Saturday, November 25, 2017

Naugatuck Report - November 25, 2017 - A Welcome Surprise

Bruiser brown trout 

     Today was the first day so far this salmon season where I could fish all day long. The day started off with a salmon in net right away. I was betting on fishing close to the surface today, but I threw on a Shumakov Golden Shrimp on my second pass through the first pool. Luckily, that did the trick for a morning salmon, just as it did two seasons ago in the same pool.

    I was still betting on action close to the surface, but it never came. After flogging three more pools, I switched to the sinking rig. It was a bust at the first pool, but it worked like a charm at my final stop of the day. I didn't plan on being there as long as I was, but the fishing was really good, so I stayed. I had to throw long bombs to reach the fish. I used a 5.6 ips versileader and a small German Snaelda, which has been a very good fly for both me and my clients lately. 

    The first pull was a good one, but it fell off immediately. Further down the run, I got my surprise...a bruiser brown trout! And on the Snaelda, of all things. It was bigger, and fought harder, than any of my salmon so far this season.

Salmon and Snaelda

     Then, it was two more salmon on the Snaelda. I switched to a gold body Willie Gunn for a change of place, then nailed one more salmon. It was a good day for sure. The water was 44º and the air topped out around 58º. The flow, 238 cfs, is getting low for this time of year, but it is just right if you know where to go and can handle a switch or spey rod well enough to cover the lies. 

     What do all the flies have in common? They are all yellow, orange, and black, a killer combo for this time of year. The German Snealda and the Willie Gunn can be found in my ebook, Flies for Connecticut Atlantic Salmon: How to Tie and Fish Them. The Golden Shrimp recipe can be found below. 

     There are plenty of good days left this season! I'm looking at the 10 day forecast, and the weather looks favorable every day. Care to take a trip? Let me know, even if it's last minute...


If it ain't yellow, orange, and black, put it back! 

Golden Shrimp (Yuri Shumakov)

Tube: Shumakov Long Range (brass, 4 mm), grooves painted red 
Thread: Glow red or fluorescent orange
Wing: Two sections golden pheasant tippet dyed red (sub natural gp tippet in pic); yellow bucktail; two strands pearl Midge Flash; hot orange arctic fox
Hackle: Yellow dyed badger over orange dyed badger 
Head: Glow red or fluorescent orange

Friday, November 10, 2017

Naugatuck Report - Early November 2017

Small, but always appreciated

     After some major setbacks, courtesy of the city of Waterbury, the fall salmon season on the lower Naugatuck River is finally underway. I was optimistic about an early start this season. How wrong I was. Now we need to make up for lost time. 

     I went out for a couple hours while my son was at preschool. The river was 53º and the air temperature was 48º. The river was flowing at 319 cfs, making the two handed rod viable, which is a welcome change from the past couple of seasons. I fished with a Sage TCX 11'9" 6 wt. with a Scientific Anglers triple density Scandi head (float/hover/intermediate), and a 9' mono leader. The leader was 6' of 20 lb. mono and 3' of 16 lb. mono. I am giving Rio Salmon/Steelhead mono a try this season. It's sort of like Maxima Ultra-Green. So far, so good. 

    I scurried through three pools before I had to drive back to Guilford. I lost the first salmon I hooked, but quickly landed another two. All three took a #5 Picasse. The first salmon landed was small (pictured above). The second once was about 5 lbs. or so. I tied on an orange Bismo and stripped like crazy in my last pass through the pool. A fourth salmon nailed it, but I lost the fish after a minute or two. It was a good way to spend a couple hours. 

     Lately, I have been suffering from social media burnout/overload. I probably won't be posting updates regularly like I have in the past. The archives of this blog has a lot of helpful information, so search through old posts for good tips here and there. Also, never hesitate to contact me if you have any specific questions. I will be on the river as much as possible, both fishing and guiding, so I'll have my finger on the pulse of what's going on. Good luck and I hope to see you on the water!

Monday, October 2, 2017

Killing Some More Time on the Mattabesett Trail

It's that time of year again. 

     Well, we seem to be back in historic low river level territory. While it is alarming, I think we are still a little better off than we were at this time last year. I was optimistic about an early salmon season this year. That's not going to happen, I guess. Maybe I'm foolish, but I think we hit rock bottom last season in terms of precipitation, river levels, high water temperatures, etc. Maybe this year begins the slow, uphill climb back to normal...

     Speaking of slow, uphill climbs, instead of getting hung up on the bad start we're getting in the fall fishing department, I have been enjoying discovering more of the Mattabesett Trail, most of which is only a short distance from my house. The weather might be poor for fishing, but it has been great for hiking. Here are some shots from last week: 

The view from Bear Rock in Durham

Nature, doing what it has to do

Bluff Head, atop Totoket Mountain in Guilford

This turkey vulture is looking for a yucky snack. 

The Hartford Skyline to the north, opposite to a view of Long Island to the  south

Bluff Head panorama 

The Mica Ledges in Durham, overlooking suburbia

The selectmen stones, marking the spot where Durham, Guilford, and Madison intersect

     I'm praying for rain. We all should be. Hiking the Mattabesett Trail is fun and all, but I want to be salmon fishing soon. Hopefully, it won't be long until I'm back on the greasy ol' Naugatuck again. Until then, I still have about 40 miles more of the trail to hike...

Monday, September 18, 2017

Exploring a Different Type of "Blue Line"

The entrance to the trail is three minutes from my front door.

     Five years ago, my wife and I moved into our current home. She was pregnant with our son, who was born in January. Because she was not physically capable of doing everything she would have normally done, I did most of the unpacking and setup. Then, it was time to finish part of the basement for my home rehearsal/teaching studio. Then, a bunch of other stuff everyone does when they buy a house. Before we knew it, we became new parents and didn't sleep again for the next fourteen months. Four years later, my old life is starting to return, albeit in a somewhat diminished capacity.

     In light of how rushed the move (then the birth) was, we didn't do much exploring around our new neighborhood. I knew that our street is part of the Mattabesett Trail, but I never gave it much thought. Even after seeing hikers walk up and down the street all these years, it didn't really occur to me to investigate it. Surely they weren't there to look at suburban homes. Two parents working at either end of the clock was too taxing. At times, it seemed like all we could manage to do was to take care of our most immediate needs. 

     One morning last week, while junior was at grandma's house, my wife and I decided to take a walk around the neighborhood. We have done it plenty of times before but, for some reason, we had never noticed the little blue signs posted to trees just a short distance from our house. I stopped and walked over to the signs. I realized this was where all the hikers' destination. We didn't have time to investigate the trail that day, but I decided to do some research at home. Low and behold, the blue-blazed trail leads to the "Coginchaug cave." Our interest was piqued and we decided to check it out when the boy returned home the next morning. 

The beginning of the trail 

Follow the blue lines

Much like our backyard, there are a lot of big, fern-covered, rock piles. 

     The trail starts literally three minutes from our front door, making our lack of hiking it the past five years all the more pathetic! From the start of the trail, it is about 3/4 of a mile to the cave. The trail is very easily hiked, except when it climbs in elevation. It's hard for a reasonably fit adult, but there were some precarious places for our four year old companion.

This is not the cave. Take the left fork from here. 

I know less than nothing about geology, but I think this is quartz.
There is a ton of it here. 

The view from above

The trail headed down towards the cave was a little precarious for a four year old. 

First view of Coginchaug Cave

The view from inside the cave

     It took about 40 minutes to reach the cave, though it takes much less time without a small child in tow (I've made it there and back in about an hour). It's not really a "cave" as much as it is a huge rock overhang. If you had any illusions about a spelunking expedition, forget about it. The size of the rock is actually sort of impressive, even more so considering our proximity to it. The forest is beautiful, full of yellow birch, black birch, and beech trees, along with all sorts of ferns and mosses. 

     I haven't yet continued along the trail, but supposedly the next sight is the Pine Knob Overlook. I figure I'll wait until the leaves have fallen to check that out. Or maybe I won't wait. It's not like this place is far from home. All it's missing is a little stream, filled with native brook trout. Of course, if it had that, it wouldn't have taken me five years to find it. 

Coginchaug Cave

Monday, September 11, 2017

Connecticut Broodstock Atlantic Salmon Season: One Hand or Two?

Top: Sage z-Axis 11' 6wt switch rod
Bottom: Orvis Hydros 9'6" 6wt

     When I am guiding, particulairly in the early season, I'm often asked whether a single or double handed rod is appropriate. Before this four year stretch of low water, the answer was easy. Either are fine. It seems like 2017-2018 might be more like a typical year in terms of water levels. Despite having great success in low water,  I'm anxious about getting back to the way it used to be. I miss using the two handed rod in the early season, even if the fish are spread out over a much greater area. 

    During the past several years, I have focused on the lower Naugatuck River, which can be an excellent place to fish either a one to two handed rod throughout the season. I don't recommend a two handed rod for fishing the upper Naugatuck. The river is too narrow. However, single handed spey can come in handy up there. Like the lower Naugatuck, the Shetucket River can go either way. In general, it's wider than the lower Naugatuck, but with a more gentle current. The tips below mainly reflect my experience on the lower Naugatuck, but can be tweaked and applied to the other two salmon fishing areas in Connecticut. 

When to use a Single Handed Fly Rod

     The single handed fly rod is my tool of choice in the early season when the river is at a low-to-normal level. The lower Naugatuck doesn't have bank to bank current, so I think of fishing the runs as fishing a "river within a river." This can be more like small stream angling in that the run might only be 10-25 feet across. Long casts are usually not necessary. The only place where casting gets difficult is where the narrow band current follows the near bank. In this case, single handed spey casts or cack handed casting may be necessary due to the tree-lined banks.

     I like to target the inside and outside seams. Because the water flow is so weak in low water, the fly often has to be animated instead of simply swung through the run. A lot of strikes come when stripping the fly back along the inside seam. Because of this, dealing with running line and a shooting head can be a pain in the neck (more on that later). I have hooked salmon with my mono leader almost inside the tip of the guides. If nothing takes, just shake out some fly line and recast.

    Stripping a fly through slow water can be very effective. I prefer a smooth retrieve, be it fast or slow. I don't let the fly pause. Often times, I place my rod under my right arm and strip with two hands, even when fishing a fly slowly. I can feel as soon as the fish strikes. As opposed to waiting a moment to set the hook, like with a swung fly, I tend to tighten up right away when stripping with both hands. I find a more proactive approach gets a stronger hookset in very slow water. In any case, I find this type of fishing easier with a single handed fly rod.

     If I expect to fish dry flies, I will usually bring a single handed rod, though I fish them on the two hander now and then. I think I am more accurate with a single handed rod. When fishing dries, I mainly fish to known lies or spotted fish, so I want the fly to land exactly where I want it to land.

     My single handed rods of choice are an Orvis Hydros 9'6" 6wt and a Sage One 9' 7wt. If I had to pick one, it would be the latter. The heaviest I go is 8 wt., but it is rare I use it since I don't often fish large, heavy flies with a single handed fly rod.

A two handed set up for high, colored water...intermediate Scandi head,
7.0 ips Versileader, and a big tube fly

When to use a Two Handed Fly Rod

     When the water is right for swinging a fly, I'd much rather use a two handed rod than a single hander. A lot of anglers think it's for distance casting. It does cast further more easily, that's for sure, but it's not my main reason for using a two hander. The banks are lined with trees and can be steep. Backcast room can be limited to virtually non-existent. In this scenario, the two handed rod is definitely superior.

     In higher water, the current still isn't bank to bank. Again, I like to fish the inside and outside seams, but I have to reach further to do it. I also have to control a longer length of line. A longer rod makes it easier to do both. In very high water, there will be some fish lying close to the bank. Either a single or double hand rod will work, but I prefer the versatility of the double.

     Except in really high water, our rivers aren't really good places for traditional spey lines. We just don't need that much distance. Most of my fish are caught with modest length casts, not Hail Marys. As such, shooting heads are good choices. Either a Skagit or Scandi head will work, though I prefer the Scandi setup.

     Most of the time, I'm not throwing a heavy fly. The Scandi system delivers a fly with more delicacy. Also, the airborne anchor creates less disturbance on the surface of the water. One common mistake I see, most often with Skagit casters, is laying the line right over the run and ripping the anchor through water that might hold fish. With an airborne anchor (such as with the single spey or snake roll), the anchor will happen behind or alongside the angler, where fish aren't as likely to hold.

     As the season rolls on, it might be necessary to fish a fly deeper and slower. I used to use floating heads and polyleaders. Now, I find multiple density heads more effective, especially when it comes to slowing a fly down. Both Scientific Anglers and Rio make multi density heads. Guideline makes great heads, too, but they are hard to find in the US. A good selection of shooting heads would include a full floater, float/hover/intermediate (F/H/I), hover, intermediate, S3 (H/I/S3), and intermediate/S3/S5 (I/S3/S5). I don't use the I/S3/S4 much, as these rivers don't have heavy enough current to justify its use. I have it in case I need it, though. Of course, single handed sinking lines can be used on single handed rods, but I find it easier to extract the line from the water with a two handed rod than with a short single hander.

     I don't fish too long of a rod here in Connecticut. I don't often need extreme distance. My early season two hander of choice is a Sage Z-Axis 11' 6wt. I like to use a 325-350 grain Scandi head with this rod (floating). When I need a little more power, I use a different rod. This year, I'll be using a Sage TCX 11'9" 6wt. It prefers lines in the 374-425 grain range. This is the rod I use with sinking heads and when I need to cast a larger fly or throw a bit longer line. If I really need to cast far, I use a 12'6"-13' rod, but nothing longer than that.


High water salmon....lower Naugy @ 1000cfs
Time for a longer rod, this time a 13 footer

     Regardless of water levels, I always travel with both single and double handed rods. When the river is at that sort of "in between"level, I might use either, or even both, depending on the pool. Be prepared. It's better to have it and not use it, then to need it and not have it. A lot of anglers so desperately want to use the two handed rod that they neglect the effectiveness of the single hander in certain conditions. For me, the job is fun, regardless of the tools needed. 


Monday, September 4, 2017

Connecticut Broodstock Atlantic Salmon Season: Favorite Flies, Month by Month

A Green Machine, fished wet, accounted for three salmon in 30 minutes this October day.

     Following on the heels of last week's post, this week's post is about my favorite fly for each month  of the fall, plus a bonus winter and spring fly. I like tying almost as much as fishing, so it is difficult for me to narrow it down to one fly for each month, but I will do my best. Since fly selection is dependent on conditions, try not to think of these as the best flies to use as much as they're flies to always have on hand.

German Snaelda tied on a brass tube

September: My fly of choice is an unusual one for an unusual month. I have only experienced broodstock salmon fishing in one September (2013), but it was a great month. As expected, the water was low and relatively warm. As such, any angler would expect small flies to work well under those conditions. They did, but a surprising revelation was that a small German Snaelda, tied on a heavy brass tube, worked like a charm when the salmon wouldn't rise for the usual stuff. Since the fish were holding in the fastest water, a heavy tube fly got through the chop quickly and I hooked several salmon on the Snaelda that September. Actually, I got my clocked cleaned by one that took off like a banshee and cartwheeled all over the pool. It was one of three fish hooked on the tube fly that afternoon. Though I would always try a small wet fly first, I wouldn't be without the German Snaelda in very early season fishing.

Buck Bugs in various color schemes

October: It's a tough call, but I have to choose a Buck Bug, which is the most versatile fly of them all. Tied with a body of spun deer hair, a Buck Bug can be fished like a traditional wet fly, fished with the riffling hitch, or greased and fished as a dry fly. My favorite is the Green Machine with a white tail.  If you tie your own flies, make sure you don't pack the deer hair too tightly. 

Mickey Finn var. with fluorescent red bucktail

November: Now it's time for the king of all broodstock salmon flies, the Mickey Finn. Really, there is no bad time to fish a Mickey Finn. I could have made it fly of choice from September through December, but that wouldn't be much fun. I have had success on Mickey Finns from size 2 down to size 14. My favorite sizes are 6 and 4, particularly the latter for fishing in November. I like to tie it with a couple minor variations. I use a flat braid for the body. I find it holds up better than flat tinsel because it shreds rather than breaks. Sometimes I use regular red bucktail and red Krystal Flash, other times I use fluorescent red bucktail without Krystal Flash. I am particularly fond of the fluorescent red variation. It's almost a magenta color. When in doubt, use a Mickey Finn.

The Gold Body Willie Gunn is a great big fish fly

December: Early December is a great time to target big salmon. Without a doubt, my favorite fly for these big brutes is the Willie Gunn, tied with a gold body. In late November and early December, large fish might still be holding near the heavy current. Tied on a copper tube, this fly gets down fast. A sinking tip or line helps keep the fly down. It is an aggressive presentation, but it often times effective. One of the largest broodstock salmon I've ever landed took a gold Willie Gunn, one of three fish on that fly that December day. It is a very easy fly to tie and a good one for those learning to tie tube flies. 

The Grape tube fly, tied with lots of flash

Winter (January-March): This time of year is all sunk line work with a slow, mobile, aluminum tube fly. What is more mobile than marabou? The lethargic winter fish usually follow a fly from behind and nip at its rear end. Because of this, I like to use an exceptionally long piece of junction tube with the hook extending beyond the back end of the marabou. It helps to hook the "nippers". Other color combinations work well, but I have caught most of my salmon with the Grape. Any big, fluffy fly should work, but keep that hook way back.

The Sugerman Shrimp, my all-time favorite salmon fly

Spring: Now it's time for my all-time favorite salmon fly, the Sugerman Shrimp. Honestly, I've had plenty of luck with it in all months. I like a big size 2 or 4 Sugerman when the water is cold, but the air is warm, fished on a floating line. The largest broodstock salmon I've ever hooked took a big Sugerman Shrimp variation. Like the Grape, it's mobile, but the fish will nail it with more authority in the spring, so there is no need for a hook set way in the back. In the spring, the salmon are hungry and a big Sugerman Shrimp looks like a yummy meal. It is definitely one not to be without. 

Brilliant colors, both fish and fly


     Hopefully this gives you some non-Mickey Finn options, even though the Mickey Finn is as good as any and better than most. Most eastern fly fishers are intimately familiar with this iconic bucktail pattern. The rest of the flies might not be as familiar, especially those tied on tubes. There's no reason to be scared off. All these flies, and many more, can be found in my ebook "Flies for Connecticut Atlantic Salmon: How to Tie and Fish Them," available for both Apple iOS devices and in universal PDF form. Get tying, fall is almost here! 

Monday, August 28, 2017

Connecticut Broodstock Atlantic Salmon Season: Month by Month

A handsome early season salmon

     As I'm starting to compile a list of anglers interested in guided trips this season, I find myself typing the same information over and over again. Most of it has to do with the when to plan a trip, as the character of each month can very different from the other months. This information might be helpful to the greater public, plus I won't have to type it out again if I post it on my blog. Here is the rundown as I see it and as it pertains to the Naugatuck River fishery:

September: As far as I know, there has only been one season with a September start, which was in 2013. This was before the state published stocking information on social media sites and I had some "inside information" about when the surprise first stocking would happen. I was out on the river as soon as I could get there and I had the place to myself for about two weeks. I caught a bunch of salmon, however, the temperatures were borderline for a safe release. At that time, a salmon could be harvested in September. The only one I ever kept was one, caught that September, that I couldn't revive. Now, September salmon can no longer be retained. 

     Because of the borderline water temperature (often reaching 70º by mid day), fishing was best early and late. The fish were very active and aggressive when the temperature agreed with them. When it got too warm, they sulked. As such, I planned my trips for times it would least dangerous for the salmon, opting to stay home on the warmest days. Once we got into October, the temperature was no longer an issue. 

     I don't know if we'll ever see a September start again, but it was nice. As long as anglers pay attention to the water temperatures, it can be a fun and productive time to fish, particularly with small flies, dry flies, floating lines, and single handed rods.

I suspect this extremely hard fighting salmon was one of the barren fish. 

October: Traditionally, the first salmon are stocked during the first or second week of October. The first salmon are small, averaging 3-6 lbs. What they lack in size they make up for in spunk. These fish are usually aggressive, take a fly well, and are willing to rise to a dry fly under the right conditions. The chance of catching a barren salmon exists now (one that won't spawn). Barren salmon fight much harder than post-spawn hatchery fish. The best broodstock salmon fights I've experienced have been with what I suspect were barren salmon, which are usually more silvery than dull gray. They are still feeding and are suckers for a sz. 6 Mickey Finn. 

     The fewest number of salmon are in the river in the first half of October, but it is my favorite time to fish. We haven't turned back the clocks yet and the evening bite is usually still good. The fish will take a variety of flies, will be interested in different presentations,  and will chase long distances. When hooked, many will fight hard and will jump several times. If you're lucky enough to hook into a barren fish, you might even see some high flying cartwheels.  

     Late October is a transitional period. I usually start out with a single handed rod. If we have a low water autumn, I will stick with that rod for the month. If we experience normal-to-high water, I fish a short two handed rod, usually no longer than 12' or so. The water is still warm enough to get salmon to the surface, so I rarely use a sinking tip or line. 

The larger fish now make their appearance later in the season. 

November: The first Sunday in November brings us one less hour of daylight. November also brings us falling temperatures and lots of falling leaves. Though the leaves can be a nuisance, the salmon will still take flies. We might even get accumulating snow in November. The water is usually high enough to use a two handed rod all month. Early in the month, an unweighted fly on a mono leader is usually enough. As the month goes on, however, it might be necessary to use a polyleader, sink tip, and/or weighted fly to get down to the more lethargic fish.

     The larger salmon make their appearance starting in November, typically near the middle to the end of the month. The salmon can weight up to 20 lbs. or more. In past years, large fish weren't all that uncommon. Now, there are much fewer than there used to be, though they can still be targeted. With a little luck, they can be hooked. With even more luck, they can be landed! 

     Due to the falling water temperature, the fishing in November is usually a little slower paced than in September or October. The trade-off is that there are more fish in the river and there is the chance of catching a much larger fish. A warm spell in November can mean terrific fishing. The dry fly isn't as much of an option, however, the first dry fly CT salmon I caught was during a November warm streak. Anything can happen. 

     I guide more during November than any other month. It's probably the best month to get an overall feel for the fishery. The fish have spread out by then and more pools are in play than earlier in the season. It sounds strange but, on the lower Naugatuck, the higher water actually makes wading easier, allowing the angler to fish further down the runs in the less rocky sections. 

December brings sinking lines and bigger flies

December: Without a doubt, December is the oddest of all the months. Usually by early December, all of the that season's salmon will have been stocked...but...anglers are allowed to retain one salmon per day beginning on December 1. For a brief period of time, there will be more (and bigger) salmon in the river in December than in any other month, although, this is a declining balance as fish are caught and kept. Also, the old salmon will have really spread throughout the system by December.

     I have had tremendous fishing in early December some seasons. I've also had some pretty forgettable fishing in other years. The quality of the fishing is usually dictated by the weather. December 2015 was really warm and the fishing was off the charts. It was one of my best months ever. I've had a few 5+ salmon days in various Decembers. But it is a crapshoot. 

    Knowing the movement patterns of the salmon helps figure out where salmon will be lurking in December. They are usually getting ready to hunker down for winter. Covering water is essential as the fish tend to spread out more and hold in slower water. As such, a two handed rod is a very useful tool since sinking lines become a regular piece of gear. The small flies of the early season get put back into their boxes, away go the dry flies, and large, mobile tube flies become most useful. 

     As is the case in November, a warm stretch can really make for good fishing. Most of the days will be cold, however, and the best fishing confined to a short window in the early afternoon. By 4:45pm, it is often too dark fish and the fish are too lethargic to bother leaving their lies. Our commute home is just in time for rush hour traffic. 

     When it comes to my own fishing in December, I tend to cherrypick my days and times. I don't spend all day on the river. This is a time of year when I actually recommend half day guide trips over full day trips. Like I said before, it's a gamble, especially when planning far in advance. 

A nice salmon, caught on Dec. 27, 2015. This was one of five that day. 

Winter (January-March): Admittedly, I don't fish often during the winter months. I'm usually sort of tired of it by then and I have a lot of tying to do for customers traveling to Canada and Europe for Atlantic salmon fishing in the spring and summer. When the weather warms up for a few days, I'll go out and try my luck as long as the river isn't too icy. A warm streak will melt snow and bring up the river, but the fish will usually go on the feed. If there hasn't been too much retention, it can be possible to catch a fish or two, sometimes more. Mid-to-late March can be good if the winter isn't too brutal or lengthy. I had a particularly good March a few years ago. There are no guarantees when it comes to salmon fishing, particularly at this time of year. 

     Expect to fish low and slow during the winter. Cover water and fish the middle of the day. It's not necessary to get on the river in the early morning and it's usually not necessary to stay until sunset. It's a good way to fight off cabin fever. If there hasn't been rampant poaching and/or retention, there will still be a fair amount of salmon around, certainly enough to target. 

Small, silvery salmon caught on April 29

Spring & Summer: The salmon season closes temporarily beginning on April 1. It reopens on opening day, which is the second Saturday in April. If there are enough salmon left to target in spring, they will be on the feed. The sinking lines can be ditched in favor of floating lines and mono leaders as long as the river isn't too high. The salmon pictured above was caught on April 29, which is the latest in the spring I've ever caught one (I've usually moved on to spring runs by then). It can be worth a shot if you know where salmon might be. The bonus is that there are usually trout around at the same time.

     The latest I've heard of a salmon being hooked was during a cold period in early July. It appears as if some actually hold over, though it is anyone's guess if they can make it through the heat of August and early September. I once tried to find them in July, based on some local intel. I waited until we had some unseasonably cool weather and was fishing at first light. The water was about 65ºF. I didn't wind up finding any salmon, though I landed a beautiful, acrobatic, holdover rainbow trout. 


     That's the long and short of it, at least in my experience. Though I fish the Naugatuck River, I imagine the Shetucket follows similar patterns. I like my broodstock salmon fishing to mirror my wild salmon fishing as much as possible, so I tend to favor the warmer months, or at least the months that aren't too freezing. I have a couple friends who prefer the cold and who do quite well in winter. To each, his or her own. 

If you have any questions, you know where to find me...

Monday, August 21, 2017

A Ceremonial End to Summer Begins Prep Work for Fall


     The summer of 2017 was the 50th anniversary of the longest free, continuously run jazz festival in the US, now known as "Paul Brown Monday Night Jazz." Held at Bushnell Park, in downtown Hartford, Connecticut, Paul Brown Monday Night Jazz was started by one of our finest local jazz musicians, bassist Paul Brown (affectionately known as "PB"). Paul passed away last year, but has left quite a legacy in Hartford as a top-caliber musician, educator, and concert promoter. I was fortunate enough to play more gigs with PB than I can recall. I, as well as the rest of the Hartford jazz community, misses his positive, encouraging vibe, always encouraging us to keep "fighting the good fight".

     I was fortunate enough to play the opening night of the 2017 Monday Night concert season, a tribute to PB, as well as the closing night last Monday.  As often is the case in the world of performing artists, there is a lot of time spent waiting around. Usually, it is a time to catch up with old musician friends who might not see each other too often. Last night, I decided to be a little more productive in the time between soundcheck and the beginning of the concert. Seeing how the Connecticut broodstock Atlantic salmon season is potentially right around the corner, I decided to take inventory of my flies and consolidate them into one box (after BS'ing for a while, of course).

     We're at that sort of pivotal point of summer when river conditions could go either way. We've had a fairly wet, cool year so far and the drought is long gone. Without a doubt, we are currently in a better position than we were at the same time in either 2015 or 2016. Water levels are hovering around their historical average at the moment. That could all change very quickly if we don't get regular rain over the course of the next month or so. However, if the wet, cool weather continues, I'm cautiously optimistic of having an early start like we had in 2013, when the season started around the third week of September. In terms of numbers, 2013 was the best season I've ever had. I would love to see that happen again!

     So the prep work begins...I have to stock up on flies for the upcoming season, lube a couple reels, switch some lines, wax my ferrules, and order a lot more leader material. I plan on hitting the ground running this season. If you're interested in booking a guide trip, contact me and I will add you to the email blast that goes out immediately after the first stocking. Dates are first come first served and the prime dates tend to go quickly. Also, if you are interested in a presentation for your TU chapter or angling club, a list of available topics can be seen here.

     And if you want to come see some music, check my calendar here. It usually begins to fill up quickly come September. If you drop me an email, I let you know which gigs are the ones not to miss. As always, I'm here to answer virtually any question, so feel free to fire away. Get tying...salmon season will be here very soon!

A particularly crazy salmon...I can't wait to meet his friends soon. 

Monday, July 31, 2017

Catching Up

My first fish of 2017 betrayed how well this spot would wind up fishing.

     It has been a long time since my last post here. I've been busy with family, work, and fly tying. That's one excuse. Another excuse is how miserable spring fishing was for me this season. The most likely excuse is that I just haven't felt the urge to write much. In any case, I wanted to document how this season has gone so far, if for no other reason than to have a causal record on which to look back.

     I wanted to get out during the warm winter stretches, but something always ruined it. Come March, I was getting irritated and decided to ride it out until the spring runs started, when I would make up for lost time. My first trip, on April 20, to my favorite spring spot yielded one schoolie, which is better than most first trips to this place. Based on that, I figured I was in for a treat this season. 

Stripers on nymphs

     How wrong I was! This river has been fishing worse and worse every spring. Not only didn't I see a sea run trout, but didn't hear of any caught or seen, either by anglers or state sampling crews. The striper run wasn't too great either. That schoolie was the biggest striper I caught there this season. There were a ton of dinky stripers around though. After a while, I decided to get goofy and tried to catch them on nymphs and a trout rod, which wound up working great. That was only fun for an afternoon or so. The best thing to happen to me all spring was driving off with my net on the car roof, not losing it, and having it crushed by an 18 wheeler (like I did last spring on the Naugatuck). I got to Target, did my shopping, then saw it on the roof of my car. That's about as lucky as I got there this season, so I think it is time to move on and find a spot with better spring prospects. I have one in mind, but will have to wait until next spring to see how it pans out. 

The highlight of my (former) favorite spring spot

     Fishing in the salt yielded similar results for me. Lots of tiny fish. I was always in the right place, but just a little too late. Rowan L. (CT Fly Angler) had sympathy for me. While my spring river was fishing worse than ever, his was fishing better than ever. He took me out one night and the place was absolutely loaded with stripers. Finally, I was in the same place as some keeper-sized fish. I hooked two and lost them both!

     American shad fishing was OK for me, but not nearly as good as it had been for me the past two seasons. I broke one of my favorite switch rods on my first shad of the season. It was a bonehead mistake on my part. Extreme frustration was beginning to kick in, so I decided to take a couple weeks off and regroup. 

An order of orange Caribou Bombers for trophy brook trout fishing in Labrador

     I had a late wave of salmon fly orders to tie, so my break was the perfect time to catch up. I am happy to hear that the flies have been doing their jobs. I love tying. I really enjoy it. But, after a couple weeks of hardcore tying sessions (and a new chair born out of necessity...ouch), I was ready to fish again. 

A wild, small stream brown that was one of my first of the season

     I figured I needed to change gears, so I dusted off the trout gear. My first solo trout trip of the season happened much later than normal for me. I think it was sometime in June. After teaching some drum lessons, I stopped by a small stream that has been good to me in the past, but that I had not fished in a few years. I was surprised that the water was as low as it was and it made me uneasy. Getting charged by a pit bull made me even more uneasy. Luckily, he just wanted to play. Thinking the pool was spooked, I flipped my caddis downstream. To my surprise, my first trout of the season was a 12" wild brown! Unfortunately, he didn't want his picture taken. There were way more downed trees than the last time I fished here, so that made fishing a little more challenging. I wound up having a really good evening and caught many more trout than I had expected. In years past, I would pull a brookie or two from this river, but it seems like there are fewer than ever in this section of stream. Maybe they move around, or maybe it has become too warm for them. I'm not sure.

Farmington River Yellow Drake

     It was about time for my favorite evening hatches on the Farmington River, so I moved my operation over there. My first day on the Farmington was a sulfur bonanza, with several hour of consistent dry fly fishing. I stayed in one pool for about six hours. There was no incentive to move. My next trip, I decided to focus on the big bugs of summer, the Yellow Drakes. It was a successful trip, other than being warned by the police not to stay after sunset. I've fished this spot for years, mostly into the night, and this was the first time I've been warned. It was a successful trip, so I decided to push my luck...

The big Cream Variant was the winner. 

     I tied up some big flies for the Drake hatch and decided to go with a friend (who shall remain nameless in this case!). I asked him to drive in case we got caught. Since I never had a problem in the past, I thought it might have been a fluke. We fished, the hatch was pretty good, and I nailed one of the hardest fighting Farmington browns I've caught in a while. The fish was perfect and had no elastomer tags. He freaked out every time he saw the net. I suspect that trout might have been a wild fish. He absolutely nailed a sz. 10 Cream Variant, which is such a fun fly when it works. I was riding high until two police cars stopped us on the way out! Quickly, I stashed my hat and glasses under the seat. It worked, and we got off with a warning. Another friend wasn't so lucky and was actually ticketed.

     I went back once more, but set my cell phone alarm to get me out before sunset. It was a rainy day and the fish were taking olives and I managed a few browns from a very fussy pool. The drakes hatched early and I hooked (and lost) one nice trout before I had to go. As I packed up, an officer drove by to make sure I was leaving. What a drag...that spot fishes best right before sunset and into the night. It's a shame it's now regularly patrolled and off-limits. Oh well, I'm happy to have done as well as I did there in my few trips. 

Wild Farmington River rainbow trout

     A Farmington River first for me was the wild rainbow trout (pictured above). To my knowledge, it's only the second wild rainbow I've caught in Connecticut. Wouldn't it be great if there were a lot more of them...and bigger? It makes me wonder about some of the fish I have lost...

Finally...a carp! Small, but I'll take it. 

     The past couple of weeks, I have been focusing on carp fishing. Rowan L. was kind enough to show me the ropes. It took three trips and a couple of blown hook sets to land one, but I managed to land three on my third day. They were all small, but we have our sights set on something much larger...possibly the largest exclusively freshwater fish that swim in our state...But they are so difficult to hook....hopefully more on that later...

     So, that's about it. Luckily, the summer has been going much better for me than the spring. With the rain and mild summer, I'm cautiously optimistic about good fall fishing this year. I will be doing more frequent posts than I have been and will be doing some prep work for the upcoming Connecticut salmon season, so check back often.