Mini striper report 9/25/20: spotty but promising

I fished with Toby Lapinski last night — make that very early this morning — at a top secret location in eastern CT. (Toby is the Managing Editor of the New England Edition of The Fisherman magazine. Look for some stuff from yours truly in that pub coming soon!) Toby was spinning and I was flying. I love that combination because of the instant feedback it provides both anglers, and last night the response was: up the spin guy, down the long rod. I didn’t get a touch. Toby, who was fishing a variety of surface plugs and soft plastics, had a few bumps, an unfortunate bluefish lure removal, and a nice 20-pounder. The action was sporadic and sparse, leading us to conclude that Toby’s encounters were with lone wolves rather than any pods of fish moving through. To be continued this fall…

I pride myself in my photography, but let’s face it: this shot sucks. In the heat of the moment, both photographer and camera screwed the pooch. As always, we strive for a quick, striper friendly release, photo op be damned, so by the time I figured out the issue we could only manage this blurry disaster. Try to imagine 30-something inches of piggy striper swimming away. Please.

Tiny bait, lots of bait = a good time for droppers

I fished three marks in SoCo last night, and while the striper action was slow, the bait story was consistent: smallish to tiny, and lots of it. Confirmed sightings: silversides, anchovies, peanut bunker, and I may have seen a stray finger mullet.

My night began in the surf, but the meatball factor (bright headlamps used early and often) and a lack of action had me moving to Spot B, an estuary with a moving tide. Lots of bait, too few marauders.

I finished the evening at Spot C, some skinny water on flat, just as the tide began to flow out. Lots of worried bait in this location, and it’s a perfect place to fish a team of three. I had 2″ long Ray’s fly on top dropper, a Magog Smelt bucktail in the middle, and a micro Gurgler on point to do double duty as a suspender and waking fly. I was disappointed with the number of assembled diners, but it is what it is and you do your best. Two fish to hand in 45 minutes and I was satisfied, abetted in no small amount by a Rocky Patel Vintage 1990 corona and a come-from-behind Mets victory.

In case you haven’t seen it, here’s a quick refresher.

Why I love topwater smallmouth

It’s been a tough year for smallmouth in terms of size and numbers, but I’m finding enough topwater action to keep me stoked. I’ll present a more detailed report on my summer adventures in the next few weeks, but for now this picture says it all. I’ve been getting a lot of action on Jack Gartside’s  Gurgler and my Countermeasures bug.

GurglerSmallie

Farmington River Report 8/12/20: Howling back at the dog days

While it’s positively tropical across the rest of the state, the Farmington continues to offer respite. True, they’ve lowered the flow (165cfs within the Permanent TMA) but the water is plenty cold. This can be a tough time of year to fish: hatches are sporadic and sometimes light at best; and in flows this low the fish are concentrated in certain areas and can be downright spooky. Nonetheless, Dave wanted a wet fly lesson, and off we went.

At this height, the river is still quite agreeable to the wet fly. You’ve got water that’s deep enough to swing, enough water to create a good current, and as a bonus the fish are always looking up. Dave did a great job, and his enthusiasm was palpable. We fished three marks, and found players in one of them, a nice mix of brook trout and a jewel of a wild brown. All of our fish came in faster water/riffles. Dave is awarded the Currentseams Order of the Straight Line: he is my only student this year to make it through a wet fly session without a tangled leader! Well done, good sir, under some challenging conditions (we did not see another fish caught all day).

Guides love bent rods (although I must’ve got him between strips). Fish on, baby!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

~

This was a stocked brookie, but he’s been in the river long enough to regain some lost lustre and begin to grow some proper Fontinalis fins.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

Farmington River Report 8/5/20: the last second winning drive

I guided Abe yesterday from 2:45-6:45pm. Abe, who said he’d never done particularly well on the Farmington, wanted to focus on wet flies. For the longest time it looked like we’d picked the wrong day. The river was in fine shape, no worse for the wear after the storm. They lowered the flow out of the gate to 160cfs, but the Still was adding another 100 or so to make an ideal summer level, and the water was plenty cold. Getting there was an issue for me: closed roads in Bristol and Farmington turned a 50 minute drive into 90.

We hit four marks and found spotty action at best. Hatch activity was virtually nil, a 1 out of 10. I don’t need to tell you that that meant a paucity of active visible feeders. Nonetheless, we stuck a few fish in the first mark and had an LDR. The second mark was a bust, with only a couple courtesy taps. The third was even worse, without a single fine how-do-you-do? But the fourth…ah, the fourth. We broke out the wading staff and ventured into a snotty, pocketed, riffly run that always holds fish this time of year. I switched out the Hackled March Brown on point for a SHBHPT to give us a little more weight. Time was running out on our session. Whack! Mid-teens rainbow. Bang! Gorgeous wild brown. Bap! JV Atlantic salmon. Three fish in 15 minutes made for a very satisfying end to our session. Kudos to Abe for fishing hard, fishing well, and never giving up!

You’d be smiling, too, if you’d just landed a quality trout on a wet fly on such a slow day. Our quarry was camera shy. Thankfully, Abe isn’t. While angler traffic was light, we didn’t see anyone else hook up all day.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

Farmington River Report 7/29/20: “We can catch that fish.”

I guided Andrew yesterday and our focus was wet fly fishing, reading water, and finding productive water. We fished two marks into late afternoon/early evening, one within the Permanent TMA and the other above it. Conditions were as about as good as you could want for this time of year, with a healthy 270cfs flow and the water plenty cold. The first mark was frustrating as we found feeding fish, but not a high percentage of players. Like many beginning wet fly fishers, Andrew needed to learn to let the fish set the hook. In fairness, most of these trout were smaller, their feeding sporadic, and as I told Andrew, the bigger fish don’t miss when they commit to the wet fly.

The second mark was a snotty run loaded with boulders, pockets, and all kinds of rocks that wanted to trip you up if you’re not careful. But Andrew was game and we went exploring. Things began slowly, but then we started to see sulphurs, olives, and Isonychia, along with one giant yellow mayfly (Potomantis?) and a corresponding spike in feeding. We found a big rainbow carelessly slashing at emergers at the end of a pocket run, and I said to Andrew, “We can catch that fish.” And then, “Remember, don’t set the hook.” Second cast, bang! Off to the races.

You can see that smile all the way through the mask. Andrew and his prize, a mid-teens chunker rainbow. Not an easy fish to land in a ripping current, but the trout hooked itself neatly on a Hackled March Brown. (Note arms bent at a 90-degree angle. There’ll be no fish thrusting on this site!)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

~

The battle won, the fish kept wet in the net until a quick photo is taken, then the release. Always a  highly gratifying moment.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We finished up in another long pocket run that was populated with trout feeding on sulphur emergers. They proved to be tougher customers, but we landed a few on the Partridge and Light Cahill and called it a day. Great job, Andrew! I took a break and then got in a little wet then dry fly session. Hatch and feeding was about a 5/10. But you get what you get and you don’t get upset, especially when you have and entire pool to yourself at dusk.

Farmington River Church Pool Poachers (call the TIP line: 800-842-4357

This hook came out of the mouth of a trout recently caught by one of my clients. The reg is clear: single barbless hooks only within the TMA. (Of course, you’re fishing barbless everywhere, right?) Later that day I witnessed an angler (fishing with bait or eggs) who was landing and releasing trout by grabbing the hook with pliers and roughly shaking the fish loose, no doubt made more difficult by his barbed hooks.

What to do: don’t confront people. Call the TIP (Turn In Poachers) line and let EnCon handle it. Program this number into your cell phone: 800-842-4357. Your call works two ways: an officer shows up — and if one doesn’t, the calls have a cumulative effect. We’re all in this together. Thank you!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

Farmington River Report 7/19/20: So many bugs!

From the moment I arrived at the river — about 6:00pm — till the moment I left — about 9:20pm — the water and air above was crackling with mayflies and midges. After enduring several recent outings marked by poor hatches, this was Mother Nature’s make-good outing. As a bonus, this was a working session, as I’d planned to shoot video for a new wet fly presentation I’m building. Conditions could not have been better. First it was sulphurs, size 16-18, then an influx of olives, size 18. Micro midges were everywhere. The fish were still feeding when I left the water.

This is a video still, so the quality is not great, but splashy rises like this were everywhere for the first 90 minutes. I enjoyed some spectacular wet fly action, swinging a team of three (Squirrel and Ginger, Partridge and Light Cahill, and Light Cahill winged wet). I took numerous fish on all three patterns, presenting upstream, downstream, and across. There came a time when the fish no longer took the subsurface fly, about 8pm. That’s when I switched to dries.

Screen Shot 2020-07-19 at 11.15.14 PM

~

Another video still. I can’t say that I can get too excited about domestic rainbow trout, but the Farmington rainbows this year are in a new class of fun. They’re fat, they’re feisty, they’ll bulldog you the entire fight, and many of them are taking on holdover characteristics like intact scales, deep coloration/pink bands, and well-formed fins. Corpulent mid-teens inches rainbows like this one are in faster water everywhere. Most of the browns I took came after 8:30pm.

Screen Shot 2020-07-20 at 12.12.44 PM

Farmington River Report 7/14/20: A learning experience (for me, too)

I guided Michael yesterday from 2pm-6pm. Michael is new to fly fishing, so we had a lot to work on. We stayed within the Permanent TMA, where conditions were excellent:  280cfs flow and water plenty cold. Hatch and feeding activity was again low, although we did experience a 15-minute window where there was something going on underwater and the feed was on. We spent the first half of the lesson on indicator drop-shot nymphing. Once Michael got used to the nuances of the rig, he stuck four fish. Great job, Michael, on a day when the bite was slow. (A seasoned angler remarked to us as we were gearing down that the fishing “stunk today.”) We finished up swinging wets and managed a juvenile Atlantic Salmon. So, while I was disappointed in the activity, I was excited to watch Michael’s skills develop in a matter of hours.

Hey, this indicator nymphing thing really works! Our first fish was a rainbow that treated us to a couple of aerials. 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

~

After our session I headed upriver where the water was even colder. The evening rise was OK — 5/10 for feeding and hatch activity. What was a learning experience for me was my success presenting a team of three wet flies upstream to feeding fish. I caught four of the six trout I took on wets this way. All the takers were in faster water with a broken, curling surface, all were active feeders, and all took my Light Cahill winged wet or Partridge and Light Cahill flies. Most success I’ve ever had fishing that way. At 8pm I switched over to dries and caught trout well into dark.

This chunky rainbow was slashing at emergers about 30 feet above me. First cast, upstream presentation, dead drift, bang! Light Cahill winged wet. As you can see, this guy’s been caught before. What a handsome fish! Love the spots and coloration.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Farmington River Report 7/13/20: What hatch?

I guided Don yesterday for four hours mid-though-late afternoon. His goal was to work on wet fly fishing, and we had some great stretches of water to ourselves in and out of the Permanent TMA. Water was 225cfs, an excellent wet fly height, with a hint of stain, no doubt from storms upstream. Spot A produced two fish, a swing and a miss, and some finks that wouldn’t take. Spot B was a disappointing blank. Spot C held some players, and we had fun fooling them with the Hackled March Brown. While it was a very fishy feeling day, the hatches were terrible. I’m being generous by giving them a 1 on the 1-10 scale. Still, Don done good under some truly tough conditions. He’s going to be a dangerous wet fly machine.

Skunk’s off with this lovely rainbow. Check out that pink band! This fish was in great condition.

DonRainbow

Gotcha. I love these smaller wild Farmy browns. See you in a couple years, OK?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA