Tonight was our [ Thames Valley TU ] annual chapter event titled ” Flies & Pies ” where our members, their family and friends, and guests gather together to have pizza and enjoy a whole host of activities. There were fly tying tables for folks to learn from some of the best tiers around. In addition, there was an art exhibit, various tables of gear to purchase or swap, and two local Eastern Connecticut fly shops as well, offering tying material and tying equipment for sale. Of course I have to mention that there were boxes and boxes of pizza to eat along with cookies, popcorn, soda, and COFFEE !
A great thrill for me was Jacob having school break and being able to attend this event. He was very happy to be able to use his new fly tying starter kit and get some EXPERT help. He won big tonight as well with a raffle door prize and a mini bobbin set !
A stitched up pinky finger was not going to deter him from tying tonight ! He received expert tips from Steve Babbitt, a friend of mine who happens to be one of if not the most knowledgeable and experienced guide for Eastern Connecticut. Steve is also one of the finest fly tiers I have ever met. By the way, I won, too ! Steve tied up some tiny BWO’s for me knowing that I despise tying the micro sizes. Thanks Steve !
Jacob with his other raffle prize, a mini bobbin set. Pictured with him is John Preston who is a former president of the chapter and instrumental in keeping it going and viable. John is still one of the most active members to date ! Thanks for all of your work and efforts John.
Of course we are always looking for more members so if you have the time and want to get involved, become a member of Trout Unlimited.
I think the forest is beautiful all the time but even when it is prime time spring and ” coming alive ” again, I still don’t think that it compares to what the forest looks like after a fresh snow.
Our last snowfall dumped roughly 4 inches in parts of Eastern Connecticut and created a 2 hour delay for my kids school. Since that did not give me a tremendous amount of time to fish until they came home from school, I had to rush to a local wild trout stream for a brief outing. I chose this particular one because I would not have to wade and could be satisfied with hitting a spot or two and calling it a day.
Even though I was pressed for time, I still take the time to appreciate the beauty and surrounds of the forest.
The little black stones were everywhere along the snow banks of the stream and on top of the rocks within the brook itself. What hearty little creatures !
I managed to catch this one little guy on top. Sadly, he was the only one of that day and I was quiet surprised that it wasn’t more productive. That being said, I was not as flexible as I should have been and didn’t tried other techniques like wets, nymphs, or micro streamers. But, one is better than none and this little native certainly doesn’t lack in color and beauty either. Wintery forest beauty + little native brown = Great Day !
Boy, I have to say that I’ve had a pretty good run of good weather on my days off so far this year. And, each time out I’ve caught fish. Since my kids were off from school today due to it being MLK Day, I coaxed my son into getting out in the afternoon. First I had to battle it out with him in a nerf gun war in our basement this morning until it warmed up some…it’s tough to be a daddy some times ! By 2pm, I was ready to scramble to the stream with Jacob in tow. For some reason he didn’t want to go at first but I knew once he was there, the curiosity of a 7 year old would take over and he’d be fine.
I was happy that his waders still fit and that he was willing to flog the water with a fly rod today rather than his spinning rods.
Like I said, I was counting on the curiosity of a boy to come through once we were actually on the water.
…And… bugs, because little boys love bugs ! By habit I take a sample of every stream I fish even if I’ve been on it before. Jacob loves bugs !I mistakenly one time forgot to clarify that we do not collect bees, wasps, or hornets ! One summer he found out quickly as to why we don’t bother with them !
This stream does not have a huge or heavy population of mayfly species but it is heavy with caddis. Today, we observed several species of caddis larva as well as midge larva and a few immature mayflies.
Since I knew we were on a stretch of stream that holds a bunch of brookies, I figured that a classic wet fly like the Silver Doctor would be a good fly for him to swing and hold downstream. I was a little worried that the size of the stream and casting room would be a problem but, I also thought that since the water was cold that if he was able to get to cast downstream and have the patience to hold it there long enough, a brookie would eventually lose all control and hit the fly- brookies just love silver and gold tinseled bodied flies.
But…no dice. They were not willing participants for him in that area. I’m guessing that we were too close and he was casting too often. Oh well, I know that they are still there and there is always another day.
So, we moved down stream to deeper pocketwater sections and switched to a small Wood Special Variant. This one has a red body. I believe that the original pattern called for an orange body. Also, I don’t have jungle cock eyes on it either because I ran out of them.
Boom…the one and only brookie for this session. Fantastic ! I just wanted him to get one and remain positive and enthusiastic about fishing. After 2 hours, we headed out to meet mommy and his sister for dinner at one of his favorite restaurants- Friendly’s.
So, for this kid, today, it was win…win…win…win all around. He had a day off from school, a nerf war with daddy, fishing with daddy, and ice cream !
And for me, it was a win…win…win…win, too. He was a happy boy all day, I got out on the stream with my son even though I didn’t fish per se, no rods were broken in the process, and a fish was caught !
I love brookies. I think they are the most regal of all fish. Their beauty is unmatched in the natural world in my mind. I love where they live and how tough they must be to survive. I love that they’ll take many different types of flies. Most of all, I love how they still readily take traditional wet flies that were popular between the 1830’s to the 1950’s and beyond. Some of those traditional wet flies were made famous by these little creatures and because of that fact are eternally inseparable.
This is not a traditionally tied Paramachene Belle. My wing is a bit long and made of goose and not duck. I have more wraps of tinsel than should be on a traditional fly ( 5 is the gold std ) but, it still resembles the original and was just as effective. My goose wings were not married as well as if I used duck and were more flimsy, too. That being said, I will still fish a poorly constructed fly because presentation matters most !
I love the spunk that they have no matter how small they are and will take a fly almost too big for their mouths. This one wacked a #10 Grizzly King in 20 degree weather, today.
I love that even though it is winter, brookies are usually active and will take flies on the bottom, come up through the water column to take wets, or even rise to a dry fly if conditions are right. Most of all, I love how they equally match if not surpass the beauty of a snow covered stream in January.
I ventured out today to hit a brook that was highly recommended by a friend of mine who is a small stream aficionado and a champion of them. Since he knows that I’m a small stream nut, too , he gave me this brook’s name. I try and not divulge too much information or show very descriptive pictures to protect these fragile environments and their priceless jewels that reside in them.
I arrived around 10 am and by 10:30 am, I was into my first fish…woohoo… it was going to be a great day !
I try and only show pictures of fish but sometimes that conveys exactly where you have been, too. This small brown loved a small Silver Doctor wet fly. I love to fish the ” old ” flies on small brooks. Something about it conjures up an era that seems to be missed by so many fly fishers today, especially of my generation and younger. I guess I just like fishing the ” old school ” way.
Since it was so mild today, the brookies were willing to go to the surface, too. They seemed to like a small Royal Wulff, another favorite of mine.
The color and beauty of eastern brook trout is unmatched by anything in nature and it demands their utmost protection. They are true survivors but need our help protecting them with conscientious land and water use and development, water quality assessments, and other conservation measures.
Fishing small streams isn’t just about fishing for small native browns and brookies, its about enjoying peace and solitude where not everything is measured by size. This tree is small compared to the surrounding ones but it stands out.
Fishing small streams you get to hear the hushed babbling of a runoff tributary into the main stem of the brook. Everything about a small stream is contrary to urban settings and larger river systems that civilization has built itself around. I, too, am a champion of these places !
My family and I were blessed to have 2016 a healthy and prosperous one, except for the guiding, but a good portion of that was beyond my control. However, I can not say that for many patients of mine and their family’s that I’ve come across last year- including some old friends. That being said, I wish them all the best for the coming year and for so many of them that had died, may they have eternal peace with our Lord.
Since emergency medicine is my primary career, I see far too many unnecessary, unfortunate, and senseless tragedies. I don’t whine or complain about them and in all honesty, my family only knows about a minute fraction of what I see and experience.
So, fishing has been and will always remain a great way to relax, distress, and contemplate. And, being outdoors I’m keenly aware of how graceful God really is, and how thankful I am for His guidance and protection, and for my family that wholly embraces my fishing endeavors.
I have been following several blogs of guys in Connecticut that are small stream nuts like myself. Last year I became friends with Mark Wittman of Fishing Small Streams. He has a great blog as well as Alan of Small Stream Reflections. They, with a few other guys, get together each New Year’s Day to fish and celebrate the New Year. I was graciously offered to join but couldn’t since my kids were still on school break and my wife had to work last night. I sure wish I could have joined them but I couldn’t sneak away for that amount of time. But, I did get a chance to get out and fish my club stream for a little over an hour.
I arrived shortly after noon and the air temp was already 43 degrees. I quickly took a water temp and found it to be 44 degrees. Spring fed brooks are almost always in a comfortable zone for trout no matter what season.
Some other evidence that this brook is largely spring fed is the presence of duckweed and other vegetation that thrives in cold spring-fed water and remains green in the winter.
It felt like everything was coming together to be a beautiful day- it was ! Although I didn’t get to fish long, I didn’t have to because a few quick brookies were all that I needed to see.
In the winter I try not to do a lot of wading or if I do, it’s not deep so that I say as warm as possible for the longest time. I chose to hug the banks and work wets downstream , holding them in productive seams as long as I could. The rewards are in the picture. You can never go wrong with a Royal Coachman wet ! I’ve caught more trout in small streams on this fly than any other. Joe Humphreys who is a good friend of mine is never without one as well and he’s the absolute best in small streams !
I usually like to fish upstream but that is not always the best course of action, particularly when you want to work a fly slowly over one particular spot. Wet flies down stream is the best method for this run because your flies will hang and hold tight along the bank which shelters and holds fish, and is the deepest part, too.
I’m using my custom 7.5 foot 6 weight ADG Titanium rod. It offers the extra length to hold line over currents and it is extremely sensitive to feel ” takes ” from the fish before you even see the line move or water swirl. The heavier weight line lets me load the rod and cast distance without hardily even moving the rod !
Our club uses a hatchery from Pennsylvania so these brookies have a PA look to them. Anything under 12 inches is a stream born native.
With a few fish caught and released ( a couple did not want to cooperate with the camera ), I decided that I was rewarded enough for the day and headed home with a big smile on my face reveling in the fact that 2017 was starting out in a fantastic way !
My son and I were fortunate enough to have the time to join other members of my TU Chapter ( TVTU # 282 ) to tour the Quinebaug Valley Trout Hatchery on October 22nd. My son had a blast and the tour with staff was quite an enlightening experience. There was so much information provided and discussed that it is difficult to remember it all. But, my brain is not entirely full of emergency medicine and can still process other stuff, which for me, revolves around fishing- everything else- there’s not much room…haha. So, I’ll try and pull out the most relevant and useful information from my synapses and pass along what I can recall. I hope it will enlighten you too.
This is the largest and one of three hatcheries within the state of Connecticut. It is primarily tasked, along with the Burlington Hatchery, to provide stockable size trout for recreational trout fishing on our rivers, streams, lakes, and ponds. The Kensington Hatchery is specialized and perhaps in the future I’ll write something about that one.
Connecticut’s trout hatchery system exists in order to provide supplemental trout fishing since natural reproduction would not be able to sustain the pressures of thousands of anglers each year. At best, a wild trout could take up to 3-4 years to reach what is generally considered stockable size ( 9-15 inches ). At this hatchery, trout can reach this size in as little as 16-18 months.
This hatchery was established in 1971 and is one of the largest and most modern hatcheries in the entire Northeast. It produces roughly 500,000 to 600,000 trout per year that are in the 9-15 inch range. It also holds large broodstock fish that can produce around 2.5 to 3 million fertilized trout eggs each year.
It also produces another 250,000 trout each year that gets transferred to the Burlington Hatchery where they will be held until they are stocked in the spring.
The state of Connecticut takes their disease free fishery status very seriously. These are huge barrels of Formalin that they dilute to create the solution that they use to clean the tanks and ponds. They also have tubs, trays, and matts that have this stuff in it and as you move from one building to another, you have to decon your shoes. When you stock, the nets used are to remain contaminant free as well- meaning that they can not touch the water otherwise they are isolated and decontaminated before use again.
Having ” disease free ” fish allows them to produce more quality fish and avoid any mass killing within the tanks or grow-out ponds. It also allows the state to sell the fertilized eggs and trout to be sold to other surrounding states- Rhode Island is one of them.
This one of the 48 or 50 six foot tanks within the Hatch House. This is where the sac fry and fingerlings are moved to after incubation and reared until they are large enough to be transferred to the intermediate building. Each tank has rough 50,000 fish and as they grow it will decrease to roughly 5,000 on down to 300 or so until they are moved again to a grow-out pond outside. From there, they will wait and continue to grow until they are stocked. Unfortunately, we were not able to see the eggs and incubation due to it being beyond that time frame. As you might imagine, it is a very systematic process and kept to a regulated schedule as much as possible.
This is my son, Jacob, in awe as too how many fish are in each tank. I’m not sure how many were in there but, this is one of the 20 foot tanks in the intermediate building. This is where they are feed fed by timer and start to pack on size and weight.
Here he is touching a broodstock rainbow. As I have stated before, this hatchery does hold on to some broodstock. They are kept in these long cement tanks for spawning purposes. Fish are separated out as they spawn so that they can be stripped of eggs and sperm. One of the tricks to see if a female is full of eggs or not is to see within the tank where they are. If they are near the bottom of the tank, then they are full of eggs.
To artificially produce daylight changes as one of the spawning triggers, the hatchery uses these giant curtains.
Jacob is learning what the color of each pipe means. The hatchery is down to using roughly 2200 gallons of water per minute from 5,000. Age of the hatchery, drought, and budgetary cutbacks have all attributed to a decline , somewhat. This hatchery is under the process of reconstruction and modernization which should help in the future.
The water that they use in the hatchery gets recycled a lot and by the time it reaches outside, it is not as clean and pure. The white and light blue colored pipes signifies how clean the water is. The smaller fish in the outside grow-out ponds as well as brookies can not tolerate less clean water and are held in certain tanks.
This is one of the 50 foot grow-out ponds/tanks outside that are covered with nets to combat avian bird as well as other animal predation. From here, the fish are reared until they are stocked.
I love small brooks and streams and cherish fishing for native brookies and browns. I also love traveling throughout this state and fishing new waters each year. This state has a lot of publicly accessible trout fishing , and quality trout fishing, in part due to supplemental trout stocking. Fishing over stocked fish for the first few days and/or weeks after they are put into a river, lake, or stream might not be the most demanding fishing out there but without the hard work from DEEP staff, we as fisherman, would not have nearly the quality of fishing that we are fortunate enough to experience all year long !
So, the next time you see anyone from the DEEP in their vehicles stocking fish or game, surveying land, or taking water samples, stop and thank them. They earned it ! Also, I encourage anyone to join their local Trout Unlimited Chapter and get involved to help protect and conserve our fragile resources. With the cooperation of the DEEP, we can accomplish a lot of great things. In addition, take some personal responsibility and pick up after yourselves, ask permission to fish private lands, and if you desire to keep fish, take only a few at a time from any give spot. Every little step helps in the overall effort to maintain quality trout fisheries.
As you can tell I have a special love for fishing small streams and brooks. They, in an of themselves, create a certain peace and serenity that I definitely need often considering what I do as a profession, and what daily life throws at me. They provide an intimacy with fly fishing that larger creeks, streams, and rivers do not have. Also, I feel that natures surroundings look more beautiful even though mountain laurel grows along larger flowing water, too.
” Little B’s ” whether they are named or unnamed waters generate curiosity as you explore them. Are they cool spring fed trickles or are they warmer wetlands drainage from a beaver impoundment or swamp ? Do they hold fish ?
They create casting challenges like no other ! You may think your a hot shot caster on a river like the Farmington or Housatonic but, can you cast 20, 30, or even 40 feet in tight cover and confined spaces ? Even if a stream has a somewhat open canopy above, your never going to have enough space along the edges to cast freely like you would on an open river. I know that in certain circumstances you can get very close and catch some fish but to be more successful more often, distance is the key !
In the above caption, I covered the tail of the pool first and moved off to the side for more casting freedom. I also have shot successive casts further and further up to the head of this pool. That picture is not an optical illusion, it is about 25-30 feet up to the head of it. And, that’s where a few brookies were.
People often ignore casting around structure, whether it is the fact that they don’t want to lose a fly or they are not confident of their casting accuracy, I don’t know. I see it while fishing the larger rivers, too. Structure in any river large or small is apt to hold fish ! So, I’ll fish that stuff hard- behind it, around it, and even over it. Let that stuff help you get better drifts !
Brookies and browns are very structure oriented and if the water has any depth to it then it should hold something.
This time of the year, fish start to gravitate to the pools for water depth and cover. Pools also collect a greater portion of food for the fish.
As they begin to congregate, they develop a hierarchy so that the largest fish take up spaces that offer the most food, greatest water depth, and most oxygen. The smaller ones stay away from the bigger ones for obvious reasons- they could get eaten !
With that said, oftentimes, the largest fish are the most aggressive- they need the most food. So, if you catch a small one or two in the head or tail or even in the middle off to the side, then fish out the pool to see if the largest is still there. But, if you catch the largest and most dominant fish first, then move on- you caught the best fish !
This guy is gonna dominant a whole block !
Little B’s are those tiny little brooks that you see on maps or perhaps drive by in your car on your way to work that seem too small to sustain any life, however, if you stop and actually look, these ” little b’s ” are much more dynamic than they appear even from 10 feet away, looking down from a road or along a ridge line of the forest.
I try and not post pictures that are too revealing in an attempt to protect the fragility of these little jems because they can not support hordes of fisherman seeking to slaughter brook trout for the frying pan. I do realize that there are some small stream die-hards and aficionados that might pick up the location(s) of some of these pictures but I know that they will keep hush, and let me know if one is too revealing !
Here in CT., most of our little b’s start out as tiny trickles from swampy or bogy pockets of water within a watershed area. Or, if they are luck, tiny spring seeps from underground water held within outcroppings of slate, shale, or limestone. Our geologic make-up is mostly a glacial till mess but we do have some small pockets of these special stones. These seemingly meaningless drabs of running water move on and on to become viable streams and brooks. And, they progress onward to become larger and larger waterways to form higher order rivers and eventually end up in our great seas and oceans of the world.
So, you can see that by not paying attention to these little b’s and letting careless pollution or development carry on without strict oversight can harm us all eventually ! Now I’m not here to spout off about global warming, climate change, or any of the other hot bed environmental issue- I’m simply stating that at the local level, we have dramatic implications regarding preserving our cold water sources because without cold water sources that are clean and pure the trout don’t survive and if the trout don’t survive, we don’t survive !
And, those tiny trickles pick up volume and size and move on down stream into larger Little B’s.
Now they become Little B’s that are fishable for the most regal of all trout, the eastern brook trout! ( Although technically it’s not a trout but a char )
Each little stream creates little brook trout with distinctive coloring and markings and the true small stream die-hards can tell from pictures which brooks or watersheds they are from. These markings are their name tags and can indicate what type of water quality they have and/or food supply. They also show whether or not they have a good supply of gene pool mixing which can signal if they are going to survive as a species or ultimately perish.
How can they perish ? Well, if a portion of the brook dries out due to a micro draught or poorly designed development drains underwater aquifers, or a new road with poorly designed drainage cuts the species off from one another, the gene pool eventually weakens and the species as a whole becomes weaker and unable to survive the rigor of nature and man’s impact on their existence. In addition, dams, poor viaducts, and other naturally permanent and semi-permanent barriers can cut them off from one another.
Connecticut, through TU chapters and other conservation groups, with the help of DEEP, are making headways into reestablishing headwaters but it is a long and slow process- too long, slow and costly , but it is being done none-the-less.
Also, DEEP with the aid of UCONN, are monitoring some streams and collecting DNA from brook trout to study how all these factors come into play. Fascinating stuff !
Water seeps that squish under your feet turn to trickles like before that ultimately become what we all come to recognize as an eastern brook trout stream with pockets and pools. A pool like this is substantial and surely holds fish if approached and fished properly. Pools create a food supply (a grocery store for the fish), and they have water depth which is one of the most important forms of shelter for them. Pools that remain cool help fish survive the summer and draughts. They also help survive the winter and ice. Finally, they can hide from predators like mink, otter, raccoons, water snakes, bear, and us !
Pools also help the larger brookies survive-they are the ones most apt to reproduce !
The very heads of pools are where some of the best brookies are found. They provide the first available food source, they provide the most oxygen, and often the best shelter in the form of undercut rocks…but…not always ! Sometimes the tail of the pool is the deepest, has the best hiding, and funnels the most food !
This one was in one of those pools, at the very head where the water first comes into it. Sorry for the blur, my camera’s auto focus sometimes does not agree with the ever-changing lighting and stream conditions.
I’m not a gear freak by any means but the rod pictured is perhaps the best small stream rod on the planet. It is an ADG Titanium 7 1/2 foot 6 weight rod. The late David Ahn teamed up with Joe Humphreys, who is perhaps the best mountain stream fly-fisher in American history, to create such a rod. It is light, sensitive, durable, and powerful. A 6 weight in brush you ask? Yes. Joe over decades of fishing the mountain brush feels that the heavier weight of a 5 or 6 weight double taper line helps load your rod quicker, faster, and right off the tip so you can get distance in the brush with some casts and hardly even move the rod while your doing it. Having seen it, been taught by him for many, many years, and fishing myself, I can attest to his beliefs- it works, trust me ! ( I do have to say, that I’m not a fan of the fighting butt on ADG’s newer brush models- sorry Jubie- but, I’m being far with my assessment. Otherwise it’s a top notch brush rod ! ) Even at high noon, the sun has a hard time shining through the forested canopy. This also is a protective barrier (many parts of the Appalachian mountain chain have seen a dramatic degradation of the eastern brook trout through decades of poor lumbering practices). But,
Finally, carry a thermometer with you. You must follow the water temps ! For example, there is a promising looking small brook that should be a great Little B , not that far from my home, but it drains a large beaver dam impoundment so it warms up very quickly. But, as it moves deeper into the woods, it cools down somewhat, picks up some spring seeps and cools down- that’s where the trout will be !
You can’t be a slave it either. Brook trout can be conditioned to higher water temps if they are trapped but, it must have a good food supply, have high nutrient and water quality, and most of all remain highly oxygenated . I know of a Little B in Litchfield County that gets into the low 70’s in the summer yet brook trout thrive in it because it runs through a dark forest with a steep gradient and remains well oxygenated.
It has been cold, raw, gray, and rainy this week but despite that fact, I managed to get a few days of fishing in and enjoy what God has created. My career in EMS has afforded me the time and opportunity to both guide on the side, fish on my own ,or fish with friends and family. It also has given me a unique perspective on life and as a result, I think it has heightened my enjoyment for fly fishing, the surroundings it is done in, and life in general. Don’t get me wrong, I’m as competitive as the next guy – I’m just not wrapped up in posting nothing but size and numbers of fish. For me, it is more of a pleasure to share, write, and teach what I know.
I chose a smallish Eastern Connecticut stream to fish today. It has good water quality, plenty of woody debris, cool springs and seeps, and boggy areas to maintain a water table which will become very important later in the season. It does receive some stocking from the state but the area I fished today is a distance from any convenient stocking point and I am not aware of it having been float stocked in some time. Fish do tend to spread out over time but it is a misconception that stocked trout will always migrate out of an area unless heavy rains, spawning urges, or stream temperatures moves them faster. Therefore, I suspect that the brookies I caught today were either native born and/or from a previous stocking(s) and were given the time to gravitate to suitable water for them.
Come along with me and read the captions as I explain them. I hope that you enjoy them and learn something, too.
This water temp was actually 46 degrees and taken from the spring in the previous photo( my fingers holding the thermometer started raising the temperature while I was trying to get a clear photo ).