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.