Sunday, October 23, 2016

Naugatuck Report - October 23, 2016 - Swingin'!

First salmon of the 2016-2017 season

     Swingin'...not just flies, but what I do for a living. Sure, I sell some flies and guide some, but it mainly helps feed the addiction. The addiction to swinging, and this time I do mean flies. 

     At the beginning of last week, I had pretty much given up hope that we would have a salmon season on the Naugatuck. This drought is for real. By last Tuesday, I said to myself, "Screw it. I'm sick of thinking about losing my favorite local fishery. I'm just going to play music every free chance I have." So I did and it felt really good. I hate to admit it, but I forgot about salmon fishing pretty quickly and began to get excited about some upcoming gigs and some other longterm goals. 

     Then, out of the blue, I found out salmon season was on. I had three guide trips booked within the first couple of hours of hearing the news. I needed to get out on the river ASAP to get my mojo working. But I still had music on the brain. I had 2.5 hours to fish this afternoon, so I decided to do it with headphones on, something I never do. "What if a salmon rises behind me and I don't hear it?" I thought. So's just a fish. Besides, I really wanted to continue listening to Eric Reed, Ben Wolfe, and Gregory Hutchinson swing their asses off. 

     I tied on a size 10 Ally's Shrimp and went to the top of Pool #1. Before the first song ended, I was tight to my first salmon of the season! What made it more exciting was that it was the first salmon on my new Naugatuck single hand combo, a Sage One 9' 7 wt. rod and my trusty Islander IR4 reel. The reel purred and the salmon was eventually brought to the net. I think that's the fastest season opening salmon I've ever caught. I raised another on the inside of the seam, but couldn't get it back. As much as I like a challenge, I decided to find more fish than to play the chess match. 

Ally's Shrimp excerpt from "Flies for Connecticut Atlantic Salmon"

     That move paid off, as I took another three salmon at Pool #3. I trashed my Ally's Shrimp with my forceps, so salmon #4 was caught on the next closest thing I had, a size 10 Cascade. I was losing light fast, so there wasn't time to change pools. That's ok, I was really satisfied with how the last 2.5 hours of the day went. Good fishing and good music...what more can you ask for? 

A killer combo 

     If you'd like to book a day on the water, CONTACT ME soon. Dates are filling up quickly! 

Eric Reed - "Wade in the Water"

Monday, September 26, 2016

Revisiting the Orange Parson

Dr. Pryce-Tannatt's Orange Parson

         For as long as I can remember, orange has been my favorite color.  Probably without coincidence, Dr. T.E. Pryce-Tannatt's Orange Parson has long been my favorite classic salmon fly. Though I have tied this fly several times before, I had never tied it with 100% genuine materials. I always used substitute materials for the Cock of the Rock throat and wing veil as well as the Blue Chatterer cheeks. I have a small stash of both that have been sitting in my closet for too long. The other day, I decided I couldn't hoard them forever and it was the right time to use them. I have been redecorating my basement practice/teaching studio. I have an empty frame that should fit this fly well. Best of all, I still have enough Cock of the Rock left for one more, should the urge ever strike again.

An "after shot" of a previous Orange Parson (tied with subs)

Monday, September 19, 2016

Don't Abuse, Reuse

Cheap TV stand/rod tube rack

     A few months ago, I was preparing to bring a load of trash to the dump. The vast majority of it was cardboard, headed for the recycling bin. As I carried some cereal and food boxes to my car, I looked at my wife and said, "Look at all the trash we generate. It's unbelievable. Imagine this times several hundred million people." 

     Along with the usual plethora of cardboard, I had some scrap wood to bring to the dump on my next trip. One item on its way out was an old television cabinet. It's a cheap, particleboard, department store piece. We had no more use for it, so what do we do? Bring it to the dump! But wait a second...I took another look at it. Maybe I could find a use for it. No, that would just make more clutter. But wait, what if I could use it to reduce clutter in another part of the house? 

Reel cabinet
    With some holes drilled in it, it would make a functional rod tube rack/reel cabinet. Until recently, I kept all of my rods and tubes in the garage. I have a good place for them, but I never liked having all those rods in the garage, especially at times when we leave the doors open. The likelihood of theft is probably low where we live, but I still worry about it now and then. I don't need access to all of the rods at once, so I decided to keep only what I'll use at any particular time in the garage. 

     I used hole saws to make three different size holes in the top of the cabinet. It was a piece of cake and I could fit almost all of my tubes in it. The bottom of the cabinet was the perfect size to hold my fly reels. I stashed the cabinet in the basement and put a child lock on it (there's a little guy here who likes to peel line off reels). It's not exactly an "heirloom piece," but I felt good about getting more use out of it and not trashing it. This summer, I was able to repurpose some other household items. 

Whiteboard...helpful for us disorganized folks

     Without a doubt, the most significant recent addition to my fly tying room has been a whiteboard. I often struggle with having multiple thoughts zipping through my head at one time. I was never one to make lists despite being the perfect candidate for them. Every time I noticed I was running out of a certain material, I wrote it on the whiteboard. When I had an order of flies to tie, I mapped it out on the whiteboard to increase my efficiency. It's just a stupid whiteboard. But, for a scatterbrained tyer like myself, it is a very valuable tool. 

Little plastic trays to curb clutter

    When I first set up my current tying desk, the drawers were fairly neat. Over the years, they've all descended into becoming "junk drawers." After getting sick of losing stuff, I decided to reorganize. I found some little plastic bins of different sizes and shapes. They were perfect for storing various small items. I enjoy not wasting as much time looking for stuff as I did before.

Contact lens case for UV resin (idea courtesy of Dr. Bob)

     This next one comes from my friend Dr. Bob. We were talking about storing UV cured resin (we both use Solarez) when he dropped this tip on me. He uses a contact lens case to store his resins. It is opaque, so no light leaks in. They are less messy than using Solarez directly from its tubes. Best of all, since the case is low and has a wide footprint, it's very hard to tip over. For my use, it's perfect.

LED Nail dryer/oven for final UV curing

     The last item was not something I found in the house. I bought it solely for repurposing it. I had read about fly tyers using UV and LED nail dryers (also called "ovens") to fully cure UV cured resins. Previously, I brought my flies outside for a final sunlight curing. After an initial set with an LED flashlight,  I now use a Vogue Professional nail dryer to fully cure the UV resin on flies. I can put four or five larger flies or tubes in at a time. I cover the opening (to prevent UV light from potentially leaking out) and let it run until the next batch of flies are ready. It works great. Maybe my wife will steal one of my items instead of the other way around.

     I'm sure there are many more items begging to be used in my tying room. I just haven't found them yet. Before the next dump run, I'm going to keep my eyes peeled and my mind open. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Late Summer/Early Fall Update 2016

A Blue Metallica for the Gaspé Peninsula 

Fly Tying

     Sorry for the lack of recent activity here! Though I have been delinquent on the blog front, I have been tying flies like crazy all summer long. Summer is usually the time I tie an inventory of flies for fall broodstock Atlantic salmon fishing in Connecticut. Last summer, I didn't have time to tie for fall. My free time was spent writing my ebook "Flies for Connecticut Atlantic Salmon: How to Tie and Fish Them." I figured I'd have time this summer to build an inventory for fall, but destination fly orders have been coming in left and right. 

     I will be offering a couple of fly assortments for the fall season. One is a basic assortment of a half dozen flies in various sizes. The other is a slightly expanded assortment with a dozen flies. The sizes and patterns will be selected based on the conditions we're likely to see this season. Of course, à la carte fly orders are always welcome. Check the Fly Shop page on my website for a sample of what's available. I hope to add more pics in the coming weeks. 

Conehead Ally's Shrimp Tubes for Norway

Connecticut Broodstock Atlantic Salmon Season

     We're getting into what is usually my prep period for the upcoming salmon season. Unfortunately, it's another drought year, this year even worse than last. It looks like this will be the fourth low water autumn in a row. Low water can be a drag in some ways, but it doesn't necessarily mean that the fishing will be poor. 

     Historically speaking, fall of 2013 was a low water year. The fishing was the best I've ever experienced, however. I remember feeling uneasy going into that season but, despite the low water, the fishing was off the charts. The temperatures were fairly mild that fall and we got an early start, seeing the first salmon in mid-to-late September. 

     In fall 2014, the water was even lower than the previous year. I think temperatures were a little warmer, but not out of control. We got salmon in early October, which is normal. Fall of 2014 was the worst salmon fishing I've experienced since I started fishing the lower Naugatuck River. Of course, there were still some good days, but not as many as usual. Most people I know shared my opinion that it was a particularly tough year. No one knew why. I guess it balances off 2013? 

     If the water was low in 2014, it was a trickle in fall 2015. The water was so low, I was begging for the low water of 2013. Flows of 120 cfs, which would be low for October, were a dream when they happened. This scenario made me really uneasy. In the end, it wound up being a pretty good season overall. It wasn't 2013 good, but the long stretch of warm weather made the river fish well from October into mid-January. It was probably more of an "average" season in terms of catches from October to December, but the extra long stretch of warm weather made for some pretty spectacular days in the late season. Numbers wise, it was second only to 2013 for me. So, we had lower water than ever, yet the river fished pretty well. Go figure. 

     Fall of 2016...we're not quite there yet but, unless we have a really active hurricane season, it's hard to imagine that the river will even be as "high" as it was last year. In fact, the river is at historic lows at the moment. And it has been hot as hell almost all summer. This year, I'm praying that we get salmon at all, which is not a guarantee. The recent cool nights make me optimistic, though. We might have a little later start than usual. Who knows, it might wind up being a repeat of last season. While I miss fishing in higher water (or even seasonably normal water), I won't complain about catching plenty of salmon. 

     In low water years, the silver lining is the availably of dry fly fishing opportunities. Fall of 2011 was a high water year. Although it was relatively productive, I don't think I moved a fish on a dry fly that season. I'm not sure I even tried one. Dry fly fishing can be an exciting way to fish for these salmon. 

     If you want to go out for a day, dry fly fishing or otherwise, check the guiding page on my website. Though most of my trips take place in November and early December, October is my favorite month. The fish are less numerous, but are more aggressive and fight harder while the water is still relatively warm. Floating lines, small wet flies, and dry flies make for very visual and exciting fishing. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me. I'm always happy to help. 

A small fleet of Bismos for fishing in Iceland


     My presentation season is starting early this year. The first one is tomorrow night! If you're free, I will be giving a presentation on Connecticut broodstock Atlantic salmon fishing at the Naugatuck-Pomperaug Trout Unlimited meeting. There are more presentations to come, so check my News & Events page for all the dates and times. If your organization is interested in booking me for a presentation, I have a description of each listed on my website. Feel free to contact me for specific details on each presentation. 

The Green Pearl, headed to Nunavik, Quebec

Blog Updates

     I apologize for this post being one long advertisement! I will definitely be more active here than I have been over the summer. Check back for fishing reports once the fall season kicks off. Also, I have some more tying tips posts planned, as well as some ideas for tying videos, and hopefully an interview or two. If there's anything you might like to see, let me know. Hope to see you on the river! 

LT Special Flamethrower tubes for the Miramichi River


Monday, June 27, 2016

Grand Cascapedia and Bonaventure: June 19-24, 2016

Lake Branch of the Cascapedia - The start of the trip

     Last fall, I entered some preseason draws on a whim. I usually don't plan my salmon fishing trips too far in advance. I said, "If I draw a good number and get water on the Grand Cascapedia, I'm going." To my surprise, I drew lucky #13 and got the dates I wanted. Coupled with the favorable exchange rate, this trip looked like a winner right from the start. I called my buddy John and asked if he would like to join me. John had just underwent hip replacement surgery, but figured he'd feel well enough by late June. We booked a place to stay, got a guide for the first day, and tied a bunch of flies. As our departure date approached, we were concerned about the high water plaguing the Gaspé Peninsula rivers at the beginning of their seasons. Fortunately, the water was dropping and clearing. We had to deal with high water in most places on this trip, but at least it was no longer flooded.

Lake Branch salmon...always a relief to get on the board early in a trip! 

     Day 1: Our first trip was our only planned guided day of the week. We were booked on the Grand Cascapedia Lake Branch, 89 run. It is a long run full of resting pools and pots. As far as I can tell, it is a canoe-only spot. The Lake Branch was still high and relatively cold, between 48º-50ºF. The air temps were comfortable and we had overcast skies with a bit of rain.

     I tied on my favorite fly, the Sugerman Shrimp, but nothing wanted it. I left it on for a few hours before I decided to switch to Ghost Stonefly tied on a sz. 2 double hook. Our guide, Glenn Harrison, thought that was a good choice and recommended John use the same fly. After another few hours without action, John decided he wanted nothing to do with the fly. He criticized the parachute hackle, saying that it was "sort of pointless, as the hackle bends backwards in the current." Glenn and I broke his stones a bit and Glenn finally said, "Well, why don't you tie on a big Willie Gunn then?" John said, "Great idea!" and tied on his heavy copper tube fly. I left my stonefly on as we proceeded down a small run. 

     John had no luck with his Willie Gunn, but not 5 minutes after his fly swap...Boom! A fish grabbed my Ghost Stonefly! It was a weird fight. The salmon grabbed on the dangle as I stripped the fly back along an inside seam. As a result, the hook set was precarious. At first, I thought it might be a big trout. Eventually, I caught a glimpse and knew that it was a salmon. The fish ran towards me and I had to strip in line like crazy to keep up. I was finally able to put the fish on the reel but, once I did, he refused to run. He thrashed around with a short length of fly line and my long leader. I was fighting him from the canoe with my back virtually in the trees. I couldn't go back any further and the fish kept coming towards me. I finally made a quick move towards the net to end the fight as soon as possible. Glenn intercepted the salmon and the fight was over. As soon as the fish was in the net, he spit out the fly. Phew! It was sort of an anticlimactic fight, but I was relieved to land the poorly hooked salmon and get on the board early in the trip.  The fact that it took the fly John had just removed opened the flood gates for Glenn and I to break John's balls more relentlessly than we had already done. That's okay, John might make a good target, but he's also a good sport.

Ghost Stonefly (sz. 2 double), the only fly I wound up needing

     That one salmon was all the action we had that day. I thought we'd have more shots, but one salmon landed is rarely anything to complain about. At the end of the day, I was happy to not worry about getting skunked on this trip. Plus, I figured the best was yet to come.

Tools of the trade

     Day 2: Our first of two days on the Cascapedia Salmon Branch was hot and there wasn't a cloud in the sky all day long. It was a beautiful day, but not a great one for salmon fishing. I was surprised at how low the Salmon Branch was compared to the Lake Branch. It was significantly warmer, too. The water temperature topped out at 64ºF that afternoon! We had pools 103-105 during the morning rotation. Each beat fishes only two rods at a time, so John and I had the water to ourselves. I decided to fish the downstream pools, 103 and 104. Meg's (103) looked really fishy. It was definitely a dry fly pool at that level, but I had left my dries in the car. I didn't have enough time to go back for them, so I worked the pool with a wet fly and some hitched tubes. No dice. I had no luck at 104, either. John hooked a good one at 105, but lost it six-seconds into the fight. 

     We rotated at noon and fished pools 101, 102, and the pool at the small bridge that crosses the Salmon Branch. The bridge pool was our best option. Some fish showed once the sun was out of their eyes. I had one jump as my Bomber passed overhead. I'm not sure if it was annoyed at my dry fly floating overhead or just a fish that coincidentally decided to jump near my Bomber. I worked the pool well, but left with nothing to show for the day. Oh well, we still had one more day on the Grand Cascapedia.

Meg's (#103)...I still can't believe this pool didn't produce

     Day 3: Our last day on the Grand Cascapedia started off with a bang. It was overcast and much cooler than the previous day. The water had dropped back down to 58ºF overnight. I tied my Ghost Stonefly on and started working pool #104. I was hooked up to a strong fish no more than five minutes into the fishing day. Five or so minutes later, I landed salmon #2 for the trip, a bigger, fatter fish than my Lake Branch salmon from two days prior. What a good way to start the day! 

     I moved down to Meg's, this time armed with dry flies and a single handed rod. I was certain I'd nail one there on a dry. Well, it never happened. I was shocked that I didn't move anything in that pool in two days. Out of all of them, it looked like it had the most potential!

The Ghost Stone's second victim! 

    We rotated at noon once again. The clouds cleared out and the sun was almost directly overhead. I wanted to fish the bridge pool before the sun dropped directly into the salmon's eyes. John didn't want to fish the bridge, saying something like, "I didn't drive 750 miles to fish a f*****g bridge!" He dropped me off and went to check out pool #100. I started working the bridge pool, moving downstream towards the shadow cast by the bridge. Nothing took on a pure swing. When I knew I was in the hotspot, I twitched the running line with my fingers. BAM!! A fish creamed the fly on the first twitched retrieve. 

     Now the real fun started. I had to keep the salmon above the bridge, if possible. This fish was more fiery than my first salmon of the day, so I knew I was in for it. I played it as strategically as I could, easing up on him when he wanted to run below the bridge, then really putting the wood to him when I was able to get him parallel to me. When I would bear down on him, he'd move upstream, which was exactly what I wanted him to do. When he realized he wasn't going anywhere, he'd bolt down towards the safety of the bridge again. This happened a few times before I broke him and a kind angler from New York landed him for me. After a quick picture, he was on his way back to the bridge. I had limited out for the day and it was barely noon. Unfortunately, I had trashed my lucky Ghost Stonefly with my pliers. 

I'd gladly drive 750 miles to fish this bridge again!

     Nothing else produced for John, but I knew the bridge pool would be rested by the time the sun was setting, so I suggested we try it again. He protested briefly, but agreed to try it while I coached him. Again, the salmon were unreceptive to the swing, so I advised him to start stripping once the fly hit the hotspot. It didn't take long before a salmon nailed his fly, a sz. 4 Black Bear Green Butt. To both of our chagrins, the fish didn't take hold of the fly. It wasn't hooked, but it felt the steel and never returned. That was the end of our time on the Grand Cascapedia, but we still had more fishing to do.

Fish #3 on the Stonefly...a formidable opponent. 

     Day 4: On our fourth day, we moved to the Bonaventure. What we didn't know was that we could have been on the Grand Cascapedia for an unplanned fourth day. John drew water for the wading sector, but we didn't get the message until we were on the way back to Connecticut. Gah! 

     Anyhow, the water was dropping on the Bonaventure and we were optimistic. We started at Premier Est in D Sector. There looked to be too much water there, so we only took one pass each. We decided to move to C Sector and fish Run-a-Pitt. After a couple of passes through the pool, we met a pair of anglers from Nova Scotia. They were floating the river and camping along the way. We had a great time and lots of laughs and even fished a bit in between. No one hooked up that day and, collectively, we only saw one fish jump all day long. 

     Day 5: John wanted to increase our odds, so he hired a guide and canoe for us. We fished A sector. It was my first time fishing that far downriver. It was overcast and cool, a good day for salmon fishing. Unfortunately, the fish didn't agree, at least not with us. We saw a few fish caught, but it was never where we were at the time. The guide said something like, "It's like everyone got to where I wanted to fish just before we did." 

     Near the end of the day, while experimenting, I rolled a salmon while stripping a large Magog Smelt. I didn't get the fish to come back, even though I am fairly confident in that exact situation. There's a lot more to the story, but I'm going to leave it there for now and go with my gut the next time. 

A pretty scene on the Bonaventure

Day 6: This was our last day. We spent the entire day at one pool (Malin). Maybe it was foolish, but our prospects didn't look good anywhere. It was another bluebird day. Hardly anyone was reporting catches. We took several passed through the long pool throughout the day, with nothing to show for it in the end. However, I had a great time hanging out on the banks and talking to the other anglers. I met up with a new friend with whom I've spoken to on the phone and chatted online. I made some new friends. Even though the fishing was dead (we only saw one salmon hooked all day long), I had a really great time on our last day. It wasn't wasted at all. The camaraderie was better than the fishing was, so we all made the best of it. 

     I've said it before...I've never been skunked on a salmon fishing trip, but I've never experienced truly exceptional fishing, either. This trip conformed to the pattern. Overall, I was pleased. I hooked three nice fish and landed them all. One fish landed every two days is a decent enough ratio. Practically speaking, this trip was a bargain compared to most years. If I had it to do over again, I definitely would. One big lesson learned is to check everyone's voicemail everyday, just in case someone gets lucky and draws good water! Other than that, I was able to hone some subtle areas of my salmon fishing game and focus on strategy. Big or small, I learn something on every trip. This trip was no exception. 

Rainbow on the Cascapedia

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Islander Precision Reels - Great Customer Service!


     A few weeks ago, one of the pawls failed on my favorite shad fishing reel, the Islander IR4. That reel has fought a lot of tough fish. I guess the fish finally exacted their revenge. I called Islander and spoke to their manager, Elliott Williams. I asked for two pawls and a spring. When I inquired about the price, Mr. Williams told me not to worry about it. About a week later, the parts arrived and my trusty IR4 is good as new! Thanks for the great customer service, Elliott and everyone else at Islander Precision Reels. I am a very satisfied angler! 

Ready for duty once again

Friday, June 3, 2016

Last Blast of Shad...And A Nasty Surprise!

My last fresh shad of the season

     Forgive the tardiness of this post. I haven't had much time to devote to anything computer-related lately. This report deals with three separate trips: May 25, 27, and 30. I devoted all of my time to a Connecticut River tributary on these three trips. The water had quickly warmed up and the run was on. 

     On May 25, my favorite spot was loaded with fresh shad and the occasional colored fish. Fishing was hot that afternoon. There was a two hour stretch of non-stop action. Fishing cooled a bit that evening, but my friend Sonny and I were still into enough fresh shad to keep us happy. A #4 fly tied with Chinese red Uni-Yarn caught all of my fish but one. That one fish happened to be my largest for the day, a chunky 4 lb. female, who took a #4 fluorescent pink fly. 

     May 27 was more good fishing. I met up with Sonny and his friend Frank at the aforementioned spot. We were all into fish that morning. In my estimation, we caught one fresh shad for every one-to-three colored ones that day. Clearly, the run had peaked, though the fishing was still good. The Chinese red fly was the only one I used that day. Once again, it racked up double digit numbers. 

     The noteworthy event on the 27th happened at the end of the day. I decided to move and fish a pool upstream. I hooked a few small males, but nothing memorable. When I got to the hotspot of the pool, I felt some taps on my line. I cast again, but no dice. I made another cast of the same distance and...WHAM!! Save for one particular Kola River Atlantic salmon, it was the hardest take I've ever had from a fish, pound-for-pound. The shad absolutely creamed my fly and bolted downriver. My favorite shad reel, and Islander IR4, backlashed and I had to clear the birds nest before I could fight and land the fish. It was another plump, fresh roe shad. It would have been a great way to end the day, except that the feisty female shad was the last nail in the coffin for the pawl on my reel. My drag was shot and the reel would have to be retired until I could get a replacement pawl from Islander. Oh well, it's a good story...

My fly and my reel were toast by the end of the day.

     May 30 was my best numbers day of the year, but the lack of fresh fish was sort of a letdown. I would guess that I hooked one fresh shad for every eight-to-ten colored ones. I knew this would be my last day of American shad fishing in 2016. The colored fish were mostly lethargic, though they were definitely willing to take a Chinese red shad fly. My buddy Doug came up for a few hours and caught some shad. It was fun, but the shad weren't the reason why I will always remember this day. 

     At one point in the afternoon, I got a series of text messages. After swinging my fly through the run, I let it settle on the sandy river bottom while I checked my phone. The messages wound up being unimportant, so I put my phone back into my waders pocket and began to strip in my running line. During the first pull, I felt the weight of a small fish on my line. I stripped all my line in and prepared to remove the hook from what was probably a small chub or baby walleye. It was neither of those things. It was a sea lamprey! Gross! It was wiggling all over with my fly in its mouth. The fly must have dropped right into its nest and the lamprey attacked it. Not wanting to put my fingers near its mouth, I wrestled my fly away from it with my forceps. It wasn't easy to get my fly back. The lamprey wiggled around like crazy. It's the only time I've heard of a lamprey being caught on a fly. It's a nasty fish, but sort of a cool experience. 


     I'm pretty happy with how this season went. I really enjoyed fishing the Connecticut River, especially when the big roe shad were in. I'm looking forward to doing it again next spring. In the meantime, I have to get into Atlantic salmon mode. In about two weeks, I'll be on the Grand Cascapedia...hopefully catching big salmon and not lampreys!