Farmington River 7/18/16: Hot and not

Today was the kind of day where we had to work hard for every trout. I guided Josh and his dad, and they both did a great job persevering under some truly difficult conditions. We started off with an indicator nymphing session, and though we gave it an A+ effort, the results simply weren’t there. Not so with wets, which is where we saw all our action. Wouldn’t you know it? Right when things started to pick up, the weather rolled in, so we had to call the outing. We’ll get ’em next time, guys!

Got him! Josh’s first fish, a Survivor Strain brown taken on a Squirrel and Ginger.

DCIM100GOPROG0013104.

 

Farmington River Mini-Report 7/13/16: 1-for-90

I had 90 minutes to fish mid-day today. Sunny, hot, and a gusty south wind, so I figured the terrestrials-blown-into-the-water energy might work in my favor. Fished a three fly team of (from top to point) a drowned hopper, Drowned Ant, and SHBHPT. The venue was a long, snotty run that would be a very manageable wade at 240cfs (59 degrees at 3pm if you’re keeping score at home).

Didn’t I feel like a genius when a fat rainbow jumped on on the second cast. But, it was on the PT. And it was the only fish to net today. So that proves how little I know.

On the other hand, while much of the east coast was working, I was standing in a gorgeous river, fishing.

Maybe I’m not so dumb after all.

The Myth of the Tapered Leader (and other striped bass nonsense)

The subject of saltwater fly fishing leaders comes up all the time on internet forums. The accompanying question is usually “which leader is best?” (Answer: There ain’t no best. Only what’s right for you.) Then, human nature being what it is, people come forward with many suggestions. They describe the leader they use, sometimes in great formulaic detail.

A client from my advertising agency days used to say that the internet is a great resource, but all it does is throw information at you. It doesn’t separate the good from the bad. I know what he means, because during these leader discussions someone invariably states that you need a tapered leader to turn your fly over.

Horse hockey.

For years now I’ve been using striped bass leaders constructed of a straight shot of 20, 25, or 30 pound test mono. (The stuff is called World Wide Sportsman Camouflage, and it’s sensational.) This is also the material I use to build my three-fly striper rig. Somehow, my flies manage to turn over. Somehow, I manage to catch fish. If, as so many internet quarterbacks maintain, a single diameter construction consistently led to the leader landing in a pile, my three fly team would be in a perpetual state of tangle.

This is not to say that tapered leaders don’t help a fly turn over. But if you’ve ever executed a pile cast with a tapered leader, you know that it’s the mechanics of the cast, not the leader, that determine if the fly turns over.

I find stripers to be a fascinating fish. But I have yet to meet one that cared if my fly turned over. Maybe you know one who does.

If so, please send him my way.

My three-fly striper rig, in case you missed it. 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

~

The last thing I’m thinking about on a striper outing is whether or not my flies are turning over. Stripers don’t care, either.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

Block Island report: Three steps forward, one giant leap back

Block Island used to be the the place I’d go to restore my faith in the ocean. The late spring striper fishing in Connecticut would inevitably fade, and mainland Rhode Island would become a crap shoot. But Block Island would be as reliable as sunrise in the east.

Over the course of a week, I could expect between 60 and 100 bass, with a healthy percentage of legal fish in the mix. Many were the years when my largest striper would be a summer resident of the Block. And while there might be a night of skunking, the Island would always quickly repay me with an off-the-charts outing. (I still fondly recall the night in the mid-two thousand oughts when my friend John and I encountered a school of 15-25 pound bass within casting range. John took a striper on 11 consecutive casts — work that out in your head — and I managed the largest fish of the night with a junior cow that went nearly 40 inches. I don’t think the drags on our reels were ever the same after that.)

Then came 2011. I landed eight stripers over the course of a week. Incredibly, 2012 was worse: four bass over seven nights. 2013 was much better, albeit spotty, 2014 better still and more consistent, and then last year I surpassed the 75 fish mark without a single skunk.

Sadly, the resurgence was short-lived. A paltry ten bass this year, four in one night. (This  indicates a dearth of schools of feeding bass. Instead, you get lone wolves, which means you need to be in the right place at the right time. Certainly some of that is calculable, but much of it is left to the whims of chance.) I had to work my butt off for those stripers, too — a typical night had me bouncing around the island hitting multiple spots. On of my two single-fish nights, my striper came on the last cast. I saw less than a dozen sand eels all week. The family goes to the beach nearly every day, yet I could only find one bass cruising the shore break. Even more telling was the hardcore-wetsuit-plugger who relayed his tale of woe. Fishing on his favorite boulders from the southeast to southwest sides, he managed a single bass over four nights.

My local spies tell me that the beach bite never materialized this year (the second half of June/first half of July is typically prime time), and the boat bite has likewise been poor. The big question is: why? For one, no bait, indicated by a paucity of shore birds scavenging the beach on the receding tides. Some locals are pointing to the wholesale wanton slaughter of larger bass at the Ledge over the last half-decade as a contributing factor. Meanwhile, Cape Cod has been en fuego this year. Could it be that for some reason, large numbers of bass ignored the right turn to the Block and continued on to the cozy confines of Chatham?

One thing is certain. A new normal for fly fishing Block Island from the shore has been established. And it is:  you pays your money and you takes your chances.

Good times on the first night. This fish was part of the only school (if you can call a half dozen bass a school) of actively feeding fish I found all week. What he lacked in size — this is a 24-incher — he made up for in ferocity. My presentation was short strips across a slow current, and he hammered the fly with such power that I put him on the reel. The Big Eelie in various color schemes accounted for all my bass. One constant on Block Island remains: the remarkable clarity of the water. 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

~

Iron meets water and air. Oxidation ensues. Taken on the northwest side.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

~

Darkness falls across the land. (And sea.) I took this shot while perched on a rock as the waves rolled in at my feet. I was sure I was going to score a 15-pounder here — there was a nice rip line moving across the current — but I blanked. A bit of a tricky wade as this flat is a weed-covered boulder field, so I was thankful to make it back to shore on the incoming tide.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

~

I saw you, feeding noisily near that boulder pile. The best striper of the trip, and my only keepah. I had to reposition myself to properly present to this fish. On the second cast, bang! What? I couldn’t believe I missed him. So I ripped my line in to make another cast. In the moment it took to raise the rod tip, slack formed in the line. When I lifted the line off the water, the fish was on. To reiterate: I’d rather be lucky than good.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Things to do in your Jeep during an electrical storm

I had a brilliant plan for last night’s striper expedition. Really. It would have been perfect. Unfortunately, Mother Nature decided to fire up some major thunder and lightning action just as I pulled into the spot. Not wanting to be a statistic, I cooled my heels in the truck with a Liga Privada No. 9 Double Corona (a cigar of immense depth and power) while the storm raged overhead. I turned on the Mets game, and since they were murdering the Cubs, it made the 90 minutes of prime lost tide slightly more bearable. I decided to amuse myself by trying some artsy no-flash-in-the-dark selfies. Here’s a trippy Jimi Hendrix acid light show rendering of your humble scribe:

ElectricSmoke

As soon as the storm passed, I raced to the beach where I managed two stripers in the last gasp of the outgoing tide.

A reminder that no fish is worth chasing in an electrical storm. Please get off the water and take cover when you hear thunder.