|Dr. Pryce-Tannatt's Orange Parson|
Monday, September 26, 2016
Monday, September 19, 2016
|Cheap TV stand/rod tube rack|
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?
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|
|Little plastic trays to curb clutter|
|Contact lens case for UV resin (idea courtesy of Dr. Bob)|
|LED Nail dryer/oven for final UV curing|
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
|A Blue Metallica for the Gaspé Peninsula|
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|
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|
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
|Lake Branch of the Cascapedia - The start of the trip|
|Lake Branch salmon...always a relief to get on the board early in a trip!|
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|
|Tools of the trade|
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.
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.
|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!|
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!|
|Fish #3 on the Stonefly...a formidable opponent.|
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
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
|My last fresh shad of the season|
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!
Friday, May 20, 2016
My heaviest work seasons are spring and fall which, unfortunately for me, are the best fishing seasons in this area. Work was unusually slow for me last spring, so I had a lot of time to fish. This spring's workload is back to normal. In fact, I'm typing this backstage at a concert hall during a tedious soundcheck.
With a busy work schedule, I haven't been fishing as much as I would like to. Though, the few times I've fished this spring have been very educational. My usual springtime routine is to target sea run brown trout, with striped bass as a welcome by-catch. My fishery is a very fickle one. It produces very little most days, so ample water time (or good timing luck) is a must for any positive results. I'm beginning to realize that my schedule as a musician and a parent isn't giving me enough time to focus on this fishery as it requires. It's okay though. I'm really enjoying fishing for American shad and it is allowing me to hone some skills I might not have a chance to use otherwise.
Last spring, I spent most of my shad time on a tributary of the Connecticut River. This spring, most of my time thus far has been spent fishing the Connecticut itself. I described my first trip the Connecticut in a previous post. This post deals with two trips, a week apart from one another, and some of the lessons I learned from both.
The first Friday trip was cold and very wet. I started at the tributary to see if it was worth staying there for the evening. I caught one big roe shad right away, but the action died soon after. I decided to move to the big river. The flow was heavier than my previous trip, so I swapped a F/I/S2 Scandi head for one with a faster sink rate, I/S3/S4. I hooked shad every so often, but the bite wasn't exactly on fire. Still, I had about a half dozen to hand before they really turned on. After that, it was about two and a half hours of non-stop action, with most of the fish being big females. I didn't stop to take fish pictures. I wanted to keep my fly in the water. The highlight of the evening was a shad who tried to take my fly back to the Bay of Fundy. Line was screaming from my reel as she passed by a line of spin fishermen. She jumped as high as I've ever seen a shad jump and I knew I had hooked a really large fish. Sadly, the hook pulled upon reentry. The decision to switch to a fast sinking head had paid off big time.
Then, during a lapse in good judgement and self control, I decided to cut my fly off so I could get out before dark. Shad had been nailing my blue fly and I figured that unstrinting the rod was the only way I could force myself to leave. I usually leave it strung up on the hike out. Wrong move. On the hike out, the top section of my rod fell off. I didn't notice until I was back at the car, then panic ensued. A team of gracious fishermen helped me look for it, but it was too dark. Gah!! I use this rod a good part of the year and it's no longer made.
|The Blue one has been the top fly for me this season so far.|
The green is a distant second.
Fortunately, an eagle-eyed fisherman found it the next day and my friend Mike took possession of it. Phew!! The Scandi head sink rate lesson was a big one, but this one was much bigger! Now, when it's time to leave, it's time to leave, and I'll either leave my rod strung up or bring the tube.
The next Friday was colder and even wetter, however, the river was lower. I was reunited with my rod tip, thank goodness. The shad were lying in the main current of a very wide river. Even with a two handed rod, I couldn't reach most of them. They were just too far away. I knew I could nail a few stragglers traveling on the inside edge of the current, so I went to work. I got a couple on the same setup, but then I had a long stretch with no activity. After trying different fly colors and retrieves, I wondered if I should be fishing higher in the water column and with a smaller fly. I took a break and switched back to my F/I/S2 head and tied in my lucky blue fly, tied smaller and lighter than the original. That was the ticket. I didn't rack up big numbers like the previous week, but I had decent action until sunset. It made me realize that I should have two rods that use heads in the same grain window. It would make switching rigs much easier and quicker. I'll be ordering one in the near future.
There have been other trips since these two. Each trip to the Connecticut is getting a little less productive than the last. The water finally warmed up, causing the fish to run upriver. I think it's time to concentrate on the tributaries. At first, I was sort of bummed that I couldn't fish the tribs. Then, I began to enjoy fishing the big river. It's challenging and it's making me a better sunk line fisherman, which will come in handy when Atlantic salmon fishing in challenging conditions.
There is something to be said about going outside of one's comfort zone, even if it means temporarily catching fewer fish. I thought of it as a good investment of my time. It definitely paid off. Now that I figured out the "how" a bit better, my next goal is to start nailing the "when." That comes with time on the water and seeing specific situations repeat themselves. I don't know when I will find myself in situations like these again, but I will be a little more prepared, as well as ready to make the leap more quickly.