Fundamentals

This weekend a new client of mine, Joe, worked on honing some fundamentals of fly casting and fly fishing in general. He is in his second season as a fly fisher and he recognized the need for some instruction and pointers.

We spent the day working on casting with a shorter and more efficient casting stroke.

Afterwards, we tackled some basics on wet fly fishing, nymphing and streamers. Despite seeing some caddis and mayfly activity, we really couldn’t work on the dry fly game- at least not this time.

We were fortunate to connect with a couple good fish like this bow. Joe missed a few more but learned valuable lessons and experience playing and landing trout.

And another….

Overall, it was a good day. We both felt he was starting off well and gaining experience and confidence. Most of all, he was practicing mastering the fundamentals.

No matter what type of fly fishing techniques you end up enjoying the most, you can’t get away from learning the basics. You truly won’t be the fly fisher you want to be until you decide to focus on that first.

Joe, I think you are starting off great and will become a fine fly fisher!

2022 Weirdness

DEEP is doing what it can to adjust to the new legislation but, I can’t help but feel awkward about it. Add to the fact that practically every river and stream has been changed from last year’s historic flooding to some degree or another, it just adds to the strangeness.

I guess we all are going to have to adjust and relearn our river systems, adjust to the new legislation, as well as the craziness of social media and its adverse effects on fishing pressure, poaching, etc.

Change is always a tough thing to swallow. I admit, I don’t do well with it but I think most people fall in that category as well. I am going to do my best to embrace the new challenges but I can say I don’t feel really good about it. Time will tell and I hope that my attitude will change as the season unfolds and be able to post a happier thoughts- oh wait- there is no more ” seasons ” – my bad !

COVID Distress

The pandemic has been distressing to say the least for a multitude of reasons. On one hand, I am glad that people have rediscovered the great outdoors. It has helped procure more business for me and given people a reason to learn fly fishing. However, this rediscovery has shown it’s ugly side and how the pandemic has also hurt the environment.

Today I fished a local TMA. I know it has been stocked several times since last year. I also know that it has been poached heavily. For the life of me, I can’t understand people’s mindset when it comes to illegal fishing, breaking the rules, and outright destroying a fishery. Why do you have to litter as well ?

Clearly, bait fisherman have been in the Fly Fishing Only section of this river. The pictures are damning evidence.

Everywhere I turned, there was evidence of this. I don’t have anything against anyone who wishes to fish conventional tackle and bait. My son still prefers his spinning rod over the fly rod and I embrace that but, when you constantly see trash left behind by careless individuals with no regard for anything, it kind of gets your blood boiling.

The larger early stone flies were out and in sufficient numbers to get trout looking up, yet run after run, pool after pool, very few fish were caught and released. I was wet fly fishing and covered a lot of water, I should have hooked up more than I did !

I did manage to catch a few stockers so I am not completely disheartened but it took some work and covering a lot of water !

Another stocked brown fell to a pair of wet flies.

Three stocked fish for the entire day on a river that could and should have been much better. It has improved in water quality over the years and as a result, improved hatches. You know the water quality has recovered when you have hatches of stone flies, Quill Gordons and Hendricksons !

Somehow, I don’t think this year’s Quill Gordon or Hendrickson is going to be fun and rewarding. In fact, everywhere I have fished, I have seen evidence of damage to streams, increased litter and depletion of trout populations, especially on TMA’s and wild trout streams.

I’m sorry to post such a distressing blog this time. I try and stay positive and encouraging with them, but today was a bit of a bummer ! I’ve seen the destruction of lives, families, and our economy from COVID-19 on my career side. Now I am seeing the devastating effects on the environment. It was present last year as well but I feel it has been compounded even more this year. I hope things turn around. I pray that it does.

Please, please, become stewards of our environment and join Trout Unlimited or some other conservation group and help protect and restore an already damaged and fragile resource even before the pandemic started.

When you are fishing, pick up after yourself. Bring a garbage bag with you and pick up what others have not. Catch and release more fish safely. And, call out poachers and those who openly and wantonly disregard regulations.

My bitching is done for now. Opening Day is this weekend. I hope that it is a fun and rewarding day for everyone. It will be if we all do our part. Good Luck & happy fishing !

Tying the Winter & Early Brown Stone

The winter and early brown stone flies are a hatch that spurs fishing activity long before the more famous Hendrickson does. Both are active when winter turns to early spring and our streams are starting to be restocked by DEEP. They are active flies and these early stones can give you a top water, large fly action much sooner in the season. In fact, I favor these flies over the Hendrickson because there is a lot less pressure on the water when they are hatching.

Here is my favorite go-to pattern for them in sizes 16 to as large as 10 or 12. Although it is a wet fly pattern, I also fish them as nymphs and dub floatant on them and skitter them on the surface as a dry. However, I have found that swinging them like traditional wets the most effective.

Tie some up and give them a try. Let me know how you do.

Hook: Traditional wet or dry fly in sizes 16 to 12

Tail: Partridge

Body: Touch dubbing of black SLF

Hackle: Black hen palmered through body

Wing: Turkey – you can use duck as well.

As always, please be a steward of the stream. Pick up after yourselves and other people’s mess. Thank adjacent landowners for their generosity in allowing fisherman access to their land. Teach someone else to fish. Show them the proper ethics of fishing. Finally, join your local conservation group or Trout Unlimited chapter and become part of the solution.

The Wet Fly & Egg

One of my favorite combinations and one that I learned from my buddy, Joe Humphreys, is to nymph a wet fly and egg pattern over freshly stocked trout. I have used this pattern combo over wild fish with great success, too, at certain times of the year.

My favorite wet fly is the Royal Coachman. I use it as my dropper and typically tie it in a larger size, like a #10. My point fly is the egg.

Typically what I encounter is that the rainbows will go after the egg most of the time but, a nice attractor wet fly will produce as well.

Browns will hit the egg equally as often but, they are suckers for the Royal Coachman as a wet fly dropper. There is something about the color combinations of the Royal Coachman that drives them crazy! Perhaps that pattern in a size #10 or #12 looks like a little wild brookie or brown ? No one really knows what they see it as but it sure has been a time honored and effective pattern for ages. I am never without a few in my chest fly box. The Royal Coachman is even deadlier on brook trout !

This pattern combination is a good one for new fly fishers to try because your odds of catching newly stocked trout with this combination is very high. Proof is in the bent rod !

Even though you may be catching stocked fish in a TMA right now, or later on in a stream that is open for taking some fish home for the pan, please be respectful of them. They are a precious commodity whether you think it or not. They offer encouragement and a sense of accomplishment and success for the new fly fisher. They provide fishing opportunities for people who don’t want to or can’t drive far to fish for trout. And, even though I practice catch and release 99.9% of the time, they provide a food source for other fisherman who do like to eat their catches regularly. Don’t get me wrong, I eat fish often but I do not take from public waters and leave those fish for others to catch and enjoy.

As always, be a good steward of the waters you fish. Pick up after yourself. Pick up after others who are less respectful. Share your knowledge. If you have been successful in one spot, share with someone near you that hasn’t. If you take fish home, don’t take your limit each and every time you are out- save some fun for everyone else. Bring someone with you and teach them fishing and conservation. Finally, join your local Trout Unlimited or local conservation group. There are too many people out there who do not share your love of fishing and the great outdoors and would be more than happy to end that for you if you are not mindful of your actions.

DEEP works tirelessly for our benefit and enjoyment. Thank them when you see them. Good luck this fishing season and I hope to see some of you out there this year.

Give this combination a try next time. I almost guarantee tight lines, big smiles, and happy faces!

The Start of 2021

ADG fly rod with Airflo DT and ECHO Ion Reel

Even though 2020 was a horrible year for my work ( EMS ), politics and the economy, guiding and the requests for fly fishing lessons, it was a good year. No doubt the requirements for social distancing coupled with a hot and dry spring and summer, contributed to a good year for anything outdoors. Will that translate into 2021 as well ? Only time will tell. I would say yes but, a UK variant of COVID is poised to run rampant here in the US soon. What that means, is that this COVID variant is far more contagious than its previous mutated versions making it even riskier than before to be gathered together. You were fairly safe with a lower risk of transmission being outdoors before, I don’t know about this one ?

That being said, Connecticut is far better off than most other states. A goodly percentage of Connecticut’s Tier 1 works have started or completed their vaccinations. Connecticut is one of six states with the lowest daily positivity rate in the country. Add to that, our state has vaccinated more people than any other state to date, including all of our senior citizens in skilled nursing facilities. What does this all mean again ? Only time will tell but we may fair better in 2021 than most other states. That may be promising for a continued spike in people wanting to learn fly fishing and being outdoors.

If the aforementioned picture is a predictor of this coming year, then we are poised to have another good fishing season providing that everyone abides the fishing regulations, minimizes litter and trash, and remains a good steward of the environment. This brookie is healthy and vibrant and fell to a Royal Coachman wet fly.

Orvis Helios 3D with Cortland DT and Galvan Torque Reel

Another good luck sign for 2021 was that we were able to get back some water this fall that we desperately needed from our severe drought. This allowed for a better spawn than I expected. Does it mean that every brook, stream or river had great spawning activity ? No, probably not, but I remain optimistic. The fact that I was catching and seeing larger holdover browns like this one still around this past fall and winter is a great sign.

ADG fly rod with Cortland DT and Hatch Finatic Reel

Seeing these little guys still around is a great sign !

Bella, my Beloved Black Lab and Fishing Girl

My fisher girl is getting better behaved each outing and has become more of a regular and trusted companion on the stream. She hasn’t disrupted too much of the water this past season so I am confident, she will only get better this season.

So….despite all that is crazy in the world right now, all that is uncertain and seemingly doom and gloom, there are some glimmers of hope. Hold on to those and lets see together what positive things will happen !

I hope everyone will remain healthy and safe this coming season. Please get your vaccinations when you can, be a good steward of the environment. Don’t take all of the fish in the ” put and take ” streams, bring your trash out with you, be kind and cooperative with other fisherman, landowners, and other people trying to enjoy the outdoors as well, and protect our TMA’s from poaching !

Finally, I would kindly ask that you please consider joining your local Trout Unlimited Chapter for participation in conservation and stream restoration. TU is a great organization to belong to and every chapter in Connecticut could use your time, efforts, and skills protecting some great fishing opportunities here in CT.

A Plea For Help

https://go.tulocalevents.org/tvtu2020

As many of you known, I am not a regular blogger. I’m not even a casual blogger. I should be more active with my website but life always get in the way. That being said, I am asking for some help.

As some of you known, in addition to my career in emergency medicine and owning a fly fishing business, I am also the Membership Chair for Thames Valley Trout Unlimited Chapter 282. Since the start of the pandemic, our chapter has been tremendously effected financially – like many other organizations and businesses. Thames Valley is one of the largest TU chapters in our state in terms of size and membership numbers but , we always could use more help, particularly with active, participating members as well as financial.

To help to continue to fight to maintain, keep, and restore viable trout and salmon habitats in Eastern Connecticut, I am pleading that anyone that reads this will consider becoming a member of our chapter and/or contribute financially through entering our sweepstake or donating. As little as $10 sweepstakes entry from each person will help out tremendously !

Below should be a link for our website where you can join at an introductory rate.

https://www.thamesvalleytu.org/

In the meantime, please stay safe, health, and enjoy the spirit of the holiday season.

Mike

Opening Day 2020


Opening Day this year was certainly a historic one for a number of reasons.

First, social distancing because of the COVID-19 pandemic has altered many people’s Opening Day traditions. Our club usually has a breakfast gathering and raffle that was cancelled. Gathering with friends to fish has been minimized as well.

Second, Opening Day this year was on my best friend and fishing buddy’s birthday. Unfortunately, he passed away this past January after a tough battle with multiple medical conditions. This will be the first season without him as a fishing buddy on the stream, particularly the club, since he was my sponsor for membership.

However, there was a silver lining to this year’s Opening Day. My friend’s son, whom I consider as a token kid of mine, proposed to his girlfriend turning this day into a bright and historic one !

Third, although Jeff is no longer with us, his spirit lives on and ” the gang ” still was able to get together and fish a little….of course practicing some social distancing to be politically and socially correct these days….LOL…whatever !

Of course, Adam out-fished Jacob and I as usual ! Plus, he was the only one who caught a tagged fish ( 1 of 4 ) to receive a gift certificate. He has always been one lucky S.O.B with a rod in his hand ! I have always chuckled at that fact but Jeff, his father who was always competitive, used to get so infuriated. Despite his competitiveness, he was always a very proud dad of that fact!

Jacob and I still had caught our fair share of fish, too ! We each caught and released a few trout and kept two for our traditional trout dinner- although this year we did not have the ” feast ” that we usually have since even grocery shopping has become tedious.

You might have noticed Jacob and I rockin’ ” Live the Stream ” attire. Joe Humphreys is a living legend and an ion within the fly fishing community- he literally is one of the best to ever have lived ! He has been a friend and mentor for many many years and at 91 still is as active and vibrant as ever- he hasn’t missed an Opening Day in Pennsylvania since he was six years old ! Jacob and I are doing our best to follow suit and create our own Opening Day traditions.

This movie is a fantastic and uplifting story about his life that everyone should see, especially now during this pandemic, even if you are not an avid fly fisherman. It won many awards during the film festivals and even won the Drake Award which is very prestigious ! I would highly recommend spending some time during this social distancing period to watch this film. It will boost your spirits no matter who you are ! Please consider purchasing this spectacular film and story. I inserted a link below.

http://www.livethestreamfilm.com/

Finally, although our Opening Day was altered this year, it certainly did not negate the fun of getting out there and enjoying a great past time ! I hope you have had some similar enjoyment. The 2020 Fishing Season has had a very unique and chaotic start but, better days are to come ! This pandemic will end eventually and we all will be able to gather again to enjoy a great fishing experience together.

Dog Days of Summer

Hot and dry summers like this year can be troublesome for die-hard trout fisherman that live east of the Connecticut River and can not get to the Farmington River. Even now, the Farmy is suffering a little because of the lack of steady rain and for the fact that Hogback Reservoir is drawn down leaving flows low and on the warmer side. This is when I switch modes for awhile and focus on uncomplicated yet rewarding fun fishing for warm water species that inhabit almost of the the river and streams in Eastern Connecticut. Don’t get me wrong, given the time and chance, I willing travel to the Farmington to guide someone or fish on my own, but when I can’t, throwing on a pair of shorts and only needing to carry a handful of flies and tippet is something pretty cool in its own right. Plus, I can be on a number of rivers in a matter of minutes getting the line wet before I would have even finished a cup of coffee driving to the Farmington.

Suckers, Bluegills, Pumpkin seeds, hybrids of each species, and fall fish are all more than willing to attack an artificial fly whether it is a dry, nymph, wet or streamer. As I have stated many times in the past, you can hone your ” trout ” skills with any of a number of warm freshwater species.

Fall fish are one of my favorites though because they can act like trout in a number of ways. Although they may not be as finicky as a trout with a particular pattern, they can be just as critical with the presentation as a trout and perhaps even more.

Finally, if you are a saltwater flyrodder you can head for the sound because late summer and fall can provide great action for species like stripers, blue fish, and false albacore. There are many other species that can be caught with a fly rod- I just named a few of the most popular and sought after.

It seems like I am always limited for time but this year, I hope to spend more time in the brine because I am a first rate neophyte when it comes to saltwater fly fishing.

Are They Wild ?

I was asked awhile back by a Thames Valley member if I could write something about distinguishing wild trout from stocked trout. I said sure but then life got in the way. I hope that many of you can relate. I thought about it some more afterwards and it dawned on me that there are quite a few factors  that go into determining whether or not a trout from one of our local Connecticut streams is wild or not.

Rather than get bogged down in graphs , statics, and all the other stuff that you might have to factor in, I thought I would just hit the highlights and speak of generalities.

For the most part when you look at a wild trout vs stocked trout, you will see striking physical differences. However, they may be deceiving if you have a river system like the Farmington River which has stocked, multi-year holdover, and truly wild trout all mixed in.  That being said, there are some common physical features that stand out with wild trout that you won’t see in other trout- even holdovers ( at least in this state). 

Here’s how I break it down. First, and probably the most important feature, is to look closely at the fins of the fish. All wild trout will have big beautiful and flawless fins. Stocked trout will have thick and stubby fins, worn out fins and sometimes one of the fins will actually be clipped . That trout is a wild brown from a club that I belong to. It is darkly colored, has colorful spots, but if you look at its right pectoral fin, it has a cut in it, not clipped. Sometimes , a wild fish will have  temporary scarring or damage to a fin if it had been digging out a red or trying to stuff itself under structure repeatedly during the day to hide. However for the most part, if you see that a trout  from a stream has flawless fins, I personally would lean towards it being a wild trout.

   A second feature that I would look at is the adipose fin. Many stocked trout have this fin clipped off. Almost all of the wild trout that I have seen in this state have a colored adipose fin that is either red or orangish. Again, however, a multi-year holdover may have a darkened adipose fin but not necessarily a vibrant colorful one. This brown was caught in a Class 1 WTMA.

Next I would look for colorful spots on its side with or without halos around them as well as halos around their brown spots. Most wild trout from this state will have either orange or red spots. But, you can’t go by that distinction alone. If you look up to the top of this blog, you will see the trout has colorful spots with halos, and what you can’t see is that it does have a colorful adipose. Plus, it is smaller in size that we stock at our club so it is a wild brown.

A Perfect Specimen

Another common physical feature that you see is a blue dot around the gill plate and/or a blue hue. I have never seen a stocked trout with these particular features. I do know that various strains throughout the United States and around the world differ in appearances but in terms this state, you can probably assume that it is wild when you see these.

Also, wild trout will have darker colors and look more vibrant than stocked fish. Stockies will most likely have a  ” washed out ” look. My fishing club uses a hatchery from Pennsylvania that delivers very beautiful looking trout but they still have a dullish appearance compared to the streams wild inhabitants.

Back to fins for a moment…wild trout will also have huge caudal fins ( tails ). If you look at the trout above, it has a very large caudal fin.

 Another feature that I look for are parr markings. Most likely if you see a young-of-year fish with parr marks on them in a trout stream, it is most likely wild. This alone can be deceiving though since our state can stock supplemental fingerlings and/or small stockies. I have caught stocked rainbows with their parr marks still on them. The brookie you see above is from a  ” blue line ” in Pennsylvania and is certainly wild.

Back to the fins again….a wild trout will have nice translucent fins. As you can see this wild brown has a very translucent anal fin. It’s pelvic is less visible but also very translucent. A stocked trout would not have this feature. This particular brown was caught on a Class 1 WTMA.

Finally, I would look at the size of the trout. For instance, my club does not stock any trout below 12 inches so when I catch a small brown, brookie, or rainbow below that size , then I can assume that it is wild. When I take in the account all of the other feature(s), then I can certainly deduce whether or not a trout is wild.

Connecticut has a vast amount of water that supports wild brown trout….and brook trout to a lesser degree. Based off of this map, you can be in any part of this state and have the potential to catch a wild trout. If you find yourself with a trout that looks wild to you and it has some or all of the distinguishing features  that I mentioned then chances are that it .

 

 My buddy  Joe always  says:  ” You can  delete  always and never  from your vocabulary. ” This  is true in many ways. Any Ichthyologist could probably  find some  fault in the  methods I described but, if you research the fishing data of your local waters and then apply some of it to your own fishing,  I think you will start to find it easier to identify a wild trout if you key in on some of the common physical features of wild trout in our state.

As always, be a good steward of your local environment and become  active with your local TU chapter  or conservation  group. As the newly elected  Membership  Chair for  Thames Valley TU ( chapter 282 ), we will always welcome more members ! Hope to see you out there some day.  And, get fishing ! You only have one life, you might as well enjoy a little of it !