Autumn On The EB

Autumn On The EB

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

September Dry Fly Fishing, The Comparadun Revisited And An Update

"Do you need a 50-fish day dredging the depths with three jig-head nymphs drifting under an indicator? Or will half a dozen trout rising to dry flies prove equally fulfilling? - John Shewey, Editor In Chief of Fly Fishing Magazine, September/October 2016 edition

It seems that there is some "conventional wisdom" being cast upon the waters that dry fly fishing, outside of #28,#30 and #32 midge fishing, is at some kind of low spot during September here in New England. This is a half baked idea that doesn't stand up to even casual scrutiny. For starters let's look at what UPCOUNTRY FLY SHOP, (Farmington experts) suggest for a late summer, early fall dry fly selection:Tan Caddis 16-18, Light Cahills 12-14, White Flies (good on the Housy too) - 12-14, Ants #20 and Blue Wing Olives 20-24.

These are not midges. These are the flies that hatch throughout New England (fewer white flies, very many BWO's) and give September the reputation of being, next to June, as the BEST dry fly month of the year. And let's not forget the terrestrials because September is the best month for them. Grasshoppers, crickets and ants rule the month. Take a walk up the railroad tracks to the Upper Trestle Pool any day during September. You will see hundreds of grasshoppers in that short walk fleeing your approach. In June you could sit on your back deck in the evening and the landscape would be fairly quiet. Now it's September and you will hear a million crickets. I've had my best ant action in September when ant colonies split up, sproat wings and end up landing in trout streams.Terrestrials mean surface action!! It happens in September!!

The Blue Wing Olive is the MAJOR hatch of the Autumn and the Millers is a great place to see wonderful surface action to these insects. My best dry fly day was in early October on the EB and it was to the BWO. The Millers still has Cahills in September and that is a size 14 fly. The Pumpkin Caddis drifts in WAVES over the Millers in late September and it is best represented by a size 12 or 14 imitation. I still see Cream Cahills on the Swift in September. Never a populated hatch it continues from late May into September and the trout like them. I remember casting size 14-16 Light Cahills on warm September days years ago on the Squannacook when it seemed that every trout in the river was rising to SOME fly that my limited entomology failed to recognize. The Cahill matched what the trout wanted. They were not after midges.

In short, carry midges because you may need them but don't start dredging the depths because you think that dry flies with "meat on them" are through for the year.

COMPARADUNS - It's my favorite dry fly pattern and I have now tied most of my standard dries(including BWO's) this way for 30 years while giving up on the standard hackle patterns. Why's that? It's because it puts the body (the most important part) down in the film while hackle patterns really do not. And most rising trout are going after the insect caught in the surface film and not the dainty little sailboat floating downstream. Look at the comparadun photo above and you will see a small ball of dubbing in front of the deer hair. It's used to anchor that hair in place. I'm still surprised how many of these flies don't incorporate it. What about the Parachute?? I love to tie them because they look so nice and the body is in the film BUT caparaduns are easier to tie and are more durable. Dubbing and deer hair and that's it. What about the small sizes? Ultra fine deer hair works to about #18 then go to poly yarn or even better CDC. Kill the tail, use a curved light wire scud hook and you REALLY have a great emerger pattern.

Another BWO pattern that I like in #18 and #20 is nothing more the a wispy tail, olive dubbing and two turns of green dyed grizzly hackle (shown above). The green dye comes out a nice shade of dark olive on a grizzly hackle and it's mottled too. It's a dun or a spinner. I have to do something with all those hackle capes!!!

The Swift - up and down goes the flow. We need a stable flow for successful spawning of brookies and by stable I mean 50 cfs. That's perfect. To get that we need RAIN to jump the Connecticut River to lower the Swift. In the meantime keep fishing this river!


Sunday, August 28, 2016

Fall Guided Trips And Bondsville Again

"I go fishing not to find myself but to lose myself" - Joseph Monniger

Ok, this past Friday I booked five guided trips for this Fall. I guess the rush is on and soon openings will become scarce. Do yourself a favor and contact me with a date, preference of a full day or half day trip and a river selection. Remember, I guide on the Swift (not just the crowded spots but the hidden spots), the EB of the Westfield, the Millers and the Ware River. All of these rivers are on the FALL STOCKING LIST and I know where to go. I require NO MONEY DOWN and there is NO CANCELLATION FEE! So contact me and reserve a date!!!

Saturday morning found me at Bradley airport at 7:30 dropping my wife off for her month long retreat at the Esalen Center in Big Sur. I waved goodbye and then made a bee line to Bondsville which took me about 50 minutes and gave me an appreciation for the miles that many of you put on in the pursuit of trout. In any event I was on the water by 9:00 am.

Some observations: 1. I would see only TWO OTHER ANGLERS in the 3 and a half hours that I was there which was perfect!! 2. Although the flow had dropped from 115 to 45 cfs since my last trip on Tuesday there still were many holding areas with knee to waist high depth. 3. I had left my thermometer in another pack but I could tell that the water was in the low to mid 60's and would stay that way because this section of the Swift is in constant shade. In short, this is a nice place!

I decided to start down at the Cabin Run (you'll know it when you see it) and work upstream to the Cul De Sac Pool (you'll know it when you see it). It was going to be a big dry fly day with stimulators and a few size 10 Wulff patterns. Launching these offerings would be a 6 foot Paul Young bamboo fitted with a 3 wt double taper. I found the value of the shorter rod last week when I kept getting my 7 1/2 foot Swift River bamboo caught in overhanging foliage. I didn't feeling like snapping a bamboo tip so the 6 foot rod was the perfect choice. I will tell you that this section is a good place for a shorter rod. A 9 footer will get you into trouble in Bondsville.

I caught trout in every run and pool that I fished. All were brookies, all were between 9 and 12 inches and all fought like hell!!! They were also free of any obvious hatchery scars although they probably were hatchery born because of the uniform size.There were a few in the 4 to 6 inch range which has always been the case but not in the numbers that you see at Cady Lane.

I ended the day at the Cul De Sac pool where I saw my second fellow angler. I decided to wait him out by taking a lunch break on a streamside rock because I REALLY wanted to work that pool. He was making some long casts over to some slack water and then after a while moved on. I always fish this lower section of the Swift from the left side facing upstream and this pool would be no exception. I got up to the head of the pool and worked the fast water and took more brookies which put me over the 30 mark for the day.

It seems strange to me that some fly fishers actually look down on these wonderful fish preferring to chase something non-native like a rainbow. I love to fish for all trout but brookies are my favorite. We are lucky to have the Swift!!

On the way home I drove past the usual hot spots. THE RIVER WAS PACKED!!! I guess some prefer shoulder to shoulder to solitude. I like solitude and it appears that my clients do to! The fact is many people hire me to show them uncrowded places and I'll introduce them to sections that have fish but no fisherman. Bondsville is a place like that.


Thursday, August 25, 2016

Check Out Bondsville

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

It had to be the the reports in my comments section by Chico and Parachute Adams and others about the fishing down in the Bondsville section of the Swift. Now, I know the area well, fished it years ago and did well this past Spring but I had not been there since early June having gotten under the spell of Cady Lane. So that's why my friend Brad and I found ourselves late Tuesday afternoon knee deep in this very interesting place.

First off the water temperature was 65 degrees which is excellent. Second, as the Swift below Route 9 looks different than the section above Rt 9, Bondsville is different than Cady Lane. First, it has pools, pockets and riffles. Secondly it is devoid of weed growth as commenter Chico noted. This may be because of the 4 mile long ponded area upstream acting as a barrier by settling out any vegetation drifting downstream (just my theory). Anyway, you will have found yourself in a bona fide New England trout stream, a shaded oasis and you will have it pretty much to yourself.

Brad went downstream and I worked a 50 yard flat that began as a good riffled run at it's head. The bushy dry fly was cast to likely spots and it began to connect with brookies. I went into the double digits with most of the brookies being around 10 inches with one in the 6 inch range. I took one rainbow and broke another off in the short 2 hour trip. It was certainly worth my while and I'll be back.

I don't believe that this place will ever get hammered because it is off the beaten trail and many of us are just creatures of habit and don't want to leave familiar places. Plus, it's a fairly large area which allows for some solitude. If you enjoy crowds, habitually keep score and are afraid to take a break because you may lose your spot then this place is not for you.

The Drought - we got a few breaks in the past week or so but the extended forecast says "DRY". I need to hit the Millers and I'll do that next week!!!


Monday, August 22, 2016

BIG Soft Hackles And A Farmington, Swift Update

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

Partridge and Orange, sizes 8 and 14

It was around late May of 2004 and I was on the EB one early Sunday morning and frankly I was a bit bored. I had been there the evening before hoping for a tail end hendrickson hatch/spinner fall that never materialized. Even the stoneflies were scarce and I was tired of the standard presentations that one does with nymphs and wets. I wanted DRY FLY ACTION! Time to think out of the box.

On went a large tarantula as my dry fly/indicator and a short 18 inches below that went on a SIZE 8 partridge and yellow. And I didn't cast this fly into the traditional spots but (Bliss Pool, Slant Rock etc) but into the fastest chutes and rapids that I could find (right above the "bend" before the gate and the fast water above Les's Pool.) Would the trout hit either fly? They clobbered both flies especially the over sized SF.

Although my freestone arsenal is still loaded with 12's, 14's and 16's I carry a small supply of the big boys to represent the larger nymphs such as the stoneflies and March Browns which the Partridge and Yellow represents. I can nymph fish and then swing them on the very next cast. I feel that they represent a large stonefly as well as the standard offerings and they are much more fun to fish. They also give you the chance to use those outsized hackles that every partridge skin has!

Historically, the Farmington should be flowing at around 200cfs for this date if 60 years of records are correct. In fact, that's the historical flow average for the last two months BUT the flow this summer is averaging 100 cfs or below which is half the historical flow rate. This will concentrate the massive amount of trout into smaller areas and make them vulnerable to predators with wings or wearing waders! The Farmington needs a LOT of rain to turn things around. It will be interesting to see how the SURVIVOR TROUT do.

The Swift - It keeps chugging along with everything from playful brookies to over sized browns to fish for. This summer it's the best river in New England.


Thursday, August 18, 2016

My Guiding - An Evolution And A River Update And The Farmington

"In the long run, fishermen are better company than most. If nothing else, most of them don't feel obligated to fill up normal moments of silence with meaningless chatter." - John Gierach

When I first started guiding it seemed that I was being hired by people just like myself - hardcore, 200 days-on-the-river types that had to get the lowdown on new water. I really enjoyed their company and still do as they still make up a significant portion of my business but my business has evolved and is now reaching a wider audience - beginners and families.

My "beginner sessions" began about three years ago with the banner on my website advertising these classes. So many people want to taste this sport but are thrown back by the high cost of classes and the high cost of equipment which doesn't seem like a wise investment if you just want to try it out. Three hours of instruction at a VERY reasonable price and free use of all fly fishing equipment makes more sense. I can say that the vast majority of beginners have never caught a trout on a fly until our first trip!!
What's really cool is the fact that I see them on the river a month later and sometimes for years after. Now they ARE fly fishers!!

The last two years have seen a huge increase in family members wanting to learn fly fishing. Fathers and sons, husbands and wives, fathers and daughters,boyfriends and girlfriends, mothers and sons and grandparents and grandchildren and so on. Many first trout on a fly are caught on these days. I remember one young man who fished with baitcasting gear before our session and had never fly fished before. He was using my gear and after landing his first fly caught trout, a 16 inch bow, immediately took a photo of the rod and reel so he would remember the brand when he ordered it later in the day!!!!

So, if you want to try this wonderful past time just contact me.

The Swift came down and the Millers went up (somewhat). The Swift is down to 45 cfs which is my favorite level and I hope it stays there especially for the Fall spawning season. It's my opinion that the brookies prefer a 6 inch deep riffle instead of a 16 inch deep riffle. It also makes for easier going down in Cady Lane.

The Millers is in the 80's (cfs, not temperature) which is a start. Did the trout survive? Yes, some of those browns made it through and I'll start working that river once the flows stay above 100 cfs. What we need is some steady rain to last a day or so and not these hit or miss thunderstorms that flood one watershed and leave the next dry as dust.\

The Farmington - Go to my comments section to read about the alert!!

Ants - It's mid August so don't leave home without them!!!!!


Sunday, August 14, 2016

The Seldom Fished Sections Of The Swift And A Lost Rod Section

Flyfishers become creatures of habit, afraid of trying a new stream or section of a stream because the old section may suddenly become hot - Anonymous

I have never had a problem in telling my readers exactly WHERE on a river I've had success in catching trout. I've also known that I can write about a spot time and time again and even bring clients to it to fish and STILL fish it alone 90% of the time. This is particularly true of the Swift where some fish above route 9 time and time again and then say they are tired of the Swift without even attempting to fish the miles of water below. From the Duck Pond to Bondsville, the water is cold, the fish are there and the crowds are not.

Isn't Cady Lane getting crowded? The short answer is NO. I seldom have to share a section and often I see nobody. The fly fishers that I meet are kindred spirits - they enjoy the solitude too. Often I will ask a client "do you see anyone"?. The answer is always "NO".

So, try exploring this river.The old haunts will still be there but maybe you can develop some new ones.

UPDATE - One of my favorite sections of the Swift is from the Gauge down to the Pump House. This spot has been great year after year but this year it has been almost empty of fish. Now over the last few days I've seen bows working their way upstream through this section. I knew that the bows would start heading up river once the brookies started but this is early but much appreciated.

Check this spot out!!

8/15 - There is a report of a lost rod section from the Pipe section of the Swift. It's from a 0 weight. It you find it email me and I'll contact the owner. Thanks!!


Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Dry Fly Evening On The Swift, Guiding Sessions And Snagging On The Swift

"As no man is born an artist, so no man is born an angler"-Izaak Walton

As commentor Chico said a week or so ago " I'm getting a bit bored with the Swift". There is some truth to this in the fact that the Swift is one of the few places with cool, running water and it gets all of our attention. It would be nice to work some other rivers into the mix but that's not on the table right now. And with the Farmington gasping at 60 cfs we will just count our blessings and fish the Swift.

Maybe it's knowing that we are going to the Swift that passes for boredom because once I get there everything gets very interesting.
Last evening I spent three hours working dry flies along Cady Lane. The trick here is to find the BIG fish which tuck themselves up against the bank, many times in very skinny water. My size 16 CDC Pale Dun bounced off the bank and bank side foliage and then drifted downstream towards me. First, a good 14 inch brown inhaled it followed by two brookies in the 11-12 inch range. Then I missed THE brown who followed the fly for a foot and then sipped it in and then broke me off. He was an easy 18 inches and he is still there. Throw in the bunch of 6 inch brookies and it was a good evening!

One of my most popular guiding sessions during the Summer and early Fall is my Evening Rise trip. 5 to 8pm and then 4 to 7pm later on are great opportunities to learn about a new spot or to brush up on technique. I still have some openings in August. Also, if you're interested in a Fall trip (September, October, November) BOOK IT NOW! I will fill those months quickly!!

August is a transitional month. Hot days but the nights are getting cooler and longer. Soon the brook trout will don their Autumn colors. August is good but September is bettor. The days are generally in the 70's and it is normally a drier month. Terrestrial flies can rule the day and I've had some of the best dry fly fishing on the Millers fishing over BWO, caddis and midges. There's plenty of trout food around and the cooler water temperature activates the trout's appetite. Get Ready!!!

READ THIS - "Anonymous" and frequent contributor Hibernation have cited examples of someone leaving glow bugs in the backs of trout above Rt 9 in and around the Y Pool. Knowing that section the way I do and the method of fishing eggs YOU DON"T FOUL HOOK AND BREAK OFF TROUT by accident!! This is evidence of SNAGGING!

Look for evidence of "Lifting", where you see a sharp upward stroke with a fly rod as was done against salmon and steelies in western NY over the years. I left the Environmental Police number in the comments section for this post. Spread the word that we are looking for the "flyfisherman"!


Sunday, August 7, 2016

Baby Bows, Baby Browns, Big Browns And Changes On The Swift

"I think this thing we have for bamboo fly rods has something to do with it too. It seems a shame to use a fine, handmade casting tool to lob a weighted, short-line nymph rig 10 feet when you could do the same thing just as well with a broomstick." - John Gierach in Even Brook Trout Get The Blues

Reader Doug sent me this photo of a 6 inch rainbow caught down in Cady Lane. Add this to the few that my clients and I have caught this Spring (some 3 to 4 inches) and the question will be asked: where did they come from? Escapees from the hatchery or maybe something else. Here's the evidence as of late: 1. the little guys are in good shape. Pectorals are intact and of equal length and the tails are not frayed. 2. Every one of them has been caught from the Pipe downstream. I tend to feel that "number 2" carries the most weight and that it suggests escapees or accidental stocking because most hatchery fish move downstream after stocking. I caught a baby rainbow in the Swift two years ago, none last year and now I know of 6 to 8 of them being caught this Spring/Summer. That suggests an "event" such as an accidental stocking.

What is of REAL concern is what my client Joe caught at the Gauge Run yesterday. The 14 inch brown was cool but the 3 INCH BROWN was a show stopper!! A Native Brown?? Most likely!!

It seems that I and my clients have been sight fishing browns that are measured in pounds and not inches on the Swift. And we're not talking about the way we sight fish clonebows as they sit there fining away in open sight. You have to LOOK for these browns next to undercut banks, sunken logs or under rafts of debris. Sometimes you don't see the whole fish but just a part which is all you need. Welcome to Trout Hunting!!!

The Pipe and the Tree Pool have always been a destination for Swift River anglers. The problem has been that the area was the sole destination for years for many flyfishers which could put a dozen waders into the water from the Pipe to the end of the pool. I've tried for years to suggest that other possibilities existed with limited success. Cady Lane has changed all of that. Yesterday there were about a dozen cars in the Pipe lot at 2pm but only 3 people fishing the Pipe/Tree Pool. We spent the last two hours down in Cady Lane and saw only three other anglers and never felt crowded out. It seems that people just disappear down there! Basically the angling has spread out by a factor of at least three and that is a very good thing!!

The EB is almost "there". We have a forecast that calls for three days of rain next weekend.


Tuesday, August 2, 2016

It's August, It's Raining And Some Some Tiny Drys

"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities but in the expert's mind there are few"John Gierach

It's 4:45 am and it's pouring outside and the weather map shows a large green area in western Massachusetts heading east. Let's hope this is the beginning of the end of this terrible drought. As you all know the lack of rain shut down our rivers but it didn't kill our rivers. Rainbows were spotted in the EB this past weekend. I said "spotted" and not "fished for" which was the right thing to do. The Millers went through a bad drought in 2010 but we were netting browns by late August after the flows came back up. Let's hope it keeps raining!!

The Swift is the lifesaver this year but I will complain about the yo-yo flow regime. As we understand it the flow is increased traditionally from 50 cfs to 120 cfs when the Connecticut River gets into the low 2000 cfs range. That has been an additional 70 cfs of water released that results in a whopping 3 to 4% increase for the Connecticut. The question is do they really need it or does it represent some historical pre-Quabbin contribution to the Connecticut River? Anyway, the up and down flows will effect the trout in all but the deepest spots.

Midges are maligned. We, as fly fishers, like to group all tiny naturals into this huge class of insects be they mayflies or caddis. This may not be a problem unless you believe that midges (Diptera) and mayflies and caddis all act the same. They don't and many times what we consider "midges" are actually tiny mayflies and micro caddis.

Now, I have always tried to create and use flies that are representative of, let's say, a number of mayfly species. That's because 1. I think that exact imitation is a fools game and 2. I don't like changing flies often. So, when I encounter those trout that are rising to NOTHING I will try something that could represent a tiny mayfly or a midge that is stuck in the surface film.

The body is thin and almost worm like and there's a tiny thorax/head built in. The CDC is really there to hang the fly in the film and not so much to represent wings. I've had good luck tying these on small scud hooks from 18 through 24. Scud hooks have a wide gap for better hooking and seem to have a shorter hook shank so I can tie very tiny flies on larger hooks for better hooking.

The Fall is prime tiny fly time. The little olive numbers in the photo got their baptism on the Farmington 10 years ago on a foggy September morning. They must of represented the BWO's that filled the air just a few hours later.

August is a transitional month. By mid month we will notice that the sun sets earlier now than it did a month ago. Nothing stays the same!!