Saturday, October 24, 2015

Naugatuck Report - October 24, 2015 - Shumakov to the Rescue

Sometimes it pays to bring the oddball flies

I knew better than to expect a repeat of my last trip. Both the air and water temps have dropped quite a bit since last Tuesday. Today, the air temperature topped out around 50º and probably didn't stay there for very long. The water temperature was 51º when I checked it around 11:30 this morning. Going into today, I knew ultra aggressive salmon were not going to be in the cards.

Last night, I thought about which fly might be the one to use. A #10 Almost has been my hot fly this season, but I figured I'd need something a little bigger, heavier, and more colorful to tempt a lethargic salmon. I remembered a tube fly I had tied for a trip Russia's Kola River back in 2012. The pattern is called the "Golden Shrimp." It was created by the late Yuri Shumakov, a very innovative Russian fly tyer. I definitely didn't fish the fly while in Russia. Before today, I'm not sure I had ever fished anywhere. Sometimes a particular fly speaks to us. For some reason, this one spoke to me. I chose to listen and I'm glad I did.

An original Golden Shrimp
Tied by Yuri Shumakov for the Kola River

I almost always make my first run through a pool a conservative one. I fish a relatively small, unweighted fly, hoping to bring a salmon to the surface. I can't remember what I tried first. Maybe it was an Almost, but I'm not sure. Anyhow, it didn't work. I went right to the Golden Shrimp on my next pass. About 10 minutes later, I was tight to a salmon. If I had my druthers, I'd have caught it with a two handed rod, swinging a size 6 or 8 wet fly just under the surface. Instead, I had to settle for putting a small, heavy brass tube fly right in the salmon's face with my 9' 7wt. Sage. I'll take it. 

I explored some other water today, but didn't find much going on. I was even reprimanded for parking on a private road! I've never had an issue there in the past. I've had locals ask me how the fishing was and make small talk. I guess I just ran into the wrong dude today. Oh careful where you park. 

Eventually, I made my way back to the original pool. I fished a sz. 8 Sugerman Shrimp through the run. Normally, I would swing the fly. The flow is still so weak (80 cfs) that I had to strip it. When the salmon are lethargic, don't expect bone crunching takes. Under these conditions, they often nip at the back end of a fly. A salmon grabbed my Sugerman Shrimp, but I pulled the fly out of his mouth while stripping. The fish felt the steel and it was game over. 

I wanted to get home early, so I decided to try the "Hail Mary pass" when I went back to the top of the run. I stripped an HKA Sunray as fast as I could and got another short strike (from a different fish). I rested the fish and tried again. The salmon came back for the fly, despite feeling the hook. I was surprised. I got the fish up once more on a hitched Sunray Shadow. Unfortunately, that was as far as I got before I had to head home. 

Under the circumstances, I'm pleased with how today went. If nothing else, it made me realize I need a better plan for low water salmon who prefer to nip at the back end of a fly rather than grabbing it with gusto. I have plenty of flies for those fish when the water is up (this behavior is common in the winter and early spring), but not as many options for cold conditions in unusually low water. The gears are spinning and I will be well armed next time. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Naugatuck Report - October 20, 2015 - Adrenaline!

Yes, they will take dry flies.

Whew! If I provided a fish-by-fish account of today, this post would be way too long! I can't even remember all the details. "Pandemonium" is the best way to sum it up.

Fish were all over the same sz. 10 Almost I used to catch my last salmon. In fact, I hooked five salmon on that fly today. I landed all but one. They pursued it very aggressively. It was really intense.

Better still, I managed to hook and land two on dry flies. One absolutely exploded on a sz. 8 Grizzly Bug, then went totally berserk, cartwheeling all over the pool. The other took a sz. 6 Split Wing Bomber (green w/brown hackle). That fish also went nuts, though the take was a little less explosive than the first.

This Almost is ready for retirement.

The grand total was seven salmon hooked and six landed. Interestingly enough, only one took the fly on the first pass (the smallest fish). Every other fished showed anywhere from one to five times before finally taking. Both dry fly fish initially showed for the Almost.

I pricked a couple others on dries, but did not connect. I rose one early in the day on a sz. 10 Cascade, but could not get the fish to come back. I had my hands full today!

The details...air temps topped out in the mid-to-upper 60s. The water was 58ºF. Flows are still excruciatingly low, around 80 cfs. Sometimes the fish can overlook the low water, I guess.

Today's action aside, the water is so low, I've found it difficult to get into a rhythm while fishing wet flies. Because of this, I have been fishing dries more often lately. I hear a lot of anglers say that, in order to catch these salmon, we must fish deep with heavy flies and/or sinking lines. While that can be true under certain conditions, there are times when they are willing to take a fly from the surface. Not every year is conducive to good dry fly fishing. Right now is the time to fish dry flies. Get in on it while it lasts!

My ebook "Flies for Connecticut Atlantic Salmon" provides tips on when, where, and how to fish dry flies for broodstock salmon. Check it out!

Today's trio of winning flies

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Naugatuck Report - October 11 and 16, 2015- Sorry for My Tardiness

The Grizzly Bug is a very effective dry fly.
From "Flies for Connecticut Atlantic Salmon"

I apologize for not getting the first part of this report out sooner. To say that life has been hectic lately would be an understatement. It's all good stuff though. Work is bustling. I'm writing this quickly before I head to the recording studio for the day, then off to the gig at night. I have to force myself to get enough sleep, which sort of goes against my nature. Anyhow, the reports...

October 11 was a late start for me. I had gotten in at 1:00am , so I didn't on the river until about 10:00am. Most of the action seem to happen that morning. My friend Bob was fishing by sunrise. He hooked two and landed one, both on streamers. I seemed to arrive at the tail end of the action. My first pass through the pool raised a salmon on a hitched tube fly. I rested the fish and tried a dry fly, the Grizzly Bug (pictured above). The salmon left his lie and tried to grab the fly. He didn't swallow it whole, but got enough of it in his mouth to feel the bit of the hook. I didn't hook him, but I freaked him out enough to not come back.

I couldn't stay very long, as I had an early gig that evening. That was the extent of my action for the day. It was a very bright and sunny day with no clouds in the sky. The water had dropped back to around 80 cfs. Once the sun lit the pools, the salmon seemed to shut down. Despite a lack of action, it was fun to raise a salmon on surface flies.

October 16 was the first day I was able to get out for a significant amount of time. I didn't take the water temperature, but it definitely felt cooler. I would guess it was in the mid to upper 50s. The water is as low as I've ever seen it, around 70 cfs. I saw a few fish that morning, but couldn't get a grab. It was very windy early in the day and the river was filling with leaves. Fortunately, the strong winds died down eventually.

I moved to my confidence pool and was happy to see it unoccupied. After prospecting with a blue Bomber, I made my way to the top of the run and tied on a sz. 10 Almost, a great fly for when the salmon feel skittish. Within five minutes I was tight to a salmon. It wasn't an explosive fight, but it lasted a lot longer than I thought it would. The fish seemed sluggish at first, but starting turning on the longer the fight went on. He made three strong runs, but only jumped once. I dropped my net, so I had to tail him. It is very difficult to tail salmon under 24" or so. This one was around 28" and 7-8 lbs., so tailing him was not a problem. Since my net was lying on the bank far upstream, I didn't get picture, preferring to get this guy on his way as quickly as possible.

Other than catching a holdover rainbow trout on a black Snaelda, that was the end of the action for me. I left earlier than I planned, around 5:00pm. This low water is frustrating. It is difficult to get into a rhythm when swinging wet flies. The flow is so anemic, most of the better runs can be adequately covered in under 10 minutes. Normally, some of these runs would take 30-45 minutes to fish. It is very frustrating. To make things more fun and interesting, I am making surface flies a priority for now and am fishing mostly hitched tubes and dry flies. We'll see how that goes. 

Friday, October 9, 2015

Naugatuck Report - October 9, 2015 - A Very Small Window of Opportunity

A "slippery hook" Ally's Shrimp

About a week ago, I played a concert at the Palace Theater in Waterbury, Connecticut. Both coming and going, I said to myself, "You're going to be stuck traveling the backroads this entire fishing season." Anyone who drives through the area knows how bad I-84 is. Since the latest Waterbury construction project started, traffic has been much worse than normal. I took Rt. 68 all the way to Naugatuck for my first fishing day of this season. The I-84 traffic must be pushing people out onto the side roads, because Rt. 68 was busier than I'm used to seeing it. Oh well, it's the cost of doing business, as they say.

I got on the water around 4:00pm. It began to rain lightly around 4:30pm. Around 5:00pm, I was fishing in a bonafide deluge. I couldn't even make out the run I was fishing. The water looked like it was boiling. When water began to seep beneath my wading jacket, I figured I would head towards the car. Lightning helped me move more quickly. I drove to an overpass to pack up my gear before heading home with my tail between my legs, but something told me not take my waders off just yet.

Though I had broken down my rod, I headed to another spot. The rain was beginning to taper off a bit. There were muddy streams of water flowing into the river all over the place, but I thought a short window of opportunity might come from this mess.

The best time to be on the water is when it is falling and clearing, though a good (but brief) taking time occurs just as the river begins to rise. I managed to hit that brief period around 6:00pm. I had been fishing with small flies, but switched to an Ally's Shrimp (sz. 6), which is my favorite fly for off-color water.

A salmon grabbed my shrimp within five minutes of my arrival. Judging by all the head shaking, I guessed I had a male on the line. The salmon took off in a slow, but unstoppable run downstream. He didn't turn around until he was about 20 yards into my backing. Prior to hooking this fish, I've had only two other broodstock salmon take me into my backing. Once the fish turned around, I began to gain positive yardage. I didn't get very far before the hook pulled out.

That was the only action I had all night. It's only four hours later and the river has already doubled in flow from where it was when I hooked that fish. The taking window was very short indeed. I don't really like starting my season with a lost fish but, considering all the headaches, I'm happy with how today went.