Thursday, October 27, 2016

Atlantic Salmon Connecticut Style

There's something about Atlantic salmon, even of the hatchery raised variety, that makes them extremely special. It's not just their powerful fight, or how beautiful their coloration is. There is just a mystique about them.

So despite the fact that CT's broodstock salmon are not nearly as impressive as the wild variety, I was pretty excited to make a run up to the Shetucket with Mark yesterday to hunt for "The Leaper". I prepped my never used salmon boxes and tied new flies. Turns out that would be completely unnecessary. We each caught a salmon, and neither was on a traditional salmon fly.

The Shetucket is a big river, and I absolutely love fishing big rivers. Partly because I love reading water and wide rivers require a lot of that, and partly because big water tends to hold bigger fish.

We covered some water looking for willing takers. We found salmon in two stretches of river, but it was  a little while before either of us hooked up. Working back over a tail out I had fished earlier in the morning, Mark hooked up to the first salmon of the day. It took a brown woolly bugger, and made it abundantly clear it was not just a stocked trout!

How about that? As Mark said after releasing that fish "Something in their DNA is still telling them to fight like a salmon even though they are hatchery fish." It jumped, it ran, it did everything in its power to get away. When I tailed it I noticed how solid and muscular it was. It was also in very good condition: good fins, good colors, only a little bit of rubbing on the dorsal fin.

After working quite a bit more water and getting a couple grabs from who knows what (fallfish, smallmouth, could have been anything) I began to loose hope. We moved upstream a few miles to see if we could find some hungry fish of some variety so I wouldn't get completely skunked. In a big set of riffles I found a lots of 10 inch fallfish that were more than willing to take a nymph, so I broke out the 10ft 5wt and left my 8wt on the bank. I got in the zone! I caught about 20 fallfish from a short section or riffled water. I eventually changed to a sucker spawn pattern and the fallies were going crazy for it!

After fishing out the deepest riffle in the section I waded back up to where Mark was. It had started to cool off rapidly and I was ready to call it a day. Mark had found a small group of fallies in a deeper slot in the riffle. and we chatted while he tried to catch a few. I noticed a relatively that a rock under the water was creating two seems with a V shaped pillow of slower water between them. I worked the near side and caught three more fallfish. Then I started working the far side and was surprised when the first three or four casts did not result in takes. Then my sucker spawn fly got clobbered. It took me all of three seconds to figure out that I had hooked into a salmon. Seeing as I was using 5x I fought the fish as gingerly as I could. Thankfully my extra long nymph rod helped to preserve my tippet. I could not keep the fish upstream from me despite my best efforts and I ended up having to chase it down, but I did land her... what a cool fish! The fact that I love nymphing for big fish and haven't been able to do it since early summer made it all the better. Truly an awesome surprise to end the day on. If I can get back to this river soon I will, it is such a gorgeous place!


  1. That Salmon sure put a smile on you. That is a great looking river. Enjoyed the reading and photos. Way-to-go.
    Tie, fish, write and photo on...

    1. More like a smirk, I was totally surprised and weirded out by that fish, the way it ate, and the water it was in!

  2. Holy cow, what a treat catching an Atlantic salmon. My goal is to catch one someday on a fly rod. I would even take the land locked variety and be very pleased.

    Question if I may. Do they successfully spawn in tributaries of the Shetucket River or are these the results of those smolts you catch that the state puts in? I would love to see the salmon make a come back in a meaningful way. I just got done reading an old fishing book where the author states he caught a 30 pounder once.


    1. The only watershed in CT that is stocked with smolts is the CT River, which the Shetucket is not a part of. These salmon are hatchery raised, just like a trout. They have never and will never go out to the ocean, and they will never spawn. They were stocked about a week ago as a part of the states unique broodstock salmon fishery. Not as impressive or glorious as a true wild salmon, but fun fish none the less.