Friday, February 12, 2016

My Ten Best Fish

It's going to be a little while before I'm fishing again. Not terribly long, but long enough, and next week ice fishing is more likely than fly fishing.

When there is a break in the fishing, I always start remembering some of the great trips and the best fish I have caught in the past. Today in particular, while I went through my photo folders to clean out all the stuff I don't need, out of focus and other junk photos, I looked through a lot of fish pictures and remembered some of my best catches.  Here are my ten favorite fly rod fish, in no particular order, and the stories behind them:

My First 20+ Brown

I started this blog in March 2013, a mere two years after I started fly fishing. I started out my wild trout fishing in what I now call my home water. I didn't know it, but I got there at the best time possible. Roughly ten years of good temperatures and precipitation meant that there was an extremely healthy population of wild brown and brook trout, and a few interesting factors caused a bunch of large wild browns to migrate into the stretch of stream I fished most often. I caught a lot of some-teen inch browns in 2011 and 2012, before I ever really photographed my fish. I honestly had no idea that what I was experiencing was unusual. In 2013 I didn't catch quite as many fish that size, but it was still spectacular. I kept seeing one fish in particular, a huge brown that I named Grandfather. I hooked up to him once during the blue quill hatch but lost him. Again, in September I got Grandfather to take and Edson Tiger and he broke my 6x tippet. But finally, on Christmas Eve Day 2013, I got my third shot. It was very cold and rain had blown out the river. There was only one fishable hole, the bridge pool. I swung my worm pattern through the tail of the pool and I hooked into a big fish. After a tremendous battle I landed Grandfather, a 21.5 inch wild brown. My first brown, out of my favorite stream, on a fly I designed, in the crappiest conditions possible. It meant more to me than any other fish I have caught.

The Atlantic Salmon That Ate a Caddis

In 2014 the state only recorded one Atlantic Salmon passing the Leeseville Dam into the Salmon River system. This is that fish, courtesy of Bruce Williams and the DEEP:

In September, I spotted a big fish cruising a pool in the upper river. Thinking it had to be a large brown trout, my dad and I returned to fish it in October, late in the evening. There was a caddis hatch on and I had on a Sedgehammer, size 14. I caught a few browns, then had a big fish boil on it. A few casts later, something took with a slight sip on the swing. I set the hook, but didn't realize what I had until it jumped. The fish jumped three times, then ran hard. It took my close to 20 minutes to land that fish. When my dad first tried to tail it he has impressed by its power. This was a fish that had not digested anything since May, and it still fought like a demon. It is most likely the same fish as the one above, and considering the level of the water it could very well have been the only salmon in the Salmon. Catching a true sea run salmon in CT is a once in a lifetime event, and obviously that puts it at the top of my list: that is the best fish of my life, so far. 

The First Big Spring Creek Brooky

I discovered the Spring Creek in August 2015, and from the first time I looked into it I knew it was a special place. It was clear, however, that like any spring creek, this one was not going to give up it's secrets easily. It's pure native brook trout grew to some size, but for the first four visits I was not able to get any of the big fish I saw hiding in the grass and woody debris. But finally persistence payed off. I sat upstream from the bridge for ten minutes to let the fish get used to my presence. Then I carefully cast an Ausable Bomber into the current and let it gently float down. I gave it one twitch and it was eaten by a beautiful brook trout. It was not the biggest I have caught, but the difficulty in catching it and the incredible stream it came from made it a very meaningful catch for me. 
The Spring Creek

My First Fly Rod Walleye

I tried to catch a walleye on a fly for two years, putting massive effort and getting no reward. To make it even more frustrating, I saw people catch walleye all around me, even in crap conditions and water. In particular, Kirk caught a carp on a damsel nymph in three feet of water the second time I brought him to a carp spot. But with anything, put in the time and the effort and you will get what you are looking for. In July I got my walleye. I decided to start doing night sessions on the Bell Pond, throwing big Great Lakes Deceivers and Fur Traders on floating line. On my second try I heard splashing against the concrete structure in the spillway. I hit that wall with my white Deceiver and after two strips I hooked into a solid fish. When I got it into visual range I pretty much lost my mind.

35 lb Carp on 8 lb Tippet

I made a number of trips in the Spring of 2015 looking for sea run brown trout in small streams. That meant I fished a few interesting places I had never and probably would not otherwise have fished. One of those spots was an large bay into which flowed the sea run brown trout stream. Shortly upon arriving I spotted a massive carp tailing in about two feet of water, back completely out of the water. I quickly switched to my bigger rod, and in a fit I switched from a Clouser to an Ausable Ugly. That big carp at the fly six separate times while I followed it along the disgustingly muddy shoreline, and eventually I hooked it. It was so massive it didn't really run, more like a long slow pull. When I tired it out it clearly wasn't going to move, so I went out to grab it. It was a very well fed and egg filled female, my biggest fish so far. A few people driving by honked as I held the fish for a photo. 

A 20 Inch Farmington Wild on an Articulated Streamer

One of my big goals in 2015 was to get a big wild brown trout out of the Farmington on a big streamer. In June I got my first chance. David Gallipoli took me to some of his favorite spots. I wasn't really having much good fortune until he took my to a stretch of perfect structured bank water. I had a number of takes from good fish, all on an olive Sex Dungeon. Then, on my way back up, I hooked up. It was a big brown, and even with an 8 weight rod it took me some time to land it. It behaved well and let us get some awesome photos. It was a tremendous fish, buttery yellow and red, and just loaded with spots. When I released it it took off more strongly than any trout I had ever seen, rooster-tailing through ten feet of shallow water. David got an awesome shot of it's departure. 

The Lucky Catfish

Catfish can be tricky to catch on a fly. The opportunities to catch them are limited to sight fishing, certain hatches or berry seasons such as the mulberries, or locations with very heavy concentrations of catfish. I caught my biggest channel catfish in a lake that doesn't have very many. In fact mine is the first of the species I have ever heard of from the lake. It was total luck. It was late August, on a low pressure day just before dark. I cast my Shrimp and Marabou Muddler and got ready to troll, but when I picked up the slack I realized that I was hooked up to a sizable fish. I thought it was a carp, even after I beached the kayak and began to bring it in. Seeing it gave me quite a shock. Not only was it a catfish on the fly, it was a very big catfish for a lake in this part of the country.

An 8lb Largemouth

I am proud to say that in all my years of spin fishing I could not stick a largemouth bass as big as I did on a fly rod. During the spring, the best daytime carp feeding of the year in the Bell Pond coincides with a prespawn feeding binge for the bass. They cruise through the flats and are often side by side with the carp. When I spotted this fish I actually thought it was a cruising carp. I led it by a couple of feet, and it charged the fly and began fighting like a demon, taking line and jumping a number of times. I love a big bass, and this one beat all others!

A Big Carp With No Fly Line

In 2014 I caught only three carp, which was a bit better than the one I got in 2013. But that third carp in 2014 came to hand after a very strange course of events. I had hooked one carp, which ran hard and caught on a stump, in the process breaking my backing to fly line connection. I turned around and saw three fish feeding in the stream behind me. Being unwilling to just give up I tied a length of tippet to the end of the backing. Against all probability, I hooked the biggest carp there and was able to land it with only 100 yards of available line. It made for a fantastic post and a memorable fish catch. 

Personal Best Brown Trout on a Streamer

In most areas where keeping fish is legal, big broodstock trout get taken by mid May. And in the Salmon, very few make it through June. I caught my biggest brown trout in August 2014, a 26 inch fish stocked in March. It clearly had plenty of time to learn and become a formidable opponent, it spooked the first ten times I tried to catch it. Then I changed my approach an went for an area response technique, using a streamer I tied to imitate redbreast sunfish prevalent in the Salmon.  I put one cast upstream of the fish, let the fly drift down to her with gentle twitches, and she just calmly grabbed it. The fight was pretty sweet, I got into my backing and had to give chase a number of times. Big brown trout are awesome, and obviously a 26 incher must be in my to 10!

This is where she always sat, and where she was when I caught her.


  1. You have certainly had some excellent experiences in your short time fly fishing!! Way to go!

    1. Thanks Pete,
      I always say this... if you fish as much as I do, you will be in the right place at the right time far more often than most!

  2. Replies
    1. Thanks Kirk,
      I have been very fortunate over the past four years to catch some awesome fish. Whether or not it was skill or luck I have no idea.

  3. Great articles of your catches! Your photos are fantastic! Your outings have taught you well and learning from doing is the best teacher. Thanks for the great read!
    Tie, fish, write and photo on...

    1. Thank you,
      I was fortunate enough to have others provide me with the tools, and to have the massive amount of time to teach myself.

  4. Nice best fish. Some I can't imagine catching on a fly rod. Well done RM!

    1. Thanks!
      I like catching fish that are not conventional fly quarry.

  5. Enjoyed this very much! Fish on brother, when it's warmer of course!

  6. Enjoyed the review of your favorites as much as I enjoyed them when they happened for you. Hope the weather improves enough for some new adventures. Be warm.