Where do you draw the line between development and progress and protection of a fragile resource or ecosystem ? Where do you draw the line on publicizing a fishery and showing wonderful trout specimens from it ? For me, it is when the potential for the degradation of a trout stream outweighs what potential extra fishing pressure may ensue. Normally I would never post a picture like this one and name where it was caught but, in this case I must.
This brown was caught and released in Roaring Brook, a tributary of the Willimantic, in Willington, Connecticut. I tell you this and show you this because the next hurdle for Love’s Travel Stop is coming.
I was made aware of this next step by Kathy Demers yesterday of the Willington Conservation Commission. She informed me of the following which is summarized as below via her :
Love’s Travel Stop proposed to the Town of Willington to construct a Travel/Truck Stop and Restaurant off of exit 71 on Rt 84 on Polster Rd, in Willington. The property is 40 acres and contains portions of Roaring Brook, two wetlands that drain directly into it and several other wetlands that act as vernal pools.
Roaring Brook is a Class 3 WTMA and is habitat for brook trout as well as brown trout- both stocked and naturally reproducing.
Love’s did receive approval from Willington’s Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Commission ( IWWC ) in 2012. It also received approval from Willington’s Planning and Zoning Commission ( PZC ) in 2013 but with some conditions to in order to minimize risks to Roaring Brook and the wetlands.
At that time, their plans were not complete for a septic system and are now applying to CT DEEP for a permit to install and operate a subsurface waste water absorption system. This would be a commercial size that would handle 6,000 to 9,000 gallons per day.
I’m not going to go into great detail here but the leaching field system is located approximately 120 feet from what is named Wetland ” H ” which functions as a tributary to Roaring Brook. In 2013, the cold waters of this particular wetland was documented by Brian Murphy, a DEEP fisheries staff , to contain native brook trout fry !
What is particularly alarming from what I understand is that the site disturbance and clearing needed to construct and maintain the leaching field would come within 20 feet of Wetland ” H ” and from that edge of ” H “, it is less than 300 feet to where it runs into Roaring Brook.
Now, I’m not very savvy at embedding links but if you Google or look on DEEP’s website, you should find Brian’s 2013 report as well as DEEP’s Public Hearing Process and Schedule. Please take the time to look them up. In the meantime, Kathy provided me some important dates- which I will be attending !
1.) There is a public site walk on Monday April 23rd beginning at 10:00 am. It is about 0.2 miles from 3 Polster Rd in Willington ( left side ).
2.) There is a public hearing on Tuesday April 24th at the Willington Public Library at 6:00 pm. HOWEVER, the community room opens up at 5:30 pm for the public to view exhibits and talk with DEEP and Love’s Travel Stop representatives.
3.) The public can also send letters directly to DEEP’s Hearing Officer with their comments, concerns, and questions. The deadline for that is May 4th.
Here is one link I am able to embed:
Roaring Brook is an established fishery and worth protecting. I hope you will read this and share and I hope to see some of you at one of these meetings.
Spring is almost here but you wouldn’t know that by looking out my backyard or yours for that matter. March’s saying, ” In like a lion ” is definitely true this year. Hopefully it goes ” Out like a lamb.” At least we have plenty of snowpack. A friend of mine who has an excellent blog, Rowan Lytle of Connecticut Fly Angler, recently wrote about all the benefits of having snowpack melt for spring time. I would tend to agree. It melts more slowly and allows for seepage into our underground supplies, fills sink holes, and overall contributes to the water table in all the right ways, which is extremely important for Eastern Connecticut.
Just prior to our second and third nor’easter in 2 weeks, I was able to get some quality fish. Some were wild browns and one was a beefy holdover bow- a real testament to trout management areas, catch and release, and stricter fishing regulations on what type of tackle can be used.
Although I caught this guy nymphing a streamer, the rest were caught using wet flies that imitate the early stone fly.
I love using wets for this particular insect, more so than dries because I feel it is both effective and enjoyable. Don’t get me wrong, I love skating a dry version of it, too, and seeing trout bust the surface for them. But in order to cover water and really work some ground, I think a cast of wets works the best. Since these stones are active and lively, a pair of wets actively worked over fish just makes a lot of sense and a ton of fun. too !
I sometimes will have a weighted nymph as my point fly and then tie in two other wet flies as my droppers . I will often put an attractor as my top fly. If conditions are right, I can see the attractor as my top dropper and judge what the rest are doing ( Connecticut allows for three flies maximum ). However, most of the time I just use two wets as a cast and work them over any likely fish holding water.
It is rewarding when you see the flash of a fish, or feel them hit the dropper, or see the ” curve ” of your line ” take up ” and then feel the weight and fight of a fish. Also, it is a great way to explore water you are not familiar with and find where fish are. I don’t hunt but a friend of mine equates blindly fishing wets to hunting rabbits….you are covering ground and all of a sudden…bam !
A variety of flies can mimic these guys. I like to have them in sizes 16, 14, 12. I will tie them in a variety of ways and colors. Currently they are a blackish, reddish, gray body with black to dun’ish colored legs and mottled wing, depending on where you are in the state and which river you are fishing. Anything that is dark in color with a traditional feather or quill wing will probably suffice since the trout will be looking up and keying in on active, moving flies. Here are some of the flies I recently tied and will use as soon as I can get out again.
Notice that they have a turkey or duck quill wing to them and/or are heavily hackled ? That is so they provide extra motion and movement. Admittedly, I am not the greatest tier so some of my proportions are off a bit…. fish zoned in on the active stones aren’t nearly as picky with proportions, especially when you are actively moving them- they don’t have the time to scrutinize them. In addition, the higher and faster water of spring ( definitely this year ) flows means that you can often get away with slightly larger sizes of flies and heavier hackled ones, too.
One final thought: Nymphing wets can be deadly at times as well. My buddy Joe will put shot on and nymph a pair of wets facing upstream and as they drift below him, he will let the current uplift them and then start to work them actively up through the water column with a hand and twist retrieve and/or bounce of the rod tip.
Good luck out there. Hopefully we won’t get a fourth nor’easter next week. Three in two weeks is unprecedented and is ENOUGH !
History does in fact repeat itself and spring marches on each year whether we feel it or not. Last year, practically to the week , I wrote a blog about how it started to feel like spring, show signs of spring, and the joy of catching some early spring, stocked fish on my favorite Eastern Connecticut streams. Then, a snow storm hit that dumped measurable and plowable amounts of snow. Well, look what’s happening again, except this time I was fishing for some wild trout.
It hardly seemed like a nor’easter is at our doorstep today. The sun was out, it was seasonably warm, and one of the first signs of spring was in the air, the smell of skunk cabbage. It is one of the first of the flora to show itself. Although spring doesn’t arrive until the 20th, it is spring in meteorological terms.
Whenever I smell and see these guys, I know things are improving.
And when I see these guys, too.
Since the state has not stocked any local TMA’s yet, I went for some wild fish.
I carefully worked a pair of wets in and around wood, undercut banks, logjams, and deeper runs and caught enough fish to be happy and content for a few days.
This particular stream doesn’t give up many fish but it does hold a decent population but, you have to work for them.
It runs cold most of the time/year and it is crystal clear so you have to be able to cast for distance in some tighter places, around cover, and be comfortable with losing some flies now and again. Because it was in the low 40’s for most of the day with water temps to match, I really had to hold my cast of flies in a particular seam for what seemed like an eternity before a few of the browns decided to strike. One didn’t though and it struck one of my flies readily. The only problem was he was well hidden under an undercut bank, under some brush debris that was pinned in by a downed tree.
You can see why it chose that place to live. Luckily I was fishing my ADG Titanium Rod and was able to play it under the undercut/ brush by sticking my rod tip under it and then coaxing it out and into the blow down and then work my rod in and around the tree limbs with both hands until I was downstream of everything and could really affect a quick land and release. The ADG’s tip is sensitive enough to feel the trout on even when your snared in debris, and it is durable and tough enough to handle jamming it into stuff like I described without breaking in an instant. It has pre-pegged titanium wire wrapped within the graphite. I have a bunch of these rods and only broke one tip since 2003.
Another reason why I was able to land that fish is because I don’t bother with fine tippets most of the time. One of the bad trends in fly fishing and is partly due to the Euro nymphing guys is that everyone thinks that they need super long and fine diameters to fish….bullshit ! If you tie your leaders right and use the right kinds of cast like a slack leader cast with dry-fly fishing or a tuck cast with nymphing, than you do not ever need to go super fine. In fact, I almost never go below 3X/4X with nymphing and 4X/5X with dry flies unless the eye of the hook is so tiny that I need 6X. I’ve fished the Farmington like this, out West, and on some of Pennsylvania’s most pressured waters and have been successful. Give the fish a fighting chance and muscle them in and release then fast !
Enough with the rant and back to the story. This was the scene last year. Winter storm Elsa is supposed to give us 5-10 inches in my area. That looks to be about right.
History does repeat itself….
Last month myself and my friend Rowan journeyed to Pennsylvania for a number of reasons. First, I had to visit Joe and his family and attend a benefit dinner by the Pennsylvania Fly Fishing Museum where Joe was the guest of honor. Also in attendance was George Daniel and Greg Hoover. George, who is one of Joe’s students and one of the world’s best fly fisherman, gave a very touching speech about Joe. Greg, who is one of our nation’s most famous and well-respected entomologists, gave a presentation on the ” Little Blue Wing Olive “. It turned out to be an excellent event. Rowan had never met Joe and I felt he would greatly appreciate meeting a living legend and one of his fly fishing idols. Unfortunately, due to a few other circumstances, Rowan was not able to spend any time with Joe on the stream… perhaps another day though !
Another reason Rowan and I went to PA is to fish Spring Creek and possibly some other famous Limestoner’s of Central PA. Again, Rowan had never fished in Central PA and I felt that he would have a blast fishing some of the most famous and historic waters of Pennsylvania and of our nation. As it turned out, we were only able to fish at Benner Springs and Fisherman’s Paradise with the ” Paradise ” being our best hope for fish since Spring Creek and everywhere else was at flood stage.
The ” Paradise ” is a fly fishing only section with no wading allowed that has challenged even the greatest fly fisherman in history both past and present and is considered hallowed ground by many.
Well, we were gonna get a testing on our trip because Spring Creek on average runs around 99-100 c.f.s. and that weekend it was consistently in the upper 300’s, near 400 c.f.s- essentially flood stage ! And Sunday morning, our last day, we saw it rise even higher !
So, despite horrid conditions and dismal weather projections, we still had to fish NO MATTER WHAT ( it did help that we didn’t have to wade because that would have been suicidal ) !
I have been with Joe when conditions were like this and even though the river is flooded, he has said before ” they still can be caught “, hence the title of this blog. And I’ve witnessed him doing it, too !
Here are some ideas to think about and consider when you try to fish water like this: fish close, very close; fish velocity changes; fish edges between clearer water and muddier water; fish deep and fish SLOW most of the time; and fish around structure.
Look at how close, low and slow Rowan is fishing. Also, by fishing tight to the bank, he is fishing water that is a bit clearer, calmer, and slower with lots of velocity change.
This one he picked up literally on the bank in and among some debris that was pushed into a little crevice and created some break in the water and shelter. Several of our fish were caught sight fishing ON THE LAWN of the grounds if you could believe that.
The suckers are just about to start their spawning process in Central PA and I caught this one nymphing slow and deep with a ” junk ” fly, a Chartreuse Mop Fly. Yes I felt bad doing it but with flooding waters you need to use big flies, bright flies, flies that move, provide motion and have a bit of flash in them.
I also caught a few wild browns in the same kind of water and near the suckers. The water was slow and deep and slightly less ” brown ” than the main flow which was a torrent. They also took the mop fly because they could see it and perhaps some suckers were laying eggs, who knows ?
By getting into the right position, using a tuck cast, using the right leader, and using the correct amount of weight, I was able to stay on the bottom long enough to pick up fish.
But, a good portion of our fish came from fishing a Filet Mignon for the trout.
Sculpins ! Even with these guys, we had to use a lot of weight, fish them deep, and fish them right on the edges of the bank and/or SUPER tight to any kind of structure that could have given a trout some relief from the current.
Remember when I said we were fishing the lawn of the grounds ? Well, I wasn’t kidding ! We were sight fishing for the smaller browns with cress bugs. They would root and tail like a bone fish or carp in the grass for cress bugs pushed into the grass by the water. Rowan had captured some very cool pictures and a short video of it. Check his blog out on Connecticut Fly Angler. His blogs are worth reading by the way.
By being observant and figuring out where trout might be in a flood, you can often find what you are looking for. Again, this is a spot where the grounds keepers will be mowing soon….hahaha.
This creek is just loaded with wild browns around 9-10 inches with sizes much larger, too ! We really didn’t get into a hogs but Rowan caught a beautiful brown around 15-16 inches and missed one in a back channel that was much larger. All in all our numbers were very good considering what we were up against and left Rowan jonzing for another trip before we had even departed for home…I think he’s hooked on PA !
This is what makes Central PA so special. Limestone…oh how I wish you were here in Connecticut !
A Willimantic River Fallfish.
The Willy is one of many rivers and streams in Eastern CT that has abundant populations of Fallfish and on this particular river, some are large as trout.
The Willy has become my run to river when I need to get out and fish something really quick because it is so close to me. It has degraded over the years for trout but the TMA section still holds some year-round trout. I’ve even run across a few holdovers in normally stocked sections, especially this year since much of our summer was very friendly for trout with cooler temps and regular precipitation. However, it is marginal and most of it becomes a warm water fishery during the summer months and into the fall. That being said, you can still have a lot of fun catching bass, perch, and sun fish.
BUT….besides trout, its the Fallfish that keeps me coming back. It is a native species so I’m ok with catching 50 of them on an outing and they hit flies like trout but with a little less weariness. I wouldn’t say they are a pushover either, I have seen them turn away from a dragging fly just as quick as a trout. But, they seem less picky in terms of fly selection and will strike flies readily if properly presented. They are in my opinion the perfect species to hone your skills on or teach a new fly-fisher how to play and land a fish. When I want to teach my eight year old son how to fly-fish, I bring him with me and have him catch a ton of Fallfish- he’s catching and having fun while still learning rod control, line control, etc… And for me, I often nymph them ‘old school’ to really zero in on seeing and feeling ‘ the take ‘.
So whenever you feel like your skills are getting a bit rusty but can’t get to a trout river like the Housy or Farmington, fish that Eastern CT river or stream right next door to you and go have some fun with a fish that doesn’t get enough credit or recognition.
This summer has been very favorable for trout. Nearly every marginal trout stream that I have fished held trout over from previous stockings or were wild. With the state starting their fall stocking program and regular rain events, our prospects for fall fishing look great. Wild trout rejoice- you have cooling temps and plenty of water !
So, if you have some free time and want to learn a particular stream or you would like to learn how to fly-fish, contact me for a guided trip or lesson(s). Fall is a beautiful time to fish- less crowds, no heat or humidity and gorgeous scenery to look at.
See you out there regards,
Well it has been awhile since I last posted something. I have been busy with work, guiding, and providing casting and/or fly-fishing lessons. Of course, I still need my own fishing time, too !
This summer has been unique in the sense that it has not been typical of the previous few summers. We have been getting regular shots of rain and despite some 90 degree days, most of the summer has not been that hot and our nights last week dropped into the 50’s. As a result, rivers like the Willimantic, Natchaug, and Salmon, have been under 70 degrees. I fished the Willy this past Saturday and it was 66 degrees at 6 pm. Two friends of mine obtained reading in the lower 60’s in the mornings and early afternoons on the Natchaug and Salmon respectively . So, you may still be able to catch a trout or two if you play your cards right and search out trout holding water and follow the thermometer.
However, this blog is going to be about what to do when you don’t live 15 minutes from the Farmington and you are faced with low water and/or warm water temperatures.
First off, like I said previously, follow the thermometer ! You might find a spring seep or discover that a tributary running into river or stream is cold enough to support a lone trout or two seeking refuge from warmer temps of the main body. I personally wouldn’t specifically target these fish but I would keep that as a future reference as to where fish might migrate to. Last year’s drought seemed devastating until I started fishing small brooks and streams again in the eastern part of the state and discovered that wild trout were able to find these areas and survive.
This wild brown survived by holding up in the deepest hole(S) of a stream until we started getting water back. As you can tell it is fairly large, chunky and healthy.
Unfortunately, most of our Eastern CT streams are much more marginal and do not support such a healthy wild fish. I fished one of these rivers today after helping a friend out with some casting lessons.
This particular stream was already 70 degrees by 1 pm so it was an ominous sign that I would not be fishing for trout even though it was in a stocked section and I’m pretty certain taht it is not heavily fished on a regular basis ( I hardly ever see any garbage ).
So, what do you do ?
My suggestion is to fish the river or stream anyway and practice your trout tactics on the other abundant species that will readily hit your flies like: sunfish, fall fish , shiners, and dace. I fished for an hour or so today and caught countless amount of fish. Yeah, they are only the size of my palm or smaller but nothing sharpens your nymphing skills on what a subtle ” take ” looks like than to have your nymphs repeatedly marauded by pesky little fish.
I like to nymph traditionally without any sighters or strike indicators and when I can’t get to the Farmington, I go to one of these streams and nymph small patterns. A simple green weenie, hare’s ear, or crude tiny minnow pattern is all that you need. Or, use those flies you tied this past winter that didn’t make the grade. They all will work just fine !
Practice tucking those nymphs to the top of the run…work your way up through it and use a down-and-upper. Get those casts down pat on a stream in complete solitude so when you do get to great trout fishery you aren’t rusty. Don’t wait until you get to the Farmington or another reputable trout stream/river to ” get the kinks out ” and blow your chances on wise holdover or wild browns. Take the opportunity to practice in your own backyard to work on this stuff !
Work on your wet fly techniques…maintaining line control, keeping a good rod angle, controlling drag, and getting risky by casting tight to the bank or under obstructions.
Your day will be filled with catching fish after fish after fish…and…your will legitimately be able to say that you caught ” 40..50..100 fish in a day ” and it NOT BE A FISH TALE !
Plus, it is a good way to find out what various types of species are in a system. And while you are fishing you just might find that lone, rogue trout that has survived against all odds! FYI, I did not fish for this trout and left him alone!!
So, don’t waste the rest of this summer waiting until you are able to travel to a place like the Farmington to use your ” trout ” tactics and hit up your local stream and practice…practice…practice ! I promise you it will be a blast !
Spring flowers are starting to bloom, the skunk cabbage has already popped, and bug life is revving up. I’d say that springtime fishing is going well. There have been some hiccups around opening day with high water and cold temps but since then the water flows have been at a springtime normal and dropping nicely. Plus, here in Eastern Connecticut, we have been taken off the extreme/severe drought listing and are only considered in an abnormally dry/moderate rating- according to the drought portal at Drought.gov. To me those are all pluses ! So I would rate it as a B+ for now.
Winter stones and early brown stones are still around and in most streams that support them with proper substrate and water quality, Hendrickson and Quill Gordons. Add in a few caddis species and I think that the fly-fisherman has enough insect activity to be very happy about. I would also add in that terrestrials are waking up, too !
The wild boys and girls have seemed to fair well in some of our local streams. This particular one came from a Class 1 WTMA.
I follow several social media outlets and have noticed that a lot of people have been complaining about how the state has been stocking. I can assure you that they are stocking as many trout as they can in as many places as they can but they are hurting just as bad if not more than the rest of us in terms of budget cuts, facilities needing repairs, and loss of employees. Yet, they still are out there stocking hundreds of thousands of fish ! This brown rose to a skated pattern imitating the early stone that generally is active around noon on most days and streams. So…our streams do have stocked trout in them !
This brookie is a stocked fish. He was caught on a gray ghost pattern and released for someone else to catch.
These two brookies were also stocked. The one on the left took a royal coachman wet while the right one took another gray ghost pattern. Both were released to be caught again by another angler.
I have to say though that you do have to put your homework in and find the fish but once you do, they’re still there !
Good luck with your future fishing, springtime action is only going to improve and get better. Springtime is a great time to pick up a fly rod and explore some of Connecticut’s eastern rivers and streams. It also is a fantastic time for a beginner to learn how to fly fish since our eastern river and streams do not see quite the volume of fisherman as the Farmington or Housatonic- except for the Salmon and Natchaug.
Connecticut has some quality fisheries throughout the state other than the Farmington River and are waiting for you to explore them ! Also, all of Connecticut’s Trout Unlimited Chapters could use extra support, especially Thames Valley Chapter 282 of which I am a member of.
I’ll end this with a short video clip from the Salmon River. You can’t catch them every time !
With my career and guide business, it is difficult to maintain any sort of tradition like going out and fishing on Opening Day. For many, many years, before kids, I actually avoided this day on public water(s) since I fish all year long. However, the past few years, I’ve tried to create a tradition with my children to take them out on Opening Day. I still only take them to a private club that I belong to. This year only my son wanted to come.
The overnight and early morning was cold, one of the coldest Opening Days in recent memory that I remember or noted in a journal. It also didn’t help that it was windy, too, so wind chill was a factor. Added to this was our recent heavy rains. All of this came together to be a rough first day of fishing for the 2017 season. Our brook was swollen and our pond was brown.
I chose to fish the pond, mostly to avoid the complexities of a high and hard flowing brook, not to mention the safety factor too.
My son still likes to use his own spin gear and I let him, but I also bring my fly gear, too, in case he would like to try that as well- he usually does. So, he started off using worms and bobber on own pond.
No luck…we didn’t feel bad because not many other members were fairing any better even using shiners or power bait.
Being a young boy with limited attention span, I didn’t think he would hold out for a long as he did. I think playing with the worms was more stimulating much of the morning- getting muddy too ! Anyway, parents would know what I was talking about when I mention that he was looking for Herman the Worm…hahaha…for those that don’t it’s an educational song and when it gets stuck in your head…
He slugged away using his spinning rod but, still no dice….
I try and teach him that it’s about the experience and time together rather than numbers of fish, etc. However, you still need to have them catch a few fish no matter what it is. I rigged up my fly rod and put on a pair of eggs.
Eggs work in even still water if your working over stocked fish and if it’s a trout pond and its spawning time. I made a tuck cast for him, got the patterns to the bottom and gradually raised the patterns off the bottom and let them settle again. I repeated that several times before making another cast. Eventually, I hooked a white sucker in the corner of the lip ( you know your on the bottom when your hooking suckers in the mouth ). I handed him the rod and let him fight it out….
What did he want to do after landing it ? You guessed it… kiss a sucker ! I just stood there shaking my head….that’s a little boy for ya !
He moved to a different spot in the pond where a piece of land jets out to deeper water and where the main channel and current to the pond is. I made cast for him since we were around overhanging tree limbs- I didn’t want my rod tip broken by accident even though it was an ADG rod that he is used to casting and pretty damn near indestructible in terms of fishing it. I had only one rod tip break since 2003 and I fish HARD ! Plus, Jacob uses it and a number of clients have use it, too.
He did what I showed him with the sucker and …VOILA….
A 17 1/2 inch brown…yah !
Now there is a smile of a happy boy that caught a good size brown under tough conditions ! Opening Day saved ! He didn’t get the numbers of fish that he wanted but made up for it with the size of this fish. So we kept him for our Opening Day catch.
After a few more hours, he got too cold and too tired to continue so we headed home with our Opening Day catch, hungry for a feast…
Chip and dip, cheese and crackers, strawberries and cream, shrimp, filet mignon and of course our brown trout….stuffed & happy !
Thames Valley TU Chapter 282 has been hard at work this preseason aiding the state DEEP with stocking popular rivers and streams of Eastern Connecticut. I was one of a number of dedicated members who have been either net stocking or float stocking the Eight Mile, Little River and Shetucket, to name a few.
Despite recent rains that have swollen our rivers and streams, we were able to get out and help stock countless numbers of brown, brook, and rainbow trout of catchable size.
Hopefully everyone will be able to enjoy Opening Day 2017 this year and catch a few that were distributed throughout the eastern portion of the state. Please be respectful of others and adhere to the state’s fishing regulations. Also, get someone out there with you and introduced them to the great sport of fishing whether it is fly-fishing or not. Thames Valley TU- in particular- as well as any of the other Trout Unlimited chapters throughout this state are seeking new, active members. Stocking trout is just one of many great programs and a good way to learn a river or stream, meet other members, and interact with the hardworking employees of DEEP fisheries division.
Finally, when you see DEEP personnel and/or ENCON officers out in the field give them a special thanks for what they do- without them we would not have the quality of natural resources that we enjoy today !
See ya out there, good luck on Saturday, and tight lines !