Happy Thanksgiving from currentseams

I hope everyone had as nice a Thanksgiving Day as I did.

Among my many blessings are all of you who read and follow currentseams. Thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment on the site. Thanks to those of you who travel to see me speak. And thanks to those of you who have taken a class with me or let me be your guide. I truly appreciate it.

And of course, thanks for being fortunate enough to catch and release amazing fish like this.

Big Steel 11:14

Salmon River Steelhead 11/24/14: Fishing With Joe Friday

Where: We floated from Altmar to 2A

Duration of trip: About eight hours and thirty minutes

Number of spots we fished: Two

Water level and color when we started: 475cfs and clear

Water level below Orwell and Trout Brooks: 800cfs and rising, color somewhere between tea and chocolate milk with a splash of leaves

Weather: Cloudy and cool to sunny and in the 60s(!). Two brief showers. Windy.

Number of steelhead we hooked: 12, plus one foul we broke off (got the fly back)

Number of steelhead we landed: 9

Number of times I handed the fly rod off to Cam after hook set: 3

Number of steelhead Cam landed: 3, including one hyperactive jumper

Cam’s first steelhead landed on a fly rod. He’s a natural.

Steel Cam 11-24-214

Number of steelhead Cam has played on a fly rod before this year: Zero

Cam’s batting average in his three-year steelhead career: 1.000 (Five for five. Proud papa.)

Kind of flies I caught them on upriver in the clear water: small stones and soft-hackled nymphs, size 10 and 12

Pattern I caught them on in the dirty swill water: size 8 Bead Head Lifter, Pink/Chartreuse and Blue/Chartreuse

Downriver, I figured I’d need a hi-vis pattern to get the fish’s attention. I hemmed and hawed, considered an Egg-Sucking Leech or other streamer, then tried an Estaz Egg/San Juan Worm pattern. No. Tied on the Bead Head Lifter, got the answer I was looking for, and kept it on for the rest of the afternoon.

BH LIfter

Number of steelhead I thought we’d catch in the dirty swill water: Zero

Number of steelhead we caught: 6

Ugh. Miles of dirty water. Scores of beleaguered anglers lining the shores. At least they could have gotten into their trucks and driven upriver. But we were bound by the confines of the boat, gravity, and what nature had thrown at us. As the saying goes, you don’t know if you don’t go. Six steelhead landed is a damn good afternoon, any day. In swollen mucky runoff, it’s lottery lucky. Wow. We’ll take it.

Steel Cam and Me

Guide rating: Highest marks. Jim Kirtland has what you’d call deep domain knowledge of the Salmon. His netting skills are exceptional. Very recommended.

Number of steelhead we landed on our two previous floats with Jim: 3 (I guess we were due.)

Number of steelhead I landed in 2012: 1 (sometimes the bear eats you).

Number of steelhead I’ve landed in the last 13 months: 41 (sometimes you eat the bear).

On a scale of 1-10, energy I felt from being out on the river on a spring-like November day with my son catching steelhead: C’mon.

Dispatches from the word front

Hello, fellow fly fishing reader. Get your eyeballs ready for a couple articles from yours truly.

Soft-Hackles for Winter Steelhead will be in the next (Jan/Feb) issue of American Angler, which should be out in early December. It takes a look at some of my favorite patterns for Great Lakes winter steelhead, and of course includes a few fishing stories into the bargain.

Winter on the Farmington will be out early next year in the Mid Atlantic Fly Fishing Guide. One guess as to the subject matter. Gadzooks, I have yet to write this. And my deadline approaches rapidly from the east.

On the noncommercial front, I still owe you my Block Island Diary 2014 and a report from my recent steelhead trip. I ask for your patience while I restock my pens.

As always, thanks for your readership. And thanks to those of you who follow currentseams.

Winter. Steelhead. Smile.

IMG_1353

Striper mini-report: Our Blessed Lady of the 3/0 Shot

A quick zip in, zip out striper mission yesterday to see if anyone was around. They were, for a brief window. I missed the first 45 minutes (according to the other angler I spoke to — I didn’t get your name, but thanks for sharing the water). But for a half hour, it was nearly a Bass-O-Matic.

Hellooooooo down there.

Little guy big mouth

 

While the fishing wasn’t very technical, there was a key to success: getting the fly to the bottom where the bass were hanging out. I was fishing a floating line with a four-foot section of T-11 sink tip and a weightless soft-hackle about three-to-four inches long. Not deep enough. Once I added a 3/0 shot to the leader and threw some mends, it was bottom — and striper — city.

And then, like that, they were gone. I tried a few other rips (not easy to find with a 10-20mph SW wind disturbing the surface) but decided that when the local who fishes this spot all the time left, he knew something I didn’t. And off I went.

The tide comes in. The tide goes out. Leaving lovely sculptures in its wake.

Outgoing

Currentseams Q&A: streamer fishing for trout

Today we have two questions about streamer fishing.

Q: I am not strong on streamer fishing. Do you have any quick hints on how to improve?

A: It’s hard to offer suggestions when I can’t see where you’re “not strong.” Here are some observations that may help.

 When you’re streamer fishing, you’re targeting aggressive fish. If you’re not catching, and you know there’s a candidate nearby, change flies, change presentations – say, from fast strips to slow strips, or to a swing and dangle – and if that fails, move on. Cover water. Cover water. Cover water. The spot on the Hous where I caught a bazillion trout on streamers last month is a submerged rock field that stretches about seventy-five yards. I got nothing in the upstream fifty yards. The lower twenty-five was loaded with trout. Sometimes it’s as simple as that.

Fish will move as the seasons change. As winter approaches, trout often transition from faster water to slower, deeper pools. Having said that, I have caught Farmington River trout in January in brisk currents as well as languid black water.

 Bigger streamers often mean bigger fish, and fewer smaller fish.

Don’t get caught up in streamer hype and jaunty names. Many of the streamers I fish are semi-haphazard creations I make up as I’m tying them. Articulated streamers are all the rage right now. They work. So do unarticulated streamers. A lot of people get amped up about streamers that “push water.” Those streamers work. So do ones with slim, non-water-pushing profiles. Find your own truths.

This streamer doesn’t have a name like “The Dominatrix” or “The Skull Crusher.” It’s just a cone-head soft-hackled streamer in Mickey Finn colors. Trout don’t read magazines or hang out in fly shops, but they still manage to find plenty of things in the water that look good to eat regardless of nomenclature.

10:14 Housy Raindow

When the bite is on, I have yet to find a color (or colors) that the trout won’t hit.

 Know where your fly is. Does it need to be deep? Or near the surface? This is a good segue into question two:

~

Q: I wondered if you had some streamer fishing tips i.e.: weight /sinking line?

 A: Let’s start with some more questions. What do you want your streamer to do? Do you want it to sink to the bottom of the river and stay there? How fast is the current? How deep is the water? Are you performing a strip retrieve? Answers to questions like these will help determine your setup and presentation.

I have a traditional saltwater/striped bass streamer background. I draw upon those roots when I fish streamers for trout. Many anglers mistakenly think a sinking line is the big answer to presenting deep. Not so fast. We need to take into account the effects of current.

 Even with a full sink line and a weighted fly, the fly will plane up near the surface at the end of a drift on a strong moon tide current. I can see the splash of the striper’s take before I feel the tug. So while part of the drift is deep, not all of it is.

 I have a Jim Teeny integrated sinking line – I lost the box, so I don’t know its name or model number – that I use on the Farmington, mostly in the winter, sometimes in the summer when the river is high. It has, say, thirty feet of full sink (7.0ips sink rate?) at the head, then a floating running line. That is significant, because you can mend a floating line. And mends help to sink your fly, and keep it deeper longer.

 My fondness for traditional streamer presentations – mending to sink the fly, mending to perform a greased line swing – is why I use a floating line for the majority of my streamer fishing. Even at 1,000cfs, I was scraping the bottom of the Hous after a few strategic mends with my floater. (I was streamer fishing for stripers today with a floating line in a fast-moving estuary. Moon tide. The fish were hugging the bottom. So was my fly. A beautiful thing, mending.)

 I usually incorporate weight into my trout streamers, whether with brass or tungsten cone heads, heavy wire along the shank, or dumbbell or bead chain eyes. How much weight depends on when and where I’ll be fishing. Faster winter water means a heavier fly. Summer, maybe it’s just a brass cone.

 If you’re using a sink tip or a full sink line, make your leader short. Two to three feet is plenty. Otherwise you’ll negate the effects of the sinking line. Conversely, use a longer leader with your floating line to sink the fly. I think my leader this fall was between six and seven feet.

 Hope that helps.

Thanks to the FRAA for hosting me

You’re never sure how a new fly fishing presentation will play out, but the feedback is in and the final tally is, “The Little Things” does not suck.

Many thanks to the FRAA for hosting me. There were a lot of familiar faces, and it’s always nice to not be the youngest person in the room. And thanks for so many post-presentaion questions. Speakers like lots of questions. Except maybe if you’re President Nixon during a Watergate-era press conference.

“The Little Things” matter in fly fishing. I caught this brown this summer in the shallows just a few feet off the bank as darkness fell.

Dry Brown 7:14

Presenting “The Little Things” at the FRAA Meeting, Wednesday, November 19

IF YOU WANT TO CATCH MORE FISH, PAY ATTENTION TO the little things. That’s the title of my newest presentation, and I’ll be delivering it this upcoming Wednesday, November 19 at the FRAA monthly meeting.

They say that 10% of the anglers catch 90% of the fish. If that’s true, it’s not because those 10% are supernaturally gifted angling demigods. It’s not because they are lucky. It’s because they do a lot of little things that other anglers don’t. As a guide, I have the opportunity to observe how people fish. I see their mistakes as well as their triumphs. When I’m fishing, I am constantly making adjustments and trying new approaches. That’s what The Little Things is all about – seemingly minor factors that can make a big difference in your fishing.

Little Things

The meeting starts at 7pm, and it’s held at the Farmington Senior Center, 321 New Britain Avenue, Unionville, CT. For more information, visit fraa.org. Hope to see you there.