Three hours in the woods is good for the soul, especially if it involves a thin blue line and fishing with one of your sons. In early spring the woods hold so much promise. The buds look ready to burst, the skunk cabbage pips are poking through the swampy sections of forest floor, and if you’re lucky you can be fishing in shirt sleeves. I prefer these tiny woodland wonders when there’s canopy, but I’m always curious about what the day will bring regardless of conditions. We both fished bushy dries, save for a few exploratory plunges with an ICU Sculpin. We didn’t find many players, but those we did attacked the fly with fervor. (All photos by Cam Culton save for the one of him fishing.)
Thursday was small stream fishing day. March isn’t exactly the wheelhouse for a small stream — there’s no canopy, the water is typically up and cold, and the wild brookies haven’t moved out of their winter lies — but Cam and I went for no other reason than to enjoy the woods and pretend we were many miles from civilization.
As I suspected, the action was painfully slow. We rose and landed one char all day. Yet, what better way to feel alive than to be out on a thin blue line and be so warm you’ve got to start removing layers?
Given the conditions, we decided stealth was in order. Here’s Cam doing a little commando fishing. We started off with bushy size 14 dries; after those went unmolested, I added a tiny nymph dropper to my rig. Still no love, so tied on an ICU Sculpin for Cam to jig in some deeper plunges. That’s what he’s doing here.
We saw a decent number of bugs: omnipresent midges, and a few small (size 18) tan caddis. But the brookies remained hunkered down. Finally, as we were bushwhacking out, I invoked the “One More Cast” Rule. The slashing strike came out of nowhere. After a few more rises on a waking presentation, I decided a size 14 Stimulator was too big. On went a size 16 Humpy, and the next cast produced this fine buck.
Thanks to the Gov for opening the season early!
I noticed as I was driving through my neighborhood that every dog owner seemed to be out with rover for walkies. Same deal in the other residential areas I passed through. Who could blame them? With the sun cheerfully sharing its warmth, it felt more like early April than late February. But would the fishing be for the dogs?
My original intention was to throw streamers on the Farmington. Time and space got in the way, so a quick shot to a local brook was the new plan. The water was high, clear, and very cold — I’d guess upper 30s. Any snow and shelf ice had long since made its way to the Connecticut River or maybe even Long Island Sound. The trout were still holding in their winter lies. I fished a bushy dry/dropper and a couple micro streamers. Pricked five, landed three, and all of them came on the subsurface fare. (This tells me that while we may be dreaming of spring, the char are still in winter mode.)
A fine example of local folk art. This handsome native took an ICU Sculpin that was swung and then jigged through a deep plunge pool.
There are two ways to look at this mess. Both are emotional: Thanks, Mother Nature, for totally cocking up this neat little section of water. Or, what a great place for brookies to hang out! I feel that come spring, the intrepid angler who can figure out how to drift a bushy dry into this wooded Gordian Knot will be richly rewarded.
I went for a walk in the woods yesterday. The thin blue line had turned mostly white, as had the forest floor. Here are a few photos from the outing.
Stuff like this beats the tar out of any store-bought Christmas tree — real or plastic.
The story on the brook was very little fishable water. Somewhere below ice and froth there are brook trout. Sadly, I couldn’t find any that wanted to play.
With temperatures in the teens, line and leader and fly froze the moment they hit the air. A hike through the snow pack and a Nestor Miranda Habano corona Gorda (and many layers and hand warmers) kept me nice and cozy.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.