Streamer color with leaves in the water (and other ramblings)

When there’s an abundance of leaves in the water, conventional wisdom holds that the best streamer colors are black or white. The logic is easy to understand. Those colors are unlike any that the fish are likely to see from dead vegetation. I find that of the two choices, black provides an even more dramatic contrast than white. Of course, everyone has their personal theory and opinion about streamer colors, and at any given moment, someone can prove yours wrong.

But I don’t really want to talk about color. I want to talk about motion, movement, and presentation. Take a look at this very short clip. It’s an underwater shot of a white micro bugger dancing through a leaf-infested pool.

As you can see, the leaves have a very distinct motion as they move through the water. They slowly tumble and glide. If they move laterally or horizontally, it is at the pace of the current — in this case, somewhere around languid. The streamer moves quite differently. It is faster than the leaves. It jerks, shudders, and sharply rises and falls. Yes, the white helps it stand out. But for me, what creates the greatest differentiation between it and the leaves is its movement.

Something to think about next time you’re out.

Farmington River Report 10/15/21: Slow. Slower. Slowest.

Doug and Paul chose a spectacular fall day for a session with yours truly. Unfortunately, the bite didn’t match up to the conditions. We fished two sizable marks from 10am-2pm, and all we could manage was one bump and one hookup. That actually isn’t as bad as it sounds; angler traffic was fairly heavy for a fall weekday, and I didn’t see anyone else hook up the entire time. So well done, Doug and Paul! The river was running medium high (530cfs) and the water is beginning to cool nicely. Observed: caddis and a few tiny BWOs. Leaves are a bit of an issue, and we had all our action on white streamers. (I should have mentioned that we were dedicated to the streamer cause, both traditional presentations and long-leader jigged micro streamers.) Both anglers fished hard and well, and on another day might have connected with dozens.

Doug having at it. Perseverance helps on slow days, and Doug was rewarded not too long after I took this shot.
Paul makes the point that there are worse ways to spend a few minutes on a sunny fall afternoon than sitting on a log with your feet in a river. I loved how Paul asked so many questions. Thinking anglers are better anglers. A most enjoyable day, gents!

Small stream report and observations

I’ve been focusing on small streams this month, partly to scratch an itch and partly to shoot video content for the new small stream presentation I’m building. Small streams are cool because they’re like any bigger river or ocean: weather changes, water levels (or tides) rise and fall, water clarity and temperatures fluctuate — you never know what you’re going to get until you get there. Here are few photos along with some things I’ve noticed that might help you on your next small stream adventure.

Micro Wigglies work — here’s proof. But I’ve been very disappointed by the generally poor reception the brookies have given them. Micro Wigglies are almost useless in high water, and even in low water need to be stripped to induce a strike. If you’re committed to the dry fly cause, it’s hard to go wrong with a big, bushy dry. What’s “big?” If I’m not necessarily interested in hooking sub-4″ fish, 14 is as small as I’ll go. Of course, you de-barb your hooks, limit photos, and only handle wild fish with wet hands. It goes without saying (but I’ll do it anyway) that you should never lay a fish down on rocks or dry leaves or sand for a photo. This may be self-evident, but the better dry fly days are the ones when the water is lower rather than higher.
Using roll and bow-and-arrow casts helps you avoid annoyances like this. My rule of thumb for awkwardly-placed-by-nature streamside vegetation is: If it’s living, I never remove it. If it’s dead, it must not be visibly supporting life (spider webs, for example) or creating good natural structure/cover for the subsurface residents. So, if it’s a spindly twig that got knocked into the river last wind storm, and it keeps eating your streamer, feel free to toss that sucker.
Dry flies are a hoot on a small stream — make ’em come up! — but the bigger fish are usually taken subsurface. I marvel at how curious these char are about any intruder in their underwater world. You can feel them bumping the fly moments after it hits the water. What is it? Food? Not food? Threat? Don’t mess with those teeth! I

Making sense of the changing striper management landscape, or: thank goodness for the ASGA

On the difficulty scale, keeping current with how the ASMFC plans to manage (I’ll be kind and not place quotes around manage) striper stocks is somewhere between Calculus II and Organic Chemistry. Flux and fast and fluid also come to mind as good descriptors. (And as always, alliteration.) But thanks to our friends at the American Saltwater Guides Association (ASGA) it’s become easier.

Next up will be draft Amendment 7. Public comment will be open later this year, and I’ll be sure to get you the links. To help you understand what’s going on before then — no degree in Chaos Theory required — here are some helpful links.

If it looks like a moratorium proposal, is it really? Nope. Here’s why.

Once again, recreational anglers will need to mobilize and speak loud and clear when Amendment 7 comments are requested. Here’s a primer on the highlights and landmines of Amendment 7.

If you’re finding this stuff helpful, and you really care about stripers, you should join the ASGA. You can do that here. And of course, any donation you can make helps them continue their outstanding work.

Last but not least, here’s a great piece from our friend (and friend of striped bass) Charles Witek on the importance of getting Amendment 7 right.

Thanks for taking the time to read. And thanks for caring about striped bass.

We have to do our best to make sure the resource is handled with care. Getting involved with Amendment 7 is the best way you can do that.

Farmington River mini-report 10/8/21: filming fools

Yesterday I wrapped up some drone footage with Director Matthew Vinick for his upcoming film “Summer on the Farmington.” Elevated flows (650cfs in the Permanent TMA) and leaves were an issue, but we got it done. Adverse conditions didn’t discourage the legions of anglers I saw out enjoying the river and weather. I had 30 minutes to fish for pleasure after the shoot, so I hit a favorite mark for some tight line nymphing. Sadly, every stall of the sighter or tangible bump turned out to be either bottom or debris. I was not alone — of the dozen or so anglers I shared water with, I did not see a single trout hooked. On a positive note, the water is noticeably cooler than it was a week ago. Things can only get better, right?

Pro tip: when there are so many orange/yellow/red leaves in the water, try going dark or white with streamers — and make sure one of your nymph droppers is small and dark (it’s tiny BWO season). A small Starling and Herl soft hackle would be a fine choice.

Striper report 10/6/21: Daytime bliss, nighttime suffering

On Wednesday Alex took a striper lesson with me. He did a fantastic job. The point of these short (2 hours) lessons is to give students feel for how to approach multiple situations involving current — and especially for them to discover the expansive fly fishing life beyond cast-and-strip. We do it in the daytime (the better to eyeball things) and while the immediate goal isn’t to catch — that will come later — I have the highest amount of respect for those who want to invest in upping their game. Alex did a tremendous job; he has an intuitive feel for current and presentation. Now all he needs is some bass to play with.

As it turns out, so do I. I drove to Rhode Island that night to fish two different marks and, once again, I was disappointed by the paucity of striped things that swim. The first mark was one of my “guaranteed” spots. You know — a place you go to save a night when you desperately need a fish. No longer. I’ve fished it three times this year, blanked all three times, and it’s the first year in decades that I have not caught a bass there. Fooey. Not to be outdone, the second mark had plenty of bait, and not a single striper. So I casted, mended, and tried to pretend that maybe a bass would show up. Instead, I stayed out way too late. I won’t be going back this year (he said bitterly).

Alex really nailed the greased line swing. What a lovely day to be out fishing.

Small stream report 10/5/21: workin’ hard, playin’ hard

A bit of a busman’s holiday for me yesterday as I had a busy day shooting video on a small stream. This is one of those places where there’s no easy way to get there (both driving and walking). Plus it sucks to spend so much time setting up shots that end up being unusable. But whoa! Listen to me kvetch. What a lucky man I am to have such an office. There’s a certain beauty on display in the deep woods after a rain, hills shrouded in fog, water droplets collecting on leaves, rivulets rushing down hillsides. The water was up a tad from the rain, but running clear and cold and the char were open for business. I did well with bushy dries and mini tungsten head buggers. (I’m still a little bitter that they were indifferent to my micro Wigglies.) The better fish came on streamers — no surprises there. I guess I’ll have to go back next week to get all those shots I missed…

I like the metallic look of the gill plate. I like the blue halos. I like the specificity of the lateral line. Ah, screw it. I LOVE this fish.

Farmington River Report 9/30/21: Nature finds a way

Yesterday was supposed to be a shooting day for a film and some personal projects, but the wind was most uncooperative, so we bailed. Already on the river and two hours to kill…what’s an angler to do? If you said, “fish,” you are correct! I decided that absent any consistent rises, and with the gusty wind, indicator nymphing would be my best bet for hooking up. I fished three marks and found players in two of them. I was asleep at the switch for one of the hits, and dropped the fish as I fumbled and bumbled the late hook set. But I did connect with evidence that even in harsh, trout-stressy warm water, nature finds a way. Believe it or not, this was my first outing on the Farmington since June.

This YOY wild brown fought like a tiger and almost refused to sit still for a portrait. Taken on a size 18 soft-hackled pheasant tail. It’s always gratifying to discover that even seemingly fragile creatures have the genetic programming to make it through the most challenging conditions. See you in a few years, OK?

Late striper quasi-report: When the best retrieve is no retrieve

I had a rare Saturday night to myself so I ventured out to points salty. I won’t bore you with the details of the first 90 minutes, although they were pretty eventful, featuring: wedding party songs I don’t like, fireworks in the distance, almost perfect conditions, that long slow pull mystery solved (squid, of course), not a touch from a bass, and finally, a parking ticket. Egad!

After all that excitement, I decided to amuse myself at a well-lit estuary. I find places like this highly addicting; my intention was to fish for 15 minutes. Over an hour later, I had to drag myself away. The action wasn’t that great — there was a decent amount of bait (silversides and juvenile menhaden), but predators (hickory shad and bass) were few and far between.

Which brings me to the point of this post. I was, of course, fishing a three-fly team — you do too, right? (If you don’t, you should read this short article on how to build a dropper rig for striped bass. You can thank me later.) Hits were few and far between, but every time I did get hit, I was doing one of three things: dead-drifting the team of three in the current, letting it dangle in the current, or performing a very slow hand-twist retrieve. I call this “trout fishing for stripers” because these are all traditional trout or salmon fly fishing tactics. Learn the art of presentation, and you’ll be able to catch the fish that everyone can’t.

Saturday night’s crew. I had touches on all three patterns.

Not a bad day at the office

I’m currently building a new small stream presentation. That requires photos and video, and there’s only one way to get those. So off I went to Ye Olde Brook Trout emporium. The stream was running medium-low, crystal clear, and there were some leaves, but not enough to keep the char from slashing and crashing a bushy dry. I was happy with the footage I shot, but — darn — I need some more. God, I really love my job.

Not a bad day at the office.