Autumn On The EB

Autumn On The EB

Monday, July 31, 2017

An Announcement And A Sunday Morning below the Pipe

"Work: a dangerous disorder affecting high public functionaries who want to go fishing" Ambrose Bierce

First off - as some or many of you know I've been guiding fly fishers for about ten years through central and western Massachusetts. Some of you also know that my guiding has been a part-time endeavor, sandwiched between a day job that I like, and my guiding which I love.

That all ends September 1, when I officially RETIRE from my position of Director of Business Development  and become a FULL TIME GUIDE!!! Now, instead of limiting trips to Friday through Sunday and evenings I can and WILL guide every day of the week. And this is just in time for the Fall season where, over the years, I had to turn away business because I didn't have the time.  Now I do and if you want a 3 or 6 hour trip just contact me.  Book now for September, October and November because they always book quickly.

I think it's going to be a great Autumn on our rivers!!

Sunday morning broke clear and almost chilly (56 degrees) as I pulled into the Pipe Lot to meet my friend Gary, the Admiral of the Westfield, for an introduction to the Swift. First off, he hits three bows with his beetle imitation. I switch to a size 18 snowshoe hare emerger (such a good fly here) and take a 16 inch bow that plucked it off the surface and then two brookies. Gary is amazed at the amount of trout here. I said you should of been here last year or the year before that but then he would of seen many more anglers. There is nobody fishing there but the fish are there.

Snowshoe hare easy to work with if you know which end of the foot to use.  Prime fir is between the toes and on what I call the "heel" of the foot.  This stuff doesn't sink. The smooth fir on the top of the foot can't make that claim.

In two months the brookies will begin their march up through the Swift River and the bows and browns will be close behind. We still have two months of Summer fishing but.........


Wednesday, July 26, 2017

EB Browns And Dry Fly Strategies


George LaBranche cast his first dry fly a short distance from this porch.  Home of the Pink Lady cocktail and the Pink Lady Fly, the DeBruce club was a favorite of the Anglers Club for its outings throughout the 1930's and the 1940's. For Gene Connett, it was a place "where the angler is accorded the patient consideration of meals at almost any hour, served by hosts who can actually smile" - The dry fly culture and the country hotels of yesteryear that catered to that culture from Catskill Rivers by Austin Francis.

Lower Bliss Pool

I'm fortunate enough to be surrounded by decent trout streams and the EB is certainly one of them. I am exactly 15 minutes, give or take a nanosecond or two, from making an evening of it basically anytime that I want. Last night was one of those times.

In 2009 I fished this river from Memorial Day through Columbus Day with dry flies only and caught lots of fish. This year the high Spring flow and then a mini drought shelved a repeat of that idea but the rain of two days ago brought the flow up nicely. Take advantage of it!!

I started off at Slant Rock Pool (just past the old quarry) and this wonderful spot failed me again. Once the pride of the river this place is certainly off this year having only produced two trout for me. I didn't even see the rising fish which this place is famous for. I will not give up on the place because it is such a beautiful run and such a pleasure to fish.

Slant Rock Pool

On the other hand the Bliss Pool never lets me down when pursuing trout with the dry. You just have to wait it out. Even on a cloudy day this place doesn't come alive until at least 7pm and fishes well past dark.

My strategy for the Bliss Pool is the same for any spot in the evening. Get there in the late afternoon and work the riffles and the heads of pools with something big and bushy. Patterns don't matter too much, just get something that could mimic a land insect and something that will be easy to cast. I've moved to using more bivisible patterns because they can be tied large but seem to be less wind resistant resulting in less leader twist.   Big wings cause problems!  My hybrid bivisible took the first brown which was the biggest at around 16 inches.  But then I saw the first "dorsal and tail rise" which signaled the switch to a size 14 comparadun. The Comparadun, half adult, half emerger. It was tied with a pale creamy body just like the real ones that began to escape the water. Three more browns came to the net!!                                                          

As dusk began to descend I went ashore, found a rock to sit on and then began to take in the beautiful surroundings. People have said that I take more photos of the "surroundings" than the fish. There's a good reason for that. It's the rivers that I love otherwise I would be fishing ponds! If I publish nothing but the photos of the fish that I take then each post would be about the fish that "I" take and nothing would be about the beautiful rivers that I (we) fish. It's all about the rivers.

Another brown sipped another emerging mayfly. Next time!!


Monday, July 24, 2017

Overlooked Waters And An Emerger

"Some day some one will learn how to reduce gold to flow like ink, and dipping his pen in this glowing liquid he will exhaust the English language in an effort to justly describe the beauty of the glorious upper Deleware, for of a truth to do it justice would bankrupt our mother language" - Kit Clarke about the Deleware River

When I introduce new anglers to the Swift I usually meet them in the PIPE parking lot and then tell them that 95 out 100 anglers beat a path to the Pipe and the Tree Pool and leave the rest of the river alone. We will not do that but will fish upstream and down at areas seldom fished and we catch fish.

But Sunday was different because at our 8am start time there was only ONE other car in the lot. So I told my two clients we were going to the famous place first and then fish the "other" sections last.

When we entered the water there was only one other angler and he was at the top of the Tree Pool but didn't seem to be doing much. We fished above him just below the Pipe and took fish and then went below him. After a while he left and we took fish in that spot and lost a real rod bending bow. We left that section, surrendering it to another lone angler.

Why are there fewer fly fishers? The reason is simple: there are fewer fish, nothing like the "tripping over trout" conditions of the last few years. If they're not swimming between your boots many will just go somewhere else like the Y Pool. Maybe they should try some other places like we did!

We went down to Cady Lane where one client repeated what another client said the week before: "I would of walked right past this place"! They ended up sight fishing for brookies, bows and browns and had the place to themselves. Then we moved up to the top of the Gauge Run where I planted one client in a set of riffles that were not more than 3 inches deep. He had that "are you kidding me" look until a good size brown grabbed his partridge and orange and then threw the hook.

Our BEST fishing that morning was on the "stream less traveled". Try it!!!!!

The above fly is taking things over on the Swift for me. Olive or brown thread for the body, CDC cut to an immature wing shape and, most importantly, a very buggy (possum or rabbit) dark fur for the thorax which is the key to floating this thing as much as the CDC is. I tie this in sizes 18 down to 24 on emerger hooks.

It rained today (Monday 7/24) and we needed it. Also the 60 degree temps were perfect for pulling the heat out of our rivers.


Thursday, July 20, 2017

An EB Evening, A Swift Evening And A Millers Evening

Notice: lost rod tip.  See info in comments section.

Who said that we are in the Summer doldrums???
I've had the opportunity this season to introduce some anglers to the art of dry fly fishing and to witness their first trout using this method. It's especially fun when the trout is HUGE! That happened this week on the EB where a +16 inch, thick shouldered rainbow came to the net after inhaling a deer hair caddis. This fish still had plenty of fight left in him when we released it.

The dry fly activity carried over to the Swift on Wednesday evening where I had Cady Lane to myself. The usual brookies were around and playing on the surface but my attention was drawn to a large brown and two good bows. The bows were sipping something tiny off the surface and I thought a size 20 winged ant might do it. The bows ignored it but the brown rose up and grabbed it. This fish was about 18 inches and tried in vain to bury it's head in the mats of weed that this place is famous for. He was released with a lot of fight still in him. The bows had left the scene during the battle but were back sipping away in about 20 minutes. I had one come up for the ant but he backed away.

That's the small one!!!

Thursday evening saw us on the famous Kempfield section of the Millers. Like clockwork the trout began to rise around 7:30 but strangely they were all bows, at least the ones we caught. We rose 7 to the deer hair caddis and landed two. I noticed that my client was using a low side to side hook set which may work when you're slumming in Nymphville but it's not the way to win with a dry fly. "Raise the rod UP to 11 o'clock" while pulling slack in with your non casting hand. That immediately resulted in the biggest bow of the evening that was well in excess of 16 inches.  All of the fish were aggressively feeding and shot away at release.

The key to this post is the word EVENING!!!!! Hit the river at 7pm and the trout will be rising by 8pm and even sooner on an overcast day. By this time next month we will lose more hours of daylight which means the fun starts sooner!!!


P.S. I thought I would never say it but I think we could use some rain!

Sunday, July 16, 2017

What Is A Catskill Dry ?

"I wish you could see them! I never saw so many rotten flies in my life. I was literally astounded. You know the stuff - Mills'Best and a bunch of English flies. Of all the miserable soft hackle, lathered on in bunches! It is no wonder that he became such a magnificent caster. If he hadn't learned to put those flies down so carefully they would not have floated". A fellow angler critiquing the dry fly selection of the GREAT dry fly fisherman George LaBranche from Catskill Rivers by Austin M. Francis

It seems that I've been seeing,in print,and hearing the proclamation that a dry fly that has hackles wound around the front of the hook shank is a CATSKILL style dry fly. The great Catskill tiers, Gordon, Christian, Steenrod, Cross, Jennings, the Darbees' and the Dettes would have all objected to such a simple minded statement. They developed and refined the Catskill style but were not the first to tie a dry fly that way. Here's the story:

Theodore Gordon communicated via letter to the great English fly tiers of the day, Fredric Halford in particular, (early 20th century) and was able to secure instructions AND materials to tie English dry flies. Their dries, created decades before American dries, had hackles would around very close to the eye of the hook and Gordon copied that but objected to the poor quality English hackles and the fact that these flies copied English insects. The other great tiers mentioned above changed everything. First, they insisted on the stiffest hackles. Second, they moved everything BACK from the eye of the hook and Third, they tied a slim, sparse dry fly much different from the English style. That is the Catskill style as seen in the photo above of a  Light Cahill which, as the story goes, was first tied by Dan Cahill, a brakeman with the Erie Railroad. Cahill has another claim and that is that he was the brakeman on a train that had a load of rainbow trout from California. The train broke down and he convinced the crew to save the trout by dumping them into Callicoon Creek, a Catskill stream, where they established themselves. The rest is history.

God only knows how many trout have been taken with this style. We do know one thing and that is that this imitation of an adult mayfly is not as popular as it was decades ago. That's probably because we know now that the rises that we see are rises for the emerging insect and not the adult. Also, this fly will get beat up after a fish or two. I switched over to the comparadun over 30 years ago because it represents the adult and, with it's body stuck in the surface film, the emerging insect too. It will float forever! It also survives riffles and fast water very nicely, a fact that is still not accepted in dry fly circles.

I fish comparaduns but love the look of a traditional Catskill Dry!!!


Thursday, July 13, 2017

Stripers, A 6wt, A Grandson Gets Into The Salt And A Freshwater Forecast!

If people don't occasionally walk away from you shaking their heads, you're doing something wrong" - John Gierach

I've always felt that kids should be introduced to fishing and not fly fishing. And by "kids" I mean that single digit age group that is fascinated with the mystery of bait and how far they can sling a lure. If they get hooked on the basics it's just a slippery slope to the Nirvana of fly fishing. Besides, kids like to catch fish, lots of fish, just like newbie trout chasing fly tossers and bait gets it done!

Now, some may say "what about the hooking mortality of bait fishing?". Good point but it's easily solved. If you use a traditional J hook you will kill some fish but grandson Ralle learned that if you use a circle hook the problem goes away. We caught a number of schoolies (and flounder) and ALL were hooked in the MOUTH and not in the gut or the gills. The hook was easily removed and the fish released. The bait was clams which this 6 year old found fascinating (boys love guts!!!!).

All said, it was a good day at the beach!!!

Now for the big boys! I got to spend 6 hours patrolling the Merrimack River with long time reader and commenter Bob, AKA Tincup, on Wednesday morning. The last few years this river and the entire stretch from Plum Island to Rockport has been the home of a zillion stripers with most of them being on the small size and by that I mean 16 to 22 inches with some larger and some smaller. My standard gear has always been my trusty 8wt but this year I reduced the rod to a 6wt. which is like leaving the 16 gauge at home and taking the 20 gauge. Still plenty of knock down power for an 18 inch fish. And instead of tossing big, heavy flies I tied up some deceiver types on size 4 3XL FRESHWATER streamer hooks. I started this last March while in Florida and never bothered to rinse the flies off and the nickel plating held up (mostly) and no hooks failed. Dozens of stripers loved them and they put a good bend into that 6wt. I honestly feel that I could of tamed the 32 incher that Bob landed at 5:30 that morning.

That 32 inch Striper - There can be two endings to that tale.

Ending #1 - the fish is boated, a quick photo taken and then it is quickly released to hopefully out swim the seals to double in size!

Ending #2 - the deft hand runs the blade of the filleting knife to create two large, thick, boneless fillets that end up highly seasoned and placed on a hot grill and served with a chilled Chardonnay.

Pick your ending!

The Millers - We have had 6 straight days where the cfs has been between 200 and 300 which is, IMNSHO, perfect!!!!!Places like Orcutt, the Kempfield, Bridge Street and even Erving Center and the Upper Trestle have rounded into shape.  In my 30+ years on this river I can say that these are the conditions that you want.

The EB - Fish this river in the evening or very early in the morning.


Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Ants - Don't Leave Home Without Them!

" Fish sense, applied in the field, is what the old Zen masters would call enlightenment: simply the ability to see what's right there in front of you without having to sift though a lot of thoughts and theories and, yes, expensive fishing tackle" - John Gierach

It was an early September afternoon that found me on the EB and confronted by a Bliss Pool that was loaded with rising fish. The "Hatch" was still going on when I entered the water and saw that the surface was covered with tiny slate gray sets of wings. "Olives??" was the first thought but when I noticed the culprit on my shirtsleeve I knew the answer: Ants, size 18-20, black, winged with that smokey grayish hue. I always have them, at least a few, and I cleaned up that late summer afternoon.

Now, during summer days the occasional ant will fall onto the water and get eaten by a trout.  Those are not the ants that we are talking about. The ANT that REALLY grabs the attention of trout and it truly a game changer is the Swarming Winged Stage of this critter!! When they land on the water nothing else matters!!!

Ok, when does that happen?  It happens when ant and termite colonies get too big and need to split up.  Many will sprout wings and follow the queen to new places. This can happen in the spring (seems like it's always after a rain) or during the summer BUT the prime time for this activity here in New England is during the last two weeks of August and the First week of September. This is when I always see this activity whether it's on the EB, the Farmington, the Swift and so on.  About 15 years ago I was on the phone talking to a guy in New Hampshire who was about 60 miles from me.  He said the water was covered with ants.  So was my river!!!

What to use??  Up until 10 years ago my ant patterns were dirt simple. Natural dubbing of the appropriate color in an hour glass shape and two BLUE DUN hackle point tips as the wings slanting backwards. It worked perfect if you had plenty of floatant.  The main reason that this pattern is on the bench is because the hackle tips that I like or in short supply. They came from old Indian and Chinese necks that made perfect hackle point wings back when tiers actually did that.

Here's my 21st Century version:

Hour Glass body (try to keep it slim with the rear section slightly larger) of natural dubbing of the appropriate color.

Hackle - On black patterns I use a grizzly hackle that I dyed GRAY that is tied in at the "waist".  On brown or red patterns I use a grizzly hackle that I dyed BROWN. That mottled hackle, either brown or gray just looks perfect.

Now, I will tie in a bit of gray CDC for the wing on my black patterns which will add to it's floating qualities and aid in visibility. For some quirky reason I don't add many wings to my brown versions, just the hackle.

NOTE: DON"T OVER HACKLE THESE FLIES!!!  Ants lay flush to the surface and to achieve this and to help the float I use a size 20 hackle on a size 18 ant and a 22 on a 20.

Now for the question - Why are winged ants attracted to water?  There can be thousands awash in a river during a swarm!!!

Summer evenings have been fishing well!!! Contact me for a session!!


Friday, July 7, 2017

Weekend Update, A Bad Day And A Lost Rod Found

"Lawyers are like nuclear weapons. By all rights they shouldn't exist, but if some people have them, then you'd better have one too, just in case" - John Gierach

First, a lost rod that was posted on this blog was REUNITED with it's owner within 24 hours.

Now, this was a complete rod owned by someone who fell in, I guess. What happens more often is the person who loses a rod segment and this is avoided by doing the following: Don't break your rod down at the stream and then walk back to your vehicle. That's how sections are lost!!! Keep your rod together and stringed up until your back to the vehicle. YOU WILL NOT LOOSE ANYTHING!!! Also, string your rod up at the car before you walk. I knew of one guy who couldn't wait to claim his spot at the Pipe and carried all four sections down the path and then lost a lot of time looking for a lost section!! Also, when you are back at the vehicle the first thing you do is breakdown your rod and put it away. Don't put it on the roof to do later because you will forget and it will end up getting run over!! It happened to me years ago and it happens to anglers every year!

The above photo is of a bad day gone really bad. Someone down at the Pipe got tangled up in a tree and had to CUT his fly line to get out of there. I hope that doesn't happen again due to the price of fly lines!!!

This weekend - Even though they seem to be playing with the flow the Millers will do well in the VERY early morning and in the evening especially if it's cloudy. The EB and the WB will be the same as well as the Ware. We could actually use a little rain (can't believe I said that) that is wide spread instead of a deluge here and no rain there.

As for me - I'll be at Plum Island in Newburyport for a week chasing stripers and blues and whatever but keeping an eye on our rivers and accepting reports from you readers.

Remember, summer evenings are great on the Millers and the EB of the Westfield. In three hours I can show you a lot of water and get into some rising fish. Ditto for the Swift! After July 15 I have some slots ready to claim right through August.

See you soon!


Tuesday, July 4, 2017

A Summer Morning, A Happy Fourth And A Lost Rod

Flyfishing does have its social aspects - on some of our crowded trout streams it can get too social -
but essentially it's a solitary, contemplative sport. People are left alone with themselves in beautiful surroundings to try to accomplish something that seems to have genuine value
John Gierach

When I passed the Y Pool parking lot at 6:10 am there were a dozen vehicles there already. Tee times start early at the Y!! And from what I've heard there are a lot of fish above Route 9 and NOT a lot below Route 9. The ONE car there at 6:15 is testimony to that. The big, fat stocking on July 1 that we saw last year and the year before that and the year before that is not the case this year. It is slim pickings and a lot of empty water. For me it's PERFECT!!!!!!!!! (I'll tell you of a place where the rainbows are. Just stay calm)

I skipped the usually places and headed down to Cady Lane. I love this spot! Brookies, browns and bows are in the offering but it's the brookies that drive me there. The brookies are BIGGER this year. This morning I got deep into the double digits with a number of 8 to 10 inch fish and a beauty that hit the foot long mark. The 3 inch freshmen stayed off the hook although I could see them on the edges of the weeds. Where else in southern New England could you have this crazy treasure?

The brown came out of nowhere and grabbed the size 18 soft hackle, placed its 14 inch body against the current and then shook the hook. Fair enough because I saw him rise up from the bottom and felt the resistance for an instant. A lost fish but a good experience!!

I was down at Cady for three hours on a Summer holiday and NEVER saw or heard another angler. The only sounds were the riffles from upstream, summer morning birdsong (much subdued from spring) and some cattle mooing in the distance. Cady is a good place to reset the clock. I've been running full bore over the last three months with guiding and the "day job" and I needed CALM. I got it. (BTW, I'll have an word on that day job in a week or so)

Now, where are the freshly stocked trout below Route 9????? Local fish hawk Jim found them and he found them to the tune of 6 bows and 2 brookies (all good fish) on dries in a 2 hour span. If I found them I'd tell you where but he told me so I will not. I visited the place at the end of the morning, caught one bow and saw others. Hint: Explore!!!!!

Steak and ribs rubbed in pepper and salt going on the coals in an hour. Have a Happy July 4th!!!


P.S. A reader found a rod IN the Millers (???) If it's your rod then just go to the comments and look for Anonymous and his email address.