Monday, October 31, 2016

Wild Browns, FINALLY!

I planned to fish my home river today hoping that the slightly elevated flows would bring some of the wild brown trout out to feed. As is often the case in the fall on this stream I had to work very hard to get a few small fish. Every other year it seems like the fall fishing changes. Some years the big fish are all over, some years not. This is one of those years, I couldn't find any bigger fish. That isn't to say they are not there, just that I didn't find or catch them. Two seasons with average flows had slim pickings in the fall on this stream, and given that the flows were much worse last fall I'm going to assume this is one of those oddly unproductive falls.

Since it has been a couple months since I last caught wild browns, I was very pleased to find some today, along with plentiful salmon parr. Two signs that there is hope for the future.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Not Quite Where I Want It

The late fall big fish bite is not quite where I like it yet. The panfish are still far too aggressive and the walleye and pickerel have not yet gotten into the peek feed mode. Today the conditions seemed perfect... overcast, dropping pressure. The main issue was that it is still too warm. When the water and the air temperature are both around 45-48 in the middle of the day I start getting nothing but big pickerel and walleye, maybe some goliath perch or bass mixed in. We just haven't reached that point yet. The crappies and perch were fun today, and I caught one rudd... I usually catch a few of these every year from a local pond but I failed to do so this year. I've fished this pond for six years now and never caught one. Crazy!

Tautog, Porgy, and Hickory Shad

It has been a while since I have cast anything other than a fly rod and discussed it on this here fly fishing blog, but I know as well as anyone that there are many species which are exceedingly difficult to catch on the fly, and because I do not consider myself a purist I am ready and willing to use any means necessary (aside from spear fishing, I draw the line there) to catch a new species. So when Mike's friend Joe offered to take us out on the boat for some tautog in the morning before we went out looking for stripers and bluefish, it was a no brainer! So it was that Mike, his buddy Ryan, and I were on the road early in the morning hoping to get on the water before boats took all the good spots.

I'd never caught  tog before, and doing so with the most effective methods and guy that clearly knows his stuff would lay the groundwork that could allow me to hook some of these crazy fish on a fly rod someday.

The bait of choice for tautog is crab. Joe traps them at the dock and loads up a bucket with them. This morning there were a couple spider crabs it the trap, including one quite large one. When everything was ready, we left the harbor and headed for open water and a reef area where Joe knew there would be some tog waiting.
When we got out there and got anchored Mike started cutting crabs (a half crab is more productive than just the whole big crab) and we rigged up the drop shot rods with big weights, ready to drop down for some hungry fish.
It takes a little while to get the feel for this kind of fishing. Some of the takes a fairly obvious, but most are light and hard to distinguish from bottom bouncing if you are new to this kind of fishing. I lost a lot of crabs before a really got the feel for it, and plenty afterwards too. These are some sneaky buggers!
Despite the increasingly snotty conditions we all caught fish. Some porgies were mixed in with the tautog, and though they are considered an annoyance by togers they are absolutely gorgeous fish and I was pleased to add them to my growing list. As with the tautog, it won't be long before I'm trying to get one on a fly! It was a pretty awesome morning. I can't say I'm completely addicted to blackfish, but they are awesome and whenever I get a chance to fish for them I'm definitely going to jump on it!

Now as you all know I am a conservationist and for the most part, strictly catch and release. But tautog are a very prolific species and it does not hurt to keep a few, and that's what we did. Though I won't be eating any of our catch I'm told they are one of the tastiest fish in the ocean.

Crab Crushers

Of course, it is time to address that last species in the title. Mike, Ryan and I geared up to get some fly rod fish to close out the day. We were hoping to get a good striper bite. Unfortunately the conditions were not on our side. It was brutal out. Far worse than it had been when Mike and I got the epic blitz last weekend. Mike and I landed a few tiny fish, but it was abundantly obvious that there were fish there that had already fed, and that they were probably not going to feed again while we were there. And then it happened... hickories to the rescue! I'd never caught hickory shad, and suddenly we were slamming them on my secret silverside/anchovy patterns. They were tough little fish. Mini marsh tarpon!

So that was pretty cool, four species in one day and three that I have never caught before! We left under an incredible sunset. What a day!

Friday, October 28, 2016

Some Fish Hurt More Than Others

It doesn't matter that I've lost big fish before. It doesn't matter that I've experienced frustrating days countless times. It doesn't matter that today did not end with me going home fish less. I lost a true leviathan, and I worked my butt of or that fish. It was cold. The wind was howling. Gloves were not enough to keep my hands dry and warm. I had to tuck the rod under my arm and shove my hands in my armpits while my fly sank down into the cold, deep, lifeless looking pond. I had to put up with that for an hour before I got so much as a bump, and when I finally hooked into a decent fish, I got a really good look at it. It was a huge pickerel, getting near though doubtfully reaching the magic 30 inch mark. And it was fat like a bass. This fish was easily a couple pounds heavier than my previous personal best, and yet for no apparent reason it popped off 15 feet in front of me and slunk back into the abyss.

That really hurt. My heart sank. I stood there on that bank and cussed out that fish and the fish gods that let me believe my effort would be rewarded, even for just a minute. I've lost many fish, and I can say that most do not hurt. Almost all of them, actually. But there are some that do, and that pickerel was one of them. It made me want to break my rod in half and huck it in the lake. Instead I opted to keep fishing. I caught a perch on the very next cast, and a bass a little while later. Do you think that made up for it fish god's? Nothing short of an even bigger pickerel could have.

I know I can't expect any of you who are not serious fisherman to understand this. Some experienced guys will think is is a little ridiculous too. But deep down they remember that one fish, that one they wanted so badly it hurt them to loose it.

Thursday, October 27, 2016


I've spent a good part of the last three months chasing stripers, blues, and albies and the baitfish they are attracted to. During these three monthes I have captured images that show the amount of life that comes together in the right conditions: birds, bait, and predator fish. Since it was really nasty out today and I don't have any material to work with on the "daily report" front, I put together this collection of photos of bait, birds, and big nasty fish.