Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Connecticut Natives

Sometimes the best things in life do indeed come in small packages. Take Salvelinus fontinalis, or the brook trout, for example. Full grown they may not exceed six inches in length, yet stream-born brookies are by far the most handsome fish swimming in Connecticut waters. In addition to their striking beauty, brook trout are special because they are the state's only native trout (they're technically a char, but let's not split hairs here). Unfortunately, these little gems face an uphill battle in the Nutmeg State. Once found in streams all across Connecticut, over development and pollution from stormwater runoff (among other factors) have relegated wild brookies to only our most pristine, gin-clear waterways.

A friend and I spent this past Columbus Day stalking one such stream in search of its resident trout. After a 90 minute drive and another thirty minute hike, we finally arrived to a watercourse no wider than the length of my fly rod. Our excursion couldn't have been better timed; foliage was peaking, water levels were ideal and there wasn't another soul in sight.We brought along a handful of dry flies, nymphs and small streamers, but only one pattern proved necessary. A loud, buoyant fly known as a Stimulator lived up to its name that day, bringing dozens of little wild trout from hiding to smack the floating meal ticket.

Drawing strikes wasn't all that hard, as the first good drift over any fishy-looking lie was often rewarded with a mini surface explosion. Getting the fly to where it needed to be in tight quarters was the tricky part, along with keeping the wildly acrobatic brookies on a tight line. More fish were lost than landed, but most of the fun comes with the initial take anyway.


My friend had hiked and fished this place once before, but it was my first time and I was completely in awe of the stream and its surroundings. It was a pristine place untouched by the outside world. A huge swath of wild land that hopefully will always be kept the way it is for future generations to enjoy and to see what much of the state once looked like. It's fitting that such a gorgeous creature as a native brook trout can only thrive in places like this one.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

A Cape Weekend

When the invitation for an October wedding in Cape Cod came in the mail, my wife and I were more than pleased. The fall is a wonderful time of year to be there and the fishing is usually good too. Truro resembled a ghost town when we arrived the Friday before the wedding, which was a welcomed change from the usual hustle and bustle we encounter there every summer. All wedding guests booked rooms in a small motel on Route 6A that overlooked the expansive Cape Cod Bay. In the courtyard of the motel, there was a huge white tent for the following day's reception, which meant a short walk (read: stumble) back to the room!

Low tide on the vast Cape Cod Bay

A look at downtown Provincetown in the distance.

Once settled, we drove a few miles north to Provincetown and dined at a very nice restaurant that lived up to its hype. Their martini list was longer than most menus I've seen, but the thing I enjoyed most were the oysters on the half shell, which were plucked from Wellfleet waters that very day.

Wellfleet oysters are a must when on Cape Cod! They are some of the best in the world.
Being on the Cape in October, it was pretty much mandatory to sneak in some fishing time. So after a nice catnap, I found myself driving down an empty Route 6 to the Cape Cod Canal. It's kind of ironic because I used to drive right over the Canal on my way to fish the back beaches of Truro and Provincetown without thinking twice about it. Now I was staying right in Truro and driving over an hour in the opposite direction. It just goes to show how fishing spots and habits change over time.

A few phone calls and emails to contacts in the Cape helped formulate my fishing plans that morning. Reports weren't excellent, yet there had been some striped bass cooperating in the Canal at night and first light. With coffee in hand, I strolled down the service road on the mainland-side of the Canal by 5 AM. It was just enough time to get in position and get my bearings before the sun came up. I was far from alone however, as the easy access and consistency of the Canal usually spells competition, especially at dawn.

The first hints of day break with the Sagamore Bridge in the background.
After posting up at a spot that I had never fished before, I began rotating through the ridiculous amount of lures I brought along.  There was a good deal of bait, young of the year herring was my guess, that were getting gobbled up by cormorants working in front of me. When I heard the first pop as the eastern sky began to brighten, I made the switch to surface lures.

A super tanker getting towed through the canal. Note the cormorant in the foreground.

There was a long line of anglers on both sides of the Canal with a respectable distance in between them. Unfortunately, no one was catching anything. Every once in a while a striper would crash baitfish on the surface, so at least we all knew there were fish to be had. The next plug out of my bag was a custom Super Strike Little Neck Popper that I had won through a contest on Facebook. It was a sinking 2 3/8-ounce version that is one of the best kept secrets in surfcasting because it's a popper that swims better than most swimmers.Not only does it have great action, the plug casts like a missile. In about a 30-minute span, I hooked three stripers using it, landing two of them, both feisty fish just under 20-pounds.

The custom Little Neck Popper
I was proud to catch those fish, especially because they were the only two I saw caught all morning. They were also the first bass I had taken on that lure and it was the first time I had caught fish on the mainland-side of the Canal. After a couple of hours and my head held high, I made the trek back to Truro and enjoyed the awesome wedding festivities. The ceremony was in a historic church in Provincetown, then we partied under the tent at the motel into the wee hours of the morning. One particular highlight for me was the raw bar. The groom and his wedding party were recreational tuna fishermen and landed three 60-pound  Bluefin earlier that week. Along with the tuna sashimi, Wellfleet Oyster & Clam Co. served up their finest shellfish. It was a perfect touch for a Cape Cod wedding.

Another top-water bass from the Cape Cod Canal