Monday, February 29, 2016

One of Those Awesome Days

With the increasing length of daylight, I have more time after school to fish. Today I took advantage of that to get in one last outing on a non-TMA before CT's short closed season. I really wanted to fish one of my favorite small streams, one that I have not fished since early fall. I really did not get an idea of how the fish that live there fared through the dry summer.

I started out with an Ausable Bomber. I caught the first fish of the day in the pool bellow, right in the soft water near the big rock in the middle.

After a bit I got tired of drying the bomber and changed to something more buoyant... a foam beetle. That got my a few fish.

In the calm pool bellow I got the first of a number of sizeable brook trout. I cast the beetle to the left of the partially submerged stick, and the fish took with a slow and deliberate head and dorsal type rise. He began to battle against the rod and made it into the stick. I had to work my way up to the stick (on the bank, I wasn't wading) where I was able to maneuver the line off of the stick and landed the fish. It was fat and very colorful.

The next fish, to my amazement took three times. Sometimes a brooky will still eat after it has gotten well hooked and been pulled four feet down the pool. That happened on the first cast. I hooked up again the next cast and once again the fish was juiced up enough to hit my Ausable Ugly again, giving my a chance to land one of the best fish in the stream. And so fat! It's like this every spring. The moment the water gets up to about 40 degrees the fish go nuts and eat faster than they can digest. Greedy, fat fish means crazy awesome brook trout fishing.


Further up another solid fish at the Ugly, and yet further still I lost a decent fish that was to shaken by the experience to come back for more.

I was left with two options. There is a waterfall that blocks passage and the upstream portion is fishless, so I could either go to a nearby stream or fish the lower section, which I was not too confident in. I have fished it a few times in the summer and not seen a thing. But I decided I wouldn't be able to forgive myself for not giving that water a shot. You just never know.

In this pool I god a taker. The same fish hit the Ugly twelve times, was hooked four, and just kept taking. When it started to get shy I changed to a Bomber, which it ate four times. Finally I tied on a Mickey Finn, and three casts in a row that fish came up and hit it. In a last ditch effort I twitch the streamer quickly upstream. I watched a wake appear behind the fly and the fish clobbered it. I finally caught it! Either that is a testament to the aggression and greed these brook trout have or, and these are not mutually exclusive, my lack of skill as an anger. The fish was aggressive and not at all timid and it took me twenty plus chances to catch it? That's just depressing.

I must say the coloration on this fish was crazy... it had a green cast to it. I have seen purple, blue, grey, gold, and copper sheen on brook trout, but green is new.

All in all, that is one of the coolest brook trout outings I have had in a while, and I have been doing very well lately! With the closed season I will have to find my March dry fly fish on a WTMA or TMA. It is perfectly possible to find rising fish on the Farmington in March, and I'm sure I'll be up there very soon.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

More Bluegills and Brook Trout in a New Spot

This morning I hit the ponds in Essex. I was there exactly at the right time... the light was just right and the shallows lit up. I could see hundreds of bluegills everywhere. I used small soft hackled nymphs and dries and caught a ton of fish. Sight fishing is so great! 

After a couple hours some people came along with remote controlled boats and that was the end of that. I headed off to another pond, a weird pooled up part of a stream in the middle of the woods. I already knew that it had bass and bluegills, and being even smaller than the other pond I was sure they'd eat. I didn't get any big ones, but it was just cool to catch fish out of such a weird pond.

In the afternoon I had plans to go on a hike so I left Essex early, but on the way home I got a text saying it wan't going to work out, so my conciliation prize was checking out a stream on the way back that I had already been looking at intently on the map. With an Ausable Ugly on my tippet it did not take me long to figure out that there indeed are wild brook trout residing in these incredibly clear pools and runs.

Obviously this is a place I need to visit again!

Saturday, February 27, 2016

February Panfish: Sight Fishing and Midge Hatch

There is pretty much no ice left  on the ponds and lakes. That can mean only one thing... panfish season is here, and bass season will follow in a few weeks  or maybe a month if the cold night time temperatures keep the shallows in oscillation. Carp season will be here before we know it, they are probably already starting to move into the flats. But today it was all about panfish for me. I fished the South Central CT pond that gave up panfish nearly into January, and right when I got there I knew I was going to catch fish. The water was gin clear and I could see fish... bass, bluegill, and crappie cruising in large schools in the weeds. I used small, unweighted nymphs and sight cast to moving targets. It did not take long for me to get the first bluegill of 2016.

Within an hour I caught the first bluegill, the first crappie, and the first pumpkinseed of the year, not to mention I have never caught any of these species in February before. Although both the water and the air were above freezing, I was getting ice in my guides. Ice in the guides and panfish in the hand. Some even on dry flies. This is an amazing year.

Towards sunset something magical happened.  The water and air temperatures reached equilibrium. Midges began to hatch. And the water boiled. Fish rose every where! There was 15 minutes of craziness, during which I caught numerous fish on a floating foam under-bodied hare's ear. The last fish of my day was a decent crappie. So far so good... now I will be able to focus on new species in March and April instead of working hard to get the first panfish of the year. Let's see how many species I can catch in one year, shall we? I'm already up to 7.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

February Perch

So far this February I have caught chain pickerel, fall fish, brook trout, brown trout, and now yellow perch. That makes a broad extension of what I usually get during this month: brookies and browns and more often than not, next to nothing.

The perch were a bit of a surprise. I checked the pickerel pond which was muddy from the rain, and I'm not totally sure the fish were feeding anyway. If the water temperature is right pickerel spawn under the ice, and because this pond cycles fairly quickly that is most likely what happened. In fact it is uncommon for pickerel to still be active after ice out. Nobody really knows where they go, they most likely just faze into a post spawn lethargy and wait for the water to warm up to return to feeding. But the lake is totally ice free now (amazing what two days and rain can do to a sheet of ice a few square miles in size), and any body that knows carp knows that as soon as the ice goes it is time to hunt.

Because of the water level I knew my best shot was the canal. The stream flowing in was dirty and rich with food, so something had to be there waiting. I did not find carp, but there are still quite a few yellow perch hanging out there. Not the biblical number from December, but a small school of  vertically striped fly eaters.

I did not catch that many, maybe 10, but I was glad to see them and it was plenty fun to jig bright colored flies in their faces and watch them nail them.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

A Good Couple of Catch Free Days

Yesterday and today are both no-fishing days, but still excellent. Yesterday I went with a few friends to hear Steve Gephard's talk on river herring. The four of us are planning on monitoring one of our local streams throughout the run. Not a problem for me, I'll be trying to add both herring species to my life list and hunting for sea run brown trout and salmon in that stream from March into June. Herring, though not a particularly popular fish, are awesome. At one time they wold flood the tidal waters of CT in biblical numbers, providing nutrients for the streams and food for numerous predators. Also, great angling opportunities: it was the herring that used to draw big striped bass to the base of Leeseville Dam and even into smaller creeks like the Moodus River.

Today is once again a big help... tons of rain! The rivers were finally up to an good level, and now this rain will do what spring rain should do. High water will help clean out fallen branches and reform structure. Rain is excellent.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Another Amazing New Brook Trout Stream

The past two years have been an amazing couple of years for finding great new brook trout streams, ones that nobody has told me about, ones that aren't in the angler's guide. Some of the brookie streams I've found don't even have names. But there's one piece of water I have been eyeing up for a couple of years now, and I decided after school today that I was going to try to find a way through the woods to this stream.

As it turns out it was even more difficult than I expected. There were only a couple of trails and the undergrowth was thick and composed almost entirely out of thorn bushes. But I eventually crawled, climbed, jumped, and bled my way to the stream. It was a perfect, classic brook trout stream. From my first couple of looks I expected it to be loaded with 3 to 5 inch brook trout. The first thing I do when I fish a new stream is quickly walk a long stretch to spook fish. When I did that this evening I spooked hundreds of brook trout, but they were not 3 to 5 inchers... they were 6 to 12 inchers! There was at least one big fish in every pool and glide, and often two or three. When I spotted a perfect undercut bend pool I decided it would be the first place I would catch a fish. It was. I put the Ausable Ugly past the big boulder and It got eaten. I set the hook and briefly battled the fish. What I landed was an incredibly stunning specimen, a chunky male with kype, blue in the mouth, hump on the back, and spots that could make other brookies jealous. 

As I continued downstream I saw more big brook trout. Then I came to a classic spot. The current hit a big rock, forming a deep pocket in front of it with a ripple on the surface, and a glide going around the rock. I made my cast into the glide, than twitched the Ugly into the pocket. The second cast got eaten. The third I hooked up, and a huge brook trout splashed at the surface. A few more missed takes and it gave up on the Ugly. I changed to a fly I had with me that is just not in my brook trout stream arsenal: a size 6 2x long olive Woolly Bugger. The big fish slammed it on the first cast. I missed again and this time it didn't come back at all. But I do know where it lives know, and better yet I know a stream with brookies big enough and aggressive enough to go after a sizable streamer.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Clear Water and Pretty Fish

I spent a couple of hours today at the stretch of creek I fished with the New Year's Day crew. I was hoping that the warm temperatures (the water was getting close to 40 finally) would convince the brook trout to rise. Unfortunately there wasn't much insect activity, but a few small grey mayflies were hanging out on the shoreline. I didn't see any rises but stubbornly stuck with the dry flies. An ant got no reaction, a caddis didn't work, but eventually I got a take on the Bomber. The pool was flat and slow, and maybe three feet deep. The fish took with a gentle dimple rise, and I was not expecting it to have much size but was presently surprised when it began to battle. It was a stunning brooky, and to catch anything like it on a dry fly in February is wonderful.

From that point on it was difficult fishing. I worked the pools and riffles with very little action. I changed to a Something or Other wet fly, then to a Green Weenie, and that got eaten eventually.

I came to a place where the stream divides into a series of different channels, and where the two bellow come together was very deep and fishy looking. I let cast the line up the small channel and let the dueling currents pull it to the bottom, where the Green Weenie got weenied by a good fish. It was quickly apparent, however, that it was a fall fish. That's fine by me, he actually fought harder than the brooky, jumping twice and running hard.

With the water so perfectly clear I think the fish were a bit shadow shy today. The warm weather has done it's worst on the ice, and tomorrow may well be a pickerel or carp outing, depending on the wind.