I Can’t Get No (but Gordon can)

Booking a steelhead trip months in advance is a sure way to not only reserve a spot, but also play the weather and bite lottery. It’s a game I’ve done very well at when it comes to steelheading and losing.

Like Sunday, when Gordo and I fished some Lake Ontario tribs. 34 degrees, wind, rain, freezing rain, high & cold water, bite all but shut down. (I try. And I try. And I try. And I try. The fact is, dammit, I’ve blanked on three of my last four days up there. And oh, the crappy conditions I’ve endured. Insert long sigh here.) Of course, you can’t control the elements, so you might as well make the best of it.

We started off with some crik stomping at Trib A. Dad blanked, Gordo landed a dark horse buck before the bite shut down. Trib B was the Salmon River. After a couple hours we decided it wasn’t going to happen, and the lack of boats, anglers, or witnessing any hookups made us feel good with the decision as we paddled down to Pineville. Off to Trib C. First hour: blank, blank, blank. Last two hours: a fresh run of fish from the lake. Unfornately it wasn’t dad’s day, and I couldn’t even manage a touch. Gordo dropped two and landed two, so I got to play the role of proud papa, which, as any of you dads can testify, takes the mightiest stink out of any skunk.

Given the choice between 10 degrees and sunny or 34 degrees and raining/icing, I’ll take Option A any day. Sadly, we didn’t have a choice. I think I’m finally starting to warm up.

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Kids. You take them fishing and they have the nerve to outfish you. Decisively. That’s OK. I’ve got a lot of yard work planned for this young man this week. Talk about a trouper — miserable conditions, spotty bite, and Gordo never complained once. Having finally lost a steelhead and for becoming a member of the Frozen Chosen, he’s now officially a steelheader.

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Small Stream Report: Dog Day Afternoon

I noticed as I was driving through my neighborhood that every dog owner seemed to be out with rover for walkies. Same deal in the other residential areas I passed through. Who could blame them? With the sun cheerfully sharing its warmth, it felt more like early April than late February. But would the fishing be for the dogs?

My original intention was to throw streamers on the Farmington. Time and space got in the way, so a quick shot to a local brook was the new plan. The water was high, clear, and very cold — I’d guess upper 30s. Any snow and shelf ice had long since made its way to the Connecticut River or maybe even Long Island Sound. The trout were still holding in their winter lies. I fished a bushy dry/dropper and a couple micro streamers. Pricked five, landed three, and all of them came on the subsurface fare. (This tells me that while we may be dreaming of spring, the char are still in winter mode.)

A fine example of local folk art. This handsome native took an ICU Sculpin that was swung and then jigged through a deep plunge pool.

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There are two ways to look at this mess. Both are emotional: Thanks, Mother Nature, for totally cocking up this neat little section of water. Or, what a great place for brookies to hang out! I feel that come spring, the intrepid angler who can figure out how to drift a bushy dry into this wooded Gordian Knot will be richly rewarded.

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February Stripers

Cold fronts and wind and snow and sleet be damned, I went striper fishing. This was virgin winter water for me; I looked at this place last year and wondered if any bass would care to stay though the cold months. I have my answer.

Only 20″, but a bass is a bass. Dagnabbit, now that I’ve done January and February, I guess I gotta go for 12 consecutive months with a striper on the fly.

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Small streams on the brain

Last week I visited three local small streams, partially because I could; partially because the weather didn’t suck; partially because I was curious to see if anyone wanted to play; but mostly because I just plain love small streams.

I began Wednesday afternoon at Stream A. The air temp was just about freezing, and there was still a solid white shelf of ice framing this woodland brook. Didn’t see any bugs, and the action was slow. No love on a bushy dry/nymph dropper, so I switched over to an ICU Sculpin. I was jigging the fly in a plunge pool when I felt some weight. The next thing I saw was an open mouth rising from the depths. And then the char was gone. That was enough to keep me smiling, though.

Remnants from the last ice age. This stuff should pretty much be gone by the middle of this week. However, I’d still expect the water temperatures to be very cold.

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Streams B and C are in more urbanized locations. They’re not for everyone, especially if you desire the unspoiled by humans angling backdrop. So while they lack the classic beauty of the high-gradient mountain brook or lilting meadow stream, they are, nonetheless, charming in a “cool, I hooked a section of heater hose” kind of way. I went Friday, and I thought that with the heavy cloud cover and late afternoon timing, I might get an offer to buy with my white mini bugger sales pitch. Nothing doing. Although I did have a rather tasty cigar.

So much depends 
upon 
 
a brown tree 
trunk
 
glazed with rain
water
 
beside the white 
insulation.

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Farmington River Report 2/15/18: Two Hours of Fun with Streamers

Some days I get so ambivalent about how and where to fish that it annoys the hell out of me. Not today. In fact, I knew last night it would be the Permanent TMA and streamers. The water was receding but still up (550cfs) and that along with heavy cloud cover suggested to me that some big browns might be on the hunt.

Spot A was a blank. One other angler was there, nymphing. He reported a blank, too. Spot B produced two fish, although I dropped the second to an incredibly bad hookset. I should have known what to look for after the first fish: no dull thud or sharp tug, but rather the sensation that the fly was hung up on the bottom, with the bottom then moving. I assumed the second fish was a rock, set with the tip, and a few seconds later the trout was off.

While I had Spot B all to myself, Spot C was a regular angler’s convention. (There were a lot of people out in the Permanent TMA today.) Everyone blanked there.

Fished the full sink integrated line and a short (<3 foot) leader.

I don’t often fish articulated streamers, but the trout liked this olive Peanut Envy today. Here’s a nice mid-teens brown.

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A classic Survivor Strain adipose bump.

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First Striper of 2018

The tide and weather and scheduling planets aligned last night, so I found myself standing in some very cold water casting a large flatwing and smoking an Alec Bradley Tempus Churchill.

It did not suck. (All of it.) Especially when about 15 minutes in I started to get a few courtesy taps. I couldn’t tell if it was small fish or a subtle cold water take. Covering water, greased line swinging, and then at the end of a drift, a tug, a re-tug, a hook set, and I was into my first striper of 2018.

It felt so good that not even changing a flat tire in a McDonald’s parking lot in the middle of the night in the rain bummed me out.

Twenty inches of striped wonderfulness. The fight was uneventful until I tried to move the fish over a sand bar into some shallows. He wanted none of that, and we had some surface-thrashing bull-in-a-china-shop runs to break the calm of the night.

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Farmington River Report 12/19/17: Busy and slow

If you decided to play hooky yesterday and fish the Farmy, you weren’t alone. I would officially describe the permanent TMA as “mobbed” (for a Tuesday in December the week before Christmas). Air temps in the upper 40s, water temp in the mid 30s, flow at 210cfs. A few bugs flitting about (midges, W/S caddis, small grey stones) but no observed risers. I carpet bombed one pool with nymphs, both indicator and tight line, for about two hours and could manage only one trout. Chucked streamers for 15 minutes to no avail, then moved upriver.

Now dedicated to the streamer cause, I fished an overhead-deep pool and blanked. Moved downstream with about 15 minutes left in my session and connected with a nice mid-teens brown — and decided to leave on a high note.

The Hi-Liter produces again! The Hi-Liter is one of my high-confidence winter streamers. I like it on bright days and medium flows, and you can learn how to tie it here. A cast, a mend, and as I came tight to the line, a dull thud. Many thanks to Nick who graciously shared the pool with me.

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