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 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...

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Don't Lose It, Reuse It - Part I

The old badger hair knot, repurposed 

     "Don't lose it, reuse it!" It's a rally cry of Rocky, the mixed breed, recycling truck-driving pup from the Nickelodeon cartoon, "Paw Patrol." I know this because I have a young child who enjoys the show and the toys. As mind numbing as the show can be for adults, there are some pretty solid messages for both young and old viewers. Lately, I've tried to be more conscious about throwing away less and reusing and repurposing items more.

    Fast forward to the day my trusty Vulfix 2234 Super Badger shaving brush bit the dust. I had used this brush for the past fifteen years, at least. I knew I was long overdue for a new brush, but the badger hair knot could easily be used for tying flies. 

     I tied a handful of flies, with which I will catch trout this season. I picked some "sure winners," like a Rusty Spinner, an Ausable Bomber, and a Cahill-colored Wulff, along with a bucktail-type streamer. I saved the knot. Maybe I'll tie some salmon flies with it, too. 

Not perfectly round, but it will do

     The brush handle seemed like it could be salvaged. I ordered an inexpensive replacement Vulfix while I studied brush reknotting. After lots of reading, I decided to enlarge the socket to accept a larger knot than the original. I ground the hole with a Dremel tool and sanded it smooth. I purchased a new knot from The Golden Nib. I realized I had drilled the hole a little too deep, so I epoxied a couple nickels in the socket to help raise the knot. The nickels actually added a nice weight to the old handle.

Knot loft set with nickels 

     As soon as the new badger hair knot arrived, I epoxied it into the handle. I was shaving with my revamped brush the following evening. Not only was I happy that I didn't throw the handle away, but I was shocked at how much better the recycled brush worked than its predecessor. It was like night and day. I was disappointed that I hadn't thought to get a new brush years ago. With use, over a matter of weeks, the new brush knot broke in nicely and it makes a terrific lather. I actually enjoyed the project so much, I decided to attempt further restorations with vintage brushes. Fly tying actually went on hold while I got my bearings. More on that next week...

The "recycled" brush, now with a 222 mm Finest bulb knot from the Golden Nib

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Portable Kit for Tying Salmon Flies "In-Hand"

Getting back into the swing of things  

     As a professional musician, a lot of time is spent waiting around. We wait before and after sound checks. We wait during travel. We wait for our perpetually tardy colleagues to show up for rehearsal. I figured there had to be a better way to kill time. With a little inspiration from Adrian Cortes, who seems to tie flies in the most unlikely places, I decided to make a portable kit for tying salmon flies "in-hand." 

Old fly box, repurposed

     I needed to use minimal tools and materials. The first step was portioning out materials that can be used in many different patterns. I gutted an old fly box, lined half of it with cork, and filled it with thread, tinsels, dubbing, floss, wax, etc. I can stick hooks into the cork and keep a pair of scissors, hackle pliers, tweezers, and a bodkin inside and still manage to close the box. If I know the pattern I want to tie, I pre-portion the materials, put them inside a small baggie, and store them in the fly box. This is truly portable.

Time to kill...

The main kit

     To store more materials, I repurposed a case for a portable DVD player. The DVD player is long gone, but the case is still useful. In it, I keep hackle, more hooks, feathers of all sorts, etc. The fly box fits inside this case, so everything is right where I need it. I keep the case in the back of my car, just in case I find myself waiting.

Portable lighting

      Since most of my work happens at night, one issue that has arisen is a lack of light. I bought a small USB power bank from Marshall's and a couple of small USB lamps from Ikea. They don't produce a ton of light, but they're not too back as long as the fly is held directly beneath them. The power bank and lamps fit in the DVD player case. 

Small and very portable

     Viola...a better way to wait around. I'd rather fish in those waiting times, but I'm not usually near bodies of water. Tying can be done virtually the car, backstage, or at the train station. I can even stash the kit in my cymbal bag. I wish I had thought to do this sooner! 

Black Silk and Rosy Dawn...ready to fish!

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Good Riddance, Winter!

First fish of 2018

     Whew! Spring is finally here! Prior to February, I hadn't wet a line since Christmas Eve. A brief, but intense, February warmup made us think that spring would be very early this year. I was able to take advantage of ice out by hitting a local carp pond. It took a little while for the water to warm up enough for the carp to feed, but I waited patiently. It was a good day, bringing three common carp to the net. I didn't move any grass carp, a fish that has been taunting me since last summer, but that's a different story...

      Shortly thereafter, winter returned with a vengeance. March was pretty much awash in snow. I think it has snowed three times in April so far. Unbelievable! But, it melted quick and it was time to start the hunt for spring migrators. Schoolies were on the menu on my first trip, which was fun. Unfortunately, the keeper-sized holdovers moved out a few days before I was able to get to the river, but the migratory fish will be here soon enough. The river is COLD. That might be slowing things down a bit. 

First striper of the year

     I went out today for a couple hours. The river was lower, clearer, and slightly warmer. Today, April 12, the Connecticut River was 41º, which is quite cold for April 12. The schoolies had vanished, but had been replaced with good sized smallmouth bass. It was the "wrong" species but, at that size, I am not complaining. 

     I'm sure it will only get better from here. I haven't felt like writing much, but I do have a few posts planned when I get a moment. I'm experimenting with a new tube fly that I'll test out and, if it works out, will post here. Anyhow, enjoy your spring fishing. I know I will! 

First smallie of the year 

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

News & Events - Winter 2018

A nice December salmon, caught by angler Anthony Lombardo

     The recent Arctic blast put an abrupt end to salmon fishing in Connecticut. It had been productive right up until the changeover. The last salmon I hooked was on Christmas Eve. By Christmas day, it was unbearably cold and the river was on its way to freezing up. Unfortunately, we lost my favorite month of the season this year (October). Despite that, fishing was still good, although we had to resort to late season tactics virtually the whole time. Both guiding and fishing, tubes were the most successful flies for me this season, the best ones being the German Snaelda and the gold body Willie Gunn. Other successful flies were the Ally's ShrimpDirty Water Dog, Green Spey, Out to Lunch, Picasse, Golden Shrimp, and Orange HKA Sunray/Bismo. As you can see, mostly tube flies...

Interesting color, especially for a holdover trout

    The salmon fishing was fun, but the highlight of the season was the number of larger-than-average brown trout in the river this fall. They were a nice bonus and were just as welcome as salmon. The fish pictured above took a big Out to Lunch in high, dirty water. I rested the pool for as long as I could allow, which was only about 30 minutes. I went back at it and caught him again, this time while reeling up a Dirty Water Dog! Based on his color, I suspect he was spawning and highly territorial. He wasn't a wild fish, but still a nice surprise. 

     Now it's time to tie some flies, clean my gear, and get ready for the March thaw. If recent trends continue, it might be an April thaw this year. In any case, I'll probably hit the Naugatuck again when the time is right. Spring can be very productive some years, so it will be interesting to see what is in store for us in 2018. 


Sunray Shadows

     Next Wednesday, January 10, I'll be leading the fly tying night at the Bear's Den in Taunton, Massachusetts. It will be an introduction to tying tube flies. We will be tying the Sunray Shadow, a deadly fly for virtually all species of fish. It is one of my go-to spring flies for salmon, trout, sea run trout, smallmouth bass, striped bass, and anything else that will eat it. It is a simple fly and a great way to learn about the benefits of tube flies.

     On February 3, I will be tying flies at the Connecticut Fly Fisherman's Association 48th Annual Expo at Maneely's in South Windsor, Connecticut. I have no plan to tie anything in particular at the moment so, if you have anything you might like to see tied, let me know. You can comment on this post or contact me here. It's a great small show and one not to be missed. Stop buy and say hello!

Jock Scott 

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Naugatuck Report - November 25, 2017 - A Welcome Surprise

Bruiser brown trout 

     Today was the first day so far this salmon season where I could fish all day long. The day started off with a salmon in net right away. I was betting on fishing close to the surface today, but I threw on a Shumakov Golden Shrimp on my second pass through the first pool. Luckily, that did the trick for a morning salmon, just as it did two seasons ago in the same pool.

    I was still betting on action close to the surface, but it never came. After flogging three more pools, I switched to the sinking rig. It was a bust at the first pool, but it worked like a charm at my final stop of the day. I didn't plan on being there as long as I was, but the fishing was really good, so I stayed. I had to throw long bombs to reach the fish. I used a 5.6 ips versileader and a small German Snaelda, which has been a very good fly for both me and my clients lately. 

    The first pull was a good one, but it fell off immediately. Further down the run, I got my surprise...a bruiser brown trout! And on the Snaelda, of all things. It was bigger, and fought harder, than any of my salmon so far this season.

Salmon and Snaelda

     Then, it was two more salmon on the Snaelda. I switched to a gold body Willie Gunn for a change of place, then nailed one more salmon. It was a good day for sure. The water was 44º and the air topped out around 58º. The flow, 238 cfs, is getting low for this time of year, but it is just right if you know where to go and can handle a switch or spey rod well enough to cover the lies. 

     What do all the flies have in common? They are all yellow, orange, and black, a killer combo for this time of year. The German Snealda and the Willie Gunn can be found in my ebook, Flies for Connecticut Atlantic Salmon: How to Tie and Fish Them. The Golden Shrimp recipe can be found below. 

     There are plenty of good days left this season! I'm looking at the 10 day forecast, and the weather looks favorable every day. Care to take a trip? Let me know, even if it's last minute...


If it ain't yellow, orange, and black, put it back! 

Golden Shrimp (Yuri Shumakov)

Tube: Shumakov Long Range (brass, 4 mm), grooves painted red 
Thread: Glow red or fluorescent orange
Wing: Two sections golden pheasant tippet dyed red (sub natural gp tippet in pic); yellow bucktail; two strands pearl Midge Flash; hot orange arctic fox
Hackle: Yellow dyed badger over orange dyed badger 
Head: Glow red or fluorescent orange