Thursday, August 17, 2017

THIS is What I Live For

I've been pacing around the house like a lunatic pretty much since I got home with a very weird feeling in my chest and gut. This kind of thing doesn't happen every day, not even every month. It happens only when the fishing has been so wild I can't possibly think of anything else. Today was one of those absolutely wild days... wild and weird and exhilarating.

Earlier this week Mark Phillipe told me about some weird fish he had been catching in RI waters, something he nor anyone he knew could remember ever seeing in all the years fishing those waters. They turned out to be chub mackerel, a fish I have found very little about. They are much like typical Atlantic mackerel but they have a different color scheme and are a bit thicker, and I believe they get a bit larger. Obviously I was instantly interested. A weird mackerel species that is infrequent in these parts and of course one I had never caught? Yeah, I wanted one. When Mark invited me out I immediately said yes.

I got up dark and early this morning, pumped and ready to fish. We got to the boat before the sun was up and made got ourselves ready then headed out. First we were going to hunt for some stripers, as they wouldn't be feeding all day and the mackerel almost certainly would be.

 Fishing big open water for stripers on the boat is totally different from what I'm used to and just feels like it will result in bigger fish, which is more often than not why you go out on the boat anyway. We started out in a famous spot that  had observed before but never fished. I started out with a popper, and on the first drift it got slammed by a bluefish. Not hookup. The next bunch of passes failed to produce so I switched to a white deceiver. The fourth or fifth cast with that fly a fish came out and pounced on it. It was only a little striper but in that current it pulled really well. It seemed to be the only player around though, so we went a half hour's ride east to a rip that was just forming on the outgoing tide. Mark did some damage there with a very respectable bass and a solid bluefish. I got the run around, and when the fish really started showing off I had an even harder time.

The showy fish were doing something I've heard of and seen in videos before but had never witnessed. There were substantial stripers working in the flat water at the front of the rip just chowing down on smaller sized squids. On one occasion when the fish broke very close to the boat I could see a few squid leap 6-7ft across the water trying to escape 24-40 inch stripers, and small schools of them scattering under the surface. These fish only popped up momentarily and I may only have gotten a few shots that could have produced fish. It was tough. Really tough. And all I want to do now is figure it out. But we didn't do it before the bite seemed to slow, so we went to chub mackerel HQ. 

I saw them from a long way off, and it got my heart going a little bit. 

Then we got closer and I started having full on palpitations.

If you've ever seen a Montauk striper blitz, in person or on video, this kind of resembled that. Big white water areas with tons of fish breaching and rain bait spraying everywhere... the major difference is that the Montauk fish are chunky stripers and these were spastic mackerel. But fishing to them isn't too different, put the fly in the white water and strip. The result was immediate takes, hookups, and crazy fights for what are really not big fish. It really isn't hard. I got my 60th species. Scomber colias. That's a solid milestone for a NE fly rodder.

After those first few fish it became kind of silly. I knew I could pretty easily stick them and they were all from the same cookie cutter, so I found myself with a bent rod in one hand an my camera in the other. I wanted to capture the magic. 

There was near constant action on that point. There were some lulls, but if there were fish up we were going to get takes when we got flies to them. We left before they did, and if I had to guess I'd say they're probably still chewing out there. Hard to say. I can't wait to get back to them though. 

As we motored away I noticed my adrenaline was slowly starting to subside. In the back of my mind was the though: "how crazy was all that?". And it hit me like a ton of bricks when  got home. What an oddball fish doing an odd and visually spectacular feeding display. THIS is the kind of thing I live for. This is why I fish. I can't thank Mark enough for putting me on these fish. 

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Getting Beat Up and the Weirdest Looking Walleye Ever

I've been on a carp kick lately... fairly typical for this time of year, except I'm on the hunt for some real giants. The first outing in this kick was going to be a yak-attack. I got the kayak out on the home pond in the evening and went looking for some big tailing carp... I found them. You probably can't see her, but there's a fish well over 20lbs there... just the fish I was looking for.

So, I pretty much knew that fish was going to eat my fly given how aggressively she was eating. I also knew I had no chance of landing it. Thick mats of pads all around me, with no open route out... oh yeah, this one was gong to beat the piss out of me. I waited till the fish made the right move, I made a quick drag and drop presentation, and she sucked up the fly decisively. 

And, as predicted, she won the battle and won it very quickly. It broke me off in the pads and continued to just make a huge mess of the flats for another minute or so. I just sat in my kayak and laughed my butt off while she wrecked the place. 
Just a little part of the mess she left.
The rest of the night after that was pretty anticlimactic, though I did catch some fish. The next evening I went to the lake, partly for carp and partly for post-sunset predator hunting. The carp part was interesting. I brought some bread to throw out in this muddy backwater that pretty much always has some carp in it. I tossed out a slice's worth and then spotted a tailing fish a little further up the backwater. It clearly wasn't a big carp but I'm a sucker for tailing fish. It gave me a really good opportunity and the coolest eat I've had in a while, and I've had some really great eats from carp this summer. I set the hook and the fish made almost as big a mess as the one the night before had. I landed this one though. I won't sugar coat it, it was a very ugly fish.

Immediately after releasing that fish I spotted a bigger one working through my bread. Good! I sneaked over and got into position and started a long slow chess game with a fish that might actually have been smarter than me. It ended with the slowest, most incredible refusal I have ever watched. After gently eating two pieces of bread the fish came up to examine my fly. It examined it for about 15 seconds before it decided to grab it. Then it calmly closed it's lips just around the edge of the fly and slowly pulled in under. It sat there, just under the surface, moving my fly around in its mouth, for more than a minute. I just sat there waiting for it to get the hook inside its mouth and it never did. It eventually let go of the fly and swam away. Jeez. 

I didn't really feel like carp fishing in the dark, so I went to target the predators. I went to a rocky point that can be good for bass and walleye. I fished a secret fly one a slow hand twist retrieve along that point. Three casts in I got a take that felt just like every walleye take I've ever had. The fish then started to do slow sweeping head shakes and short runs. I was certain at that point that it was a walleye. I was pretty happy, I haven't caught many walleye so far this year. It came up to the surface and did more classic walleye stuff. It came to the bank and I still hadn't noticed anything odd. Then I went to grab it. This was by far the weirdest looking walleye I've ever caught. 

In all seriousness, that was a really nice smallmouth that fought just like an 18 inch walleye. I hope the next one that size fights harder than that.

This morning I was back at it again. This is the only good thing that came out of it:

Monday, August 14, 2017

Hankering for a Beast

Since carp are significantly larger than other freshwater fish in the Northeast, a lot of anglers that don't have much experience carp fishing have a skewed image of what a large carp is... and how big a fish really is. I see people calling 12lb carp "huge" and 18lb carp 30 pounders so regularly... it's actually hilarious. Passers by will ooh and ahh over a fish like this on I caught early yesterday morning...

...while I look at it as a fairly run of the mill carp. That's a respectable fish by all means and put up an awesome fight, but it isn't a big carp, and lately I've got a hankering for a truly large common or a big grass carp.

They're the hardest widespread freshwater fish in this area to target on fly, and this year they've been giving me the run around. But I'm not an old dog, and I learn new tricks every time I go out. So, hopefully you'll be seeing something like this within the next month or so:

Saturday, August 12, 2017

A "Living" Stream in the City

I fished a little not-so-backwoods wild trout stream today. Casting flies to wild browns right behind a car wash is a bit of a trip, made weirder by the fact that this stream clearly has a healthier trout population than my home river currently does despite being burdened by hot parking lot runoff, littering, chemical leaks, and just being the furthest thing from what a trout stream is generally depicted as. But there it is... and there are trout in it. I call this a living stream because in some sections it is working through a deep sediment and gravel bed that was once the bottom of a marshy pond. I have watched the stream in this section change dramatically in the few months I have visited it. Pools have formed and filled in, cut banks and slowly been eaten away, trees and whole massive chunks of earth have fallen into the stream. Water is an unstoppable force, and humanities many attempts to stop it have proven this... we have fought the battle and lost in many cases. Rivers like this one are ever changing in a very clear and visible on the short-term manor. Thus, "living".

Anyway, this is the junky stinky gross pool where I took my first casts:

And that is where, inexplicably, the biggest fish of the day came up and absolutely walloped the sz. 20 midge pupa I had on. 

So that made it a lot easier to justify hanging around a place where drug paraphernalia is an expected part of the environment. The day got even cooler from there.

After catching a variety of non-salmonid fish I threw my little Sexy Walt's in front of a log and felt a little tap. I set the hook and was rather shocked when I landed a little native brookie! A wild brook trout less than a mile from down town *****. Yeah, I'm not telling you where I caught these fish, not that it's a particularly glamorous location or anything. Go find a damn WTMA. 

Shortly after that awesome discovery I found the weirdest thing I've found in this watershed to date: 

Yup, that's a pile of cleaned and discarded sea robins and one skate, presumably not cleaned. I find this a lot around popular bottom fishing spots along the shore... but I was not ANYWHERE near salt water. Like, further than I am when I'm at home and I live about 40 minutes from the shoreline. Yup. 

So, back to catching fish that will hopefully never get discarded in the parking lot. 

These beautiful trout like being under cut banks in this stream. It really is amazing how far out they'll come to grab a meal though. The fish above cam 3ft out to grab the Ausable Ugly and tried to go right back in, which is what they all do. It makes the takes that much more jarring. There's no mistaking them.

 finished up my day after loosing a few solid fish and literally running out of river to fish. It's cool to see fish thriving in the urban jungle, but it's really only a matter of time. A stream like this won't last forever. I'll have to enjoy it while it's here. 

Friday, August 11, 2017

Home Water, Summertime.

It's been a few years since I was actually able to fish my home river in the summer... what a horrible thought that is. But this year has been pretty much perfect conditions, so I've gone a couple times. My last little trip was the best so far. I caught three wild browns on dries within the first half hour.

I hiked upstream after the dry fly bight slowed to fish some deep holes where I'm sure there'd be some streamer eaters. I caught a gorgeos wild brookie, which I was really happy about since I started the day hoping I would catch one. I hadn't gotten any in there yet this year.

A little later I got the last trout of the day, a holdover brown.

Although the flows are slowly dropping this is a great year. I'm considering leaving this stream completely alone this fall so the fish have the most succesful spawn possible, as much as I wish I could catch some bigger trout this year. December is often a good time to get larger fish... maybe I'll have a early winter like 2014, but I doubt it.