Thursday, November 26, 2015

Wishing I was fishing

It's Thanksgiving Day.  Sugarbush opened for skiing for the season today, but I wouldn't ski if I could.

It's warm enough that I would go out fishing today, if I could.  But, instead I'm in a hospital bed.  It's hard to imagine I'll fish again before spring.  If anyone really wants to see why I'm in a hospital rather than fishing, the story is on my other blog.

Otherwise, I hope everyone has a happy Thanksgiving.  I hope my fishing friends get into some nice fish today.  While I will miss the usual time with family today, in some ways I'm glad for the relative calm of the hospital. There aren't many patients in the oncology ward, so things are kind of quiet.  The nurses are awesome.  And, I'm hopefully on my way to being healthy for trout season next spring.

As a long-time ski instructor, it's going to be a long, strange winter.  But, I have stuff to take care of for the next few months.  No complaints, just some shifted priorities.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone.  Tight Lines!

Monday, November 16, 2015

And, I'm Still Fishing

The ski resorts have been able to make some snow, but November continues with above average temperatures.  So, I agreed to meet my buddy Jack and chase salmon and steelhead on Lewis Creek this past Saturday.  We knew we were in between the seasons, but it was worth exploring.

The salmon are mostly done spawning and most have probably returned to Lake Champlain.  And, the local fishing reports showed that no one has reported any steelhead yet.  They are probably waiting for some more rain to push into the river.  But, we gave it a shot anyway.

The drive to Lewis was a bit interesting.  There had been snow at the higher elevations the night before, and the roads were a bit slick.  I have studded snow tires, but I still took it easy over the first mountain pass.  It was 24F at the summit, so the ice wasn't melting yet.  I met Jack, moved my gear to his car, grabbed some coffee and we took off on the next section of the drive.  The next mountain pass had some snow, but nothing dangerous.  We had a few options for fishing Lewis Creek, but we started with the easy and obvious choice - downstream from the Rt. 7 Bridge.  There is easy parking and access to the water there.

I started in some water by the old bridge while Jack headed downstream.  Somehow, on this very cold morning, I managed to slip on a ledge in the water, landing hands first in the creek.  I was able to squeeze most of the water from my gloves, but my hands were cold for the next few hours.

I had no luck throwing a black stone fly and an egg pattern.  As I worked the water down toward Jack, I did see one small fish - either a rainbow or a salmon parr, but it disappeared into deeper water quickly.  Neither of us had any luck at all, fishing down to the flat water as the creek approaches Lake Champlain.  So, we decided to head upstream to the upper end of the open water.  Regretfully, there were two fisherman at the falls that mark the upper end of open water.  As soon as they realized we were also fishermen, they headed downstream quickly.  Regretfully, that is what we had wanted to do, but they were there first and we respected that.  We fished at the falls for half an hour with no signs of fish.  Then, we headed back downstream.  We were parked, planning to fish upstream from where we'd started earlier in the day.  But, we were pretty sure we were fishing a nearly empty river.

I suggested we could fish Otter Creek instead, where I'd had some luck the weekend before.  Jack had never fished the Otter, so we opted for that.  I knew that the killer fly the weekend before had been Prince Nymphs, so I stayed with my black stone fly and added a Prince Nymph below it.  Later, I added a Batman Prince as well.

Within 5 minutes of starting to fish, my fly got slammed by a fish.  I quickly landed a decent wild brown.  This was surprising, because everyone had been catching rainbows the week before.  Regretfully, that fish was our only solid strike all day.  There was a guy fishing below us, and we are pretty sure he worked the same water we were fishing.  He told us that he had caught 8-10 rainbows on Prince Nymphs.  So, we had the right fly and the right water, but we got there a bit too late.

I was cold, but I kept fishing.  I had been upstream from Jack for most of the time, but we swapped positions at one point.  I looked upstream a bit later to see him sitting on a log, with his rod broken down.  I was guessing he's had enough, and the sun was now starting to recede from the little canyon where we were fishing.  I walked upstream to talk to him and he was indeed done, so we called it a day about an hour earlier than we'd planned.

So, nothing on Lewis, although I may get out there in the next few weeks if ski season doesn't start.  And, one decent brown on the Otter.  Given the time of year, any day I don't get skunked is a good day.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Late season fishing

Last week was really warm.  I heard about people taking rising trout on dry flies during the warmer periods during the week.  I desperately wanted to get out of work on Thursday to fish, but there were some complex problems at work that required me to be here.  So, I waited until Saturday.

The weather wasn't as nice on Saturday, but it was close to 50F, a bit breezy, and mostly sunny.  I decided to head to Otter Creek, which I hadn't fished since opening day.  It's been a few years since Otter Creek shut me out for a season, and I wanted one last chance at the browns in the river there.  To be honest, I'm not sure if I caught a brown this season.

I got to Belden Falls just after lunchtime, and I was told that there had been 15 or so fly fishermen in the area just a couple hours earlier.  But, a quick check showed that the water I wanted to fish was open, so I geared up and hiked for a few minutes.

I had a few quick strikes, but couldn't seem to hook anything.  I was fishing a white woolly bugger and a Prince nymph trailer.  I was guessing the missed strikes were coming on the trailing fly, but I couldn't be sure without catching one.  Finally, a fish managed to hit the fly and hook himself.  I was surprised to see that it was a rainbow:

The fish had indeed taken the Prince Nymph and not my woolly bugger.  I fished for another hour or so at Belden with a few more strikes but no more hookups.  From there, I traveled back to Middlebury to the lower dam.  Two other fishermen were leaving as I arrived, but they had no waders, so I was guessing they hadn't fished the water I wanted to fish.  Regretfully, it didn't seem to matter, as I came up empty in the two main spots I'd wanted to fish.

I was now stripping the woolly buggers, trying to provoke browns to strike, and my hands were getting wet and cold.  About 15 minutes before sunset, I'd had enough and I headed back to Middlebury for a beer at Two Brothers.

I only got one fish, but it was better than nothing at all the last time I was out.  It is also rare for me to catch rainbows in the Otter, so that was an interesting change.

It is quite possible that I'm now done fishing for the season.  But, on Sunday, it's supposed to be sunny with temperatures close to 50F.  Maybe I'll give the White River or the Winooski one more shot this season.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Is my season over?

I know some friends were still having luck with landlocked salmon on the Clyde last weekend.  I wasn't having any luck at all.

The weekend before, I got out on the Winooski, focusing on two particular spots I like a lot.  One is notorious for big rainbows, including my biggest VT trout ever.  The other has more fish and it's where I catch more browns on the Winooski than anywhere else.

At the first hole, really a large seam that creates a hole, I had half a dozen strikes.  It was a cold, windy day, and when the sun came out, the fish seemed most active.  I was fishing a large muddler minnow, a GR hare's ear and a ju ju baetis.  At this time of year, I expect most of the action on the baetis, but instead, it seemed to be the hare's ear getting the most attention.  I only managed to get one fish to the net, but after fishing the White a few times recently with no strikes at all, it was nice to just be fishing where I knew the fish would think about the fly.  After about 2 hours here, I headed downstream, below the Bolton power dam.

I was very surprised to have the entire river to myself.  It was opening day of rifle season for moose, and I did hear some gunshots.  OK, it was also 34F, windy, and the forecast included rain, freezing rain, sleet and snow.  I got all of those plus some hail.  The second spot I fished is very popular, and I tend to do best in the faster water above a deep pool.  I worked through this water and had 4 or 5 very quick strikes, but they weren't solid.  I didn't hook anything.  Then, the cloud ceiling dropped, the hail started, and then switched to sleet and freezing rain.  After 20 minutes in these conditions with no additional strikes, I called it a day.  But, I had at least 10 strikes - more than I had all of September and October in the White.  And I got one wild rainbow to the net.

This past weekend, the weather was still raw and the water was colder.  I had a Saturday morning orientation at Sugarbush for my winter job there as a ski instructor.  After that was over, I had lunch with some friends and headed to the confluence of the Mad and the Winooski.  This spot never seems to fail me.  I did spook one small rainbow that was basking in shallow water as I waded upstream.  The water was cold and it was windy.  I was fishing a 3 weight.  In these conditions, I would normally fish my Sage RPL+, and overline it with a 6 weight line.  But, the tip broke a few weeks ago on that rod, and I have to send it in for a warranty repair.  (Do any other Sage owners find the concept of a lifetime warrantee that costs $60 every time you use it somewhat absurd?  That's a lot of money to pay for something called a lifetime warranty.)

So, I used my 3 weight again, but with the 10' rod length, the casting went OK.  I know there are big fish in this area, but I've never gotten one.  But, I almost always catch something.  This past Saturday, the water was cold, the air was cold, the wind was raw, and 2 hours of casting led to no strikes at all.  It's very rare that I get no strikes here.

Finally, I was too cold and called it a day.

If things don't warm up a bit, I'm guessing that will be my last day for the season.  Since some surgery in early September, I fished 5 times - 3 on the White and 2 on the Winooski.  I caught a single rainbow on the Winooski and the three days on the White yielded zero strikes.

I fished way fewer days than most seasons and caught way fewer fish than normal.  For the second year in a row, I caught no big fish at all.  Someday, maybe I'll learn how to fly fish and things will be different.  I think I've been saying that for 30 years now.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Season winding down

I haven't posted in a long time.  I was sick for months and I had some significant surgery in mid-September.

I did take advantage of Hardy ending their production of the Zenith rod  (the newer Zephyr has already been released) to buy a new rod specifically for nymphing.  I got a 10', 3 weight, and added a Lamson Litespeed reel.  The goal was to create a rod that was both long and lightweight, and use it primarily as a nymphing rod.

I've been out 3 times since my surgery and I've used the new rod all three times.  At times, I wonder if I should have gone one size bigger in the reel.  The balance point is a bit forward in the rod - just in front of the cork, to be honest.  I am going to add some weight to the back of the rod to hopefully fix this minor issue.

I've been a huge fan of my other Zenith rod that is paired with a Hatch Finatic Plus reel, and I really like this set-up as well.  But, for the price, I think it's very reasonable to expect a lot from this equipment.

My first time out, I hit my favorite spot on the main branch of the White.  This was before any significant rains in September, and the fish still seemed to be stuck in the deeper holes, rather than dispersed throughout the river.  I was still feeling run down from my surgery and I only fished 90 minutes, but I had zero strikes.

My second time out, I fished about a mile upstream from my previous outing, but still in the main branch.  A local farmer was kind enough to let me park on his property and access the river through his property.  Some very good looking water produced a grand total of 1 strike in 3 hours.  I have really struggled on the White this year, and I'm not the only one.  The past two years, I had done pretty well on the White, but this year, while I didn't fish as often as the past two years, it seemed like my trips to the White were often a complete waste of time.  I did catch 5 fish in the WRO tournament, but 4 of them were stocked.  I think I caught only 2 wild trout in the White this season.  None came from the Third Branch, where I did well last season.

Because of my surgery and illness, I fished a lot less than many years.  But, my per-day fish numbers on the White were terrible.  Hatches were almost non-existent.  What is going on with this river?

This past weekend, I braved snow, sleet and rain to fish the Winooski.  It was the opening day of rifle season for moose, and between people focused on hunting and the bad weather, I had the river pretty much to myself.  I saw no other fishermen, despite fishing some popular spots.

At the first spot, I had half a dozen strikes, mostly when the sun was out, and I got one standard issue wild rainbow.  It was a pretty fish, but nothing worth noting based on its size.  At the second spot I fished, I had another 4-5 strikes, but couldn't seem to hook the fish.  Finally a hail squall, followed by rain and snow chased me off the river.  On my drive home, we had accumulating snows and sub-freezing temperatures.  My snow tires are not yet on the car, so I took it easy.

I did hear from a friend who fished in the White River system on Saturday and Sunday.  Despite the cold nasty weather, he got 2 big browns to the net over the weekend, along with a few other fish.  So, there are fish in the White River drainage.  Maybe I just don't know what I'm doing, but my friend is a very talented fisherman, and I don't want to take anything away from his results.  He also caught a big rainbow while we fished together on the Dog earlier this year.

I might get out next Sunday, or I might be done.  Between my illness and my surgery, I fished about 1/3 of the number of days I usually fish.  Rivers that completely shut me out this year include the Middlebury, the Otter, the New Haven, the Wells, the Black, the Third Branch of the White, Ayer's Brook, and the Dog.  Last year, I caught fish in almost every single one of those rivers.  Time on the water is key to catching fish, and I simply didn't spend enough time fishing this year.

Next year...

Monday, July 27, 2015

Finally out fishing again

I think it had been about 5 weeks since I'd been fishing.  Regretfully, I've been dealing with anemia that has left me so tired that even wading is a chore.  I simply didn't have the energy to fish.  I'm hopeful that we are about to a solution to the anemia issue, and I'll be back to normal energy levels soon.

A friend was heading to far northeastern VT for an entire day on the upper Connecticut yesterday, and I managed to rally for a day of fishing with him.

I had last fished the upper Connecticut on a float trip in 1997, which is an absurd amount of time to not fish such a great river.  That float trip in 1997 was perhaps my best fishing day ever in Vermont, and the biggest brown trout that I've ever caught in VT was caught on a bead head muddler minnow that day.  I also managed the rare rainbow/brown/brookie combo that day, something that's hard to do in VT on a single river.

So, why so long between trips?  To be honest, getting to the northeast corner of VT is a challenge.  There are no direct roads, or even close to direct roads.  I can honestly get to Fenway Park faster from my house than I can get to the northeast corner of VT.

I got up at 4:15, on the road at 4:30, and and my partner was a bit late for our 5:30 meeting time, but we were on the water before 9:00.  My partner was fishing woolly buggers - olive - and mostly stripping them.  He was into fish quickly.  I was fishing a 3 fly rig of a muddler minnow, prince nymph and pheasant tail.  I let my partner have one section and I headed upstream.  I worked down through a long riffle, fighting to get a nice dead drift with my nymphs.  But, that turned out not to matter too much.  The fish either weren't deep or they were really looking up, because my strikes all came near the end of the cast, as the flies finished their final swing and started moving to the surface.  I managed to hook 5 and land 4 fish in an hour or so.  They were all beautiful wild trout, basically underneath a bridge, with very easy car access to this spot.  The water was a bit chilly (overcast day) at 62F, wading waist deep, but many of the locals were wet wading.

I headed back to where my partner was fishing and he was still getting into some fish.  He wanted to adjust my rig a bit.  He didn't like my float indicator and replaced it with a Thingamabobber strike indicator.  I have to say that these are probably my least favorite strike indicators, and I didn't keep it on very long.  But, after removing it, I tried a different tactic.  I started fishing my nymphs by stripping them.  And, in half an hour, I had at least 10 strikes and landed 4 more fish.

And then, the fishing kind of died down.  My partner caught one fish where I'd been to start, but it was slow.  We explored some other water a few miles upstream, but never found anything promising that offered safe wading. This really looks like a great stretch of water to float, simply to learn the best fishing spots.  A trip on a boat with a GPS unit to set waypoints would be invaluable.

So, we returned to where we'd fished in the morning.  Things were pretty slow.  I hiked about half a mile upstream to some nice looking water.  It had been cloudy all day, and suddenly the sun popped out for a bit.  In the small pool that I was about to fish, a sudden hatch of BWOs appeared.  A few fish started coming to the surface.  And, for 15 minutes or so, every cast I made resulted in a strike.  I only got 2 of these fish to the net, and missed a bunch more, but it was amazing.  Then, the cloud cover came back, the BWOs disappeared, and the fish stopped biting.  It was like I was fishing in barren water, but I knew that water was full of fish.  They just weren't biting any more.

Overall, we got about 20 wild rainbows to the net.  Nothing was really big.  My 2 biggest fish were the last 2, and both went just over 12".  I think Paul got a 14" fish.  But, in a area with easy access and lots of pressure from locals who keep every fish they catch, I was amazed at the number of fish in this water.  This river is simply full of fish.  I know there are some browns and brookies in there too, but we didn't catch any.

I just wish it was closer to home, but I need to make the effort to fish there more often.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

New Waders

My waders have been leaking and it's simply been getting worse and worse.  I have had a few days this season where my feet have been soaked for 8 hours or more while wading.  What's the point of even having waders?  And, waders full of hot water are not comfortable at all and they make wading much more difficult.  They are heavier and compromise your safety while wading.

The waders I've been using are the Orvis Pro Guide (or is it Guide Pro) model that was discontinued around the end of 2012.  I bought them as closeouts in February of 2013.  I have probably fished in them 80-100 times (max) and it just seemed amazing to have 6 or more leaks per leg.  Some of the toughest leaks are where the wader leg is sewn to the neopene bootie, and I've had no luck at all repairing these waders.  It's pretty well understood that when waders start to leak at the top of the bootie, they are very tough to fix or use.

I figured I had a handful of options:

  • I could try to find someone local to fix the waders.
  • I could try to have Orvis fix the waders.
  • I could continue the losing battle of fixing them myself.
  • I could get new Orvis waders.
  • I could buy other new waders.

I think it's worth noting that most wader companies have changed their construction techniques in the past few years.  My older waders used much more stitching, with glue to seal the stitches.  Those stitches tend to be areas where leaks occur most often.  The newer waders have much less stitching, if any.  Everything is multi-layered and glued together.  Allegedly, this reduces leaks, but we will see.

So, I looked around locally and didn't find anyone who advertised that they repaired waders.

Orvis wanted my waders for 4-6 weeks, during trout season, to try to repair them.  The idea of giving them up for most of the rest of the summer made no sense, especially because I assumed they'd have new leaks by the fall.  Although, we are getting close to wet wading season, so perhaps I didn't need them for the next few weeks.

I'm not going to fix them.  I think that is simply established at this point.

So, I found myself thinking about new waders.  I have an opportunity to purchase one of the major wader brands at a nice discount.  My thought for a couple years was that my next waders would be that other brand.  But, Orvis truly does have amazing customer service, and they came through again.

As I talked to the Orvis support rep, I told him that 4-6 weeks was simply too much time.  I told him that perhaps it was time to take advantage of a discount and switch to another brand.  Suddenly, he had an upgrade option for me.  For an upgrade fee (it depended on the model I wanted), I could upgrade to the latest Orvis wader models.  When I considered what I paid for these waders originally (on close-out) and that I'd gotten 2 year of use, and I realized my total cash outlay would be less than the current price of a new pair of waders, I took that option.

I am not really into zippered waders; I simply don't see the need.  So, I chose the Silver Sonic Guide Wader.  I did tell the customer support rep that if these guys leak anything like the last waders, they will be my last Orvis waders.  He told me he's heard of very few issues with the newer models leaking, and he was confident I'd be very happy.  I hope he's right.

To prove that I wasn't scamming them (I might have sold the waders years ago, I suppose), I had to cut an Orvis label out of the waders.  I also makes the current waders a lot less useful going forward.  As soon as they had the label in VA, they'd send the new waders.

I was planning to go to the post office today to send in the label, when I got an e-mail from UPS telling me that a package from Orvis would be arriving today.  So, I guess they shipped them right away.

Now, if I'm really, really lucky, the rain will back off some this week, and I can go fishing with dry feet this coming weekend.  I'll post a review after I've had them on the water a few times.