Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Off the Grid

The days surrounding the traditional opener of Connecticut's trout season are sacrosanct.  Like Christmas morning when I was younger, the anticipation for the third Saturday in April builds weeks in advance.  For four days and three nights, our crew will be off the grid in the woods of northwestern Connecticut and camp life takes over. 

By rough estimation, it's been about 18 years since my uncle introduced me to this tradition.  We've camped through just about every type of weather over that stretch, but not many years have we seen these kinds of temperatures.  The nighttime lows this year resemble what we usually have for daytime highs.  Our waterways are extremely low for April and the Farmington River where we stay is no exception.  The soaking rains coming towards the end of our trip are much needed; I'm just glad I picked up the fresh 200 hundred clams and oysters from Long Island Sound before they came.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Salty Stirrings

Things are definitely picking up in Long Island Sound and in her tidal tributaries.  Despite the desperate need for rain, alewives, blueback herring and shad are running up rivers and streams to their native spawning grounds.  Early arriving striped bass, bluefish and ever important menhaden are now showing up throughout Connecticut waters.  A large number of holdover stripers have dropped into the Sound from their wintering grounds.  Blackfish and winter flounder seasons just kicked off last weekend and from what I can tell, tog reports are great at local breakwalls and winter flounder limits of two aren't hard to come by in harbor channels.

Rigged eels and eel-skin plugs are two of the deadliest tools a striped bass anlger can use.

As far as fishing goes, my mind has been pretty focused on trout for the last several weeks, especially now with the annual Hendrickson hatch underway.  The Jeep is loaded with freshwater fly rods and ready to head north at a moment's notice.  However, the urge in me to saltwater fish is growing by the day.  Many of the striped bass to be caught here right now are smaller than the trout I'm targeting, but their much larger brothers and sisters are on their way.  Wild reports of good bass blitzing on bunker schools are streaming out of New Jersey and one can only hope that could happen here soon. 

Admittedly, I haven't done as much as I could have to prepare for the coming saltwater season.  I've been out a few nights after holdover schoolies, acquired a few new toys over the winter, but still have to tie leaders, change rusty hooks, rig Slug-Gos, and a long list of other things that I put off while trying to force an ice fishing season.  However, tonight, I took a small step in the right direction.  From the bottom left corner of my fridge, I grabbed the large Tupperware container that my wife tries to forget is there.  Inside I shook loose two rigged eels and a handful of eek-skin plugs from their winter slumber within a kosher salt-filled den.  The skins were dry and hooks a tad rusty, yet overall they survived the offseason well.  Some of the skins are getting gnarly, though in their defense, a few are entering their fourth year of service.  Over the next few weeks I will dust off my gear and get my act together for what I know is coming.

For now, I am hopeful that herring, bunker and shad keep showing up in droves and the big bass and blues soon follow.  Then the table will be set again for some memorable saltwater fishing.  Here's to an awesome 2012 season!  Good luck and stay safe!


Sunday, April 1, 2012

Short & Sweet

There was a strange white substance covering the ground as I walked down to the riverbank.  It was the last day of March and a dusting of snow had fallen to remind everyone that this was indeed still New England.  The inclement weather left the Farmington River void of anglers and the pool I was thinking about during the hour drive up had yet to be fished that morning. 

With only a short window to fish due to family obligations, I was happy to find the trout didn't mind a little foul weather.  Aaron and Derrick joined me and we put together a great sampling of Farmington fish using very light nymphing techniques in scary low flows.  Despite recent stockings, we didn't find any fish fresh out of the hatchery.  It was quite the opposite actually; we netted some high quality trout, a few of which were mostly likely born in the river. 

The highlight of the outing was a double hook-up with a brace of wild fish.  Derrick connected with a female downstream and I stuck the golden male above him, which immediately went airborne on the hook set.  Aaron sealed the deal with a great net job and camera work.  Derrick and Aaron landed another impressive pair of browns after I left too.  It was certainly a short and sweet trip with good friends and cooperative fish.  I am already looking for my next chance up there and will keep doing my rain dance in the meantime.