Monday, March 20, 2017

Just a few more flies and I should be ready

I've been tying a lot of different flies this winter and fewer of my old stand-bys.  This has included, as mentioned before, a number of competition or attractor patterns, and fewer insect-specific ties.

Some of the flies that I'm tying, such as the Juju Baetis, have a very specific purpose.  The same is true with wooly buggers.  But, some of my newer patterns have included Navy Divers, Neon Firestormers, Frenchies, and Perdigon flies.  The last two are the two I'm most curious about for this coming season.  Both are sparse, quick sinking flies used internationally in competitions.  They are easy ties - a Coq de Leon tail, a bead, and a bright collar are the core of the fly.

The Perdigon uses a Sharpie to create a dark wing case and it has a simple thread body.  It is designed to plummet to the bottom.

The Frenchie is really a form of a Pheasant Tail and uses a PT and wire body, an optional ice dub thorax, and then the collar.  If you use the ice dub, the key is to match it somewhat to the color of the thread used for the collar.

I've pretty much decided that all of these patterns will inhabit a new box in my pack - a box of just attractor and competition nymphs.  I'll see how these do vs. my normal nymphs (PT's, Prince, hare's ear, zug bug, and my various BWO nymphs).  I'll simply adjust my fishing from there based on what works.

I ordered some hooks this morning and some slotted tungsten beads.  Those should be the last supplies I need to finish up my tying for the winter.  With 19 days left to opening day, it's crunch time.

Although, to be honest, opening weekend I'll most likely be stripping gaudy Kelly Galloup streamers for a shot at a big brown.  The new nymphs will come into play as the nymph fishing picks up when water levels drop and the water clears up a bit.  This will mostly be in May and June, so it may be a while before I know if this new focus will work or not.

This has been a winter of re-thinking a lot of flies and techniques I use.  It's completely possible that I'm overthinking everything and I'll end up wishing I had tied more traditional flies over the winter. Or, just maybe, these new flies and some tight line nymphing will elevate my game to the next level.

That's why we call it fishing, I suppose, rather than catching.  Until I get onto the water, I honestly have no idea what will happen with the fish.  Either way, I'm going to have fun pursuing them.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Am I tying the right flies? Buying the right flies?

I seem to be doing more and more with attractor patterns recently.

Yes, the Navy Divers in my last post are clearly attractor patterns.

The JuJu Baetis that I've been tying are somewhat on the edge - a flashy version of the standard PT nymph.  Are they are an attractor or a good approximation of a baetis?  In some ways, the flashback puts them into attractor pattern for me, even though it's a pattern that works for me, especially in the fall in Vermont.

And, I find myself looking at other flies.  Should I be tying mop flies?  How about Neon Nightmares - the last fly from the Gink and Gasoline blog?  Girdle bugs?

And, my most recent fly purchases have been varieties of Prince nymphs - Batman Princes, Black Montana Princes, and Blue Montana Princes.  While the regular Prince works great in my home river, I find myself fishing the Batman Prince (or other similar attractor patterns) a lot in recent years.

There are times when I think the obsession with flies is just too much.  I should probably just cut down to some princes, some PTs, some hare's ears, some stones, and not much else for my nymphing.

And then, I have a day where I catch half a dozen fish on a Batman Prince or a Juju Baetis or a Copper John.  The "shiny" flies work.

A fly fishing blog recently posed the question about what matters most - location, fly selection, or fly presentation.

The first is obviously crucial.  I'm not going to catch trout in my bathtub.  So, I have to go where the fish are.  But, after that, which matters more - the choice of fly or how it's presented to the fish?

Ideally, we would always be presenting the proper fly to fish, in an appropriate manner.  But, if I catch fish on gaudy attractor patterns because I'm comfortable with how to fish those flies, is there something wrong with that?  Or, would I be better off just using a few key flies and honing my presentation there?

This is a serious question, asked by someone who currently owns close to 1500 flies.  I'm not unhappy with how my fishing tends to go, but I'm sure I can do better.  And, I'm not sure that my recent focus on attractor patterns feels like a step away from tradition.

After 40 years as a fly fisherman, I'm still learning all the time, and I honestly don't have the answers.  Maybe that's why I still fish with guides every chance I get.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Navy Divers

Here is what I did on Saturday.  The photo is a bit fuzzy because those are size 14 flies and my iPad camera (or its operator) sucks.

No automatic alt text available.

These are tied on a jig hook, and I think they will be an excellent attractor nymph on my home river.  Because they float with the hook up, and they will get deep with the tungsten beads, I'm hoping they help with quick strikes as my trailing nymph in a multi-fly rig.  I also think they will do really well for fall brookies on the Magalloway in Maine.

Here is the info on how to tied them:

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Getting ready for the new season

I've been tying flies:

I've entered the Otter Creek Classic opening weekend fly fishing tournament.  I've bought tickets to the Fly Fishing Film Tour movie.  I have my ticket for my local Trout Unlimited regional banquet on the evening of opening day.

And, after tying all those woolly buggers, I was ready to move on to Pheasant Tail nymphs, when I discovered I was out of brown thread.  So, I ordered some new thread - brown, black, white, gray and olive, in 6/0 and 8/0.  While I was spending money, I also got some new leaders and tippet material, plus a few flies and a few other fly tying materials.

In the next few weeks, I need to tie PTs, Hare's ears, Prince nymphs, and purple juju baetis flies.  Other than those, I think I'm set for the new season.

Well, I'm going to buy a few Kelly Galloup streamers for opening weekend.  Those are flies I've still never tried to tie, and I'm not going to get to them this year.

I am having some surgery on 2/13.  Last winter, I had similar surgery on 3/6, and I wasn't 100% by opening day.  With surgery being earlier this winter, I'm hoping I'll feel OK by opening day.  Given that I have the film on Friday night, fishing Saturday, a banquet Saturday night, fishing on Sunday, and then the awards BBQ after the tournament on Sunday, I better be feeling good, or I'll never keep up.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

It looks like I'm done for the season

I've been busy.  I will admit that.  Election season took some time from me.  Medical appointments, including some that require travel.  A weekend at an ultramarathon.  A weekend visiting my daughter at college.  And, on the very limited number of weekend days that I wasn't too busy, it's been cold and rainy.  In some cases, the water was still just too low.  The last time I fished, the White River was the lowest I've ever seen in the 19 years I've been fishing the river.

Pathetic?  Maybe.

But, I had a decent season.  No, I had a really fun season.  I caught way more good sized fish this year than I did last year, and I caught a lot more fish as well.  I probably caught the most fish 16" or larger that I've ever taken in a trout season, and I got fish that size in 4 different states in a year that I never even fished in PA.  Some of them were stocked, but some were wild.  I caught my first ever landlocked salmon this year.  I chased pike on the fly.  I finished third in the White River Open fly fishing tournament.  And, I learned a lot and I'm a better fisherman now than I was a year ago.  I'll take that.

A friend just sent me some pheasant feathers from two birds he shot.  I need to start working on smaller white and olive buggers, PTs (regular and soft hackle), princes, juju baetis, and a few other flies that are getting thin in my fly box.  I didn't tie much last winter, mostly due to going through chemo and just spending my days trying to stay warm.

This year, I'm hoping to get more time at the vise.  I'm hoping that a couple more rounds of treatment buy me time so I can stay healthy for all of fishing season next year.

I was hoping that I could teach skiing all winter and use the money to buy a new rod and reel next spring.  I have two different outfits in mind, both in the 9 foot, 5 weight range, and both expensive.  Since I'll be doing radiation and having more surgery this winter, I doubt that I'll work enough to save up the money for the 2 outfits I've been considering.  I certainly won't have enough money to buy that elusive pontoon drift boat I've wanted for a few years.  But, I can't really complain.

I saw my wife catch some amazing fish this year.  One early summer outing in the rain with my wife, and 2 of our friends yielded some great results, and we shared a nice dinner afterward.

Guides!  Brian Cadoret.  Matt Heron.  Al Karg.  I listed them alphabetically.  There is no preference there.  I'd fish with any of them any chance I get.  I can't say enough about these three truly professional and passionate guides.  If I'm lucky, I'll fish with all of them in the future.

During the years that I focused my free time on running ultramarathons and marathons, I really missed fly fishing.  But, life only gives us so much time.  Yes, I did my first ultramarathon in 6 years this season.  But, not once did I let the training for the race interfere with fishing.  My priority is being on the river these days.  I train during the week.  I fish when I can.

Life is good.  Uncertain at times, but good.

Until next time...

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Back out of state to catch some fish

Our long summer of drought has now extended into the autumn.  Every year, I try to take a week off to fly fish during September.  It's one of my favorite times to be out there, and most of the fish still in the rivers are wild fish rather than stocked fish.  But, given our drought right now, I decided to leave Vermont for most of my week of fishing.

So, 2 weeks ago, I left work early on a Tuesday and headed to Pittsburg, NH.  I have to admit that I got lost for a bit on the way there, and I arrived too late to fish on Tuesday evening, which had been my plan.

On Wednesday, I was up well before first light, and I met a guide named Al Karg just below Murphy's Dam in Pittsburg.  You can find Al on Facebook by searching for "Soft Hackle Guide Service".  Al was already fully dressed in his waders and ready to go when I arrived.  He had even brought a mug of coffee along for me, which I drank quickly as I got ready.  By shortly after first light, we were on the river.

I had told Al that my goal for the day was a shot at a big brown.  The stretch below Murphy's Dam may be one of the most underrated fisheries on the east coast for big browns.  Al was a bit disappointed to see another guide's car in the lot, and as he feared, we were not going to be the first people in the hole he wanted to focus on.  So, we fished higher up on the river to start - stripping a big streamer that Al tied to resemble the smelt from Lake Francis.  We fished that streamer through one very long hole with no luck.  By this point, we were able to move into the water that Al had wanted to start in.

After a few casts with the streamer, we switched to tiny nymphs and light tippet as the sun got higher in the sky.  One big brown was all over this hole, feeding on something, but you never knew where the fish would come up again.  So, we kept fishing, hoping that the fish would get close enough to toss the flies his way.  Eventually it happened - the fish came up directly downstream from me, and I cast out and let the flies swing into the spot where the fish had come up.  I had a soft strike, set the hook, and then nothing.  We brought in the line and the flies were gone.  At this point, we realized that I had on a fluoro leader and Al had tied nylon tippet onto the fluoro.  That is where the knot failed.  So, while I'm not positive that I hooked the big guy, there's a decent chance that I had.  That fish rose a few more times, but we had no luck in that hole, so we headed downstream.

I had one more strike where a side stream comes in and it was likely a small brookie.  Around 11:30, we finally moved on from this stretch of water.  We headed downstream to fish a stretch of pocket water, but even with wading staffs, the current and wading were challenging.  From there, we went downstream a bit more to another stretch of pocket water that ended in a deep hole.  I had no luck there either, and we parted ways.  We both needed some food and I needed a shower.  When I got out of the shower at 2:45, Al was already at my campsite to head back out for the second half of the day.  We decided to fish the upper end of the Trophy Section between First Connecticut Lake and Lake Francis.

I had fished this water just a few weeks ago, and I'd caught one nice fish and a handful of other fish.  This time, the flows were much higher and the wading was challenging.  But, we used wading staffs and held onto each other for support on a few of our stream crossings.  At the well known Corner Hole, I finally got a fish.  I think Al was a bit unhappy that I'd insisted on using a purple fly (Batman Prince Nymph) through this stretch.  He really doesn't fish attractor patterns, but I'd had good luck with purple flies through here a few weeks ago.  I got a decent wild Rainbow out of the Corner Hole, and I then missed a strike just downstream where I'd taken an 18" fish a few weeks ago.  We fished the Judge's Pool and the Jury box with no luck to end the day.  Here is the one rainbow I caught that day:

So, I likely hooked one big fish but lost him.  I only caught one fish.  But, I felt like I learned a lot about the water and I had a good day.  The next day, this would pay off a bit.

I started Thursday on the same water, but I went with nymphs from the start.  The big brown was on the prowl again, but there were worm dunkers all around me, and I think they put the fish down with their long lob casts right on top of the latest rise.  I did manage a 10" rainbow in that hole and I got a brookie downstream where I'd missed a strike the day before.  So, I was no longer skunked on this water.

I headed back to my campground for a shower and a nap.  I talked to a younger fisherman in his waders in the campground store and asked him how he was doing.  He said he'd done well, with one big salmon, a big brookie and one big rainbow on the lower half of the trophy section.  He told me the fish had all come on an olive woolly bugger, on the swing.  So, I re-rigged my rod with a size 6 olive woolly bugger and a trailing tiny nymph.  I parked at Carr Ridge Road, and fished the stretch from below the bridge (there were already 3 people fishing at the bridge) down to the Junction Pool.  Halfway down, I had a vicious take and brought in a 20" rainbow.  Just a few casts later, I had another vicious strike in the same pool and got a beautiful wild 16" rainbow.  The bigger fish might have been a stocked fish, based on its coloration.  I fished down some more, and then came back to the bridge and fished there until dark.  I had a couple half-hearted strikes, but nothing noteworthy.  Here is the 20" rainbow as it swam out of the net:

It rained hard all night long, and to be honest, I just slept in the next morning.  I tore down my camp in the morning and headed to Errol, NH and the Dartmouth College Second Land Grant.  I met my friend Joel at the entrance to the grant, and we headed to our cabin for the weekend.  From here, we went out and fished the Diamond for a while before dinner.  To be honest, we didn't see any signs of fish the entire time we were out there.

The next morning, we started on the Diamond again.  Then, we headed upstream on the same river and we got a few small brookies on tiny nymphs.  From there, we headed above the confluence of the Swift Diamond and Dead Diamond (when they meet, the river becomes the Diamond) to a  big slow bend on the Dead Diamond.  We had no luck there, so we decided to leave the land grant and head to the Magalloway in Maine.

On the upper stretches of the Diamond, above the gorge:

We fished a location where a slow moving stream enters the river.  It's a beautiful area and it was hard to tell that we were only a couple hundred yards from a road.  It was pure wilderness.  I decided to let the other 2 guys fish the pool at the entrance to the stream and I stepped into the main stem of the river.  I quickly picked up a 10" brookie on a Copper John.  This led to Joel putting on a Copper John and he started catching fish at the confluence.  He had one big fish snap him off, but he got a 20" fish and an 18" fish.  They were beautiful males in spawning colors.  I think Joel hooked 6 fish or so before it got dark, but the other 2 of us got nothing other than my early brook trout.  So, I got 4 brookies for the day.  Here are few photos from in the river:

The next morning, we headed to right where we'd finished the day before.  This time, we put our 3rd fisherman in the sweet spot at the confluence.  He was a fairly new fisherman and we wanted him to have the best shot at the fish.  But, I was suddenly the person catching fish.  It took a while to figure out exactly what would prompt a strike.  The water was very slow and I was fishing a bead head Copper John.  I would cast it, and let it drift until it hit the bottom.  It would travel only a small distance before that happened.  Then, I would slowly raise the rod and the fish would grab the fly as it rose from the bottom.  But, they were super subtle strikes - really it just felt like somebody added a couple split shots to the leader and you had to use that as an indicator to lift faster to set the hook.  The first fish I hooked was big - probably over 20", and I got him into shallow water, but he threw the hook.  The next fish was a beautiful spawning male:

Then, I got a couple other fish, including a 14" fish.  I don't get to fish for wild brookies very often, and the 16" fish was my biggest brookie ever.  But, we weren't done yet.  At about 10:30, we had to head back to the cabin and clean it up and get our stuff out.  After that, our third fisherman headed home, and Joel and I headed to the Magalloway again, but this time, we headed upstream to the famous Mailbox Hole.  This was a bit challenging because the main pool creates a lot of eddies, and I was actually fishing my nymphs by letting them drift upstream.  Joel got a small salmon early on, and I eventually hooked and landed a beautiful 18" brookie.  At this point, I had my 2 biggest brookies of my life in one day, and I'd lost an even bigger fish.

Eventually, I had to head back to Vermont, but Joel stayed and returned to our first spot.  He hooked one more monster and lost it, but got a handful of fish in the 14"-20" range.  What a great little pocket of water that is, although it took a while to get the technique down.

I got to Vermont and spent the night with my in-laws in the Northeast Kingdom.  The next day, I was scheduled to fish the Clyde River for spawning landlocked salmon.  But, the guide called me and told me that water was simply too low for the salmon, so we agreed to fish the Lamoille instead.

We didn't start early because most of the recent hatches had been in the afternoon.  The first few casts I took were to a big brown sunning himself in the Gihon River just above where it enters the Lamoille.  My third cast spooked the fish and I never did get a clean drift past him.  From there we headed to a couple spots on the Lamoille.  The lack of insect life was surprising and there were no rising fish at all.  I did get one decent wild bow on a stripped woolly bugger in slow water.

From there, we headed back to the Gihon, fishing up through some drop-offs and focusing on the pocket water.  I turned two fish - one on a nymph under a hopper and one that chased a Zonker, but no strikes.  Finally, at the top-most pocket in this stretch - a deep pocket that holds some big browns - I had a strike, but I didn't hook the fish.

In the Gihon:

And just like that, my fishing vacation was over.

I got out on the White River in Royalton yesterday and the river is the lowest I have ever seen it.  Holes that are normally deep were shallow and crystal clear.  I fished for about an hour without any signs of fish before heading home.  We got some rain this morning and more is in the forecast for next weekend, but our drought is far from over.  I may try Otter Creek next weekend.

Friday, September 16, 2016

First day out in VT in quite a while

I had last fished in VT on 7/24/2016.  Normally, it's not too hard to find places to fish in August, but certain waters are off limits.  This year, due to record heat and very low water conditions, I didn't fish in VT once during August.  I did fish in NH during August, and that's where I'll be fishing again next week, but I finally got out in VT last weekend.

After a few cool nights and some rain overnight on a Saturday, I got out on a Sunday evening, on the main branch of the White River.  The water temperature was still marginal at 68F, but it was cool enough to fish.  Flows were still low, but adequate for fishing.

As I got to the stream, I saw a few iso emergers and there were a few BWOs in the air.  I had already anticipated those flies, and I had a 3 fly rig with an iso nymph up top, a Batman Prince in the middle, and a juju Baetis last.  This is a series of 4 major pools that I was fishing top to bottom.

On my very first cast into the first pool, my strike indicator went under.  I was guessing the water was too shallow and I'd snagged a nymph, but I set the hook anyway.  I hooked a fish and turned him - a nice brown - and then because of bad line management, he got some slack and threw the hook.  Earlier in the year, I took an 18" brown in this pool, and it may very well have been the same fish.

After that, things slowed down a lot.  I worked down through the first hole with no more strikes.  None in the second hole either.  I was almost through the third when my strike indicator moved again.  This time, I hooked and landed a small wild rainbow.  And that was it for the day.

Well, I had one more strike but failed to hook the fish.  So, 3 strikes in 2.5 hours - not really all that great.  But, it was nice to be on the water.  And, I helped a young boy who was bait fishing and struggling with his equipment.  I always try to help the next generation when I can.  I know that I was a bait guy at his age, and hopefully he will remember a fly fisherman helping him, and he'll consider fly fishing as an option in the future.

Next Tuesday, I'm heading to NH for a week or so of fishing, and during the trip, I'll fish in NH, ME and eventually, back in VT.  I hope to get out on the Winooski this coming weekend as well.

My trip to NH starts on Tuesday.  I will get there somewhat late, but I'm hoping to get a little time on the Connecticut above Lake Francis on Tuesday evening, probably the lower half of the trophy section - Carr Bridge down to Doc's Hole or so.

Wednesday, I'm fishing with a guide below Murphy Dam, and the entire goal for the day is big browns.  We are going to start in darkness with mouse patterns, and then move to nymphs as we get some light.

Thursday, I'm going to fish the entire upper half of the trophy section - from the dam down to the bridge.  After I hike back to my car, I will see if I have time to do any more fishing.  If so, I have a number of places to consider.

Friday, I'll fish in the morning for a bit, but not too long.  I'm meeting friends that afternoon and staying in Dartmouth's Second College Land Grant for the weekend.  I'm guessing we will fish the Dead Diamond Friday night and Saturday morning.  At some point, we will cross into Maine to chase big brookies on the Magalloway.  I will fish until Sunday evening and then head back to Vermont.

Monday morning, I'm going to fish the Clyde for landlocked salmon coming out of Lake Memphremagog to spawn.  In the afternoon, I might hit the Black River in Irasburg on my way home.

That's 7 straight days of fishing and I'm beyond excited.  I know that water flows have been increased on the trophy section of the Connecticut and fishing has been improving.  I will be at most of these places when they aren't crowded, and I'll likely have time on the trophy water all to myself,  Just me and the fish.

This won't be the end of my season - far from it.  But, after next week, all of my fishing will be on weekends, right up until mid-November or so, when I'll put away the fly rods and pull out the skis.