Friday, September 20, 2019

Plop and Drop

We've settled into a drought again, and most streams are pretty much everything is very low. Fortunately though the dry conditions have been accompanied by some chilly nights, so the small stream fishing remains decent. 
Under the typical low water conditions we get just about every early fall here, the game is often convincing fish out of heavy cover, be it cut banks or logjams. Small stream brown and brook trout often react to things impacting the surface of the stream. It happens a lot, and can single a number of things, the two most important being food and danger. Make a fly "plop" into the water, not too hard and not soft, and it may attract the attention a fish tucked way into cover. As such, I typically fish small streamers with bead or cone heads that hit the water with just enough of a plop to attract attention, but not so much that it spooks every fish, and reaches the bottom of the water column quickly. Often enough, the fly will get slammed before it reaches the bottom. If it doesn't, I strip it in quite rapidly. Takes are rarely anything less than violent.



A little while back I fished a stretch of stream nicknamed by Alan "The  Outback", a piece of water loaded with undercuts, woody debris, and predatory brown trout. The perfect place for plopping streamers. The fishing wasn't fast and furious, and I didn't catch the sort of size I was hoping to, but I'd catch a handful of good looking wild brown trout in quick succession, then go a while without any.






With a few even colder nights recently, there are a number of places I'm looking forward to visiting. It's getting to be big trout season again. It's also my favorite time of year to night fish. So assume I'm doing a bit of that even if you don't see it here.
Until next time.
Fish for the love of fish.
Fish for the love of places fish live.
Fish for you.



 If you enjoy what I'm doing here, please share and comment. It is increasingly difficult to maintain this blog under dwindling readership. What best keeps me going so is knowing that I am engaging people and getting them interested in different aspects of fly fishing, the natural world, and art. Follow, like on Facebook, share wherever, comment wherever. Also, consider supporting me on Patreon (link at the top of the bar to the right of your screen, on web version). Every little bit is appreciated! Thank you to my Patrons; Erin, David, john, Elizabeth, and Christopher, for supporting this blog.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

The Year's First Little Tunny

It's the most wonderful time of the year!
No, not Christmas, Fall. 
In the fall along the shoreline in Southern New England, life is as concentrated as it can ever be. And it doesn't last long. There's a sense of urgency to this time of year, the idea that if you skip out on even two days in a row you've missed something remarkable. In a sense that's true, you'd be hard pressed to find a day in September or October during which somewhere between New York City and Provincetown there isn't something remarkable transpiring.
Maximizing time is paramount. 
The window to catch false albacore lasts two months if we're lucky, and overlaps some of prime times to target big bass. As such, I like to try to get as many albies early on in the run as possible. So far so good this year, I've targeted them exactly once and got two...
In 12 hours of fishing. 
Some days are just brutal. This past Saturday was frustrating because I was trying to get my friend Brandon on his first hardtails and the deck just wasn't stacked in our favor. I'd hoped the forecast for relatively reasonable wind and swell would verify, it ended up being really sporty out there for two kayakers. It wasn't dangerous, really, it just made it almost impossible to fish. That really sucked, because there were a ton of bonito and Spanish mackerel around and we just couldn't catch them. We ended up leaving CT after a few schoolies and cocktail blues. We bounced east, bumped into Phil Sheffield at one of the inlets, saw very little life, the got to the West Wall to a few bent rods. It was a blind casting day, fish showed very little. But they were around, and we got shots. I was able to capitalize on them. Brandon was not. That was probably as frustrating for me as it was for him, especially since I know how this works. I watched him try to rationalize why he wasn't catching knowing full well that the reasons were too minute for me to just explain them, him to get it, then just start catching. A beginner has nothing to place confidence in except what people around them are doing, and I wasn't on any sort of pattern my two fish came on two different flies and the two other fish I missed took two other different flies. Time spent changing flies, thinking about flies, thinking about depth, thinking about line, thinking about tippet, or moving around just takes one's mind away from the task at hand. That task, very simply in the scenario that often occurs at the wall, is to make long casts and fast two hand retrieves until your arms are ready to fall off and be constantly mentally prepared for little tunny to grab the fly and to deal with the chaos that will follow. 




We were on the wall for six hours. I stopped casting for brief spells, in part because I didn't feel the need to catch a bunch of fish, partly because I had to write the previous blog post, and partly because it's exhausting and I wanted to fish the next couple days without arm and back pain.



After a while we made a move to where I knew some fish would set up on the incoming tide and launched kayaks again. We got a couple shots but not good ones. We got off the water just before sunset. This season beats the piss out of me, mentally and physically, but I'd put more time in if I could. I was one the water from 9:00 to 2:30 today, I'd be there right now if I could, and at dawn tomorrow. If I had a vehicle right now, I'd basically be living in it and driving wherever the stripers and albies take me from late August to mid November, with stops to work in between bites.
Life doesn't last. The fall run is a microcosm of that.
Until next time.
Fish for the love of fish.
Fish for the love of places fish live.
Fish for you.



 If you enjoy what I'm doing here, please share and comment. It is increasingly difficult to maintain this blog under dwindling readership. What best keeps me going so is knowing that I am engaging people and getting them interested in different aspects of fly fishing, the natural world, and art. Follow, like on Facebook, share wherever, comment wherever. Also, consider supporting me on Patreon (link at the top of the bar to the right of your screen, on web version). Every little bit is appreciated! Thank you to my Patrons; Erin, David, john, Elizabeth, and Christopher, for supporting this blog.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Searching for Big Spring Creek Brook Trout

Spring creeks are rare, well, most parts of the world, but there certainly aren't many in the Northeast. I found one though, about five years ago, and it turned out to be the most remarkable brook trout stream I'd ever fished in southern New England. Shrouded in heavy undergrowth, difficult to access, and appearing like nothing more special than a warm, weedy, muddy ditch, my spring creek hides itself well and even for those curious enough to attempt to fish it, the abundant thorn bushes and ticks and extraordinarily skittish brook trout are enough to send them packing. 


I'm not easily deterred though, and after seeing some of the largest wild brook trout I'd ever seen in the state, I was bound to be a regular visitor to this place.

In the years I've fished it though, I've still yet to catch a Brook trout quite like I've been seeking. Make no mistake, brook trout they may be, but a spring creek trout is a spring creek trout. They are not easy.

Every trip I make I catch some, but I also spook others that I'd taken as much as 10 minutes approaching to even a difficult casting distance. Easy doesn't exist here. On my most recent trip I had made out with a good number of fish but spooked more 14 to 18 inch brook trout than most dedicated CT small stream anglers will get a chance at in 10 years. I've accepted the fact that my catching one of the biggest fish here will be as much up to luck as it will be skill.


A substantial and handsome beetle eater.



Part of this is up to the population density of the stream. There are so many brook trout that they can't help but school, and there's only so many fish you can pull out of a school before they stop feeding. There's no magical way to pull the biggest out of a school, and there's often a 16 inch fish with ten 8-11 inch fish and thirty 3-6 inch fish. Getting the 16 to eat first isn't a skill, it isn't down to fly selection, it isn't down to anything but chance.




With fall very much here, however, I know an opportunity will arise to target the largest fish. It's something I've only hit right on one occasion and didn't capitalize on. Hopefully this year the deck will be stacked in my favor.


The colors of the Edson Tiger don't differ that much from the colors of the fish that ate it. 
Until next time.
Fish for the love of fish.
Fish for the love of places fish live.
Fish for you.



 If you enjoy what I'm doing here, please share and comment. It is increasingly difficult to maintain this blog under dwindling readership. What best keeps me going so is knowing that I am engaging people and getting them interested in different aspects of fly fishing, the natural world, and art. Follow, like on Facebook, share wherever, comment wherever. Also, consider supporting me on Patreon (link at the top of the bar to the right of your screen, on web version). Every little bit is appreciated! Thank you to my Patrons; Erin, David, john, Elizabeth, and Christopher, for supporting this blog.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

CT Bonito and Spanish Mackerel

The albies are taking their sweet time getting into Long Island Sound this year. They've been around the Cape for a while now, and in Rhode Island for at least a week. I know a few pods have wandered into CT waters but not enough to reliably go out and find them. For me, the lack of albies hasn't been a disappointment. They typically out-compete the other pelagic species and push them out of the sound, though in years past there'd often be another shot at bonito right at the end of the hardtail season. So for at least a little while longer, there are bonito around. But of greater interest to me is the even less frequent visitor to CT waters that has showed in force this early fall: Atlantic Spanish mackerel. In three trips to Florida I'd never really gotten a shot at Spanish, despite having been in a lot of places they'd be likely to show up. This year they started appearing along New Jersey in late June. Then on Long Island, Cape Cod, the islands, Rhode Island in August. At the start of September some had made their way into Long Island Sound. I kept missing the bite though or just not making it to the shore on good days. I was worried that Dorian would push the albies in had and I'd miss my chance. Turns out, it actually pushed more Spanish mackerel in instead. Two days after the storm passed Noah and I set out in search of scombrids not really knowing exactly what we'd find. Before we even launched though we could see bonito and Spanish leaping and breaking. Between staring at the water and rushing to get out there, I'm not sure how much time we wasted. But I do know that we both got bonito on pretty much our first casts. Mine absolutely ripped off, putting up the hardest fight I've had from a bonito, almost making me think it might be an albie or at least a much bigger bone. It ended up just being the same small size fish that we've had around.



These fish were actually in quite shallow water, ambushing a school of silversides that as holding over a patch of eel grass. We could see the grass patch, which was excellent because it afforded us the opportunity to stick to that spot and just wait for the hardtails to come blasting into the bait again. Noah hooked up next, and it was a Spanish mackerel. Of course the guy who has already caught the species is the one that gets the first one of the day!


I wasn't too worried  though as the short chaotic blitzes kept erupting over our little grass patch. Often, these fish were less than five feet from us. It was wild and beautiful. 


I hooked up next and of course it was another bonito. I was starting to worry. Little did I know, by day's end I'd have more of that species than I'd ever have thought I'd get a shot at in CT waters.



Our grass patch bite kind of fizzled out eventually, and we moved out into deeper water where we'd seen fish before. As we did so I glanced southwest and saw a cloud of birds. We hurried in that direction and in a short time I could see the fish breaking. We got there just in time for the action to fizzle out, of course. I decided to hang around there for a bit though as I'd encountered clouds of bait in the same area every year, seemingly for no reason at all but always in the same small patch of deep water. Noah decided he wanted to go check out another spot. I decided to stay. It wasn't that long after we'd parted ways when the fish came back up again. I got into them fairly quickly and hooked up to the third bonito of the day. As I fought that fish the school basically followed me, blowing up at arms reach all around my kayak. I boated and released that bonito as quick as I could and was hooked up again on the very next cast. 


Noah got back over just in time for one brief shot at the bonito, and then they didn't come up heavy again for a while though there were stray boils and leaps. We blind cast, and both got takes from what were almost certainly Spanish, then again I looked Southwest and saw birds. Again Noah and I headed different directions, but by this time things didn't really get going hard until he caught back up to me and now it was all Spanish. I finally added this wacky, beautiful species to my lifelist. 

Lifelist fish #141, Atlantic Spanish mackerel, Scomberomorus maculatus, Rank: Species
After that fish the floodgates opened. Noah and I hammered Spanish for the rest of the evening. It was incredible hardtail fishing. This ended up being far and away the best day targeting scombrids I'd ever had. We both caught tons of Spanish. I very quickly learned that, unlike bonito which have rounded teeth, Spanish mackerel have quite sharp teeth. They destroyed my flies and damaged my leader.





Fortunately these buggers weren't super abundant, they do more damage than the mackerel.



These were only little ones unfortunately so they weren't really that good a fight on a 10wt, frankly the bonito kicked their butts and they aren't that impressive either. We pretty much left them chewing in that spot for our own safety as the sun set. I got one striper and a couple bluefish on the way back in, and we shark fished after dark, but it wasn't anything to write home about. It did mean I didn't get much sleep though, so I was pretty tired when Rick and I headed out to fish the same area the next morning. The conditions were different, and though they were behaving a bit differently the fish were still there. The fly rod proved to be the winning tool this time, far out performing spinning. 








This time, a few went in the cooler. I botched the 2nd fillets a bit on the first and second fish. The fist fish especially. But the meat was remarkably white for a hardtail. These fish have got Bonito beat in terms of food quality, at least by my tastes. Broiled they were delicious. I might try some pan seared next time.

There's about two more weeks during which encounters with crazy exotic fish are possible. I'm hoping to run into at least a few more new species in the coming month. 
Until next time.
Fish for the love of fish.
Fish for the love of places fish live.
Fish for you.



 If you enjoy what I'm doing here, please share and comment. It is increasingly difficult to maintain this blog under dwindling readership. What best keeps me going so is knowing that I am engaging people and getting them interested in different aspects of fly fishing, the natural world, and art. Follow, like on Facebook, share wherever, comment wherever. Also, consider supporting me on Patreon (link at the top of the bar to the right of your screen, on web version). Every little bit is appreciated! Thank you to my Patrons; Erin, David, john, Elizabeth, and Christopher, for supporting this blog.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

The Shark Mission, Pt. 1

I'm a very indiscriminate angler. I'll fish for anything in any water with any gear. I'm perfectly happy catching two inch gambusia in a ditch, and I'm just as happy pulling on a fish almost as big as me.
It's impossible though not to be captivated by catching a fish as big or bigger than oneself, and well, if given the option between catching a 150lb something and a 150mm something, I'll probably choose the latter. There are exceptions. But, especially recently, I've had the insatiable urge to pull on something that could potentially kill me under the wrong circumstances. Something, big, gnarly, and a little bit scary. Noah has been on the same page, and two boat-less southern New England goons really have only one option: sharks and rays from the beach.
There's one really big issue with that. There is very little local information that would point us in the right direction without doing a little bit of driving or possibly hopping on a ferry. The Cape and the Vineyard are the known beach sharking places in New England. But we wanted to do something closer than that. We were both certainly willing to leave CT, but we didn't want to go that far. Our first attempt at sharks actually was on Cape Cod, and for all intents and purposes we learned very little from that other than that spider crabs are annoying and there were plenty of tiny dogfish in the wash at a certain beach at a certain time. We'd talked about sharking in Florida but never did, we had so many species to catch in daylight and couldn't just skip a night's sleep with the amount of driving we did each day. Our knowledge? Slim. We'd both seen small brown sharks in one specific area, I'd also caught two in 2012 or 2013... I can't remember which. But other than that we were lost. We put some of the pieces together from what guys have been doing on the Cape, but we couldn't seem to get out of our misguided ideas of what shark habitat is. Our first mission was an abject failure in every regard. We came exceptionally unprepared and left without anything. We really didn't learn, and that is what qualifies a failure to me. Not skunking.



We talked about going sharking again for weeks, and not only didn't go but managed to keep missing the obvious. We were way off, obviously of, so obviously that we'd not even once considered trying where we'd seen sharks every year for the last few years! I'm still baffled at how we were so off the mark. It took me running into a random snowbird local at a spot I've fished for a long time to for me to get my head out of my butt. One quick chat with someone who clearly had never been targeting sharks and the pieces started to come together. Two nights later Noah and I were out on the sandbar after sunset, ready to start catching cartilaginous fish. Neither of us were expecting to get a brown shark or sand tiger here on this night, we just wanted to put something on the beach. Neither of us had caught a large dogfish. Any skate or ray would also be appreciated. We waded out to into the breaking surf and sent a high-low rig baited with squid as far as possible, then walked back onto a dry part of the bar and set up.


It wasn't long for the first hit, and not much longer before Noah was pulling on something substantial. It was a dogfish, more precisely a dusky smooth hound. The fight was not bad. The fish did the typical thing once in shallow water and tangled the crap out of everything. But we were both immediately struck by the same though: Why, other than that tangling nonsense, are these fish so hated? Contrary to popular belief they aren't inedible either. In fact I have it on good authority that the are quite good eating with no more preparation than it takes many other popular species. And on light tackle from the beach? That's a good pull! We were fairly pleased with our little shark. It wasn't a toothy one, it wasn't going to be biting anyone's hand off while unhooking, but it was a shark.

Mustelus canis


It was now my turn on the rod. Thing is, I'm impatient. I couldn't sit and watch that rod tip waiting for it to bend... I wanted to walk around. With a headlamp on a perused the shallows, seeing tons of Atlantic silversides, banded and striped killifish, and some northern kingfish. Noah shouted that there'd been a take and I ran over. The rod was no longer pulsating but I picked it up, reeled down, and struck when I felt pressure. My fish was no shark, not even a bland toothless one, and that was immediately obvious. It ended up being a clearnose skate. Not a giant (Noah would actually hold the world record if he'd known what he had a couple years back), but a fair sized one, about the size of the first one I caught on the fly. Funny, this was my first skate not on the fly.

Raja eglanteria


Though we had a handful more definite takes that night, no more fish came to hand... er, no more fish came to hand that weren't caught by hand. Killifish are pretty easy to hand catch with a spotlight at night. We caught some HUGE striped killifish that I regret not photographing. Lightning loomed in the background and we soon left. I caught on 20 something inch striper on the fly before we left. That had to be done.

Funny as it may seem a dogfish and a skate had lifted our spirits a lot. We were much more confident all of a sudden. Noah and I had a pretty clear path now. We are going to do this thing... we're going to get a big shark on the beach. It's not a matter of if, it's when. 

As we were out there, Hurricane Dorian was aiming for the Bahamas. Being a meteorology nerd I'd been watching the storm closely and it had become clear it was going to be one for the books. With all the power of an F5 tornado but 40 miles across, Dorian slammed the Bahamas. The damage it has done is indescribable. As such, I feel it is necessary to forgo my typical post ending. There are a whole bunch of people that need our help, and simply sending "thoughts and prayers" through a social media post ain't going to cut it. If you can, please give financial aid. A good place to start is the fundraiser for Abaco Lodge (www.gofundme.com). There are other good relief efforts going on as well and they aren't hard to find. Flooding and tornadoes associated with Dorian have also effected the Carolinas, and though the damage done to the Bahamas far overshadows that we shouldn't be ignoring anybody who's lives have been turned upside-down by one of the most devastating and powerful hurricanes in history. Please do your part. I understand if you aren't in a position too, it hurts that I can't do more than I'm presently able to. 

 Thank you to my Patrons; Erin, David, john, Elizabeth, and Christopher, for keeping this blog going.