Housy Smallmouth Report 8/9/17: No big deal

I’m a creature of habit, and that includes fishing. So every once in a while I need to force myself to switch things up, get out of my comfort zone, and try something different. That’s how I found myself last night in what’s probably the most popular pool on the river.

My evening began way above the covered bridge in some snotty rapids. One 6-incher on the TeQueely and done. I moved downriver to reconnoiter some new water. Didn’t like the looks of it, so I headed to my beat for the evening.

I hadn’t fished this run in a few decades. There’s a lot to like about it: substantial riffles that dump into a long pool, good current, ringed by both deep and shallow frog water. It’s fishy as hell.

Alas, it was infested with dinks. Even after it became difficult to see the fly, I was still hauling in pipsqueaks. OK, I was fishing on the wrong side of the river. But I didn’t see many of those telltale big fish bulges. On the positive end, I did boffo pre-hatch business with a Black Magic North Country spider dropper and a white fly soft hackle on point. They loved the flies on the dangle, rod tip raised, with a very slow or hand-twist retrieve. I had a few doubles, but mostly the bass were keyed on one fly or the other. I was intrigued that I would get several bass on the black — consecutively — then 2-3 bass on the white. (You may have heard this before, but droppers are the quickest way to find out what the fish want.)

Finally, you’ll want to know about the white flies. The answer was no. Very weak hatch, maybe a 2 out of 10. This pool is upriver from where I’ve been fishing, so I can’t make an intelligent scientific comparison other than to say it sucked. Black caddis were out again.

Good to meet everyone last night, and thanks as always for sharing the water.

Black Magic was featured in the color plates of Robert Smith’s book The North Country Fly. It works as well on eastern freestone river smallies as it does on English chalk stream browns. Black Pearsall’s silk, peacock herl, black hen.

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Housy Smallmouth Report: White flies on the wane?

I fished from 5:30pm to 9:00pm. The hatch was decent enough, but nowhere near the numbers I saw last Thursday. Here are some of the lessons I’m learning.

Spot A was an area I’ve never fished before, below the 4/7 concrete bridge. A big, gnarly riffle that dumps into deep pool, then an even deeper pool, before transitioning into a placid run. I was disappointed to hook only one bass. I can’t imagine that there aren’t a lot of fish living in that stretch. Spot B was within the TMA. I tossed my TeQueely into some frog water on the edge of a riffle. The bass slammed into the fly the moment it penetrated the surface membrane. Best hit of the year, any species. Always investigate that transition water between current and frog.

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Think a Housy smallmouth might like a white fly soft hackle like this? (Size 10 hook, cream hackle, fibers, and white Pearsall’s.) You betcha. Trout, too. I took a pretty foot-long brown on this fly (no picture — quick landing and release), as well as numerous bass. Fishing a team of wet flies pre-hatch is sound in practice, but it can get problematic with smallies. I was fishing a team of two and had to cut one fly off due to excessive doubles. Same problem with the soft hackle I had dropped off my White Wulff and Convertible dries: too many doubles. I know, life’s tough.

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White flies get all the juice, but let’s not neglect their smaller photo-negative, the black caddis. Swarms of these flies everywhere. I even took a dozen home with me in my Jeep. Going to tie up some Black Magic soft hackles, about a 14-16.

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Last year, the bass would attack a streamer even if they were feeding on something small on the surface, and especially as dusk made its way toward night. Not so this year during the white fly hatch. So maybe smallmouth are more trout-like than I give them credit for. I was targeting one bigger fish that kept rising in some shallows — I got him to bump the streamer, but it was at best a half-hearted attempt. This dude came to net on a White Wulff size 12. 

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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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Housy smallmouth: The hits just keep on coming

The Farmington continues to struggle with low flows. I spoke with an angler today who fished it recently, and he said he was so discouraged by the water levels that he left after 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in another part of the state, the upper TMA section of the Hous was flowing at just over 200cfs, and 74 degrees. Fine conditions for an evening of wading and casting for smallmouth bass. Things started off slow — I began at 6:45pm in a section I’ve hit repeatedly, but has not produced numbers or size. I’m at a loss to explain why. It’s deep, it’s got moving water, and lots of boulders. All that’s really missing is a sign that says “Get Your Smallies Here!” Nontheless, two unremarkable bumps were all I could manage.

However, Honey Hole 1 (my name for it) continues to impress. It’s a fairly nondescript run, but it has held a good number of decent sized bass every time I’ve fished it. By 8pm I was working my way downriver to Honey Hole 2 (see parens above). HH2 fished a little differently in the higher water — the fish were more widely spread out than in previous trips. Here are a few notes from last night:

Unlike trout, smallies rising to flies will crush a big streamer thrown in their general direction. I caught countless bass last night at dusk by simply aiming for rise rings.

A larger fly doesn’t necessarily cull the smaller fish. I’m still trying to understand how some of the little guys I landed got a 4x long size 2 streamer hook entirely into their mouth.

Like with trout, the action seems to taper off at dark. Hatch over, time for a feeding break? I’d like to stay well past dark one of these nights and see if the action picks up.

Housy smallies love sunken streamers as well as waking surface flies.

I’m continuing to test a prototype of a floating version of the Deep Threat. (Once semi-perfected, I’ll post it.) So far, so good. Wait. Make that very good.

“Is that the foot-long?” “And then some.” (Bonus points if you can name the cheesy 80s comedy those lines come from. Hint: it stars a future Oscar winner.) This was my best bass of the night, coming in at 13 inches, a very respectable size for this river. He threw acrobatic leaps and generally obstreperous behavior into the bargain.

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