Monday, December 29, 2014

Naugatuck River - Fall 2014 - Top Flies (plus a little data)

This fall's favorites, small and large: Sugerman Shrimp,
Green Machine w/White Tail (G/R butt) & German Snaelda

I suppose the most surprising turn of events for me this season was the deposition of my perennial Naugatuck favorites, the Mickey Finn and the Same Thing Murray. Both flies hooked one salmon each for me, but that was it. I'm surprised but not disappointed. They were replaced by two of my confidence flies in wild salmon fisheries, the Sugerman Shrimp and the white tail Green Machine. Rounding out the top three is the German Snaelda, which was the only top three holdover from last season.

I'm happy to see the Sugerman Shrimp tied for top honors. If I had to pick one salmon fly to fish for the rest of my life, that would be the one. I don't know why it has worked better for me abroad than at home, but maybe the trend is changing? Two sizes worked for me this season, sz. 2 and sz. 10. As you can see, small or large, it's a terrific fly. 

The Green Machine made the cut because of its performance on one day of fishing, hooking and landing three salmon (in the same pool) in a very short amount of time. For some reason, when there are salmon in this particular pool, they seem to like buck bugs. I haven't found that to be the case in other pools, at least not to the same extent. My first grilse of the season (Bonaventure) was caught on the same fly, so it must have had some good mojo attached to it. 

The German Snaelda wins the medal for top tube fly of 2014, same as last season. Like the Sugerman Shrimp, it was effective in different sizes, from the diminutive micro conehead tube to a medium sizes Snaelda, tied on a .5", thick walled, copper tube. I didn't move anything on the larger, 3/4" copper Snaelda this season. I was sort of surprised by that. I hate tying Snaeldas but I sure like fishing them. 

 A drink called "Bawls"???, thank you! 

I didn't keep track of how many trips I made to the river. I think it was a little less than last year given the late start we had this season. I hooked sixteen salmon and landed all but two. I'd venture to say almost everyone hooked far fewer salmon this fall than last fall. That was definitely the case for me.  In a typical season, I average about two (salmon) hookups per trip. Last season, I averaged about 2.5 per trip. Without exact figures, I think I averaged a little over 1 per trip this season. My landing percentage was up from last year, however (by about 8%). Some years I keep better data than others. I didn't do a very thorough job this fall; basically just salmon number, fly, size, and pool. I have very little written record of 2012, so at least I did better than that. I looked back at my 2011 record the other day and that has incredibly detailed data. It's very helpful. I am going to try to get back to that next season.

Oh yeah...I didn't lose a single pair of hemostats this season! Amazing!

The Sugerman Shrimp is a killer in virtually any size 

Anyhow, here is a list of flies that worked for me this season and their sizes:

Conventional Flies:

Sugerman Shrimp (sz. 10, 1 salmon; sz. 2, 2 salmon)
Green Machine w/white tail, green & red butt (sz. 4, 3 salmon)
M1 Killer (sz. 10)
Same Thing Murray (sz. 8)
Black Bear Red Butt (sz. 8)
Catch-A-Me Lodge (sz. 7)
Mickey Finn (sz. 6)

Tube Flies:

German Snaelda (.5" copper, thick walled, 2 salmon)
Micro Conehead German Snaelda
HKA Sunray/Bismo - Orange (1.25" aluminum)
Grape (1.5" aluminum)

I don't know whether this means anything or not, but I didn't lose any that I hooked on a tube. I lost two on conventional flies (Mickey Finn & Sugerman sz. 2). Of course, I hooked just over twice as many on conventional flies as I did on tubes, so maybe that has something to do with it.

I'm going to cut some flies out of my online fly shop and add others. I should have a supply of Sugermans and Green Machines ready to go for next season. As much as I hate tying them, I'll probably add some Snaeldas, too.

I might do a little fishing in the winter and spring, just to keep cabin fever at bay. I'll try to post some reports if I go. After a little break, I will be doing some tying for spring, most likely Sunrays, Mummichog Muddlers, Gurglers, and Samurai Dogs for sea run browns and stripers. I also plan on posting more tying videos, so check back for them.

The next couple of posts will be gear reviews. Stay tuned and happy New Year! 

Monday, December 22, 2014

Naugatuck River - Fall 2014 - Summary & Observations

The annual beach ball sighting happened late this season.
I was worried I might have missed it! 

While fall 2014 wasn't a total bust, it certainly paled in comparison to seasons of the recent past. Last fall, salmon were practically jumping into anglers' nets. Unless one lived close to the river and could fish often, the fish seemed a lot harder to come by this autumn.

The main problem was a lack of water for most of the season. The first group of salmon were stocked on September 30 which, due to poor conditions, was almost two weeks later than they were stocked last year. Losing two weeks was discouraging. In reality, however, many of us lost more than two weeks up front. After my first trip, I vowed not to return until the water came up. The river was just too low and I was fairly certain I'd kill any salmon I might hook. As such, I didn't start fishing in earnest until the second week of October. I prefer to fish secondary pools (ones which require a walk). Without rain, salmon don't move into those pools. So it became a waiting game.

It felt like we waited forever. I didn't find fish in the secondary pools until the end of October. A major problem, also caused by the lack of rain, was that the river didn't run clear at the optimum flows. We had colored water when the water was at its best level. As such, we had to wait until the river became low again and the water cleared. Usually, we have a few days of great fishing after the high water recedes. This season, the window was much narrower. If one had good timing, he or she could hit it just right.

Then November came and I got the flu. Then I gave it to the rest of my family who, unlike myself, were vaccinated. That took me out almost two weeks. Then it got cold. It felt much colder than it should have been at that time of year. The first two weeks of November are usually a salmon bonanza, but that wasn't the case this season. The end of November brought frigid temperatures and the water temperature plummeted. I recorded a water temperature of 36ºF the last day I fished in November. That's usually a mid-December temperature. The water gets cold quickly when there's not much of it in the river.

I only fished twice in December. The weather (and water) sort of bounced back for a briefly. Unfortunately, both trips were short ones. The first trip was early in the month. The air and water temperatures were warmer than they had been in late November. For a short period of time, the river was at an ideal level. If I had all day, I think it could have been one of my best days of the season. After that, the cold weather returned and then we were pounded by heavy rains. The river was very high and unfishable for over a week. The river dropped very slowly. I thought I might catch it on its way down, but more rain came. I fished in high water (850cfs.), but had nothing to show for it. With the madness of the holidays quickly approaching, I decided that the fall 2014 season was officially over for me.


Fish on! The immediate scenery reminds me a bit of the Kola.

We had very low water throughout much of last fall. There are a few pools (in the lower river) that fish well when the water is low (around 150cfs.). Once the river falls below about 130cfs., even the low water pools get tricky. I think the river was trickling along around 75cfs. on my first trip. That's really bad. I like fishing in "lowish" water, but the ultra-low water is a depressing sight. It was like fishing still water. Hopefully we won't have to worry about this next season. I don't see how it could get any lower, though I recall saying the same thing in 2013.

I really like being able to salmon fish in September, however, some fish caught last September were a little tough to revive. That was prompted me to buy a grilse-sized Brodin net. Given the extreme low water (and resulting low dissolved oxygen levels), I'm quite certain a lot of salmon weren't able to be revived early this fall. While it's nice to be able to catch them while wearing a t-shirt, I'm beginning to wonder if it's more prudent to go back to stocking them around the second week of October? 

In terms of tactics, not much changed for me this season, though I did fish with a sinking polyleader more than I did last season. The benefits of sinking a fly in low water was hammered home this season. I had luck with it in 2013 and results this year seem to reinforce the effectiveness of the technique. As far as topwater goes, I had resolved to fish the hitch more, which I did, though nothing grabbed a hitched fly. I did raise a couple of salmon with the hitch, though. I'll have to try it again next year when we (hopefully) have more moving water.

So it wasn't such a great season, at least not for many of us. I did OK considering I had a tighter work schedule and more family commitments (and illnesses) this year . I had hoped for better, but I'll take it. I fished when I was able to and, unfortunately, that meant fishing in some pretty miserable conditions. Oh well, I try to make the best of it. I'm not going to catch anything sitting on my couch. 

My 2014 data is not as comprehensive as what I recorded last year. I did keep a record of all the flies that hooked a salmon for me this season, however. I'll go over the data I have in my next post. Thanks for reading.

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...