Sunday, June 16, 2019

Something Very Special

If you enjoy what I'm doing here, please share and comment. It is increasingly difficult to maintain this blog under dwindling readership. What best keeps me going so is knowing that I am engaging people and getting them interested in different aspects of fly fishing, the natural world, and art. Follow, like on Facebook, share wherever, comment wherever. Also, consider supporting me on Patreon (link at the top of the bar to the right of your screen, on web version). Every little bit is appreciated! Thank you to my Patrons; Erin, David, john, and Christopher, for supporting this blog.

This spring has been something very special. This has been the second very wet year in a row, and despite stream temperatures getting warm fairly early in Southern and Eastern CT last year, spring seeps remained very safe refuges throughout that period. Frequent high water but only brief periods of truly serious floods also means lots of food in the drift, and I have no doubt that if the necessary data were collected, it would show a massive bump in the growth rate of small stream wild trout over these last two seasons. I'm so sure of this because I've not seen such good small stream fishing for a long time. 

On Friday I fished a stream that I'd not been to in a while. The last time I'd fished it I caught a number of sizable browns, but nothing really remarkable for the size of stream they were in, and one small hunchback brook trout. This time was very different. 

Within minutes I got a quite substantial wild brookie. The same big hole then produced four more wild brook trout, two stocked brookies and two stocked browns which had come up from the stocked stream below, and four fallfish. That was a pretty impressive tally for one hole of a thin blue line. What's more, only one of the four wild brook trout was under 10 inches long.





Working upstream from there, I consistently found at least one brook trout in each pool and run, and most were 10-12 inches. Where I'd found maybe one brown trout the last time I'd fished here, this time I was finding two or three brookies, and man were they ever stunning. Big spots and lots of them, and incredibly pronounced marbling on the back. Really incredible looking fish.





With the water high and off-color, I didn't give much though to dries until I reached the long flat you see above. Normally I wouldn't expect to find salmonids in this kind of water, aside from fry and fingerlings. it was shallow, slow, and provided very little cover. But I saw some rises, so I fished it. I found a skated bomber to be the ticket. It drew some really violent strikes.



Eventually I did find a couple wild browns. The first was small in stature, but the second was an impressive specimen of 14 inches, and about as buttery yellow as a brown trout gets.


This glorious outing stacks up with three others I'd had this week, full of "big for the water" wild trout. I will write about one or two of those outings, but if you want to read them, I'm sorry to say they won't be here. (shameles plug in 3... 2... 1...) 
They'll be on my Patreon page (www.patreon.com/ctflyangler), only accessible to patrons, along with a few other benefits that you can get if you are generous enough to support Connecticut Fly Angler. It would be especially helpful now, as my beloved little Sony DSC-RX100 has been died a very slow death and is no longer usable, so I'm back to using the old "brick",  the Fujifilm HS 50 exr, which has some serious issues of its own, and my phone camera, which... is a phone camera. So I really am in need of some new camera gear. I'm extremely limited in what I can do right now. Check my page out, if you please.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Convergence '19: Trout with Stripes

One of my goals after getting my 40"+ striped bass was catching some bass of any size out of some seriously tiny water. I was looking for striped bass in a proper small, freestone trout stream. That was the goal. And it was going to take some doing. Stripers do push into some tiny cuts, mosquito ditches, and creeks along the shoreline with fair regularity. I've caught those fish. They're no big deal, frankly. The comfortably come and go with ease. A striper has to jump through far more hoops to get into a 12ft wide pool above the first few sets of riffles in a creek that averages between 20 and 75cfs flow rate, 15-50 miles from the open sound.

I wanted a striped bass in brook trout water. And I knew if I hit it right I could.

I set my sights on two streams in the same watershed. Both had herring runs of some significance, but more importantly they both drained a large enough watershed to draw substantial yellow eel numbers. I was relying on yellow eels because, very simply, they do draw small bass that can't effectively eat adult river herring. And I needed small fish attraction because I knew I wouldn't be able to reliably find enough herring to actually draw in big bass, which need a lot of coaxing to put themselves in such a vulnerable state. For one thing, as big and tough as a 36 inch striper is, they simply did not evolve to shoot up shallow riffles. And after they do, they're sitting ducks for otters and other medium to large piscivorous mammals. Smaller bass, smaller profile, harder to notice in hardly any water. I did know that it was possible to encounter a fish of 30-40 inches in my target water, I also knew it would take a massive push of herring to bring such fish in and that I very likely wouldn't get to see such a push of herring.

In the span of two weeks I put in a lot of time into my two target streams, fishing from the furthest point upstream I thought the odd striper might maybe reach, to the frog water below the head of tide. Though I was determined to catch a striper above the head of tide in one stream or both, it would have been a poor decision to ignore the wide, flat, slow water at their mouths. That's where there was most likely to be bass, and big ones at that.



Unfortunately, for a few nights, that's the only place I could find stripers. But they did somewhat feed my urges to catch striped bass acting like trout, because they demanded very trouty presentations.
During the day, they wouldn't touch much of anything but a heavily weighted, high stick-jigged woolly bugger. That was pretty cool.


After dark, they'd ignore anything that wasn't floating and dead drifted. They even seemed indifferent to twitches. They'd still take, but no more or less than on a dead drift with no action applied. Swing, strip, or retrieve the fly in any manor in which it didn't flow naturally with the current as though it were a giant, helpless insect, and it went ignored. I fished unweighted deer hair head flies for this, and if they started to sink I applied them with floatant. I think these fish actually were keyed in on floating bugs. I noted dobson flies, large golden stones, and some very early hex during my time on these streams, and I saw nothing else on, in, or near the surface film to pull the attention of these fish there... I am fairly certain I was literally fishing to striped bass rising to insects. And that was really, really cool.


Through much of my stint on the small water I had a big, bright moon. In terms of good fishing, it didn't help. In terms of getting around small streams at 2:00a.m., It was seriously helpful. With trees fully in leaf I was rather clumsily maneuvering my way through the woods on the cloudy nights. I'm out in the woods during the none-human hours an awful lot, both fishing and studying all manor of nocturnal wildlife, so when it's so dark that I'm having even minor issues navigating, that can mean only one thing....

It is really, really, really f****** dark.


To get an idea of what I was working with, the following shot is of one of the pools in which I knew I had a good shot at getting a schoolie out of well above the head of tide. Ideally, I'd need to place my fly just a few inches from that far bank, which, though a short cast, is a to a target I can't see at all, under overhanging limbs on that side of the stream, blocked by overhanging limbs on my side as well. And that cast would need to be made from a steep, almost cliff like bank. You can't simply walk up to one of these streams in the middle of the night and catch a striped bass on the fly. Not even a 14 inch striped bass. It takes some serious time, lots of trial, and lots of error.


On my fourth attempt, I fished for an hour without any signs of fish of any kind. Then, in the riffle at the head of one pool I had some hope for, I came tight to a fish that could only have been a striped bass. It was clearly not very big, maybe 18 inches, but when it came off I was every bit as flustered as I would be had that been a 24 inch wild brown trout. Luckily, the next night I got my revenge. I have to wonder if it was the same fish. It was in the same pool, though not in the riffle at the head but right in the middle in the deepest, slowest water. It took a simple flatwing pattern. And It made me quite pleased. This fish had traveled long and far to come to this little freshwater river. Why? Why didn't it simply go somewhere more convenient?
Who knows. But it is a glorious thing to think about. What a counterintuitive thing for a fish to do! This fish had come into water that it looked out of place in, but had adopted strategies no different from the fish that reside there all year. Essentially, this was a trout in a striper's skin. Let this be a lesson, though. Because stripers don't only act like trout when they're in trout water. Using trout tactics is a really good way to catch bass in a variety of circumstances. 
I gave that little guy a kiss on the top of his head, said thank you, and them felt him slip out of my hands. Where will he go next? How big will he get? How long will he live. That little fish doesn't know much. It just does what it is biologically programmed to do. It will see things that to me would be life alteringly spectacular, but it will be completely indifferent to those things. That little striped bass doesn't care about much. And yet I can't stop thinking about where it will go and the things it might encounter. I want to know. I want to see what it sees. No, I need to see what it sees. 


I am a simple man. I need fish. I need to see them. Catch them. Hold them in my hands. I need to know every detail of their existences. I will follow them up rivers and creeks, around lakes, and along miles and miles of ocean shoreline to do these things. And I need to protect them. Fish aren't just food for us, and they aren't just food for other fish that we like to catch more, or other animals that we like to look at. We are failing to see the actual value of some of the most remarkable animals... it's a travesty. It really is. 

If you enjoy what I'm doing here, please share and comment. It is increasingly difficult to maintain this blog under dwindling readership. What best keeps me going so is knowing that I am engaging people and getting them interested in different aspects of fly fishing, the natural world, and art. Follow, like on Facebook, share wherever, comment wherever. Also, consider supporting me on Patreon (link at the top of the bar to the right of your screen, on web version). Every little bit is appreciated! Thank you to my Patrons; Erin, David, john, and Christopher, for supporting this blog.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Moments at 22

Today I turned 22. That's not a particularly special birthday. I'm still just a kid. I'm no wiser than I was at 21. And probably only the slightest bit smarter. What I do have for sure is another 365 days of experiences to add to the previous 7665. I've gotten to experience some pretty cool moments in my 8030 days on Planet Earth. Here are a few of those moments:


















































































































(a few of these photos were taken by friends. I could go through and credit each individually, but I'm feeling lazy. If you took one of these shots, or were in any way involved with the moment surrounding one, thank you.)