Striper Report 4/8/20 and a great piece on fishing and social distancing

First, to the ohfer. That’s right, folks, I blanked yesterday at the Mouth of the Hous. On the one hand, I feel like the kicker who misses a chip shot FG in OT. On the other, it’s not like the river was en fuego (fifteen anglers spaced out on both banks where I fished, and I saw two bass landed in nearly three hours of fishing). Not exactly the stuff from which legendary days are created.

The tide was massive and the currents and rips were in full moon form, but for now I’ll hang my hat here: you cannot catch what isn’t there — or doesn’t see your fly. And I made sure they could see my fly.

While the Mouth of the Hous in April is not a place you’d normally go to practice a CDC-Approved space between you and the next person, the number of anglers was eye-opening. This was 70 degrees and sunny Saturday afternoon traffic. Solitude seekers, you will not find your bliss here. Except maybe today or Friday when the winds are supposed to be in the 20s with gusts to 40mph. (Thanks, I’ll pass.)

I can see it. You can see it. But if there are no bass to see it…

Rod-Fly-Grey

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Second, here’s a terrific read from Joe Cermele: Don’t Blow This for the Rest of Us: How We Keep Hunting and Fishing During the Pandemic.  Joe was my editor at Field & Stream, and this article is worthy of your time.

Please stay safe and healthy, and thanks for reading.

Farmington River Report 4/6/20: And then, the bottom fought back…

Yesterday’s expedition was dedicated to nymphing the lower River. The action was spotty to say the least: six marks visited, three of them total blanks. But…we’ll get to that in a moment.

First, be advised that Monday is the new Saturday on the Farmington. I’ve never seen the river this crowded on a Monday this early in the season. There were anglers in four of the six pools I hit, sometimes three or more. If you value solitude, gird your loins.

The method was drop shot nymphing, about 25% tight line and 75% indicator. I fished a size 18 soft-hackled pheasant tail on top dropper, and a Frenchie variant on point. I took trout on both flies.

It’s semi-sweet to say that you may have already landed your biggest trout of the season, but it is what is. I was nymphing a deeper run when the indicator dipped and I set the hook. The emotional and logical thought protocols immediately kicked into gear: “Is that the bottom? No, it is not, I can feel a head shake. Let me re-set the hook. OK, that’s a decent fish. Wow, that’s a strong fish. Shoot, he’s sulking on the bottom. Gotta keep him away from that submerged boulder. Gotta move him. I’ll do that steelhead side-to-side rod arc thing. Gotta get him out of the current so he can’t breathe. That frog water looks like a good LZ.”

And then, as you get your first visual, you wish for a bigger net. But you’ve whipped the fish fast (remembering the sage advice of Stu Apte: “To play him long is to play him wrong.”) and now the moment of glory is at hand. Swing and a miss. Again…yessir. Wow!

Hunk-a hunk-a burning Survivor Strain love. Wotta tummy! Wotta tail! And shoulders that simply aren’t done justice by this photo. Easily over 20″, but this is a fish that should be measured in pounds. 

DCIM100GOPROG0013613.

A trout like that called for a celebration. So I fired up a Rocky Patel The Edge torpedo and did just that.

 

 

Striper Report 3/30/20: doubleheader skunking

Not satisfied with yesterday’s Farmington River streamer spanking, I ventured out last night with old friend Bob for some more piscatorial abuse. We fished the Hous from 9pm to nearly midnight. Our reward was…bupkiss. Well, not exactly. Bob managed one tap on his plug (spinning for Bob, fly for me). On the plus side, I reacquainted myself with my two-handed cannon — the rust factor was minimal, and it felt good to bomb out 90 foot casts with little effort. Oh! I also managed to wade through the deepest hole I’ve ever ventured into without breaching my waders. So I suppose dry and skunked beats soaked and skunked. We’ll go with that.

Not from last night. But I did fish a Rock Island flatwing (eaten below), a high confidence herring pattern I developed many years ago. You can read about the Rock Island flatwing here.

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Farmington River Report 3/30/20: Bump. But no WHUMP!

I thought this would be a great day for streamers with the river up (615cfs in the permanent TMA) and the substantial cloud cover. ‘Twas not. I fished four marks from noon-2:30pm, and could manage only two bumps in one of them. At least the river was not the mob scene I expected — I had three runs all to myself. So, the whump will have to wait for another day. Hatch monitors, take note: lots and lots and lots of tiny (size 22-26) BWOs on the water. Thanks to everyone who took the time to say hello!

This was supposed to be a picture of a gator brown, but my quarry was most uncooperative. I’m still really surprised I didn’t get more action, at least from smaller trout. Today’s streamers were Coffey’s Sparkle Minnow (pictured below) and the Hi-Liter. This Sparkle Minnow is the size of a good shiner, one of my favorite baits from my spinning days.

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Small Stream Report: The natives aren’t restless

Thursday was small stream fishing day. March isn’t exactly the wheelhouse for a small stream — there’s no canopy, the water is typically up and cold, and the wild brookies haven’t moved out of their winter lies — but Cam and I went for no other reason than to enjoy the woods and pretend we were many miles from civilization.

As I suspected, the action was painfully slow. We rose and landed one char all day. Yet, what better way to feel alive than to be out on a thin blue line and be so warm you’ve got to start removing layers?

Given the conditions, we decided stealth was in order. Here’s Cam doing a little commando fishing. We started off with bushy size 14 dries; after those went unmolested, I added a tiny nymph dropper to my rig. Still no love, so tied on an ICU Sculpin for Cam to jig in some deeper plunges. That’s what he’s doing here. 

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We saw a decent number of bugs: omnipresent midges, and a few small (size 18) tan caddis. But the brookies remained hunkered down. Finally, as we were bushwhacking out, I invoked the “One More Cast” Rule. The slashing strike came out of nowhere. After a few more rises on a waking presentation, I decided a size 14 Stimulator was too big. On went a size 16 Humpy, and the next cast produced this fine buck.

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Thanks to the Gov for opening the season early!

NY steelhead report March 16 & 17: Why I don’t go to casinos

It has nothing to do with the current public health crisis. It has nothing to do with planning (I go when I’m able to). It’s simply this: the days I go will be the wrong days. Period. Bad luck? We’re talking gargantuan, steaming piles of elephant dung luck. At least that’s the way it’s been the last few trips.

For ten minutes in early November, I was warm. (Yes, it was as cold as it looks.)

Seventeendegrees

To wit: last November. Good conditions. People are catching. I arrive the moment a major cold front comes through and witness the bite stop in its tracks. The next day, blank. And miserably cold. The next day, one steelhead. Even colder. Big picture: the cold front turns into a long-lasting pattern. It not only kills the bite but the entire migration. So when I go later in the month, I feel like king of the world when I manage one steelhead over two days.

Which brings us to my trip last week with Gordo.

What a shock! We started the trip as a high pressure cold front settled in. Ice in the guides until 1pm. We floated from Altmar to Pineville and saw five fish landed all day. (We had three of them.) I suppose that’s reason to smile. My steelhead came on an old Salmon River favorite, the Copperhead Stone.

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Day two: crik stompin’. The fish were there. They just didn’t want to eat. Not even egg sacks. Gordo and Jim each hooked and quickly dropped a few — that’s how subtle and non-committal the takes were. I managed one lonely domestic rainbow. Did I mention that it was cold and wet and miserable? (Sigh…) Big moment: this was Gordo’s first time in waders walking a stream. He did a tremendous job.

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Today we are thankful for right-of-ways.

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We finished up at a very mysterious deep hole with only room for one. So Gordo bounced his implements of destruction along the bottom of the maelstrom. Even though he’s using a spinning rod, the technique is very tight-line nymphing. Again, there were a few takes, but sadly no firm commitments.

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So, two cold days of terrible action. Or maybe this: I got to go steelheading with my son. I wasn’t working. I had my first cigars since Christmas. I landed a steelhead. We were outside and free and fishing.

Pretty lucky, Steve.

 

 

 

Farmington River Report 1/10/19: Hook sets and the mystery salmo

I guided Rich yesterday from 10am-2pm. We fished three marks within the permanent TMA, with one of them producing four trout. As so often happens with winter fishing, find one trout and you’ll find another. Many thanks to Jerry for so graciously sharing the water! Since Rich is new to the river, we also spent some recon time at several other pools. The method was indicator nymphing with a drop-shot nymph rig. I didn’t get a water temp, but it was cold — I’ll guesstimate 36 degrees, 420cfs, and the air temp never got into the upper 40s as advertised. Four trout on a January outing is darn good, so well done, Rich!

Rich’s first ever Farmington brown, a lovely Survivor Strain (note clipped adipose). I wasn’t happy with Rich’s hook set motion, so after he struck I asked for his rod to re-demonstrate, not knowing that he had indeed hooked up. Too funny, my bad, good on you, Rich! We spent the rest of the day laughing about that one.

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Rich was on fire after the first trout. I had intended to bring the black latex gloves, but forgot. Folks, this water is unpleasantly cold. We caught fish on the soft-hackled pheasant tail (sz 18) dropper and Frenchy variant (size 14) point fly.

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The mystery Salmo. I had thought due to coloration, spotting, and tail fork that this was a beast of a juvenile salar, but the maxillary extends well past the eye, so that would point to trutta. A fisheries biologist once told me that there may be some cross-pollinating between browns and precocious young Atlantics — could this be the result of such a union? Either way, a lovely fish.

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Posterior of the mystery Salmo. 

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