A few days ago, on a small stream…

As we bid farewell to March and say hello to April, I’d like to personally thank the CT DEEP for eliminating the closed season trout fishing rule. The old reg made it illegal to fish for wild trout in non-WTMA streams from March 1 though Opening Day. Enough with that nonsense! And let’s go fishing.

Since I had no previous experience fishing the day’s mark this time of year, I was curious about might be happening. As I mentioned in my last post, this not winter/not spring netherworld can be a tricky period. My random conditions drawing got me a low-side-of-medium, crystal clear flow; a mix of sun and clouds; and temperatures that struggle to get into the low 40s. I did see a few stray midges, but nothing that could be considered a proper hatch.

Spring must be close. Always a comforting sight, the skunk cabbage are popping everywhere, a clue that warmer days will soon be upon us.

The method was bushy dry/tiny bead head nymph dropper and the jigged micro streamer/nymph. If it was a deeper plunge, I did the latter. Everything else got the dry/dropper. I was pleased to find a wild char in a mark that has disappointed me no end. It’s really fishy, with plenty of cover and a big boulder that borders a deeper slot. The fish hit the dropper, but there was no hook set. Much farther upstream , I also had some repeated swipes at the dry, but again no hook set. Tug-tug-tug!!! Someone in a roiling plunge really wanted the jiggy thingy, and — stop me if you’ve heard this one before — there was, again, a failure to seal the deal.

I wish I could tell you that it turned on at some point, but those three touches were all I could manage. I wasn’t surprised, but I was disappointed. I suspect further research will need to be conducted this month.

But that’s not where the story ends.

I decided to drive to another mark, the place where I caught Alan last month. (Yes, I’m weird enough that I name fish. Sometimes I name them after real people, like Alan. Other times they’re just fictional , like Gus in this story.) I wasn’t sure if I was hoping for a Hail Mary or just didn’t want to end the session. I drifted the dry dropper through some deeper plunges and runs, then walked upstream.

And there it was. The place where I’d caught Alan. I spent a few minutes observing its wonderfulness. It’s at the head of a longer run. There’s a good, small cut bank with an overhanging tree that will one day fall into the brook. A deep cut runs parallel to the cut bank, and it’s evident why this a prime mark for an alpha fish: cover, current, and the head of the cafeteria line.

This time it took only one cast. The dry vanished from the surface, and when I raised the rod tip I could see that the nymph had been the target. It was a good brookie, and I immediately assumed it was Alan. Into the net, camera readied, shot taken, release completed.

It wasn’t until I got home and saw the photos that I realized that this wasn’t Alan. Wonderful thing, unique spotting! I’ve dubbed this guy “Alan’s Brother.” It all makes sense now. When I was taking this shot, I was thinking that I’d over-estimated Alan’s size. This was certainly an exceptional char for this size brook, but I remembered Alan being bigger. So, it’s good news all around: there’s more than one big old brookie in this town. I hope they made lots of whoopee last fall.

Tuesday Night Currentseams Zoom: “Catch & Release Best Practices” Jan 19, 8pm

We’re back with another Tuesday Night Zoom, baby! Proper catch-and-release principles and technique is a subject we should all be taking seriously. Yes, fishing is ultimately a blood sport, but there are ways to hook, land, photograph, and release fish before they know what hit them. Join me tomorrow night and we’ll talk about it. If you’re not already on my Currentseams Zoom email list, send me a request at swculton@yahoo.com. Link goes out Tuesday late afternoon. Check your spam box if you don’t get it.

How to take better photos of your flies

“I hate the way my pictures of my flies come out. How do I make them look more professional?” This question recently came up in one of the forums I participate in. Like the person who asked it, I was frustrated for years with the fly photos I took. I’m no pro, and I’m still learning how to make my shots wonderful. But, here’s a little of what I’ve learned: some basic steps to better fly photography.

1) Lighting is everything. To create consistent lighting, I use a light box. The front of a light box is open; that’s where the camera goes. The top and both sides are cut out and have translucent panels (in my light box it’s old t-shirt fabric) to diffuse the light I’m generating (three shop lights with natural spectrum bulbs). The back of the box holds my background, a sheet of light blue artist’s craft paper. I made my light box for about $30 or so in materials. At some point I will post my setup, but the meantime there’s plenty of online reference. Just google DIY lighting box.

2) Use the right camera and camera setting for the job. 
A good camera helps, but small, more inexpensive digital cameras have come a spectacularly long way in the last few years. I use one camera (nothing special, a Pentax W90) for smaller flies because it has a narrow field of focus. I use a spiffier SLR camera, a Canon Rebel XSi, for larger flies. In both cases, I use the macro setting, although I don’t have a macro lens for the Canon. Gotta get one, though.

A Herr Blue bucktail shot with the SLR in the light box

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A smaller Kate McLaren shot with the standard-issure Pentax, again in the cozy confines of the light box. The camera’s nothing special, but the detail here is pretty darn good.

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3) Use a tripod and the timer shutter function. Vibration/motion = bad. Again, you don’t need a high-tech aircraft-grade aluminum professional model tripod. As long as it has three legs and is stable, you’re good to go. I have a cheap plastic portable tabletop tripod that I use for the lion’s share of my photos. With the timer function, you eliminate the movement of your finger on the shutter button. Sometimes it’s the little things.

4) Edit, edit, edit your work. Take ten shots to get one great one. Be ruthless in your editing. If the shot comes out sucky (and a lot of mine do), I don’t ever use it. I will often use the zoom function in my photo editor to make sure the focus is tack-sharp, even at an extreme close-up.

5) Learn to use your photo editing app. I’m a Mac guy, so I use iPhoto. Learn how to crop, straighten, and play with other effects. Having said that, a good photo should require very little desktop manipulation.