Monday, December 26, 2016

Gear in Review 2016

Sage One 9' 7wt. with "Ol' Faithful"


     I've said it here before. I'm usually not on the cutting edge when it comes to buying the newest tackle. I can't afford to be! I fished with two Sage One series rods this year, a 9' 7 wt. and a 12' 6" 7 wt. I know the Ones are several years old, but they are the nicest rods I've ever owned. I was able to unload a lot of gear this year and I picked up a lot of gear at very good prices. The trick is to not be in a hurry and to wait until the right thing pops up used or on sale. Also, buying gear from Canada (with a very favorable exchange rate) saved me an awful lot of money. 

     The Sage One 790 was a closeout demo model from a local fly shop, UpCountry Sportfishing. At first, I checked it out and decided to pass. Trout fishing was slow that afternoon and I kept thinking about the rod. I wound up driving back to the shop, trading in my old Echo 4106 switch rod, and walking out with the One. My old Sage Graphite II rod is getting long in the tooth, plus I wanted a 7 wt. that would work well with my favorite reel, the Islander IR4. The One and the IR4 balanced well together. This combo is so much lighter in hand than my old 7 wt. outfit. It throws laser loops, but I feel like I have been fishing a 5 wt. trout rig all day long. 

     I was afraid we wouldn't have a salmon season in CT this fall, so I took the rod out for an evening bluefish blitz. I didn't use the IR4. That would have been crazy. I burned out a pawl during the spring American shad season. Bluefish would have destroyed the reel (and my hands). Instead, I used an Islander LX 3.6. Fortunately, it wasn't too windy for a 7 wt. The rod was a little underpowered for bluefish, of course, but it sure was fun. I probably caught two-to-three times as many blues in one night as I did all my salmon this fall. The rod is a keeper, though I just tried the same model Sage X one of my clients happened to buy, so...

Sage One 7126 and Danielsson L5W 8twelve

     I acquired my Sage One 7126 in a straight trade for my TCX of the same size. Though technically I got this rod in 2015, I didn't really use it until a trip to Canada in June 2016. What a rod! It's so light, it felt like I was using a switch rod. Goodbye fatigue. Paired with a Danielsson L5W 8twelve, a 480 gr. Rio Scandi head, and a Rio GripShooter running line, the combo performed admirably, landing salmon up to 15 lbs. I really like having a downlocking reel seat again. I wouldn't mind having a larger, more robust version of this rod, maybe an 8136 or a 9140. 

Redington CPX 9139 and Loop Classic 8-11
Fighting a fish on the Cascapedia's Lake Branch

     I bought an inexpensive used Redington CPX 9139 in case I needed a beefier combo. I paired it with a borrowed Loop Classic 8-11. I wasn't too crazy about this pairing. It felt too clunky and it was tiring to cast. Also, I'm not crazy about classic style, S-handle reels. I suppose I'm glad I have this rig though, just in case I need it. Like I said above, I wouldn't mind replacing it with something like a comparable One or an X (and a different reel), but I'll worry about that the next time I plan on fishing a river with large, early season salmon. 

Beulah Platinum 590 and Abel TR2

     I replaced some trout fishing gear this year too, which was long overdue. For many years, I fished with an Echo II 9' 5 wt. rod. It always felt too stiff. It had no feel. Since most of my trout fishing is with dry flies, I like a rod with a more moderate action. I picked up a closeout Beulah Platinum 590 for a song. I paired it with an Abel TR2. I would have preferred to pair it with an Islander IR3, but I didn't find one in time (I wound up finding one later and paired with my Orvis TLS 4711). Anyhow, I like the Abel TR2 a lot. I wish the drag was adjustable from the outside but, other than that, it's a really terrific reel. The Beulah rod was just what I was looking for. It has way more feel than my old Echo. It's a very nice dry fly rod. My main trout fishing setup is a 4wt., so I didn't use this 5 wt. rig as much as I would have liked to. I caught my personal best dry fly trout with it though, so I can't complain!

     After losing a piece of my Ross Reach 7119 during shad season (then being reunited with it), I decided to get another. I never found one for a good price, so I bought a Ross Reach 6126 while they were on closeout at Sierra Trading Post. This was back when there were still 35% and 40% off STP coupons. The 6126 throws the same lines as the 7119, so I'm safe in case anything happens to one. I never got a chance to try it, so it will have to wait until next spring. It's a shame Ross Reach rods are no longer made.

     I picked up a couple of inexpensive reels, too. I found an old Scientific Anglers System 10 (same as Hardy Marquis Salmon 1) and paired it with my Sage Z-Axis 6110. I wish I had a chance to use it more, but I'm sure it will get a workout next spring. I also got a cheap, used Orvis Battenkill IV as a backup for my Abel Classic Switch. It seems like an ok reel. It's definitely not as nice as the Abel, but it is a lot less expensive. The click drag is a little too tight, so I fiddled with the spring to loosen it up. Next shad season, I'm planning on keeping a different density line on the Abel, Orvis, and SA reels, then bringing two rods with me to make experimenting with depth easier.

    It sounds like a ton of gear, right? I have all the drum gear I need, plus I was good about selling an item of fishing gear almost every time I bought a new item. Like I said, I had to wait for my price on a lot of items, but I saved money in the end (as much as possible when spending it on this silly stuff). I don't have much more gear than I had at this time last year and my wife is none the wiser!

Other Gear

Patagonia Foot Tractor Wading Boots...don't use on wood floors!

     This was the first full season I used my Patagonia Rio Gallegos zip-front waders. I got these at the very end of last season, so they are the previous generation. They are very roomy up top, but that made them perfect for cold weather layering. I was very impressed with how comfortable they are. The Rio Gallegos are much more comfortable than my old Simms G4 Pro waders (stiff). Sometimes I forget I'm wearing waders.  Time will tell if they are as durable as the Simms but, at the moment, I much prefer the Patagonia waders. I will probably buy a new pair of the current generation Rio Gallegos next year. Supposedly, Patagonia refined the fit so they aren't as baggy as the old ones. I'll save the old ones for late fall through early spring and use the newer model throughout the warmer months. I am really glad I made the switch to Patagonia. 

     I just got a pair of Patagonia Foot Tractor wading boots a couple of weeks ago. So far, I like them almost as much as the waders. I have always been a felt boot fan, so I was a little skeptical. Man, those aluminum bars grip! If I had them a week sooner, I might not have fallen onto those rocks, bashed up my left leg, and tore a calf muscle. Sometimes I feel the bars slide a tiny bit, then they catch. They are much easier to get on and off than my old boots, which is a plus. My complaints are minor. They are sort of heavy, so I will probably use other boots for long hikes. Also, I wish they drained a little better. They grab hold of the bottom so well, it's easy to forget those two things. The Patagonia Foot Tractor wading boots will get their real test in the spring when the American shad, striped bass, and seatrout ascend their gnarly rivers.

Fishpond Nomad El Jefe net with a nice landlocked salmon

     Last season, I left my Fishpond Nomad mid-length net on the roof of my car, only to have it fall off and get crushed by an eighteen wheeler. I was bummed. It was a little too small for my needs, so it was the perfect time to replace it with the Fishpond Nomad El Jefe net. The El Jefe is a little longer than the mid-length net and has a slightly larger, deeper basket. Otherwise, it is pretty much the same great wading net as my last one. It also doubles as my wading staff. The largest fish I fit into the El Jefe was about 28". That salmon had to be "folded" a little. I don't think it would work for a fish much longer than that. As a sidenote, the El Jefe didn't fit into my Smith Creek net holster as well as its predecessor did. The El Jefe slid around too much. I'm going to go back to the drawing board on this one and figure out a solution in the spring.  

     In addition to making great products, both Patagonia and Fishpond should be commended on their ethical business practices and their commitment to keeping our environment as pristine as possible. If you have a moment, click the following links to read more about the respective corporate responsibilities of both Fishpond and Patagonia. I am very grateful to be affiliated with such socially responsible companies. 

At long last, a double-sided Tacky fly box!

     I'm a big fan of Tacky Fly Fishing's fly boxes. When I get the periodic Orvis $25 off $50 purchase coupons, I use them to buy hooks. I had just received a coupon in the mail and was looking at the Orvis site when I noticed their joint venture with Tacky. Double-sided Tacky boxes! There is one with the normal Tacky slit material on both sides. The box I bought has the normal material on one side and the Tacky Big Bug slits on the other. I could finally cram almost all of my broodstock salmon flies into one Tacky box. Plus, with the coupon, it was pretty inexpensive.


    Well, that's it for 2016. Thanks again for reading and I appreciate the feedback. Let's hope for more water in 2017. Have a happy New Year! 

Monday, December 19, 2016

Naugatuck River - Fall 2016 - Summary & Observations

It was a short fall, but not without its highlights. 

     This was definitely a strange fall. With water levels at historic lows, we were lucky to have a salmon season at all. I'll admit, I was not optimistic. I canceled my guide insurance policy in early October only to request it be rewritten a few weeks later. This was the first season I guided significantly more hours than I fished. Once the season started, I had only a couple of days to get my bearings before my first trip. After that, it was a whirlwind of activity until Thanksgiving weekend.

     The ultra low water made the salmon behave in ways I wasn't used to seeing before. When river was at its lowest levels, the fish seemed to favor depth over all else. If they could have moving water too, that was preferred. If the moving water was too shallow, they seemed to hide out in any deep depression they could find. A lack of rain stalled their usual movement into the secondary pools. The few times it did rain, fish moved out quickly. Since we had a low number of salmon in the river this year, they became harder to find once they spread out.  

     I figured we might have epic dry fly fishing given how low and clear the water was. This was not the case. It was the first fall in a while I haven't at least moved a fish with a dry fly. I think they were too freaked out to come up, though maybe I just had bad luck. I don't think I tried fishing a hitched fly at all this season. 

     Luckily, the salmon were still happy to take wet flies. As the water dropped, our flies got smaller and smaller. After watching several people lose fish on larger flies, I switched to flies tied on very fine wire hooks. It worked and the vast majority (90%!) of the fish either my clients or I hooked were landed. In the lowest water, a size 14 Mickey Finn did the trick! 

The infamous sz. 14 Mickey Finn

     I had several clients hook, land, and release their very first Atlantic salmon. That is always exciting for me. A couple of them said it was the largest fish they had ever caught on a fly. I was very happy to be a part of that. It is one of the highlights of the job. 

     I guided two clients into the same fish in the span of nine days. The salmon had a very distinct tail. The first time I saw it was in an unstocked pool in Naugatuck on November 8. Six days later, we had enough rain to move fish around. The salmon turned up again, this time in Beacon Falls, on November 17. It moved about five miles on one relatively small bump of water. Assuming it hasn't already been eaten, that fish is probably in the Housatonic now. Practice catch and release so others can enjoy the sport! 

     The fishing seemed to slow down as we got into late November. I pinpointed some salmon in a pool that is very difficult to fish with a fly. Unfortunately, my unorthodox presentation experiments didn't pay off. I have some ideas for next year, though. 

     As always, there were many anglers who refuse to follow rules. Some of them seem legitimately ignorant of the seasonal regulations. Others just don't care. There is a definite lack of signage on the river, especially pertaining to salmon season. Because of this, some conservation officers let people off with a warning instead of fining them. If there is no fear of consequences, what is stopping offenders from breaking the rules again? I'm getting pretty sick of this and I am going to write letters and emails over the winter. It is time to be proactive. The squeaky wheel gets the grease and I plan being very squeaky. If I have to, I will print my own signs, bring a ladder, and hang them up around the river. 

This guy put on a show his first day of salmon fishing!

     I used a two handed rod less this season than in any other season since I started fishing with one. There just wasn't enough water for it. Fortunately, I got some time with a switch rod at the end of November and the beginning of December. I sure do miss the good old days of normal water levels and fishing with a two handed rod.

     The last day I fished was December 8. I went out for a couple of hours, but had no luck. Last year, fishing was productive into January. That was a lot of fun, but the warm temperatures were the main reason why our season was so short this year. I guess it balances out over time, at least hopefully it does. The cold weather came the second week of December. If these fish fought like fresh springers, I would go throughout the winter. They get too lethargic for me to bother, so I felt okay hanging it up early. I had the best action I'm likely to get and I'm satisfied with how the season went. I might give it another shot if we have a warm stretch in the winter or spring. We'll see how bad cabin fever gets...

Ally's Shrimp caught the lion's share of my own salmon this fall.

Top Flies

     Since I guided more than I fished this season, I should factor that data in with my personal top flies. In past years, I didn't include the flies used in guide trips, but they are a large part of the data now. Here are the top three:

Mickey Finn - 10 salmon
Ally's Shrimp - 6 salmon (5 conventional, 1 tube)
Cascade - 6 salmon (3 conventional, 3 tube) 

     Between myself and my clients, we hooked almost 50% of our salmon on flies between sizes 10-14. I've had small fly years before, but never 50%. Conversely, we caught fewer on tube flies this season than during a normal fall. Almost every fish we hooked was while using a floating line and untapered mono leader.  

     My typical "Hail Mary passes" (Sunray fished fast or Snaelda fished slow) didn't work at all. This fall, it seemed like they either wanted a fly or they didn't. If they wanted it, they usually wanted it on the first pass. As such, we moved around quite a bit to find "players." Really working a pool seemed to have either no effect or a negative effect (you lose valuable time) this season. "Run and shoot" the 1990 Houston Oilers. 


     I will have some gear reviews coming up soon, as well as some fly tying stuff over the winter. I already have a couple orders of flies to tie for the upcoming season in Canada, so I might post a few of the interesting patterns here. In the meantime, thanks for reading this blog. I got a lot of great feedback this year. Have a happy holiday season! 

Monday, December 12, 2016

Them's Fightin' Words! - 7 Fish Fighting Tips

The three slashes represent 32nd notes, you big dummy. 

 Around the time I began teaching drum lessons, one of my favorite students was a middle aged school teacher. She was a beginning drummer, but a very enthusiastic student. We worked through the material in Breeze Easy vol. I, which is the drumming equivalent of learning how to tie a Woolly Bugger. One day, she asked me a very basic question about drum roll notation. It was something I had known how to play for many years, but never considered the theory behind how it was written.

     "Is it notated this way because,..?" she asked.

     "Uh...yes, exactly," I replied. What I was actually thinking was, "Wow, I never thought of that before. It makes total sense! How could I miss that? I'm a conservatory-trained embarrassing!" A few minutes later, I said all of this out loud and we had a good laugh.

     Besides the notation tidbit I learned that day, I learned another important lesson. Teaching is a two-way street. The teacher often learns as much as the student. I had heard it said before, but that was the first time I experienced it myself.

     When I guide anglers, I try to focus on education. Often times, I learn as much as they do. In my experience, fish fighting technique is one of the more difficult things to teach. First, the angler must remain calm immediately after the excitement of the hookup. I try to explain the basics before a fish is hooked, then gently reinforce the points throughout the fight. Trying to coach someone while a fish is going bananas isn't easy, though. Over the past few years, I've noticed some technical areas which can be improved upon, resulting in more fish landed and safer releases for the fish. The following tips pertain mainly to freshwater fishing in rivers.

Henrik Mortensen displays several of the fish fighting tips below

Tip #1: The Game Plan

     Before fishing a run, pool, etc., form a fish fighting/landing game plan. It can be hard to think clearly with a big, strong, leaping fish at the end of the line. It pays to scope out the area to find suitable spots from which to fight and land fish. This is especially important when fishing solo. Once the game plan is in place, try your best to stick to it. Fish can be unpredictable and they don't always follow the script. However, with good technique, a fair number can be controlled with solid technique and a good strategy.

Tip #2: Be Mobile

     This one baffles me. If the fish moves throughout the fight, why doesn't the angler? The fish struggles to get a good position so it can free itself. The angler should attempt to gain a favorable position on the fish so it can be fought as quickly and efficiently as possible. Whenever possible, I prefer to stay parallel with the fish, not downstream of it and definitely not upstream of it. If I keep the fish on a  relatively short line, I can see the moves it makes and adjust instantly, keeping the maximum amount of pressure on a fish.

     Of course, it's not always possible to move around. Deep water or big obstructions can block our downstream movement. My favorite spring fishing spot is like this. Fish must be hauled upstream against a heavy current. As a result, I lose more fish than I'd would if I could reposition myself. Also, some anglers might not be as steady on their feet as others. Older anglers often have to fight fish from one position. For the young and able bodied, however, it pays to keep moving.

Tip #3: Call the Shots

     Assuming we're not fishing with really light tackle, the angler has the advantage most of the time. We shouldn't let the fish dictate the terms of the fight. With good technique, we can make all but the most crazy and unruly fish go where we want them to go. When we pull hard, the fish wants to pull hard in the opposite direction. When we ease off the pressure, the fish usually backs off. Use light pressure around treacherous obstacles like boulders, downed trees, bridge pilings, etc. If the obstacle is downstream, get below the fish and pull like hell. Often times, the fish will move upstream, clear of the obstacle. When it runs back down, ease up until the fish can be brought back upstream. Then pull like hell again.

     Don't let the fish call the shots. The longer it's on the line, the more time it has to get free. Even if it's landed, a fish fought for a long time might be exhausted. Call the shots. Fight them fast and hard. The angler is in charge!

This angler applies heavy pressure and pulls the hook into salmon's mouth.

Tip #4: Pull the Hook Into the Mouth

     If a fish can be kept relatively close, the angler can see which direction the fish faces at all times. If the fish is facing upstream, pull the hook into its mouth by angling the rod downstream. If the fish changes direction, make a smooth change of direction with the rod. We want to prevent pulling the hook out of the fish's mouth. Keeping the line tight pulling the hook into the fish's mouth (whenever possible) helps keep the fish on the line. This gets trickier with small hooks, so be careful.

    Pulling the fish in either an up or downstream direction requires using side pressure. Bend the rod to the cork and put the wood to 'em! This is essential with big, powerful fish. We have to fight these fish hard or else we'll never break them.

Tip #5: Keep the Line Tight

     The angler should keep a tight line however possible. If a fish is always pulling downstream, this usually isn't difficult. I see many fish lost when an abrupt change of direction happens. The fish runs downstream, then stops and runs right towards the angler. There are times when we can't reel up the slack fast enough to stay tight, even with a large arbor reel. When this happens, I strip in line with my reel hand.

     It is a risky move. The fish can take off downstream again and the loose line might get stuck on something. I try to strip in line while pinching it against the cork and keep pressure on the fish. As soon as I feel the fish stop moving towards me, I reel up the slack as quickly as possible. Sometimes the fish starts to move towards me again before all the line is reeled up, forcing me to go back to stripping. It can be a delicate operation, but it often is the difference between a fish lost and a fish landed.

This fish would not have been landed without stripping in a lot of slippery
running line. Sometimes we have to take risks. 

Tip #6: Low Rod

     When guiding, I see this mistake more than any other, trout anglers being the main offenders. When fighting a fish, the angler keeps his or her rod up in the air. No, no, no! First of all, the fish will be fought from the tip of the rod, which is its weakest section. We want to fight the fish from the butt end of the rod. Also, unless you're Inspector Gadget, there is nowhere to go once an arm is fully extended. What if the fish runs around a rock? The angler can't lift the line any higher to clear the rock. The default rod position should be low. Use the fighting butt!

Tip #7: Fight Them Hard, Take Risks

     If you plan on releasing the fish, fight it hard. Don't mess around. Get that fish in as quickly as possible so it can be released safely. You might lose some, but you'll probably lose more if you let the fish control the fight.

     Take risks. The worst that can happen is that the fish will get off. It might get off if the angler doesn't take the risk. Any day might be your lucky day, but you'll never know if you don't test your luck regularly.


      I've lost some pretty nice fish. One in particular will be forever burned into my memory. Years later, I still replay the scene in my mind, thinking of what I would do differently now. That salmon dictated the terms of the fight. I complied. Ultimately, she broke me off on a rock. If I had moved with the fish, applied more pressure at strategic times, and controlled the fight, I might have landed her. I lost a beautiful, bright salmon, but the experience taught me a lot. These are some of the lessons I hope to pass on when guiding. When I'm just an observer, I can watch both the angler and the fish and, often times, I become the student.

Had I taken some risks, this one might have been landed...lesson learned

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Naugatuck Report - December 2 & 3, 2016 - Some Water...It's About Time!!

Salmon and Dirty Water Dog

     It rained hard for two days straight. After letting the river fall for a day and a half, I had high hopes for December 2 and 3. The water was cool, about 44º. I predicted 350-400 cfs by the time I was fishing on the 2nd. It dropped to 369...good guess! I thought the water would have been clearer than it was, so bad guess on that one. It was okay, I came prepared. 

    I used a F/I/S2 scandi head with a 7.0 ips Versileader. I lost a Lady Amherst on a snag at the top of the run, which was a drag. I decided to use a larger, but lighter fly. I chose the Dirty Water Dog to deal with the murky water. It paid off, bringing one salmon to hand in the two hours I fished. I was satisfied with how my short trip worked out. 

     Today, the 3rd, was a different story. The river was still flowing at an ok level, 269 cfs. I had four hours to fish today. I had high hopes for today, figuring the water would be clearer. It was clearer, but still sort of colored. I lightened up on my line selection, using a F/I scandi head and a 5.something ips Versileader. 

     Today was a day I felt like I couldn't do anything right. I lost flies. I made bad casts and lots of them. I made a really poor detour choice in Naugatuck and added way too much time in the car trying to get down to Beacon Falls. It was cold and windy. My left leg has been really sore as a result of falling onto some rocks last Friday. I just couldn't dig myself out of the hole today. I figured a hookup might turn things around for me, but it never came. 

     Regardless of results, it was nice to fish a two handed rod again. I've only taken two fish on a two hander this season. The rest have been on a 9' 7wt. That was fun for a while, but I missed throwing a longer line over a wider piece of moving water. Hopefully we've seen the worst of this drought and Mother Nature will start to turn things around. I really miss fishing a two hander in early October, swinging flies just under the surface, and watching a salmon chase a fly halfway across the river before nailing it. The good ol' days! 

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Naugatuck Report - Late November - Blah, blah...Cascades...blah...

Shumakov Cascade

     Kind of tired...don't want to put much thought or effort into this at the moment, but this blog is my "fishing journal" (juicy data stored off site!). Forgive my laziness...

Day before Thanksgiving...lend rod and reel to Val (check out his art and fly tying!) for him to test out...tie him a fly an hour before he gets to my house...not enough time for head cement to dry, so I use Solarez instead. Fly is a sz. 6 Cascade...Val catches 30" salmon first pass through pool...mission accomplished...

Saturday after Thanksgiving...finally, a day to land a fish for guy fishing with Rapala w/multiple treble hooks...frustration at lack of respect for regulations sets in early...growing more irritable throughout the day...put my time in, catch one salmon at popular pool...took a Cascade tied on an aluminum Shumakov Long Range tube...tied the fly for Russia 2012...nice to see it work after sitting my pack for 4.5 years. That was the only action of the day...

Cascades (in various forms) seem to be put producing every other fly for me at the moment.

Stuff to do, then bed...back at it tomorrow...Fun, as always, but sort of looking forward to playing drums full time again...over and out

Val's fish while I cleaned the gutters

Friday, November 18, 2016

Naugatuck Report - November 17 & 18, 2016 - The Last Warm Days of the Season?

Wayne's first salmon of 2016

November 17, 2016

     I was pretty giddy about the 17th. It was two days after a good rain. The river would be clear and dropping. Temps were expected to reach 60º. I had a guide trip that day and I was very optimistic. 

     I didn't pack enough clothes. It was windy and never felt as warm as it was supposed to. The fish took forever to wake up, not until around 2:00pm. Wayne landed the fish pictured above and pricked another, both on a sz. 4 Cascade. Fish were somewhat active in the afternoon. I thought we might have a red letter day, but it didn't go that way. Still, catching and releasing one salmon per day is pretty much ok with everyone, myself included. It was a fun time, despite feeling cold all day long. 

     While we were fishing, Wayne and I saw a good sized salmon jump close to shore. We covered the fish, but it wanted nothing to do with us. As the sun began to fade, I began to think about the next day. It was supposed to be even warmer, which shouldn't be hard to achieve given how cold I felt all day on the 17th. I was debating whether or not to fish for 90 minutes while my son was at nursery school. It's a big gamble. I could use the time at home, alone. 

     I thought out loud, to Wayne, "I'll tell you what's going to happen. I'm going to go to bed early tonight, then wake up around 3am to pee. Then, I'll debate whether or not to check the streamflow level on my phone. I won't be able to resist, so I'll check it. Then, I'll think about fishing and I won't be able to fall back asleep. Gah...maybe I should just stay home and watch a movie." 

     Wayne said, "Send me an email and let me know how you make out tomorrow morning."

A rushed Cascade, head not totally dry

November 18, 2016

     I woke up at 2:52am and went to the bathroom. I debated looking at my phone for about 10 seconds before I realized my prediction sort of forced it to be my destiny. The flow was about 120 cfs. I was still sleepy, so I might be wrong. As predicted, I lied awake, thinking about how far the river would drop by my 10:00 ETA. Cascades have been working well, but all I had left were big ones tied on tubes. I considered tying one at 3:30am, but I tried to fall back asleep instead. It took a while, but I got a couple more hours of shut eye. 

     Around 7:30, I gave in to my son's demands to watch some dumb show on Netflix. I gave him something to eat and I slipped away to tie my #8 Cascade. I knew this fly would be the one so long as I didn't forget in the vise. I put on one coat of Cellire and let the fly sit. Around 8:30, before the Cellire was totally hard, I added a coat of Sally Hansen's, then brought the fly down to the car. 

     After school drop off, I was suited up and casting by 10:00am, just as planned. The sun was out and the wind was gone. I was sure I was going to hookup and hookup quickly. Everything felt right. I threw about six casts before my hunch was confirmed. A nice salmon grabbed my swinging Cascade and it was game on. By 10:07, the fish was landed. Mission accomplished. 

This fish was about 28" and just barely fit in the net. 

     That was the only salmon I could nail in my 90 minute window, but I was definitely happy. I also caught a brown trout which I regret not netting. It was about 14" long and the most perfect looking trout I've seen come out of the Naugatuck River. The fins were perfect and all erect. The color was perfect. It was fat and in great shape. Was it a wild fish? It sure looked like one to me. It was the icing on the cake. 

After...a trip that went exactly as planned

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Naugatuck Report - November 11 & 12, 2016 - Tactical Changes

This healthy male found a Cascade tube fly in a sea of leaves.

     In the past, I've said I don't necessarily post about my guided trips. However, I've been guiding way more than fishing lately, so posting about the trips is the only way I can generate these reports (for the time being). Our low water woes continue, but they are countered by consistent action (also for the time being). Up until the past two trips, the Mickey Finn was getting the job done. As the water dropped, so did the size of the Mickey Finns. It pays to be adaptable, because things took and abrupt turn the past two days.

     November 11 was a warm, sunny day. It was also windy as hell. I mean, really windy. The leaves fell in full force. I started the day with a small Mickey Finn, as per usual, but I quickly realized it wasn't going to work out. First of all, it hooked too many leaves. Also, it wasn't going to be seen with all of that mess in the water. I switched to my "leafless" Ally's Shrimp tube fly. That solved both problems. It wasn't long before the angler had a salmon in the net. Next time we changed flies, we tried a similarly sized Cascade tube fly. In short order, he did it again, landing his second fish of the morning. Then he did it again, landing the fish pictured above, also on the Cascade tube.

     When leaves litter the water, the low water/small fly thing seems to go out the window. The best decision was to give the salmon something they could see and feel. Luckily for us, they hit the flies hard enough to stay hooked up.

Ally's Shrimp tube fly w/"leaf guards"

     The wind died down today (11/12). The temperature dropped quite a bit, too. At least the leaves weren't bad. I suspected the salmon would be sulking, so I rigged up an extra rod with a 3.9 ips sinking Versileader. We tried the Mickey Finn first but, like yesterday, the salmon weren't having it. Plan B was to drag a Grape marabou tube fly through their lies. The fly was fished low and extremely slowly. I usually want a fish to chase, but I didn't think it would happen today, so we would settle for pissing them off. The plan worked, hooking two salmon. Unfortunately, the takes were very subtle and the hooksets were too precarious to hold. Despite that, two hooked is a good day. 

     The moral of the story seems to be, "What worked last week might not work this week." Also, "What worked yesterday might not work today." Observe the salmon's patterns over the course of multiple seasons and you'll be able to alter your game plan in a pinch. Keeping a journal helps. I'm about to update mine right now. 

Marabou tube flies 

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Connecticut Salmon Fishing Tip - Something to Consider When Fishing Low Water

A size 14 Mickey Finn got the job done today.

     The other day, I watched a friend of mine hook and lose a salmon. I'm not sure what he hooked the fish one, but I think it was a relatively large fly. Some very unscientific polling indicated that others had recently lost salmon on medium-to-large flies. On the other hand, I (and my clients) have been having great success hooking and landing salmon on small Mickey Finns lately. Some of these Mickey Finns are quite small, down a sz. 14, 4X long trout streamer hook. Good technique and strategy probably has something to do with the high percentage of landed fish, but not it's not the whole picture (more on technique at a later date...).

     Low water often dictates the use of smaller flies. Ok, we get it. But the salmon seem to be going after large stuff, too. So why are they coming unhooked so easily on large flies but are staying hooked up on the small stuff? I don't the fly size is the culprit so much as the thickness of a hook's wire.

   The water is extremely low at the moment. It's historically low on the Naugatuck. When a fly is swung (or stripped), then taken by a salmon, the current is almost no help when it comes to driving a hook into the fish's jaw. My theory is that heavy wire (or even medium wire) hooks just aren't penetrating the fish's jaw with enough force to stay embedded.

     Enter the small Mickey Finns, tied on very light wire hooks...If I tried to push a knitting needle through the palm of my hand, I'd have to push with some force. On the other hand, if I pushed a small sewing needle through my palm, it would require very little force. I think our positive hooksets have been a result of using fine wire hooks. Very little force is needed to drive these hooks home, which is perfect given the current conditions. Not to mention the flies are small enough not to set off any "red flags."

     Salmon have been consistently taking Mickey Finns in sizes 10-14. The only drawback is that the hooks bend easily. However, the fish have not been big enough for that to be much of a concern (yet). My advice...ditch the medium-to-heavy wire hooks until the water comes up. Use finer wire hooks, such as trout hooks and/or low water salmon irons.


Update: After writing this, I found an interesting article that helps support my theory.


Saturday, November 5, 2016

Naugatuck Report - November 5, 2016 - Go Small!

A real dandy, in his "tartan breeks" 

     Quick report today...I'm too busy to bother writing anything but the basics now. We had a good guide trip angler, two salmon landed and another pricked. The highlight was the healthy cock fish pictured above. 

     The water is super low. In my opinion, it is time to go small and/or try dry flies. All the action today was on a sz. 12 Mickey Finn. If they're on 12s now, I am going to try 14s next trip when the water is even lower. Sure, you can probably catch some on larger flies, but why risk spooking a good fish? The fish above is as nice as any I've seen so far this season and he took a small fly. Don't mess with success. 

     That said, I really wouldn't mind some rain and lots of it. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Naugatuck Report - November 1, 2016 - Quick Trip, Quick Report

It was "one and done" today.

     I had a couple of hours to fish this evening, so I braved the horrendous traffic on I-84W and made my way to the river. It was surprisingly warm today. The air was 71º when I checked it and the water was 64º. That's a world of difference from the last time I fished, when it rained and snowed. 

     The pool I wanted to fish had seen a couple of anglers pass through. It was low, clear, and warm, which says "small fly" to me. I knew it wasn't likely the fish had seen something small and somewhat dull, so I tied on a sz. 10 Almost. It wasn't more than a dozen casts into the day when I hooked and landed a salmon. Luckily, my buddy Rog was there to help me net it, which was nice for a change (I usually fish alone). 

     And that was it. There's nothing else to report. I didn't hook anything else and saw only one salmon jump. The fish felt sluggish today, I guess. I have my theories why, but they're just theories. One salmon to hand is fine with me. I've been skunked enough times to know I shouldn't complain!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Naugatuck Report - October 29, 2016 - First Guided Trip of the Season

Josh's boots were barely wet before he caught his first Atlantic salmon!

     I don't usually post updates about my guided trips, but the first trip of the season was one for the books. I think most of us who have fished for Atlantic salmon, be they broodstock or wild, realize that any day with a hook up is a good day. Maybe that's different if you're fishing the Ponoi River or have access to a prime holding pool somewhere in Eastern Canada. But, for most of us public water guys, one fish per day is pretty good. 
     It's the same for broodstock salmon fishing. One hookup is a solid day. If the fish is landed, even better. Two hookups is a good day. Three hookups is a great day. Anything over three is exceptional. Based on conditions (falling and clearing water, warmer day, overcast, etc.), I had a hunch yesterday would be an exceptional day. I would never say it out loud for fear of the trip not living up to expectations. But I had that feeling in my gut. 

     Between two anglers, we had five hookups with four salmon landed and safely released! It was both anglers first day of Atlantic salmon fishing, which made it all the more exciting. Andrew fished all day. He hooked four salmon and landed all but one. All four fish took a sz. 8 Mickey Finn. Josh joined us after lunch. He wasted no time at all, hooking and landing his first salmon within 20 minutes of starting! Josh's fish was the outlier of the day, haven taken a sz. 4 Green Machine w/white tail

     That was the third day I have been out on the river so far this season. Between myself and the one guide trip, we have hooked a total of sixteen salmon hooked with only one fish lost. We got a late start to the season, but we are making up the time extremely quickly! 

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Naugatuck Report - October. 27, 2016 - Hell Seemed to Freeze Over Today

This fish creamed a sz. 6 Butterfly.

     Snow? Huh??? It's not like October snow is all that unusual, I just wasn't expecting it. I was expecting heavy rain, which we also got today. Actually, it snowed, then it changed to rain, then changed back to snow, and finally back to rain. I was cold, wet, tired, and sore. I was hungry enough to stop fishing at one point. I lost way too many flies by doing dumb things. It seems like everything I own is drenched. Despite all of that, it was a tremendous day.

     I'm too tired to give a play-by-play. I'll sum it up briefly. When the river is rising, there seems to be a window of time when the salmon turn on. It usually ends when the water gets dirty. Today, the river rose, but very slowly. The window, which is usually fairly brief in heavy rain, lasted almost all day long. 

     I fished my 9' 7 wt. Sage One with my Islander IR4 reel. I used a floating line, mono leader, and unweighted flies. On paper, it shouldn't have worked this well on a day this cold (air between 33-36º, water 48º). Sometimes these fish defy logic, however. Everything I hooked, I landed. I pricked a couple of others and moved a couple without hooking up. Here is a rundown of the flies which successfully hooked and landed salmon:

1. Mickey Finn (#10)
2. Mickey Finn (#4)...worked this fish 40 minutes and got it up 6 times before he finally took
4. Butterfly w/Green and Red Butt, red Krystal Flash tail (#6)...biggest of the day, about 7lbs. 
5. Butterfly w/Green and Red Butt, red Krystal Flash tail (#6)
6. Ally's Shrimp (#6)
7. Ally's Shrimp (#6)...crazy fish!!!

     Salmon #7 went totally berserk. I wish I got the fight on video. My reel was screaming and the fish cartwheeled all over the run. It wasn't just jumping, but flinging itself through the air with reckless abandon. It was a good day. I'm going to bed. 

Let it snow (but only if fishing is going to be really good)

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Naugatuck Report - October 23, 2016 - Swingin'!

First salmon of the 2016-2017 season

     Swingin'...not just flies, but what I do for a living. Sure, I sell some flies and guide some, but it mainly helps feed the addiction. The addiction to swinging, and this time I do mean flies. 

     At the beginning of last week, I had pretty much given up hope that we would have a salmon season on the Naugatuck. This drought is for real. By last Tuesday, I said to myself, "Screw it. I'm sick of thinking about losing my favorite local fishery. I'm just going to play music every free chance I have." So I did and it felt really good. I hate to admit it, but I forgot about salmon fishing pretty quickly and began to get excited about some upcoming gigs and some other longterm goals. 

     Then, out of the blue, I found out salmon season was on. I had three guide trips booked within the first couple of hours of hearing the news. I needed to get out on the river ASAP to get my mojo working. But I still had music on the brain. I had 2.5 hours to fish this afternoon, so I decided to do it with headphones on, something I never do. "What if a salmon rises behind me and I don't hear it?" I thought. So's just a fish. Besides, I really wanted to continue listening to Eric Reed, Ben Wolfe, and Gregory Hutchinson swing their asses off. 

     I tied on a size 10 Ally's Shrimp and went to the top of Pool #1. Before the first song ended, I was tight to my first salmon of the season! What made it more exciting was that it was the first salmon on my new Naugatuck single hand combo, a Sage One 9' 7 wt. rod and my trusty Islander IR4 reel. The reel purred and the salmon was eventually brought to the net. I think that's the fastest season opening salmon I've ever caught. I raised another on the inside of the seam, but couldn't get it back. As much as I like a challenge, I decided to find more fish than to play the chess match. 

Ally's Shrimp excerpt from "Flies for Connecticut Atlantic Salmon"

     That move paid off, as I took another three salmon at Pool #3. I trashed my Ally's Shrimp with my forceps, so salmon #4 was caught on the next closest thing I had, a size 10 Cascade. I was losing light fast, so there wasn't time to change pools. That's ok, I was really satisfied with how the last 2.5 hours of the day went. Good fishing and good music...what more can you ask for? 

A killer combo 

     If you'd like to book a day on the water, CONTACT ME soon. Dates are filling up quickly! 

Eric Reed - "Wade in the Water"

Monday, September 26, 2016

Revisiting the Orange Parson

Dr. Pryce-Tannatt's Orange Parson

         For as long as I can remember, orange has been my favorite color.  Probably without coincidence, Dr. T.E. Pryce-Tannatt's Orange Parson has long been my favorite classic salmon fly. Though I have tied this fly several times before, I had never tied it with 100% genuine materials. I always used substitute materials for the Cock of the Rock throat and wing veil as well as the Blue Chatterer cheeks. I have a small stash of both that have been sitting in my closet for too long. The other day, I decided I couldn't hoard them forever and it was the right time to use them. I have been redecorating my basement practice/teaching studio. I have an empty frame that should fit this fly well. Best of all, I still have enough Cock of the Rock left for one more, should the urge ever strike again.

An "after shot" of a previous Orange Parson (tied with subs)

Monday, September 19, 2016

Don't Abuse, Reuse

Cheap TV stand/rod tube rack

     A few months ago, I was preparing to bring a load of trash to the dump. The vast majority of it was cardboard, headed for the recycling bin. As I carried some cereal and food boxes to my car, I looked at my wife and said, "Look at all the trash we generate. It's unbelievable. Imagine this times several hundred million people." 

     Along with the usual plethora of cardboard, I had some scrap wood to bring to the dump on my next trip. One item on its way out was an old television cabinet. It's a cheap, particleboard, department store piece. We had no more use for it, so what do we do? Bring it to the dump! But wait a second...I took another look at it. Maybe I could find a use for it. No, that would just make more clutter. But wait, what if I could use it to reduce clutter in another part of the house? 

Reel cabinet
    With some holes drilled in it, it would make a functional rod tube rack/reel cabinet. Until recently, I kept all of my rods and tubes in the garage. I have a good place for them, but I never liked having all those rods in the garage, especially at times when we leave the doors open. The likelihood of theft is probably low where we live, but I still worry about it now and then. I don't need access to all of the rods at once, so I decided to keep only what I'll use at any particular time in the garage. 

     I used hole saws to make three different size holes in the top of the cabinet. It was a piece of cake and I could fit almost all of my tubes in it. The bottom of the cabinet was the perfect size to hold my fly reels. I stashed the cabinet in the basement and put a child lock on it (there's a little guy here who likes to peel line off reels). It's not exactly an "heirloom piece," but I felt good about getting more use out of it and not trashing it. This summer, I was able to repurpose some other household items. 

Whiteboard...helpful for us disorganized folks

     Without a doubt, the most significant recent addition to my fly tying room has been a whiteboard. I often struggle with having multiple thoughts zipping through my head at one time. I was never one to make lists despite being the perfect candidate for them. Every time I noticed I was running out of a certain material, I wrote it on the whiteboard. When I had an order of flies to tie, I mapped it out on the whiteboard to increase my efficiency. It's just a stupid whiteboard. But, for a scatterbrained tyer like myself, it is a very valuable tool. 

Little plastic trays to curb clutter

    When I first set up my current tying desk, the drawers were fairly neat. Over the years, they've all descended into becoming "junk drawers." After getting sick of losing stuff, I decided to reorganize. I found some little plastic bins of different sizes and shapes. They were perfect for storing various small items. I enjoy not wasting as much time looking for stuff as I did before.

Contact lens case for UV resin (idea courtesy of Dr. Bob)

     This next one comes from my friend Dr. Bob. We were talking about storing UV cured resin (we both use Solarez) when he dropped this tip on me. He uses a contact lens case to store his resins. It is opaque, so no light leaks in. They are less messy than using Solarez directly from its tubes. Best of all, since the case is low and has a wide footprint, it's very hard to tip over. For my use, it's perfect.

LED Nail dryer/oven for final UV curing

     The last item was not something I found in the house. I bought it solely for repurposing it. I had read about fly tyers using UV and LED nail dryers (also called "ovens") to fully cure UV cured resins. Previously, I brought my flies outside for a final sunlight curing. After an initial set with an LED flashlight,  I now use a Vogue Professional nail dryer to fully cure the UV resin on flies. I can put four or five larger flies or tubes in at a time. I cover the opening (to prevent UV light from potentially leaking out) and let it run until the next batch of flies are ready. It works great. Maybe my wife will steal one of my items instead of the other way around.

     I'm sure there are many more items begging to be used in my tying room. I just haven't found them yet. Before the next dump run, I'm going to keep my eyes peeled and my mind open. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Late Summer/Early Fall Update 2016

A Blue Metallica for the Gaspé Peninsula 

Fly Tying

     Sorry for the lack of recent activity here! Though I have been delinquent on the blog front, I have been tying flies like crazy all summer long. Summer is usually the time I tie an inventory of flies for fall broodstock Atlantic salmon fishing in Connecticut. Last summer, I didn't have time to tie for fall. My free time was spent writing my ebook "Flies for Connecticut Atlantic Salmon: How to Tie and Fish Them." I figured I'd have time this summer to build an inventory for fall, but destination fly orders have been coming in left and right. 

     I will be offering a couple of fly assortments for the fall season. One is a basic assortment of a half dozen flies in various sizes. The other is a slightly expanded assortment with a dozen flies. The sizes and patterns will be selected based on the conditions we're likely to see this season. Of course, à la carte fly orders are always welcome. Check the Fly Shop page on my website for a sample of what's available. I hope to add more pics in the coming weeks. 

Conehead Ally's Shrimp Tubes for Norway

Connecticut Broodstock Atlantic Salmon Season

     We're getting into what is usually my prep period for the upcoming salmon season. Unfortunately, it's another drought year, this year even worse than last. It looks like this will be the fourth low water autumn in a row. Low water can be a drag in some ways, but it doesn't necessarily mean that the fishing will be poor. 

     Historically speaking, fall of 2013 was a low water year. The fishing was the best I've ever experienced, however. I remember feeling uneasy going into that season but, despite the low water, the fishing was off the charts. The temperatures were fairly mild that fall and we got an early start, seeing the first salmon in mid-to-late September. 

     In fall 2014, the water was even lower than the previous year. I think temperatures were a little warmer, but not out of control. We got salmon in early October, which is normal. Fall of 2014 was the worst salmon fishing I've experienced since I started fishing the lower Naugatuck River. Of course, there were still some good days, but not as many as usual. Most people I know shared my opinion that it was a particularly tough year. No one knew why. I guess it balances off 2013? 

     If the water was low in 2014, it was a trickle in fall 2015. The water was so low, I was begging for the low water of 2013. Flows of 120 cfs, which would be low for October, were a dream when they happened. This scenario made me really uneasy. In the end, it wound up being a pretty good season overall. It wasn't 2013 good, but the long stretch of warm weather made the river fish well from October into mid-January. It was probably more of an "average" season in terms of catches from October to December, but the extra long stretch of warm weather made for some pretty spectacular days in the late season. Numbers wise, it was second only to 2013 for me. So, we had lower water than ever, yet the river fished pretty well. Go figure. 

     Fall of 2016...we're not quite there yet but, unless we have a really active hurricane season, it's hard to imagine that the river will even be as "high" as it was last year. In fact, the river is at historic lows at the moment. And it has been hot as hell almost all summer. This year, I'm praying that we get salmon at all, which is not a guarantee. The recent cool nights make me optimistic, though. We might have a little later start than usual. Who knows, it might wind up being a repeat of last season. While I miss fishing in higher water (or even seasonably normal water), I won't complain about catching plenty of salmon. 

     In low water years, the silver lining is the availably of dry fly fishing opportunities. Fall of 2011 was a high water year. Although it was relatively productive, I don't think I moved a fish on a dry fly that season. I'm not sure I even tried one. Dry fly fishing can be an exciting way to fish for these salmon. 

     If you want to go out for a day, dry fly fishing or otherwise, check the guiding page on my website. Though most of my trips take place in November and early December, October is my favorite month. The fish are less numerous, but are more aggressive and fight harder while the water is still relatively warm. Floating lines, small wet flies, and dry flies make for very visual and exciting fishing. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me. I'm always happy to help. 

A small fleet of Bismos for fishing in Iceland


     My presentation season is starting early this year. The first one is tomorrow night! If you're free, I will be giving a presentation on Connecticut broodstock Atlantic salmon fishing at the Naugatuck-Pomperaug Trout Unlimited meeting. There are more presentations to come, so check my News & Events page for all the dates and times. If your organization is interested in booking me for a presentation, I have a description of each listed on my website. Feel free to contact me for specific details on each presentation. 

The Green Pearl, headed to Nunavik, Quebec

Blog Updates

     I apologize for this post being one long advertisement! I will definitely be more active here than I have been over the summer. Check back for fishing reports once the fall season kicks off. Also, I have some more tying tips posts planned, as well as some ideas for tying videos, and hopefully an interview or two. If there's anything you might like to see, let me know. Hope to see you on the river! 

LT Special Flamethrower tubes for the Miramichi River