Monday, January 18, 2021

The Ausable Flies Strike Again

 Throughout all my years of brook trout fishing, one fly reigns supreme. Fran Betters came up with something extraordinary when he created the Ausable Bomber. It has resulted more brook trout to hand for me than any other single fly pattern. I've taken trout on the bomber, fished upstream and down, skated and dead drifted, swung and bounced, dry and subsurface, to actively rising fish and prospecting pocket water... there is little this fly can't do. This broad range of uses is something I look for in most flies. Very little I carry is actually single use. I fish for so many species in so many situations I'd have far too many flies if each only served one purpose. And as such, the Bomber with it's many uses has more than earned its place in my arsenal. 

One day in December, I was on a morning mission to get my monthly dry fly salmomid, and of course the bomber was the first fly I chose to tie on. The stream I was fishing was a low-gradient river valley stream, running a substrate of brownstone, conglomerate, and alluvial gravel beds. Streams like these are nutrient rich and hold water well, often producing brook trout either of large size or in exceptional numbers -and sometimes both. This particular stream has been more numbers prolific than size for me, and is also a winter dry fly paradise. The fish are very surface oriented, abundant, and spurred on by caddis and midge hatches. 

The first run I fished was a shallow gravel train that typically either holds one nice fish or a half dozen tiny ones. Today it was tiny ones, and they could only drown the fly and failed to get the hook point. A few bends down however the water swept around a corner, creating a nice cut bank bend. There are nearly always fish holding in water of this sort, the question was simply whether they'd rise to a dry. I let the Bomber drift, then gave in a twitch where the V of in flowing currents came to a point. Up came a brook trout and I stuck her. December had been beaten. 

The Bomber brought a few more fish to hand that day, including the regal specimen below. 

But when I came to an especially deep hole with heavy current, I knew I wanted to get down deep to catch whatever was hiding there. On went another fly of Adirondack lineage, though of a more recent generation of fly tyer than Betters: Rich Garfield's Ausable Ugly. Like Betters, Garfield has designed a handful of flies that are unusual, unruly looking, and extremely effective. There's little you can't do with an Ausable Ugly. I made a tuck cast then slowly dropped my rod as the current carried the fly down, keeping in contact but also allowing it to fall. As the Ugly rolled into the depths of the pool, I felt a grab. It was a long female brook trout, all her weight was in her stomach. She'd used much of her fat reserves to spawn, most likely. Brook trout in this shape aren't uncommon in the early winter, as they've just begun to regain weight after the spawn.


Satisfied with that small number of trout landed, I called it a day. The Ausable flies had done the trick. 

Until next time, 
Fish for the love of fish.
Fish for the love of places fish live.
Fish for you.
And stay safe and healthy.


Thank you to my Patrons; Erin, David, John, Elizabeth, Brandon, Christopher, Shawn, Mike, Sara, Leo, C, Franky, and Geof for making Connecticut Fly Angler possible. If you want to support this blog, look for the Patreon link at the top of the right side-bar in web version. 

Edited by Cheyenne Terrien

Saturday, January 16, 2021

A Blitz Before Christmas

 December isn't really a blitz month in Connecticut. There were times when it wouldn't have been unreasonable to expect substantial striper blitzes in these parts but in recent years they've been present but exceptionally rare. Not non-existent but not at all easily found. So when Noah and I pulled up to a spot to fish for holdover bass moving into their winter holes and saw fish busting and birds diving in the backwater... on December 10th... we got excited. 


Though the blitz itself was unreachable since we were on foot, we quickly found ourselves a pile of fish in a key bottleneck. Noah and I were using typical winter striper strategies, a jig and plastic for him, a pair of Clousers for me. Hits came just about every cast, and after I doubled the second time and broke off one fish, I opted to shed one fly. Catching them two at a time was just overkill. 

One of the fish I caught was a rather unique individual. The left flank had the typical array of stripes but the right side was a muddled mess. On occasion, I've had people try to tell me that these are hybrids because the presence of broken lines is often used to distinguish wiper or sunshine bass -striped bass/white bass hybrids- from landlocked stripers in the same lakes. This makes no sense as white bass don't exist in these waters for stripers to hybridize with. We do have white perch, but the only documented cases of hybridization between stripers and white perch were under controlled lab and hatchery conditions. They likely have never occurred in the wild. These muddled up striper patterns on East Coast fish are instead indicative of healed injuries or genetic anomalies. 

Side A

Side B

At some point, Noah had to head back to the van to grab something and I stayed in place continuing to catch fish. Suddenly a school of silversides rolled off the flat into the bottleneck and the water in front of me filled up with boiling stripers. Frantically I changed to a gurgler, thinking this was surely my best chance at a December topwater striped bass. The blitz came and went without a hookup. I had several swirls but nothing more committed. I wish, as I sometimes do, that I'd spent more time with camera in hand. 


Though I didn't get what I'd have liked out of the December 10th blitz photographically, it was an exciting thing to be present for. It makes me yearn for the days of big Atlantic herring runs, rainbow smelt, and whiting, when winter saltwater fishing was actually good. December 10th isn't even winter, but it isn't far from it. I experimented a bit with winter saltwater fishing last year, and I intend to again this year. Not just stripers -white perch, tomcod, hake, and cod too. I know there's more out there to be found, I just need to be really diligent and persistent. 
Until next time, 
Fish for the love of fish.
Fish for the love of places fish live.
Fish for you.
And stay safe and healthy.


Thank you to my Patrons; Erin, David, John, Elizabeth, Brandon, Christopher, Shawn, Mike, Sara, Leo, C, Franky, and Geof for making Connecticut Fly Angler possible. If you want to support this blog, look for the Patreon link at the top of the right side-bar in web version. 

Edited by Cheyenne Terrien

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Seeking a Truttasaurus

 Salmo trutta is the most iconic fish in fly fishing, without question. Without brown trout, fly fishing would likely be very different. They are so highly regarded that when Eurpopeans began colonizing other lands they felt the need to have brown trout exported to those places. Tasmania, New Zealand, South Africa, the United States, Chile… brown trout were spread far and wide. The repercussions of this are huge and diverse and we are still seeing them to this day. They will never go away… both the fish, and their impacts. These impacts are cultural and ecological and even economic.

Brown trout have pushed native galaxiidae to the brink of extinction in parts of Australia and New Zealand, crowded out sea-run brook trout on Long Island and Cape Cod, and threatened to snuff out populations of native golden trout in California’s Kern River basin. They’ve created whole economies in the Catskills, the Ozarks, and the Rockies. They’ve had no small roll in what fly fishing culture is today. Brown trout were a remarkable and important fish within their native range that humans turned into a full blown religion and spread across the globe. It’s easy to understand why; they are fun and challenging to fish for. I do wish we had the foresight to know what damage these fish would do; we still aren’t careful enough. Brown trout are here and they’ve made themselves quite at home -even in small, dirty, stinky, urban CT rivers. 

Truttasauruses -huge wild brown trout approaching or exceeding two feet in length- exist in a number of Northeastern rivers. Some are famous, like the Farmington. Some are known but not quite as widely publicized, like the Deerfield. Others are still quiet, thankfully. They may get fished, some quite a bit, but they aren’t widely recognized for their large, wild brown trout. Those are the places I really enjoy seeking a truttasaurus. This past fall and this winter, I’ve been exploring a new river with big brown potential. Actually, I’d fished it before, but not thoroughly or recently. I knew it had some large wild brown trout so I decided it may be time to really learn it. So far all the action occurred in one day. I caught stocked trout every other trip and saw wild browns on the first excursion, but the day after a rain showed me the real potential in this stream.

The first run I fished quickly produced a wild brown not at all big enough to be called truttasaurus. But she was a fat, healthy, and extremely colorful specimen and boosted my confidence. The fly she ate was my simple olive Polar Bugger, a mid-sized single hook trout streamer that has become a go-to in recent years. In fact, my streamer selection has been simplified very drastically since my initial big-streamers-for-trout obsession started. My boat boxes are now filled with mostly simpler, smaller patterns, all proven to catch fish consistently.  

I continued downstream, picking off smaller wild browns and ugly stocker rainbows, but I wasn’t moving the sort of fish I wanted to. Then, in a rather nondescript shallow run, I watched a high teens brown sneak out of a sheltered bucket and take a swing at the fly. It never made contact but wouldn’t come back, even after a 5 minute rest, but my confidence was bolstered again and I continued fishing with hopes of a bigger fish. Half a river mile and four more stocked bows later, I sent a cast up a snag filled bend, across a good looking slick, and out came the true Truttasaurus. He showed himself four feet behind the fly, rising through from the gloom. He charged the fly like I’ve never seen before, tail kicking hard. He nailed it, and I strip set hard. I found no purchase, I wasn’t even in contact with the fly the fish had pushed it so far towards me. I saw it shake its head and I tried to strip again but he’d already dropped my streamer. I watched his orange and yellow body disappear, completely dejected. It’s not often we encounter brown trout in the range of 24” in the northeast, and any time one comes and goes without being hooked is a painful experience. 

I hustled further downriver, found the quality of the water to be deteriorating in its fishiness, changed streamers to a big yellow and orange Heifer Groomer, and turned back upstream. In the same run where the monster was living, I got a much much smaller but stunningly colored male. It ate the unweighted fly on the surface just after splashdown, one of the most visually spectacular types of streamer eats. I got a few more young browns before deciding to head out, but the truttasaurus window was closed.


Brown trout are a resilient, diverse, and extraordinary species. The obsession with them by fly fishermen and fishermen in general is not unwarranted. It is remarkable and unfortunate how well traveled they have become. Though brown trout are here to stay and indeed a great sport fish, it is paramount that we don’t spread them further. In some special cases, we may even need to consider eliminating them. The few remaining wild brook trout streams on Cape Cod owe their rejuvenation to those that had the foresight to remove the brown trout and allow the native species to reclaim their territory. At the same time, there is no reason states shouldn’t be doing their best to protect coldwater fisheries that happen to hold wild brown trout. 

Conservation in the modern era is complex, and few fish exemplify that more than brown trout. 

Until next time, 
Fish for the love of fish.
Fish for the love of places fish live.
Fish for you.
And stay safe and healthy.


Thank you to my Patrons; Erin, David, John, Elizabeth, Brandon, Christopher, Shawn, Mike, Sara, Leo, C, Franky, and Geof for making Connecticut Fly Angler possible. If you want to support this blog, look for the Patreon link at the top of the right side-bar in web version. 

Edited by Cheyenne Terrien 

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Closing November With a Salamander, Opening December With a Walleye

 November 2020 was the warmest November in my memory. I saw the last timber rattlesnake of the year on the 5th and the last black racer of the year much later than that. Stripers remained surface active well into December. So when the final day of November came with a good heavy rain and more unusual warmth, I went out to see if I might find one last spotted salamander crossing the road this year. This past year gave me the most remarkable spring amphibian migration day I've experienced yet, and it seemed likely it would show off a few more herps very late into the fall. With close to ideal conditions, I set out driving an area I'd had exceptional luck with during the spring. After an hour of driving very slowly down windy back roads through wooded Eastern CT hills, I was about to give in and accept defeat. I'd seen a single green frog and a couple wood frogs that cleared the road before I got to them. That wasn't much. Then, while another car passed me, I saw the tell-tale shape of a large mole salamander on the center line. I flipped the car around as soon as I could and hoped it would still be there when I got back. Sure enough, there it was. It hadn't moved at all. I put my hazards on, donned my safety vest, and went out to photograph the last salamander I'd see in 2020. 

See Spot run.

I was pleased enough with that to head straight home. But the next night was pretty warm as well, and I knew the influx of rain would get some other animals to move, too. Some would remain moving a couple days after the rain would end. What I was most interested in the night of December first though was Sander vitreus.

Walleye.

Though the spring rains are undoubtedly my favorite time to fish for these white eyed nocturnal predators, fall and early winter provide another great opportunity. I made tracks to my favorite creek mouth with my five weight and a box of woolly buggers- all that is needed to catch big walleye in these conditions. Heavy rains draw big walleye to creek mouths almost year round, and they are available within fly casting range in shallow water for a short period during and after the deluge. This night was ideal, and I wasn't at all surprised when the third cast resulted in a doubled over rod. This was clearly a gigantic walleye. I've had a few fish between 27 and 29 inches in my short time frequently seeking trophy 'eyes, but this was clearly in a league of it's own. The head shakes were huge. My heart sank when my line went slack. That was probably a 30 inch class walleye. It was still early though, and I kept plumbing the depths. Eventually I was in again. It was no 30 incher but it was still a great fish, more than enough for a brief celebration. 


It's tail was huge and it had great colors. That fish ended up being the last walleye of both that night and the year- not a bad way to end it. I look forward to spring; I'll still be after that 30 incher. I won't be satisfied until I've broken the walleye fly rod world record. Until next time.

Fish for the love of fish.
Fish for the love of places fish live.
Fish for you.
And stay safe and healthy.


Thank you to my Patrons; Erin, David, John, Elizabeth, Brandon, Christopher, Shawn, Mike, Sara, Leo, C, Franky, and Geof for making Connecticut Fly Angler possible. If you want to support this blog, look for the Patreon link at the top of the right side-bar in web version. 

Edited by Cheyenne Terrien 

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Running Out The Clock in Connecticut

 Four days after my final run for migratory striped bass in Rhode Island, I was headed the opposite direction. With but five days left in November, the biggest biomasses of stripers left north of Long Island had made its way into the western end of Long Island Sound. This is also one of the last places during the fall where the juvenile menhaden hand in. When the in migrating bass and out migrating bait collide each late fall, blitzes ensue. 

The shoreline in Western CT is very different from that of Southern Rhode Island; much less pristine, far more populated, and noticeably busier in the late season. Yet it still holds a special place for me, as it has some unique shoreline features not found in many other places locally. Islands and tombolos are important features there, allowing wading access to distances as much as a mile from the beach. Many of these tombolos submerge through large parts of the tide, and form a choke point that baitfish are forced to flush over and which predator fish can ambush in front of or behind. There are also a number of major estuaries on the CT side, though they aren’t quite the blitz generators that the big bays on the north side of Long Island are. Regardless, it took me no time at all to find birds over schoolies on the 25th of November. 

Birds over a large but distant blitz.

Though the blitzing fish were way out of fly casting range and showing no signs of coming closer, it was immediately clear that there were plenty of less showy fish close in. I started with a Bob’s Banger, looking for that last topwater blowup of the season. Fish were all… well, not all over it, but all around it. Boils, tail slaps, and slashes made me hope one might finally connect, but these little schoolies just weren’t committing. I switched to the EP Peanut Butter and the story changed. I was quickly converting chases into grabs and grabs into fish to hand. They were very small but I was happy as can be way out on that tombolo catching pretty little stripers. 

There were a bunch of smaller adult menhaden out there too, schoolies swam past me pretty regularly. I was hopeful that they could be attracting some bigger stripers, but I could barely break the 20 inch mark. At one point, I got a weird take that was very herring like, a couple light whacks then a thump, and when I set the hook the fish started jumping. I was pretty sure it was a hickory shad, but when I got it to hand I saw that it was a menhaden. What possesses these filter feeding fish to attack a fly or jig on occasion is beyond my understanding, but this wasn’t the first time I’d experienced this behavior. 


Shortly after I caught that bunker, I removed my waders and headed to The Compleat Angler so Ian Devlin could give me the 12wt my friend Pat had given him to hold onto for me and pick a reel for it. I’d catch no more stripers for a few days, but on the second top last month I decided to head south of me to see if there were still any stripers hanging around on the beaches there. It turns out there were some… out front- not just in the backwater. The next day, a massive storm hit and churned the waters in this area up. I was storm chasing that day, hoping to make the best of the last appreciable tornado threat of the year in CT. It didn’t end up being a tornado chase at all though, instead it was a gnarly nor’easter with big swell and howling wind -still quite a spectacle. 




With the migratory fish window passing quickly, it seemed that nor’easter should have ended the blitz window. Surprisingly, it wasn’t over yet. Stay tuned. 

Fish for the love of fish.
Fish for the love of places fish live.
Fish for you.
And stay safe and healthy.


Thank you to my Patrons; Erin, David, John, Elizabeth, Brandon, Christopher, Shawn, Mike, Sara, Leo, C, Franky, and Geof for making Connecticut Fly Angler possible. If you want to support this blog, look for the Patreon link at the top of the right side-bar in web version. 

Edited by Cheyenne Terrien