy and I quickly decided that it was not worth the risk. I drove away, leaving my trusty net to die in the middle of Rt. 8. 

     I was pretty bummed. It was a great net. It even doubled as a wading staff. It would have been the perfect size for most Naugatuck salmon in 2013 and 2014. The 2015 fish were a little bigger, however, and I landed several which did not fit in this particular model. I had already made up my mind to buy the Fishpond Nomad El Jefe model for next Connecticut's salmon season. The mid-length net would have been perfect for shad though. I guess I will have to purchase the El Jefe net sooner than expected. At least I know that I will be happy with another Fishpond Nomad net. I had no complaints with my old one, other than the size. The way I see it, too small of a net is a "good problem."

     Oh yeah...the fishing report. On paper, today was pretty ideal. Air in the low 60s, overcast/light rain, water in the high 40s to low 50s, and a flow of 346 cfs. The salmon didn't quite get the memo. I didn't move a thing. And I lost a good net. Sometimes you eat the bear, sometimes the bear eats you.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Naugatuck Report - March 23, 2016 - Ouch!

Small, but I'll take it if it keeps the skunk away

     My drum lessons were canceled today. No money, no good. The babysitter was booked, so I decided to go fishing to make up for it. It was warm today, about 63ºF when I arrived. The water was 48ºF and was flowing at 380 cfs, which is low for this time of year. It was overcast. I'll never complain about cloudy skies. Today's rig was the 11'9" rod, the Abel Switch reel, and a 400 gr. Scientific Anglers UST Scandi head (F/I/S2). 

     I referred to an old post that had details on a past trip under similar conditions. I planned on starting at the pools referenced in that post, so I figured the information would be relevant. The only difference were the temps, both water and air, which were both about 5-8º warmer today than they were on the other trip. I even used the same fly, a sz. 2 Sugerman Shrimp, though I didn't sink it as much as I did in the trip from a few years ago. I hooked up with a good salmon in my first pass through the pool, so the research paid off. The fish was about 8 lbs. and like to fly. It made two strong, reel screaming runs and jumped about five times. Unfortunately, the salmon came unbuttoned a few minutes into the fight. Too bad...that was the best fight I've gotten out of a spring Naugatuck salmon yet. 
     Subsequent passes yielded nothing and the other pool was occupied, so I moved on. The next pool was a bust, though I saw one jump in the frog water. I decided to move further upriver. In my first pass through the next pool, I fell in! This was my first Naugatuck fall-in. If it was going to happen in any pool, this was the one. I banged my shin on a rock as I fell. It didn't hurt then, but it's beginning to hurt now. It will probably be black and blue tomorrow morning. I thought I wouldn't get water in my waders, but I couldn't save myself. I felt a cold rush of water run all the way down to my booties. My right arm was soaked, as was the lower front part of my long sleeved t-shirt. I thought about going back to the car, but it would eat up too much time. I fished on...

     I moved down one pool and did nothing with the Sugerman. I decided to fish a little deeper, so I tied on a gold bodied Willie Gunn tied on a 1.5" copper tube. That did the trick....SLAM! A fish pulled hard, but no hook up. A few casts later, the fish was on. It turned out to be a little guy. I landed and released him quickly, then made a couple more casts to the lie. BAM! Another little salmon on the hook...expect this one didn't stay on for long. He spit the hook out while jumping. I made it to the bottom of the run and decided to take a final cast. I reeled up my fly line and...WHACK! Fish on. This time, it was a small brown trout. 

     I lost that good fish, got soaked, and banged up my shin. I also lost out on teaching money. It was a good day for March salmon fishing though, so you won't hear any complaints from me.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Some Recent Ties

Blue Picasse (sz. 7) and Tiger Ghost var. (sz. 3)

     Here are some recent ties. I finished tying wet flies for summer fishing. I still have to tie a few tube flies and a some dry flies. I'm glad I started early and worked fairly quickly. There is no historic information or stories in this post, just pictures.

     Dressings for any of the flies pictured here are available upon requests. I will probably take a little break from my usual weekly blog posts. Once the spring runs of fish start up, I will (hopefully) post some reports. As always, if you any questions, don't hesitate to contact me or leave a comment. Thanks for reading!

Green Spey (sz. 1.5)

John Olin Longwing (sz. 12)

Black and Red Frances (sz. 10)

Silver Rat (sz. 2)

Rusty Rat (sz. 1)

Green Butt Blue Charm (sz. 4)

Ghost Stonefly (sz. 2)

Green Butt (sz. 4)

Summer 2016 fly box (singles)

Summer 2016 fly box (doubles)

Small doubles

Bugs & Butterflies (and Mesmerizers)

Monday, March 14, 2016

Gordon's Quill Interview - Winter 2015

Salmon fishing in Connecticut...good practice for springers.

     I apologize for a bit of shameless self promotion this week. The Winter 2015 issue of the Theodore Gordon's Flyfishers newsletter, Gordon's Quill, was recently published. In this issue, my friend and guide client, Warren Stern, interviewed me about salmon fishing in Connecticut, amongst other topics. If you'd like to read it, click this link to navigate to the newsletter. Thanks to Warren and the Theodore Gordon Flyfishers for their interest in our fishery, as well as for all the great work they do in the areas surrounding NYC.