Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Gaps To Make, Gaps to Fill

My fly boxes tend to be a huge mess by December. It's a cyclical thing. I generally am running out of tippet, low on some fly patterns, and in need of new tapered leaders by the last month of the year. An interesting question: how much line and how many flies does someone who fishes between 250 and 300 days a year go through? I'd say about a mile of nylon, fluorocarbon, dacron, and fly line, and about 300 flies. I don't always loose or destroy one fly in a day, but there are days when I loose or destroy ten. So, when December comes there are are usually some holes and my boxes are a little less than organized. There'll be a single chewed up mouse in with a bunch of little used soft hackle wets, an egg tucked into the same slot as a Parmachenee Wulff, an unused Usual in a row of Ausable Bombers in various degrees of disrepair. This is what my small stream box looks like now, after some organization:

So... yikes! There are some spaces to fill. Lots of work to be done here. This is the time of year that some call "tying season", as if winter is for tying flies and not fishing. I hate that idea. Fishing season runs from the first day of a new year right up until that year's last day, and so does the tying season. If you are serious about fly tying you should be at the vice at least once a week. And if you are me, you can't go a week without fishing. It's been four days for me right now and I'm pretty miserable. There was a short period of time yesterday when I probably should have been out, but I've been sick and it's hard for me to motivate myself when 1: I have a huge migraine, and 2: it's really gross outside. There isn't a tying season,  but there are tying days. And these last few days have let me reorganize and fill some gaps. Here are some boxes at different stages of replenishment:

One large gap in my arsenal manifested itself a couple weeks ago. So I've been tying stuff like this:

What these are going to get used for, you will all just have to wait and see.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

CT Steelhead... Sort Of

I always like to try to fish during the first real snow of the season. Sure, we've had a flurry or two, but nothing that accumulated. A real first snow is one that sticks to everything, paints the whole landscape in pristine white, and truly says that winter is here. That's the kind of snow I really want to fish in. It's funny though, I love the snow while it's falling. But shortly after the the storm is done I start to think "Okay, how many days will it take for this crap to melt?"; for snow is only pristine and cleansing for a short time. While it is, why not bask in it? And so out I went into the cold yesterday,
knowing that the trout cared a tad less about the temperature than I did.

Snow, for some reason, makes me want to throw streamers. I usually want to throw streamers above all else on anything but smaller streams, and days when rising fish are frequent; but in the snow it just feels all the more, well, right. The snow increases contrast, making the water look darker and deeper than normal. In those dark depths there must be a monster, and I've always felt that the real monsters don't mess around with midges. You have to feed them something more substantial.

I fished through one stretch that I haven't really put much time into. I've been told that it holds large brown trout. I haven't found them yet. A 5 inch Meal Ticket found itself near every logjam, every cut bank, sliding through every run, jigging through every hole. No grabs, no follows, no boils. It's hard for me not to think there just weren't fish there. So I moved upriver bout  mile. I changed flies, downsizing to an orange and olive Woolly Bugger. Large single hook streamers have been really productive around there lately and I always have confidence in the orange and olive bugger. The first take of the day was a in a rolling, boiling head of a smooth deep run that looks good but never gave me a fish. I watch the fish charge and grad the fly, going straight downstream, and so set the hook upstream. The fish launched, showing itself to be a bright and clean holdover rainbow.

A few pools upriver I got another solid grab, though this one I did not see. I felt it and set the hook before I even looked up, just in time to see another rainbow, this one about 16 inches, go airborne. Catching bright, acrobatic, healthy rainbows on gaudy streamers in a steady snowfall? It felt a little bit like I was on a steelhead river. Just a little bit.

The snow monster wild brown I was looking for alluded me. But he can't hide forever!

Saturday, December 9, 2017

34 Months

A lot of my fishing this week was devote specifically to getting a brookie on a dry fly so I could knock down December and turn a three into a four, and yesterday I finally found some willing fish. Now I only have two months to go to say I have caught a salmonid on a dry at least once in a month, every month, for three years. 

It really isn't a huge accomplishment, but it's kind of cool. There have been months where I pulled it off with very little time to spare, it isn't really easy to find rising fish in January, but it also isn't impossible when you know where to to look and how to present flies. I got my December dry fly fish yesterday by fishing a pool that clinched January for me this year. Like many winter days, it was a parachute Adams that got the job done.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Best Laid Plans of Flies and Men

Often, a day of fishing just doesn't go as planned. Sometimes a whole season doesn't go as planned. That's been this walleye season for me. spring was mediocre, summer sucked, and this fall and early winter have been down right dismal. I've been doing this for three years now, and though walleye on the fly are really never a given, not here, I have learned how to pattern these fish. I knew what conditions put them into a feeding mood. In the body of water where I target them most, I knew what weed beds they'd be over or what shelf they'd be next to. I knew ho deep they'd be and what I could get them on. At least, that's what I thought. I've been skunking a lot this season, which is doubly frustrating when other days in the previous two years with similar conditions produced big yellow perch, sizable bass, and big pickerel. I've caught small pickerel, small perch, and no bass this season. And not one walleye. I really thought yesterday was going to be the day, I thought it was going to be gangbusters. Days like this, with approaching rain and increasing air temperatures just weeks after the lake turnover, were just incredible in 2015, and I had a couple good ones in 2016. But yesterday I had to be satisfied with slightly less sophisticated fish.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Gritty Jersey Striper Fishing

The drive to from Hartford CT to New Jersey isn't the most pleasant drive you could ever do. it takes you through the armpit of America, the most developed and industrialized area in the country, through a jumbled road system, and often with some of the worst drivers you'll ever see. But in a way it's kind of beautiful. Sometimes it can only be described as disgustingly beautiful. Alec, Alex and I were riding through the urban jungle under a spectacular sunset that was so spectacular because of air pollution. Driving through this to a place where bait, bass, and birds all still converge despite a completely developed beachfront and a mess of human obstacles was surreal.

When we got to Point Pleasant we immediately went to the closest bait and tackle shop to our hotel. Local knowledge is key, and the owner of Gates Bait and Tackle was the perfect guy to talk to. He didn't sugarcoat things, which some tackle shop owners do to get you to buy more. The surf fishing had been terrible, the worst he'd ever seen, mostly due to beach reclamation burying structure and  crustaceans. there wasn't much of a reason for fish to hold to the beaches and the bigger ones weren't sticking around long. There'd been a push of fish the week before and another push could come any day. Jersey isn't holding water, these fish are moving. The bait is moving, the bass are moving, all on the huge migration back south. None of this was news to me. We weren't in Jersey to not fish though, so we spent a little time on the beach that evening between dinner and straight up passing out in the motel room. The super moon lit the beach up and made for a beautiful scene to skunk in.

We were up before the sun Sunday morning, out of the motel, and at the marina to meet Captain David Goldman of Shore Catch Guide Service ( at 6:30. We were on the  the 33 Contender Fish Around quickly and  headed off along a long straight, nearly featureless stretch of shoreline. I would really not have the slightest idea how to approach boat fishing this area minus looking for birds and boat groupings. There are  lot of boats looking for stripers along the Jersey shore, and especially when the bunker are around there are often fleets of boats on the schools, which can get hectic. There ended up being a lot of boats out on this day but it wasn't an uncomfortable crowd. If I had been there, in my own boat, without anyone who knew that waters well, I wouldn't have known whether to go north or south, how far out I should go, or how far in either direction. I would be completely inept at finding fish if they weren't all over or feeding visibly. But after a long run Captain Goldman eased us carefully into a n are where Terns were working, and it wasn't long before we were marking bait balls and stripers on the electronics. It was a Jersey blitz soon, not a big one, but stripers were popping, boiling and rolling and birds were dipping diving. I couldn't have been more relieved to see this action, I really wasn't sure I'd get to do much fly fishing on this trip. Oh, and on the way to striper town we spotted a humpback. It has been a long time since I last saw a whale.

I fished a full sink line with big Hollow Fleyes. It was a  bit alien to me, fishing for stripers in 27-40 feet of water about mile from shore. It was really cool to see how the bait and bass behaved way out in open water. These weren't big stripers but they were a blast on the 8wt and in a scenario completely different from what I'm used to. In that deep water it was hard not to feel like I could have locked into a big bass at any moment. We did, eventually, but it was on the troll later in the day and came off after charging the boat. That was a bit of a heart breaker, but I'd personally rather catch a bunch of smaller fish casting than one big one trolling. Unless, that is, the trolling fish were 50 pounds or bigger.

Photo Courtesy David Goldman

We fished, shot the breeze, and had a good time. David was a great guy, he put us on some fish during a pretty tough bite and was just a fun guy. Guides can be extremely knowledgeable and still not give you a fun day, but David was not that kind of guys. He even took us to a bar afterword for some really great wings. We had a good time. It was absolutely worth going even though the fishing was not particularly great. I added a knocked New Jersey off the "states to fish" list, caught some stripers on the fly, got some great photos, and made new friends. That's really all you can ask for.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Slim Pickings

Pretty much everything seems to be a bit slow in my neighborhood lately, except a bit of the trout fishing. I've been out quite a bit this week but nothing special went down, really. I've been targeting walleye a fair bit, this has been a great time of year for me in the past, but I have not done as well as I would prefer. I'd really like to get more than 2 walleye this year. I've had some slow salmon fishing, some dead carp fishing, and some slow striper fishing. Basically, a bunch of days that were way to slow to warrant posts of their own. So... photo dump time.

In what is really a last ditch effort to get another big striper or two this year, I'm going to Jersey this weekend. I'm not positive I'll be able to get them on the fly based on what I'm hearing, but I'm sure some surf rats are in the cards. Regardless, I get to add another state to my very short list.