Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Another post? Fishing must be good

Hit up the Swift this afternoon for a couple hours after work. It did not disappoint. The fish were on and aggressive. The rainbows were up on shallow gravel and losing their minds. I've heard that one of the rainbow strains stocked by the state are fall spawning fish - that would certainly explain the behavior and the color of the males. However, they also could have been simply gorging on brook trout eggs as the brookies are definitely in full spawning mode.

I caught and released about 6 or 7 fish, a mix of brookies and rainbows. No browns which had me a little bummed (only a little though, considering). Some of the most beautiful fish I've caught yet in my fishing here in Mass. They all took a small brownish soft-hackle type fly with a tiny orange yarn egg for a head...I think it's called a "Chicken Little". We used to use for steelhead in the Great Lakes tributaries. The took it dead-drifted, slowly stripped, or swung and twitched. It almost didn't matter, which is rare for a river like the Swift I think. I didn't see another person fishing anywhere nearby. Sure there were a lot of anglers but they were concentrated at specific spots whereas I liked my privacy and fished some of the less obvious features. Check out the pics of some of the more impressive specimens!

Monday, October 24, 2016

Upcoming events that may be of interest

This may or may not be news to everyone but I've heard of a couple upcoming fly-fishing/trout related events that may be of interest.

1. Fly-fishing Fair put on by Mass Wildlife at the Headquarters Westborough. Flyer with details below.

2. A TU sponsored event designed to discuss the effects of the current drought on trout and streams in Massachusetts. I believe you need a ticket for this. The details can be found on the flyer.

More on Zach St. Amand (Steelheads!)

As I've written before, Farmington guide Zach St. Amand is extremely talented.

He's an incredible angler. He is very dialed-in with the Farmington, as he fishes it 200 days a year. Zach also knows well the latest techniques and approaches that work. He is up-to-date. And, he is the nicest guy.

I follow him on Instagram, and he has been chasing lake-run trout. Pictures below say all we need to know.

A photo posted by Zach (@fishingwithzach) on

A photo posted by Zach (@fishingwithzach) on

A photo posted by Zach (@fishingwithzach) on

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Landlockeds are in...sort of

With all of the rain in central Mass I thought it would be a good idea to check out the Stillwater River in the hopes that the run of Landlocked Atlantic Salmon would be getting started. From what I've heard and read it seems like the fall rains tend to get the salmon running upstream - I guess that's not really news considering most lake-run or anadromous fish cue on flow to find and ascend spawning tributaries. I had also heard however that these landlocked salmon tend to just trickle in during the first couple good rain events and the main run doesn't get started until later in November, or after several good rains. I'm not sure as I've never fished for these guys before. I'll be learning as I go.

It rained like crazy on Friday but the river didn't seem to be up all that much. Probably because it has been so dry some of that rain got sucked up by the ground. Either way, the river was up but still below bankfull and not that off-color.

I fished a short section of the lower river down to the mouth. My thinking was that if the initial instance of increased flows were drawing salmon in they wouldn't have moved far upstream. I dug through my flybox hoping to find some approximation of a smelt - seemed like a good idea considering smelt are a major food source for landlockeds in Wachusett (and Quabbin for that matter). I couldn't find what I wanted so I tied on a small gray and white saltwater streamer and hoped for the best. Within a few casts I had landed a couple small largemouth bass but no salmon. Moving downstream I fished the classic down-and-across streamer tactic, methodically covering water. Shortly I connected with my first ever landlocked salmon! Very cool fish to say the least.

Snapped and few pictures and released it back into the river. I continued downstream to the mouth but never hooked another fish. The weather was terrible most of the day with driving rain. Even with the bad weather there were a few people out. One guy had also caught and released a salmon. Another guy hadn't had any luck but mentioned that it was a bit early for the big push of fish. He also told me that when the run is really going you can see salmon porpoising all over the place in the deeper runs near the mouth. I'm excited to keep trying the Stillwater as the salmon move up in greater numbers as the fall run continues.

Did anyone else get out after salmon this weekend? What about other fishing excursions?

My Favorite Caddis Fly

A fly that fished well all summer and this fall is Tim Cammisa's X-Caddis. I've written about it in the past. With Winter Caddis on the horizon, I'll make sure to have a few with me as we slide into colder weather.

I like this pattern because it sits low in the water, and so, looks more vulnerable to trout. The fly doesn't have hackle on the body. You can drift it, and towards the end, pull the line to sink the fly and swing it. It then will look like an emerging Caddis. Be prepared for vicious strikes!

You can attach to it a small and lightly-weighted nymph, such as the Caddis Emerger. So, in that way, you can hit the fish both low and high during a Caddis hatch.

My go-to has been a size 20. I'm running low, and so, tied up a few this morning. Here are the materials used.

Hook: Orvis Tactical Dry Fly, #20. It's a barbless hook with a wide gape and a hook point angled up--this helps with hook penetration and securing the hook after a strike

Thread: Uni 8/0 black. I like the Uni for this fly, as it's tightly corded and, therefore, will "bite" down on the Elk Hair fibers to flare them

Body: Superfine dubbing. Brown-olive or black. If I'm feeling industrious, I'll add some green dubbing to the back to represent an egg sac (even though emerging Caddis don't have them, but, hey, why not?)

Wing: Elk hair. A few CDC fibers (optional)

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Rainbow(s) at the Millers River

I hit a familiar spot at the Millers. 

The rainbows there were amenable but much more selective than the two previous times. My Perdig√≥n flies didn't work. Nor did streamers or soft hackles. I think they've seen them too often. So, I rotated through other flies. 

Like all highly-pressured trout, their takes on nymphs were very subtle. After being hooked, they also ducked towards structure, and a few broke off. It is amazing how fast these creatures become conditioned to their new environment.

Later, I ventured to some new water and found many rainbows and browns. It was a series of pocket water and longer glides, perfect for tightline nymphing. I'm amazed by how large and robust this river is and am grateful that we have such a great body of water.

The weather was cool, but not cold. Some wind, but nothing that interferes with nymphing. The leaves were nearly at peak with their fall colors. I crossed paths with four anglers throughout the day, and each person was friendly, polite and engaging. I think we all were just pumped to be on the water. 

In other words, it was a perfect New England autumn day for fishing.

Today, the normally reliable size 20 soft hackle produced little. Few bugs were popping in the morning. So, I went for attractor nymphs to kick it off. These don't imitate a particular bug, but can work in this type of situation. The biggest producer was a black Sexy Walt's with green flash for the ribbing material. And, the ol' reliable, the Frenchie, produced, too. Al's Rat made a debut in my fly box and also delivered (video up top), but the Sexy Walt's was the #1 fly, by far.

My new Syndicate 10' #2 did a great job on its second outing. It is incredibly sensitive, and felt every bump and subtle take, it seemed. But, for longer casts on a river as big as the Millers, I think the Sage 11' #3 is a better fit. That stick can really cast from afar, which is what I need when water is so low and fish are on high alert. I'll go back to my old standby next time.

It was a delight to be out. And, when I found a particularly dark and feisty rainbow, it was a joy.

On the drive home, another rainbow showed itself. A good omen, methinks.

Flies I'm Making Now

With the daylight period shrinking, my early-to-rise habit sometimes translates to fly tying. So, this morning, I was wide-awake at 4 a.m. After checking work email and drinking some coffee, I decided to kill some time to await the opening of the gym.

I decided to make some flies.

We are in a time of the year when bug hatches are waning. So, I decided to focus on attractor nymphs. These are flies that don't mimic an exact bug, but, instead are suggestive and have some strike triggers.

So, I made up some Walt's Worms. These have been go-to flies for me. I use them to nab picky fish, and I've found that the Walt's also is a great searching pattern when I'm on new water. I use Hare's Ear, both in natural and black. I add some fluorescent thread for a collar. Easy to tie. I can pump out these flies pretty easily.

And, here's my version of the Mop Fly. I ordered some materials and have decided I'll give them a go.

What flies are you buying or making?

Thursday, October 20, 2016

First Time with a New Fly Rod

I had some work meetings in CT, and so, had a chance to hit the Farmington. I wanted to fish with my new Syndicate 10' #2.

Within a few casts, I was lucky to hit the 18" brown below.

It took a size 20 soft hackle. The fish was hooked just on the outside of the mouth, and I feel lucky that the hook held.

The fish sprinted away upon release.

It was a great way to break in the new fly rod.

Last, the stockies went wild for the purple streamer I tied up earlier this week. I'm not that familiar with streamers. Perhaps, any streamer color would have worked on new stockies?

Nevertheless, it was fun to feel the takes. I lost a few when they popped off the barbless hook. But, I'm fine with that. I've gone all-barbless, as it's much easier on the fish and easier for me to extract hooks. It's also required in certain areas of the Farmington.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016


I've been playing around with some new colors and flies. One fly I recently made is up top. 

It is very simple, comprising of a size 10 hook, black thread, wire for weight, purple marabou feathers, and copper wire. After pinching down the barb and putting on some non-lead wire, copper wire and a marabou tail, I clip off the feather. I then create a dubbing loop, strip off some feather fibers, and cord up the loop. All that is wrapped around the hook and the wire goes on top of all that to add segmentation and secure the roped feather fibers. The last step is a touch of Loon UV Finish to harden the whip-finish knot.

I intentionally leave some of the feather fibers long. A Bad Hair Day look. My thinking is that the fibers will add great movement to the fly, which I've read is a key attribute of the Mop Fly. Adding CDC to some dries and nymphs has been an effective way to give movement to other flies. 

This fly is very lightly weighted. I use some non-lead wire to give it a little bit of weight. The idea is to avoid "vertical drag." With water so low. I want this fly to sink and swing very gently. And, I don't want a loud splash when it hits the water. Olive worked very well last time. I've also tied one up in black, but with a different profile: a stubby tail and a very thin body on a size 12 hook.

If I am tightlining a deeper run, I will pair this with a tungsten anchor fly. 

So, will see how this fly does next time out.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Beautiful fall weekend for fishing

The weather was great this weekend and, given the cooler temperatures the last couple weeks together with the recent trout stocking, the fishing was excellent as well. I thought about checking out a whole number of different rivers but settled on the Quabog near Palmer. I figured with the nice weather that the more popular rivers would be a bit crowded for my tastes. I was working over by the Miller's late last week and even on a weekday most of the pull-outs and bridge crossings had anglers parked at them. I wanted to avoid that. The Quabog is a nice little, out-of-the-way river. I've fished it before in the summer and it's really not a trout fishery other than spring and fall. I'm sure that there are spots where the trout can hold out and survive during the summer but it's likely not a legitimate destination for summer trout fishing. When the water is cool it's a different story.

I knew the river had been stocked just the other day so no question about what I was after - I was looking for easy fun on some big aggressive rainbows. I ended up catching and releasing nearly 30 fish over the course of a couple hours. There's no trick to catching these fish they're just a lot of fun. I know some people look down their noses at stocked trout but I am definitely not one of them. They're fun to catch and, in all honesty, without stocking in a lot of places here in the state there would be no trout (or very, very few) to catch. Other than a few exceptions we just don't have the widespread habitat, water temperatures, etc. to support the type of trout fishing we've come to expect from our fisheries. This is doubly true for those who like to fish lakes and ponds.

Back to the actual fishing... I switched up flies only a couple times during the few hours I was there. I wanted to be able to see the takes and see my fly so I used some large sparkly/flashy nymphs and soft-hackles. My strategy was equally simple. I was fishing to cruising pods of trout in a large slow-moving pool partially created by a new-ish beaver dam (it looked to still be in the process of being constructed and certainly was not there when I visited the river in August). Cast in front of a group of cruisers, let the fly sink a bit, twitch a couple times, and bam fish on! Simple as that almost every cast. The fish were impressive - big, good fight, beautiful coloration. A few of the nicer ones I landed yesterday are below.

I almost never keep fish. I haven't kept any since my trip to Alaska 3 years ago. However, I ran into my landlady Mrs. Lee Saturday morning as I was leaving and she said, unequivocally, that if I caught any fish she wanted me to bring her some back to eat. Well, as you can see I caught some fish so I kept my three fish limit and made my landlady happy.
I know as fly anglers especially it's been ingrained that catch-and-release is more or less mandatory. If you keep a trout you are in real danger of being ostracized, or at least looked down upon by your fellow fly anglers. In almost all cases I certainly abide by that notion. However, with these stocked fish, in particular those stocked into streams, rivers, and ponds with little ability to hold over coldwater fishes, there's absolutely no harm in harvesting your limit. The majority of the fish are not going to make it through the winter (or through the summer if it's a spring stocking) so why not take home some cheap, healthy, tasty protein to eat or to give to friends. Just make sure you follow the laws of the water body and don't overdo it.

Has anyone else been getting out and enjoying the beautiful weather and the fall bounty?