Friday, July 21, 2017

Remember Where You Stand

The other day I was back on the stream I fished in "Foam is Home". I was hoping to bring a few wild brook trout to hand to show you all, and to be able to really add that stream to my wild salmonid list. It was a bit lower than it had been but was more than acceptable and very cold, so I was fairly confident. I went upstream this time rather than down, and I'm glad I did because I found some native char both in that stream and a tributary.

A hornberg and a kebari wet did most of the work, fished both wet and dry, and a lot of fish were brought to hand over a two hour period. It was very hot and I was sweating intensely, but the brook trout were happy so I put up with it.

It's hard to beat good brook trout fishing in July. But something happened during this outing that tainted things some. I caught one of the larger fish of the day on an old Edson Tiger. It was tied on a fairly long shanked limerick hook. It was not one of my ties, I can't remember where I found it. But it was a long shank hook that I hadn't been particularly careful about de-barbing, the barb was mashed but not well. These fish had been fairly nippy all day so I didn't think it would be an issue, and I was wrong. I killed a fish, hooked it deep in the gills. A beautiful, wonderful little creature in a delicate ecosystem died because of me, and because I had no way of keeping it cold I could not take it. I buried it stream side in hopes that it may return some good to the system, as food for aquatic insect of some passing scavenger.

I couldn't stand that. It's not something that happens often to me. In fact only four times have in that number of years, twice now this year, have I had a fish go belly up and not recover. It is oftentimes unavoidable. As someone who cares deeply about waterways and the fish and other animals that live in them I am keenly aware that I as an angler have an impact, and it is frequently a negative one. Like it or not, we all do. Every one of you who is reading this has killed fish before that you released with the best of intentions. Recreational anglers have an obligation, to practice responsible catch and release, to harvest selectively, and to ensure the impact we leave is more positive than negative.

I'll leave you with this thought. Lately I find myself extremely content just watching fish, studying their behavior, letting them go about their business. I'm a lot more picky about my shots and I don't really feel the need to catch every fish I see. I think a lot of heavily pressured streams could use some of that more restrained angling these days.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

A Few Odd Species

I went down to the river last night and ran into Noah, who had just caught a banded killifish for his life-list. This is a species I had already caught but had never gotten a decent photo of, so I was fairly pleased to catch one after just a little bit of effort. They were hanging out in a tributary where I've usually found spottail shiners. I managed to hook one with a tiny caddis pupa.

After that and an unsuccessful attempt to hook a pike or big smallmouth, I broke character a bit and fished bait. I was really hoping to bump into a white catfish, by far the most interesting catfish we have in these parts. The thrive in the lowest reaches of tidal rivers and are capable of handling quite a bit of salinity. No white catfish were caught, but Noah added another species to his list, an American eel, and I caught a few of those and a yellow bullhead. Yellow bullheads aren't particularly common in this spot so it was a cool little fish to catch.

How's this for a spinner fall?

Sometimes flies just don't do the trick. I'm not too proud to admit that and fish living or dead bait. 

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Night Fishing for Carp With a Fly

That carp took a black woolly bugger the first time it was presented to it. I was standing in full view of the fish at rod length with absolutely nothing obscuring that bright red tee. The fish showed no signs of noticing that  was there, when it surely would have spooked violently at most times of day. The deciding factor of this fish catch? It was 10:00 at night.

Noah tipped me off to this interesting nocturnal behavior three days prior. He had seen carp feeding on minnows while jogging along the shoreline, and when he inspected close he found that it seemed to be a fairly regular feeding pattern. Carp were coming into the area around this particular dock and feeding under the streetlights. And they were oddly unaware of the presence of a waiting angler. I thought this would be a great opportunity to help another fishing friend, Ben Bilello, get into his first legally fly caught carp. He fouled a large one earlier this year while shad fishing, obviously that doesn't count.

I went out briefly the night before just to poke around an I found two giant panfish. I didn't really try to get a carp  in the money spot because it would likely key them off to our presence.

Then came that fateful night. Ben and I fished all afternoon and saw a lot of neurotic and unusual behavior from the carp that made them extremely difficult to catch. And then came the after dark bite. Ben got tons of great shots at aggressively feeding carp... perfect shots actually... and the fish didn't eat and didn't turn the cold shoulder, they showed no signs of anything whatsoever. It was freakishly atypical. We worked through a bunch of different flies and none seemed to work better or worse. We probably had a couple hours worth of chances when  made a fatal mistake. Ben was changing flies and I casually flipped my first and only cast. I made a drag and drop presentation and the fish turned and sucked in the fly. Immediate regret. I pretty much stole Ben's fish, and after we had put so much work in. I felt pretty bad about it.

Interestingly, that is the same fish  had caught two nights before. That's the first time I've confirmed a repeat catch on a carp. I pretty pleased with that. I love seeing the same fish again. And I love most of all to let them swim off and say "by old friend, till next time".  

Ben payed his dues this time. Next time is his turn. For real. 

Monday, July 17, 2017

Foam is Home

I fished a little stream in Northern CT yesterday that I had never fished before. It was a beautiful waterway, clean and cold with lots of falls and plunges. Unfortunately it was a busy place. Lots of sightseers and swimmers. No bueno for catching fish. I found some aquatic creatures in the spots that were hard to get to though, especially places with a lot of foam.

See all those holes in the thick white foam in the first photo? Those were made by rising brook trout and creek chubs. Mostly creek chubs. I caught four chubbies and one brookie, and the brookie didn't let me get a photo. 

The only places that held fish in that stretch of water also had huge amounts of foam. Just goes to show that the old saying, foam is home, is definitely something to pay attention to, especially on small streams. Run a small wet fly or streamer under the foam and chances are something hungry will come up for a look. 

Sunday, July 16, 2017

A First

Yesterday I went fly carpin' with Sonny, who I'd promised to help out in that regard a while ago. Well, we were finally going fishing together and I was hopeful that the fish would be looking up like they had been the previous two days.

I didn't do the best job of describing what I did to get the fish up the other day, so now is as good a time as any. No, the fish were not feeding on natural surface food. I was chumming them up with white bread, generally a slice or two at a time, torn into small pieces. I can hear the purists groaning already... to be honest I felt the same way about it for a while, it seemed wrong, for some reason, to essentially be both the food source and the predator. But even when the food itself is man made, the fly, the presentation, and stalking the fish are still tough... these are carp we are talking about. They almost always have the advantage. The best fly was foam and dry fly dubbing bread crust fly, tied on a sz. 10 or 8 stimulator hook. The would follow a fairly predictable pattern through the bread and making a cast in their path generally got at least a sniff. Deer hair flies and large caddis were fished n the same manor and were also effective.

Sonny, Mark (who just happened to be at the same pond at the same time), and I discovered within a short time that these fish had figured my game out over the last two days. They were not nearly as gung-ho about eating the bread and far less about taking, and they were clearly weary of our presence.

Fortunately they weren't all too weary and we got some takes. Most importantly, Sonny caught his first ever fly rod carp! And on a dry fly no less.

That was mission accomplished right there, and though we did have plenty more shots at fish they would not come to the fly well. Time to let these fish rest for a week so I can come back and get my life list grass carp. 

Friday, July 14, 2017

Topwater Carp!

I've been fly carping for years now and ha never caught one on a dry fly. It was always something I wanted to try, but aside from cottonwood seeds pretty much all of the floating natural food carp like is not too prevalent around here. I've seen carp surface feeding a number of times, but until today I had never had a carp come and take a floating fly.

This story doesn't start today though. It started yesterday after a few hours with Noah hunting for some green and hybrid sunfish in this pond:

Musky the Rat
Before I caught any fish I caught a typically ornery and good sized northern water snake. It was big enough that I didn't really want to get bit, but it had other ideas. Normally they will chill out after a bit, even after I let go of this one it kept striking. I can't make friends with every snake so I stopped trying an got back to fishing. 

I caught a whole pile of bluegills and green sunfish, and one possible but unconfirmed hybrid. 


Then came the rain. We decided to head west to get out of the rain faster. We went first to a pond that has big common carp as well as bass and bluegills. We got the latter two in good numbers. The bluegills were well proportioned, and all came out warm, and I do mean warm. That water was probably in the high 80's, maybe even low 90's since it is all just parking lot runoff. 

After that we made our way to a convenience store to get some bread to feed the fish in a pond with a lot of small commons and some grass carp. In the short time were were there Noah caught one common and had a take from a big grasser. So yeah, we kinda had to come back to see how this would play out. 

This morning we returned with much more bread and quickly got into the small commons. I of course had tied up some bread flies, and the really did get the job done. I caught 8 commons in total. None were large by any stretch of the imagination, but it was so cool to stick carp on dry flies. The takes are just so fun to watch. I didn't just catch them on bread flies either, I caught two on big foam butt caddis. 

Given the low yield tendency of my local waters, this was by far the most carp I have ever caught in one day. It was just such a hoot to watch them come up and suck down a dry fly. But we were really there to catch a species neither of us had ever caught, the biggest of the cyprinids found in CT waters. And, after a lot time baiting a good swim, dealing with turtles, and hiding behind a bench Noah's free lined piece of white bread got chomped down by a white amur, Ctenopharyngodon idella, a grass carp. It didn't fight tremendously hard until it got right near the bank. Then it was a tedious give and take battle, which is personally my least favorite kind. But we landed it. What a fish it was. Beautiful. 

That was the day maker right there. A solid topwater grass carp. That was the last fish and far and away the best fish.