Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Maybe you're aware of the unique trout breeding program run by CT DEEP's Inland Fisheries Division. If you're not, then you should be because it is responsible for some of the better trout swimming in Connecticut waters. These high quality brown trout, known as survivors, are progeny of captured wild and holdover fish from the Farmington River. During the annual sampling of the river, a number of cherry-picked browns are taken back to a state hatchery, they do their thing and are released back to the river. Eventually their offspring are stocked into the Farmington, either as yearlings or two-year-old adults. The spring 2010 batch was stocked last week. The adults can be identified by little orange tags called elastomers inserted in the tissue behind their left eye. The yearlings have yellow tags behind their right eye. You can see an example of one of these colored identification marks below.

A 2009 Survivor yearling captured one year later.

Like all trout in the Farmington River, the Survivor strain are forced to wise up fast in its heavily pressured waters. The ones that make it through their first winter in the river should be considered a respectable catch. Some will hold-over multiple years and become real trophies, like the one below caught and released by my good friend Derrick of CT Fish Guides.

A 2005 Survivor yearling landed in 2010  (Photo credit: Ty Croce)

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Greatest Generation

My last surviving grandparent passed away yesterday. My mother's father, John Redman Lambert, lived a long, full life. He was a WWII veteran that stormed Normandy and suffered through the Battle of the Bulge. He received two Purple Hearts and a Silver Star for his service to our country. MyGgrandfather was sharp as a tack--he was a great poet, editor and writer, a serious Jazz drummer in his day, and, like many of us, he loved fishing. He will be deeply missed, but I know he's in a better place now; bailing moby striped bass with a smile on his face. Rest in peace, Grandfather.

John R. Lambert   9/12/1922 - 4/24/2010

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Opening Daze 2010

The third Saturday of April each year marks the official start to Connecticut's trout season. While these fish can be targeted year-round in designated catch and release areas, Opening Day is the symbolic opening gun and is heavily based around tradition. For almost two decades, my uncle and I have camped and fished together that weekend come hell or high water. He had started this Farmington River tradition some two decades before my time. Over the years, the annual crew has waxed and waned into its present form. Our stay may be a few days longer now, but the core themes remain; good food, great company, tight lines, and serious relaxation.

Weather is always a roll of the dice for mid-April.  In recent years we've had nothing but beach days; this year Mother Nature threw us a reality check of rain and cold.  Of course we did not let the weather dampen our annual rituals, from elaborate cheese spreads to fresh Long Island Sound clams on the half shell.  As always, hard laughs and fish stories around the fire were plentiful, as was the flow of single malt and Guinness. 

The Motley Crew

Although fishing takes somewhat of a backseat to camp life on this trip, it is what brought us all together in the first place.  It's not easy finding a suitable location for a group of five anglers this time of year, yet we always try to make it happen.  We plied some "new" water this year, but a few instances found us all sharing large, familiar runs, with bent rods in abundance. 

Photo credit: Aaron Swanson
Not to toot our own horns, but we caught a pretty serious amount of trout over the three-day span. While most of them were feisty rainbows fresh from the hatchery, occasionally a holdover brown or rainbow would make its way into the net. The competition for food among trout in the river is at its peak this time of year. Unlike winter and early spring fishing, one must now weed through the freshly stocked fish to find the quality ones. Tungsten weighted flies, especially ones woven with green embroidery floss, fooled most of our finned friends. American pheasant tail patterns also produced; rightly so, with the abundance of Hendrickson nymphs that showed up in the seine net samples.

Some piggish rainbow trout were lost and landed on this trip; one gluttonous fish experienced both fates. At one point over the weekend, a few of the crew branched off to hit some unfamiliar territory.  In the head of a sexy looking run, I began drifting a tandem rig of a small caddis pupa above a pink Vladi worm. A large trout struck like a freight train and a brief battle commenced. I saw a thick rainbow flash before the line suddenly went slack; both flies gone. Damn! How big was that bow??  I guess I'll never never know... 

We gave the pool a quick breather before Aaron jumped in. Not ten minutes later, he was got came tight a large trout himself; this time hooked on a green woven nymph. As he tired the fish out, we notice my bright pink fly hanging from its mouth! As I netted the greedy bastard, I notice my other fly in its tail! My dropper fly, twenty inches from my anchor fly, was too close for this fish.  Its tail caught the dropper and broke free both flies--a valuable lesson learned.  Thanks to Aaron, I got some comfort knowing what I lost in the head of that run--a great rainbow trout. It made for a good story and laugh around the camp fire that night!

As we parted ways Sunday afternoon, we all nodded in agreement...another year in the books. This trip is one of those things that you look forward to seasons in advance. It's also one of those traditions that you can picture yourself doing, God willing, until your physically unable to anymore. Once again Opening Day weekend had come and gone in what felt like a blink of an eye, but we had one a hell of a time. And that's what it's all about. 

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Two Years & One Mile

In many designated catch and release areas, like the one found in Connecticut's Farmington River, the same trout are often caught over and over again. They gotta eat after all. With the advent of digital photography and cell phone cameras, it's easier than ever to identify previous catches by studying trout markings and past photos. Not often, however, is the same trout recaptured two years apart and more than a mile from its original lie. 

My friend Derrick got the first look at this beautiful brown in May 2008. He caught it on a dry fly during a strong Hendrickson hatch. Fast forward to last Sunday when I fooled the same trout while nymphing with a caddis pupa pattern. The fine specimen grew just about a half inch in two years and moved several pools upstream. We figure the trout must be at least four or five years old; that's a long time to be running the pressured gauntlet that is the Farmington. Hopefully, it's not the last time we cross paths either. 

Caught & released  on May 1, 2008

Caught & released on April 11, 2010

Sunday, April 11, 2010

A Fine Day

My buddy Aaron and I logged some hours on the river today in preparation for our annual Opening Day camping trip later this week. The water flow has come down quite a bit from the last time I fished here, but it wasn't low by any means. The surface temperature was steadily rising, with a high of 49 at lunch time.  A healthy amount of blue wing olives were popping off in the afternoon, but not many trout are looking up yet. The river was extremely crowded and high winds made getting quality drifts difficult at times. Other than an unpleasant encounter with a fellow angler with poor stream-etiquette, it was a great outing. We did quite a bit of seining and fly changing today before eventually settling into a nice groove. A few different subsurface presentations worked well, with yarn indicator and European nymphing being the most productive.  Woven golden stone patterns and STDs both fooled large, quality brown trout. It felt great connecting with some nice fish on my own flies.  It's the best way to build confidence in patterns. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come for our upcoming trip.  For now, it's back to the vise.

Photo credit: Aaron Swanson

Photo credit: Aaron Swanson

Friday, April 9, 2010

Earn Your Stripes

Each April, like clockwork, a local river mouth attracts holdover, school-sized striped bass and the hordes of anglers trying to fool them. During last night's excursion we almost missed both, almost. We arrived to a virtually empty parking lot and when I opened the Jeep door, I found out why.  The wind was blowing something serious out of the southwest right in our teeth. The only other angler there was packing up, stating the wind was just too much to deal with and he suggested we try to find a spot upstream out of the elements. That was out of the question though and into the darkness we went. 

The last three times I have taken my younger brother fishing, we got skunked...badly.  I was nervous he was starting to think my fish stories were exactly that, just stories. Well after building him up for a few days about our upcoming striper outing, his excitement and confidence were high. Of course Mother Nature had to step in and throw a little wrench into the plan. The wind made it difficult to stay in contact with his offering, a Yozuri Mag Darter, but he soon got the hang of it and was making quality drifts in no time. After about an hour of casting and retrieving, his rod bent over as a feisty striper whacked his plug. The outgoing tide and strong river current added to the fight, and a shit-eating grin spread across his face. I don't know who was more pumped when he lipped his first-ever linesider - but it was a great experience for us both.

Garrett's first striped bass!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

A Wild Saturday

My good buddy Aaron and I visited an old haunt of ours on Saturday in search of wild brown and native brook trout. The small stream was still on the high side after the major rain event that hit the region earlier in the week. The water was still gin-clear, however, and very fishable. The warm sun spiked the water temperature to a high of 54 degrees and a seine net sample revealed a variety of menu options, with an abundance of cased caddis.

Photo credit: Aaron Swanson

We spent much of the day nymphing with weighted flies; a method we haven't spent too much time using here--and for many stretches, it proved very effective. At times the tight quarters made wielding long rods difficutlt, but the extra reach helped maintain our stealthy approach.

Photo credit: Aaron Swanson

A few fish came unbuttoned early, but we eventually settled into a groove and landed a fair amount of trout. A few stockers migrated into this Wild Trout Management Area with the heavy flows, but the majority were stream-born and flawless.

Photo credit:  Aaron Swanson

The extremely mild weather was a welcomed treat, and it felt good to be back on a stream that we spent many a day on during college. It felt even better to have her cough up some gems. Until next time, tight lines...