Autumn On The EB

Autumn On The EB

Friday, July 29, 2016

Another Swift Update

"Listen to the sound of the river and you will catch a trout" Irish Proverb

It's drizzling as I write this and I'm hoping that the forecast of rainfall approaching 1 inch doesn't fizzle like a few have over the past month. The Millers is the lowest I've seen it.

But then there's the Swift! It is still fishing very well from the Duck Pond down through Cady Lane and size 16 and 18 soft hackles and pheasant tails have ruled the day. It has always been interesting to me how a large rainbow or brown approaching 3lb will take interest in a tiny fly drifting in the current. We got a good example of that while we were watching a LARGE bow nymphing at Cady Lane. The bow finned above a large weed mat in about 10 inches of water and would make that "sideways tilt" every time he took a drifting nymph. Sometimes he would dig his nose into the weeds and then make that tilt movement again. There was nothing hatching so there must have been some behavioral drift for some species or maybe he was rooting out scuds or.......

As you probably know the Swift flow nosedived on Wednesday from 110 to 50 cfs. The Connecticut River appears to be at a normal flow which will keep the Swift at 50cfs but I've got a feeling that if we don't get the promised rain today we will see the spigot turned on by Tuesday of next week.

At the top of the Post I mentioned soft hackles and how effective they are on the Swift. I believe the key to a good SH is in it's slim, sparse profile. Many commercial flies are too overdressed. Let's face it, most commercial flies come from Asia and these tiers don't fly fish and will never experience how a SH with too much hackle will not get it done on a tailwater like the Swift. You can't blame them because it's how they are taught. It's more like "painting by numbers" as opposed to real painting.

Keep the Soft Hackles simple!

Saturday 7/30 Update - The flow went up to 120 cfs at around Noon on Friday. The fishing is still good below Route 9 and is still uncrowded unlike above Route 9.


Tuesday, July 26, 2016

August Fishing And The Swift's Cream Cahill

"You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows"- Bob Dylan, Subterranean Homesick Blues

Yes, It is the driest Summer since 2010 and it looks like we will beat that evil record before this Summer is through. But all is not lost. Native trout always seem to be able to make it through dry times. If the browns of the Millers made it through the summer of 2010 they will make it through 2016!

What about aquatic insects? They will be fine too. First, virtually all summer mayflies are evening and night hatching insects. The local Isonychia is a good example of a fly that hatches at night but by Fall hatches at mid day. Check out the streamside stones along the EB to see the proof. There will be many nymph cases. The dainty Blue Wing Olive will never hatch on a bright sunny day BUT will hatch on an overcast one.

The Swift is still hone to one larger mayfly that hangs on throughout the summer. It's the Cream Cahill and it's about a size 14 and it has a dusky, beige color. It's never a full fledged hatch but a slow dribble of insects that last until late September. Check our Thomas Ames book Hatch Guide for New England Streams for a good description.

The Swift is the only trout game in town east of the Deerfield River and it is fishing great! Now, one would guess that it would be packed with anglers and if the Y Pool parking lot is any indication that C&R section is packed BUT I guided two beginners on Sunday for 3 hours BELOW Route 9 (from the Gauge Run to the Horse Farm) and saw only 4 other fly fishers. One of my clients caught her first trout on a fly rod - a 14 inch brown!!! We basically had the place to ourselves and it was a great time.

I've always felt that the Swift below Route 9 is superior to the CR above Route 9 as a trout fishery!

Although it doesn't feel like it we have lost 45 minutes of daylight since June 21 - the longest day of the year. By the 3rd week in August there will be dew on the morning lawns and we will know that the season is changing.

August is a beautiful time to fish the Swift. A 3 hour trip fits into any schedule. I'll show you places away from the crowds and where the trout live and if it's a morning trip you can stay and fish all day. What could be better!


Friday, July 22, 2016

Dry Fly 101 - Some Helpful Advice And The Drought

"When I die I want to come back as a Montana fly fishing guide" - Jane Fonda

Much of my instruction time is devoted to explaining and demonstrating dry fly strategy. There are those in this sport who have turned dry fly fishing into a form of rocket science which it shouldn't be. Let's examine the basics:

1. We either cast a dry fly to a rising fish or to a spot where we believe a trout may be. Let's concern ourselves with that rising trout.

2. It is a rare occasion where we see a steady parade of newly hatched mayfly duns floating down a river and being picked off by a trout. Most of the rises that we see are rises to the emerging insect that is in or just under the surface film. That is why comparaduns (my favorite dry fly pattern) and parachutes do so well. The body is in the surface film looking just like an emerging insect. That is why the two above tying styles have somewhat replaced the classic hackled dry fly. More on that later.

3. Always try to position yourself downstream from a rising fish or a place that you want to cast to when fishing a dry. Imagine a large clock surface and a trout steadily rising at the 12 o'clock position. You want to be below him at the 4 or 8 o'clock position. Why not 6 o'clock? Actually that's the worst place to be. Your leader or your line will land on top of him. At the 4 or 8 position only the tippet will be in play.

4. Fishing a dry downstream or down and across will limit your presentation window because of leader drag. Remember, drag occurs when the leader is traveling faster than the fly. You avoid this with an upstream cast but there are times when you have to fish at a downward angle. This is where you lengthen your leader with extra tippet length and throw a Check Cast above the rise. A Check Cast is nothing more than suddenly stopping, or "checking" your fly in mid cast so the fly falls to the surface amid some loose, uncoiled leader. Your leader needs to be pretty straightened out for drag to set in. This will avoid it.

5. Manage your line when fishing upstream with a dry. The line is floating back to you and you must constantly strip in this slack or hook set will be impossible.

6. Forget nonsense like "parallel drag" or "diagonal drag". Drag is Drag and the remedy is the same.

7. 90% of your dry fly fishing will be done with size 14 through size 20 flies which means you will be using 5x and 6x tippet. Don't believe that you need 7x on a size 14 or 16 dry unless you like leader twist.

8. Hackled dries still have a home in riffles and pocket water where they float well and are visible.

In 2009 I fished the EB from Memorial Day through September with nothing but dries and I caught a lot of trout. It is my favorite style of fishing followed closely by the swing of a soft hackle. Both styles represent a stage of insect life and I believe a higher stage of fly fishing. A Millers regular once described what we now call straight line nymphing as "bait fishing with artificial bait". To each his own.

2010 was the driest summer that I remember but I'm afraid that this summer will break all records. The long range forecast appears to be unchanged. Let's wait until September.


Monday, July 18, 2016

Shameless Plug For Something Cool, Tiny Dries And Plum Island

If you fish for trout you're either part of the ongoing debate over "hog holes" or you've been overhearing it. Your typical hog hole is a blessing and a curse. There are big trout andlots of them, so the fishing is great, but the crowds can be horrifying, so the fishing is lousy" John Gierach - Even Brook Trout get the Blues

As most of you know I don't do many product endorsements because:1. most new products are just a reinvention of something already out there and of little improvement over the existing product, 2. many new products are useless as in the dry fly powder that you have to brush on (putting the fly in a container and shaking it works MUCH better) and the little gadget that stores your scrap leader material (I have something called a pocket that works great and came with the shirt). My sole endorsement is FLEX SHIELD for fixing leaky waders (my idea, not theirs) and now Stream Map USA.

This neat,little smartphone GPS app will give you directions to every named stream and river and real time USGS flow data for all streams that are measured. It's got topographic, road and satellite maps plus a built-in waypoint compass.

Now, there are five regional additions and I have the Northeast addition which includes New England, New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey and it only cost $8.99!! Originally built only for IPhone products it now works with Android devices.

The maps appear accurate with the only mistake I could find on my rivers was the naming of Keyup Brook in Erving as Jacks Brook which is a tributary of Keyup. Also the EB of the Westfield is called simply The Westfield River in keeping with the USGS and the Army Corp of Engineers. I tend to agree but I'm smart enough not to try to change this.

Just google stream map usa and you're in.

Also, I paid full price for mine. No discounts!!

Tiny fly season has started on the Swift as the larger mayflies have begun to wane. I wrote about this very simple and very floatable fly a year ago and it deserves a repeat review.

Hook - any dry fly hook from 20 to 32

Thread - size 12 to 14

Tail - optional or a short tag of micro flash

Body - lack or brown thread

Wing - strip off the fibers on one side of a CDC feather and lay them across the hook at the thorax site. Secure them with figure 8's. If you feel you need more fibers then strip them off the other side of the CDC feather and repeat the process.

Now, tightly grab the ends of the CDC wing and firmly pull up the fibers directly above the hook an cut them with scissors. If done correctly they will flair out into a powder puff shape. Put more of a figure 8 into the mix and you get a decent trico spinner.

Still at Plum Island and managed a schoolie on a 5 wt. Still chucking big stuff but thinking of trout!!


Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Flats - Joppa And Not The Swift

"In our family there is no clear line between religion and fly fishing" - Norman Maclean "A River Runs Through It"

Even trout fishers need some time off. So it's Newburyport again (actually Plum Island) and it's great. First there's good times with family and friends AND there are stripers this year. Had the opportunity to work Joppa Flats with Bob Zieba, a.k.a. "Tincup" from this blog as he plied the shallows in his craft at the start of the turning tide. Then out to the mouth of the Merrimack which is like the Y Pool except it's crowded with boats and plug casters from the jetty instead of wading fishermen. It's got fish too. Then back to the flats until dead low tide. We got deep into the double digits with stripers but no legal fish. That's ok!

Next day I did the entrance to the in a kayak working grassy banks and tide lines. More schoolies were caught when I got the idea. Instead of the 8wt how about a 5 wt. Now is the chance to use that seldom used, beefy Orvis Zero Gravity 5wt that has been collecting dust in the corner. I still have a 5wt sinking line. All I have to do is hit the road early and do a 260 miles round trip to grab the stuff which I did. I'll be ready tomorrow and I'll fill you in.

Flies for the Salt - 20 years ago I used to do a LOT of salt water fly fishing. One of my pet issues was that many larger flies were just too big and wind resistant. I never liked chucking clousers and preferred unweighted flies on a fast sinking line. So I tied mine long and sparse. I get the size and profile but also get ease of casting which is important. I've tied up some deceiver types for the 5wt which are 4 to 6 inches long but will cast like a dream. Also, I tied some up on #4 FRESHWATER STREAMER HOOKS!! Just the right size for the schoolies and they will not suddenly rust away as CONVENTIONAL WISDOM dictates.

The Swift - Bob O nailed it. "It's a yo-yo".

Fish it anyway!!!


Monday, July 11, 2016

A Good Searcher Fly, Swift Update And Swift Guiding

"Trout aren't naturally selective as they've become in crowded tailwaters. They've been trained to be like that by too much fishing pressure. I've seen tailwater fish that are so hysterical they'll refuse naturals. You wonder how they get enough to eat" - John Gierach

Ok, there are times when the Swift brookies, browns and bows just are too lazy to take something off the surface. So I needed a fly that presented something larger than the usual soft hackle but not too large as a bugger. I needed something that was not too heavy. Nymphing with weight at Cady Lane will get you all the moss you want! Something that looked like a mouth full but was easy to cast. The above fly does the trick. Maybe I'll call it the MEATBALL!

Hook - size 12 wet fly

Body - thin dubbing of your choice. I used brown rabbit

Wing - Short clumps of marabou starting at the bend and building forward. (don't over build)

Hackle - good old over sized partridge

Head - two strands of peacock

Soak this fly totally to get it under and then swing it through all likely runs. It works at Cady Lane and will work on the Millers once we get was water in it.

Swift Update - It rose again on Friday the 8th to about 90 cfs and until the Connecticut River Watershed gets rain it should stay there. 90 cfs is very fishable!! BTW, the fishing has been fantastic below route 9. The Tree Pool is loaded with BIG trout and hardly any fly fishers.

Swift River Guiding - I've had a lot of inquiries and booked sessions on the Swift lately by fly fishers who seem to realize that they know very little about this river. It's the CR section above RT 9 with the Y Pool or the Pipe and that's it for most of their Swift River experience. So I've been bringing folks on a three hour session on the REST OF THE RIVER! Places like the Duck Pond, the Crib Dam, the Gauge Run, The Flats, Cady Lane and Bondsville are the areas to explore. We pick a section or two and fish away for 3 hours. It's a great evening trip in July, August and September and it will give you real insider knowledge just in time for the Fall which is the best time on the Swift. Contact me if you want to explore this river!!


Thursday, July 7, 2016

The CDC Soft Hackle Revisited And July So Far

"If I fished only to capture fish my fishing trips would have ended long ago" - Zane Grey

Back in May I wrote about an interesting fly that I had seen online in which cdc was joined with partridge to create a soft hackle dry. I then promptly forgot about this creation until client Dennis showed me his version. "You wrote about this fly" he said. "Oh yeah, I did" I said sheepishly. He proceeded to catch an 18 inch Swift brown and about a dozen brookies on the pattern. It has become my favorite dry fly!!

Most of our dries are static and lifeless. Partridge, starling and such are constantly moving in the water suggesting life but these natural materials do not want to float. CDC will always float and that solves the problem. CDC keeps the fly up and visible and the partridge dangles below, moving in the current as an emerging insect does.

How to tie:

Hook - dry fly down to size 18

Body - I use 140 denier thread for the body of this pattern. No dubbing allowed!!

Wing - Take a CDC feather (dun color) and strip off the fibers on one side of the feather. Then tie them in at the top of the thorax of the fly. Take that feather and strip of the other side and tie that in too. The fibers will be slanted back in a wet fly style and should extend just past the curve of the hook. Trim if necessary to accomplish this.

Thorax - Something buggy wrapped over the CDC butts.

Hackle - Appropriately sized soft hackle.

This fly floats like a cork, is visible in low light and trout love it. One may think that the wing is too large for the fly but I don't think the trout really notice the wing. It's the legs and the thorax that gets their attention.

They say it's going to rain today and I hope so. Northern New England got a good soaking last week but we missed it all. It's 2010 driest year in memory) all over again. The Swift has saved us and Cady Lane has become a destination. Even with the hype it's still pretty lonely down there and that is a good thing.

It's been about 9 years since I introduced the Hot Spot on this blog. It's a standout Swift River fly and works very well in a size 20 trailing a larger fly. Brookies love it and it's easy to tie. Keep it slim!


Sunday, July 3, 2016

The Swift - A Long Weekend Update And A Big Swift Brookie

"It's an odd fact that whichever side of the stream you are on, two-thirds of the best water is out of reach on the other side." - John Gierach

Here we go: what is going on with the Swift? I was there at 6am Saturday morning, passing the Pipe, on my way downstream when I spoke to a long time regular who said he was there most of Friday morning (July 1st) and said he never saw a fish stocked. But then he said he heard that it was stocked later in the day. The funny thing is that there are no fish by the pumphouse (a traditional stocking point) and no bows by the Pipe BUT the Tree Pool is LOADED. It's also not loaded with fly fishers so there's plenty of room for everyone.

How did I do and where did I do it?? On Saturday morning I took three bows that had a total combined length of 55 inches on top of a bunch of brookies. My friend Phil took a good 16 to 18 inch bow (see photo) and he was the only other angler I saw. On Sunday morning I took an 18 inch brown with the usual brookies and friend Lenny nailed a 3lb rainbow. Where was I? Read the second sentence in the post. That's all you need.

Everything that I caught was caught on a size 16 yellow and partridge or an olive and partridge. The bows could not be tempted to the surface but they loved that SH.

So, there are trout below route 9 but they are not swimming between your boots as in years past and that is a very good thing. The low water (50cfs) is back for a while (it may rise again soon unless we get rain) and that makes for some "fine and far off" angling which is the best. Leave the heavy stuff at home. You will not need it.

Fishing the Swift this year lets one realize just how fortunate we are. An exploding native brookie population, enough large browns to keep your heart pounding, some large bows for variety, and a COOL and stable flow makes the place unique.
Here's a 20 inch Swift brookie compliments of Lenny!

Have a happy July 4th