Not a bad day at the office

I’m currently building a new small stream presentation. That requires photos and video, and there’s only one way to get those. So off I went to Ye Olde Brook Trout emporium. The stream was running medium-low, crystal clear, and there were some leaves, but not enough to keep the char from slashing and crashing a bushy dry. I was happy with the footage I shot, but — darn — I need some more. God, I really love my job.

Not a bad day at the office.

Survivor (and then some)

On Tuesday the DEEP collected broodstock for the next generation of Survivor Strain brown trout. The MDC drew down the reservoir to about 70cfs and the collection crews had at it. Normally, I like to give warning of the event (you can still fish, but you need to stay clear of the collection crews) but I missed that boat. However, I’m happy to report that well over 100 trout were collected — and after the challenging summer conditions these fish made it through, you can rest assured that the survival aspect of their genetic material is exceptional.

With cooler days and nights upon us, re-stocking the river will begin soon. Then we can pretend that this summer never happened.

Task completed. Back up she goes! It may take a day or so for the fish to regain their bearings.

The 2021 Smallmouth Season that Wasn’t. Or Was It?

I had big plans for this summer. I was going to go on smallmouth fishing binge the likes of which I’ve never experienced. I was going to conduct a bunch of experiments with presentation and techniques and different flies. I was going to find and learn some new water, and I was going to do some in-depth study of water I discovered last year.

And then the rains came. And came. And came. And kept coming. It was one of the wettest summers on record. The Housy was stuck on a black or blue dot on the USGS page for the entire month of July. August wasn’t much better.

But I’m a stubborn sort and I wanted to fish for smallmouth. I was damned if little things like flood stage and water the color of chocolate milk was going to stop me. So I went fishing. I managed well over a dozen outings, for which I am giving myself a gold star. I mostly had fun. I even got into fish. Here are some of the things I learned and re-learned.

Not only can you catch fish in high, heavily stained water, you can catch some big fish in high, heavily stained water. This slob could be measured in pounds. It was one of three fish in the 16″ or bigger class that I landed, on — get this — surface bugs in a 2,300cfs flow. As it turns out, it was my biggest Housy bass of the summer. All fish were taken in water about three feet deep about a rod’s length from shore. I highly recommend that you don’t wade in water that you’re unfamiliar with if you can’t see the bottom. And don’t forget the wading staff! My apologies for the substandard photo. But it’s a nice smallie.
I’d rather fish in very high or very low water than in medium-high to high flows. In the latter, there is no consistency to where the fish are from day to day, as they have enough water to virtually go anywhere. So one evening, I’d bang up a dozen quality fish in a pool. And the next, in the same mark, I’d blank or only get one or two. It’s also frustrating to have the river at a level where you just can’t wade into certain very fishy areas due to depth and current speed. I still managed to go exploring, and I fished two brand new marks with varying degrees of success. Pro tip: whether you’re fishing in high or low flows, structure is your friend, as are current breaks between faster water and slower water. Here’s the proof.
In high water, hatches go on. Not only did this’s years White Fly hatch happen, it was one of the stronger showings I’ve witnessed, and it went well into August. Sadly, the surface action was virtually nil, although I did manage a few bass on dry flies over the course of the summer. Wet fly action was a little better, but if you know there’s likely to be a strong hatch, fishing well under it — AKA nymphing — will put a very big smile on your face. I didn’t see that many black caddis this summer, but there were a bazillion sedgy-white caddis, size 18, most afternoons and evenings. The bass liked them a lot.
Some things didn’t change. There continued to be a shutdown moment right as dusk transitioned to darkness. And the Countermeasure continued to produce quality fish at that moment. I had several foot-plus bass on that fly as my last bass of the outing. Here’s to better conditions in 2022!

Small Stream 9/16/21: low, steamy, lots of small fish

Just a quick report on a lovely small stream. I fished from noon to 2:30pm, not the best time of day, but since there was canopy and cloud cover I didn’t sweat it. That is, until I began hiking thought the woods. It wasn’t a particularly hot day, but I was drenched by the time I reached my starting point, and it wasn’t from rain. The brook was lower than I’d anticipated, but that just meant that most of the players were going to be found in the plunges and darker, moving-water sections. I committed to the dry fly cause, and I had more action than I did the last time I fished this stream back in the spring. The final tally was 10 pricked, 1 landed, and most of the fish were in the sub-4″ class. (I will purposely fish a larger dry so the little fish don’t get hooked or stressed. I’m all about the joy of fooling them.)

A sea of green in the deep, dark, damp woods.

Read “Old-School Striper Patterns are Still Deadly During the Fall Run” at Field & Stream online

Fly anglers are always looking for the next best thing. Especially when it comes to fly patterns. But often, “new” doesn’t translate to “better.” Some of these patterns are decades old, but they still get eaten because the stripers haven’t gotten any smarter. So if you want to see what’s in my fly box this fall — and at the end of my leader — read “These Old-School Striper Patterns are Still Deadly During the Fall Run,” brought to you by our good friends at Field & Stream.

The Magog Smelt Bucktail didn’t make the article, but it’s another fall favorite of mine. You can find out more about this pattern here.

A surfcaster and a fly rodder walk into Long Island Sound…

…and not much happens. Surfcaster extraordinaire Toby Lapinski and your humble scribe gave it the old college try last night for close to three hours. (Note the lack of large bass photos — heck, note the lack of any bass photos.) A couple small bumps for Toby and not even a courtesy tap for me. Although I did have a couple weird moments of pressure on the drift, my fly sweeping across a reef, no hooksets were forthcoming. It was probably something small. Light show: we were treated to a spectacular electrical display as a storm moved across western Long Island. Funny thing: that storm produced a sudden cold NE breeze and some raindrops on what was otherwise a calm night. So it goes. Round three to the bass. I gotta get some points on my card, so I’ll keep punching. This mark has yet to produce for me, but I believe it will. Then we’ll see some bass photos.

The main bait continues to be menhaden, juvenile and adult, and silversides. We also saw plenty of crabs, so there’s no shortage of food. The bass were simply somewhere else.

Fly Fishing Show 2022 Marlborough & Edison: save the dates

I will once again be appearing at the Fly Fishing Show in Marlborough, MA (January 21-22-23) and Edison, NJ (January 28-29-30). I don’t yet have a schedule of my events/classes/etc., but when I do you’ll be the first to know. I’m excited to get back to the shows, and I look forward to seeing you, saying hello, and helping you catch more fish!

RI Striper Report 9/6-7/21: Tons of bait. Ounces of bass.

I fished the last two evenings at various marks in SoCo and enjoyed….not a touch. Well, that’s not entirely true. I felt every weed that brushed against my three fly team. Last night I accidentally snagged a few small menhaden. But nothing living that could be measured in pounds came in contact with my fly.

I fished inside a breachway in moving water, incoming and outgoing; in a pond area of an inflow; off a jetty; and from the beach. Not even a courtesy tap. I saw and heard a few stripers, but they were small and their presence fleeting, and I never really had a good shot at a target. Bait, on the other hand — wow! Masses of bait everywhere. Silversides, menhaden, and mullet in mother lode Vegas jackpot numbers everywhere. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such immense, dark clouds of menhaden.

The fighting is rounds. This was round one.

I’ll take menhaden. Look for an upcoming article from me in Field & Stream on matching fall run bait with classic striper flies.

Farmington River flows and temp update 9/6/21

I wish I had all good news for you, but once again we will be experiencing challenging conditions on the West Branch. Let’s start with flows. The Labor Day weekend party is over as they’ve jacked up the dam release to 1,100cfs:

And we’re back to water temperature rearing its ugly head. Look how the release temp spiked with the increased flow:

In a word, ugh. There’s nothing to be done about the flow increase, as the MDC needs to maintain a certain safe reservoir level in case of hurricanes. But the news isn’t all bad. Torrey Collins says the Still River is actually a cooling influence, and the long range forecast calls for overnight lows mostly in the upper 50s, so that’s going to help. Who knows when the DEEP will stock, or if they’ll even do a Survivor Strain broodstock gathering. I’ll do my best to keep you posted. In the meantime, I’m heading for the salt.

“8 Flies Smallmouth Bass Can’t Resist” at Field & Stream Online

You can read my newest piece, “8 Flies Smallmouth Bass Can’t Resist,” right now at Field & Stream online. Even if you’re more of a trout person, I’d recommend giving it a read as many of the patterns translate to the Salmo family. Naturally, I’ve included a few of my own bugs, like the August White and the Countermeasure. Besides, it’ll give you something to do while waiting for all this water to recede…

I’m pretty sure this guy ate a TeQueely, one of the featured patterns in “8 Flies Smallmouth Bass Can’t Resist.”