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 !
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 !
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:
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:
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:
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 !
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 :
Blooming 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:
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.
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 !
Tonight was our [ Thames Valley TU ] annual chapter event titled ” Flies & Pies ” where our members, their family and friends, and guests gather together to have pizza and enjoy a whole host of activities. There were fly tying tables for folks to learn from some of the best tiers around. In addition, there was an art exhibit, various tables of gear to purchase or swap, and two local Eastern Connecticut fly shops as well, offering tying material and tying equipment for sale. Of course I have to mention that there were boxes and boxes of pizza to eat along with cookies, popcorn, soda, and COFFEE !
A great thrill for me was Jacob having school break and being able to attend this event. He was very happy to be able to use his new fly tying starter kit and get some EXPERT help. He won big tonight as well with a raffle door prize and a mini bobbin set !
A stitched up pinky finger was not going to deter him from tying tonight ! He received expert tips from Steve Babbitt, a friend of mine who happens to be one of if not the most knowledgeable and experienced guide for Eastern Connecticut. Steve is also one of the finest fly tiers I have ever met. By the way, I won, too ! Steve tied up some tiny BWO’s for me knowing that I despise tying the micro sizes. Thanks Steve !
Jacob with his other raffle prize, a mini bobbin set. Pictured with him is John Preston who is a former president of the chapter and instrumental in keeping it going and viable. John is still one of the most active members to date ! Thanks for all of your work and efforts John.
Of course we are always looking for more members so if you have the time and want to get involved, become a member of Trout Unlimited.