Monday, October 16, 2017

Playing tour guide

I spent yesterday on the White with a local friend, playing tour guide and showing him some new spots.  I must have done the job well, because I put him on more fish than I touched.  We met at 1:00 on a breezy, partly sunny day.

We met in Bethel at Peavine Park, but we had no plans to fish that heavily pressured water yesterday.  I love the stream right there by the park.  It gets plenty of pressure, but it's still one of my favorite spots for both browns and rainbows.  Once the stockies get fished out, it's a really fun stretch.  But, my friend already knew that spot, so we headed upriver.  We drove a few miles on Rt. 107 to a well known hole just upstream from Cleveland Brook.  I'm not "spot burning" here, given the fact that the turnout to access this spot seems to have cars in it every weekend.

We'd had a strange weekend a week before.  Saturday had seen consistent trico hatches and rising fish.  Sunday, the fish had been down, they were in shallower water than normal for this time of year, especially considering the low water conditions, and they seemed to be keying in on soft hackles on the swing.

I gave James the choice of two stretches at the first hole, and he picked well.  He hit the top of a riffle leading into a medium-deep stretch of water.  I worked the riffles running into the main pool, just 100 yards downstream or so.

It didn't take long for me to hear James yell that he had a fish on.  Regretfully, I looked upstream just in time to see the fish jump and throw the hook.  I had been keying on a decent fish that was working the surface a bit, but I couldn't get the fish to take anything, and eventually, the fish must have gotten tired of my flies or fly line and it just stopped rising.

After I'd fished through three different riffles, I headed up to see how James was doing.  He caught a small wild rainbow just as I got to him.  He'd been getting consistent action on soft hackles and made some room for me to slide into the hole with him.  I had a few strikes at the top of the hole and then finally caught one decent wild fish downstream from him.  I think he got 2-3 fish out of that hole - all wild.  We were in the special regulations section, and I rarely see stocked fish this far up, and every fish we landed was smaller than the cookie cutter stockies.

The later season this year has been fairly productive, with fish every time out, despite some of the lowest water conditions I've ever seen on the White.  We've had some late season hatches - mostly BWOs and tricos, and I've taken more fish on dries late this season than any other year I can remember on the White.  Yesterday, with the partly cloudy conditions and consistent breeze, bugs were rare and only a few fish came to the surface, and even those fish were rising very intermittently.

After working the one productive stretch pretty hard, we headed downstream.  We picked a place that I know doesn't get much pressure, and where there are three distinct large holes.  I opted for the middle hole of the three, after losing a decent brown there a week ago.  James started at the bottom of the upper hole, but I could soon see that he'd moved to the top of that stretch, where riffles lead into the first part of the hole.

I got shut out completely in my stretch, but James had a number of strikes and even hooked one good fish.  He lost that one, but caught two more in the two hours we fished there.  I didn't get a strike.

So, James got 4 or 5 fish in some water he'd never seen before. I got one fish and missed a couple others.

We are getting to that time of the year where leaves in the water can slide down your fly line and leader, and make you think you have a strike, and you have to be vigilant to keep your fly line clean.

I'm out of town next weekend.  The weekend after that, if the weather holds, I'm going to try a late season trip to the Otter Creek.  There is one little secret that results in great fishing on one part of the Otter at this time of year - a particular fly that the fish can't seem to resist - rainbows or browns.  So, I'm hoping to make that trip yet this year.

After Halloween, I'll be focused on ski season, most likely, and less likely to get out fishing.  I am not a year round fisherman like some I know.

Due to my surgery in June, and recovery into July, I only fished about half as many days as a normal year this year, and I missed some of the most productive weeks of fishing.  And, I caught about 50% of the trout that I normally catch.  I lost my two biggest fish of the year - browns on the White River.

My biggest fish came from the Andro and my second biggest fish came from the Dog.  I added two new rivers this year - the Battenkill and the Andro.  I didn't make it to the New Haven this year.  I didn't fish the Winooski or the Mad either.  The most fish I got in a day was on a float trip on the Andro, and that day saw probably over a third of the fish I caught all year

I caught more fish on dries that wet flies this year - a rarity for me.

And, as usual, I enjoyed every single day out there. 

I'm not quite calling it a season, but we are close to the end.  Of course, that means it's soon time to ski, so I'm looking forward to that.  I have a new job at Sugarbush this winter, and I'm looking forward to the changes there.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Weird night of fishing

Temps have dropped way off in the past week.  Sunday never got about 65F or so, and the river was close to 60F in the evening.

I didn't have much time, so I went to one of my tried and true places to fish.  This is an interesting location, because it's very easy to reach, it gets a lot of pressure, yet I always seem to catch fish there.  It's simply a stretch of water that holds a lot of fish, including some big browns, smallmouth bass, and the primary residents, the rainbows.

When I got there on Sunday, I was stunned by the low water levels.  These were the lowest water levels I've ever seen on the White River.  There were rocks sticking up that I had never seen uncovered before.

But, I knew there were a couple deep pools that would be holding fish, so I geared up, walked to the water, double-checked the water temperature, even though I knew it would be OK, and then moved to the top hole to start fishing.

This particular hole has been kind of slow for me this year.  I've had plenty of strikes, and I hooked a big brown here early in the year, but I've caught just a few fish there this season.  At this time of year, I typically start with the same fly rig every time out on the White - a Prince Nymph of some sort (size 14 or smaller) and a tiny juju baetis off the back of the Prince.

Because of the low water levels and the water clarity, I opted to not use a strike indicator.  I didn't want the indicator to scare any fish.

I started with my normal approach to this hole - stay far away from the deep water and fish the water closest to me first.  I always work this hole very methodically because it's common to catch fish in some spots where a careless angler would wade right in.

And, on my third cast, I had a strike.  In the next five minutes, two more.  But, no hookups.  I spent the next 45 minutes or so fishing this hole, watching fish rise all over the place, but I got no more strikes.  So, I moved downstream to the next hole - a hole that has been very productive this year.  And, in 30 minutes with my nymphs, I got nothing.  Not a single strike.  Plus, no fish were even rising here.

Sunset was approaching, so I decided, just like the week before, to try a dry fly in the fading light.  Once again, I went with a size 18 Klinkhammer with a fluorescent orange post, hoping I could see the small fly in the dwindling light.  And, I moved back to the upper hole, because that's where fish had been rising earlier.

At the end of a pretty good drift, the fly starting to sink into the film, and as I started to retrieve it for another cast, a fish grabbed it.  Because I'd been pulling the fly in, I hooked the fish easily.  It was a small wild rainbow.

After drying my fly with Top Ride, I went back to working the hole, but it was getting very tough to see the fly.  Fish weren't rising any more either, so I was about ready to give up.  Then, on a cast where I knew I had a bad drift and the fly had to have sunk, I felt a subtle bump.  I set the hook, and this time, I knew it was a decent fish.  It was stripping line off the reel at times, and trying to use the current to its advantage.  But, it wasn't that big, and in a few minutes, it was in the net.  This was another wild bow, about 15" this time.

I made a half dozen more casts, but it was pretty dark by now.  And, the two fish had meant no skunk, plus I had a decent fish, so I headed home.

So, I caught two fish on dries in the main branch of the White, something I do very rarely.  But, the fly was not on the surface either time the fish hit.  Is it still considered a dry fly if it brings in fish while under the surface?

Monday, September 25, 2017


It's rare to get a true hatch on the White River.  Yeah, we get sporadic iso's in season.  We get some sporadic early season hatches - Hendricksons, in particular.  There are stoneflies in the river, and you can find their casings at times, but I never see them in large numbers.

Last night, I picked a spot I had never fished before - right where the Second Branch empties into the main branch.  I knew there was some deep water there, and with flows very low right now (212 cfs in Hartford VT, vs. a median of 265 and a mean of 427 for the date), I needed some deep water.

I pre-rigged my rod with my White River standard fall duo of a Prince Nymph (I use many flavors of Princes, but went for the basic variety with a bead last night) trailed by a small juju baetis.  I was surprised to see fish rising in the water sporadically just after I arrived.  There were no bugs in the air, so I didn't know what they were taking, but I kept my eyes open.

I started fishing with a strike indicator.  My first time down through the stretch, I got nothing at all.  Not one strike.

So, with fish still rising, I decided to try a small caddis fly with a juju baetis dropper.  I had one fish come up and bat the dry, but nothing else.  Again, I fished the entire length of this run - fifty yards or so.

After no luck on the dry/dropper, I switched to a Montana Prince nymph and a juju baetis.  This time, I omitted the strike detector.  Almost immediately, I had a fish on the bigger nymph, and I lost him right at the net.  I think this fish was a stocked fish based on its color (or lack of color) and its size.

A few casts later, I got another fish, this time on the juju baetis.  This was a smaller wild fish.  And, as I continued downstream, nothing else happened.

By now, it was getting close to dark, and I could see BWOs in the air all around me.  The fish weren't taking flies off the surface, so I assumed they were taking BWO emergers, but they were enthusiastically coming to the top.  At one point, I counted 8 different fish working the surface.

So, I decided to go back to a dry.  I wanted a fly I could see easily in the fading light, and something small, because the BWOs were small.  I had some size 18 and 20 BWO dries, but I knew I'd never see them in the water.

So, I opted for a Klinkhammer in size 18, with a fluorescent orange post for high visibility.  Regretfully, between the current and fading light, I could barely see this fly, but the fish could sure see it.  Regretfully, I was playing a guessing game, striking any time a fish rose close to where I thought my fly might be.  I had at least half a dozen strikes, and felt the resistance of a fish on half of them, but I couldn't seem to hook them.  Finally, about 35 minutes after sunset, I gave up.

We had record high temperatures yesterday, which I'm sure had something to do with the hatch that occurred.  We just don't get many hatches like that on the White, and it was fun to fish dries on the main river.  I use dries in the White River tributaries, but rarely on the main river.  I can probably count the fish I've taken on dries in the main river on one hand, and I've been fishing the White for close to 20 years.

But, given the water conditions right now, it was a fun night on the river, and the fishing was better than I'd expected.  It would have been nice to get a few more fish to the net though.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Fly Fishing in NH

Yes, my blog is primarily about fly fishing in VT, but I get out of state to fish at times as well.  Last week, I had a business conference in Maine (if you saw that Tom Price got some grief over using charter flights for unofficial travel, including a conference in Maine, that's where I was), so I decided to stop in Pittsburg, NH on the way home for a week or so of fishing.

I left the conference Thursday about lunchtime, and I was at my campsite at Lake Francis by 4:00 or so.  I got my tent set up and headed straight for the upper end of the trophy section below First Connecticut Lake.  I started out with a Montana Prince nymph and a very small purple juju baetis dropper.  Both of these flies have served me well in this water in the fall in prior years.

In my first 15-20 minutes, I caught two fished from the pool on the trophy section that might get the most consistent pressure, day after day, all season long.  I have caught fish in that pool before, but never two in a day.  Both were wild rainbows, and one came on each of the flies.

From there, I started moving downstream, focusing first on the pocket water directly below me.  Regretfully, I'd just watched another fisherman work through there and take three fish, and I got no love.  I did quickly discover that flows were high enough (they'd been increased recently) that I wished I had my wading staff.  It was in the car, but I took a chance without it and did OK.  I managed the stream crossing below the pocket water to start fishing to the Corner Pool.  I got nothing in the stretch above the corner pool, but I did lose my flies.  

I tied on a Frenchie with a tungsten bead so I could get the flies deep, and another small dropper.  The truth is, I didn't need the dropper.  I got one fish on the Frenchie in the Corner Pool.  Then, two more at a rock downstream where I've caught some big fish in the past.  I was going to continue downstream, but there were four fishermen visible in the Judge and Jury pools, so I headed back up.
Again, I got nothing in the pocket water stretch, but I did pull a third fish out of the pool where I'd started.  Six fish, five of them wild, in 90 minutes.  That kind of action is why I love the trophy section.  Regretfully, it never fished like that again for the rest of the trip.

The next morning, I headed out very early to below Murphy Dam.  I know that the big browns feed in the shallower water overnight, so I approached my very first spot carefully.  I was getting ready to make my first cast, pulling line through the guides of the rod when I discovered I was snagged on the bottom.  Then, the snag started moving and in the dim light, I saw a brown of about 18" head for deeper water.  Regretfully, my line wasn't fully through my guides, and my loop to loop connection got hung up for a second and the tippet popped.  As it turned out, that would have been my best fish of the week.  I worked that hole - Starters - for a while.  I knew another fisherman was below me in Sweepers, so I gave him some time to work through that hole, and then I followed him.  Nothing.

Finally, I moved past him to near where the brook comes into the CT from Back Lake.  Here, I took a 14" rainbow and a 10" spawning male brookie.  The colors on the brookie were incredible.  And then, everything died.

A friend met me (he hadn't wanted to start quite as early because he was fighting a head cold), gave me some flies, and we fished down into some deeper, slower water, prospecting for browns.  He got one about 18" but I got nothing.

Finally, I called it quits and got some lunch.  I came back to the river about 4:00, when shadows start to cover some of the prime holes.  I fished until dark with no luck at all.  On the way back to the car, I stepped off an island into some water that was deeper than I expected, and took a hard fall.  My shoulders and wrists are still sore, and I cut my palm pretty badly.  I was bleeding fairly profusely on the walk back to the car, but I finally got there and got things bandaged up by the light of a headlamp.  Luckily, my Helios 2 rod was unscathed in the fall.

The next day, I started a bit later - after sunrise.  I put in 5 solid hours in the lower part of the trophy section, around Carr Ridge Road.  Then, 3 more in the upper stretches.  I went 8 hours without a strike.  I had never gotten skunked like that on the trophy section.  I've had zero fish days on occasion, but never a zero strike day.

I quit before the evening hatches really got going; I was having dinner at my friend's house that night, and the food and company won out over fishing.  My friend is also an independent guide, and I was planning to fish with him on Tuesday.  So, we spent a lot of dinner talking about how the fish had moved around recently due to changes in flows below Murphy Dam and in the trophy section.  Below Murphy Dam, they had lowered the flows.  On the trophy section, they had increased them.  Lake Francis was low while I camped there, so perhaps the goal was to increase the water level in that lake.

On Sunday, I truly slept in.  Went out for breakfast.  Spent the afternoon reading.  And then, I headed for the FFO section above First Connecticut Lake at Magalloway Road.  That section is known for landlocked salmon and brookies.  I was focused on salmon, so I was fishing old classic salmon patterns - Mickey Finns, Grey Ghosts, etc.  I had one nice brookie completely miss a white and yellow streamer that was similar to a Mickey Finn.  Then, I caught a tiny landlocked salmon on the fly.  He was so small that I have no idea how the point of the hook got into his mouth.  

On my way downstream, as sunset approached, I had a decent salmon take a swipe at my fly and miss it.  This was my first time fishing upstream of the bridge and there's some nice water there, but wading in this stretch is tough.  I was by myself, I'd fallen hard once on the trip already, and I decided to be cautious and get back to my car by sunset, just to be safe.  If I'd had more time, there was plenty of water to explore upstream.  Next time.

So, all of a sudden, it was Sunday night, and except for a bait-sized salmon, I hadn't caught a fish since Friday morning.  But, Monday, I'd scheduled a float trip on the Androscoggin with Bill from Lopstick.  What a day we had.

Fish were rising all day, and although we couldn't see any bugs, we assumed they were taking caddis emergers.  They were eager to hit caddis dries and caddis nymphs.  I spent the day moving back and forth between nymphs and dries.  In the end, the dries produced more touches and more fish, but the nymphs got me the bigger fish.

We didn't get any salmon (they are kind of rare in the Andro), but we got the three trout species plus chubs and smallmouths.  The biggest fish was a 17" rainbow.  I lost a decent brown, but it was no bigger than the rainbow.  Here's the rainbow:

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By the time we were done, I'd "touched" about 50 fish, hooked close to 30, and boated more than 20.  If I'd had better reflexes, I could have caught even more.  It was just an epic day all around.  I wrote a review on Tripadvisor here.  Bill is one of the best guides I've ever fished with.  

The next day, I met my friend and guide at 7:00 a.m.  We started at the bridge at Carr Ridge Road.  I had never caught a fish there, and Al had taken a bunch there this season.  We worked the water very methodically, almost like filling in every square in a piece of graph paper.  The strategy paid off after about an hour when I hooked a nice brookie.  It was a stocked fish, but it was close to 15" and put up quite a battle.

From there, we went to the upper part of the trophy section.  We fished the uppermost pools to start, with no luck.  Before heading downstream, I had to get something from the car, so Al used that as an opportunity to lead us towards Judge and Jury pools, and skip the intervening water, which was somewhat crowded.  We could see all kinds of fish on the edges of the Jury Box, and they looked like they were feeding, but they didn't like our flies.  I had asked Al when we got there if he'd ever tried stripping buggers through that hole and he admitted he hadn't.  After an hour or so in one pool, and having crossed to the other side, I think Al was desperate and he handed me a brown sculpin-like bugger that he'd tied.  It probably took me 50 casts, but I finally caught a beautiful rainbow with that fly:

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The picture honestly doesn't do the fish justice.  Its colors were stunning.

A few minutes later, we decided to break for lunch.  There was some potential rain in the forecast, and Al had invited me to pull my camp and sleep at his house that night.  After five nights in a tent, I didn't argue.  So, I went back to my site, tore down my tent and other supplies, packed the car, got some lunch, and went to meet Al for more fishing.  This time, we were going to target big browns on some of the lower pools below Murphy Dam.

Al worked with me for a while on the technique he uses in that river to get a perfect dead drift, but I just couldn't get it right.  And, the fish weren't cooperating.  About 4:45, Al had to leave for a pool tournament, but I stayed on the river.  I stayed focused on the browns until almost 6:00, but finally, the lack of bugs and the lack of rising fish got to me a  bit.  Plus, it was getting cold in the shadows and the breeze.

I decided to go upstream to the brook out of Back Lake and see if I could scare up a rainbow or brookie.  I was getting chilly, so I decided that if I got a fish, I'd call it a day.  And, within just a few casts, I hooked a fish.  It took a while to maneuver him to slower water to net him, but it was an obscenely fat rainbow, although it was only 10" or so.  

So, I released the fish and was ready to call it a day.  And then, a fish rose right where I'd just caught the rainbow.  I waded back to where I'd been standing and the fish rose again.  So, I targeted that fish for maybe 20 minutes, with no luck at all.  And, about 6:30, I left the river.

I fished all or part of six days, two of them with guides.  I got 30+ fish, but 2/3 of them came  in one day, on the float trip.  The fall isn't the time of year to get really high numbers of fish in this area, but it was a good trip.  I was mostly disappointed to not get any bigger fish.  On a similar trip last fall, I got fish up to 20" on the trophy stretch.  And someday, I'm going to get one of those big browns below Murphy.

Maybe sometime I'll make it earlier in the season and have one of those 30 fish days I hear about from people.  But, I really enjoy taking a week every September to fish.  The stocked fish are mostly gone, and I'm fishing primarily for wild fish.

Also, there is so much more insect life on the Connecticut that on my home river, so it's an interesting change from my normal fishing.  I still do more nymphing than anything else, but I caught almost as many fish on dries as nymphs on this trip, which was a nice change of pace.

I'll keep fishing for another month or so, but some of our rivers close on 10/15.   After that, options are more limited, but I've taken trout into November in VT, so I'm not done yet.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

The Famed Battenkill

I mentioned on Facebook recently that I have lived in VT for 18+ years now, and I've never fished the Battenkill.

A friend told me that was unacceptable, and offered to spend a day showing me around the river.  We had to change our first planned date, and then our second planned date, but despite almost 2" of rain on Sunday, we finally went yesterday, on Labor Day.  Flows had been so low that even after all of that rain, the river was in fine shape and cool at 56F.

My companion for the day, let's call him Ron, is a former fly fishing guide, but he has never been a guide on the Battenkill itself.  Nonetheless, he's a very good fisherman, and I learned a lot just watching him work the river yesterday.

Our first stop was in Sunderland.  As we stepped into the river, Ron gave me first choice of a spot to fish.  I opted for a somewhat deep section right in front of me.  The water was off color a bit, but I could see some rocks that would provide nice cover for fish.  I started with a yellow sulphur spinner up top and a juju baetis dropper.  I hadn't seen any yellow sulphurs, but they do exist on this river, so I took a chance with that fly.

Ron moved downstream, and I think it was only his second or third cast when he hooked into a brookie.  I got skunked in my hole, so I started following him down the river.  Some fishy looking water yielded nothing, but I did notice a sporadic caddis hatch coming off the water, so I changed from the sulphur to a size 16 olive body elk hair caddis as my dry fly in my dry/dropper configuration.

Eventually, we ran into a deep slow section, so we headed back upstream.  I found a slow pool where the brookies seemed to like my juju baetis.  In 15 minutes, I turned one fish, hooked another, and finally landed one.  The takes were subtle, but with such a small dry fly up top, they were noticeable.  Ron worked up the other side of the stream, and a beautiful long upstream cast yielded a young wild brown.

Eventually, we had fished this entire stretch, so we moved to a second site. As we arrived there, I realized that I had lost my net at the previous site.  So, I headed back to look for my net, while Ron started fishing.  This spot was a lot muddier than our previous spot, and by the time I'd found my net and returned, I think Ron had had enough.  The mud made wading difficult, any movement kicked up more mud, clouding the water, and despite a few sporadic rises, we couldn't entice any fish to our flies.

I fished for maybe 15 minutes, and we headed out.  We had started the day with a plan to hit 3 specific sites, and figured we'd explore beyond that.  We'd now fished 2 of the sites, so we did some exploring and found a nice fishy looking spot.  Again, nothing.

So, we headed to the third designated spot, miles downstream in Arlington.  Here, we found some beautiful water, great structure, deep holes, riffles, and some rising fish.  Over the next couple hours, I changed flies more often than I often do in an entire day.  Nothing seemed to work.  The fish seemed to be eating small midges or tricos, but even the two size 22 tricos that I tried were bigger than the bugs on the surface.  Eventually, one fish did take a shot at an Angel Wing Spinner, but I didn't hook him.  It could easily have just been a tail bat at the fly rather than an actual take.  I was left wishing I had some size 26 or smaller flies with me, and some 7x tippet.  I rarely use 7x and I had some in the car, but not with me.

Ron had been fishing downstream of me, and he also went through a number of flies with no luck.

It was closing in on 5:00 p.m. by now, so we were running low on time.  We decided to try to find some smaller water in the Manchester area, and we found another great looking stretch of water.  I went back to my elk hair caddis with a baetis dropper, and had a couple tepid hits on the caddis fly, but no hookups.  Ron had no luck at all.

Finally, it was approaching dark, and we called it a day.  Only three fish to the net, and very little action after our first spot.  There are many stretches on the Battenkill where it is a slow, brown meandering river.  At the right times, those might be great spots for dry fly fishing, but we found very few fish working the surface in those spots.  None of the rises seemed consistent or predictable.  In places where rises were plentiful, I got the impression that they were all small fish.

There are also many stretches of more classic trout structure, and we simply struck out on those.  In the next month or so, the browns will be spawning and then trying to fatten up for the winter.  I may wait until the end of the month and then give the river another try.

It took me 18+ years to get here the first time.  It won't take that long for the second try.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Two Rivers in a Day

On Saturday, my wife needed to take my daughter back to Syracuse for her sophomore year.  Well, we were both going to go, but my daughter had so much stuff that I couldn't fit into the car.  I tried to act disappointed (I truly would have enjoyed the time with my daughter and would have been glad to keep my wife company on the drive home), but immediately began planning some fishing instead.

Even though the White River has seen temps drop, I decided to try another stretch of water that I try to hit at least once a year.  It's a stretch of the Black River, upstream from Coventry, where the river goes through a forest, rather than the open pasture land that it meanders through for a lot of its journey in that area.  It's not a hard spot to find - just off Route 14.  If you use Google maps, and follow the river path, look for wooded areas.

This stretch offers almost a mile of fishing in the trees, but the lower 400 yards or so are where I tend to do best.  My very first step was to measure the water temperature.  With so much of the river running through open fields, it can get pretty warm.  But, I found the water to be 67F in mid-afternoon, so everything was fine.  I started with some standard nymphs - Prince and Hare's ear.  On my third or fourth cast, I felt a tepid strike, a fish jumped, and that was that.  I don't know if I ever really had a chance to hook him or not, but he seemed to spit the fly very quickly.  From there, I started working downstream.

As I moved from hole to hole, I was surprised by the complete lack of strikes.  Normally, this 400 yard stretch yields a strike in almost every hole and 5-10 fish in the 90-120 minutes it takes me to cover the water.

After nothing in about 6 consecutive holes, I got to my "can't miss" hole.  The first time I fished this stretch of water, my son skipped a riffle followed by a pool by a big rock in the river.  He had his eyes on some nicer looking water downstream and walked right past this spot. I stepped in and took three fish quickly.  I've never failed to catch a fish in this pool, and obviously never failed to have a strike.  But on Saturday, nothing.  The next few holes are also usually very productive and I had no strikes at all.

At this point, after driving 90+ minutes, I was surprised and disappointed.  I knew that fishing in the White the week before had been dead until the last 30 minutes before sunset.  So, I could wait it out and see if the fishing turned on later.

Or, I could go to the falls in Coventry and see if I could lure a big brown from the depths of the water below the falls.  Or, I could head towards home and fish the Lamoille, Winooski or Dog.

I was thinking about my choices as I walked back to my car.  When I got to the car, I decided to try the hole where I'd started again.  On my first cast, I hooked a fish that felt pretty strong, but I think it was just the current that made a small fish feel bigger.  Regretfully, the fish spit my fly almost immediately.  I toyed with the idea of re-fishing the stretch I'd just hit, hoping the fish were turning on, but instead, I got in my car and headed towards home.

I decided I'd fish the Dog on the way home.  I didn't have a lot of light left, so I opted for my favorite hole on the river.  The first thing I discovered is that my standard parking spot now sports a "No Parking" sign.  That meant a different parking spot and a long walk to the river.  But, I had time.

As I finally got to the water, after fighting my way through a forest of Japanese knotweed, I noticed a few bugs in the air.  Fishing the White most of the time, hatches of any sort are pretty rare.  These were BWOs, and I was mostly interested in bigger fish, so I went with a size 12 BWO.  On one of my earlier casts, in the lower part of the stretch I was fishing, a small fish batted the fly.  I've caught small fish in this hole before, but large fish as well.  I was happy to see that my fly seemed too big for the smaller fish.

I had a couple more fake strikes from small fish as I worked to the top of the hole.  The key spot in this hole is some calm water created by a rock in the river.  Just below that rock, the water holds some big fish, and a friend had taken an 18" rainbow when I showed him this hole.

On my very first cast into that key spot, my fly was inhaled as soon as it touched the water.  The fish ended up being about 15" - a wild rainbow.  It looked like it had had an encounter with an osprey - an injury on its back near the dorsal fin, but it seemed quite healthy and fat otherwise.  The fish had taken the fly very deep - close to the gills, and I simply couldn't get the fly out.  Part of the problem I have is my close-up vision, which is terrible.  I have flip-down magnifiers, but they aren't very useful when a fish is trying to flop around.  I got the fish back in the water in my net, and pulled out my reading glasses.  Even with them, I couldn't reach the fly and I eventually gave up and clipped the line.  The fly was barbless, so I'm hoping it worked out on its own.

It was getting darker, so I tried a different fly - an attractor pattern that was easy to see.  A few casts later, I took another rainbow just as the fly started to sink into the film.   Then, that fly wouldn't float any more, even after some Loon Top Ride, so I switched back to a smaller BWO.  Again, some smaller fish batted at it, but no hookups.  Now, it was getting fairly dark, and I had to walk back to my car on a curvy road with no shoulders.  I hate doing this walk in the dark.  So, I called it a day.

So, the spot that I expected to give me some easy wild rainbows completely skunked me.  And the Dog, which fishes better every year since Hurricane Irene, gave me two nice bows.  One of these years, I swear I'm going to catch one of the big browns that inhabit the Dog.  At least 2/3 of the fish I take from the Dog are bows, and the browns I get are all juveniles.  But, sooner or later, I'll get a big brown out of there.

With the holiday weekend coming up, I have family visiting for part of the weekend.  But, Sunday is reserved for a day on the Battenkill with a friend.  I've never fished the Battenkill, and we delayed this trip from a couple weeks ago until this weekend.  My biggest concern is water levels, which are down all across the state.

After an extremely wet spring and June, it's gotten a lot drier the past few weeks, and while river temperatures are OK with our cooler nights, the flows are getting kind of low.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Prince Nymphs all evening

I managed to find some sub-70F water this past Sunday.  Regretfully, I also picked a popular spot to fish, although I think I was the only person to get into some fish.

I got to the river about 6:00 p.m. and immediate checked the water temperature.  It turned out it was cool enough to fish and even cool enough that I was questioning my decision to wet wade.  Flows had come up a bit in the White from storms earlier in the week.  While they were on their way back down, there was more water than the last time I'd been in the White.

I started with a double nymph rig - a Fly Formerly Known As Prince in purple (of course) and a juju baetis.  I fished for over an hour with no luck.  By this point in time, I had one fisherman upstream and 4 downstream, so I just stayed in one hole.  I've had a lot of luck in that hole the past two years, and it's where I hooked a big brown three weeks earlier.

But, things were dead.  I did work downstream a bit, being careful to stay out of the way of the people already there.  I walked upstream to where a newbie was flailing with a Hendrickson dry that he couldn't get to float.  I suggested a different fly and some different techniques, and even offered him a fly, but he declined.

I noticed that as I was helping him, another inexperienced fly fisherman had moved into the hole I'd been fishing.  Suddenly, I had no water to fish and I decided I didn't like the crowds, and I'd just go home.

But, it was only 7:15 with a 7:49 sunset, so I just stepped back instead, changed flies (beadhead Prince Nymph, size 14, and a Rainbow Warrior in size 20).  Not long after I'd gotten the flies changed, the fisherman left the hole I'd been in earlier.  I stepped back in, and on my 3rd or 4th cast, I almost had the rod ripped out of my hands by a strike.  Despite the viciousness of the strike, I failed to hook the fish.

But, as sunset got closer and the sun left the water, the fish became more active.  I started getting strikes regularly, and I hooked a few.  I got three wild rainbows to the net, all on the Prince Nymph.

About 8:00, the street lights on the bridge above me turned on.  And with that, the fishing turned off.  After 10 minutes with no more strikes, I headed home.  But, three wild rainbows caught after I had considered going home was a nice little reward for my patience.  In my previous day out, I'd taken 5 smaller wild rainbows in a tributary of the White.

But, while I normally fish 40+ days per year, this was only day number 11 for this year.  I haven't caught a fish over 12" yet this year.  To be honest, I've hardly caught any fish at all.

Cancer sucks and it stole half of this season from me.  I still have some vacation time planned for next month, but this will certainly be my worst fishing season in a long time, in terms of fish caught.

And, I have no way of knowing if next year will be better or not.

Next weekend, I'm taking my daughter back to college for the year, so I might not get to fish at all.  On Labor Day Weekend, I'm hoping to fish the Battenkill.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Getting tough to find cool water

The White River, below where the Third Branch joins the main branch, is way too warm to fish right now.  The Third Branch just gets so warm, and pushes up the temperature below the confluence.  I'm guessing some mornings have been OK, but I'm more of an evening fisherman.  I just hate getting out of bed super early unless I'm on a fishing vacation.

Last week, I was able to go upstream from Bethel, about 5 miles, and find 67F water.  I know that most fly fishermen cut off their fishing at 70F, but I usually use 68F as my cutoff.  I've seen too many fish struggle even at 68F, so I use the lower number.

Last night, about 4 miles upstream from Bethel, the water was over 70F.

But, I found a tributary where I measured a 67F.  Game on.

Plus, I love this little tributary.  It is full of small wild bows that are willing to come to the surface for small attractor dries, even without hatches.  I catch more fish on dry flies here than anywhere else I fish.  Only the Dog River comes close, and those are bigger fish.  But, I bet the Dog is too warm right now as well.

Did I mention that these are all wild fish?  They are so beautiful compared to the stockies in the main river right now.

Anyway, I almost always fish the same stretch of water in this tributary.  I have never seen another fisherman on the water when I've been there.   I will occasionally find footprints.  Last night, I found a package from a Cabela's leader.  It was a 9 foot, 4x leader.  I usually fish 6x in this water and you don't really need long leaders.  The fish are pretty willing to take a fly, so maybe a 4x doesn't even scare them, but it seemed like a poor choice to me.  And, not to be too much of a snob, I think it's worth the extra money I spend to fish Rio and Orvis leaders, rather than the cheaper brands.  I usually stock up when someone offers a good deal, but I think Rio and Orvis leaders and tippet are just top notch stuff.

I fish this stretch working upstream.  Always.  And, then walk back to my car on the road when I'm done.  The first 200 yards tend to be fairly barren, although I occasionally get a fish in that stretch.  I saw a few fish flitting about in that water last night, but no strikes.  The water was very clear.

Oh yeah, I started with a size 18 Klinkhammer, only because it had a fluorescent orange wing post.  I was working through this first stretch when my FitBit told me I had an incoming phone call from one of my doctors.  I thought it was very odd, but I answered the call.  The doc was just trying to clarify an appointment.  I was originally scheduled to see him today and he's not working today, so it was moved to tomorrow.  He wanted to make sure I had the right day and time.  He is also a fly fisherman, so he was happy to find that I was feeling good enough to be out on the water.  Just as our phone call was ending, a small rainbow swam right in front of me, heading downstream.  I was trying to be very stealthy on this small creek with super clear water, but this fish seemed spooked, so I must have done something to scare him.

As soon as the call was over, I moved up to the next hole.  On my first cast, I caught my first fish of the day - a rainbow about 5" long - probably a yearling.  The next 100 yards or so yielded nothing, and then I got to the biggest hole on the stretch.  On my first cast, a fish missed my fly on the surface.  On my second cast, the fly sank early, and I started to retrieve it.  A nice fish (for this creek), close to 12" hit the fly underwater and I had him hooked for a second.  And then, a few casts later, I caught a rainbow about 8" or so.  After those three strikes and one caught fish, the hole went dead.  I kept working up.

The next major hole is a challenge.  Casting is blocked by a large tree, and it's been a challenge for years.  From a distance, I noticed that the tree was gone.  This excited me a lot, because I've seen some bigger fish in this hole.  Regretfully, the loss of the tree affected the hole, and it's now just a riffle.  I had one fish slap my fly twice, but it had to have been tiny.

To encourage some bigger fish, I switched to a size 16 parachute Adams, the fly I use most often in this water.  In the next hole, I took two fish on that fly and missed two more.  Despite a liberal application of Loon's Top Ride after each fish, the Adams decided it wasn't going to float any more.

On a whim, I switched to a Royal Wulff, size 16.  In the next hole, I had a small fish batting my fly almost every single cast.  I had to have been tiny, and it was very persistent.  But, no hookups.  This hole is created by a large piece of concrete.  I have no idea where it came from or how it got there.  I've taken fish on the downstream side of the concrete barrier, but never upstream.  There isn't a lot of water above the barrier, and it's easy to get snagged in the water that is there.  But, I gave it a shot and a fish slammed the Wulff.  It was about a 9" rainbow, big enough that I wondered if it might have been a stocked fish that wandered up from the main branch, even though I was a mile above the main branch and there were a few little waterfalls between me and there.

This fish took the fly deep and there was some blood.  I came very close to keeping the fish for dinner, afraid that it wouldn't survive.  But, after I got the hook out, and held him in the current for a while, he seemed relatively OK.  When I released him, he immediately took off for deeper water.  I know that even with the best C&R tactics, some fish aren't going to make it.  I try to be very careful, but at 67F and hooked deep, this one might not have made it.

In that kind of situation, I'm always torn.  If I keep the fish, it definitely dies.  But, if I keep it, I will eat it, so the death won't be completely in vain.  If I release the fish and it lives, that's the ideal situation.  If I release it and it dies, that's the worst possible outcome - dead and not eaten.  These incidents bother me, I must admit.  It's a time where I question how "harmless" catch and release fishing really is (or isn't).

After this stretch, there's a barren stretch of water.  I'm always kind of glad there aren't fish in that stretch because the landowners on one side of the river consider fishermen in the river to be trespassing on their land.  They don't own the land on both sides, I never get out of the river, but they have accosted me a few times.  And, their neighbor has warned me to be careful around them because they are always carrying and they are quick to threaten people.  I would report them if they ever flashed a gun in my direction, but luckily, it hasn't happened yet.  And, they weren't home last night, which was a relief.

I made it to the last series of productive holes just before sunset.  My fly wasn't floating so well any more after that bigger fish had inhaled it.  And, for the first time in a long time, I fished this stretch with no strikes.  A downed tree has made the best hole here very difficult to fish, but there are 4 total holes with fish in them, and I got nothing.  By now, it was sunset, so I walked back to my car.

I'd caught 5 fish, and at least 4 were wild.  If the fifth was indeed stocked, it had worked very hard to get to where it's living, so I'm guessing it was simply a wild fish with muted coloring.

Thanks to my surgery and chemo earlier this year, I have caught fewer fish this year than any year in recent memory.  Last night was more fish than I'd caught previously this entire year.  But, the season still has plenty of time in it.

Next weekend, I'm heading to northern VT to fish in two streams I love.  One is full of 8" wild rainbows that just slam nymphs, if you present them well.  The other is a brookie stream and can be challenging, but it's in a beautiful area, and fun to fish even if you get skunked.

The weekend after that, I'm going to fish the Battenkill for the first time ever.  Honestly, there is no excuse for a fly fisherman who has lived in VT for 18 years to have never fished this river.  I've always been put off by the driving distance and then having to guess where to fish.  A friend has volunteered to go along and show me a few spots, so I'm looking forward to fishing this famed river for the first time.

And, in the middle of next month, I've got a week of vacation to pursue trout in NH and ME.  At least two days will be guided, and one of those will be a float trip on the upper CT river.  And, there is a possible third guided day, floating on the Kennebec.  That person had offered to float me for free on the Kennebec last winter, after I'd posted some recent bad news about my cancer on FB.  So, maybe this one will happen and maybe it won't.  I'm not going to hold him to the promise or make a big deal if he can't pull it off.  I appreciate the support from a fellow fisherman, and I'm not going to complain if he can't make it work.  He's got a life of his own and his own bills to pay.

But from 9/15-9/21, I will be on the water every second I can.  Most of the trip will be on the upper CT, but part will be in ME as well.  I will certainly fish the Magalloway.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

My second trout of the season

This may end up being my worst trout season of all time, in terms of fish caught.  May was a disaster for me, with higher than normal waters and cold temps.  I had friends that did OK with big streamers and sinking tip lines, but I really struggled for the month, catching just one fish.  That was after my typical zero in April.

On Sunday, I fished for the first time since late May.  I fished a well known area and there were two other fly fishermen there when I arrived.  I moved to one of the upper holes to start, and met a young gentleman.  He was new to fly fishing, and I tried to give him a hand.  He was fishing a nymph and swinging it through fast current that likely held no fish.  I talked to him about line mending and I tried to explain what a dead drift is.  I also gave him a handful of flies that work for me on this river.  And, I explained some strategies for fishing the 200 yard stretch of water we were on.  I wanted to convince him to fish where the fish typically hang out.

Then, I turned to my own fishing.  The water was at about average flows for this time of year and fairly clear, but not too clear.  I started with a pair of size 14 nymphs on 4x tippet - standard nymphs I use in this river.  The water didn't seem clear enough to need 5x or lighter.  I worked very thoroughly through a big hole for an hour with no luck.

I then switched to some tiny flies for the clear water - a size 18 Ju Ju Baetis and a size 20 Rainbow Warrior.  I had seen a few BWOs, so that was why I picked the former fly.  The latter was honestly a guess - an attractor pattern that I happen to like and I had in a tiny size.  These I put on 5x, simply because the flies move more naturally on a thinner tippet.  A third pass through the hole yielded nothing.  So, I headed downstream to another hole that can be productive, but it's rarely as good as the first hole.  In five minutes, I got a small wild rainbow on the baetis fly.

Then, things seemed to die again.  It was now 8:00, with sunset at 8:23.  I was leaning towards going home, but decided to throw a few more casts.  And, on one of those casts, something took a fly very hard.  I knew immediately it was a big fish.  The fish was hooked in slower deep water, but there was some very fast water between me and him.  I decided my best bet was to work the fish downstream through the deeper water, and with the current, and then try to net him in a spot where things calmed down as the river got wider.

After five minutes or so, I finally saw the fish - a big brown.  I couldn't tell which fly he had taken.  I kept good pressure on the line as he jumped a few times.  As I stepped back into the water, starting to think about netting him, he took off on another run.  Twice, he almost had me into my backing.

Finally, he started to tire and I was gaining progress.  I got him close enough that I was getting my net ready.  The fish only had about 8 or 9 feet of leader.  I had the rest o the line, and he was in shallow water.  But, somehow, be built up some speed, jumped one more time, and threw the hook.

It turned out I'd hooked him on the Rainbow Warrior.  The fish was close to 20", although I'm guessing he was a bit smaller.  But, if he had gone 20", I might have pulled off the rare "20 on 20", where you catch a fish of 20 inches or more on a fly size 20 or smaller.  Alas, that achievement, which I've almost done on the Little Juniata in PA, will have to wait.  On the Little J, I'fe taken a 19" fish on a size 20 fly and a 20" fish on a size 18 fly, but never 20 on 20.

After a few more casts, I called it a day.

I was just standing by the river, looking to see if any fish would start to rise to insects as we got close to dark.  There were a few rises, but nothing consistent enough to make me tie on a dry fly.  In the interim, the young man I'd talked to earlier came downstream to talk to me.  In the hole where I'd been skunked, he had used one of the flies I gave to him and he used it to catch his first ever fish on a fly.

He had a picture of the fish on his phone - a stocked rainbow about 10".  He was so proud of his accomplishment.  I have to admit that I was so happy for him that I forgot all about the disappointment of losing the big brown.  There will be other chances for me.  Helping to convert a new fisherman to catch and release fly fishing is way more important than the fish I missed.

It's pretty rare to help a new fly fisherman get his first fish.  I'm very glad I took the time to talk to him and offer some help.  He even caught the fish on a fly that I had tied rather than purchased.  I'd given him some of each, and the fact that he used one of my creations made it all the better.

I'm planning a weeklong trip to NH and ME for September.  Even if I don't get to fish much between now and then, I'm sure that will be a good week.

And, I may catch my fewest fish in many years, but after missing two months of prime fishing to cancer surgery, every day on the water is a good day.  Sunday was an especially good day.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Still not back on the water

I left for NYC on 6/3, the day of the White River Open FF tournament.  I'd finished in the top 5 the three previous years and was hopeful this might be the year I pulled out the win.  A friend ended up winning with 17 fish, so I doubt that I would have won.  But, because of my trip to NYC, I never got to fish.

We had a nice mini-vacation in NYC, and then I had cancer surgery on 6/8.  I was discharged on the 14th and returned home on the 15th.

I'm still using pain medicine fairly regularly, so I have not yet been out fishing.  I also developed an infection along my incision line, so my staples have not yet been removed.  Hopefully, they will come out in the next few days.

It is my goal to get out for a couple hours of fishing this coming weekend, if the water levels are not too high.  It will probably be 5 or so more weeks until I feel 100%, but I hope to fish a little bit before then.

People here will be the first to hear when I finally catch a fish again.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Fly fishing with cancer

I have two blogs.  One is a lot older than this blog.  That one actually has some readers, as well.  I started blogging, with a focus on some ultramarathon races I was attempting to do.  Over time, due first to an injury, and then to some follow-on life events, the blog really just became an online diary.

Part of that "diary" was my fly fishing adventures,  But, to be honest, some of the fly fishing information was simply of no interest to my friends who were interested in my ultramarathon running, my time as a skier and ski instructor, and other things in my life.  So, I started this blog and I've been writing about fishing here instead.

And, I've mostly kept them separate.  But, some events in my life really affect every facet of my life and the reality is, I've been mostly ignoring some stuff here that's affecting my fishing a lot.

In September of 2013, I had a high PSA test.  This is a blood test that can indicate prostate cancer.  There are many reasons that PSA can be elevated, but prostate cancer is one of them.  And, it turned out that I did have prostate cancer.  I had surgery in January of 2014, and I've been tested routinely since then.  It seems likely that I'm cured of that cancer, although the treatments come with permanent and unpleasant side effects.

But, two years ago, I started to get sick.  No energy.  I had to quit fishing on a vacation day because I simply ran out of juice.  I didn't have the energy to wade at all and I barely had the energy to get to my car.

I'll spare the details here, but it took months to find out the cause.  Finally, I had an emergency event where I couldn't breathe properly.  A CT scan showed a large mass (described as the size and shape of a nerf football) growing on my right kidney.  Things had been moving slowly, but this changed everything.  I had surgery very shortly, losing the tumor and my kidney.  What was assumed to be kidney cancer turned out to be much rarer and more dangerous - liposarcoma.  Specifically, dedifferentiated retroperitoneal liposarcoma.  I think a few hundred people per year in the US get that diagnosis.

The first surgeon knew he didn't get all of the cancer out of me.  A few months later, a scan showed it was back.  I had chemo and then another surgery.  And then, a clean scan.  That was during the summer and I had a great trout season that year.  I felt healthy all season for the first time in a while.  I traveled to fish and caught some nice fish.  It was easily the best trout season of my lifetime.  Yes, this was just last summer.  It seemed like I caught fish every time out and I caught my fair share of nice fish.

In November, I found out that the cancer had returned.  I had some radiation.  Then, I was supposed to have surgery, but some new tumors showed up just before my surgery.  This indicated that I needed a systemic treatment to try to kill the cells that were generating new tumors from somewhere in my body.  I started chemo in February of this year.  I just recently finished it and I'm still dealing with the side effects.

To be honest, I can't fish for more than 3 hours at a time right now.  I'm just too tired.  I worry that I'll make a mistake wading and go under.  We've had a cold, wet spring so far.  Rivers are running colder and higher than normal, although not by much.  But, it's been enough to delay the really good fishing.  And enough to make me very cautious while wading.

So, I'm still somewhat sick.  The season is somewhat delayed.  And, I'm coming off a memorable season, where I really thought I'd started to dial in some new skills.  It's getting into late May.  Between my limited time on the water (I've been out 10 times or so, but just a few hours at a time) and the conditions, I honestly haven't caught a trout yet.  I've had one strike, and immediately hooked and lost that fish.

I am frustrated as hell, to be honest.  Yet, if I'm honest, I have some really good reasons why I haven't caught fish.  And yet, I can't seem to be honest with myself.  I keep claiming I'm going to quit fishing.  I'm going to build a bonfire and burn my equipment.  Think about that - simply burning close to $10K worth of fly fishing gear.  How stupid would that be?  I just bought a new Helios 2 rod and some Patagonia waders.  I tied flies this winter like never before.  I love this sport as much as ever.  I just need the season to come around, just like I need my health to come around.

I fished the Black River yesterday.  The plan was to fish all day.  I was on the water at first light.  I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with the Black.  It really should be called Six Flags over Vermont, or something like that, because it's as much amusement park as trout stream.  There is no wild fish population.  People question whether any fish even hold over through the winter.  And, the state stocks bigger fish in the river.  A four mile stretch of water gets a couple thousand fish with a minimum size of 16" or so, and some fish go 20".  I got a 20" brown last year.

It's also an insane river.  Crowded.  No gear restrictions.  It's not uncommon to have bait chunkers or spinner fisherman cast right over your fly line.  There is no sense of decorum here.  It's a free for all.  When you drive along the river, most fishermen are from out of state.  When you are on the water, the fishermen skew older.  I think a lot of retired out of staters make up the majority of the people on the water, but not all of them.  And, the fishermen (ignore the demographics for a minute) tend to be rude and aggressive.

I refuse to fish this river on a weekend.  I usually take one vacation day in May to fish it.  Yesterday, I hit a perfect weather day and I was on the river at first light.  There were three spin fishermen in the first hole I was going to fish, but I could see that the half mile upstream was clear of other fishermen.  So, I hopped in and fished up.

The first things I noticed were than the water was cold and high for this time of year.  That's been true statewide and the season has started slowly for everyone.  Yes, I fished with some friends who did well last Saturday, but they are working hard for nice wild fish.  Yesterday should have been an easy day to catch a dozen big fish.  And yet, I got nothing.  Not one strike.  Early on, I stuck with the tried and true.  A couple standard bead head nymphs.  Then, a different pair.  Then, because of the fast current, I tried some fast sinking competition nymphs.  Still nothing.  Streamers.  Buggers.  Nothing.

As the sun finally appeared, so did some Hendricksons - the first I've seen this year.  And the fish ignored them.  Finally, the number of cars where I'd parked reached critical mass.  And, the fishermen made it upstream.  Not one fisherman had a fish (You can keep up to 2 fish per day here and the spin fishermen tend to keep their 2).

People started fishing elbow to elbow.  I was well established in a pool, but that didn't matter to these guys.  They crossed my line and blamed me.  I ignored them.  Then, I accidentally crossed one of their lines and someone got all pissed off.  Remember, I was here first.  I reminded this other fisherman that I was fishing this pool and he'd jumped in at my elbow.  He told me there was plenty of water and I should avoid his line.

I reeled in and left.  I refuse to play that game.  The assholes can have it.

I'd been out for 3 hours.  No strikes.  It wasn't even 8:00.  So, I drove home and worked for the day rather than dealing with the other fishermen, the fatigue that was already hitting me, and the slow fishing.  Maybe things picked up later, but I'll never know.  I'm done with that river for the season.  I tend to fish where I normally fish because I prefer the solitude on my primary rivers.

I thought about going out again locally after work.  It was 90F+ and I was exhausted.  I took a nap instead.

That's my season so far.  Fish or nap.  In the past, fishing always won.  Now, naps are winning.  Fishing is tough and you're going to have to work hard for every strike.  Normally, I have the time and energy for that and I even enjoy the challenge.  Now, I go home and take a nap.

The fishing will pick up in a week or two.  Maybe I'll even catch a fish tomorrow morning because I will be out there again.  For a while at least.  Before my nap.

My guess is that June is going to be the month this year.  And, I won't be able to fish at all in June.  The cancer requires another surgery on 6/8.  I head to NYC (this cancer is so rare that I have to use out of state hospitals for treatment) on 6/3.  If I'm lucky, I'll be fishing again by the end of June.

Part of what sucks is that I honestly don't know how many seasons I have left right now.  This is not a a cancer that will be cured.  And, I may find that even if I have future seasons, my health may be worse, not better.

For now, I'm going to have my surgery.  I'm going to recover.  And, I'm going to fish the hell out of July, August, September and October.  By then, I should feel a lot better.  No more naps. Hopefully, the weather will cooperate.

If anyone out there actually reads this blog (I see that people do read it sometimes, but I've never had a single comment here, so I feel like I'm just talking to myself.), get out fishing.  Don't take it for granted.  Contrary to what people may say, there isn't always tomorrow.  Yes, tomorrow will arrive, but our lives can change.

I haven't lost fishing yet, but I might.  That scares the shit out of me, to be honest.  I spend way too much time wondering if this might be the last time I fish somewhere, the last time I do something, anything.  I wonder all the time if this might be my last season on the water.  That makes my frustration even more palpable.

Don't wait until you are there to really appreciate your time on the water.  I've been fishing for trout for 40 years.  I've caught my fair share.  I've taken some hiatuses in there, mostly while raising kids.  I have had some years where I didn't fish.  But, more recently, I've been putting in 50 days or so per year.  At age 55, I'm improving.  My tying is as good as it's ever been.  My dead drift nymphing is still coming along, but it's a lot better.

I'm at a point in life where I can afford to fish high quality equipment and I'm happy for that.  I read people online debating certain equipment and making fun of people who buy high end equipment.  Marginally, the best stuff might not be a great value.  But, a Helios 2 rod or a Hardy Zenith rod, or a Hatch Finatic Plus reel are just amazing tools.  If you can afford them and you love to fly fish, go ahead and invest in the good stuff, if you can.  I still fish (and love) a Sage RPL+ from more than 20 years ago.  The best stuff lasts and holds up as time goes by.

And time goes by.  If you really love fishing, spend that time on the water.  If you can convince loved ones to fish with you, even better.

Regretfully, time marches on.  Every single one of us will eventually face our final season on the water.  Our skills or fitness will diminish.  We will be left with some amazing memories to comfort us in our old age.

I will fight this damned disease.  I will fish as long as I can.  But, I've also gotten a glimpse of the end.  I'm not looking forward to it.  So, to all of you who are fully healthy and who decided you weren't going to fish tomorrow, I say go for it.  Get your gear and get out fishing.  The fish aren't going to come to you.

And, until my dying day, that wonderful rhythmic almost zen-like pattern of casting and drifting will be part of my thought patterns.  The fish are part of it and most of the memories are about the fish.  But, the relaxation that can come from just fishing is worth its weight in gold.  When I'm casting, I'm not worried about my mortgage payment.  The latest problem at work is forgotten.  My cancer is forgotten.  In that moment, it's just me and the rod and the river.  And if I'm lucky enough and skilled enough, maybe one more trout.

Monday, May 8, 2017

New toys and never ending rain

Due to the wader problems I wrote about last week, I had new waders this weekend.  I purchased the Patagonia Rio Gallegos waders - non zipper version.  And, I'm wondering already if I should have spent the extra money for the zipper, but I do like the waders a lot.  The gaiter was very different than with Orvis waders - a bit tighter to the boot, and harder to hook onto the laces, but just not that big a deal.

Overall, I found them to be very comfortable, warm, a perfect fit (I'm 5-10, 215, size 11 shoe and the XL is a perfect fit for me).  It was pouring the entire time I was fishing (I'm a glutton for punishment, I suppose), and I stayed comfortable in the waders the entire time.  River temperatures were cold and my feet and legs stayed warm.

So, I now have three pairs of waders.  An older Orvis Silver Sonic wader that works just fine and will likely end up used by my wife most of the time.  Newer Orvis Silver Sonic Guide waders that currently need a repair.  I need a sunny day to repair them, due to the resin that seals the patch being UV cured.  And, the new Patagonia waders.  And in reality, they all work just great.  I would have to say that the basic Orvis Silver Sonic waders have the fewest whistles and bells (no belt loops, cheap suspenders, no waterproof pocket for my phone, and are just a bit lighter than the other two pairs.  But, it's a luxury to have those options available.

After yesterday, I'm pretty sure that the Patagonia waders will be my go-to pair, for the most part, at least until the water starts to warm up.  And, I may sell one of them, to be honest.  Two pairs is almost a necessity in New England, while three pairs are overkill.

My other new toy yesterday was something I didn't really expect.  I've been looking at 5 weight rods recently.  I have a 3 weight, high stick nymphing rod from Hardy (Zenith line, Lamson Litespeed reel).   I have a 4 weight Winston Passport - only 8' that my wife primarily uses.  It has a Redington Zero reel.  Next, I have my favorite rod - an 8'6" Hardy Zenith 4 weight, with a Hatch Finatic Plus reel.  This rod is a bit undersized at times on bigger rivers, but it's truly an amazing rod and reel.  And, from 1995 or so, I have a Sage RPL+ - 9 foot, 5 weight.  But, in reality, this rod is very stiff and fishes more like a six weight.  I keep an Orvis Access reel on this rod with six weight line.  Lastly, I have an old bamboo rod from the late 1930's - a long term loaner from a friend who only fishes Tenkara these days.  That rod will only get out in special conditions - mostly stockies where I know a big fish is unlikely to break the rod tip.

But, what I've been missing is a true 5 weight.  And, I've been lusting after one for a while.  I had a handful of rods in mind - all high end stuff that I can't really afford.  Scott Radian.  Orvis Helios 2.  Loomis NRX LP, and Hardy Zephrus.  A few other options exist, such as one of the Loop rods that gets great reviews, and at a slightly lower price point, but those four rods above have all been cast and I know I'd be thrilled with any of them.

I have an extra spool with 5 weight line for my Hatch Finatic Plus reel, and that's easily my favorite reel, so I don't need a new reel.  My plan has been to sell the 3 weight and use that money to finance the 5 weight.  I simply don't use the Euro Nymphing rod as much as I'd expected, and it's often too windy to cast a 3 weight on anything but the smallest rivers in New England.

So, on Saturday, my wife and I headed to Syracuse to pick up our daughter from her freshman year of college.  As we got back to Lake George, I asked my wife if it would be OK to stop in at the Orvis Outlet store to look around.  Mostly, I wanted to look for some shirts for work, and a new bed for our dog, but I wanted to see what rods were in stock as well.  You can never really take the fisherman out of some people.

Across the 5 weights in the Helios 2 line, there are 3 rods.  Two are 9 footers - one a tip flex and one a mid flex.  And, the other is a mid-flex 8'6" rod.  From having cast them in the past, I knew my favorite was the 9' mid flex, then the 8-6 mid flex, and finally the tip flex.  I really like the tip stiffness in the mid-flex rods, and the accuracy at close distances.  Yes, you give up some distance, but I've got my Sage rod for days where I need distance.  And, the lightness of the rods is just amazing - 2.25 oz. for the 8-6 rod.

So, as my wife poked around the dog beds, I discovered there was an 8-6 mid-flex Helios 2 rod in stock.  It was selling for $479, well off the $795 list price.  Now, in the Outlet Store, below a certain price, the normal Orvis warranty does not apply.  So, if you break the rod, you need to pay for the repair, but a general repair is typically less than $100.  So, that risk is real.  Most of the rods in the outlet store have some sort of checkered past.  They may have been damaged casting in the main Orvis shops.  A tip section might have broken and been repaired.  There might be blemishes. The rods are clearly marked as "Outlet" rods, so the lack of warranty is clear.  But, we couldn't find a thing wrong with this rod.

Orvis also had a deal where if you applied for an Orvis credit card (I already have one, but my wife doesn't), they will give you an additional 20% off your purchase.  So, after some conversations with my wife, and knowing the store was closing soon, I headed to the parking lot to cast the rod.  I was amazed at how stiff it was at its light weight, how easily it threw nice tight loops, and how accurate it was in short.  Just like last time I had cast it, I was enamored.  With no water in the parking lot, one area I couldn't really test was roll casting, but most rods that aren't too slow do just fine with this type of cast.

I don't whether she really loves me or she's just a pushover, but my wife filled out the credit card application in case I wanted to buy the rod.  That brought the price down to $385, or about $410 with tax - less than half the suggested price.  And, with my wife's blessing, I pulled the trigger.

So, despite the disgusting rain yesterday, I had to fish - new waders and a new rod.  (And, somehow, I'd gotten both of them for less than the price of the rod alone - not a bad week of deal seeking).  I focused on a stretch of the Third Branch of the White River - a place where a dam had been removed last season.  This spot holds some big browns and the state had also stocked some brookies in the area in the past week, although 1000 brookies for 10+ miles of water is very much hit and miss.  After an hour at this site (they did a great job with the stone work and constructing a shoreline conducive to fishing), I moved upstream to keep looking for those elusive brookies.  It's now well into May and I've hooked just one fish and landed zero so far, so the need to catch a fish is growing.

But, all I got was rain, rain, and more rain.  Finally, after a couple hours, I headed to a beaver pond that always yields a few small brookies and some occasional rainbows.  And, I got shut out there as well.

I will write more detailed reviews on the waders and the new rod over the next couple months.  My initial impression of the rod is that it will become my #1 rod very quickly.  I honestly love every rod I have right now, and the only rod that doesn't get fished a lot is the 3 weight.  To be honest, that rod is now for sale if anyone ever reads this blog and has any interest.  I'm willing to make a good deal on the rod and the reel and even throw in some Rio Euro Nymph leaders.

In just a few words, the rod is quick, stiff, accurate, mends very well for a rod of its light weight, and it's everything I hoped it would be.  I was using Orvis's cork strike indicators yesterday, and I think they may be my new favorite strike indicators.  They have a bit of heft to them compared to the Thing-a-ma-Bobs, and you can make a minor adjustment without moving your fly a long distance.

Now, I just have to not break it going forward (In 40 or so years of fly fishing, I've broken 2 rods and I'm not too scared about that happening now, to be honest).  Plus, I know that Orvis can repair the rod for me if I do manage to break it.  I could probably break it 3 times before my total price equaled the retail price of the standard issue rod.

So, no complaints so far.  More details to come in the future.  And, if your timing is good, the Orvis Outlet stores are certainly a way to get some of the best gear out there for more reasonable prices.

One last thought.  The rod is stunningly gorgeous.  The construction is top notch.  The color is a beautiful dark blue.  Orvis has now added the little "dots" to line up rod sections during assembly, something I first saw on the Hardy Zenith rods.  If the weather holds, I'll get out on Thursday evening after work.  Hopefully, the new rod will give me my first fish of the year that night.  And then, on the 18th, I'm taking a vacation day to fish the trophy waters of the Black River down south.  On that river, with most fish in the 16"-20" range, I would normally fish the Sage rod.  This year, I think I'm going to put the stiffness of the new Helios 2 to the test.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Another obligatory "One that got away" story

First of all, thanks to a friend, who had been borrowing my third string waders, I was able to fish and stay dry this weekend.  He had just gotten new waders and the timing was perfect.  These are mid-level Orvis waders without some of the whistles and bells of newer waders, but they kept me dry on a cold day.

My new Patagonia waders will arrive today.  And, I found the primary hole in my Orvis Guide Waders and I think they are repairable.  So, I may go from no good waders to 3 pairs in a week.  If I can get all 3 working at the same time, I'm sure my wife and son will be happy to get out fishing with me a bit more.

So, this past weekend was tough for me.  A lot of fatigue from the chemo.  I worked at home on Thursday, and barely had the energy for a 3 mile walk with the dog on Thursday evening, so no fishing.  Friday morning, I was so exhausted I couldn't get out of bed until noon.  The same was true Saturday and Sunday as well.  According to my FitBit, I slept 52 hours in an 80 hour period.  I was that tired.

So, I wasted the best weather of the weekend, but got out Sunday night in cold, cloudy conditions.  I headed for a spot where two rivers converge.  One river is always cloudier than the other, and I like working the seam where the different rivers meet, hoping to catch a big fish looking for baitfish emerging from the cloudy water to the clearer water.  And, about my 10th cast, I found exactly that.

I was using my Hardy Zenith 4 weight, which might have been a bit undersized for the river here, but I just like the rod so much that I wanted to get out there with it.  I was fishing a size 6 olive woolly bugger trailed by a size 14 Frenchy.  I was mostly fishing on the swing, hoping to move the fly from the cloudy water, slowly into the more clear water.

And, about my 10th cast or so, I felt that distinctive tap.  A second tap and the fish had hooked himself before I could even react.  I knew right away it was a good fish.  It came straight to the surface, doing some amazing tail walking.  It was shaking its head like a mini tarpon, trying to get rid of the woolly bugger embedded in its mouth.  And, in less time that it took you to read that paragraph, the hook came loose and the fish was gone.  My first strike of the year.  My first hook-up of the year.  My first big fish of the season.  And, my first fish story about the one that got away.

Nothing else happened in the 90 minutes I fished, and by then, in the cold and drizzle, I was done for the day anyway.

This same river system is about to get more than 10,000 cookie cutter stocked fish.  Yeah, the tug is the drug, and I still enjoy the 20 or 30 fish days that come out of the stocking truck.

But, I'd trade all of those days for just one good wild fish, and I missed that chance this weekend.  I think the fish would have been my biggest rainbow ever in VT, and  I will return to see if I can entice it again.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Wader Problems

I seem to have nothing but bad luck with waders.  It's becoming expensive and annoying, to be honest.  I read stories about guides who put in 200 days per year in a pair of waders, and they last for year after year and after year.  I swear that I never get even 100 days out of a pair of waders without some trouble along the way.  Yes, I did have a pair of Red Ball super lightweight waders that lasted me close to 2 decades, but to be honest, I rarely fished during those 20 years.  I spent more time running ultramarathons and fishing on occasion.

So, two weekends ago, on opening day, I did walk into a ground-level barbed wire fence while wearing my waders.  I have the Orvis Super Sonic Guide Waders.  I got these two years earlier, when my previous waders developed leaks in the seams and Orvis offered a good deal on an upgrade.  So, I took that deal and I like the waders.  I've had zero complaints with these waders, to be honest.

After I stumbled into the barbed wire on opening day, I looked the waders over carefully.  Other than cosmetic damage on the boot gaiter, I couldn't find any problems.  I fished in the water for a few hours with no problems.  I stayed warm and dry.

Last night, I got out again for the first time since then.  My very first step into the river greeted me with cold and wetness.  It quickly became clear that there are 3 holes in the left leg of the waders and none in the right.  To be honest, most of the damage to the gaiter was on the right side, which makes this even more confusing to me.

So, I fished for a few minutes.  But, the current was high (a river I prefer to fish in the 1000-1400cfs range was at 3000cfs), cold, and off color.  Plus, given the flows, it was hard to even get my streamer out to where I normally catch fish.  After 15 minutes, to be honest, I was cold, wet and pissed off.

So I went home.  I might have thrown a little temper tantrum (When dealing with cancer as a constant backdrop in your life, sometimes emotions just win).  Orvis can take up to 6 weeks to fix a pair of waders.  To be honest, I have not yet fully investigated the extent of the damage.  It might be minor damage (maybe some tearing) from the barbed wire fence.  But, if so, why did I stay dry two weeks ago?  It might also be a red squirrel that's been living in my wood pile in my garage.  It's possible the waders were chewed on while I stored them in the garage, and if that happened, repair could be very difficult.

So, with some of the best fly fishing of the season just a couple weeks away, what do I do?  First of all, I should have 2 pairs of functioning waders.  I simply cannot take 6 weeks off fishing every time I get a  leak.

So, my wife volunteered that I should get a second set of  waders.  I had a way to get a decent deal on some new waders and took advantage of that.  It's an expensive set of waders from a high priced company, but at least I was able to get the deal.  I did that this morning.

Next, I need to finish drying out my waders and inspect them.  If I find small holes, I will repair the old waders myself.  If I find that the squirrel chewed them up, and the holes are larger, I'll send them back for repair.

But, at least I'll be able to fish in the interim.  And, after repair work, I'll have a second set of waders.  And then, I'll get my third pair back from a friend who has been borrowing them, and test them out, hoping they can be a third pair or something my son or wife can use on occasion.

I also clearly need another way to store my waders.  They need to be hanging at all times, and at a place where no f*cking squirrels can eat them.  But, I'll figure that out.

I would never go through life with only one fly rod, one reel, one pair of wading boots, one wading staff, or just a single box of flies.  Yet, somehow, I've set myself up for a single point of failure with my waders,  And, I feel like an idiot.

How long has it been since I bought my first ever hip boots (Yes, that's how old I am; I started with hip boots)?  Probably well over 40 years and somehow, I'm just learning this lesson now?  In those days, I couldn't afford backups and I would wet wade a lot anyway.  I wet wade when I can these days, but it will be two months or so before it's warm enough to do that comfortably here in VT.  Plus, I fish into November, and late fall is not wet wading season in VT.

Well, nobody ever promised this was an easy sport.  Or cheap.  Or that I'd be any good at it.  I just keep working at it, trying to get better, and trying to keep on top of my gear.  I honestly think that I have gotten to the point where I own way more fly fishing gear (in terms of dollars) than I own skiing gear.  And, I've been teaching skiing for 17 years now.

I know that fly fishing can be done differently than I do it.  Simms, Patagonia and Orvis aren't the only wader or boot manufacturers out there.  I don't have to be in love with Hardy rods or Hatch reels.  I don't really need an Orvis credit card.

At the same time, despite all of my year of experience in this sport, I still feel like a rookie at times. And, if I can spend a few dollars to ward off a rookie mistake, well, I guess I'll do that.

I don't know if anyone actually reads this blog, to be honest, but any guesses when I will actually catch a fish this year?  My guess is Thursday, 5/4.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Opening Weekend

I hate to admit it, but I completely skipped Opening Day, even though I was entered in a fly fishing tournament.  It was cold, the water was high, off color, wading was challenging, and I needed some rest.

My wife and I went to the pre-tournament meeting Friday night.  I got my scorecards.  We had a cocktail and some food.  And then, we went to the Fly Fishing Film Tour movie, something I've been doing every year for a few years now.  After the movie, it was cold and raining in Middlebury.

As we headed home, the temperatures dropped, the rain turned to snow, and the drive got pretty hairy.  Luckily, we had brought the car with snow tires, and despite other cars being off the road, we managed to make it home.  It took a while and I climbed into bed at midnight.

I woke up at noon.  Got up for a while.  Ate some lunch.  Thought about fishing.  And then, I went back to bed for a 2 hour nap.

That night, I went to our local Trout Unlimited banquet.  Luckily, it was over early and I was back in bed by 9:30.  Sunday morning, I was up by 8:00 and to Middlebury by 9:00.  I fished, mostly in one spot, for the next couple hours.  The final score was 2 expensive streamers lost, once Prince Nymph found, one possible strike, and no fish hooked.

For the fifth consecutive year, I was shut out in this tournament.  But, I was far from alone.  There were 16 total fish caught in 2 days by 93 fishermen.  Only a couple people caught more than one fish, and I think they were all in the pro division.

The amateur division was won by a woman who caught a stunning brown trout - nearly 20" and very healthy looking.  For that one fish, she won a very expensive fly rod.

This tournament is really all about getting together with other fly fishermen to start the season.  Maybe I'll catch a fish one of these years, but maybe not.  Maybe if I spent more hours on the water, I'd have better luck.  But right now, taking care of my body in my fight against cancer comes first, and I needed rest over the weekend.

In the end, I won a few prizes at the raffle.  I got some tippet material, some strike indicators, a Tacky Tube, and a hat.  Plus, I got a nice fishing shirt for entering.  And, I donated a couple hundred dollars to various fishing charities over the weekend,

The fishing will improve over the next few weeks.  If the water is too cold or too high, ski season isn't over yet anyway.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Tying Season is winding down and fishing season approaches

It's only nine days until our opener here in VT.  It will probably still be weeks before I catch my first fish, but that won't stop me from getting out there.  Even the big storm due in tomorrow for the central part of the state (8"-12" of snow) will divert me to skiing this weekend, but next weekend is all about fishing.

I had my annual eye exam recently.  I usually rotate between 3 pairs of reading glasses (my distance vision stubbornly remains at 20/15 as my close vision continues to deteriorate), and I replace one pair per year.  One pair is for computer work - 18" or so from my eyes.  One pair is for books, phone, tablets, remote controls, etc. - closer to 12".  And then, I have my fishing glasses, which are designed for use at about 6" - perfect for tying flies and tying knots on the river.

This year, it was time to replace the fishing glasses.  I got them home earlier this week and looked at the flies I'd been tying.  I was amazed at the detail I could see in some of the flies - details that had eluded me while tying.  So, I'm glad to have these upgrades for the rest of my tying and fishing season.

Here are a few recent flies from the vise:

At the top are some Frenchies.  In the middle are two-tone Perdigon nymphs.  At the bottom are single color perdigon nymphs, designed mostly for cloudy, early season water.

I still want to tie some more Frenchies, including some with non-orange hot spots.  Plus, some without the collars.

And, some final juju baetis.  I'm hoping the new glasses will help me with that tiny little fly.  I am usually comfortable tying them down to a 16 or so, but I like to fish them in 18 or 20, so I need a little refinement.

Of course, these are all tiny flies.  The first fly that I cast this year is going to be much different.  I'm sure I'll start out the season with a Kelly Galloup pattern - probably a Sex Dungeon or a Circus Peanut.  But, if the water is clear enough, the flies above will get some action on opening day, along with some Navy Divers, San Juan Worms (shudder!), and maybe some woolly buggers.

Maybe this will even be the year where I ski and catch a trout on the same day.  That goal has remained elusive for me.

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.