Monday, April 24, 2017

April Butter

I took a mental health day today and put in a few solid hours on the Farmington River. It was awesome--warm air, bugs hatching and a good buddy to share the water with. The flow from Goodwin Dam was cut considerably since our camping trip last weekend and the fishing seemed to improve in a big way. Aaron and I hit three spots hard and found trout at each, a couple of which were pretty damn nice. The quality fish ate a mix of hendrickson nymphs, blue wing olive nymphs and cased caddis. 

Today was my last day on the river for a little while.  I'm going from changing flies back to changing diapers! 

Photos by Aaron Swanson

Friday, April 21, 2017

Lunch Break Brown

I hit a local trout stream during lunch yesterday. After blanking in a pool where I know a couple of big fish hang, I went upstream to a stretch that I would normally pass by. Only one taker came to the net, but it was a stunning wild brown from a shallow riffle. It ate a tiny flashback pheasant tail nymph that you can see hanging from the upper lip. With another addition to my family coming any day now, I'll be taking a little hiatus from fishing and posting so I'm soaking in every bit right now.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Pass It On

I can still remember the excitement of catching my first keeper striped bass more than 20 years ago. My uncle had brought me to a spot close to home that he'd been fishing his whole life. It was a long walk through a marsh in the dark, something I take for granted now, but it felt so foreign to me then. Everything I used that night was loaned to me from waders to surf rod to the white curly tail grub and jig head that fooled my fish. We were the only ones on the point that tide except for one other angler. That angler had a camera and when he witnessed my uncle and me celebrating my catch, he offered to take our photo and mail it to us. I gave him my name and address, but the photo never came. I always wished I had a framed picture to document that moment, yet it's a fond memory still etched in my brain. It would have been a little easier today with digital cameras and email, but I digress. 

Fast forward to Tuesday night and my uncle and I were back together at that same spot, but this time we brought one of his sons. It was now Max's turn to take that foreign walk in the dark and ask all the questions. Before this night, he had caught and released just one striped bass. He was beyond pumped to get out there. Despite the chilly temps and stiff ESE wind, Max slayed the stripers starting with his very first cast with a brand new Mag Darter. They weren't keeper-sized, but they were special fish nonetheless. My uncle and I were fly fishing and caught our first schoolies of the season, but watching my cousin's excitement was the main event. The kid is hooked. He has the surf fishing bug big time. It's good to see a young man his age getting started. Another generation. Someday it will be his turn to take a budding angler to that spot and pass it on. 

Friday, April 7, 2017

Wild Workday

I have mentioned here before how sweet it is that my place of employment is situated just up the hill from a stream with perfect wild trout habitat. A three-weight fly rod and Muck Boots are kept in my truck at all times. Though it sees decent angling pressure, I've been lucky to sneak the occasional weekday mission in before or after work when it's usually less crowded. Last week I was able to go on two such jaunts in the same day; once in the morning and again in late afternoon.

In the first round, I went to a familiar pool with easy access that has been consistent in terms of numbers of fish, but not necessarily size. A big trout for me from here is around 10 inches, which is a respectable wild trout from this stream, but they can get much larger. I frequent this spot more than others because it's a quick hit and I can always count on seeing fish. While this type of thinking has kept me from visiting other parts of the stream more than I probably should, that is beginning to change.

As is always the case in this run, I was trailing a nymph on super light tippet underneath a dry fly. In short order I hooked six pint-sized gems which of only half reached my net. The biggest of the bunch, a gorgeous brook trout, ate a Stimulator I had just purchased during a surfcasting event at River's End. After spending about $100 on saltwater gear, I couldn't resist picking three of the big dries from a lonely freshwater bin. The rest of the trout that morning fell for a small, tungsten-bead pheasant tail I tied last winter. The Stimulator/pheasant tail combo is deadly for me in this spot. It has't really mattered what time of year or what bugs are hatching or in the drift, the trout here respond well to these two patterns presented in this way. I'm sure other flies and tactics work, but if it ain't broke don't fix it. After a brief dose of fresh air and trout, the Muck Boots were traded for dress shoes and off to work I went...

After work I returned with a plan to fish a stretch I had never seen before. I went the farthest downstream I had ever been and kept walking. Hugging the edge of the stream, I entered a wooded area bordering some backyards. There was no worn dirt path here like more popular stretches and I got the feeling this water has been neglected by most anglers. Without much room to spare on my boots, I crossed a riffle just upstream of a shaded, deep pool. Now I found myself across the stream from the residential area and in better position to present the dry-dropper rig I still had on from the morning trip.

There wasn't much space for a backcast, so I perched on a rock a few feet from the overgrown bank to buy me a little breathing room. Now I had brambles behind me and directly across the stream was a large backyard with no fence (which would come into play soon). I begin casting and on the third drift through the money zone, my Stimulator disappears. I set the hook and knew in an instant it was a nice fish. After some heartbreak on this stream in the past, my mind immediately went to negative thoughts of losing another big one. Despite the tight quarters, I was able to keep a good angle and pressure on her. When it finally broke the surface a few yards from me, I stumbled from my rock to close the gap getting water over my boots in the process. The lively brown trout slid into my net and I was a happy man.

The fish had vivid red spots over a buttery underbelly and a notable battle scar on its tail from the past. Just a beautiful specimen and my largest wild trout from this particular stream in a few years. Without a tape, I guessed the fish to be about 15-inches long. The term 'trophy fish' is very relative to where it was caught. This was a trophy to me. 

After the release, she sulked in the water beside me for a photo before bolting to the confines of the deep pool. I collected myself and got back on the rock to make more drifts in hopes there were more where that came from. But before I could get another cast off, two huge German Shepherds came into view in the yard across the stream. Everything was cool for a minute. When I started to false cast, they spotted me and ran over barking like mad with just 10-feet of water between us. Needless to say I left, but knowing there were more, and possibly bigger, trout in that pool, I came back the following afternoon. This time the dogs were in view from the start and when they saw me this time, I found out there was no electric fence keeping them in the yard. The bigger of the two jumped in the stream and I ran like hell.

I have a feeling those German Shepherds keep most anglers from fishing there. Looking back, I'm fortunate that I even had a five minute window of peace there or I wouldn't have caught that fish at all. The stream has more water to explore and more trout to catch, but I won't give up on that guarded pool just yet--I'll just have to get lucky with my timing. Before or after work of course.