Housy Report 9/6/18: the curse of the cold front

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: a weather pattern exists for days, then a cold front comes through and kills the bite with ruthless efficiency. So it was yesterday when I guided John. Air was cool (70 degrees) and overcast, water was up about 100cfs to 500+cfs, but running clear. A few bugs (micro caddis, Isos, sulphurs, tiny BWOs) but nothing substantial. We fished the Cornwall TMA. Right away I could tell we were going to have a tough time. The run was uber-sexy, lots of submerged boulders and seams and not a touch on several proven patterns. We finished by swinging wets to some slashing fallfish, and we had fun catching a half-dozen or so.

Off to Spot B, a slower, deeper run. One really nice bass from this run, taken on a soft-hackled crayfish fished hop-and-drop along the bottom. Spot C is normally infested with smaller bass — on this day it was a barren wasteland. Off to Spot D, where we finally got into some risers at dusk, both trout (which have clearly moved out of some of the thermal refuges) and smallies. John did a great job in some truly tough conditions, always kept a positive attitude, and was rewarded in the end.

Sidebar: I saw more anglers yesterday than I did the entire summer. And that’s not an exaggeration.

Well done, John, seen here delivering a team of two soft-hackled wets on target.

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Look what we found! This dude was sitting in about 3-4 feet of water not too far from where we were standing. He clobbered the fly on the hop phase of the retrieve.

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This fly, still in testing & development. 

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The Countermeasure: a smallmouth bass and trout bug

The Countermeasure is a riff on a bunch of proven patterns. It’s basically a Deep Threat in crayfish colors with a deer hair collar and head tied Zoo Cougar style. Bite triggers abound: a seductive Zonker-like tail; hints of flash; flowing soft hackles; dangly legs; bulky head. It’s a surface and film fly that you can land with a loud splat!, then swing, wake, strip, and/or dangle. (I’ve had smallies try to pick it out of the air.) There’s really no wrong way to fish it.  It shines on a floating line, but it also ventures into neutrally buoyant territory if you use it with a full sink line.

I’ve been field testing the Countermeasure for three years now, and rarely disappoints. There are times when the smallmouth can’t keep away from it, and will bull rush it the moment it hits the water. And did I mention it’s a killer pattern for those big malevolent Farmington river browns?

The Countermeasure smallmouth bass and trout bug

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Hook: Daiichi 2220 size 4
Thread: UTC Rusty Brown 140
Tail: 8 strands green Krystal flash on both sides of the shank; next, a crawfish orange rabbit strip, fur side down, leather section 2″ long
Body: Rusty brown Ice Dub palmered with fiery brown schlappen
Legs: Golden yellow/pearl flake Barred Crazy Legs, 3 on each side
Collar: Rusty brown deer hair, top of shank only, extending to hook point
Head: Rusty brown deer hair, moderately packed, trimmed flat
Fly length is 4″

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A closer look at the head, viewed from above. It’s not a super-tight pack; two pencil-sized clumps of hair spun on the shank usually do it. I start shaping it with a razor blade by trimming the bottom flat, then the top at gentle upwards angle. Scissors do the rest. 

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It took me a long time to come up with a name that I liked. Then, few weeks ago, I was watching The Hunt For Red October for the millionth time, and I saw the Dallas release these brilliantly devised gadgets that churned and boiled and made the torpedo think they were the intended target. Then I thought about how the smallies would rather kill than critique this bug. And there it was. So, Red October fans, repeat after me: “Release Countermeasures, on my mark!”

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The Countermeasure Rogues’ Gallery:

Housy smallmouth, August 2016

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Housy smallmouth, August 2016

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Farmington River brown, August 2017

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Housy smallmouth, July 2018

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Smallmouth bass streamers: TeQueely and Home Invader

I spent some time at the bench last week on two dramatically different smallmouth patterns, the TeQueely and the Home Invader. Neither of them are the kind of streamer that I’d typically fish. The TeQueely is, in a word, horrible. What a mashup of flash and garbage! But smallies love it, so I’m more than willing to suspend my principles in the interest of cartwheeling bronze. You’ll find it on several “best streamers for smallmouth bass” lists.

At first glance, Doug McKnight’s Home Invader is far too opaque for my tastes. And I’m no big fan of dumbbell eyes. Again, allow me to move past those objections and point out what there is to love about the Home Invader, namely marabou, fox fur, and hackle tips. And this fly knows exactly what it wants to be: a big meal for a hungry or uber-aggressive fish. You can read more about the Home Invader and find tying instructions here. Tying instructions for the TeQueely are listed below.

So ugly, they’re beautiful. The TeQueelys are tied on a size 4, the Home Invaders on a size 2 TMC 1710 (1x strong, 2x long). The Home Invader second from bottom is an all marabou variant. All flies pictured are at least 4″ long.

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TeQueely tying instructions:
Hook: TMC 2220 size 2-6
Thread: Black 6/0
Bead: Gold
Tail: Black marabou under black Krystal flash under yellow marabou
Legs: Chartreuse rubber or silicone
Body: Medium black cactus chenille

 

 

Housy Smallmouth Report 7/31/17: lukewarm bronze

We can endeavor for hot, but sometimes you’ve got to take what nature gives you. I fished the TMA from 5pm-8:45pm last night, dedicated to the smallmouth cause. I started off with a white/chartreuse conehead bugger in a mix of sun and shadows and caught a bazillion smallies from 4-6″. That was fun, but it really wasn’t why I was there. So I headed to another spot that would be completely in the shade.

This second run was a bona fide honey hole for me last summer, with plentiful bass, and some pushing the foot-long mark. On this evening, it was a bittersweet reminder that every year is different. One dink was all I could manage.

In fact, it took a while for things to get going. The best fishing really didn’t happen until full dusk, with the typical it’s-dark-now shutoff. The big one eluded me, but I took several fish that pushed 12″. Most of the smallies were keyed on emergers, and unlike last year there were stretches where they ignored the streamer. (And several instances where they pile-drived the bug the moment it hit the water.)

And you can’t make this up: around 7:30pm, I was swinging a Zoo Cougar through a pocketed run. Bump….BUMP. Fish on. As I was stripping it in, I said out loud, “You think you’ve got an 18″ brown, but it’s really an 8″ smallie.” A few moments later, I realized that it was a trout — a big old rainbow. Once I knew what I had hooked, I hauled it in quick. The fish was in great shape, high teens, fat, intact fins, deep pink band. I was going to take a photo, then thought better of it, and released the fish, which swam off in seemingly great spirits.

Water was 296cfs and 69 degrees. No white flies yet.

Handsome fish. This guy took the bug on the dangle near the surface, and treated me to several frantic aerials. I like the translucency of the pectoral fin.

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Housy Smallmouth Report: And then there were none

That inflammatory title doesn’t refer to the fish — plenty of Micropterus dolomieu to go around — but rather to the number of big, classic Connecticut fly fishing rivers currently with flows in the triple digits of cfs.

While neither extreme is preferable, I really don’t enjoy fishing in low water. Like the Farmington, the Hous (96cfs, 75 degrees) is rapidly becoming a featureless rock garden. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like Hermine is going to give us even a temporary respite (I understand that going back to 2015, our state is at a 14-inch rain deficit). And so we carry on.

But enough of the negative waves.

Yesterday was a good day for a little father-sons wet-wading fly fishing for smallies expedition. Here are a few shots from Dad’s brag book.

Cam’s on! Cam says: “These things fight like little steelhead.”

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Gordo’s on! Gordo says: “Why do they keep jumping out of the water?” This smallie gave us two spectacular aerials.

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Today’s special: Crayfish. Half-off.

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