Monday, August 31, 2015

The Fish That Lurks in the Margins

The more I fish for Redfin Pickerel, the more I am amazed by them. They don't grow very big, but their attitude makes up for that. The first time they hit a fly, it is with rage and reckless abandon. The second time, a little less so. I have come to learn that these little predators lurking in small meadow streams are very smart. They learn quick. They are hard to approach without spooking. Their choice of habitat makes them even more difficult to catch: the like the muddy, stick and leaf filled margin water that is only 1 to 3 inches deep. That is water not inhabited by many other species of fish. It took me some time to get over that fact and actually target them where they live. But when I got things right, I was rewarded with incredibly beautiful little predators. 

The Calm of Night

The experiences I have had out in the dark are remarkable. Last night the fishing was pretty good. I was nailing into some amazing fish, big crappies and bluegills feeding so ravenously that the takes felt like pickerel. But then I looked around. I was pulled out of my self centered pocket of feeling and and swallowed whole by the universe. The lights of burning balls of gas became brighter, eyes of millions staring into me from afar. The moon highlighted the grass and the darkness of the earth bellow tried to pull me down. Shadows of trees tried to sneak up on me. I fell into the depths of everything. But then a pull brought me back.
In the darkness you just never know. It's scary. It's primal. It's sensational. I just keep coming back.

Notice that the two crappie above are hooked in pretty much exactly the same spot....

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Hunger and Small Bass

I went out to the bass pond I discovered a couple months ago today. I got a late start. The sun was on the water and had been for a while. Withing fifteen minutes I was hungry and ready to leave. My heart just wasn't in it. I made my best attempt at getting some bass to blow up top water bugs, and I did get a couple to take a popper and one little dud to trash a Heifer Groomer. I think what I need is some night action. Hopefully I can get that done tonight, but if not maybe some night this week.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Shad/Herring and Snapper Blues in the Fog

I went to the river today. Estuaries are weird places. These are the species of fish I saw today: bunker, bluefish, either herring or juvenile shad, channel catfish, yellow perch, carp, and smallmouth. Weird combo, huh?
Any way I was not really planning to go after anything in particular, I more or less decided to see what happened. It turned out that I would catch a ton of small saltwater species on small streamers and wet flies. 

I'm not sure exactly what these were, but I think they most likely are juvenile shad. Any other ideas?

Whether they were shad or herring that was a first for me. And here is another one, a little american eel:

I a different spot I started getting hits from snapper blues. They were all over a partridge and flash soft hackle, but as the tide came in they became less focused. I got back in the game by tying on a muddler minnow and dropping the soft hackle off the back. The snappers came for the muddler, but most ended up eating the smaller fly. A couple ambitions ones did get the muddler.

No, I didn't catch any big fish. But all those that I caught were lively and beautiful, and just like brook trout that is all that matters. Plus those were the first blues of the year! Hopefully I'll get some bigger ones this fall. 

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Slamin' Smallmouth

Some days just come together perfectly. This evening I had time to throw streamers at my favorite black bass, and  it really was worth it. To think I was debating going elsewhere! I'll let the pictures speak for themselves, but I will say the crappie is humongous for this neck of the woods and the last smallmouth thought it was a tarpon. Splash! Thrash! Woosh! BOOM! I love smallmouth so much.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Beavers, Big Fallfish, and Spring Creek Brooky Heaven

I left before the sun was up this morning. My destination was a wild trout stream just under 20 miles away from home. My plan was to fish a few streams on the way there and on the way back, starting with one that produced well next year. It was a chilly morning. I could see my breath.

The first stream I fished almost gave me a heart attack. Last year it was great. Tons of big beautiful brookies, plenty of juveniles, cool tannin stained water. Today the water was warm and muddy. I was concerned to say the least! I later discovered that beavers had made some significant changes to a pond and this had made the stream deteriorate. But would there be brook trout?

Yes! I caught five in one pool and decided not to stress them any more. It was still dark, but a Mickey Finn took a few beauts.

Last year I saw a fourteen inch brooky in the spot above. This year I couldn't see the bottom. I decided to eat breakfast with the beavers. There were two. One just swan around and kept an eye on me while the other ate, did tail slaps, and worked on the hut.

Then it was on to stream number two. This one is low gradient, weedy, classic brown trout water. It used to be stocked but hasn't been for a long time, so the fish are all wild. They are also a pain in the butt. I was into some right away though, using a crayfish streamer. Not browns, but big fallfish! These things fight!

A surprise bonus... I got a nice rock bass! I wish I caught these guys more often, they are pretty nifty.

I then spent the next two hours getting my butt kicked. I still haven't landed a brown on this stretch, but today I had takes, chases, and I even broke a really good one off. Frustration got the best of me and I left.

I looked at the map and saw a spot where a nearby road crossed a stream. I was about to find something amazing.

As soon as I looked into the water I knew this was a special place. When I stepped into it I realized that it was REALLY special. The water was freezing. It was a very cold, low gradient stream with good flow and amazingly good plant life. By definition, this is a spring creek. A spring creek that has never been stocked and turned out to be loaded with brookies. The fishing was not easy. I saw thousands of brook trout, but I caught only three. But that's not the point. I have never seen so many brook trout. The habitat wasn't just suitable, it was pristine. And some of the brook trout I saw were legitimately huge. In one pool a group of 5-14 inchers was cruising around and I was watching them with my full attention. Then I felt a bump on my right leg. I had been standing still for a very long time, but I was still startled to see that an enormous brooky had glided up next to my leg. It was all of 17 inches, probably bigger. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. Yet, as soon as my fly and line hit the water, the fish spooked. I almost guarantee this gets little to no fishing pressure, so the hyper clarity of the water and it's calmness is likely to blame.

I did catch a few small brookies, but these photos don't do justice. The bellies were soooo red. it was amazing. They would only go for a partridge and flash soft hackle in size 16.

The next stream I checked was suggested by a friend. It did have brookies, but they were all tiny.

The final stream of the day is one I'm quite familiar with, and even though it was low it gave up some gorgeous brook trout. Some are getting colored up. I can't really focus right now though, I'm imagining what the special stream will be like in a month or two....