Monday, December 6, 2021

Late Season River Multi-species Fishing

 As water temperatures plummet in November, fish are both on the move and slowing down. They are on the move because the need to be in very different water for the winter than they were just in all summer, and slowing down because as cold blooded animals their metabolism slows when it gets cold. This results in some interesting challenges for an angler trying to catch these fish. It can also create some great fishing, because the fish's feeding drive may be just a bit slower but they often pile up in staging areas and then in their wintering holes. 

The fish species I'm really talking about here are fallfish, bass, sunfish, and perch. The late fall and early spring transitional period are, quite honestly, some of the best time windows I've found for loading up large numbers of these fish and often some trophy sized specimens. This year I was presented with the challenge of finding these fish in staging areas on new water, the same general area I've fished all summer in Rhode Island for carp. Because I'd been so focused on carp, I let a lot slide and missed chances to better figure out bites with some other species. Come November, catching would be more difficult simply because fish would be in fewer places and actively feeding less often. 

I knew the sorts of spots that should be holding fish though from past experience on other watersheds. I used google maps and pinned every spot that looked like it had potential, from in-flowing creeks and canals to backwaters and large eddies. Some would clearly be difficult to access, so I started out with the one closest to home that I knew would be publicly accessible. I fished it first in low pressure during a big storm, with a simple "float n' fly" tactic. My leader was 8 feet long, tapered to 0x, with a small Thingamabobber and a micro streamer. Often, when water temperatures are falling, any retrieve is too much retrieve. Think effective ice fishing tactics: you want a fly to be basically in place, maybe with a little bit of jigging action, but barely moving horizontally at all. 

I hit it right with the first spot, which was excellent. It wasn't crazy. The fish were neither huge nor especially numerous, but they were there and I could catch them; that's half the battle. 




Over the next week or two I poked around new spots and revisited the first with mixed results. For a while, that first place seemed incredibly consistent until in one 24 window it went from fantastic, with a three perch and ten bluegill outing being followed the very next afternoon by a complete skunking. All that changed in that time frame was a three inch river drop and a 2 degree temperature drop. That's often all it takes for fish to move on from a staging area to a wintering hole.







Some of the other spots that produced fish were more typical fallfish or sucker late fall holes, though I squeaked the odd yellow perch out of them too. That was cool, as I'm not especially used to catching yellow perch out of anything other than near-still or still water this late in the year. Pulling them up on an indicator rig from the sort of water that would be holding brown trout in a cold-water fishery was actually pretty cool. There were fallfish in all the right spots too. No monsters, but lovely specimens with typical late fall coloration. 





Inevitably these spots started to falter to as the temperature dropped even further. I've now shifted focus to other fisheries anyway, but when I get back to this river I'll need to learn another set of conditions entirely. It'll continue to be an interesting challenge. 

Until next time, 

Fish for the love of fish.
Fish for the love of places fish live.
Fish for you.
And stay safe and healthy.


Thank you to my Patrons; Erin, David, John, Elizabeth, Brandon, Christopher, Shawn, Mike, Sara, Leo, C, Franky, Geof, Luke, Streamer Swinger, and Noah for making Connecticut Fly Angler possible. If you want to support this blog, look for the Patreon link at the top of the right side-bar in web version.

Thursday, December 2, 2021

Stripering the Beach Front

 I spent a number of days wandering the ocean front in Southern Rhode Island in late October and early November. This is a time when there's often a lot of small bait moving along the beach, with bass, blues and sometimes bonito on its heals. This year, there were also some little tunny making very late appearances in Rhode Island. I didn't have any clients book trips this fall for surf fishing, which was disappointing on one hand but meant a lot of no-pressure days for me. I did a lot of sitting, quite a bit of walking, and a lot of fishing with my camera instead of my fly rod. 

One day, I was walking around a rocky bit of shoreline little tunny and bonito are known to haunt. Little tunny were around in decent numbers, but the water was slicked out and they were being very fickle. I spent most of my time trying to predict their travel lines and get good shots. I though I did a couple times but my fly drew no interest. At least not from the tunny. 




As I was watching a big school of tunny going wild way out of casting range, something moving tight to the rocks caught my attention. It was a bass, and a decent one at that. I brought my EP Minnow in front of its face and the fish obliged. It was a wonderfully visual eat and a beautiful 29 inch fish.


That filled my cup for that day, but a week or two later I was out again, this time on the sand beaches late in the day. There were blitzing schoolies and fish cruising the wash, but the headliner wasn't the fish at all.



In fact, on quite a few nights I fished this year it was the sunset that as the headliner. Not a skunk-set, I caught more fish than I'd need to to be satisfied.  The sunsets were just so striking, so awe inspiring, and so overt that all else paled in comparison. I love it when the sky catches on fire. 



I did capture one particularly memorable blitz though It wasn't a huge or prolonged one, but I was standing in the right place on the beach at the exact right time with good lighting to capture striped bass churning the water to a froth and bay anchovies frantically darting in the wash. While the surf junkies frantically cast into the melee I stood, rod tucked in my armpit, camera in hand, with a big shit eating grin on my face. This is what keeps me alive and happy.






I caught a fair few bass that day, though I never bothered to take a picture of one nor did I keep track. I chuckled, listening to a few of the casters behind me talking numbers (completely oblivious to the pod of little tunny that had just come into their casting range, no less). I sometimes think I should carry a fish counter, exclusively for data collection purposes. I don't know that I'd share the numbers I was catching though. That isn't the measure of a good day. When I go walking the beach in the fall, I don't care how many stripers I catch as long as I get to pull on a few. I'm really just there to watch the show. 

Until next time, 

Fish for the love of fish.
Fish for the love of places fish live.
Fish for you.
And stay safe and healthy.


Thank you to my Patrons; Erin, David, John, Elizabeth, Brandon, Christopher, Shawn, Mike, Sara, Leo, C, Franky, Geof, Luke, Streamer Swinger, and Noah for making Connecticut Fly Angler possible. If you want to support this blog, look for the Patreon link at the top of the right side-bar in web version.

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Freestone Wild Brown Trout Redemption Day

 It had been a good long while since I last poked around some new freestones to look for wild trout. A preoccupation with bigger fish had held my attention for a while, but it was inevitable that I'd need to get back out on some boulder strewn creeks to make sure I could, in fact, still catch trout. Sometimes it feels like I've lost a lot of my muscle memory when it comes to trout fishing. I certainly do it far less than I used to. Of course it doesn't help at all that a lot of the small streams I used to fish are a mere shadow of what they used to be like, with far fewer and much smaller fish on average. CT wild trout has seemed to be in the downswing over the last 5 years especially, with some historically productive wild brown trout streams that produced very large fish being almost wiped out. I watched the collapse of my favorite brown trout river, and my home water as well. Fewer fish certainly makes it feel like I've gotten worse at fishing. Thankfully when I actually do fish areas that remain strongholds, I'm reminded that I've still got the touch. 

Such was the case where I went one day last week. I dropped Cheyenne off at work and headed to a stream I'd fished before but to a stretch I'd not been on. The flow was moderate, the water lightly stained. The stream was structurally very similar to my home water. It was a classic New England freestone. The gradient was steep and the substrate was mostly boulders with some cobble and gravel. 

I knew wild brown and brook trout were present here though I wasn't sure of their abundance. I was very quickly catching fish though... so evidently they were pretty numerous. They were mostly small wild browns with some stocked fish mixed in. There was a fish everywhere there should have been one, too. If I dropped my Ausable Ugly into a prime lie, it got eaten. 




I took a mental note of where I got takes, looking back upstream (I was working down) as I went and memorizing each spot I'd missed or hooked a trout. This is something I do a lot, I think its every bit as important as knowing how to present flies well, matching forage, or knowing when the conditions are best. Remembering where you hooked fish allows an angler to draw comparisons: trout don't act any differently anywhere in the world, really. If you see a the same sort of holding or feeding lie you've caught a trout out of before and the conditions and time of year are similar, there will probably be a trout there, whether you're fishing in Argentina, Montana, or Massachusetts. 

Such was the case with this stream. Though I'd never stepped foot there before I wasn't fishing unfamiliar water. I fished pockets, runs, troughs, and plunges I knew and had fished before. I'd seen that back eddy before, and caught that brown trout next to the log- they weren't the same, but they kind of were. Do you know what I mean? 




I picked pockets with a big grin on my face, happy to feel very much at home. Everything was familiar, simple, and wonderful. The fish were gorgeous and the habitat was perfect. I was pulling on trout with regularity and tallying them in my head. By the time I left, I'd caught 38 fish. One was a fallfish, two were substantial holdovers, and the rest were a mix of wild fish and fish stocked as fingerling.




I wasn't done fishing that day, but I'll save that for another post. For now, I'll leave you with a suggestion: fish thoughtfully and thoroughly. Sometimes I find myself rushing along, especially on new water, sure that there must be better water somewhere ahead. Don't assume that. Work what's in front of you first. Analyze it, fish it in a way the has produced fish for you before in a similar spot. then, if that doesn't work, do something new to you. 

I've been very much enjoying the videos put out by Jensen Fly Fishing. They are perhaps the best proponent out there right now of methodical, well thought-out approaches to trout fishing. Watching their videos has made me rethink why I've been successful in the past and what I need to do in the future. There's always more to learn. 

Until next time, 

Fish for the love of fish.
Fish for the love of places fish live.
Fish for you.
And stay safe and healthy.


Thank you to my Patrons; Erin, David, John, Elizabeth, Brandon, Christopher, Shawn, Mike, Sara, Leo, C, Franky, Geof, Luke, Streamer Swinger, and Noah for making Connecticut Fly Angler possible. If you want to support this blog, look for the Patreon link at the top of the right side-bar in web version.

Monday, November 29, 2021

Surprise Rhode Island Northern Pike

 November 12th was one of those horribly unpleasant weather days to fish in, featuring high wind and very heavy rain over most of Connecticut and Rhode Island. It was at least vaguely warm though, and it was the sort of weather that gets predatory fish fired up. Subsequently, I was going to fish. I didn't want to fish for very long or far from my partner's apartment, so I drove less than five minutes away to a spot that I knew had potential but hadn't fished before. I didn't really know what to expect but it was exactly the sort of spot fish will stack up at in late fall during high water: a big slack water with reasonable depth, just off the main river. Most of the food chain utilizes these spots, from macroinvertebrates, to small shiners and dace, to panfish, bass and larger predator fish. 

The water was high and cold; I struggled a lot last season to get fish in this same river around this time of year. I'd not yet dialed in many areas though, and I'm still doing a lot of exploring and learning here. It was a crap-shoot, this spot, and though it appeared textbook, I wasn't sure I'd catch anything. I started out simple, hopping very small jig streamers along the bottom. This served two purposes. Flies like this catch everything from suckers and panfish to trout and bass, so it would give me a good idea off what was present (if anything). It also served as a way to feel out the bottom contours and find snags or hidden structure. That inevitably meant flies were lost, but that's just part of the game. I did start picking up fish. First, some pretty yellow perch. Nothing huge but nice to see and great to get the skunk off with. Then, a few good bluegills, and a roughly 2 pound smallmouth that I lost. That stung a little as larger smallmouth are pretty rare in this river and that was the largest I'd hooked here. 

I eventually decided to tie on a larger streamer, namely a conehead Marabou Muddler, and try to tempt a larger predator. This did not go the way I expected it to when, merely three casts later, the fly was smashed to rod lengths from me by a northern pike, and not a small one either. I didn't know there were even pike in the watershed so I was taken completely by surprise. I hooked it, but immediately was sure I'd lose the fish. I was using 10lb tippet and I'd seen the take; there seemed little hope my fly was pinned at the tip of the snout or somewhere else that would make a landing possible. I felt a bite-off was inevitable. Miraculously that never happened. I actually landed the fish. I was giddy. I hadn't targeted pike much at all this season, and with the exception of the one lone big one I got early in the season, hadn't encountered many of this species in 2021. To get one five minutes from the apartment in a watershed I didn't know had them during just atrocious weather was awesome- let alone on a 5wt and 10lb tippet. The fish was snub-nosed, which was a big factor in why I was able to land it. It was very healthy in terms of bulk and energy though. 



I stuck it out for a little while longer with only a few more perch, but I was sure the fight with the pike had disturbed the spot a lot. I left soaked to the bone and happy as can be, with a new task to latch onto- find even more pike in Rhode Island. Up until then I'd only heard about one body of water within the state that had any. Since then I've done quite a bit of research and scouting though and have half a mind to put in a solid effort to dial in some bites over here. It's funny how much one fish can change your mindset sometimes. 


Until next time, 

Fish for the love of fish.
Fish for the love of places fish live.
Fish for you.
And stay safe and healthy.


Thank you to my Patrons; Erin, David, John, Elizabeth, Brandon, Christopher, Shawn, Mike, Sara, Leo, C, Franky, Geof, Luke, Streamer Swinger, and Noah for making Connecticut Fly Angler possible. If you want to support this blog, look for the Patreon link at the top of the right side-bar in web version.

Edited By Cheyenne Terrien

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Striped Bass Everywhere

 On an exceptionally dreary October day, my schedule lined up with my good friend Mark Alpert's and we were able to get out on the water after fall run striped bass. It was choppy and grey out there, exactly the sort of weather that gets stripers chowing. I was subsequently a bit surprised then, by the general lack of activity initially. We covered some territory that I'd been having good luck on during the week or two prior without seeing enough life to feel confident. We then did find a little blitz going. It wasn't anything spectacular but it at least got the skunk off the boat with a few very small schoolies and hickory shad. 

After that, we found what we'd been missing. A few birds and boil initially keyed us into the productive water, but we didn't need to chase small blitzes. There were fish all over, a super-school. Every cast for some very long drifts got some sort of reaction. The first fish was a beautiful 34 incher, to be followed by a lot more fish from the 2015 and 2014 year classes with some younger ones mixed in. There's currently quite a few slot-sized bass in the biomass, which is nice as these fish aren't yet so big that they're less inclined to spend lots of time in the shallows and are perfect fly rod fish, but it is unfortunate to know that this won't last. These are the size fish that get hammered by party boats and there are very few bass that will be attaining slot size in the coming years. I'm trying as much as possible to enjoy them while we've got them though. 



Soon we were doubling up constantly blind casting large flies. Mark was fishing a Big Eye Baitfish, I was throwing my go-to large, white Bulkhead Hollow Fleye. 




I've far more confidence in large, white action flies than I do accurate imitations for most bass blitz fishing. There are plenty of circumstances that call for matching the forage, but there's also a lot to be said for a big, obvious, visible fly that darts and weaves. If it results in a lot fewer eats and commitments or notably larger fish moved, it isn't worth it. Otherwise, it's always go big or go home for me. Bad weather with chop, stained water, and dark sky is the perfect scenario for this mentality. Add to that an over abundance of targets and the stage is set for very exciting, big-fly fishing; soon we were totally surrounded by blitzing bass, feeding on both adult and juvenile menhaden. It was an incredible scene and between pulling on fish, I took a few moments to bask in the mayhem. We were catching plenty of fish, my arms would be spent by the end of the day from pulling on bass. I'd have missed out on more by continuing fishing than I did by looking up and just enjoying the show now and then.





Fish weren't in one area, or even holding to specific structure a lot of the time. There seemed to be bass just about everywhere we looked and everywhere we cast for a big chunk of the day. They weren't always blitzing. Only small adjustments were needed in order to stay on the fish.We had a couple small lulls, but for the most part if we kept casting we kept getting takes. 



We even slowly attempted to move back towards the launch, content with our success, but kept getting distracted by big blitzes. There were a great many "last casts" made that day. The fish just kept our attention for hours. It was awesome. 

The fish bellow, a 29 incher, had a littoral society tag. Unfortunately, the tag was thickly covered in algae and after momentarily attempting to rub off the algae, I decided it wasn't worth taking the time to do so; it would clearly have required me keep the fish out of the water for much too long to clean the tag and take down the information. That's the first tagged bass I've caught. I once cast at a quite large striper with a visible tag while flats fishing, though. 







Eventually Mark and I were able to peal ourselves away. We didn't really need to catch any more fish anyway. We had a boat total that certainly exceeded 75, with a bunch of nice sized ones in the mix. We didn't get any true cows, but it is very hard to complain about a day like that. 




November is now almost over and the year itself, as well. This has been my best striped bass year. As of today I've caught 48 bass over 28 inches on the fly this season, with two shore-caught 40 inch class fish and my personal best and first 40 pound class fish on the fly. I could still get another 40 incher this season, but while the year comes to an end it's important for those of us who had a good season to reflect on what that means for the stock as a whole. 

It means very little. 

The stock is still in a bad way. There are numerous very poor year classes. The Chesapeake Bay is still incredibly polluted. There is still rampant poaching. There is still an awful lot to be done, so don't get complacent. 

Until next time, 

Fish for the love of fish.
Fish for the love of places fish live.
Fish for you.
And stay safe and healthy.


Thank you to my Patrons; Erin, David, John, Elizabeth, Brandon, Christopher, Shawn, Mike, Sara, Leo, C, Franky, Geof, Luke, Streamer Swinger, and Noah for making Connecticut Fly Angler possible. If you want to support this blog, look for the Patreon link at the top of the right side-bar in web version.

Edited By Cheyenne Terrien