Autumn On The EB

Autumn On The EB

Monday, February 18, 2019

STILL Taking Salmon And Booking Your Trip

"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

Big Fish Small Flies
The SALMON are still in the Swift, they are still hitting and the trout are beginning to get in the act.  Now, there are a few things to know:

1, The Swift flow is at 526 cfs as I write.  Three weeks ago it was over 700 cfs and conditions were somewhere between uncomfortable and dangerous. As the flow level drops it will be safer and, most importantly, we will have more places to wade. There are fish everywhere but many times they can't be reached. (a month ago I saw this guy on the edge of the Y Pool up to his elbows and wader drawstrings.  Crazy!!!

2. The "REDD" season is long gone and trout and salmon will begin to really key on insects. Winter insects will hatch around mid day onward because that's when the temperatures are best (winter caddis).  It will not be that necessary to be there are first light picking ice from your guides. Sleep in, eat breakfast, get there at 11:00am  and fish until late afternoon.

Even Bigger Fish

Check out the photo on the right that a reader sent in. It's a Swift River brown somewhere in the range of 8lbs or so. I have a collection of photos like this from this river and I've seen some like this caught. (my biggest was only about 5lb but I'm working on it).

There are other rivers that would beg (if rivers could beg) for trout and salmon like these. And this isn't the result of many years of effort to create a super fish but just a "let's let Mother Nature do it" solution.  And let's not forget the brookies!!!



Book Your Spring Trip

It's not too early to do this and many of you have so far.  I guide on, east to west, the Ware, the Swift, the Millers, the Mill and all three branches of the Westfield. Plenty of water and plenty of trout AND you will not be placed shoulder to shoulder like sardines by this guide!!!!  If you like crowds take up golf!!!

Ken





Thursday, February 14, 2019

Secret Spots And Native Trout And Another Soft Hackle

"Trout are among those creatures who are a hell of a lot prettier than they need to be.  They can get you wondering about the hidden workings of reality" - John Gierach


It happens every year at this time. I'm sure it has something to do with the lengthening days, the new birdsong during the early hours of dawn and the new fresh flows as our streams shed their winter covers and give us a glimpse of Spring. And I'm not talking about the marquee rivers that will be packed with anglers as soon as the stocking trucks roll. I'm talking about streams that are not stocked and may not even have a name, a name that can be remembered at least. This is where the real trout live.

I caught many trout as a kid and all of them were wild, native brookies until Bennett Brook yielded a hatchery trout and ruined it. I'll name that stream now but not the others. The Rule of Thumb: if the stream is stocked tell the world. If it's not stocked it's a State Secret.


One of the things that has changed over the decades is that it seems that fewer people fish these tiny waters.  They were never crowded for sure but these streams have lost the glamour of years past. You certainly don't see them gracing the covers of fly fishing magazines which seem hellbent on selling us more equipment and pointing us in the direction of some hot, new fly fishing destination with giant fish. Our pastime as lost its innocence.

One sad note is that the DFW still is determined to throw stocked trout over wild fish. Any brook with stream bred trout should be left alone. As I said, few people fish them anyway so you're not going to hurt anyone's feelings if stocking ceased.

I'll take a short trip or two this Spring and visit some old haunts as I do every other year or so. I'll rig up my old fiberglass rod for this bushwacking adventure. Or I'll spy a new place that's not on the stocking list that just has to have trout in it and check it out.  One cannot forget their roots!!!

The Rusty Olive
My soft hackles are now tied in the minimalist  school of tying - They are now Spiders tied in that mid 19th century style of thread and sparse hackle. No tail, no thorax, just thread and a feather.  I love them but I also like dressing them up a bit.  Here's my RUSTY OLIVE: size 12 hook, fine copper rib over olive floss or thread, rust colored rabbit for the thorax and two turns of partridge.  Can't wait to try it!!!

Think Spring!

Ken










Sunday, February 10, 2019

Why I Like Freestones

"Tailwaters are what Thomas McGuane called "the great theme parks of American fly fishing," with their more or less stable water temperatures and artificially inflated populations of insects and fish. They are irresistible for all kinds of reasons, but all of those trout breed the peculiarly postmodern sense that anything short of a 20 fish day is a bust, so when things are slow there's the temptation to lie about numbers or to vaguely allow that you are "getting your share" - John Gierach



Let's face it, We fish tailwaters because, unless they are flooded out as in the last few months, they will provide a stable, cool environment throughout the day for the trout, insects and YOU. You don't really have to wait for the Evening Rise to get some action especially during the height of Summer. Sounds perfect, right? For many people it is BUT for some not so much. Here's why.

1. If you want crowds then fish tailwaters. You can still fish in solitude but solitude is becoming harder to find on these rivers.

2. The "Magic Time" on a freestone is in the evening when a river comes to life. I've had 20+ trout evenings on rivers like the Millers and the EB AND had the place to myself. Occasionally I'll meet another angler as the sun is setting but that's ok because he is a kindred spirit. Ditto for early mornings! In early September of 2017 I worked a stretch of the EB which was flowing at a low 65 cfs and with the exception of friends Gary and Harvey NOBODY was fishing it. I took 18 that morning with a size 18 BWO . The concentration of trout rivaled that of a tailwater but by 11am they had disappeared for the day but were back in the evening. I would not have traded in that day for any day on any tailwater.

3. There is still a sense of satisfaction in having a good day on a freestone. After all, it's a natural environment. It will not have the crazy amount of trout that a tailwater has which means that if I'm catching fish I must be doing something right.

4. I know some anglers who now fish only tailwaters and that's too bad. If they suddenly had to move to a place where there were no tailwaters but just freestones would they continue to fish??

We fish to catch fish but but as John Gierach says "Fly-fishing is a solitary, contemplative, misanthropic, scientific in some hands, poetic in others, and laced with conflicting aesthetic considerations. It's not even clear if catching fish is actually the point".

I love Freestones!

Yesterday  was like fishing in an arctic hurricane.  If there was no wind and about 10 degrees warmer things would have been fine.

Ken



Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Winter Fly Fishing And The Case For A Heavier Rod And A Swift Update


"I also think of the spring, that season when the earth begins to forgive itself, in the words of Allan Gurganus. It will be here soon." - Monte Burke


It's early February and the days are getting longer but winter still rules the stage and we will have to put up with it even during this transitional month.  Monday and Tuesday had temperatures in the low 60's BUT Sunday gave us "ice in the guides".  There will be more of that for sure and we will hear reports of another rod or 3 snapping under a load of ice.  There may be a solution.

Maybe we've gone too far on the lightweight thing, especially in winter. A 10ft 3wt can be a pleasure on a balmy day in May but a pain when ice coats the rod, guides and line.  You may want something that is sturdier and with more backbone. Try a heavier rod.  You fish a long 3wt? Try moving up to a 5wt or even a 6. Think about it. Most of our fly offerings during the winter tend to be BIGGER and HEAVIER and will be cast much easier with a heavier outfit. And what happens when size 22 winter caddis begin to emerge? Lengthen your leader out to 6x or 7x. I guided a young beginner a few years ago who used a 6wt to deliver a size 30 dry and subdue a good brown.  Decades ago a 4wt was considered ultralight and a 6wt was a standard dry fly rod and we still caught fish with tiny flies.  And don't think your going to throw your shoulder out with a 6wt!!!


Another thing to consider would be a FIBERGLASS rod of 5 or 6 wt. Fiberglass, being heavier, can take a beating in the winter. In fact, back in the day when fiberglass ruled the market the only rods that broke were because of car doors and trunk hoods. Casting??? I can't think of any.

So....If you love sending your smashed graphite rod back to the factory for repair or replacement then ignore all of the above.

Swift Update Again

The salmon are still there and have settled down to hitting size 18 to 24 nymphs (beadheaded pheasant tails and such) fished deep under an indicator. These fish don't appear to be chasing streamers and want offerings bouncing off the snouts.  The rainbows are an "on again, off again" thing most likely due to the otters who have made their appearance. Some days it's double digit catches and other days ZERO.


Ken









Monday, February 4, 2019

Super Bowl Salmon, Flies For Sale And Book Me


Maybe your stature as a fly fisher isn't determined by how big a trout you catch, but by how small a trout you can catch without being disappointed - John Gierach



Finally, the temperature got above freezing this morning which meant one thing: My client Nick and I would be fairly comfortable for our late morning trip to the Y Pool and its salmon. Nick had taken some bows earlier in the year below Rt 9 but that was before the salmon made their appearance. Here's the story.

The water temperature in the Bubbler Arm was a low 38 degrees and for the first time in months that ditch was devoid of fish EXCEPT for the large salmon that Alex took just below the footbridge.

Bows were hitting if you could find where they were podded up. Bill R. said the otters were back and they spent last week tearing up the Y Pool.

Client Nick took his first salmon, a brute of about 4 lbs that took a size 18 pheasant tail. It seemed that all the salmon were taken on small (18 to 24) flies. Don't leave home without them!!!


Here's the key for February - If you can fish when the temperature will be in the high 30's or above THEN DO IT! Salmon were occasionally rising mid day when the temperature was the highest. Contact me and I'll put you onto fish.

Flies For Sale

Orders are coming in and it will get busier as Spring Fever sets in. Place your order now.

Ken










Thursday, January 31, 2019

Some Things I Would Like To See And Stocking up on Soft Hackles


"Oh yes, I remember that trout. It was my first on a fly, and it was a brown" - E. Donnall Thomas Jr. in Whitefish Can't Jump



This past month it seems like I'm in full production mode when it comes to vise time and the fly that I need to fill those holes in the fly boxes and to complete the fly orders are the soft hackles. The venerable Partridge and Orange tops the list with the Partridge and Olive coming in second. Personally I don't think that one pattern is better than the other except that the "Orange" is fished more thus it lands more fish so it becomes the "confidence" fly.

The key to ANY soft hackle is to build it SPARSE. More turns of hackle will ruin the fly, period!! Keeping the hackle turns to a minimum is easy when you use starling hackle (it's fairly small) and fragile.

If I Had My Way.....

1. There would be no fly fishing competitions on public water. I outgrew the fishing derby mentality when I was 10 years old. I don't get angry, depressed or jealous if someone near me catches a lot of fish. I'll get my share and btw, I compete against TROUT, not people.

2. There would be no Group Events on public water. There is really nothing worse than a van or two full of fly fishers taking over an intimate stream like the Swift. That happened a few years ago and I got my ass chewed out by an influential local who thought that I had something to do with it. I didn't!!  I've turned down other requests by groups who wanted me to join them on other rivers like the Millers.  As I've said before the most asked request by clients is for me to show them places that are not crowded!!

3. The use of stomach pumps would die a quiet death.  So, Mr. Trout has spent the last two hours sipping in size 30 simuliidae (he'll need a lot of them to get his calorie ration for the day) and then Mr. Flyfisher catches him on a size 30.  Mr. Flyfisher then pumps Mr. trouts guts out, saying "hmmm...size 30 simuliidae. Guess I was right", and then releases Mr. Trout because he doesn't believe in harming trout.  WHAT'S WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE?? Mr. Flyfisher just wasted 2 hours of foraging energy and possible injury to Mr. Trout to answer a question whose answer he already knew!  Give the trout a break and just release them!!!

4. So Called "Secret Spots" - I never give the location of an unstocked stream that has "stream born" trout in it's waters but if it's stocked it's fair game.  When I wrote the Flyfishers Guide to the Millers River I was basically copying the Farmington and Housatonic Guides that are true gems.  They name every pool/run/riffle and how to approach them and they are fun to read. Are they giving away secret spots?  Not really. All the good spots on popular rivers are known by most anglers and being tight lipped about a location that may be fished by dozens of anglers in a day makes no sense.  

5 below zero as I write!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Ken









Sunday, January 27, 2019

Spring's Wiggler Revisited And Book Me

"Trout are among those creatures who are one hell of a lot prettier than they need to be. They can get you to wondering about the hidden workings of reality." - John Gierach



It was decades ago when I first saw a photo of this Michigan steelhead fly and it was love at first sight!- The Springs Wiggler! Then it was a relationship that never got off the ground. Every few years this fly would "wink" at me from some fly fishing magazine and I would be smitten all over again. That's been my life with the Spring's Wiggler. (Note: it is sometimes referred to as the SPRING WIGGLER but it was invented by someone named Ron Spring so we will refer to it as his fly).

Why I liked this fly - IT LOOKS LIKE A BIG NYMPH!!!! A big Stonefly, a big Hexagenia nymph, a big Hellrammite, I'll throw in a crayfish for good measure but not some stupid junk fly that looks like NOTHING because back then they didn't have a lot of junk flies . Flies looked like insects or bait fish and not a product of an acid trip!




What I didn't like about this fly - First, being a traditional steelie fly it is tied BIG and that's big as in size 4 and 6.  I was hell bent on reducing the size to trout size (10 or 12) and that was my downfall. You see, the recipe for this creature calls for grey or red squirrel tail which looks great on a large fly but sucks on a smaller fly as in "out of proportion". It gave the finished product a squat, "crushed butterfly" look instead of something that swims for a living.  So, I gave up for a while and placed the rejects in a bass box where they killed at Wachusett. (no trout, just smallies).


I never give up for river trout or any fish that lives in a river. It was when I was driving home from an evening on the Millers (the best time to fish that river) that my eureka moment came. Why not change that god awful hair shell and go with peacock or ostrich. The profile of the fly was reduced. It looked like an insect belonging to the river and I caught trout. Case solved!!! Me and the Spring's Wiggler are back together again and will never part!!!!!!!

This fly must be fished near the bottom. (remember all those big nymphs I mentioned earlier? Well, they live on the bottom). Two ways to do that is with split shot, the most versatile way, or by building a bead into it. Don't wrap lead wire around the hook
because it will ruin the profile of the fly and we don't need anymore lead in the environment.

This is the freestone fly you need for freestone rivers when you are dragging the depths  in the Spring and even in the Summer. These flies are active all summer long. The EB was LOADED with big stones that hatched in late last August into September when some "experts" claimed that the big flies are over for the season. They didn't see the Isonychia all over the place. They also don't see the ants, crickets and hoppers all over the place after Labor Day which provide calories for trout heading into the Fall.


I think I need to go fishing!

Ken


                                                                                 Booking This Spring
                                                                                 Some of you have already done this and have reserved your dates. What I try to avoid is an 11th hour rush for any spot that's left. Booking now is easy and there's no deposit and you can cancel at any time.  That's what I do!!!!
Ken