Spring Report Card

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 !


Opening Day 2017



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…


” Daddy this might be Herman the Worm “

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 Continues Preseason Stocking


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 !

Some Nymphing Fundamentals


My lackluster guiding and blogging last season got me thinking that this year I need to be more active with it. I also have thought about the kinds of things that I wanted to post, one of which is a tutorial on nymphing. I previously thought that if I post ” how to’s ” on my site then people wouldn’t contact me for lessons and advise. However, I realize the fact that no matter how many times you read about it or see a video, it does not equate to actual time on the water and personal tutoring.

I like to teach and have been very fortunate to learn from one of the best American fly fisherman of all time. Joe Humphreys has been a mentor of mine but more importantly a good friend for a very long time. He has taught me so much and I owe it to him to pass it on. He is without a doubt one of the greatest nymph fisherman of all time- no one knows how to use casting techniques, leader design, and use of weights/weighted flies better than him !

joe and mike 2011

So I am going to discuss some basic fundamentals that every nympher must follow if they want the greatest amount of success no matter what style that they are using- strike indicators, euro nymphing, or traditional ” old school ” like I prefer.

1.) Take inventory of what kind of biomass is present:

Seine the stream and see what’s there and when its there. What types of nymphs are present ? What size ? What color ? Which ones are the most mature and active ? Which ones are the most predominant ? Also, look under rocks and within the vegetation in the stream or along the bank. Look in the air, on the banks or rocks, and in the trees to see what adult insects are present- the nymphal forms may still be available to the fish. And, don’t forget about land born food items like terrestrials, mice, frogs, etc. They end up in the stream too, and become items that could be nymphed as well.

2.) Fish the velocity changes:


You want to nymph the imprecise borders of all the little velocity changes. Look for changes in fast vs slow water, look for color changes of depth, look for rocks, logs, root wads, and undercut banks – anywhere where the currents are going to provide shelter for fish. Think about which direction the currents are flowing. Trout face into the current so you may see in a big back eddy that fish are facing downstream because the currents are moving back upstream. Think about fishing around and under woody debris, undercut banks and rocks because that is where fish also hold and where most nymph fisherman fail to do for fear of losing flies, etc.

3.) Lift your line over as many current changes as possible:

2011-06-07 12.50.05

Try and position yourself to cast over those dragging currents if you can. Or think about using a longer rod if you are able to. This is were I differ from almost everyone else in terms of fly rods. Of course I like a rod that casts, looks, and feels good. But, I’m more interested in what it does for me as a tool. If I’m on a big river I might want to fish a 10 footer. If I’m on an Eastern CT stream that is small to mid-sized, I probably can get away with a 9 footer… a small brook may call for a 7 1/2 or 8 footer. The length of your rod will help you hold your line over those conflicting currents.

4.) Don’t let the fish see you:


Wear earthy tones if you can. Approach carefully if you can and fish near cover if possible. Your chances decrease by 50 % if you haphazardly enter the river and start fishing without thinking about some of this. Learn the tuck cast so you can fish some distance by shooting some line. By combining the two you can fish a good distance away from fish and still get a good drag free drift.

5.) Lead your nymphs with the rod tip the whole way through the drift:

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Steve Skvarka leading his nymphs through the drift on Kinzua Creek

When you are nymphing straight upstream then leading the nymphs means that you are lifting your rod tip straight up and back…if your fishing across or up and across then you will need to lead with the rod tip downstream ahead of your nymph(s). If you are getting so that you are rolling the bottom down below you then you will need to lower the rod tip. But, you are still leading ahead of the nymphs-ALWAYS ! You want to stay in control and in close contact with your line, leader, and nymphs by eliminating excess slack yet still maintain a 90 degree angle from your rod tip to nymphs. By trying to keep this 90 degree angle,  you are giving the fish enough slack to pick up your nymphs but still tight to enough to control the drift and set the hook when a fish picks up your nymph.

6.) Adjust your leader, weight and nymphs  to get the point fly on the bottom:

2015-08-12 14.03.38

I prefer the Harvey/Humphreys’ leader system and formula because it is so much more superior and adaptable to any other formula(s) out there. I adjust my weights and/or weighted nymphs to try and get to the bottom and stay on the bottom for as long as I possibly can. This means that for each pocket, each seam, each riffle/run, I’m considering changing one of them or all of them to maximize my drag free drifts. In addition, I’m considering what type of cast I’m going to use that will help me use these changes for the best effect…the tuck cast, modified tuck, or the down-and-upper.

You can’t always follow each and every one of these rules for every pocket or riffle/run that you face but the more you incorporate these fundamentals into your nymph fishing the more you will be successful.

Good luck out there. Opening day is right around the corner.

I added a video clip that shows most of these fundamentals put to use. Enjoy !


“Beware the Ides of March”


March is a quirky month to say the least. March 1st marks the end of meteorological winter, then, within a few weeks, you have Daylight Savings Time beginning as well as Spring Equinox. Add to this the weather folklore saying  ” In like a lion, out like a lamb “, and you can be scratching your head in disbelief or shaking your fist and cursing. I think I did a little both yesterday.

First, I was shaking my fist and cursing because the day before and the preceding week, I was fishing and enjoying some of my local eastern streams that were recently stocked. But, by the end of the storm, I was quite happy that in my area we did not get the amount of forecasted snow- at least it doesn’t seem it. While I was blowing out the driveway, I observed a Robin perched on my neighbor’s fence…weird right ? Hence, I was scratching my head in disbelief !


The  saying ” beware the Ides of March ” is also notoriously linked with this month. This is because the 15th marks the day of Julius Caesar’s assassination where he was stabbed to death on his way to the Theatre of Pompey. Caesar was previously warned by a ” seer ” that harm would come to him no later than the Ides of March. While he was headed to the senate, he saw the seer and said ” the Ides of March are come”, to which the seer replied, ” Aye, Caesar; but not gone. ”

This whole account was famously portrayed in William Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar where the famous term ” beware the Ides of March ” has been etched in history. Today, it has a connotation that it is a bad omen, etc., but, in ancient Roman times before Caesar’s death, it was traditionally a time of religious observance.

For me I look at this saying and time period as a threshold or turning point between true winter and more spring-like conditions on a more consistent basis. Also, we are less  likely to have a major snow event like yesterday. Does it still snow? Yes. Our last recorded snow has been as late as May 7th but, huge blizzards where it doesn’t turn to rain or mix is less and less likely. And, we start to see real signs of spring like :

20170308_124543Blooming Skunk Cabbage or….


Budding pricker bushes…or…..


The catching of stocked fish in our local rivers and streams !

So far I can’t really complain too much since we have had a mild winter and we are slowly getting some water back. Plus, CT DEEP has been dutifully out there performing their stocking tasks undermanned and  under budgeted. Thank you CT DEEP, without you guys fishing around my area would be rather poor most of the year !

For now, I probably won’t be able to get out and fish for the next few days. The weather is still going to be questionable, too, but it doesn’t look like another blizzard is on the horizon !

I can report that two area Eastern Connecticut streams that are TMA’s have been stocked and fishing rather well up until yesterday. Here is the proof:


TVTU Members Teaching Boy Scouts Fly Tying

This past Sunday myself and a number of members from the Thames Valley Chapter of TU got together to help teach a group of boy scouts from Lisbon Troop 76 how to tie flies for fly fishing. This was one part of a series of classes that they needed to complete to achieve a merit badge in fly fishing. SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA

Jacob was able to attend with me and enjoyed it just as much as I did.


Although this particular tying event was specifically geared towards teaching the scouts how to tie flies, Jake was able to tie right along with everyone else and even got some individual attention.


It was a real privilege and honor to help teach the scouts of Troop 76. Although I was never part of BSA, I’ve always admired their mission and have yet to meet a young scout who was not a courteous, well mannered young man.


Of course you must have pizza for lunch when you have a group of young boys gathered together !



TVTU Annual ” Flies & Pies ” Event

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 !20170221_200032

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.



Winter Beauty


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 !


Win…Win…Win…Win… For a Little Boy and his Daddy.

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.


Paramachene Belle


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.