Housy Mini-Report 12/8/16: Lots of water — action, not so much.

I missed my annual October/November Housy streamer trips this year, so I went yesterday. The HRO website declared that at 860cfs, it was a good time to fish big streamers on a full sink line. I concurred. Sadly, the trout did not. I fished five familiar, favorite pools and came up blank. Not a touch. Oh, I nicked the bottom many times, and sacrificed three streamers to the river gods, but ’twas not my day. Fast water, slower water, pocket water, shallow and deep — bright colors, muted naturals — fast retrieve, slow retrieve, no retrieve — nada. On the positive side, I had the entire river to myself, always a bonus. We’ll get ’em next time.

With both air and water temperatures in the 30s, this is sound advice.

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Farmington River Report 12/6/16: Wet fly action in…December?

Trout blasting wet flies on the swing with a water temp of 36 degrees? Yes, indeed.

I fished the permanent TMA today from 9am-1pm. I was rigged for nymphs, and I spent the first 30 minutes bouncing along the bottom, desperately trying to ignore the growing number of trout slashing at W/S caddis. After the second or third time of telling myself that I was acting like an angler throwing Clousers at a school of stripers feeding on the surface, I disengaged the shot and re-tied the point fly to match the dropper: size 18 soft-hackled pheasant tail. It was by no means a proper wet fly rig, but what the heck — I’m lazy. Second cast, whack! A lovely late fall  wild brown. Next cast, ker-pow! (Those old enough to have watched will recognize the channeling of my inner 60s Batman TV show memories.) And so it went until the hatch waned.

The first fish of the day is always memorable, made even more so when it sports such finery.

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I got out to warm up, and after ten minutes the slashing resumed in earnest. Only this time it was tiny BWOs they were after. The fish proved to be more difficult to catch during this hatch; they wanted the fly on the dangle (if they wanted it at all). By now the sun was up good and proper, and the trout were for the most part hugging the shade line of the eastern side of the river. I had to work hard for the two I landed, but when you’re swinging wets and it’s December and you’ve never had this much success with that method this late in the year, you’re squarely in a no-kvetch zone.

One of the BWO trout, a low teens wild thang.

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But wait, there’s more. We also had a five-minute-blizzard of a midge hatch. I switched to dries for this, and fooled two on a size infinity Griffith’s Gnat, but sadly didn’t stick either fish.

And at this point, I won’t even bother writing about how I blanked on streamers.

On the way out I spoke with fellow guide Mark Swenson. Mark was Euro nymphing and had done quite well (in fact he landed one while we were chatting). He was also fishing small stuff, size 18s.

But for over two hours, I had the river all to myself. Just me, the trout, the bugs, and a December sunshine that made me feel like summer could come any day now.

Big room news: “Wet Flies 101” at the Fly Fishing Show in Marlborough, MA

Once again, I will be presenting “Wet Flies 101” at the the Fly Fishing Show in Marlborough, MA. Only this time, on a bigger stage.

I’ve been elevated to Seminar status for Friday, 1pm, January 20th, as I present “Wet Flies 101” in the Catch Room. On Saturday the 21st, I’ll be making the same presentation at 10am in Room A of the Destination Theater.

And so, dear reader, I’d like to ask you a favor: if you’re planning on going to the show, please try to come to the Friday the 21st show in the big room. I’d to have as full a house as possible. If you can make it, good fishing karma and positive tight line energy shall be bestowed upon you. And of course, if you’re there, please come say hi.

For more information, visit the Fly Fishing Show’s Marlborough website.

Here’s your chance to visit Yorkshire without ever leaving New England.

Soft-hackles

I went to Pulaski and all I got was this lousy snow storm

The trip started poorly. Whiteout conditions in the Berkshires followed by heavy lake-effect snow near Syracuse turned a five hour drive into six and a half. They had been forecasting 3-8″ of snow showers and 20 mph winds — not exactly the model of fishing-friendly weather — but we had reservations and deposits and the will to see things through. By the time we (this was my annual late November trip with #2 son) woke up Monday morning, we realized this was going to be far worse than your standard-issue Salmon River Sunshine. Winds of 20-30mph with gusts up to 50. Snow that covered the rear bumper of the Jeep (the Syracuse area received up to 30″). No shovel or plow in our near future. We  stomped on the snow to flatten it, and we made it to the Byrne Dairy OK, but when our guide’s truck and trailer had to be towed out of a drift, the bummer decision was made: no fishing today.

And that’s how Cam and I spent most of last Monday afternoon watching the Science Channel in the Pulaski Super 8.

You often hear exaggerated  claims of precipitation falling sideways. But we can attest that it does really happen. This was one badass storm.

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We made a brilliant plan to fish the creeks on Tuesday. So brilliant that I was already counting our fish on the drive north. Water levels had been up for two days, and those two days were dark and perfect for legions of steelhead to have safely made their way upstream. I’ll cut to the chase and tell you we blanked. We fished long, hard, and thoroughly at multiple fishy spots, but as far as any of us could tell, the closest steelhead were still somewhere in Lake Ontario. The only angler we could find who had any fish to hand was AJ Berry, who took several domestic rainbows on egg sacks. (I mention AJ’s name because he was incredibly generous in sharing water with us.)

I realize that steelheading is not fair. But I would be lying to you if I said this trip didn’t sting more than a little.

The salve for that sting is that we went winter steelheading. We had an adventure. There is honor in attempting something difficult — and whether we succeeded or failed is really a matter of your point-of-view.

The day after the big one. If it looks nippy, it was. Iced guides were a constant hassle, and residual winds made casting an adventure. Highest marks to Cam, who didn’t complain once during two days of truly challenging circumstances. Asked to sum up the trip, Cam said: “It was cold. It snowed. We tried to fish. The fish didn’t help.”

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Further implements of steelhead destruction

Or, an angler can hope. Either way, fly boxes must be replenished, here with an eclectic selection of attractors, eggy fare, classic soft hackles and gaudy streamers. A few hungry customers is all I ask.

The best flies for Great Lakes steelhead are the ones that get eaten. Surely a delectable morsel lies within this diverse menu.

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Maryland’s 2016 striped bass YOY count: not good

This is an annual census taken by Maryland’s DNR to determine recruitment strength for the previous spring’s (as in a few months ago) class of new-born striped bass. The number was 2.2 (the long-term average is 11.9). While every year is different, this only continues a downward trend that began the year after the banner class of 1996.

You can read more about the count on the stripersforever.org website here.

It’s a long, long way from 1996. 

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