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.

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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.

3 comments:

  1. I got a good laugh at the beach ball... is that really an annual occurrence?

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    1. Yes! I try to hit it with the fly. It's something to do when the salmon are sulking. I saw a globe float down once!

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    2. I suppose I should be surprised, but I'm not. It is after all the Naugatuck.

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