Friday, November 22, 2013

Naugatuck Report - November 22, 2013 - You Can't Keep a Good Salmon Down (Carter's Bug!)

Nice to see you again, stranger

To say I haven't been fishing much lately would be an understatement. First, a stretch of good gigs kept me off the water. Then some guide trips got me back on the water, but not actually fishing myself. That's okay, my clients caught fish and I was happy. Then the flu took me off the water again, which was pretty miserable.

I had a pretty good streak going earlier this season. I don't know the exact figure, but I think I landed in the neighborhood of 15 salmon in a row without losing one. There were a couple I definitely should have lost in that stretch, but I got really lucky. The universe and the salmon struck back, however. If I look back at my reports, the last salmon I actually landed was a month ago, on October 21. Yikes! More alarming is that I've only fished three times in the space of a month. Losing that hour in the evening now prevents me from making any more end of the day fishing trips. I guess I'm happy I was able to fish as much as I did early in the season.  

So today was the day to end the streak and get back in the black. Of course, despite rain, the water is as low as ever. It's way too low. Not only does it prevent the salmon from moving, but it pushes all the anglers together. The water was warmer than I thought, topping out in the mid 40s. It was damp and cloudy, but the air temperature was relatively warm (50s). 

I thought for sure it was time to start sinking a fly. I thought wrong. They wanted nothing to do with a sunk fly. It amazes me that they're still going after the same stuff I was fishing in mid October. I rolled a few fish on a #6 Same Thing Murray and a #6 Mickey Finn. The only solid grab I had was on the MF, however. The salmon pictured above broke my dry spell, thank goodness. 

Blah blah blah...whatever...Here's the good part...

I met up with my friend Roger for couple hours this afternoon. It didn't take long for Roger to roll a salmon with his Matuka. A few minutes later, I saw Roger playing a fish. I went downstream to lend a hand with landing the salmon. I got the fish in the net, took a closer look and did a little double take when I saw the fly in its mouth. Roger caught that sucker on a dry fly! A proper salmon dry fly... a grizzly and white Carter's Bug! And well into November to boot! Roger mentioned that his friend took another on a Bomber a few days prior. So not only are the salmon still interested in wet flies fished high in the water column, but they're even taking flies on top. Despite cold weather and falling temperatures, it seems like the fish are still taking their cues from the water level more than anything else.

Check out the fly...a white & grizzly Carter's Bug!

Let that be a lesson to me. Just when I thought the salmon had reached the height of their unpredictability, they seemed to go that extra mile. I abandoned dries about a month ago. Sounds like I should have kept fishing them all along! 

Naugy salmon on a dry...welcome to the club, Roger!

I don't have many more fishing days left in me this season. Hopefully this wasn't the last one. Soon it will be time to start tying fancy flies once again.

In the meantime, enjoy this video of Bryant Freeman tying Carter's Bug...

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Naugatuck Report - November 9, 2013 - Fussy, Fussy, Fussy

The Pearl...came soooo close today...ugh

It was a frigid morning and I had a feeling fishing would be tough today.The water, low like always, was around 44ºF when I arrived. It probably warmed a bit during the day, but I doubt it made it out of the 40s. These conditions can be a bit baffling. Low and cold is a tough scenario. I've caught fish on small flies (#10) on a sink tip, well sunk large tubes, conventional flies fished just under the surface, etc. Just about anything might work and there just isn't enough time left in the day to try it all.

I fished two rigs today, a 9' 8wt. with a 9' mono leader an 11'3" 7wt. switch rod with a 460 gr. Rio AFS intermediate head and mono leader. I used a variety of flies, from relatively small, light ones to heavy copper tubes. I fished most of the day with only two bits of action. 

The first came on a classic salmon fly called "The Pearl." I desperately want to hook something on this fly. I tied this G.M Kelson pattern for Mike Radencich's latest book "Classic Salmon Fly Patterns" (p. 182).  I've had success with a couple of classic patterns, but never with one tied on a blind eye hook. I tied a smaller version of the Pearl (#2) for fishing this fall. Today was the first time I had the opportunity to fish it. 

The Pearl - "Classic Salmon Fly Patterns" (Radencich, p.182)

I swung it through a reliable lie. A salmon rolled for the fly, but I couldn't get him back. I decided to rest the spot and try again after fishing through the pool. The next pass went exactly the same as the first. I rested him again and fished through the pool once more. The third pass produced a strong pull from the salmon, but that's where it ended. I thought I was going to finally catch my first salmon on a gut eyed fly, but it wasn't meant to be. 

The only other action came just before dark. I had exhausted all the sensible options, so I figured it was time to go to the Frances. I tied on a Black Frances (1" heavy copper tube) and started casting upstream. I mended to get the fly down and worked my way down the pool. I've never had success with this approach before, but it's probably because I've never given it much of a chance. Well, it did produce a pull from a salmon, but nothing more. 

In retrospect, I should have tried the Frances approach at the other pools. In my opinion, it's not a very pleasant way to fish, but I'm starting to see the value of it as sort of "last resort" when the fish are in a sulky mood (as they were all day today). The H.M. Sunray, fished at light speed, is my typical last resort. It was totally ineffective today. The Francis is probably a good arrow to have in my quiver. 

No one I spoke with had any action, so I guess it was just one of those days. It's not the first and it certainly won't be the last. I think we've finally turned the corner in terms of temperature. From this point on, I will probably fish the vast majority of my flies lower in the water column. From mid-Spetember through the first week of November, I felt the need to sink a fly only on the warmest of days, in the fastest water…and even then only on a couple of occasions. So far this fall, almost 90% of my salmon hooked have been on a mono leader and an unweighted fly. It was a good run while it lasted!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Naugatuck Report - November 7, 2013 - Guide Trip

Fish on!

Weather wise, today was a strange day. I believe the fishing day started in the low 60s. I was too warm and started to remove layers. It was cloudy and drizzly, but the air temperature was very comfortable. The water topped out around 55ºF (the last we'll see of prime temps, I think). As usual, the water was low. That sort of goes without saying at this point.

Warren and I met a little before noon and he was tight to salmon #1 within the first hour. This one didn't mess around, grabbing a #4 Same Thing Murray the first time the fly swung by him. 

We're still not sinking a fly unless we absolutely have to. They're still eager to rise for an unweighted wet fly, though I think that will begin to change as the cold weather rolls in this week. I sound like a broken record, but I have no idea why anyone would fish heavy flies and tips when it's unnecessary. First of all, I don't know any fly fisher who prefers chucking weight. Also, if a fish shows interest in your fly, you want to be able to see it. You don't always see the fish move when you're fishing lower in the water column, especially in broken water. It pays to start high, then work your way down. They're Atlantic salmon...they like to rise for flies, perhaps even more than trout do.  Refer to salmon #2 below for an example of why it pays to start with your fly on or just beneath the surface...

Salmon #1 of the day

On our way to pool #2, we felt noticeably cooler. I stopped by the car to add a layer. About midway down the run, we saw a really subtle boil behind the #6 Same Thing Murray. The boil happened near some submerged stones and neither of us were sure if it was a fish or just hydraulics. It was that subtle. Also, it was too dark out to see the fish flash in the water, adding to the confusion. I decided we should treat it like a fish just to be safe. It was a good move, as it was a fish and a hot one at that. It took about three or four more casts and slight presentation tweaks to persuade him to take the Murray. Unlike his original showing, the take was much more dramatic. He was airborne and off to the races in no time. Warren handled him well and he was quickly brought to the net and released. The Murray does it again! Time and again, this fly proves its worth on dark, dreary days. 

Salmon #2 - further validation why it makes sense to fish from the top down

Shortly thereafter, an intense rain squall passed by, complete with very strong gusts of wind. We waited it out and decided to move to pool #3. Pool #3 has been as much of a "sure thing" for me this season as any but, strangely, didn't produce a salmon for us today. It did produce a nice 15" holdover rainbow trout, however. Which fly did it take? The same thing, Murray...

By the end of the trip, we were both soaked and freezing. It felt like the air temperature dropped by a good 10-15ºF over the course of the day. If I had to guess, the bite probably got progressively worse as it got colder, though two salmon landed is a good day in my opinion. 

Cold water tactics are about to come into play. Conventional flies will be replaced with tubes and large classic salmon flies in the near future. Once my guides start to freeze up, I'm done for the season, so come get it while the gettin's still good!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Naugatuck Report - November 2, 2013 - Guide Trip

Salmon #2...piece of cake!
Earlier in the week, I was a little afraid we'd get too much rain on Friday and this trip would have to be rescheduled. It really didn't rain much at all. That was a blessing for us today, though more rain wouldn't have been a bad thing in the long run. 

Akbar and I were on the water by 10am. The river was definitely up a little bit, but still a little too low for my liking. Oh well, I've been doing well in much lower water than this. The river topped out around 54ºF, which is up about 6ºF from the last time I fished. That was a nice surprise. The only problem today was the color of the river, which was still a little off-color from yesterday's rain. We could see our wading boots, so I was still optimistic. 

Akbar is an Atlantic salmon rookie, but handled himself like an old pro today, landing two and rolling a third. Akbar saw the second fish roll upstream from him, went back to the top of the pool and nailed  it without any assistance from me (I was on shore, rigging another rod at the time). I scurried back downstream with the camera while the salmon put on an impressive ariel display. A few minutes later and the fish was safely netted, photographed and quickly returned. 

Like my last two trips, all the action was on Ally's Shrimp (#2 conventional fly today & aluminum tubes last week). Ally's Shrimp is my go to fly when the water is starting to getting cold...lower 50s down to upper-to-mid 40s. They've been a hot seller in the Fly Shop this fall and I only have a couple left. I need to tie more for myself, so I will restock them as soon as I have the chance to tie more. 

I still have some openings for guided "Salmon School" trips, so contact me to book a trip before it's too cold and I go into winter fly tying/hibernation mode!