Friday, December 23, 2011

Stocking Stuffers

By this time last year, there was a sheet of black ice on several bodies of water in the northwest hills of Connecticut, but Mother Nature can be a sick and twisted lady. Officially two days into winter, there is not a hint of safe ice anywhere in the state. We had thunderstorm and 60-degree temps this week on top of it. But ice or not, there are still some fine fishing opportunities to be had in late December. 

My friend Matt is home from Virginia for Christmas. He is a true fishing bum at heart that hasn't got on the water much lately, other than everyday aboard an aircraft carrier in the US Navy. With a short window of time, we settled on a quick trip to a local wild trout stream. Weather forecasters predicted conditions on the gnarly side, but were happy they were wrong and enjoyed a beautiful morning. 

When we pulled up the flow looked especially sexy thanks to some rain the previous day. We shared one rod between us, a 7.5-foot, 3-weight small stream special. The rigging since my last trip in November hadn't changed; a bushy dry fly serving as an indicator, with a tiny tungsten bead pheasant tail pattern about 18-inches below it. It didn't take more than a dozen drifts to stick a small brown trout and get us on the board.  For the next two hours, we hiked through the woods stopping at fishy pools that treated us well in the past. 

The fish were hungry on this morning. About a half a dozen wild brown trout came to the hand before it was quitting time and we probably pricked twice as many. It's hard to beat the colors on stream-born trout, even if they are only six inches long. All in all, it was great to fish with Matt again and I hope we can hit the water  for a longer trip on his next deployment. 

Here's to a healthy and fish-filled 2012!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Western NY Video

The collaborative video project showcasing our November trip to western New York is finally complete. You can read more about our recent experience on the Great Lake tributaries here:  Part I & Part II.  Turn it up and enjoy!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Fall Eyes

When I worked at the Inland Fisheries Division's eastern headquarters, there was an old poster on one of the walls that made quite the impression on me. It showcased a fierce looking fish with large eyes peering from a dark, craggy rock pile. The text above it simply read, "Walleye: A Creature of Habitat."

Walleye are predators in every sense of the word. Their big marble eyes allow them to hunt in low-light conditions. They have a mouthful of sharp teeth and they hang out in the bottom part of the water column munching on forage fish and anything else that crosses their path.

Walleye are not native to Connecticut waters, though CT DEEP stocks them in a handful of lakes and ponds around the state. There is also a population in the Connecticut River. While they haven't successfully bred here in the wild, they are trucked in each year from the Midwest as fingerlings and take a few seasons to reach the keeper size of 18-inches. That's important to know because walleye are arguably the best tasting fish in freshwater.   

This fall a few friends and I have been targeting walleye with live shiners and artificial lures like soft-plastic baits on jig heads. The action for small fish has been  pretty good while the large 'eyes have remained elusive. The early morning or late afternoon hours have been productive windows to fish for them. However, when our waterways lock up with ice over the next weeks and months, it will turn strictly to a night game for us. I look forward to finding larger "creatures of habitat" hiding under the ice this coming winter.