Saturday, September 23, 2017

Mousing For Wild Brookies

No, I'm not in Labrador. I wish I were, but I don't see that being likely in the next couple years. Brook trout are by their nature aggressive and opportunistic fish, so it's not really surprising that they'd take a small mouse pattern even in broad daylight. I put one size 4 Master Splinter variation in my box for today's blue line wanderings, and I did fish it for a while. What I discovered surprised me. But before I get to the mousing I have to start where I started, fishing plunge pools on a new stretch of water and catching beautifully colored char on my Crazy Shrimp.

The stream itself is a familiar one but this section was not, and when I explore new water I don't like to leave anything up to chance, I put on a confidence fly and cover the water thoroughly and carefully. The Crazy Shrimp did not disappoint, and neither did the 20 or so brookies I caught in the new water.

After I determined that the previously unexplored stretch was really sweet, I went to the familiar section and tied on the mouse. It did not take long to get some action, and what surprised me was how well the fish took the fly. Most of the brookies present ignored the fly entirely, but the few that didn't just hammered it! Every missed take was angler error, not fish error, which was very different from daylight mousing I've down for both wild browns and stocked trout. These brookies took the mouse with gusto and aggression, nearly always jumping, sometimes as much as a foot in the air. One did a classic downward take, leaping completely out of the water and taking the fly on the way down.

One of the mos fun parts of the day was fishing the meadowy spring creek section. Most of the fish came charging out from the undercuts, and I missed the bigger ones just by being a bit startled by their speed.

Wanted that?

That was most definitely a productive day. I love mousing, and now that I know it's not only doable but quite productive on a brook trout stream I'm going to be trying to weed out the little guys. I'm looking for the giants. I want a wild 18 inch brook trout from a CT stream and I think fishing mice may just be the ticket!

Friday, September 22, 2017

Cape Cod & RI Pt. 4: Surf Kingfish and Buzzards Bay Bass

After giving up on our super frustrating striper spot Sunday morning Noah and I went to a beech that Aaron Jasper suggested I try for albies. I think we got there a hair late, a lot of the surf casting anglers and kayakers were on their was out. After a little while not getting an albie action and seeing just one spanish mackeral launch, I noticed that there was a ton of life just in the surf line. Peanut bunker, silversides, and bay anchovies were prevalent, but what interested us most were packs of larger butter fish which looked almost like small pompano, and tons and tons of hunting Northern kingfish.

I knew when the kingfish started attacking my 3 inch long clouser that getting some of them would be pretty easy. It was.

I gotta say, as small as these fish were, they were really fun to target. It was so cool to catch fish like that in the white water of 1ft breakers, it was like micro bucktailing for surf stripers.

We unfortunately couldn't get any of the butterfish. After a little while we made the move to try and get some stripers before leaving the Cape. We went to Buzzards Bay and found a pretty sweet looking spot on a big sand bar. And, after some patience I finally got my Cape Cod stripers. Blitzing fish came over the sandbar periodically and getting them to eat a chartreuse and pink deceiver was easy.

No, those fish aren't big. Not exactly what you go to the Cape for. But I was content in knowing that our mission had not been a complete failure, as it had been pretty close. We left Buzzards bay and made our way west, back home to Connecticut, wanting even more to figure out Cape Cod.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Cape Cod & RI Pt. 3: Clear Water, Glowing Sand, and Cinder Worms

With the sun quickly sinking Saturday evening Noah and I made the best of the remaining light and went to a long North Shore jetty where we hoped to get a chance at atlantic mackerel or pollock, both of which would be new species for us. We didn't find those, but the startlingly clear water of Cape Cod Bay was full of life. Bergals, peanut bunker, butterfish, and silversides were everywhere. It was like an aquarium. 

We did catch bergals, it really was hard not to, but other than the butterfish there didn't seem to be anything around that we didn't already have on both of our life lists.

Once we decided there wasn't much worth staying for we moved to a spot Noah scouted last weekend that had quite a few bass. We got the after dark and didn't call it quits in that spot until fairly late in the morning. We spent much of the night there, aside from a bit of time after we slept hoping to find something better. We may have made a mistake, but to be fair, that was one seductive spot.

It was just full of bass, and a lot of them were big. All night I was being haunted by loud pops and splashes made by fish I couldn't seem to figure out. The variety of bait around wasn't of help. There were, in no particular order, squid, silversides, peanut bunker, sand eels, butterfish, bergals, green crabs, and, most surprisingly, cinderworms. One of the last things I expected to encounter in Cape Cod Bay in the middle of September was a worm hatch. I thought I had completely missed my chance at catching my first worm hatch this year when the RI hatches were done and dusted in June. But there they were, and there were the 15-30lb stripers eating them. And there I was with no ciner worm flies. I eventually managed to jury rig something out of a shad fly and an albie gurgler. I hooked my first ever Cape Cod bass, and lost it. Just as I figured out something, the worm hatch was done.

As Noah and I walked the beech to find a place to set up a very temporary camp he looked down and noticed something startling in the wet stand. Every time we stepped, the sand sparkled a spooky green. It was fitting with the eerie foggy night, one of the darkest I have spent on the shore. As we walked in the misty darkness, tiny dinoflagellates glowed green under our feet.

In the morning some of the reason these fish were so difficult became clear. This spot was far from pressure-less. It gets fairly heavily fished, actually. I got one more brief hookup with a bass in the grayest of grey mornings, and then the fish did nothing but tease us. So we went elsewhere. And that story, my friends, you will have to wait for.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Cape Cod and RI Pt. 2: Red Brook

Our second stop on our journey to Cape Cod is something I have wanted to do for years now. We met Geoff Klane at buzzards bay and followed him to a very special place. I generally don't give the name of a brook trout stream, but I can't really talk about a stream in Massachusetts that contain these kinds of fish without it immediately being obvious where I was. Red Brook is a truly special place, and a very delicate one. Throughout the years, the Lyman family, Trout Unlimited, Massachusetts DFW and DER, and Sea Run Brook Trout Coalition have put in some incredible work to make Red Brook a once again healthy, self sustaining, all wild and native sea run brook trout stream. The work is far from over, as human being seem very good at letting beautiful things die. To quote one of those who has done more for these fish than I could ever hope to, Warren Winders, "While our backs were turned, the Santuit River quietly died". The Santuit, once one of the last great sea run brook trout streams on Cape Cod, died simply because nobody was watching carefully enough. Winders wrote this incredibly depressing article about it's death:

The reason I feel a need to write this, and why I should give out information about a very sensitive rare fish population, is simple. We can't let these fish go ignored. With a lot more awareness, the last few sea run brook trout streams within their southern range hopefully won't just vanish like they did in every RI and CT sea run trout stream, and most Long Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine coastal streams. These are special, magical, beautiful fish. But Before I talk about my visit to Red Brook I have to say one last thing.
Please don't put any more pressure on these fish. They can't handle much. Red Brook is a popular fly fishing destination, and quite frankly it shouldn't be. By all means, visit Red Brook at the Lyman Reserve, but if you can help it, do as much looking and as little fishing as you can. Because I was with Geoff, who carries a tag reader, I was able to help with the conservation effort by catching some fish. But most of you who are reading this, aside from a handful of specific individuals (you know who you are), really ought to consider the needs of the fish, maybe catch one or two to get a close look at these amazing specimens and then spend the rest of your time enjoying the stream in other ways. I'm not trying to insult anyone. These fish just don't need to be caught more than they already are.

As we walked our way between spots Geoff told us some of the history of Red Brook and the Lyman Reserve and pointed out some of the conservation work that had been done.

At the first spot we fished I tied on a little streamer Geoff gave me the first time we fished together and twitched it along a log that had a big space underneath. Out came a brook trout.  With a flash of Red he was on.  Then he was off. No matter,  there were more spots to be fished.

Geoff got first crack at the next hole. It didn't take him long to hook a beautiful, perfect salter brookie and bring it to net. Noah and I got our first in person look at an anadromous char.

A little further downstream I got another take,  and once again the fish made his way back without being netted.

Eventually I did get one to net. Two actually. And one was tagged. It is so cool to be able to contribute a little bit to the data

After a bit the tide was coming up, so we went downriver to the tidal section. I really wanted to encounter a brook trout in salt water, and it turns out I didn't have to wait long. The first fish that gave my fly a sniff was a little striped bass. The second, one of the most incredible char I have ever seen.  It was a big bronze colored kyped up male. And he was huge, well into the teens. Geoff and I spent the next 45 minutes trying to catch that fish, and no,  we were not successful. But I was thrilled to see a big salter like that. Actually in salt water and feeding on peanut bunker. It seemed so wrong,  yet brook trout had been doing this all over the east coast for thousands of years before Europeans came and ruined everything. We said goodbye to Geoff,  who stayed there chasing the Moby Dick of Cape Cod salter. Our third stop of the day showed me saltwater clearer than I'd ever seen before, but we'll get back to that tomorrow night.   

Monday, September 18, 2017

Cape Cod and RI 2 Day Trip, Pt. 1: West Wall

I'm back! It was a great trip. Not he best fishing in the world, far from it, but really quite unique and full of firsts for both Noah and I. Enough happened and there was so much variety that a single post really won't do it, so I'm braking it up into a few different posts. 

We left Saturday morning in some seriously think fog, and after an hour and a half's drive later very little of the conditions had changed. In fact we were buried in a thick fog until well after we left our first fishing location, which just happens to be probably the most famous shore albie fishing location in New England, the West Wall. There, at the mouth of Point Judith Pond, is a long breakwater that provovides both a bait holding structure and a casting platform on a stretch of shoreline where getting albies and bonito from the natural shoreline would be very difficult otherwise, especially fly casting. 

Reports hadn't been great, but I was keen to see and fish the Wall since it would be my first time. I like knowing what I'm in for rather than being thrown into the action without knowing what the deal is in a spot, and an early visit to this spot, before the action really hits, would be smart. That's pretty much what we got. There were albies around in good number right when we got there, but it was very much unlike any albie fishing I'd done before. There were never any concentrated blitzes. We were just blind casting and hoping some unseen wandering false albacore would find our offerings.

Noah hooked into an albie on one of his first casts! Unfortunately his fish popped off very late in the fight. Not long after I hooked a fish too. Mine was very badly behaved, going straight for a buoy. It wrapped around the line and very easily broke off. That was disappointing.

Noah ended up getting a second opportunity, which he did not let slip away. I unfortunately, did not get that second chace.

It was a fairly busy day on the wall, there were a ton of other fly and light tackle anglers there hoping to catch one of the greatest fish in the Northeast. I was crowded but it was also fun. Nobody was being rude, all the guys I met were just good company, we chatted, joked, and just had a good time while waiting to get our rods bent and half and reels given the most grueling of tests. I liked it. It may not always be like that, but my first taste of the West Wall did nothing but leave me wanting more.

After a very long while with no action at all for anybody, we moved on to our second part of the trip. This one being very, very different from the rest. I got to visit a place I've wanted to see for years.