Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Flies, That Simplicity Thing Again.

Simplicity and elegance can be one in the same when it comes to trout flies. If you open almost any fly tying book you'll see pages of Catskill dry flies. Most everyone of these patterns will show you just how elegant a fly can be. Most of the Catskill flies are tied very sparse, their bodies of hair are very thin and the wings so precise it's almost as if every fiber were counted by the tyer. Some of these flies have tails that are set in with two or three thin fibers with a barring to them that is precise. Yes these flies although beautiful will be tough enough to hook and hold many wise trout.

The flies I have tied in this post are not of the Catskill style. These are flies that take on a different style, a style more like "meat and potatoes" flies but they to have a certain elegance in there style and do they catch fish.

This is a variant of the "Partridge and Yellow soft hackle. In this fly I used somewhat longer mallard feathers in place of partridge. The longer feather gives a life to the fly that trout find hard not to eat. As it drifts it looks to be a struggling birth, a still-born, perhaps a dying spinner, or an insect that fell of a log.

The first two patterns in my hand are Hornberg dry flies. Simplicity to the max. Silver tinsel body, yellow hackle underwing, mallard overwing, and a few turns of grizzly hackle. This fly either fished dry or wet has been a good fish producer for me. You don't need a fly box full of fancy flies, flies from 10 to 28, to flies with that perfect shade of olive dubbing. Just give the trout what they like.....

A beautiful male wild brook trout, who could not resist a simple Hornberg.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Year to Year, The Natives Survive

We have been in a moderate drought since mid-July. And I've been concerned that this is a trend that has started several years ago where our summers and early fall have had below normal rainfall. Now I don't know the reason for this, and do not want to go in that direction of climate change. I for one do not have the knowledge to put forth a good case for it and will leave that to experts on another forum to debate it. But what I will show you is that this low rainfall has been going on for some time and from where I look it doesn't seem to be having an effect on the small stream brook trout, that is where I fish.

The fact that these fish carry on, and in some cases proliferate small streams as they have in years past. This is one stream I'll highlight. Its located in northwest Connecticut. I have fished this stream for years and hve never seen it dry up, there's always water flowing into some deeper pools. The Vegetation is thick so there is ample cover, and some of the boulders are so large you could park your car under them. In years past the wild brookies here have been small and a 6 inch fish will be remembered. This is now and also the first time I cast a fly here.

The photos here are of the same pool only a few years apart. In the top photo brook trout were spawning, and this was late October I believe. This photo is the pool in September of this year. The brook trout were here and appeared to be getting ready to continue their life cycle.

There were four brook trout in this pool. One darted away, and the others stayed. Looking at them one does have that female look and the larger one may be a male. The smaller one looks to be a dace, I can't really tell. It's good to see our natives adapting to what nature gives them and carrying on.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

A Farmington River Trifecta

I was able to get out on the Farmington for a few hours Thursday. I have a couple of spots I can fish without to many distractions, other than beavers or an eagle from time to time and this day was no exception. I started fishing soft hackles and the action was slow. Several hits, but not a hook-up. I changed to streamers and the result was no better. I set my mind on a day that was to be absolutely beautiful in every aspect of a Farmington outing except that the fish to hand count would be not stellar.

It is on days like this when I like to experiment with flies I have not fished or flies I have not fished in some time. Pulling out the box and fumbling to pull out a fly that had been stuck there since, well I can't remember. I was a caddis dry and it's hackle was bent out of shape, a real deformity of sorts. Well I tied it on and off it went to seek a hungry trout. Two casts and "what in the hell was that" a rise and a take and fly and fish gone. Big fish I thought but more likely poor knot. I reached for another fly that has been in the box for months. A brown soft hackle dry fly. On it went, with a secure knot, and into the river. I cast that fly enough and was going to change after a few more tries. Suddenly a big swirl and a big take. I knew I was into a good fish. After a strong run the fish took a series of jumps, that's when I saw him. It's a big rainbow. I was fishing a Cabelas glass rod, 6'2" 2wt, and that rod handled it very well. Moments later the big trout lay at my feet. I knew I was not going to be able to lift him out for a photo so I snapped a pic while he was in the water. I turned him right side up and held him in the current and soon he was back into that black hole.

I moved to another location and was in the process of trying to coax a few rising fish. I heard a voice say "hello brook trout" looking I saw "The Fisherman" Steve Culton. I have not seen Steve since we tied together at the CFFA fly tyers roundtable back in March. We talked a spell and made all things right with the angling world and said so long and went on to attempt to have a stellar day. Steve's blog "currentseams" is always a good read.

Back to the river and to those rising fish. I managed to take a beautiful brook trout on the soft hackle dry. I had hoped to take a few more until a submerged log took the fly.

So back in the box and out comes a "bomber", A staple fly on a small stream now called to service on the big river to temp a selective bunch of sipping risers. A few drifts and stops and a take. It was a nice brown, that was very spunky.

The "bomber" did here what it does on the small streams, get trout to take it. This was the most beautiful fish of the day.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The First Day Of Autumn 2015

Yesterday was the first day of Autumn. Up at 5 and soon out the door for a 3 hour drive north to spend this day with Jeanette walking the trails and woods of the lovely State of Vermont. We had absolutely splendid weather with sunny skies and cool dry temps. We both carried water but I think a cup of coffee would have been welcomed. Vermont like all of New England has been in a mild rain deficit. Things are dry, and the streams low and clear, but very cool a saving grace. Hopefully a rain storm or two will put things back into shape.

Some of the trails were steep, but well maintained and with a shade of caution were easily negotiated.

Some of you might recognize this river. The area was showing some early color, which we thought to be beautiful. What really stood out were the apple trees along many of our walking trails. These trees were loaded. Seems the lack of rainfall did not affect the crop.

One of the trees we stopped at to harvest some of the semi-sweet apples. A half day pack full came home and is destined for baking with a crumb topping.
Today on this second day of Autumn I spent on the Farmington.....that report next post.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Streams of Waquoit Bay, Massachusetts

This is the acorn trail, a name given to it by me because of the large amount of scrub oak tress that line it, and scrub oaks mean acorns and lots of them. On crisp mornings when walking they crunch under foot and make a wonderful sound. The trail follows the stream, a stream that we have fished before. Jeanette says it's her favorite, because of the simply wild surroundings located in an area with many people. In the times we have been here we have only met a man and his black lab. I favor this area for it is home to another Cape Cod sea run brook trout stream. The stream starts inland and gains volume from the many springs that feed it ice cold water. It flows, meanders to the sea at Waquoit Bay. This stream has some very strong brook trout and every one hooked the chances for bringing one to hand are not good, at least for this angler. But the rewards come in many other ways.

We spent many hours on the stream that day and I was able to graduate from another class on fishing for wild brook trout with a taste for salt.

These waters possess a clarity that makes you wonder how fish are not consumed by herons and ospreys. When standing and looking into the stream I saw various little fish from herring fry to mini eels to brook trout fry. I guess that's why streamers work so well.

It's difficult to tell from this photo but the water in this pool was waist high, and this is where I encountered my first brook trout.

The brook trout put the Cabela Glass Rod 3wt to the supreme test. He bulldogged the bottom, ran up and down, entangled the watercress, and leaped several times before giving up. A quick photo and off he went. I'm having his photo printed and I will frame it for he was indeed a special catch.

Streamers...not many patterns are necessary, just a few in different sizes. I like marabou patterns best.

This was the average size of the brook trout brought to hand not hooked.

A true story. I was fishing this run with a streamer. Several drifts brought a strike and a miss. On another pass the trout struck and it was violent. A battle ensued and I got the upper hand. I knew the trout was big but never realized just how big until I could see him. At first glanced he looked to be 16 inches. Jeanette was looking and said your going to have trouble landing that fish. He would not stop the strong runs. Finally I managed to sort of subdue him and was lifting him over a underwater obstacle when he threw the streamer. That fish was 18 inches. He sat for a moment to let me look and then was gone. Do you know what a 18 inch wild brook trout can do to your nerves? I've taken one that big in Maine many years ago and it is like nothing else.

Notice the pale coloration. Has he been at sea?
Another lesson...I continued to fish that same pool and caught a brook trout on a dry fly. I always try once or twice to bring one of these fish to the surface, this is the second time in the years I've fished these salter streams and actually taken trout on a dry.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Angling History, The Lyman Cottage

The Lyman Cottage
On our recent visit to Red Brook we were invited to take a tour of the Lyman cottage on the grounds of this reserved property. We were hosted by Warren Winders, of Trout Unlimited, Geoff Day, of the Sea-Run Brook Trout Coalition, Megan Duffy, and Brittany Morford, I hope I got everyone's name spelled correctly. They were very gracious and informative and I hope to convey their words to you.

The Lyman family bought several acres of land that bordered Red Brook. They were enamored by the sea run brook trout that called this stream home, and in future times were to be a force in getting this wonderful stream and land protected. Hal Lyman knew that doing this would require the help of others and so Warren Winders was there to answer his request. Along with TU, the Mass. Fish and Wildlife, and others the project was started. The result of endless hours of volunteer work on the brook and the land, planting native plants, trees, helping to stabilize the stream banks, and the removal of several dams. They also reached agreements with the major cranberry grower in the area, to purchase land to protect Red Brook all the way to where it starts.

Our tour of the cottage was a walk back in history. Although wealthy, the Lyman's cottage was modest and it was laid out to be a simple retreat from the rigors of everyday life.

The concept of catch and release was not used in the early days of Red Brook. Here on the wall were wood cut-outs of the fish from Red Brook, these were impressive brook trout. Most of these fihs were to be fine table fare in the cottage for supper. I could see the menu....baked sea-run brook trout, fried potatoes, baked beans and bread, wish I were there at the supper table.

The Lyman's kept journals of their catches. Here is a metal tag on one of the wood cut-outs.

Almost unbelievable the size of the sea-run brook trout that swam in the brook.

"Simplicity" of the reasons I love this place.

One of the streamer flies that were kept in the plaques. I determine it was either an Edson Tiger Light, or the Dark Version, maybe a "Wardens Worry". The "Muddler Minnow" was also a popular fly.

I would like to thank these wonderful people for taking the time to show Jeanette and I this beautiful piece of angling history. From left to right...Warren Winders, Geoff Day, Megan Duffy, Brittany Morford. Not in the picture but also deserving much credit in the work of this valuable fishery is Steve Hurley, biologist for the Mass. Fish and Wildlife.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Red Brook September 2015

We just got back from a few days of roaming the streams of Cape Cod in search of wild brook trout. These are also known as "salters" they are the sea-run variety who also find the the waters of the salt water bays to their liking. This stream is a favorite of mine, and I have fished it many times over the years. I first fished here at the time when the first dam on Red Brook was dismantled. This was an achievement which was to begin a restoration that would see all of the dams removed and open the brook to prime spawning areas and give these very unique brook trout a home.

The Lyman Reserve, a conserved area where Red Brook flows through is just as beautiful as the brook trout that call its waters home. There are wonderful pine trees which seem to dominate, mixed in are mini-oak with the smallest of acorns. As Jeanette said you could fish here all day and not catch a fish, and still be fulfilled.

Walking these woods trails after a cool night and seeing the dew on the oak leaves is a start to a day that will put most of your cares aside.

Red Brook....places as such will perhaps hold a brook trout, maybe two. It does hold the ability to captivate and to bring your mind into focus as to what Red Brook really means to those who have seen it.

The watercress that moves gently in the current can be a target that you'll never miss. An anglers fly will find these beautiful green blooms on many attempts to gain that right drift. But it's these areas that provide cover for the brook trout.

After turning over a few brook trout I was finally able to hook and bring to hand my first Red Brook trout to hand. The fish was stunning as it's colors showed through the watercress. The sun was in the right spot to enhance my pleasure.

The water was cold and a check of the stream proved just how cold it really was. Fifty four degrees, just as Jeanette said it would be.

Another wonderful pool. Red Brook is filled with such places, one more beautiful than the last.

A wild brook trout, maybe one that has been to the salt, or perhaps this maybe the first time he'll venture out. The trout was into it's fall coloration which are stunning.

This morning we were to meet members of the Massachusetts Fish and Wildlife, Trustees of the Reservations, Trout Unlimited, and The Sea-Run Brook Trout Coalition, who were about to do a stream survey. A very necessary task to check the health of Red Brook's "salters". The fishing would be not so good after the shocking so we headed for the bay to try our luck there.

Buttermilk Bay, and the mouth of Red Brook. More to come in the next post.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

See you soon.........

Going to be away for a few days casting flies to interested adipose finned fish.

Friday, September 11, 2015

A Fall Fly...

A day or so ago Rowan over at the Connecticut Fly Angler did a blog post about fall patterns. He had several fly boxes along with several close-ups with jointed streamers. Gazing as closely as I could I saw many fine selections of flies that will tempt trout and salmon. But as I scanned the flies over and over I could not see one of what I would consider to be the ultimate fall fly. The "Hornberg". This is a very old pattern and has been in my box since first going to Maine and seeing what seemed like endless sizes and colors of this fly.

This fly was created by Frank Hornberg of Wisconsin. It has a history that is somewhat conflicting and that can be said about many of these old patterns. The one fact that can't be disputed is that the Hornberg catches fish...big fish. Here in my Connecticut waters I have taken lots of trout, and bass on the Hornberg. Years ago before the time when I carried a digital camera photos were not taken and several big fish were not on film, but the memory of these is tucked into my minds journal. Two of these memories I'll share briefly with you.

While fishing the Rangeley River in and area known as the "Bathtub" I was working a big Hornberg through some heavy swirling waters. The fly was sucked under and pulled through a slack spot. Suddenly I saw the head of a big brook trout come up and suck the fly in. I could feel the weight of this fish as it headed for the bottom. I did my best to coax this fish to me but it would not go along with me. After several attempts at moving the trout he did just that and that was it. He came up and headed for heavy fast water and was last seen headed for Mooselookmeguntic Lake. Another time while fishing the Magalloway River I had a salmon slam the Horngerg as I stripped it back as a streamer. This fish estimated to be 20+ inches, I guess this from the number of times he jumped. These big fish know just where to go when in trouble and this one was no different.

In the first photo is a fly rod with a Hornberg.

Hornbergs as dry flies
There are many variations of the Hornberg and I have posted several here.

Hornberg to fished like a streamer

Yellow Honbergs are very effective

This Connecticut brook trout has a connection with the fly and fly rod in the first photo.

The Hornberg I used to take many trout. It should be in the fly box of every angler who will fish for trout and salmon in the fall, especially in New England.

Walt, a size 6 Hornberg. The soft hackle is a 14