Author: easte34

Fly Fishing Guide & Instructor, CT. Instructor @ Kinzua Fly Fishing School, PA.

Dog Days of Summer

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.

Are They Wild ?

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 like the picture on top. That trout is a holdover 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 clip in it…not a wild brown. Sometimes though, 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 but what you can’t see is that it does not have a colorful adipose and its right fin is clipped. Plus, it is of a size that we stock at our club so it is most likely a  holdover.

A Perfect Specimen

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 !

Fishing A Flooded River

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 !

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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. 20180912_211625

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 !

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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.

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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.

Moose Lodge

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,

Mike

Don’t Let Your Skills Become Rusty

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.

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This is within the Merrow Park section

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 !

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Pete, a new client of mine, wanted me to critique his skills and help him improve them.

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 !

 

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Thin Leaf Sunflowers dot the river banks of the Willimantic

 

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 !

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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 !

 

 

 

 

 

Exceptional Brook Trout Streams

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.

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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.

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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.

20180824_134853This 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.20180824_140050

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.

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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.

20180824_142214.jpgHere 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.

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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.

 

 

Going Simple

Thank God for the Farmington River this summer and particularly during these hot and humid days. I sought some relief today by venturing to my home waters that I grew up fishing on. I specifically went above Riverton where the water is the coolest. It is still running in the mid to upper 50’s. Today I got a reading of 58 degrees in some riffled, pocket water.

It’s hard for me to be a minimalist when fishing. I don’t know if it is because of all my years in EMS and being a paramedic, where I have to carry lots of heavy gear for every conceivable situation and have been conditioned to carry everything and be prepared for anything, or is it because I do like to fish several different ways throughout the day and need to carry more stuff ? Perhaps my buddy Joe, who has influenced me the most in fly fishing, has reinforced my natural tendency to be prepared for everything ? Maybe it’s a combination of all of the above ?

That being said, it is hard on days like today to get ” geared up ” with everything because even though the river is cool and refreshing, it still is hot as hell out there ! Today, I tried to more ” Huck Finn ” it to stay cooler. I chose to fish only one fly but use it in several different ways.

My choice was a Light Cahill wet. Fished as a nymph with split shot in the riffles and runs, it represents the nymphal stage hatching from the bottom or a drowned adult of the Cahill’s, Sulphur’s, or even a tan/cream caddis. The wet with it’s light colored  body and wooduck wing and hackle is very buggy looking regardless. As a traditional wet, it is a good search pattern swinging through the riffles and pockets. Finally, as a dry…yes a DRY FLY, it can be used as an emerger or crippled fly. All I did was take my shot off when I wanted to swing it in the surface film as a traditional wet.

I would occasionally see a rise in the seams and velocity changes or a patch of flat water along the edge of the bank. I used an ” old school ” tactic and dubbed some Mucilin on it and used it as a dry after adjusting my leader. It is quite fun to see a trout rise to a ruffled mess of a fly on the surface- you don’t need to have a perfectly constructed dry fly all the time. In fact, most of the time the simple flies catch the most fish !

So, it was quite ironic when I got home and read in this month’s American Angler that David Klausmeyer wrote an article called ” Simple Terrestrials for Hot Summer Action. ” In it he highlighted Ed Shenk’s  famous Letort Hopper, Letort Cricket, and Harvey’s Inch Worm. All of them are simple flies to tie and not very intricate. These particular patterns have been catching fish in some of America’s most heavily and pressured trout streams of Central Pennsylvania for over 50 years !

Although he was specifically talking about terrestrials, he was making a point about the effectiveness of ” simple flies “. What I’m trying to point out is that a simple fly coupled with basic and fundamental techniques can still catch fish, too ! I guess I even taught myself a lesson today as well… I don’t always need to carry everything to have a fun , rewarding, and productive day. I certainly didn’t sweat as much as I normally would have !

All bows today in the fast water. No monsters. But, they were all in the teens and very  feisty !

Get up to the Farmington and wet wade it while it is still summer. You’ll have lots of fun and be refreshed, too !

 

Finally Some Decent Spring Weather & Trout

 

 

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The past two days were wonderful; temperatures at or near what they should be and sunny skies ! What that means for  your local avid fly fisherman is that our local waters warmed to the magic number of 50 degrees or greater-prime temps to start all of the hatches.

Yesterday I traveled to one of my favorite rivers to fish in Eastern Connecticut. It is normally heavily stocked and has a fair amount of fishing pressure too, although nothing compares to the Farmington. One of the reasons why I love to fish locally beside saving time and money ( on gas ), is the fact that our local(s) streams do not see a quarter of the pressure that the Farmington gets even on a weekday ( it’s quite ridiculous ). Does anyone work anymore ?

This particular river does see a lot of DEEP stocking and I caught a few rainbows and browns in the usual stocking areas. They were of average size stock but what surprised me was how the bows fought. They seemed to have more spunk than your typical stocked fish so if you hooked into one slightly larger than 9-12 inches, then you had a decent fight for this time or the year. I’m not saying that I got into any reel screamers,  just that it was surprising to feel a good tug on the end with water temps not making it above 50 degrees until Monday.

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This time of the year you still do not need to get out too early unless your itching to beat the crowd. So on a typical weekday this time of the year, I don’t reach the river until well after the kids are on the bus and I have sufficiently caffeinated myself. At the spot I chose to start, I saw evidence of some midge activity in cobwebs, some in flight , and some small caddis but no surface activity. Also, I saw a few early stones in fight as well.  Around 1 PM this all changed, sort of…

The river met the magic mark of 50 degrees. Actually, it ended up getting to 52 degrees. I finally saw MY first evidence of the ” spring ” hatches starting to run their course. I couldn’t quite catch one to completely verify but I believed them to be Red Quills and female Hendricksons. I did not see a Quill Gordon though.

I will be the first to admit that I’m not a guru of  ” bugology ” so I had to confirm later on with a friend of mine and another local guide, Steve Babbitt. He is far more well versed in this sort of thing and is a true authority on the subject. He was out on the local waters yesterday, too, and confirmed that I did see Red Quills and female Hendricksons. It completely made sense since the water temps hit that ” 50 degree ” mark.

The dry-fly aficionados will start to get excited here but hold up for a second ! From what I could interpret yesterday is that this hatch is probably just starting and the trout are not dialed in at looking up for their food except for the ” stockers”. Steve and Jimmy said where they were fishing , they only saw a scant few ( trout ) break the surface. So…for now continue nymphing or using wets. As the hatches strengthen, more trout will start to rise and the dries will be more productive ! Stockers don’t always follow that rule so you might be able to entice them to the surface by skating some high riding Catskill type dries or your typical elk hair caddis patterns.

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As you can see, the ” egg ” hatch works too, especially on fresh stockers right out of tank # 6. Oh  I can hear it now….junk flies…cheating…blah…blah…blah. Think about this though: You actually have to nymph a ” junk ” fly like the egg more perfectly than an impressionistic mayfly, caddis or stonefly nymph because an actual ” bug ” has inherent motion to them and subtle drag in your presentation might not be a deal breaker, whereas there is NO live movement with an egg  so you have to drift them naturally in the current.  Again, stockers violate the rules sometimes and a dragging fly in front of them will trigger a strike sometimes but you will be far more productive if you drift is more natural.

 

 

Where Do You Draw The Line ?

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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:

http://www.ct.gov/deep/cwp/view.asp?A=2586&Q=601134

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Enough is Enough

 

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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.

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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 !

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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.

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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 Repeats/Spring Marches On

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.

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Whenever I smell and see these guys, I know things are improving.

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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.

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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 !

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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….