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.

Friday, December 30, 2016

A Phone Number, Buzzers, Fly Fishing Regulations And Happy New Year

"Maybe there's a stretch of beaver ponds or a half dozen bend pools across a little meadow or a headwater lake or two. All of that on a little stream that few people fish because it doesn't look all that good from the road and because they probably never heard of it before. Believe it or not, some fishermen only fish streams about which books are written." John Gierach, Fly Fishing Small Streams

So, I got this email from someone who says "I'll wipe the pipe out like I did last year". That's why I've posted the Environmental Police number at the upper right side of this blog. Put it in your phone and drop a line if you see something suspicious. What's suspicious? More than 3 fish in possession on a single day is more than suspicious. It's against the law! Seeing someone walking back to the car with three fish and then returning to catch and keep more is suspicious. Another fish on the stringer and we have an illegal act. Don't confront, just make a call and they do respond.



Buzzers - The English term for gnats and such and they've become part of my arsenal over the last two seasons. Davie MacPhail ties a neat buzzer but I've reduced the fly down to basic elements because I am a minimalist by nature AND I like tying lots of flies FAST.

HOOK - Scud hooks from size 14 through 20

BODY - You can go with stripped peacock (slower to tie and more fragile) or some 140 denier thread in either dark olive, black or brown.

RIB - fine copper wire

WING PAD - Here is the secret sauce for this pattern. I use Orange kevlar which I also use on my Partridge and Orange Soft hackles. It has a nice shiny, waxy look to it and mimics the budding wing pads of many gnat species which seem to have a orange shade to them. Now, McPhail ties orange gills on the underside of the thorax which really isn't necessary IMO. This fly, like all subsurface flies, tumbles in the current and Mr. Trout probably doesn't care if the orange is on the top or the bottom.

Coating - I don't use the UV stuff which I believe catches more fishermen than fish. I will use Sally Hensen's Hard as Nails on the quill bodies if I remember. It doesn't seem to make much of a difference.

Where to fish it - The Swift, of course, from the Bubbler arm (great spot) and below the Pipe. The Pipe flow is loaded with these critters and this fly has worked for me. The Millers is full of this type of insect and there are times when they exhibit something called "behavioral drift" where the entire population will begin to drift downstream just under the surface with trout in pursuit. The smart money says they're rising to buzzers!!

Fly Fishing Only Regulations - The Massachusetts DFW page concerning the Swift River (above RT 9) and a portion of the Nissitissit River defines fly fishing as using a "conventional fly rod and fly line". This is good as it eliminates those who fish with a spinning rod, a bobber and a drifting nymph and still claim to be fly fishing but it also eliminates Tenkara fishing because that rod and line set up are not "conventional" fly fishing equipment in the spirit of the law. Now, what if you have a fly rod, a fly reel, fly line and 40 feet of mono and have no intention of putting that fly line into play? Technically you are legal because you have a "conventional" fly line in possession even if it never gets wet. This style of fishing seems very much like mid west "Noodle Rod" fishing: 12 ft soft rods attached to large capacity fly reels that are loaded with 20lb mono (no fly line) which are then used to toss out strike indicators fished over everything from bait to actual flies. Noodle rod fishing is never confused with fly fishing!!

I would be inclined to issue a pass to Tenkara simply because it's aim is to simplify our sport which has a tendency to become overrun with equipment junkies and method madmen. It's good to take a Tenkara break every now and then and reset yourself. You can also catch a lot of trout this way!!!

A year or so ago I experimented with 30+ foot leaders and thought they were novelty that worked well when conditions were good and didn't work well when conditions sucked. I then realized that my Tenkara rod could do the same thing so I went back to conventional equipment and feel good about it. Now, if I could only attach a fly reel to a Tenkara rod.........

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!!!!

Ken




Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Before And After The 25th

"Learning is the fountain of youth. No matter how old you are you mustn't stop growing" - 365 Tao, Daily Meditations



This is the time of year that things get weird on the Swift. As most of you know I do most of my fishing below Rt 9 instead of the C&R section above the bridge because the water is just more interesting and less crowded. Except for this last week of the year when it seems that everyone and their uncle is hitting the Pipe section BEFORE the regulations change to allow the keeping of fish. The conventional wisdom is that the bait boys will wipe the place out in a week which is always an exaggeration. They will catch some but not enough to make a difference. One problem that they will have is that those trout have been in the river for at least three months and will not the gullible stockers that you find in the Spring when poaching really occurs. There will be fish down there in January unless it gets really cold and the trout head to deeper water downstream. Yes, it should be C&R all year to end the confusion and to put an end to poaching.

This is the time of year when I find myself going above Rt 9. First, the Y Pool may be the only place in Massachusetts where you'll find rising trout from now through March and if you have a sunny day with the temperatures in the 40's those Winter Caddis will start doing their thing. Second, the water temperature coming out of the bubbler arm will be the warmest water in the river through the Winter and many times that will attract the trout.


Bring scuds around a size 16 tied below a size 16 partridge and orange. I was using that setup on Friday the 23rd just below the arched bridge. I took 4 from the bridge down to the Y Pool and then another 2 in the arm above.

Another good winter fly is my old Hot Spot, a fly that was invented on the Swift,for the Swift. Sizes 20 to 24 work the best when just drifted through any likely holding water.


AFTER CHRISTMAS - Today (Tuesday 12/27) started balmy but the wind picked up above RT 9 just to remind us what season it is. I took 2 bows and a brookie below the bridge and then went upstream (bubbler) where all of the trout had lock jaw except one good bow. On my way back down there was a guy in the spot I vacated 2 hours before. He had 2 bows on at once and then took another. IT IS A GOOD SPOT! I believe that some of those Y Pool rainbows just want some riffle water to hang out in since that spot took the most fish in the two days that I was there. It doesn't look like much of a place but the trout are there. Again, the scuds ruled the day at least for me.

My friend Bill said that he saw two vehicles towed out of the PIPE section yesterday. Anyone who went DOWN by the GAUGE needed help getting out because of the ice. Park above that spot along the dirt road to be safe. Also, ITS PACKED with fly fishers as I predicted.

Ken



Friday, December 23, 2016

Happy Holidays And A Year In Review

"The great charm of fly fishing is that we are always learning" Theodore Gordon

2016 will be marked as the year of the great drought. This event actually started back in the late Summer of 2015 and hopefully will end this winter. It was brutal and it closed down the Millers, the EB and the Ware from mid June onward. Now, 2015 was my best year in the guiding business and I wanted 2016 to be better. By mid August I began to think that may not happen but the Swift kept me booked and Fall rains saved the season on the Millers and the EB so the 2016 goal was reached.

I can hardly wait to get back to the Ware River this Spring. It is a totally overlooked gem. If you like crowds and endless conversations then the Ware may not be your place!!! If you like perfect soft hackle and dry fly water then you must visit it!!
                                               
This years Brookie Run on the Swift surpassed last years run especially in the number of big fish seen and caught. Many fish in the 20+ inch range were caught and released and it seemed that every outing in October through November resulted with many 12+ inch brook trout to the net.

Now, this is just an observation with no science behind it but it seems that the number of BIG browns is increasing especially around Cady Lane which seems to be the Winter and Summer hangout for most of the brook trout population. If that 20+ inch brown that I saw swallowing a 6 inch brookie is any indication those browns are well fed and growing.



For those living in western Massachusetts, western Connecticut and the greater Poughkeepsie area I will be giving a presentation on the Millers and the Swift Rivers on Monday January 16 for the Mid-Hudson Trout Unlimited Chapter. I'll post the location early next month although it's easily found online.

I hope all of you have had a good 2016 and that this Holiday Season is full of joy that lasts through all of the New Year.

I'll be squeezing the last few hours out of my 2016 license over the next week. See you on the Swift!!

Merry Christmas!

Ken

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Thinking Of Dries

"For me, the study of aquatic insects and their transformations is engaging in an of itself. It also increases my understanding of the river, the fish and their prey. Learning where the food is will help you find the fish". - Thomas Ames, Jr. from Hatch Guide For New England Streams



Cold snowy days in early winter are a good time to restock your "ammo boxes" with the flies that you'll need for this winter and next spring and I've been busy doing just that with 20 dozen tied up over the last week. The problem is they are all subsurface offerings and I'm itching to tie some Mayfly imitations because I'm already thinking of a balmy May afternoon with hendricksons hatching on the Ware and the trout rising EVERYWHERE!!!

Now, I stopped tying to "pattern" years ago and now tie "suggestively" which means that the size and shape are the most important elements in creating a dry fly with color coming in a distant third. The style of dry fly is important too.

The Comparadun - This is the F150 of dry flies!!! Simple, rugged, takes a beating and keeps on catching trout. It's half dry fly and half emerger because that body sits right down in the surface film instead of dancing on hackle points. In fact, the more waterlogged the fly the better it fishes.

The main ingredient to this pattern is the deer hair used for the wing. The ONLY deer hair that you want to use is from the mask (face), legs and ears. Body hair is too long and course for those size 14 and smaller flies. If you like you can touch up the wings with a sharpie but it really isn't neccessary.

My bodies are all ultra fine synthetics. They are stronger than natural fur and can position that deer hair very securely.

I use deer hair down to size 18 or 20 and then make the switch to CDC.


A close runner up (and closing fast) is Bob Wyatt's DHE (Deer Hair Emerger). This stuck-in-the-surface-film-generic-pattern works because it looks like EVERY mayfly or caddis that is trying to break through the surface film. You just have to change the sizes.

Think of the times you've seen mayflies in the air and trout rising but you can't see mayflies on the water and if you do the trout may ignore them and take something else. That something else is an emerger stuck in the film. They are the easiest prey that a trout can consume. The DHE does the trick and is simple to tie. Scud hooks, mask hair, some 140 denier thread for the body and course hares ear for the thorax will do it all.

Wyatt's book, What Trout Want explains the whole thing!!

Only four months to go until hendrickson time!!!

Ken



Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Perfect Fly Rod

"Fly fishing isn't really about catching fish.  Fly casting is a great part of it, and in a sense a rod is like a baseball bat. If you hit the ball just right, you really nail it. It feels good.  You've found the sweet spot in the bat. A fly rod should deliver that kind of joy: the joy of casting" - Tom Dorsey, founder of Thomas & Thomas Rod Company



I've guided hundreds and hundreds of clients over the last few years and  very few of them had the tool that we call the nymphing rod in their arsenal, very few. Now, did they use the techniques that we now label as nymphing? Yes, when the circumstances called for it.  Were they hampered by using the wrong equipment? No, not really.  I will make this statement: the average well designed graphite fly rod of around 9 feet for a 4 or 5 weight line that is moderate to medium fast will be able to do everything that you want it to do, including all forms of nymphing, and will only be restricted by your ability to use the rod correctly.

As Tom Dorsey said, this sport is about fly casting and your garden variety nymph rod is not a good casting machine.  A stiff butt and mid section married to a soft tip section gives an awkward, hinged feel when you need to make a long cast instead of just "flipping and mending". I have a 10ft, 4wt nymph rod given to me as a gift.  If all that I wanted to do was nymph I'm ok but longer casts to rising trout felt like shooting a bow with an arrow of the wrong spine.  There was less control over the placement of the fly as my casts got longer.

My other graphite rods of between 8 to 9 ft can do EVERYTHING that my 10 ft nymph rod can do PLUS make long accurate casts.  Am I hampered by a shorter rod?? I can bounce nymphs on the Swift, the EB, the Millers and the Ware and I can position myself to cover all of the water correctly (sometimes nymphing) with a generalist rod of 8 to 9 feet.  Am I hampered by not having the softer tip section  for strike detection? ARE YOU KIDDING ME???  There's something wrong if you can't detect a strike while nymphing with a generalist graphite rod.  John Gierach, the great writer, once said you could nymph fish with a broom handle. Get the point??


It seems that the industry that supports this sport has been working overtime to create new markets. For 30 years the only advancements in fly rods were the introduction of some new generation of graphite. Then came things like switch rods and spey rods and now specialist rods that you can buy because we are becoming like golfers. A fly rod for every situation. Soon we will have rod caddies!!!!  Many of these advances are not NEED driven but are MARKET driven.  We are convinced that we need the new thing and we go and buy it.  Many times we have bought a solution in search of a problem!!

I read recently that instead of shelling out $700 for a new fly rod the angler should buy one for $250 and spend the rest of the money on casting lessons.  Good advice??  I think so!







Monday, December 12, 2016

Like Day And Night - Two Trips To The Swift

"Creeps and idiots cannot conceal themselves for long on a fishing trip" - John Gierach


Even a guide gets a day off and this past Friday was that day. It was a chance to workout a new bamboo rod and spend three hours working out Swift River rainbows, hopefully.

I got to the Pipe parking lot at 8am and was surprised to see that I was the only one there. When I left at 11 I was the only one there! Usually Fridays require a tee time reservation but this was different. Did I make a beeline to the Pipe to stake a claim to that real estate? Nope, I started at the gauge where I found rainbows working the riffles above the Gauge Pool. I took one in 5 inches of water with the old partridge/orange which christened the rod.

I worked the Gauge Pool and took two more bows in the second set of riffles and then played with the bows that were patrolling the brookie redds further downstream. Almost all of the brook trout have finished up with this annual dance and will find winter quarters below Cady Lane. It was a good year for them!!

While fishing this section I noticed that I didn't see one angler heading downstream and when I rounded the turn I saw an empty Pipe. Nature abhors a vacuum so it was my duty to fill that spot and I did. 15 minutes and 5 bows later I worked the top of the Tree Pool with another two in the net. Then back to the Pipe for one more and then I called it a day.


NOW FORWARD CAST TO SUNDAY MORNING - It was only 8 degrees at 8:30 so I didn't expect anyone for a while but the fleet sailed in and that the parking lot was about full by noon.

There were no bows working the riffles above the gauge and the fish in the Gauge Pool were not interested. Ditto for the riffles downstream and when we worked our way down to the Pipe we saw lots of people but very few trout being caught. What hits we got were halfhearted passes at the fly with no urgency displayed. The water temperature was 45 degrees which is fine for this year so who knows.

Now, there's a reason why I placed that quote at the top of the post. On Sunday morning we all had the misfortune to be exposed to the worst behavior that I've seen in 25 years of fishing this stretch. Angler 1 was working the Pipe from the shore when this "fly fisherman" (angler 2) walks right up in front of him and starts fishing. Angler 1 politely says something and angler 2 verbally explodes with not just your usual gutter obscenities but actual verbal threats of physical harm. It was a borderline criminal act.

I've never seen this creep before and it would be hard to describe him but I could hear him a 100 yards away. Keep your eye out for anyone who seems erratic.

Ken



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 done 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.

Whittemore Pool - some like it a lot.  I'm so-so on it. Not my Farmington experience.

Greenwooods - Great water but becoming a very-trendy-to-be-seen location.  That's why I opt for Spare Tire right below it.

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!!

Ken








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!

Ken





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.

Ken







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!!

Ken

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.

Ken





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!!

Ken








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!

Ken


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.
                                                                                   









Monday, November 14, 2016

Mops To The Rescue, Indian Summer On The Swift And The Swift Flow

" More than half of the intense enjoyment of fly fishing is derived from the beautiful surroundings, the satisfaction felt from being in the open air, the new lease on life secured thereby, and the many, many pleasant recollections of all one has seen, heard and done". Anonymous but it sounds like Maclean


It was a cold windy day last Friday on the Millers. The air temperature never kissed 50 degrees, the water temperature never got above 44 degrees, the wind would send your 4wt back into your face (that actually happened) but my client Mike and I soldiered on. It was a story of light hits, three at the Bridge Pool and the same at Orcutt but no trout. The river was jumping and lowering 50cfs all day (not the 200 cfs of last week) which added to the confusion.

We went down to Erving Center (those who read this blog or have my Millers Guide know where that is, others who read other publications DON"T) and I decided to strap on a Mop Fly. Within 20 minutes we hooked two bows and landed one and I began to think that maybe that fly should of gotten more playing time even when I knew that Mike and I like the classic swing and drift. You fish this fly up close and deep. It doesn't seem to work on the swing. What is weird is that some don't like this fly but will fish squirmy wormies without a second thought. The Mop, in natural colors, looks like a big aquatic insect and behaves like one too. Enough said!!

Now for a lecture! Indian Summer is not described correctly by the weather bunnies and their male counterparts on the news. THEY say that it's in October when the leaves are in full color and the temperatures are warm. WRONG! Indian Summer is an OLD New England term used to described the warm weather that occurs AFTER the leaves are down. I'm an old New Englander so believe me! We had those conditions yesterday (Sunday) and today and the fishing on the Swift was sublime. I worked a quite spot on the lower Swift and had a great morning swinging #16 and #18 partridge and Oranges and then experimenting on the smallest fly that I could cast and land a bragging size trout on. Good fish came to the net down to size 22 but size 24 only brought the junior varsity to the net. It was a mix of bows and brookies with a few of the brookies in the 12 inch range - a great fish for this river


I noticed today that the Swift flow shot up like a rocket at mid day to the 115cfs range. Is that really necessary? The Swift has had a low flow in the Fall for the last 5 years and we have seen hundreds of brookies on their skinny water redds. What will happen when we have a 300% increase in the flow over a few hours? We know that sharp increases in flow do no good to aquatic environments especially a small stream like the Swift. Were redds and eggs washed away? Did anyone take that possibility into consideration? Does the Connecticut River really NEED that flow increase at the expense of the Swift fishery? All good questions.

Ken





Thursday, November 10, 2016

The New Orange, The Millers Flow, The Swift And Heavier Tippet


"People who claim to own fishing dogs are all blinded by love. There's no such thing as a good fishing dog. Most are retrievers who think they can do to a trout what they've been trained to do to ducks. It may sound cute, but it's not. Stay away from people who take dogs fishing." - John Gierach


The Partridge and Orange is a Fall staple especially on the Swift. I will tie hundreds of these for my clients, myself and for a customer or three. Imagine my surprise when I realized that the two inches of thread (kevlar0 left on the spool was all that I had, the spare spool was a figment of my imagination! Now, I had some hot orange but it created a day glow creature that was light years away from this great English pattern. (I do have standards!!)


Then I found a forgotten spool of 3/0 monocord that had a odd shade of orange. It was on the "light" side of orange and still produced that waxy finish that I like for SH bodies. So I tied up a dozen and every trout in the river wanted them!!! Normally I don't put a lot of emphasis on shades of color but this was different. Maybe they hadn't seen it before and didn't associated it with being caught. No, they were not curious as someone on the web tried to claim. Trout are not curious!!!

BTW, I received nothing from Danville for this product plug!!

The Millers - Last week I wrote that the flows on the Millers were going crazy with 200 cfs changes twice a day. As soon as I published the blog post THE FLOWS SETTLED DOWN!!! It's basically stayed within the 200-300 range with just little "bumps" during the day. Coincidence?? Maybe or maybe not. In any event I would fish this river while the flows are good. Very early morning starts are not necessary. Prime time will be after 10 am till sundown which should be the warmest times of the day for the air and the water.

The Swift - It's amazing to look at 40 to 60 brook trout working the spawning beds and then trying to entice the bows into striking. It's amazing to see people walk through spawning gravel too. Stay in the weeds guys.

As far as the Swift goes look for ANY set of riffles and you will find trout, period. Now's a good time to do some exploring instead of hitting the same old spots.


15 months ago I wrote about the value of 5X on the Swift river and how it allowed for a shorter battle with fewer exhausted trout and no evidence of leader spooked fish on sunken flies. Readers talked about 5X used with size 28-30 flies and having good catches.

A few of us have pushed the envelope a bit and have gone down to 4x. I've used this size with flies down to size 18 and have caught many fish. You should try it!!

Ken




Saturday, November 5, 2016

The Millers Fly Fishers Guide, Screwy Millers Flows, And A Fishing Report

In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing. We lived at the junction of great trout rivers in western Montana, and our father was a Presbyterian minister and a flyfisherman who tied his own flies and taught others. He told us about Christ's disciples being fishermen, and we were left to assume, as my brother and I did, that all first-class fishermen on the Sea of Galilee were fly fishermen and that John, the favoite, was a dry-fly fisherman."-Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It.



It still amazes me how popular this book is after all these years. The first was sent out back in the Spring of 2008 and I've hit "send" a few thousand times since then. It's gone to most of the "trout" states in this country and as far away as Denmark and Australia. Frankly, it's introduced more people to trout fishing on the Millers than any other document or publication out there. My only regret, besides the few copycat documents out there, is the fact that I've sent this ebook to people who would NEVER tell anyone where they catch fish on this river. They benefit from the knowledge but would never share it!!!

So, thanks to my 40,000+ monthly readers and I will continue sending the Millers Guide to whomever wants it!


The Millers Flow - Well, it's happening again. Someone, most likely the operators of the dam in Orange, have sent the flows into a yo-yo pattern over the past week. Here is the flow pattern for Friday, November 4: 300cfs, 190cfs, 380cfs, 150cfs, 350cfs and all of this in a 24 hour period. The Bridge St. Pool was almost unfishable at 8:30 am yesterday but then dropped like a rock only to rise like a rocket a few hours later. None of this is good for the fish, period. We know that the Orange dam is ground zero for this mess because the flows up in the Bears Den, below Birch Hill, have been uneventful.

Now, electrical power has been generated by the facilities at the dam for years but they have always been a "run of the river" generation, no impounding of the flow to be released later. Maybe there's some temporary work being done at the dam and this will be over very soon. If anyone has any information on what's going on please email me.


How's The Fishing - Catch the Millers at a reasonable flow and it can be great. We caught fish even in the high flows but it can be a chore. Orcutt and the Kempfield Section had hits and fish. The water temperature hit 50 yesterday and if the sun hadn't been so bright we would of seen some BWO's for sure. We did see the occasional rising fish.

The Swift - I've been catching brook trout in the 12 inch range and not by fishing over visible fish on their redds but by fishing the deep holes and runs that are adjacent to the spawning areas. The redds are populated by 6 to 10 inch crowd but the big boys are holding back and are taking tiny nymphs (#18 pheasant tail, #18 bwo soft hackle, #16-18 half & halfs, ect) in the drift.

The rainbows are staging up in the riffles below spawning beds and some of these fish are HUGE! Where are they? THEY ARE EVERYWHERE that you find shallow water and clean gravel. Just make sure that you don't walk on the gravel!!!!

The browns are getting into the act. I lost a good one below the gauge last week and fish hawk Lenny landed a 20 incher (photo included)

The EB - Fished it in the late afternoon this past week and took 5 small browns which was fun and certainly worth the 15 minute drive from my house but it may be a stretch to travel longer for what's available. I have to say that I truly missed the place this year and the October fishing was a blessing. Hopefully next year we will get rain!

I still have some Guide openings available for November. Contact me if you are interested.

Tonight we start the "Dark Season" with the turning back of the clocks. I hate it because it kills evening fishing which won't return until March!

Ken




Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Making The Most Of Two Hours - Autumn Dusk On The Swift

The modern depictions of fly fishing in print and video are accurate as far as they go, but they usually run heavy on gratuitous fish catching and light on the long silences that characterize the sport" - John Gierach


The Y Pool lot was packed at 4pm as usual but I had another destination in mind. I fished this spot a few times during the Summer and introduced my friend Brad to the stretch but drew zeros each time. "Summer" doesn't work here. This is where the brook trout and bows come to play in October and I would be the only one there! Well, almost.

Lenny knows how to fish and that was on display yesterday as he took at least 8 HUGE bows from ultra skinny water plus broke off a monster brookie that snapped his 4x tippet. (that's right, no puny leaders here). He certainly outgunned me which is fine except that he was using a caddis emerger that he found on MY BLOG. I, of course, didn't have any on me (Note to self: tie some caddis). I did well using my half & half with 6 beautiful brook trout and one big chunk bow.

It was great to spend the last two hours of daylight doing what I love to do but bittersweet in knowing that it will be "dark" this time next week and "evening " fishing comes to an end. The main thing is to get out there and enjoy these Autumn days.  I've always felt that the brilliant foliage of October is for the leaf peeping tourist. Autumn comes into it's own in New England when the color fades and we get, as one old timer told me, the "deer woods" with their subtle shades of grays and browns.  Couple that with a day in the 50's with willing trout and you are in heaven!!


Here are the "missing caddis"

Hook - dry/wet or scud size 14 or 16
body - grey dubbing, natural or synthetic
hackle - a few barbs of partridge
collar - brown ostrich


Some of you may have noticed the yo-yo levels on the Millers. This is really normal for this river in the Fall.  As long as the flows are below 500 cfs we will be ok.

Ken