Thursday, March 29, 2018

Homing Missiles

I had a freshwater fish do something yesterday that absolutely blew my mind. I was on a pond where the only fish big enough to target with anything bigger than a sz. 30 hook are pickerel. Somehow, someway, no largemouth have taken to this pond and the pickerel keep the bluegills in check. It's damn near a natives only pond if it weren't for those tiny bluegills. Anyway, the only fish bother trying to catch there are pickerel. The fact that there are only pickerel in this pond, no largemouth bass, makes me like it a lot. I enjoy catching big bass, and they often take very aggressively. But when a 20 inch chain pickerel commits to a big fly, it just unloads on it. They hit things to kill, often completely inhaling flies or lures without thinking twice.

Yesterday I watched a large pickerel leave it's post and move 30 feet to hit my fly.  It was unbelievable. The fly landed 20 feet from that fish. It turned and charged, locked onto the fly like a homing missile. I moved the fly 10 more feet, the fish closing the distance the whole time, and it unloaded on it, going from quick to blistering in a millisecond.

I missed that take. I was too shocked by how far that pickerel traveled to hit my fly to perform a proper strip set.

Some of the fish were exhibiting what I interpreted to be spawning behavior. 

Oddly enough, the fly that got a fish to move 30 feet didn't move a single other fish. I switched to a dull colored sort of muddler variation that I've seen called the "Bad Mother" by Domenick Swentosky. It's got no flash at all. I tied them for night fishing trout, which is what Swentosky uses them for. But I figured it would have a very slow sink rate, push some water, and that would get the snot rockets fired up. It did. I caught two good pickerel. Both fun fights, but the second one just felt... right. The strip set, the initial run, the multiple jumps... one of those fights I wish I had on camera. God dammit I love pickerel!

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Fishing in Trees

The TMA's have been beat on for two weeks now. They haven't been fully packed with trout yet either, so where I've been going I've had two choices: fish where they were stocked, where the pods are, and where the fish have been most pressured, or hunt for fish that have spread out. Since there weren't really too many fish put in those that have spread out are very sparse... there aren't trout in ever pocket like there will be in a month. So yesterday I targeted the fish that have already seen a bunch of flies. I worked the places that were hardest to fish to, because the fish in those lies were more comfortable and more likely to take a fly. Specifically, I fished in fallen trees. There are a lot of them after those heavy, wet snowfalls.

A hard to reach fish.

An easier to reach fish.

I found three trout in and around a fallen hemlock. Two were downstream near the end of the tree, one was in a hole between two branches. I played with the two that were outside of the tree for half an hour, spending most of that time working the closer of the two. Once I got that one to eat a Walt's Worm it only took 10 minutes for me to get the drift right to catch the second. It may seem odd that I would put in so much effort for small stocked trout, but the reality is these fish are all just as smart (or just as stupid) whether they are 8 inches or 8 pounds. Unlike wild and holdover trout which get more selective the bigger they get, these stockers are all equally accustomed to fishing pressure. If you can catch the small ones you can catch any of them.

After I caught the two easier ones I went after the one in the tree. That was a nail bitingly difficult presentation. I had a foot and a half of drift space to get a fly down in that trout's feeding window. I could get close to him because he was very comfortable hiding in that tree. I put on a super heavy Walt's and lengthened my tippet. My cast was more of a swing than it was a cast. I knew I was going to have to get it right in as few casts as possible, the more I did the more likely I was to hang up in the branches.

I made one presentation that got the fish to turn and look. On the lift I pinned the fly in the branches. I knew that was going to be next to impossible, but if you don't try you won't learn.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Stuff and Things and Stuff


-Noah and I can't find big anadromous white perch to save our lives. This is year 2, still not working out for us at all.

- Carp are still smarter than me.

- I don't like fishing the Farmington under bluebird skies with mid 30's water temps and a weekend's worth of sore lipped trout.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Simpler Fish

I enjoy panfish. I like tying flies for them, I like catching them, I like looking at them, and sometimes I like eating them. Some fisherman think they've 'grown out of' fishing for sunfish and perch. I, for one, never will. I've caught Atlantic salmon, 26inch trout, giant carp, and 35lb striped bass, and I still love going down to the farm pond, casting simple flies and catching simple fish. Maybe it's just a love for nostalgia. But maybe not. I still keep learning about these fish, and I thin anyone that thinks they know all they can possibly know about catching bluegill and crappie are kidding themselves.

Yesterday I spent a lot of my time just sitting and watching the water. I was on a very familiar farm pond. Between the gusts of wind that frequently disturbed the water's surface, midges were emerging. The popped through the film so abruptly they actually sent out a ring of tiny ripples. Then they began to flutter their wings rapidly, propelling themselves across the surface, making a wake. Occasionally they would sit still for a few moments, but usually they were on the move and for good reason. Bluegills and crappies were cruising just below, and they ate most of the midges that attempted to emerge.

Usually this time of year my approach to farm pond bluegills does not involve any kind of retrieve. I'll typically fish a dry dropper or unweighted small nymph or soft hackle, make a cast, let it sit a long as I felt necessary, then re-cast and repeat. Today that was not the best presentation. Today they wanted flies moving. It was fun and a little bit new. A slightly different bite than I see most of the time. An opportunity to fill in another gap in my database.

Water 44° Fahrenheit.
Air 46°.
Mostly cloudy, variable gusty wind.
Midges hatching. Sz. 18.
Bluegill and crappie rising to fluttering midges.
AK Best Winged beetle and Black CDC caddis took fish, skated.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

The First Mouse Bite of the Year

The TMA's have been stocked. For me, that means it's time to throw mice. It doesn't matter how cold it is, these dumb pellet heads will probably hit mice. And if I'm  going to target freshly stocked trout, it's going to be on my terms, not theirs. How ever I can get the most enjoyment out of them, that's how I'll target them, and for me big foam topwater flies are definitely the most fun way to catch trout that aren't ready to take an Elkhair Caddis or Parachute Adams yet. 

Yesterday was a doom and gloom forecast kind of day. Big snow. I was in agreement with the forecast, it looked like it was going to be a big one. And then the low did what it looked like it would do last week, track far to the south. And we have maybe 3 inches. Maybe. 

I expected to fish in falling snow yesterday. I did, but not as much as I had hoped for. Mostly, it was just cold.  I tried to nymph for a little while, just to get an idea of where the fish had been stocked. That proved to be ineffective, so I tied on a woolly bugger, found fish, switched to the mouse, and got the first mouse munchers of the season. 

Not long after I released that rainbow, I got a little surprise. Phil Sheffield showed up. Phil and I have nearly crossed pathes on the water a few times. We were going to fish albies with our mutual friend Mark Phillipe last fall, then I slept in. But finally we found ourselves on the same water at the same time, and we had a grand old time, catching some trout, enjoying the day, having some laughs. This is the kind of day that sums up stocked trout fishing for me. If you can't do it with crazy streamers and mouse flies and with a great friend, why even bother. Right?

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Wild Water

It's spring. Not really. It's spring according to the calendar. The weather disagrees wholeheartedly and we're going to get a bunch of snow tomorrow. I say it isn't actually spring until I see the first Paraleptophlebia adoptiva. That bug , for the last 8 years, has always been the real sign for me that spring fishing is here and the sluggishness of the winter trout feeding cycle has been replaced with manic binge eating. There have been quite a few years in which this hatch, my favorite hatch, comes off strong before opening day and I've had to travel further to fish it. There are a handful of options. The streams Mark Phillipe and I fished today, I suspect, would have been a really good option in those years. But I hadn't fished either until today, and there sure as hell weren't going to be mayflies hatching today! 

I brushed the skunk away very quickly with a very healthy and good looking brown, followed a short time later by another smaller fish. We then covered an awful lot of water before catching another fish. The water was very cold in the morning, only 33-34 degrees, and it wasn't until it poked over 38 that the bite improved more.

I worked my way up the second stream, finding the kind of classic bend pools that almost always hold wild trout in these streams. Instead of the Ausable Ugly which I had fished all morning up until that point, I had tied on a Sexy Walt's Worm. I picked up a small brown and a small brookie, then a nice size heavily spotted brown, and, on the way back down, a good brookie. It was a short window of fast action.

Where we had started out in the morning there was a bridge. I never overlook a good bridge pool. I got in upstream and carefully corked the riffle at the head. No takes. I slowly lengthened my cast and waded downstream, swinging my fly along the wall. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing.
Then there was something. A heavy, throbbing, angry something.
The battle, though not long, was a good one. The fish was a very good one. Not huge by any stretch of the imagination, but definitely a small stream trophy. Size, however, just doesn't matter when a fish looks like this:

This was the perfect small stream wild brown trout. The don't get much better looking than this one.

Though it did not feel, smell, or look like spring, this was a good way to spend it. Good water and good fish with a good friend. If these things don't make you happy you should check your pulse.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Plan X

I don't know why but any time I set out with the goal of catching pike here in CT they make themselves extremely scarce. Mark and I were out for a while yesterday, fishing a few different pieces of water that are all quite likely to hold pike. We put up with the wind and the cold, long walks and bushwhacking, and we did not even so much as see a pike all day. Just a short distance upriver a friend of mine had very different results. He and his friend both caught one pike each. I'm starting to believe that CT pike actually have something against me.

As Mark and I essentially did the equivalent of running away with our tail between our legs, I spotted some movement in a piece of water we were passing. Sure enough, there were some bass and panfish down there, not 50 yards from where we had parked. We went from catching and seeing nothing to a hot and heavy sight fishing bite in no time at all. largemouth, big crappie, perch, pumpkinseeds, and bluegill... this was a classic CT warmwater multi-species honey hole. 

In my mind this was better than our actual Plan B, which had been to go for freshly stocked trout in a nearby TMA. When you are on your way from Plan A to Plan B and accidentally stumble onto something that isn't at all what you wanted in Plan A but unquestionably cooler than your Plan B, that's what I call Plan X.