Friday, January 8, 2016

Winter Fly Fishing at Its Finest

An approaching tide of ice on the river banks hints at a winter waiting for release, but for now the open water flows without much worry.

I wade in and eye a run where I have caught a few trout before. It is a little wider and deeper, and there are beachball-sized rocks that provide breaks in the currents.

On the second or third cast I get a strike but fail to the set the hook. I see a large, light-colored shadow in the water, at first wondering if I brought up a piece of debris, but then I see it's alive as it swims deeper to where it wants to be.

Another cast or two later, I succeed. I haul in the line and net a 14" brown trout. He looks a little dirty and worn, but is a pretty fish nonetheless. My fingertips, numb from the cold, can't release the size 24 zebra midge on their own, so I reach for my forceps and they do the job. I take a few quick pictures and gently release the brown into the water and watch him swim away.

First trout of January. 

The dropper fly. Size 24 Zebra Midge which caught the first fish. 
January: check. My first trout ever during this month and also a new personal record for a trout on the smallest fly.

The story could end there, but it doesn't.

A few casts later in the same stretch of water and my strike indicator submarines and I lift the rod. I knew right away this one was bigger. The drag screams with a satisfying Zzzzzzzzz! which sparks an adrenaline rush. The fish is not just bigger. It's much bigger.

I hooked the trout about a dozen feet away and it's now four times that downstream. I work it towards stiller waters while wading closer and reeling in the line. Several moments pass and I can see him now, and I confirm it's a brown. My shaking hand lowers the net. Got him!

I exhale a vocalization of amazement and relief. He is huge! His hooked jaw from spawning season is still there. His colors are clean and his spots are beautiful. With my wrist straining from the weight of the netted fish, I notice that he opted for the point fly, a size 16 mercury blood midge. I unhook him, take a few pictures, and then measure him against the opening of my net. He spills at least least 4" past the 14.5" inch opening. It's possible that he might have been at least 20", but I will never know for sure.

The brown kracken
Hook jaw
Size 16 Mercury Blood Midge. The point fly which the big brown couldn't resist.
I release the fish and watch him swim away, adding a fist pump and a yes! I soak in the moment for a few minutes and then decide to fish downstream. No action there, so I head back up to the honey hole and this time I hook and net a very healthy looking brook trout.

As I'm trying to take a picture, a fellow appears on the bank. He is friendly but overly talkative. Distracted from the one-way conversation, I give up trying to take a photo since my phone was acting up and I put it away. The gentleman still rambles on and at last there's a gap where I can speak and I excuse myself, saying this run of water is done and I head upstream.

The sun has reached the horizon now and the temperature has dropped. My line grows rigid and ice accumulates in the guides. It's time go. I drive away, knowing this is one of those days I'll never forget.

Ice.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Winter Fly Tying

This is the time of the year to stock up the boxes. Whether it's to get ready for spring or to supplement what flies are used in winter, this is when to do it. With the deep dark of a cold winter night just beyond the window, a glass of brand and quality old school bluegrass playing in the background make vise time all the more comforting.

I tied some more Zebra Midges the other night, this time in size 24. The size 20s have been working well, but it makes sense to diversify.



Santa also brought me a nice Christmas present: A UV lamp and resin. I'm long overdue acquiring these and put them to use this morning. I experimented with tying up a few Evil Olive variants in size 18. They turned out okay, but I could have worked up and tapered the body better on most of them.

Working with the resin itself was great. I look forward to getting more comfortable with it and already appreciate what it'll allow me to do.



Sunday, December 27, 2015

December Trout

It's been a mild winter so far, though the season officially began only about a week ago. Still, in these parts winter tends to unofficially start around Thanksgiving. Call it what you will, but there is little debate that it has been very warm. It got into the 70s quite a few times during hunting season in November (thankfully I got my deer on one of the cooler days). The ground has been void of snow, the rivers free of ice and ticks have been reported well into December.

This weather may not go well for those of us who are looking forward to other winter sports and activities, but the fly fishing has been nothing short of spectacular. One year ago, I tallied three trout earlier in December just before it started to get really cold. This time around, I've caught more trout than I can count. 

The hot fly has been this well known favorite: The Zebra Midge, in size 20. I've been dropping it 18" behind other nymphs such as the Rainbow Warrior or a Mercury Blood Midge in size 16, often using split shot to get them down deeper and quicker. But three out of four times it's these Zebras, not the lead fly, that the trout can't seem to get enough of. Easy to tie as well, despite the small size:


I checked off December on the first after noticing the trout were tuning to the midges just fine.


A little over a week later, I got out of work and raced to the local river ten minutes down the road to take advantage of what was left of the daylight and was glad I did.



The next day, same river, a few miles upstream and the trout gave my arm quite a workout.





Fast forward to Christmas Eve... traveled farther north to be with family, but the whole state has been warm so as far as the trout were concerned, it didn't matter. My father-in-law, Gary, and I traveled over to a year round river where my expectations were low. It had rained a lot the night before, but the water levels were better than expected and the endless trout on the line were unexpected. None were very big, but the non-stop action made it a lot of fun. 



What was great was getting Gary a trout. He doesn't get out as much and had never nymphed before. I created a double fly rig (rainbow warrior and midge) and let him get to used to that. Then I attached a strike indicator to the line, instructing him to cast gently and not too far. He could see the strikes and not too much later, he had a trout.



That was very rewarding seeing him land that fish. And perhaps it was a fitting final hoorah of what has been a glorious end to 2015. The weather is now finally turning and the weather people expect it to be seasonal for a while. As I type this, a freezing rain is falling in Brewer and a legit snowstorm is expected in a few days. The long range outlook calls for temps not really getting above freezing for much of January, so the ice will creep in and trout activity will slow. It'll now get challenging and only the bravest of the brave will be out on the water, praying that our waders don't leak while we try to keep the blood going in our fingers. Checking off January will be tough, but I look forward to it all the same. 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Scouting

There is an obscure small park on nearby Little Ossipee Lake that I have eyeballed for fishing for a while. With the dumping we've received, I figured it would be a good time to check it out. The rivers would be pretty high and maybe I could hook up with a bass at the lake... or perhaps a trout if I was lucky.

As soon as I waded in I knew trout were pretty much out of the question. The water was surprisingly warm. Temps have been relatively high during the rain and we've had some warm days before it arrived, so it makes sense. Still, I had hoped it would be cooler.

I waded out, began casting and inadvertently eavesdropped on a what sounded like a telephone conversation from a house several hundred yards across the lake. With no sound wave interference, it was crystal clear. The woman talking had a New Jersey accent but wasn't discussing anything exciting. It sounded like she was relaying a grocery list and they would be having a salad to go with supper.

I stayed for about half an hour and the only thing I caught was weeds. Not one strike, so I decided to bale. I'd like to try this spot again when the weather is cooler though, perhaps in late October or November when some of the vegetation hopefully dies off and sinks and the trout that I know exist in this lake are more active.

I checked in with Kate and told her I planned to hit the outlet a few miles down the road. I ended up with a bluegill and a little smallie using a wooly bugger. Ho hum, but I did avoid getting skunked. Forecast is looking quite favorable for the second half of the week. Much cooler temps that should be around for a while.

Area: Lake shore and river outlet.
Water: High. Clear on the lake, high at the outlet and stained. Surprisingly warm.
Weather: Upper 60s, overcast, light rain.
Time: 4:30-6:30pm
Fish and flies: Black and brown wooly bugger, size 10. One bluegill, one smallie.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

More Bass

Hit a local river, but quickly discovered that water temperatures were considerably higher than I hoped. I immediately knew I had little if no chance for trout.

I did land three smallies though. I practiced playing them in swifter moving currents, which turned out to be a fun challenge. All were caught using streamers. I did notice a few caddisflies though, one hatched on the water and flew right at me. Another I saw a bit further off. Tied on a Goddard Caddis, but no such luck with the dries.


Area: Large river.
Water: Levels slightly high, water felt warm (70?)
Weather: Upper 60s, overcast, slight drizzle.
Time: 4:00-6:00pm
Fish: Three smallies (black nosed dace, size 10).

Friday, August 30, 2013

Creek of Salmon

Near where I live is a small creek. It expands into a pool about the size of the floor of a semi trailer and holds several small salmon. I like to think of it as my secret spot.

These little guys aren't shy either. They'll readily strike any sort of dry fly, regardless of the conditions. It's a good confidence booster, even if they seldom are over eight inches. I'm always guaranteed to catch (and release) them and they're pretty to look at.

The other evening I fished there for a while and then bushwacked my way downstream, looking for other spots. No real luck with exploration, though I did catch two micro chubs in one smaller pool. Perhaps next time I'll go upstream and see what's in that direction.

Small salmon with fading parr markings. 

Creek exploration.
Area: Small creek.
Water: Normal levels, if not a little low. Temps a little under 70, I'd guess. 
Weather: Upper 60s, clear. 
Time: 6:00-7:30pm
Fish: Five small salmon, largest being eight or nine inches. Three chubs. 
Flies: Size 18 ant imitation. 

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Big Bass

I apologize for not having pictures of this outing. One of the large five plus pound largemouth would have been nice, wouldn't it? Well, there's a reason.

I've learned that definitions of "landing a fish" vary. Some say netting them. Some say making physical contact. I've even heard some say having them on the line for a reasonable time and bringing them close should be considered, and while I think that counts for something, I would strongly disagree. I'm not sure yet what my personal definition is yet. I lean towards making physical contact, but this day had me wondering.

I was fishing my local river... one that is not super productive but there are fish of all types there. It's quite scenic and remains one of my favorite spots, even if my success there has been limited. Perhaps it's also the challenge that heightens its value.

After catching a couple of smallmouth I made my way downstream. I hit a hole that produced a large rainbow trout last spring, but the hole itself didn't seem to hold much in the way of hungry fish. I decided to work the banks, using a size 10 black nose dace, my recent go-to fly since it imitates an injured minnow quite nicely when stripped in right and I haven't seen much hatching lately.

During one such cast near the banks I saw a few large V's form on the surface a few feet behind my fly. Whoa. Big fish.

Another cast. Wham! He took it. My rod arched over and I let out the loose fly line, knowing that using the reel would be best to bring him in. I figured it was that one rainbow but now bigger. Much bigger.

I played him into the open water. Things were going great and I got him a little closer when his head emerged. A bass. Not a smallmouth, but a largemouth, with a leviathan head. No wonder he wasn't jumping. Too big a fish in too shallow of water. Easily five pounds, perhaps even more.

Now I began to fear my line snapping. I only had 5X tippet tied on so I quickly, but carefully, got him closer. I bent forward, ready to net him, when he made a run and shot between my legs! Crap! Then he swam off to the side and forward, wrapping the line around my left leg.

I did a very awkward dance for about half a minute, trying to free my leg and nearly dunking myself in the river a few times. It's a good thing nobody else was around.

I managed to touch the bass once or twice in the process. Landed? I think not. And then, the line snapped. He was gone.

I stood there in the river for a good three minutes, my jaw dropped and my head down. I left the river shortly thereafter, and I told the story to my wife that evening, probably three times. My last words before I fell asleep were apparently "He swam right between my legs".

All part of fishing. Despite that trauma, it was an epic fight and a lot of fun. Revenge will be had.

Area: small river.
Water: Low levels, relatively clear, warm temps (estimated around 70).
Weather: Upper 60s, overcast.
Time: 4-6pm
Flies: Black nosed dace (10), bird's nest muddler (10)
Fish: Two bass (or was it three if you include that one who could have easily eaten the two I caught?), one chub, one pickerel (a first this season).