Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Naugatuck Report - December 3, 2014 - Winding Down

Last one for 2014?

Last fall, I posted about a trip that went exactly according to how I envisioned it. I figure I get one day a year that goes exactly according to plan. It took almost all year for it to happen this year, but today was the day. Despite being far less dramatic than last year's equivalent, it was just as greatly appreciated.

This morning, I told my slightly agitated wife that this would be my last trip of the season. Did I actually mean it? Probably, though I could be convinced to go again, so long as it doesn't land me in hot water.

My first fish of the CT broodstock salmon season took a sz. 10 Sugerman Shrimp, my favorite salmon fly in my favorite size. I wanted to catch my last salmon of the season on a Sugerman, though it would have to be much larger than a sz. 10. I already had a few tied, but I didn't like the look of them. I tied another, more suitable shrimp on a sz. 2 hook.

On a whim, I cut 2.5' off of the tip of a 350 grain Rio Steelhead Scandi head while waiting for the lacquer to dry on the Sugerman. That particular Scandi head is a little heavier than I like on my Sage Z-Axis 6wt. switch rod, plus the taper never turned over heavier polyleaders very well. I knew I would have to get down to the fish a bit today and I had hoped cutting the head back would turn over a 10', extra super fast sinking polyleader a little better.

Nice to see you again, old friend

The babysitter came at 12:45pm and I was on the river a little over an hour later. I decided to fish a couple pools that are new to me. I fished them my last time out, which was in cold and high water. I got skunked. The water was lower and warmer today, 350cfs. and 42ºF. The air temperature was about 47ºF and it was overcast with light rain. Those conditions are pretty good for this time of year.

Within five minutes, I decided that the modified Steelhead Scandi worked like a charm. I've decided to do some line welding and modification for a winter project. I really should have used a micrometer and grain scale to fine tune the line, but I don't have either yet. Looks like I got lucky this time.

Within ten minutes, I had hooked and landed a salmon in the tail of the first pool and my trip had quickly fulfilled my expectations! Maybe I set the bar low today, but this season definitely hasn't been the broodstock salmon cornucopia 2013 was. I fished through once more and decided to move down to the next pool.

The second pool is much larger and required longer casts. Seeing how the sun sets at 4:25pm, fishing it thoroughly and methodically would have taken too long, so I opted for the run-and-shoot approach. I lost my original Sugerman on a rock, so I replaced it with a lesser model of the same size. It didn't matter, that fly was the right one, too. I had a subtle take, but felt it too late to get a solid hookset. I had a salmon on, but it threw my hook in its first leap. Oh well, I already had my fish for the day.

I wanted to explore some unfamiliar water I found on Google Earth, but there wasn't enough time left in the day. I headed upriver, to a pair of familiar pools, to close out the afternoon. I didn't see any salmon, but that's okay. These short trips can be a gamble and this one paid off.

I would like to get out at least a couple more times, but I don't know if it's in the cards. We'll see. I'm going to give it a couple of weeks before I post a short season summary. In the fly department, two of the perennial frontrunners have been deposed this season, replaced by two of my Canadian confidence flies. More on that later...

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Naugatuck Report - November 22, 2014 - Too Cold Too Soon

I had high hopes for this Silver Doctor today, but a
small German Snaelda ultimately got the job done. 

Low and cold...The low part is nothing new, but the river definitely seems colder than normal for this time of year. My thermometer read 40ºF. That's a very liberal 40º, as it was probably just as close to 39º. Last season, I think we were well into December before I got a reading that cold.

The water was cold in the fall of 2011, but was consistently high. Those two sets of conditions tend to go hand in hand. As such, the corresponding fishing tactics tend to be straight forward. As I've said here before, the combination of low and cold water condtions can be a very challenging scenario. Should we use low water techniques, cold water techniques, or a combination of the two? I sort of split the difference today and it worked, hooking and landing two small salmon. The set up was a floating scandi head with a fast sinking polyleader. Both salmon took the same fly, a small German Snaelda, tied on a 1/2" copper tube (thick walled). Both fish took on a slow swing. The first salmon took the fly on its first pass. The second salmon pulled once and was hooked two casts later. I fished four different pools today and those two salmon were the only ones I saw.

There were little areas of thin ice between many shoreline rocks. It was a little depressing. It looks like this fall will be as short as last fall was long. I guess it all balances out in the end, but it's still a tough pill for me to swallow. We should make the most of what little time we have left this season. If the Farmer's Almanac is correct, it's going to be another tough winter.

Monday, November 10, 2014

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

Not a salmon, but still a welcome catch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, October 25, 2014

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

This salmon set out to murder my poor Green Machine

Saturday, October 24

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

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

Sunday, October 25

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

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

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

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

*Observation*

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

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Naugatuck River Salmon Fishing - A Couple of Reminders

The Release

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

Rotation

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

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


Poachers and Rule Breakers

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Thursday, October 16, 2014

A Passion for Atlantic Salmon



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

Monday, October 13, 2014

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

First customer on the Micro Snaelda. It works! 


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

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

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

Spin Fishermen = Hammered them today

What to do? = Put a fly in their face

The Fly = Micro Conehead Snaelda, fished slowly

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

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

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