TGIF Currentseams odds and ends

Happy Friday! I hope your summer is going along nicely. If you’re a river and stream angler here in southern New England, it’s been a tough July. But it looks like we’re going to get a fairly long semi-dry spell, and that should allow the rivers to come down. I’m curious to see what, if any, negative impacts the flooding created. Rest assured, there will be impacts. As for the Farmington River, they’re still blowing water out of Hogback (over 2K cfs), but I think there’s a good chance they may lower the flow for the weekend. Check the USGS Water Data site for Connecticut for real-time information. In other happenings:

I’m working on a short piece about using a floating line in the surf. It takes the form of a case study, using a specific location/conditions, and it will be a currentseams exclusive.

Yesterday, I recorded a podcast for Fish Untamed. The subject is “Trout Fishing For Striped Bass,” and I’ll let you know when it goes live. (Give it two weeks.)

Drat this high water! I had all kinds of smallmouth fly experiments planned for July, and they’ve been blown to smithereens. So, we punt. I’m hoping flows drop enough in the next week so I can proceed. In the meantime, to the tying bench…

My article for Surfcaster’s Journal, “Two Nights in October,” should be live next week. This is an online subscription-only zine, so if you want to read it you’ll have get a subscription. It’s $20/year, which isn’t much for quality writing and storytelling, is it?

Stay safe, be well, and thank you as always for reading.

What’s the big deal, if any, with UV materials? Let’s find out. UV or not, this is going to get stomped.

“Low & Slow: Summer River Smallmouth” in the July 2021 issue of The Fisherman

Last summer was challenging time to fish for smallmouth: we had the double whammy of heat and severe drought. In “Low & Slow: Summer River Smallmouth,” I talk about some of the strategies, tactics, and flies I used to find success in those truly tough conditions. You can read the article in the current (July 2021) New England issue of The Fisherman magazine.

Smallmouth Report 6/24/21: Not warmed up yet

I fished a mark on the Hous last night from 7pm to 9pm, and it was very, very slow. By the time I reached the water, there’d already been a strong caddis hatch (mottled light tan, size 16) and there were sulphur spinners in the water. A few smaller trout and smallmouth were eating bugs, but I they were in some deeper water, way out of casting range. The flow was medium and lightly stained; the water really hasn’t warmed up yet and I find the smallie fishing goes better when it does. Bugs I fished were the TeQueeley, Gurgler, Mini D&D, Wiggly, and Countermeasure. Well, I did try some nymphing, but I don’t think I got deep enough. I had a hysterical swipe at the indicator from a little fish as I was preparing to cast, but mostly I practiced presenting and conducting experiments. (I have a lot of experimenting to do this summer, and I’ll let you know at some point how it goes.)

It wasn’t until 8:30 that I connected with my first smallie, a respectable 10″ fish. Right at dark I started pounding the shallows with the Countermeasure, and I was rewarded with my first good smallmouth of the year. But that was it, leaving me alone on the river with the bugs and my cigar.

Not too shabby, just about two pounds, and a worthy opponent on a five-weight. I have only the utmost respect for the power and doggedness of these creatures. They just don’t want to come to net.

Housatonic Mini-Report 6/17/21, or: I went smallmouth fishing and ended up catching a bazillion trout

Forgive the brevity, but here’s what happened. I fished from 5:30pm-9:15pm. I started way far below the TMA in search of smallmouth. I managed one on a Gurgler, and a rather large fallfish on a wet fly. The river was lightly stained and running at a normal 575cfs. Water temp was upper 60s. After 90 minutes, I was unimpressed with this mark, so I headed up to the TMA. A massive caddis hatch had occurred, and size 16 tan caddis blanketed the rocks along the shore and swirled everywhere. They were soon joined by a strong showing of sulphurs and Cahills. I managed a stout smallie on a streamer, but the sight of trout eagerly snapping at emergers had me switching to wet fly in a hurry. First cast, bang, and it was all fantastic action until dark. I made the switch to dries around 8pm, and for a half hour it was a trout on every cast. They were greedily feeding just like they do during a Hendrickson emergence, mouths open, launching at the fly. It slowed a bit until I called it at dark, 9:15, but I was still catching on Light Cahill Catskills dries and Usuals. A few rainbows in the mix but mostly browns. With elevated water temps, I used 4x tippet so I could get the fish in fast. All of them looked very healthy. Hopefully they will find the thermal refuges before the water gets too warm.

One of many customers, all of which have been eating well. Spectacular dry fly action!

Best of 2020 #7: Silver Linings Smallmouth

Feast or famine is the new normal for stream flows. In the summer of 2020, we were left wanting for water. After a soaking spring, precious rainfall eluded us through the start of fall, creating harrowing drought conditions across Connecticut. Thankfully, we have smallmouth bass.

It’s no secret to readers of Currentseams that I am a smallmouth addict. So even though the Hous was low and warm, it was still within the acceptable range for targeting Micropterus dolomieu. So I went at it hard. The challenges were many. Low water meant fewer places to find fish, and sometimes what was there wasn’t in the mood to play. This was clearly an off year on the Hous, with an exponentially smaller class of larger fish (this was by far my worst year in the last five for bass you could measure in pounds) and fewer fish in general (I witnessed one epic white fly hatch with hardly any bass on the bugs). Parking and crowds were a concern; there were times when I saw more angler traffic in a day than I normally do all summer. So what did I do?

I explored. I walked. I tried new water and new methods and new flies. I learned so much that I’m going to be writing an article about it in a future edition of The Fisherman magazine. It may be winter, but I can still feel the humidity falling over my shoulders like a coat, sweat collecting along my brow, as the dragonflies buzz around my head at dusk. Maybe one more cigar for the walk back to the truck?

This summer I tried to use multiple methods when learning a new piece of water. So in a typical outing, I might strip and swing a streamer, pop a Gurgler, swing wets, or dead-drift a surface bug. Here’s a nifty shot of a decent smallie blowing up on a Wiggly.

Housatonic Smallmouth Recap: lots of walking, low, slow, and not very big

You may have noticed this year that there weren’t many Housatonic River smallmouth reports on these pages. It wasn’t for a lack of effort from your humble scribe. I believe I fished more days this summer for smallmouth than I have since I started seriously pursuing them (in 2016). So why did I go dark? Part of it was people — and anglers — everywhere. And anywhere. I ran into anglers in places where I’ve never seen a soul. Finding a parking spot was, at times, impossible. Part of it was the drought, which made for challenging conditions. And part of it was that in terms of size and especially numbers, this was by far the worst year I’ve had fishing smallmouth on that river.

One late July night illustrates this last point. I fished a favorite mark that was, to my delight, devoid of other anglers. I hit the White Fly hatch perfectly — in fact, I’d rate this as one of the top three blizzards I’ve ever experienced. The surface should have been boiling with frantic rises — dozens per second. Instead, I could easily pick out an occasional lonesome rise ring here and there. The lack of bass on the bugs was both extraordinary and discouraging. What’s worse, what was rising was small. Not a bruiser in the bunch.

At least the dragonflies had a good meal.

Since the fishing was awful, and — this is important — every year is different — I decided that I would embrace different. So I explored. I fished new water. I tried new flies (like Wigglies and Barr’s Meat Whistle). And I tried new methods (like indicator nymphing and dead drifting crayfish patterns along the bottom). These efforts will pay off handsomely in the future. So, 2020 wasn’t the year we wanted it to be. But we can take comfort in the hope and promise of 2021.

Housy Mini Report 8/19/19: Low, slow, and small

A quick zip in/zip out (there have been a lot of those this summer) last night from 7:00pm-8:30. I hit three marks in the FFO section and it was tough going. First spot blank, second spot one pipsqueak, third spot nothing until the 8pm to dark slot. A couple on streamers, a half dozen then on White Wulffs (although the white fly hatch is kaput). No real size — biggest was 10″.

The mysteries of smallies on the Hous continue, as I have fished these marks in past years at the same height (200cfs) at the same time of year and same time frame and done gangbusters. This was by far the worst outing of the year in terms of size and numbers.

Where’d you go, bubba?

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Secrets to Catching Bigger Smallmouth on the Housatonic

It’s the time of year when this question begins to flood my mailbox: “I’m catching a ton of little smallmouth bass. Where do I go on the Housatonic to find the bigger fish?”

There’s no single, simple answer. And it’s not just a matter of where. It’s also when. And how. Here are a few tips to help you catch the big one.

It’s 8:15pm. Do you know where your trophy Housy smallie is? My money’s on “at the business end of a Countermeasure.”

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– Fish near deep(er) water access. Big smallmouth like the cover and security that deep water provides. Picture them hanging out on the bottom of a deep hole during peak daylight. They didn’t get to be big by accident.
– Your chances of catching a big smallmouth bass increase exponentially as the day transitions into night. There will come a point where the bite will shut down, which is usually about the time you can no longer see your fly.
– Target shallows in low light, particularly shallows near deep water. Like many predators, big bass will move onto flats as twilight builds. They’re feeding with confidence under the cover of darkness. Last week as I was walking out of the river at 8:45pm, I nearly stepped on a monster smallie that was cruising in about a foot of water.
– Take the road less traveled. There are often rich rewards awaiting those willing to walk. If you were a big smallmouth, where would you be? Finding the answer to that question is half the fun.
– Cull the pipsqueaks with bigger flies. Four inches is a good cutoff point. Some of the little guys may want to fight outside their weight class, but often can’t get the hook in their mouth.
– Land your fly with a splat! For example, when I’m fishing a Countermeasure, I like to give it a noisy landing on soft water. Big bass will frequently crash the fly moments after it hits.
– This goes without saying: put in your time. The more you fish, the more chances you’ll have to hook up with a big one.

Dusk can be a magic time, but the big fish bite window is sometimes frustratingly short. 

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Late Housy Report: Slow, then Slobs

Another quick smallmouth mission Thursday night. From 5:30-7:00pm, I explored some new water near some old familiar water. It was, in a word, slow. We’re taking glacial. Maybe that’s a good segue into the weather angle — a cold front came through the night before, and in my experience that’s usually bad for bassing, striped or smallmouth. Pricked a few but only one to hand and he was small.

I had every intention of going home, but I got sucked into the dolomieu vortex and I stopped at a favorite hole. So much for the cold front theory: three bass in the 10″ class on the first four casts. Consistent action from 7:30-8:45pm, then shutdown, same as the other night. The best part was a few some-teen inch slobs in the mix, all on the Countermeasure at dusk. All of the bigger fish blitzed the fly moments after it hit the water.

Someteen inches of bronze fury. A forearm burner, this one. Savage hit — he actually took some line off the reel at hookset — and a bulldogging fight. Countermeasure. Dusk. Good stuff.

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Housy Smallmouth Report: And so it begins

A quick zip-in, zip-out smallie mission the other night to get reacquainted with an old friend. Or is that old friends, with an emphasis on the plural? Regardless of whether the subject is the river (242cfs, 76 degrees, clear) or the smallmouth (many of them, mostly in the 8″-12″ class with a couple at a foot-plus), a splendid time was had. Fished from 7:30-9pm, down Kent way. The bass liked the Gurgler, TeQueely, and of course the Countermeasure. Best action was from 8pm-8:30pm — as night fell, the bigger fish action tapered off and the smaller guys came out to sip bugs in earnest.

I test drove a new line on my 5-weight 10′ Hardy Marksman2 — or should I say a new weight line. It’s same line I’ve been using for several seasons, the Scientific Anglers Mastery Anadro. I like its long WF taper for mending. I had been using the 7 weight (225 grains) but wasn’t thrilled with it on that rod for throwing bigger flies longer distances. So I upped it to the 8-weight (260 grains). Casting was easier, but it made the rod feel a little noodly. I’ll give it another shot, but perhaps I need to rethink in terms of a bigger rod. More on this as it develops.

Why I went fishing. A pretty fair Housy smallie that crushed a grey and chartreuse Gurgler a few strips after it splashed down. After a nice aerial display by the bass (that bastard judge from East Germany only scored it a 5.4) we had this Kodak — er, GoPro — moment.

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