Autumn On The EB

Autumn On The EB
Fly Fishing The Millers - With over 30 years of fly fishing this river I will claim more knowledge and fish caught than anyone. There are over 40 miles of river and I will take you to the best sections and if you want to sections that never see another angler. Don't be fooled by those who say the Millers is a Spring and Fall river. I'll show you how to have great Summer action. The "EB of the Westfield" - Wild and beautiful is the only way to describe this river. There's a lot of water here but I know where to go to catch trout. After a trip you will too!! Solitude and trout IS the EB. The Swift - 20 trout days are not uncommon on this river if you know what to do and use. I'll show the way and you catch the trout. RATES - Full Day (6 hours) = $150.00 for one, $225 for two (lunch included). Half Day (three hours) $90.00 for one, $155.00 for two. Beginners Class - 3 hours ffor $90.00, all use of rods lines, reels included.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

The Farmington - How To Get Started

"There's always a hot new fly. Precious few of them are genuine breakthroughs destined to last for a hundred years, but more often they're idle comments on existing traditions, explorations of half baked theories, attempts to use new and interesting materials, to impress other tiers, or excuses to rename old patterns.  The results are often pointless fads like the craze in some pretentious restaurants of plopping fried quail eggs on everything or calling sandwiches panninis". - John Gierach

Whenever I guide someone I will always express the opinion that the Farmington River in Connecticut is the best trout stream in New England. Many that I guide, through their own personal experience, will wholeheartedly agree while others have heard the rumors but haven't been there. This post is for the latter crowd.

Ok, where do you start? You start a few weeks before your planned trip by doing two things:

1. Visit the website for UPCOUNTRY FLY SHOP. They have made it a habit to give river updates twice a week for years now! They will not only tell you what flies to use but will tell you where to us them. A great example of this was back in the brutal winter of 2014 - 2015. They gave locations for the best opportunity for surface action. You can't beat that!

2. Get a copy of "A Guide To Fishing the Farmington River" - This Guide, written by the Farmington River Anglers Association, may be the BEST river guide ever written about a New England River. This group certainly cannot be considered tight lipped and secretive like some other "friends of the river" are. Run by run, pool by pool, it's all laid out for you and can save you years of leg work. Want to fish Whittemore, the Wood Shop or Ovation? Now you know where to go and how to do it.

Pick up a copy at Upcountry in person or online.

We owe this group a big "THANK YOU"!

Ok, when do I fish the Farmington? The truth is I used to fish it more often 10 to 15 years ago before my guiding business took off. Now it's my Winter and very early Spring river. By the time the hendricksons begin to pop up I'm back in Ma guiding.

Where are my favorite spots?

Campground Pool - great dry fly pool especially up at the head of the pool. I used to camp there and hit the top of the pool at dawn. Size 24 BWO's in the mist!!!!

Wood Shop Pool - a good spot

Spare Tire Pool - Love this spot because I usually have it all to myself and I've down well there.

Ovation Pool - Caught my first brown on the Farmie right here

Church Pool - Usually packed but if you get lucky and have few other anglers you can have some great fishing here.

I should make the time to fish the Farmington this Summer. Hell, I'm less than an hour away!!!!

BTW, I receive no consideration for endorsing the above entities. They deserve it!!


Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Early Winter Musings - Jazzed Up Soft Hackles And A Rivers Update

"Adopting the low visibility of a natural predator is a basic part of improving your presentation game. A degree of stealth is important for consistent success. Just throttle back a tad and move slowly. A little consideration for these things goes a long way toward fooling those big trout, whether or not they are smart and educated, although you needn't go so far as the camouflage jumpsuit and face paint of some of our more hard-core brothers. Hell, these guys spook me" Bob Wyatt - What Trout Want - The Educated Trout and Other Myths

Soft hackles have a range of construction possibilities that go back hundreds of years. We have reduced the construction in many cases to a single body material, the same dubbed thorax (or not) and then the hackle. I do this all of the time and I don't think that I catch fewer trout because of it. But I do know that the history of this style has incorporated multiple materials much in the same way that its cousin, THE ATLANTIC SALMON FLY, has done. "Building" a fly in the classic sense improves your skill as a tier. Color and proportion come into play and they just look sooooo smart! My simple soft hackles are and will be first in my subsurface arsenal but there are times to be creative and have some fun. The "Ostrich" fills the bill and it catches trout.

Hook - dry or wet style size 12 - 14 (if it's tied smaller you get that "squashed butterfly" look. Ostrich will do that)

Tag (that's the butt end of the fly) - bright orange floss or kevlar

Body - dark olive floss

Thorax - brown or black ostrich herl, about 4 turns

Hackle - partridge

Now, I've been stripping the partridge fibers and lashing them to the hook to get a sparse profile which always works for me. The ostrich herl is then used to cover the clipped butt ends of the partridge and then the partridge is then folded back and the fly is then whip finished. You are done.

Materials and colors are endless and are fun on these early winter evenings. It's more fun then cranking out walt's worms and other attractor stuff.

The Millers peaked late last week at 800+ and is now just south of 500 cfs. If you want to give it a shot just be careful. Use Mop flies as deep as you can get them. They worked for me!

The Swift is still producing as the brook trout spawning run is on it's final lap. Still plenty of bows and the occasion brown in the mix to get your heart pounding. I've been fishing and guiding in the "forgotten" spots and have been doing very well. Contact me if you need a guide!


Monday, December 5, 2016

Big Bows, The Brookies Of The Swift And Some Open Dates.

"I don't get competitive fly fishing. There's always someone who wants to take a wonderful pastime that we dream about and spend hours pursuing and then turn it into a contest with teams no less. I guess competitive sex is next! " Anonymous

As I write this we are getting our first December snow but it will not be enough to keep us off the Swift which has been fishing very well with rainbows going through the spawning ritual (a futile exercise) and the brookies beginning to wrap up their annual party. It's been a very good Autumn that has had a lot of browns and big bows in the mix. I've seen this one rainbow that is possibly near 24 inches long. I've seen him twice, once with a client and one other angler has seen him too. This is the beauty of this diminutive tailwater; you get to see everything!!!!

We had a great year fishing to this river's brook trout from early Spring right up into December. You could actually follow the spawning run from Cady Lane upstream in October. There were more LARGE brook trout in the mix too with several topping 20 inches. I doubt if there is ANY river in New England that can claim that!!!

The old reliable partridge and orange has been my favorite fly this Autumn with the grouse and flash taking some memorable fish. I have a stable of Winter flies but I'll ride that soft hackle horse for as long as I can!

We have 26 more days left on our licenses so lets use them up. If you need to know a new place or need to brush up on technique just shoot me an email.


Thursday, December 1, 2016

More Conventional Wisdom Questioned - Trout Pumping

"There are some other ways to avoid catching fish. Looking good out there can definitely be a handicap. White hats and shirts, flashy rod finishes, gleaming rod jewelry, and bright metal fly reels are all big sellers among fashionable fly fishers, but they are reliable trout spookers. Combine such high visibility with any sudden movement, such as false casting and it's "Hasta la vista, Mister Trout." Bob Wyatt - What Trout Want -The Educated Trout And Other Myths

The practice of using a stomach pump seemed to rear it's head about 30 to 40 years ago, stuck around for a while, then sank without a trace. Now it seems to be re-emerging, a pseudo scientific exercise used to reinforce debunked theories and impress others. It's also harmful to trout.

We know the drill: "If done properly stomach pumping is safe and not harmful to the trout" the saying goes. The words If done properly are key here. Just because the trout is caught, admired, photographed, then pumped and released and swims away does not mean that harm has not been done. A safe release may be the case for trained fisheries personnel but not for your average untrained, ham handed Joe. (years ago, while working at a private trout hatchery, I assisted with egg stripping under the watchful eye of the hatchery manager. We were very careful and egg stripping is a lot less invasive than stomach pumping!!)

Injury to trout - Abrade the esophageal membrane of a trout and that trout isn't going to have a sore throat for a day. It's going to die and you will not even know it because it will swim away but will not be able to feed. "That doesn't happen to MY fish" the story goes but HOW DO YOU KNOW THAT? The answer is you don't! The answer may have been found on the bottom of the Tree Pool last Sunday (2 dead trout) and down through the top of Cady Lane (over a dozen since August). These fish were played out, photographed while lying on wet rocks and then lovingly released and then never recovered. Chances are they were not pumped but it is reasonable to assume that pumping may have happened and that would add to the mortality rate. Gastric Lavage (pumping) has been used by trained fisheries people and in one study done in British Columbia all fish were anaesthetized before getting pumped. Hmm....Why is that??

How Much Food - According to the late Robert Behnke, considered by most to be the world's best authority concerning trout and salmon, a one ounce trout (approximately 30 grams) would need 1 gram of food daily to not only maintain size but to also promote growth (approximately 3.3% of body weight consumed daily). A one pound trout (453 grams) would need to consume approximately 15 grams of food daily to survive. Now, this doesn't sound like a lot but when the available prey (aquatic insects) are weighted in milligrams (1000 milligrams in a gram) it comprises a vast number of insects especially in rivers like the Swift. What is pumped out could of taken hours to consume. We make the trout start all over again!!!

"I get to know what the trout are feeding on and can use the right fly" is the stale truism that props up this quackery. "Match the Hatch" followers and those who actually believe that trout are selective can be pom-pom wavers for stomach pumping. (Please read Wyatt's book quoted at the top before you contact me concerning selective trout).

Last June I did a video on the Swift. I caught a LOT of trout in that hour and almost all of them were packed to the gills with sulphur nymphs. All I had to do was look inside their mouths and see many nymphs that had not even been swallowed. Was I using a sulphur nymph as the hatch match folks preach? No. I used a size 14 partridge and olive which imitates the prey form seen in many aquatic insects. No need to take out the turkey baster!! You'll find plenty of size 28 stuff if you bother to look inside a trout's mouth too!

In short, if you care about releasing trout with the least amount of harm done then dump the plunger and become an observer. Look at what's in the air, on the water and on the shore.  Know your seasons and what each brings to us in the way of insects.  You will probably be able to predict what the trout has been eating without pumping. Start with the fly on your line if you want a clue!!


Sunday, November 27, 2016

A Cold Millers Morning, Working The Swift, The Last Word on Mops And Felt Soles Are Back

'My fishing is at once an endless source of delight and an act of small rebellion because trout do not lie or cheat and cannot be bought or bribed or impressed by power" - Robert Traver

I love Black Friday because I suspect, along with Thanksgiving merriment,that it does keep the number of anglers down somewhat. A morning with an air temperature of 35 degrees and a water temperature of 38 will do the same thing and that was Friday morning on the Millers. The flow was an inviting 190 cfs which is perfect for fishing Erving Center and I still had Mop Flies on the brain so off I went.

I've done a complete 180 on this fly. From a POS to Perfect Imitation is my opinion. It is the perfect hellgrammite and leech imitation and will be a standard with me on the Millers (a big hellgrammite river) going forward. I tie it in somber, natural colors (gray body, dark brown back and head). None of that day glow nonsense for me. I'll throw that neon stuff into the SWJ, squirmy wormy junk draw!! Which begs the question: Why do the detractors of the Mop still fish that other stuff that doesn't represent ANYTHING on this planet let alone a trout stream???

Get a gray car wash mop at Walmart ($6.00), a size 8 scud hook (use scud hooks for this fly. They give the fly more action instead of the less lively longer shank hooks), some brown or black marabou for the thorax and a brown or black sharpie and you are in business.

How did I do? I took 3 good bows in an hour and a half. One was over 20 inches and when he hit I actually thought I was snagged. I was about to throw a rollcast to dislodge the fly when the "snag" began to swim off! I don't like throwing weight with bamboo so my old TFO 4wt got called into action. At one point I didn't think the rod could stand the strain of that fish in mid current but after a few minutes he was in the net!

The Brookies are still at it on the Swift but I think the "run" may have peaked. It will NOT be over in a week as some say but will continue into mid December just like last the last few years. The rainbows will be going nowhere. Squeeze the last few hours out of your 2016 license and get out there!

Good news on the equipment front. Vermont has lifted it's ban on felt soled boots and for good reason. The ban was enacted to stop the spread of Didymo, the noxious diatom that was supposed to befoul our rivers. Well, it appears that didymo has been everywhere FOREVER (it's native) and has gone into the occasional bloom stage due to climate change and not to felt soles. (10 years ago an aquatic biologist told me the same thing. He was certainly a minority opinion back then!)

I like felt but changed over to studs which I don't think live up to expectations. Let's hope that the other states lift the felt ban.


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

2016 - Rating The Rivers And Happy Thanksgiving!

"Bass fishermen watch Monday night football, drink beer, drive pickup trucks and prefer noisy women with big breasts. Trout fishermen watch MacNeil-Lehrer, drink white wine, drive foreign cars with passenger-side air bags and hardly think about women at all. This last characteristic may have something to do with the fact that trout fishermen spend most of their time immersed up to their thighs in ice cold water." - Author Unknown

It's time to rate the rivers for 2016. Some may say that all of the freestones should get a pass because of the drought but there were still two good months of fishing before the tap was turned off. We will include a fourth river in the mix this year and that is the Ware. With all things considered here we go:

4th Place - The EB of the Westfield. From first in 2015 to worst in 2016. Now, May and early June wasn't a bust but it was not up to what this river produced over the years. Things just seemed "off". Even the insects seemed in short supply. One could say that the EB was like a 300 hitter who then has a a 270 season. An ok season but not up to standard.

Things will change and most likely for the better in 2017.

3rd Place - The Ware River. Another drought victim but what a ride while it lasted!!! I had some good oldfashioned henderickson flyfishing in May and some good times swinging soft hackles in large runs all over the river. In fact, when I guide on the Ware we stop at various spots along the river and I can say that we were never skunked at any spot. Another plus is that I saw very few anglers on this river. I can hardly wait for 2017 especially the Summer on this river. Let's hope the river stays up.

2nd Place - The Millers River. This river may of had the best May and June that I've ever seen on this river and that includes over 30 years of fly fishing on it's waters. The drought killed it but the flow rebounded in October and the fishing has been GREAT! If we had a normal summer the Millers would of made a real run for 1st place. Maybe next year.

1st Place - The Swift River. "Not fair" some may say but in 2015 this river came in third due to the horrible high water that lasted into May. It's not always in first place but this year it was. Even if we only counted May and June to level the playing field this river made the grade. It is now recognized that this river fishes the best in the Fall for those wonderful brook trout. We are lucky to have a tailwater in our backyard!!

Happy Thanksgiving to you all!!


Friday, November 18, 2016

5:20 am 11/18 - The Last Good Weekend???? Six Hours Later

"Fishing is not an escape from life but often a deeper immersion into it" - Harry Middleton

It's November 18th and after a beautiful springlike Thursday (mid 50's) we are going to be blessed with a Friday and a Saturday with temperatures in the mid 60's!!! GO FISHING because days like these will be a memory very soon.

If you fish the Swift you will find fish everywhere especially in the riffles where the bows and browns are behind the brookies I know of two 20 inch brook trout taken this week!! The fly pattern may almost be unimportant with soft hackles, eggs and meatballs all catching fish.

The Millers - It's not over yet. This warm weather will drag the water temperatures out of the low 40's which will turn these fish on. Last weekend it was cold and the trout were sluggish. The best fishing should be from mid morning to 4pm. No need for an early start. Where to go?? Fish Erving Center downstream from the bridge and the Kempfield Section especially around the bend. The flows have been behaving and it will be fun!!

I'll be fishing in an hour and you should too!! Tell me how you do!


Noon - Started at 7:am, took 4 big bows , 2 big browns and dozens of brook trout up to 12 inches and didn't see another fly fisher until 10:30 and that was one solitary angler. You just have to find these spots and I don't think that if I gave GPS locations it would make a damn bit of difference because the usual parking areas would still be jammed.  Old habits die hard.  If you are the adventurous type just check out the photos.  You may recognize the areas but a bit of leg work will get you there. Remember, just because an area is designated "fly fishing only, catch and release 24/7/365" DOESN'T mean it's the best place on the river.