Small Stream B Comes Through; Big Stripers Continue Their No-Show

I wrote about my first springtime small stream outing last week. It was at a brook that has been on a bit of a slide in terms of numbers, and this disappointing trend continued. Small Stream B, however, continues to go great guns. I fished it for 75 minutes, first time this spring, and I pricked dozens. Fished a bushy dry on top and a size 14 Stewart’s Black Spider dropper for most of the trip, and the char went nuts for the dry despite the elevated water levels. Did a little micro streamer action, too, which is always fun. Bravo, Mother Nature!

Most of the action came topside, but this lovely gem fell victim to Stewart’s Black Spider.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

~

If you’re looking for a new way to have some fun on a small stream, try a micro Zoo Cougar. I usually tie these on size 2-6 streamer hooks, but I believe this is a 14. Chuck it or drift it (the deer hair head keeps it on the surface) down the pool, then make some drunken, frantic strips back. The fly will wake and dive and drive the brookies absolutely out of their minds. Color is probably insignificant.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

~

Now to the stripers. You’ve heard me say that every year is different, and with 2018 and 2019 goes the proof. Whereas last year was off-the-charts good for big bass, this year is not-so-much. I spent some time late last night greased line swinging a proven run that was dead as Julius Caesar. (Sigh.) Well, persistence will hopefully pay off.

Small stream report: (heavy sigh)

Though it may be far from the ocean, the life cycle of a woodland brook is filled with waves and troughs. Sadly, the stream I fished yesterday is in a bit of a trough.

Everything should have been in the favor of multiple dozens of pricked fish: ample water since last summer, a moderate winter, canopy coming in, and a cloudy day. I think I stuck a piddly half dozen. Fished a dry/dropper system and some micro streamers, so I had the water column pretty well covered. Many of the runs and pockets where I could always count on a player or two (or more) were curiously devoid of fish. I did my “Anyone Home?” stomp (where I tramp carelessly through the water in hopes of spooking fish so I can determine their presence) in several runs and rousted…nothing.

OK, so it was cold and there was very little hatch activity. Nonetheless, it was a disappointing outing, and this former gem has been trending downward for over a decade now. Glutton for punishment that I am, I’ll revisit it later this month.

Sea of green. I’ve decided that the smell of skunk around your house is annoying. But in the woods, it is welcome and proper and lets you know that everything is as it should be.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

Best of 2018 #7: Every small stream outing

I’m a count-your-blessings kind of guy, and to be able to fish for wild native char on a secluded woodland stream is certainly at the top of the tally sheet. There’s something both poetic and romantic about catching a fish whose direct ancestors lived in the same waters for tens of thousands of years.

Even in winter. A dark horse from February.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

~

200 years ago this was a farmer’s property line.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

~

Biggest small stream brookie of the year, taken on a micro bugger in deep plunge pool. An old fish who made it through flood, drought, and bitter cold, I didn’t even take him out of the net for a beauty shot.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

Small stream report: foliage vs. Fontinalis fin

Time to go for a long walk in the woods with a stick and a string. The thin blue line was running medium high and cold. And the air temperature, which started out in the 30s, hadn’t climbed much higher by noon. I fished upstream with a bushy dry (size 14 Improved Sofa Pillow, up from a 16 to discourage hooking the younguns) and, in some of the deeper pools, dry/dropper (size 18 2x short SHBHPT). I pricked dozens, landed an honest 12 or so, and had my usual festive chuckles at their kamikaze antics.

At the turnaround point, I switched to subsurface, with the intent of running tungsten bead head micro buggers through the deeper recesses of select pools. White first. I felt a nip, then on the next cast saw what was for this brook a behemoth char follow the fly. I couldn’t get him to eat, so I switched over to black. (I like to fish black or white streamers when there are leaves in the water.) Another tug, but no commitment. Just when I had resolved to try something smaller, the fish hit for keeps. It was my best wild brookie of 2018, a handsome old buck that was no doubt the tribe elder in this sacred water.

After lunch, dessert: a JR Cuban Alternate Montecristo #2. Delicious.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA~

My prize refused to sit still for a formal portrait, so I had to settle for a shot in his temporary home.  Of course, it’s only my opinion, but these fins beat the pants of any peak foliage. I thought about how long this char has been alive — at nearly a foot long, a giant in this tiny brook — how many redds he’s fertilized, and how many of his progeny I’ve touched before. Then, back he went.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

~

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

Small Stream Color, or: A little something to get us through today’s gray

Snuck out for a couple hours the other day on Ye Olde Brook Trout Emporium. The catching was a bit on the slow side, but the fishing was tremendous. At last! Freedom!  I took them on the dry (size 16 Improved Sofa Pillow) and the wet (size 20 Snipe and Purple) dropper. Water was 56 degrees and medium low. Bugs everywhere: midges, some large dark un-IDed mayfly spinners (mahogany duns?), caddis, and my first confirmed sulphur sightings of 2017.

Sky of blue, sea of green. The canopy is filling in, and the wooded wetlands are in their glory. 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

~

While I was disappointed in the number of fish that wanted to play, I did see more actively feeding char on this stream — especially in slower, deeper water — than ever before. Those that were coming up for the naturals were also quite willing to inspect my dry, even though it was substantially larger than what was hatching. This fellow pounced when the opportunity presented itself. You can see the beginnings of a kype.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

~

Ray Bergman, you magnificent bastard, I read your book! This brookie was quietly sipping, forming delicate rise rings in some glassy water. I approached from upstream, made a long cast, and got him on the wet dropper by raising the rod tip and doing a hand-twist retrieve. By far the hardest hit of the day.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Of small streams, stripers, and stockers

I’m getting my money’s worth from the jolly old yo-ho-ho State of Connecticut this week. Monday I went small streaming. Tuesday was our semi-annual grandfather-father-son Salmon River outing followed by a little late night striper (non) action. Here’s how it went down.

Monday’s flow in the brook was medium-high, perfect for this time of year. I didn’t get a water temp, but it was enough to make the locals highly active. I saw charcoal gray stoneflies (size 16, and a few size 12), caddis (16), and Quill Something-or-Other spinners (10-12). No char were observed feeding on the surface, but they drilled the dry (size 16 Improved Sofa Pillow) as well as the nymph (Frenchie variant size 18) and the micro-streamer (ICU Sculpin size 14). This parr-marked beauty took the dry.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

~

You can’t see the kype on this buck, but at 7-8 inches he surely is an old fish on this stream. He swung and missed at the dry, then crushed the dropper. I took two fish in the last pool I fished on the ICU Sculpin. The fly had barely slipped beneath the surface before each fish struck.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

~

Tuesday was one of the ten best weather days of the year: 75 degree air filled with blazing, brilliant sunshine. The Salmon was running clear and at a perfect height, and there were a lot of other anglers out taking advantage of the conditions. Here, the man who taught me how to fish reminds my sons that knots are not worthy of their trust.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

~

Gordo was fishing a Hi-Liter streamer with a couple BB shot on the leader when I saw his rod tip dip. I asked him if it was a rock or a fish. “Fish, I think,” he said. I told him that it’s a fish until proven otherwise. Next cast, bang! Hello, Mr. Recently Stocked Rainbow.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

~

I think if I were going teach a weekend-long class in nymphing, I might start by having everyone bounce worms along the bottom. I hadn’t caught a trout on a worm in decades, but I got back to my roots when my dad took a break and handed off his rod to me. Here’s my prize sulking on the bottom after release.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

~

All things must pass, including good fishing. So I finished off my piscatorial binge last night with a proper striper skunking. Lines were greased and flatwings were swung, but commotion near the ocean ’twas not to be. It must’ve been around this wee hour or so when I climbed into bed. Tired and happy is a most excellent way to fall asleep.

IMG_1858