Thursday, February 28, 2019

CT Broodstock Salmon Regulation Change and a Message

Salmon and Mickey Finn from last October

A couple years ago, I submitted a letter to the state of Connecticut’s Fisheries Advisory Council (FAC). The letter was in regards to extending the catch and release season for broodstock Atlantic salmon in Connecticut rivers. The gist of the letter was, since we had several drought years in a row, our C&R season was getting shorter and shorter every year. Also, since the final stocking (which happens to contain the largest salmon) occurs after the retention season begins (Dec. 1), anglers who practice C&R never get fish over the total number of salmon in the river. Furthermore, the opportunity to catch the largest salmon is reduced, as they are often harvested right away. From what I was told, my letter was well received. Since it wasn’t official business, the matter was tabled. Unfortunately, it was never made part of the official agenda in subsequent meetings. Fast forward to December 2018…

I was frustrated at how the salmon season had gone. Not only was the lower Naugatuck stocking greatly delayed at beginning of the season (which, in my opinion, was unwarranted), but rain and high water made fishing impossible for much of the season. Before we knew it, the catch and release season was over and C&R anglers had to deal with a declining balance of salmon as soon as the river was ready to fish. The last stocking of salmon occurred and the fish began to disappear immediately, adding to my frustration. 

On the Shetucket River, an angler friend of mine was also frustrated. While Phil was very vocal about what he perceived as problems, I was ready to wash my hands of all of it. Phil got to me and convinced me to share my experiences and opinions. As much as I hate to be the “squeaky wheel,” I shared my thoughts publicly. I was not at all surprised when many others shared the opinions of both Phil and myself. After a while, we could no longer be ignored and CT Fish & Wildlife opened a survey online. The survey asked whether anglers would be in favor of extending the C&R season for broodstock salmon and by how long the season should be extended. The results were published earlier this week (see the illustrations below). 


Click to enlarge (from CT Fish & Wildlife)

Click to enlarge (from CT Fish & Wildlife)


In light of the responses, the catch and release salmon season has been extended to December 15 of each year, adding about two weeks to the season. While I was happy that Phil and I made a bit of a difference, I was unsatisfied with the extension being only two weeks long given the responses to the survey were overwhelmingly in favor of an extension of at least four weeks. Look at the data and see for yourself. 

While I am happy that the (future) last salmon of the season will most likely be able to spread through the river before they may be killed and retained, the data tells me that the majority of anglers who enjoy this fishery are in favor of an even longer catch and release season. One idea I had is to make it C&R until opening day, then allow anglers to retain up to two salmon and/or trout per day (instead of one salmon). As such, anglers won’t need to differentiate between salmon and brown trout, which is difficult for some people. The limit would be a combined limit of trout and/or salmon, following the regulations of the trout season. It would be easy for everyone to remember as the dates (and limits) for salmon retention would mirror those of trout retention. This proposal makes a lot of sense to me, but it most definitely will not be instituted anytime soon considering the recent change in regulations.

After being ignored by “the powers that be,” I was ready tear all of this down. Take down the blog, take down the ebook, stop giving presentations, etc. I felt like my voice was being ignored, despite being a fierce advocate for this fishery. I had offered my consultation and input in the past, but had always been ignored. It was especially insulting, given how much time I have invested in this fishery, much of which was with the ultimate goal of helping people catch salmon and become advocates for the fishery. I hate that I had to resort to being a public “pest” to have my voice heard and acknowledged. That is not in my nature, but I have learned that it is necessary to affect change, as much as I hate to admit it. 

Which leads me to the point of this post...If someone else cares enough, it’s time for you to step up and take some of this on yourself. After many years of learning this fishery inside and out, extensively blogging about it, writing an ebook about the flies and techniques I use, giving a bunch of presentations, and guiding people on the river, I need a break. My son started kindergarten last fall and I can finally be a full-time musician again which, so far, has been going really well. I am going to leave all the information online so anglers can learn from it (attn: young anglers…you need to search and research). I will continue to give presentations. I will answer any questions anyone might have. But I am going back to being a casual angler. Of course, I have more ideas about what could improve this fishery, but I am not interested in pursuing them at the moment. If anyone who calls the shots cares to know, just ask and I will tell it all, but I am not going to pester you for change. 

So, thank you for reading and especially for filling out the survey. I will post here now and then, but in a more casual way. I probably won’t get too heavily into strategy and technique in the future. All of that can be found in the archives and in the ebook. I will probably be a bit of a phantom on the river, but please say “Hi” if we happen to fish next to one another. I have met some really nice folks who happen to read this blog. And, if one or more of you care to take on some of the issues we have on the river, I would be happy to offer any advice I have. Remember, sometimes you have to be the squeaky wheel. 

-Ben 



Monday, September 17, 2018

Prepping For Fall on the Naugatuck River


A particularly fiery October salmon

     I'm not going to make any predictions for this fall. I made them last summer and I was proven wrong...more wrong than I could have imagined. I thought the season would start earlier than normal. It started later than ever. I thought it would be a long, salmon-filled fall, winter, and spring. Salmon were caught, both by myself, as well as by anglers I guided. However, we didn't catch as many as in previous years, mainly due to the extremely short season. Trips had to be moved or canceled. The low water delayed the opening of the season, then environmental disasters further shortened the fall season, as well as bringing it to a premature close. 

     I'd like to think that all clouds have a silver lining. If the disasters that occurred on the river were the clouds, I'm hoping that increased scrutiny on all things river-related will be the silver lining. Maybe we had to go through this to make sure that the river won't be abused in the future. Despite the setbacks of last season, I am optimistic about this season. 

     

M1 Killers - a good early season fly

     Cloud...this summer has been HOT. Silver lining...we've had a lot of rain and there is more in the forecast. Cloud...my son started kindergarten and I miss our weekday adventures. Silver lining...I have a lot more time to fish. I haven't taken advantage of it yet. I'm finishing up all the house-related work I put off over the summer so I'll have lots of time this fall. I'm relived to go back to being a weekday fisherman. 

     I will be guiding on the lower Naugatuck River again this fall. Information can be found HERE. If this rain continues, we might be able to fish with two handed rods all season long. I think the last time that happened was back in 2011. Some pools fish best in high water and some fish better in low water.  I have spent a lot of time in the low water pools the past few years. Small flies, stripped by hand, were most successful. In average-to-high water, we can swing normal sized flies and, while the water is still warm, the salmon will rise to the surface to intercept them. 

     I don't know how frequently I will be posting fishing reports here. Over the years, I have covered an awful lot about this fishery. The archives are full of information, as is my ebook, Flies for Connecticut Atlantic Salmon: How to Tie and Fish Them. I'm not sure I have much more to write about. But maybe I will...I don't know yet. 

     It should be an exciting fall season on the Naugatuck River. I'm going to get my tackle and flies ready this week. We might be salmon fishing within the next 2-4 weeks if all goes well. For more information, CONTACT ME. Otherwise, I will see you on the river this fall. 





Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Twitching and Skating for Pete


Farmington River brook trout were abundant this summer.
They were all too willing to nail a Variant. 

     After the spring runs are over, I switch to trout fishing mode. I usually hit a handful of local rivers, but I focused solely on the Farmington River this season. The Farmington was the favored haunt of a much-loved local angler who many of us were proud to call our friend. Pete, aka "TROUT I," was a Farmington River fishing machine. I learned a lot from Pete over the dozen or so years I knew him. Pete was very animated and he gave a realtime "play-by-play" of everything happening while he fished. We shared a lot of laughs, especially when the trout were "rising with blatant impunity."

     Unfortunately, Pete passed away on July 1, 2018. He had been sick for a while. Even though Pete could not fish anymore, he liked hearing reports. I sent him a report a couple days before he passed. He replied to my email and that was the last correspondence we shared.

     Pete was known as the master of the Beadhead Pheasant Tail Soft Hackle. It seemed like he could catch fish on command with that wet fly. About ten years ago, Pete gave me a Dun Variant to try. I had seen Variant-style dry flies in books, but had never fished one myself. That particular spring, Pete did well with a Dun Variant on our local river. I fished it a few times. I don't recall if I caught anything with it, but I remember seeing him catch several trout with his.

     In the years since then, I have caught a fair number of trout on a Dun Variant, usually during Isonychia hatches. Last summer, I had some luck with a Cream Variant during hatches of Yellow Drakes. On most days this summer, a Variant was my go-to dry fly. When a trout decides he wants one, often times the take is a violent one. There is nothing like twitching and skating a huge variant over fishy looking water, only to have a rainbow, brown, or brook trout dart top from the bottom of the river and smash a dry fly with the ferocity of a fish who thinks his last meal is about to escape.

      In early June, I caught a bunch of trout on a Grey Fox Variant. From mid June to early July, I caught a bunch of trout on a Cream Variant. From July through most of August, I caught a bunch of trout on a Dun Variant. Many of these catches weren't during hatches. Prospecting with a Variant was just as productive as fishing one during a hatch. I had one rainbow grab my Grey Fox Variant so hard, he pulled all the slack line from my hand and set the hook without me so much as raising the rod tip! Without a doubt, Variants were my most productive trout fly this season, an honor typically reserved for the Usual (which also did well, as usual).

     I told Pete about the aforementioned rainbow in our final email exchange. Though it has been at least two years since I last shared a pool with Pete, I felt like I was fishing with him in spirit this summer. Pete was exactly the guy you want next to you when a trout smashed a Variant, twitching and skating on the surface of the water.



Monday, July 2, 2018

Atomic Dog v2: Articulated Tube Fly - Part II


The first victim of the full Atomic Dog came from a river stuffed with herring.


     In my last post, I provided the recipe for the front half of the revised Atomic Dog. As I previously mentioned, the idea of an articulated tube fly had eluded me for years. One morning in March, I realized I had been thinking of the design all wrong. All along, I was trying to figure out how to articulate the tubes themselves, which never seemed to produce results that made any sense. Then it hit me...articulate the tube fly hook, not the tube.

     The Atomic Dog was an ideal candidate for an articulated rear section. It didn't take long think of a suitable design. All I needed to do was to tie an articulated, Lefty's Deceiver-style pattern in back, then merge it with the front of the tube fly. The rear section would add length, volume, and would significantly increase the action of the fly. Because it can detach from the tube fly, the articulated section would behave just like a single tube fly hook, except with two hooks. Here is the rear section, followed by the recipe:


Articulated rear section 

Atomic Dog (articulation):

Rear Hook: Egret tube fly hook (sz. 2)
Tail: White saddle hackles, tied Deceiver style 
Collar: EP Ultra Brush 5" - snow white
Wing: White bucktail (or other stiff hair)
Head: White

Front Hook: Owner Aki (sz. 2/0)
Articulation: 40lb. Maxima with a short length of plastic tubing 
Thread: White, covering the hook shank and monofilament, and covered in UV cured resin 


So the entire dressing is in one place, I will repeat the recipe for the tube fly section here....


Atomic Dog, front (tube fly) section

Atomic Dog

Tube: Plastic 1.8 mm 
Junction Tube: Largest inner diameter PVC tubing (old HMH tubing is perfect)
Tail: Fluoro fiber-fluorescent pink, tied on top of the junction tube
Butt: Ice Dub-pearl
Wing 1: White marble fox and pearl Flashabou, tied Temple Dog style; followed by 2-3 turns of EP Ultra Brush 5"-snow white
Wing 2: White marble fox and pearl Angel Hair, tied Temple Dog style; followed by 2-3 turns of EP Ultra Brush 5"-snow white
Wing 3: Light Blue (or other color) cashmere goat over pearl mini Lateral Scale (as long as possible); followed by 2-3 turns of EP Ultra Brush 5"-snow white
Collar: Silver pheasant dyed light blue (or color to match Wing 3)
Eyes: Jungle cock or substitue 
Head: White or cone (optional)


The full Atomic dog, with articulated section joined to tube fly

Some notes on construction and use: 

-The white bucktail topping should extend as far back at the fibers from the EP brush collar. The stiff bucktail fibers help to prop up the wing of the tube fly, preventing it from fouling. Some fouling is inevitable, however, I tested this fly all spring and had minimal problems with fouling (especially after using the length of tubing between hooks). 

-So far, the 40lb. mono has been strong enough to withstand fish pulling on it. That said, it should be checked now and then to make sure it hasn't been compromised. If I remember correctly, most of the fish I caught were hooked with the front hook. 

-Because the rear section takes the brunt of the abuse, I tied two rear sections for every front section. So far, all of the sections have held up pretty well. The front sections definitely show less wear and tear, though. Since the fronts are the labor-intensive part, it's nice to only tie half as many. 


     When I had this idea, the first person to whom I sent a picture was my friend John. At the time, he was tying some Sunray Shadows for Atlantic salmon fishing. He liked the concept and tied some thin, black saddle hackles onto a hook and made and extra long, super mobile Sunray Shadow. I'll check back in with John later this season to see if his articulated Sunray Shadow worked. I will definitely try some for stripers next spring. It might make a good eel pattern. 


-------------------------------------------

     I hope you enjoyed a new look at tube fly design. It definitely opens up some possibilities for those willing to take to experiment. Hopefully, I'll have a chance to fish more flies like this in the future. I have some ideas for a smaller, articulated tube fly for reluctant broodstock Atlantic salmon, so stay tuned...




Monday, June 25, 2018

Atomic Dog v2: Articulated Tube Fly - Part I


The Atomic Dog color scheme was taken from a well worn Beast Fly, tied by R.M. Lytle.


     Over the past few seasons, I've had a lot of success with a Temple Dog/Samurai tube fly variation I call the "Samurai Dog". It has caught striped bass, resident trout, sea run brown trout, smallmouth bass, broodstock Atlantic salmon, and a few other fish for me. My friend John fishes the fly more than I do and he has caught all sorts of good stuff with it, including steelhead and some very large trout. Here are some variations I like to use:

The original is almost all white, but the white/chart works well, of course.

An all orange Samurai Dog is my #1 Naugatuck salmon fly for very dirty water. 

Here's one tied Russian Bullet style (3 cones in the body)

Another Russian Bullet hybrid I call the "Surgeon General," which is
based on a fly called the "Back Doctor Special". (shout out to Pär in Sweden!)


     They have all worked great, particularly the original white Samurai Dog, as well as the orange. I use the white in the spring and the orange in the fall. I use the black in both seasons and the white/chartreuse when stripers are around.

     As great of a fly as the Samurai Dog has been, my only gripe is its lack of length. When herring are on the menu in spring, I felt like the fly was too small. I tied a fly I called the "Atomic Dog (now retired)" but, as good as it looked to me, it didn't perform well. I swapped materials and got a little more length and volume out of it. It caught fish, but I wanted an even bigger fly. 

     I had been trying to figure out how to articulate a tube fly for a while. I had all sorts of complicated, impractical ideas. Finally, the solution hit me. I needed to tie the larger Samurai Dog, but with one key modification, then tie a fly on an articulated pair of hooks. It's a lengthy process, so I will explain the first part now and save the back end of the fly for the next post. The original fly works fine on its own with just a single hook. 


Front section of the new Atomic Dog, which can be fished as-is

Atomic Dog

Tube: Plastic 1.8mm 
Junction Tube: Largest inner diameter PVC tubing (old HMH tubing is perfect)
Tail: Fluoro fiber-fluorescent pink, tied on top of the junction tube
Butt: Ice Dub-pearl
Wing 1: White marble fox and pearl Flashabou, tied Temple Dog style; followed by 2-3 turns of EP Ultra Brush 5"-snow white
Wing 2: White marble fox and pearl Angel Hair, tied Temple Dog style; followed by 2-3 turns of EP Ultra Brush 5"-snow white
Wing 3: Light Blue (or other color) cashmere goat over pearl mini Lateral Scale (as long as possible); followed by 2-3 turns of EP Ultra Brush 5"-snow white
Collar: Silver pheasant dyed light blue (or color to match Wing 3)
Eyes: Jungle cock or substitue 
Head: White or cone (optional)

     You can see Håkan Norling tie the original Temple Dog here. This video is very helpful. If you have never tied a Temple Dog, this video is a "must see". The Striper Dog is essentially a Temple Dog, but with no real body. The EP brush takes the place of the wraps of soft hackle that Norling uses in his fly. Instead of nesting tubes, flexible junction tubing is used to hold the  hook. It needs to have a large inner diameter to accept the articulated hooks. When used with a single hook, the hook must be big and stout enough to stay lodged in the junction tube. I use an Owner Aki, size 2/0 or 3/0. It is made with very heavy wire and has a big eye. 


     In the next installment, I will explain the steps to extending this fly by adding an articulated section. Also, I will explain the benefits of the articulated rear section. Click HERE to read Part II.





Monday, May 28, 2018

A Tale of Three Trips


The binoculars are for "seeing trout." 


Trip #1

     Last season, my son and I had a successful trip to the Hammonasset River, targeting trout rising to Quill Gordons. The little guy caught his first trout, a brookie, as well as a rainbow trout. He was bummed that we lost a brown trout and were unable to check it off his list. 

     This season, I vowed that he would get his brown trout. The water was much higher this year, so the little guy had to fish from the bank. Another big difference from last year was that the trout would not rise this time. I suspect the high, cold water had something to do with it. No worries, we had nymphs and wet flies that did the trick. He lost the first fish hooked, an acrobatic rainbow, but I assured him there were more opportunities. A few minutes later, he had his first brown trout in the net and checked off his list! 



     He was at least as proud of himself as I was of him. He asked what the next kind of trout he will catch next. Short of flying him out west to chase cutthroats, the only thing I could come up with was tiger trout. I warned him that they are few and far between, but it was no use. A new quest has emerged. Time to distract him with sunfish! 


The elusive brown trout

Trip #2

     It had been far too long since the last time I fished with my friend Mark (Fishing Small Streams). Mark and I used to fish the Hendrickson hatch on the Farmington at least once a season, but I have been distracted by migratory fish the past two springs. I knew it was time to revisit our old haunts before Mark moves. 

     Before the hatch started, I caught my first trout of the season on a #2 Grey Ghost. I was using a 6 wt. switch rod, so it wasn't much of a battle. I soon caught another, which didn't put much of a bend in the rod. Then I lost a third, which did put a bend in the 11' Sage Z-Axis. It put a big bend in the rod before it thrashed on the surface, threw the fly, and swam back to the depths. Oh well, there was more action to come...

      The hatch materialized, but the fish weren't too keen to rise. I picked off one on a wet fly after changing pools. I didn't see many rises. The rises I saw were isolated. I went back to the streamer while we waited for a potential spinner fall. 

     I wasn't too optimistic about a good spinner fall considering how windy it was. But, low and behold, we saw a ton of spinners over the water. The popular pool we chose was too crowded for my comfort, so I moved to the next pool upstream. It's a small pool, and two anglers were already in it,  but I was able to sneak in at the tail. 

      It wound up being a good choice. It was quite a spinner fall...the most prolonged spinner fall I've fished in quite a long time. The trout were plentiful but small. I even caught some while fishing from the bank. Finally, I hooked a better fish, but lost him as he raced towards the tail of the pool. No worries, the action was far from over. 

     There was a decent trout rising in the very fast water at the extreme edge of the tail, just above the rapids. I drifted a spinner over it a few times before it ate. I got the fish close to me but, once it saw me, it bolted. I had been catching all small fish and hauling them in, so my feisty fish senses were a little dull when I hooked this one. This trout was absolutely not going to give up easily and it escaped into the fast water below. It was time to put on my running shoes. I kept tight on the trout for a good distance downstream. I thought I could land it in one of the pockets, but no dice. The fish didn't stop running until it crossed into the next pool downstream. 


Not particularly large, but full of piss and vinegar! 

     I was able to land the fiery fish in the soft water of the new pool. It was well hooked and thrashed wildly while I tried to remove my spinner from its mouth. I thought the fight was over, but this trout didn't get the memo. It wasn't a particularly large trout, maybe 17"-18" at best, but fought like a demon. I was happy I didn't break my ankle. Whatever I hooked next probably wouldn't have been that exciting, so I decided to call it a night! 


Shad fight tough, but are a delicate fish. Whenever possible, I now release shad without touching them. 


Trip #3

     Data! Data doesn't lie. I knew I could have a good day of shad fishing if the water fell below a certain level on the gauge after Mother's Day. I've been trying to fish closer to home more often and only wanted to make one trip this year, as long as it was a good enough trip. It wasn't the most spectacular day of American shad fishing I've ever had, but it was good enough to scratch the itch for the season. There were some fairly large fish in the mix too, so that was a bonus. Actually, I hooked a few real tough ones. 

     It pays to keep track of data throughout a few seasons. It can make trips successful when time is limited, as it has been for me the past year or so. I had no specific local intel on this spot, but I've fished it enough to know when it should produce. It produced as expected. It was fun. I'll go back next year, after Mother's Day, when the water is below a certain level...






Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Don't Lose It, Reuse It - Part II (Shaving Brush Restorations)


Premium quality badger knots from Elite Razor

     After salvaging my old badger knot for flies and reknotting its handle, I realized I had enjoyed the process. The flies weren't much different from others I had tied before, but the brush restoration was new to me. It was interesting, fun, and it was a new skill to learn. Plus, I needed a little break from fly tying at that point. This project started when winter returned in late February, so I didn't miss much fishing.

     I went to antique stores and searched eBay for vintage shaving brushes in need of restoration. The first couple were sort of rough, but I caught on quickly and learned what to look for. I have done a lot of grinding and sanding the past couple of months. I would actually love to do more, but I only need so many brushes. I probably don't need as many as I currently own, but I have been enjoying the process and learning about the subtleties of brush making and restoration. Here are some pics of restorations completed this winter and early spring:


Rubberset 200-3 w/24mm mixed badger and boar knot
This scrubby, barber-style brush is a keeper...in my top three

Ever-Ready 100 w/22mm two band badger fan knot
Magnets are installed in the handle to hang dry w/o a stand

Century mini-brush w/16mm synthetic knot

Rubberset 153 w/22mm two band badger bulb knot
This one was made for my friend Frank,
who might as well have been shaving with a roadkill brush. 

Ever-Ready 650PB w/22mm Tuxedo synthetic knot

Ever-Ready 150 w/26mm Plissoft synthetic knot

Made Rite 303L (ivory) w/22mm Silvertip badger knot

Made Rite 303L (black) w/22mm two band badger fan knot
I didn't plan on buying this, but it was a good companion
to the ivory-colored brush above. 

Rubberset 754 w/20mm Tuxedo synthetic knot
This one fits in a large pill bottle and now lives in my carry-on bag.

Rubberset 203 w/24mm Manchurian White badger fan knot

Erskine 120 w/24mm High Mountain White badger knot
Along with my original restore and the Rubberset 200-3 above,
this one rounds out my top three. Pillowy soft! 

     Most of this work was leading up to restoring a coveted Rubberset 400. Sanding these old resin brushes is not too hard. Sanding and polishing aluminum is a lot more work, so I wanted to be sure my technique was sound before putting in 4-5 hours worth of work on this. In the end, it came out pretty good! I might remove the knot I installed and have a super premium knot installed by Declaration Grooming. Here is a progression of sanding...

Original, well used condition w/boar bristles

Before sanding - 400 grit wet sanding

600 - 1500 grit wet sanding

2000-3000 grit wet sanding and first polishing


5 hours later...with a mirror finish and a 24mm B5 knot from Declaration Grooming


     Like flies, I have way more brushes than I need, but I like variety. Want one? Let me know...I'm fishing again now that spring has sprung, but would gladly take a break for an excuse to work on some old brushes. Based on a recent comment from my wife, I won't be restoring any more for myself anytime soon! Thanks for indulging this slight departure. More fishing content coming soon...