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
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.
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!
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.
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.
Seeing these little guys still around is a great sign !
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.
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.
In the meantime, please stay safe, health, and enjoy the spirit of the holiday season.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 !
It seems this year I have fished more rivers and streams that have been extremely high or flooded than I care to admit. It started in February with a trip to Pennsylvania with Rowan Lytle ( Connecticut Fly Angler ) and has continued all season since PA has had the wettest summer on record at least in the State College area – and further east.
Our summer in Connecticut has been pretty wet, too, especially August. I guess this is a good thing since our past three fall seasons have been warmer and drier than normal. This year has been hot as well but the added water no doubt has helped keep trout alive. This year’s spawn should be a good one. Eastern Connecticut streams definitely needs a cool and wet fall.
As you might guess, this article has some pointers on fishing flooded river and streams. The fly rod has some unique advantages as well as disadvantages. Let me explain some of them to you.
First off, stay out of the water for safety reasons. That riffle that you normally wade and know by heart might now have a submerged tree limb, branch or log, that can trip you up. Also, floating debris might knock you off-balance, too. Finally, the main channel or thalweg will most likely be running extremely fast and deep. Fish that normally would be located there most likely have hunkered down on the stream bed , in the deepest depressions, or moved towards the bank or back eddies for shelter from the currents. When a river becomes so flooded that stream bed reconstruction occurs, the currents are too turbulent and fish will move to the flooded banks, back eddies, and backwaters for shelter.
Stay on the bank and look for softer water(s), undercut banks, and side channels. Although spinning gear might get you deeper with a heavy lure or bait rig set-up, the fly rod could do the same these days with heavy streamers and nymphing. It offers the advantage of being able to lift out and over a river’s bank much like ” the old days ” of dappling with long cane poles.
As mentioned earlier, banks and undercuts offer a lot of soft water, velocity changes, and shelter from the currents. Trout are not the only ones that look to find these shelters. Fallfish, sun-fish, bass, and all species of dace, minnows, and chubs will be competing for these areas.
Here is one example: A small bass took a Stroup River Mini fished slow and occasionally twitched and bounced along the bottom as it drifted down a slower current seam.
Another example: This slightly larger fallfish took the same Stroup River Mini the same way. Stroup’s River Mini is a great ” minnow ” imitation !
When fishing flooded rivers, you generally want to slow down and fish slower and deeper. The currents are tremendously fast and a fast stripped streamer might be a big turnoff. Also, a streamer stripped fast or even moderately fast might not give the fish time enough to see it. Don’t forget, their noses will be tucked right to the bottom in most cases unless you are within the slower water of a flooded tree line or ” dead ” backwater. A subtle difference of a few cubic feet per second makes all the difference to a fish and their survival !
This is a prime area to target ! It is a large back eddy made even bigger and deeper by a flooding river. These kinds of areas offer a tremendous amount of food and shelter from the main current(s). A fly rod gives you an edge because you can fish from top to bottom. Yesterday, I saw small fallfish rise to insects in this crazy stuff so don’t dismiss using dry flies or top water flies. However, I would suggest using larger patterns. Humpies, Stimulators, grasshoppers, crickets, beetles and ants, could be afloat in the foam lines as well as along the bank(s). Small rodents like mice could get washed in by a torrential downpour, too. Flashy, colorful, and larger wet flies could be very successful as they swing into the softer water. Finally, larger nymphs could be drifted along the current seam(s) and then swung as a wet as well. There are many ways to fish a piece of water like this. A long fly rod would give you the reach you require to hold your line over the bank’s edge, a log or downed tree, etc.
It is extremely difficult to see my fly line in this picture but if you look closely, I’m doing several things that I’ve mentioned already. First, I’m using a 9 foot rod. Yes, a short 6 or 7 foot rod might give me more casting room but not the reach or line control ! Second, I’m fishing a velocity change near the bank. Third, I’m fishing slow and deep. Streamers can be fished like a nymph, too !
Ok, so here is another advantage of a fly rod but, I wouldn’t recommend you try this with your heirloom bamboo rod ! I have a long leader on with a weighted streamer and several additional split shot on as well. I was still not getting deep and slow enough so I stuck my rod tip down into the water. I didn’t pick up any fish on the drift this time but I was able to get as deep and slow as possible and fish the undercut bank that I was standing on. I’ve done this on many occasions and been pleasantly rewarded.
Yesterday completed another day of my Orvis ” 20 Days in September ” Challenge. It has been fun thus far but, I don’t really need another excuse to fish more. As you can tell, I fish in all kinds of conditions, all the time ! However, I do fish safely and you should too !
Finally, it wouldn’t be an article by me without a plug for conservation. This picture says it all. Land development and loss of our wetlands and buffer zones along rivers, streams, and brooks, remain a major conservation issue to this day. Please get involved with your local conservation group or Trout Unlimited. It doesn’t take much time, money, or effort to make a huge impact. I know for a fact that Thames Valley TU ( Chapter 282 ) as well as other TU chapters are in need of more active members. We will always welcome more people ! As always, I hope to see you out there some time and please come to this month’s TVTU presentation by my friend and fellow guide, Steve Babbitt. It will be an informative presentation on the Willimantic River.
Thames Valley TU Presentation & Meeting :
” An Inside Look at the Willimantic River TMA ” by Steve Babbitt.
115 Fitchville Rd
Bozrah, CT., 06334
Fly Tying and socializing starts at 6 PM. Meetings generally start at 7 PM.
Get out there and fish,
If your primarily a trout fisherman, you do not need to let your skills become rusty while we have been experiencing one of the hottest summers on record. Eastern Connecticut has many different size rivers and streams to hone your fly fishing skills on. A case in point is the Willimantic River which will be a topic of discussion at this month’s Thames Valley TU Meeting by my friend and fellow guide, Steve Babbitt.
I have said this a number of times before in other Facebook, Twitter and Instagram posts, as well as this blog, that I use the Willimantic and other marginal trout streams as training grounds to keep my skills up when I am not able to get to the Farmington or some other cool water trout stream during the summer.
First, let me digress for a moment and gripe a bit on how the weather channels use the term ” 90 degree days . ” I could be off here- I’m not a meteorologist – but, I feel that their claims of a 90 degree day whenever the temperature reaches 90 degrees is a little overrated . Let me explain:
I make a definite distinction between a 90 day that hits 90 at 9 or 10 am vs. a 90 degree day that reaches 90 at 4 pm, but by 4:30 it is back below 90 again. The day that it is 90 at 9 or 10 am is a much ” hotter ” day and more troubling for a trout fisherman than the one that peaks 90 at the height of the day but starts cooling immediately afterwards. Unfortunately this summer we have had a number of days that reached 90 degrees or better early in the day. Thankfully, we also have had a wet summer, too, which has helped keep streams flowing ! Hopefully after this next round of heat ends, we will start to see our days and nights start to cool off so fall trout stocking can begin.
Now back to the main topic. As I mentioned above, I use the Willy as my training ground when I can not get somewhere else. It is a river that is roughly 25 miles long and starts in Stafford at the confluence of Furnace Brook and Middle River. It is a relatively fast flowing river with your typical New England riffle to pools configuration. It has some deep pools but for the most part it is fairly shallow and easy wading. Plus, it has numerous bridge access and ” open lands ” for the public to gain entry in addition to a year-round Trout Management Area.
It also has undercut banks, overhanging brush and limbs, and plenty of space to practice your skills like: casting under brush or fishing around structure, honing your tuck cast or slack leader cast, and mending techniques – just to name a few.
Although it has a small population of holdover and wild trout within the TMA, it mostly receives trout stockings from DEEP . Other organizations like Thames Valley TU and Connecticut Fly Fisher’s Association provide occasional float stocking as well but, for the most part, much of your summer season is spent fishing for other species. As you can see, the ” Willy ” has a diverse population. Of particular importance is the fallfish !
Fallfish are one of Connecticut’s native species. They can grow to be rather large, too. Connecticut’s state record is 2.4 lbs.. My friend, Rowan Lytle, caught two in Pennsylvania recently that would have beaten our state’s record. They are a fun fish to catch on a fly rod and definitely keep your skills sharp ! From my experience as well as some other fisherman that I have talked to, I feel that fallfish are less picky than trout in terms of what flies to use but are just as finicky and demanding as to how they are presented, and are even faster than trout at striking and/or rejecting them . They are not the ” garbage ” or nuisance fish that you might think….and stop calling them dace !
As you can see from a teaching perspective, the Willimantic (and other Eastern Connecticut rivers and streams) can offer you a very good lesson that is most likely a few minutes drive from your residents. At the same time, you probably will be on the river by yourself to boot !
While your fishing, the Willy or another Eastern Connecticut river or stream will probably have similar flora and be very picturesque, too.
Get out there wherever you live and find a local river or stream and just fish ! Work on the all important fundamentals ! Catch fish ! Be happy fly fishing on some quiet stretch of water in your backyard !
Don’t forget to come to this month’s presentation on the Willimantic by Steve. It will be much more informative.
As always, I hope to see you out there some time and don’t hesitate to contact me for a lesson or guide. Also, please join your local conservation group or Trout Unlimited- help is always needed. Thames Valley TU will always welcome you !
What constitutes an exceptional brook trout stream or rather, what criteria is needed to make an exceptional brook trout stream ? I have an idea of some that are present and necessary in all of the streams that I would consider exceptional brookie streams. They are not absolute but from my experience, the more of them that are present, the greater the fishery whether we are talking brookies or other species like brown trout. Also, by no means does my list encompass all of them… So lets discuss some of them. First I need to give you a back story.
Pennsylvania is blessed with an unbelievable amount of quality trout water. It is largely due to its geology and vast parts of the state that remain forested and undeveloped. It has more trout water than any other state except Alaska. I believe Alaska only beats Pennsylvania because of its shear size. Someday I feel Pennsylvania will be distinguished as being number 1. There are literally too many blue lines and listed waters to possibly fish in a life time but I’m gonna try my best !
My friend Rowan of Connecticut Fly Angler Blog and I went to PA for a few days to meet another friend of mine and fish Spring Creek and some other water as well. Our intentions were to fish the Tricos on Spring but as luck would have it, Spring Creek as well as everywhere else was running high and off-color from the historic amounts of rain Central and most of Eastern Pennsylvania received this summer. We were unfortunate in February as well with high water and flooding conditions. Neither of us were complaining about it since that is what they need on a steady basis to keep the aquifers full. To give you an idea as how well they will be for fall conditions and spawning, Penns Creek was a cool 62-64 degrees in August. I don’t think the trout in Penns felt that kind of water temp in the summer for a long time !
Anyway, back to the story. We passed this blue line in February while traveling to State College. Rowan was passing the time while I drove by looking on google maps for information on it. There wasn’t much but it looked like it ran for a long distance. I have past this stream many times before but never stopped to look or bother with it. It peaked out curiosity this past February but at that time, we weren’t in the mood for exploring after fishing in flooding water and being rained on all trip. However, this trip we had great weather and the time to check it out on our way home. Boy are we glad we did because it turned out to be a highlight of the trip ! For one, Rowan caught another species on his bucket list and we discovered an exceptional brook trout fishery.
This leads me to what I consider as some of the necessary criteria needed to create and maintain an exceptional brookie stream.
First, you need old growth as pictured below.
Older forests provide stable soils for streams and are less likely to be eroded and silted out from high water or floods. Also, they provide coolness to the forest and keep the brook shaded so that it doesn’t warm up too much. If the brook is spring fed then it will remain in the 50’s like the one we fished ( 58 degrees ). If the stream is marginal, then older forest growth and shade will help minimize rapid temperature spikes and hopefully keep the temps in a trout friendly range during the summer months. Older forest are largely undisturbed which means that they are in areas not populated by people so man’s encroachment with development is at a minimum. Paved roads and sub developments are killers to any waterway regardless of type or how many ” barriers ” are placed to offset developed lands- you simply can not replace mother nature’s ability to care for fragile ecosystems !
Second, you generally need a stream or brook that runs for great distances.
This particular stream runs for a long distance ! I don’t want to give up anything too revealing even though it is out-of-state. Myself and other blue line fishermen go to great lengths to avoid showing revealing pictures or give up too many identifying features. Anyway, streams that run for a significant length offers brookies many opportunities to find suitable habitat for feeding, safety and spawning. In addition, streams or brooks that run for long distance have to ability to disperse the fishes genetics enough so that they are able survive and thrive. Long flowing brooks means they are probably undisturbed so they won’t have drainage culverts and other development features that impose on the fishery, too. If there happens to be other species in the brook, i.e. brown or rainbow trout, then a long flowing brook helps brookies survive the added pressure and dangers. Long flowing brooks have a greater potential at picking up cooled ground water and springs to keep it at brookie friendly temperatures as well.
Third, exceptional brookie streams have a good population of old and mature fish.
This is an exceptional brookie. I didn’t measure it but you can tell that it is a big mature fish. Only exceptional brookie streams that remain exceptional have these kinds of brookies in them. Rowan and I caught several in a very short period of time and in a very short section that we explored. Older mature fish pass on the needed genetics that are necessary for the species to survive. Older mature fish are better at spawning and passing on the genetic strain. In addition, finding large and mature brookies probably means that man has not disturbed the fishery that much ( over fishing, harvesting and poaching ).
Fourth, exceptional brookie streams do not have missing classes of fish.
Not missing any classes of fish means that the stream ecology is stable enough to provide the necessary habitat for a success spawn year after year. You can see that this is a smaller and younger brookie. Rowan and I caught and released several year classes in just a few hours.
Fifth, exceptional brookie streams have fish in them that live a long time.
This brookie still has par markings and is rather chunky and good length. The brookies in this stream most definitely has a strong and stable population. I personally haven’t seen a brookie of this size in Connecticut still with par marking and be that large. Again, a great testament to the fact that in this particular fishery, the brookies generally live out their full expectancy life span.
Sixth, exceptional brookie streams offer a tremendous amount of added protection in-stream and on the banks.
Here Rowan is faced with trying to fish a deep pool that has cover and concealment on the banks from all sides as well as in-stream wood debris for added cover. Exceptional brookie streams have plenty of in-stream structures and deep enough pools to survive cold winters, shelf ice, and protection from woodland creatures like raccoons, bears, birds, snakes, mink, muskrat, not to mention crazed blue line fly fishers !
Finally, should the stream experience some fishing pressure, exceptional brookie streams make it very difficult to fish.
Exceptional brookie streams don’t make it easy for just anyone to fish them ! I have found that most brookie streams that are rated as good to exceptional are also the most difficult to fish, particularly with a fly rod . I like to think that they also deter the vast majority of fisherman from them as a result. Besides, most are in areas that require lots of walking, wearing bug spray, sweating, and expending a great amount of time and energy to fish and explore properly.
This is an ultimate test to one’s ability to cast a fly rod in tight brush. First, you can’t get too close or you will possibly spook every brookie in the pool. Second, you have to approach it from below so you have a lip to overcome and a narrow chute. Third, you have little to no casting freedom from either side and overhanging cover, too. Finally, what is not shown in the picture is that you also don’t have any casting freedom behind you and you can not false cast either. I think most fly fishers would shy away from this stuff ! Good, I’m glad. I am just as greedy and secretive as any other blue line affection ado !
So…the brook trout is threatened in many places throughout its native range but not this particular stream!
Connecticut does have a few streams that are close to exceptional and remain very secret and guarded. However, most are poor to decent with some good ones mixed in terms of brook trout populations. Hopefully with continued conservation and reestablishment efforts, I and other blue line nuts will be able to continue to fish for our beloved brookies for a long time to come and perhaps even gain some more ” exceptional brookie streams ” in our own state ! But, I will still try my best to fish all of Pennsylvania too !
As always, I hope to see some of you out there at some point and be a good steward of the environment and pick up trash, release fish quickly and safely, monitor water temperatures and inform the DEEP should you find something wrong. And, join your local Trout Unlimited chapter or local conservation group. We at Thames Valley TU ( Chapter 282 – my chapter ) will gladly welcome more members.