Sunday, April 23, 2017

My Biggest Fallfish

Mark and I both had a few hours to work with this morning so I rigged the spey rod and packed some flies for swinging and we went to some good multi-species water.

We found our way to a good looking spot that had some surface activity (I was hoping shad or herring) and started fishing. After missing two or three takes I hooked the first fish of the morning. It turned out to be a smallish fallfish. The next cast produced another the same size.

Maybe ten casts later with no bumps my little bright colored fly got smacked by something far bigger than those little fall fish. The 11'6" rod bent double. After some significant fighting the fish was getting closer. I was fully expecting it to be a shad or large bass. Nope! It turned out to be the largest fallfish I have ever caught. The thing was nearly as long as my forearm and heavy. What a cool catch on the swing!

After that the action slowed down significantly so we went to beat up some small carp for a little while. As it turned out they beat us up. I caught two and lost four and missed tons and Mark was in the same boat. I usually don't loose carp if I'm using barbed hooks, and I usually do when carpin'. But these ones just kept getting off. It was weird. The two I did land were beautiful little fish, but loosing so many was a pain!

Saturday, April 22, 2017


A few hours manifested this evening with fairly reasonable conditions. I eventually made my way to the intended destination, but first I was sidelined by wild browns and, oddly enough, yellow perch in a tributary. If they had really been popping there I probably never would have made it to the part time home river.

When I finally pulled myself away from that small tributary I was rather disappointed to catch four stocked brook trout in a row instead of the large wild trout I was targeting. I was testing a couple new streamers and had really hoped the rain and warm water temps would have brought out some of the bigger wild browns but if these stockers kept getting in the way....

Eventually I started getting hits from wild fish. I knew that's what the were by the viciousness of the strike and the fact that the only came out one time. Hit after hit was missed entirely. The sun sank bellow the horizon and I found myself working my way down a flat stretch that I would not fish during daylight unless I saw rises. Strip, strip, BOOM! Fish on. Not a giant by any means but respectable. The first night time trout of the year and last fish of the outing.

Friday, April 21, 2017

One and Done

It sometimes bugs me when I get a carp right out of the gate at the Bell Pond. It really is a one carp spot, so getting a fish right off the bat can be a bummer especially when its a little one. This morning when the rain stopped there wasn't much wind so I hit the flat. This was the most straight forward a carp tak can possibly get: I spotted a fish bubbling well within casting range and new very quickly which direction it was going. I put the black woolly bugger on 2x in front of it with a drag and drop presentation and watched the line straighten out when the fish took. I lifted the rod and without the slightest hesitation the fish ran and ran fast. Right under the surface too, making a huge wake. It went maybe 200 feet and began thrashing around at the surface. That was when I realized it was a decent fish. The head shakes felt massive. Even though the water has warmed up a lot and this fish had plenty of room to run that first 200 feet was diagonal to me and just barely got into the backing. Once again I was in for the long haul, made longer because of heavy currant from the inflow stream. 15 minutes of give and take and give and take and give and take later, I made the first attempt to tail the fish. and as is often the case it reacted violently. About 3 minutes and 2 attempts later I had him. Were this fish a female it would have probably been nearing the 30 lb mark given the tendency for females to get extremely thick this time of year, but this fish was a male, still heavy and easily over 20lbs, but more long and thin than a female. I was pretty happy as this was one of the few really old males in the pond. There are/were less than 10 fish bigger than it, two of which I have caught. Four are friggen beasts for a pond this size, over 28lbs, and one still owes me a new fly line....

One more knocked off the big fish list, and this one is a beautiful one. Only a few flaws and they don't really detract from the overall quality of the fish. Big, healthy, beautiful common carp. Awesome.

I took some time to admire and photograph the fish and got it back into the pond. I had to take four shots of me holding the fish to get some quality ones, which is often the case when the fish is very lively, so I figure I should give some tips on carp handling. Without a mat or net it is best not to lay the fish out on rocks, gravel, or dry ground. I handle the fish in at least 5 inches of water, try to keep it upright, and only hold it out of the water for 10 seconds at a time. That's why my fish go back so happy!

Before I went this morning I really struggled to decide what to go for. Glad I chose carp, that was a fun fish. Big enough to be worth getting right off the bat too.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Two Tigers and a Whole Lot of Mousin'

I'm enjoying this spring daylight mousing. Sure, I could be fishing a variety of other topwater patterns and catching fish but not only have mice been noticeably more effective than frogs and gurglers, they're bigger and more fun. In other words: screw it they're what I'm fishing for stocked trout from here on out, till they stop working. The question is, why do they work so well? There is no doubt that a place like a fish hatchery would be crawling with rodents, so no doubt the raceway fish have been the death of a lot of brave little mammals looking to get into the feed. That probably plays a roll in their effectiveness. Hatchery fish are also programmed from the moment they are big enough to feed based entirely on a disturbance at the surface. A mouse does plenty of that. In natural colors it also looks a little bit like pellet food. So there's no doubt a stocked trout would be inclined to munch a mouse, whether or not they believe it is a swimming mammal. Wild trout have no clue what they're eating either, so I believe it really boils down to that primal urge to attack the thing splashing around above it's head. Stocked trout just don't have the survival instincts of wild and holdover trout, so they will do it in the daylight just as much as in the dark.

I ran into Rik as I got to the river by complete coincidence. We worked our way down some great pocket water and picked fish up here and there. While I was paying exactly no attention I got a viscous strike. When I saw it I lost my cool a little. Tiger! Second of the year!

I was determined to get the second EC grand slam of the year, and it didn't take long to get a brookie to complete it. I kept working the water and found willing fish to be plentiful and very aggressive.

Mid morning friend and fellow member of the unofficial Salmon River Mousers Club, Conor Desnoyers showed up. Didn't take long for both of us to hook into some more trout. Oddly enough the first I caught while he was there was another tiger! That's the first time I've ever caught two in one day. Heck, I usually only get one or two in a year and this year I've already caught three!

As is often the case when mousing tailouts were very productive. We would often get ten or more takes from one tailout. At one point Conor hooked what we at first thought could have been a giant brown and had to chase it down the fast water. It ended up beeing a fairly large brookie that was fouled on the pectoral fin. That happens often, fish hit the mouse so hard the often land on it and get hooked in odd places.

The chase

"The take"

It was a pretty good day. Nothing particularly big was caught but any trout on a mouse fly is awesome. I did almost nothing but mouse fish, and it payed off with a lot of good fish and some great photos and video.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

An Extraordinary Place, Two Extraordinary Fish

I'm teaching my Mom how to fly fish. Hopefully my obsession is not too genetically linked, the last thing we need is her becoming as much of a fish bum as I am. We had some time to work with today so I drove us out to a stream I have been very interested in for a long time but never visited. Some research was done in the morning, gear was packed and rods were rigged and soon we were on the road. After some trial and error finding the right road to park one we hopped out and hiked through a few meadows to the stream. First impressions were good!

Second impressions were even better. The place was brimming with life! Tan caddis, hendricksons, midges, and spring stoneflies were hatching. There were juvenile trout, dace, sculpins, and suckers all over the shallow slow water.

The third impression I got? This place has some great wild fish. Third pool I fished the royal stimulater was slurped down. I set the hook and the 3wt bent double under the weight of a heavy brown trout that made it obvious he was not pleased with three jumps one after the other. When the first wild brown you catch out of a given CT small stream in 11 inches, you have two options: give up and go home, or stay and hope the stream has more of that variety. As it turned out this one most certainly does. But before I got to far into it I paused to give Mom some instruction. Learning fly fishing while standing in the stream during a fairly good mayfly hatch is not easy and though she did not catch any fish she made a lot of progress.

Constant instruction is not always the way to go, so when I saw risers in the pool you see above I crawled into position. After missing a couple small fish with a hendrickson dry I changed to a CDC caddis. A splashy rise in the foam line showed me where the bigger fish was. I got the fly in the right spot and WHAM! When the fish got close enough for me to see I could hardly believe my eyes. This was indeed the most unique brook trout I have ever caught.

A hunchback brookie. Some of the best colors on a spring brook trout too, incredibly distinct vermiculation, crisp bright spots... what a fish! I've caught hunchback stocked trout before, but with a wild small stream fish that condition is far less common and really an unusual thing to come across. I've caught hundreds of thousands of wild trout and never seen on hunchback. I wish that was what I ended the day on, but instead I went and botched a shot at a brown about 15 inches long, rising steadily for caddis. I stung him and he was onto my game. At least there's more incentive for me to return, not that it was needed.