Archive for July, 2009

Tioughnioga Sojourn…

Posted in Fishing Reports, Smallmouth Bass Fishing on July 29, 2009 by stflyfisher

On Sunday I headed to the Tioughnioga, encouraged by my last visit, challenged to see what more this pretty little river could offer me.  I fished the Schoolhouse Pool and my fly went unanswered, so I waded upstream to my favorite – the Lone House Pool.

Unofficial river getaway of the Southern Tier Flyfisher - just upstream of the Lone House Pool

Unofficial river getaway of the Southern Tier Flyfisher - just upstream of the Lone House Pool

Working upstream, dead drifting a crayfish imitation, I immediately hooked up with fallfish and some pudgy bass.  At the head of the pool where the water is fast, I fished a nymph upstream and let it swing down and after a few passes caught a decent bass – bulked out like a couch potato.  I’m sure the bulk of that “beef” was crustacea – as the sheer number of crayfish in the Tioughnioga never ceases to amaze me.  Indeed, not long after catching this bass, a large, and I mean “5”-large” crayfish hydroplaned across the surface in tail-swiping spurts.  Right behind it was a solid 14″ bass that swam with incredible speed in front of me, only to give up the chase at my feet and scoot back in to the depths of the pool.  I’ve seen bass chase minnows in the shallows with incredible speed and veracity, but never have I seen one chase a small lobster like this!

I continued to work the pool, and hooked up with a solid fish that broke off (the old LDR – as in Long Distance Release) after giving me about 30 seconds of down-and-deep headshakes.  Heartbroken over losing a #6 Murray’s Road Kill Nymph, I decided to do a little exploring and headed upstream further.

Looking upstream from the tail of the Power Line Pool.  Note the power lines at the top of the pic...

Looking upstream from the tail of the Power Line Pool...

I waded up through the flat calm of the power line pool and fished at its head, where there’s some current and depth.  This pool is big and broad but runs much slower than the Lone House Pool.  I hooked up with a decent fish here but again lost it.  Then I spooked two bass far up in the riffles – their only trace being a bloom of river sediment.

I continued upstream and found another very deep run – its murky green depths shouldered by night-stand size boulders.  The current was slow here, and the far shore had abundant shade, but I’m thinking this may have been walleye water as I certainly didn’t get a look-see from a bass.

As I waded further up, now a good 3/4’s of a mile upstream from the Schoolhouse Pool, I noted the water getting fast and thin – the river flanked by hemlock, sycamore and silver maple.  This section of the “T” could have been trout water were it not for the 68 – 72 degree water temps.  As most of you probably know, 70 is pert-near lethal for trout.  Maybe back in the day of the Iroquois, by whom the river is named (Tioughnioga supposedly means “banks of flowers”), and well before global warming, brook trout hung in the deep shaded pools of this river.

Wading back with the current, I fished a little more, sniping casts at possible bass hideouts but failing to connect again.  On the drive home I decided the river was “summer” low and that it just might be time to move my fishing down stream – to the wide rivers where the big boys play.  I’ll certainly be back next spring, but maybe, just maybe, a dusk-time visit to the deep Schoolhouse pool is in order before crimson leaves carpet the Tioughnioga.

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Southern Tier Slam…

Posted in Fishing Reports, Smallmouth Bass Fishing, Trout Fishing on July 28, 2009 by stflyfisher

The “Grand Slam”, the holy grail of fishing, is the catching of a Tarpon, Permit, and Bonefish, all in the same day.  When pursued strictly with the fly rod, it tops other lofty “status” goals, like becoming a millionaire, telling your mother-in-law “I love you” with an empathetic face, or dare I say even climbing Mount Everst.

Our Southern Tier environs are certainly far different than Key West or Islamorada, but we can have our holy grails too.  With that in mind, I ventured forth Saturday from a sunny Mount Grippen down into a dense river valley fog in the quest of the “Southern Tier Slam”, or at least one version thereof.

My plan was to hit the Susquehanna River where it slips through the pastoral town of Windsor – a location that’s typically driven by via Rt 17 whilst munching on a still-hot McDonald’s Egg McMuffin, enroute to the high-falutin’ waters of the Catskills.  Just below the bridge overpass is some nice smallmouth water, first recommended by the STFF’s Staff Hydrologist, Chip.  This piece of the river has beckoned me too many times this year, but only lately has settled down to wadeable, fishable levels.

Looking downstream on the Susquehanna from the Rt 17 Windsor overpass

Looking downstream on the Susquehanna from the Rt 17 Windsor overpass

The upper Susquehanna is pretty water – not the big water of Vestal, Owego, or Nichols – but far more wadeable and unique in its many braids, side channels, pools, and runs.  I’ve caught some quality bass here on several outings over the last few years.

Not long after this pic was taken, an eagle cruised by, tree-top level and looking ten times bigger than it outh to look...

Not long after this pic was taken, an eagle cruised by at tree-top level, looking ten times bigger than it ought to look...

Maybe the eagles had been pillaging the pool downstream – the 15″+ smallmouth I was expecting were not to be found there.  Not a Murray’s #6 MadTom nor a Murray’s #6 Road Kill Nymph could call the big dogs to dinner.  I did catch a half dozen or more small, well-fed smallies, but none of their pics were blogworthy.  I fished till 9 am or so, and decided it was enough.  The first leg of the holy grail was complete – the West Branch was calling…

The West Branch Angler - forward field operations post for the Souther Tier Flyfisher...

The West Branch Angler - forward field operations base for the Souther Tier Flyfisher...

I hit the West Branch Angler to see what was brewing and got the usual friendly greeting, sound advice, and a hearty good luck.  The word was the fishing would be tough with the bright bluebird sky, so “fish big flies my man”, like the Isonychia nymph and emerger, Prince nymphs, or perhaps a pheasant tail.  I drove the river road down to Balls Eddy and ventured downstream to a gorgeous run that Staff Hydrologist Dan introduced me to last year.  It has been one hell of a true friend to me, just like Dan…

Cold, clear water, 400+ cfs flows, bluebird skies, doesn't get much better...

Cold, clear water, 400+ cfs flows, blue skies - it doesn't get much better...

I rigged a #10 Iso nymph behind some shot and tied a #12 Iso emerger on a trailer and worked the fast water at the head of the pool…

Fast water home of the fighting West Branch rainbow...

Fast water - home of the West Branch rainbow...

The West Branch is home to a McCloud River strain of rainbow trout – transported East by wealthy Catskill industrialists.  Legend is that the train carrying these fish derailed by the Delaware and, instead of one hell of a river-side shore lunch, the train engineers released the fish into the Delaware.  Us fly fisherman owe those guys a debt of gratitude.

My second cast into the fast water brought a take on the swing and the instantaneous launch of a rainbow projectile 2 feet into the air and upstream of where my rod tip was pointing. And that’s all there was of that one.  So goes it in that fast water.  I continued to work the head of the pool and caught some beautiful small-but-feisty rainbows, bright silver bullets with crimson sides and to my delight, a small heavily spotted brown.

I headed home around noon, feeling good at achieving my own version of a Grand Slam – smallmouth bass, brown trout, and rainbow trout, all in the same day – actually all in about 6 hours, travel time included.  Then I pondered another grail, another distant mountain to climb – the Susquehanna Slam.

The Local River Scene

Posted in Fishing Conditions on July 27, 2009 by stflyfisher

The local rivers were in great shape as of noon yesterday – not sure what to make of the uptick in flows on the USGS charts as of this morning without first consulting Southern Tier Flyfisher’s Staff Hydrologist, Dan.  I’m guessing this spike is the result of the afternoon storms that rolled through Friday, Saturday, and Sunday like clockwork.

I’ll have 2 posts of my fishing activities soon, but in the mean time, enjoy this upstream shot of the West Branch of the Delaware that was taken on Saturday, behaving the way a river should.  Tight Lines…

The West Branch above Balls Eddy...

The West Branch above Balls Eddy...

Could It Be???

Posted in Fishing Conditions on July 24, 2009 by stflyfisher

That mass of nasty appears to have passed us by as shown in this morning’s national weather map:

Bye bye rain...

Bye bye rain...

The river charts are keeping their cool for now, but I’m always leary of the “lag effect”.  Sometimes it takes a while for rain accumulation to hit the river systems.

The local weekend forecast is still predicting thunderstorms and showers, however, the chance of rain seems to have lessened.  Dan, the hydrologist, reported that the Susky and Chemung were looking real good yesterday morning.  I’ll try to post a Tioughnioga river report from a friend (I don’t hold the fact he’s not a fly fisherman against him) who crosses the river on the way to work.  Lets keep our fly rods crossed for a good weekend.  Tight lines and happy hunting…

Weekend Worries

Posted in Fishing Conditions on July 23, 2009 by stflyfisher

I woke up this morning, did a scan of local river levels, and a very broad grin overtook my face.  Could it be that the big rivers might be ripe for an all-out smallie assault?  All except the Chemung are looking good:

The upper Susquehanna in Windsor, NY

The upper Susquehanna in Windsor, NY

The Chenango River at Chenango Forks, NY

The Chenango River at Chenango Forks, NY

The Chemung River near Dan's house...

The Chemung River near Dan's house...

But, my friends, the gods are once again against us it seems, to wit:

All the green and yellow bloom on the wx map isn't good...

All the green and yellow bloom on the wx map isn't good...

Perhaps the West Branch will be our savior this weekend:

Good ole' steady eddie

Good ole' steady eddie

As Doctor Evil would say – “throw me a freakin bone”.  Please?  Tight Lines…

No Joy on the Chemung

Posted in Fishing Reports, Smallmouth Bass Fishing on July 20, 2009 by stflyfisher

I had arranged to meet Dan, a coworker and good flyfishing friend early on Sunday to fish the Chemung River.  I’d never fished the Chemung before but had always heard that it harbored some very nice smallmouth bass.  This river drains a completely different watershed – one to the west of where I normally fish – so it offers us “easterners” an option when the rain has fallen in the east.

Good flyfisherman - errant hydologist...

Dan, the good flyfisherman, errant hydrologist...

Sunday dawned beautiful, almost Fall-like in the early morning chill, and I made the 40 minute drive west to Tozier’s Park on the Chemung River.  I got out of my car, suited up in my vest and waders, strung my rod, and was greeted with a sight that would warm the heart and soul of any smallie fly fisherman.

The Chemung River...

The Chemung River...

I walked down to the fast riffle below a deep hole and very quickly realized something was very wrong.  Dan had told me the river was in great shape when I called him the day before, but this water looked like weak coffee.  I could barely see my feet in knee-deep water – a Harry Murray rule for judging whether water clarity is good for bassin’, and that was in calm pool water.  The riffles were a coffee-with-cream-brown color.  The lack of fish response was confirming my worst fear.

Along comes Dan some 30 minutes later, ambling down the river bank with his peculiar walk, wader straps hanging down, big coffee mug clenched in one hand and a weekend’s worth of beard on his face.  The look on his face as he surveyed the water around me convinced me that this was not the Chemung of yesterday.  “What the hell” I could hear him exclaim.  He apologized profusely for having me come all that way.  He suggested we try the nearby Susquehanna, but having driven along and over that same river on the way west, I already knew I’d be beating it back home in another half hour.

And so I left Dan, the errant hydrologist, the “I swear the river was clear yesterday” Dan.  I asked him if it rained the day before and I got a, “well yeah, a little”, in response.

I drove back home and kept going, thinking a deep run on the Chenango might save the day.

The pool that saved the day, well sort of...

The pool that saved the day, well sort of...

The water of the Chenango was clearer, and cooler, but I did detect a tongue of murky water spilling down through the riffle.  The morning was now well gone and nymphing like I did on the Tioughnioga yielded nothing, until a big fallfish inhaled a crayfish imitation I let swing in the deep current.

A good-sized Fallfish...

A good-sized Fallfish...

Catching fallfish is usually a good omen, for I have found they mingle with bass when they are big and will aggressively take streamers and nymphs.  Though he fought hard, this was to be the only fish of the day.  More on fallfish in another post, and more on Dan when I give him a chance to redeem his anit-hydrologistic (is that a word?) tendencies.  A trip to the Bighorn would suit me well, Dan.  Tight lines…

Return to the Tioughnioga

Posted in Fishing Reports, Smallmouth Bass Fishing on July 20, 2009 by stflyfisher

The Tioughnioga River (Iroquoian – pronouced “tee-uhf-nee-O-guh”) is approximately 70 miles long and is a major tributary to the Chenango River.  I have fished the lower section, just upstream from where it enters the Chenango, and have found it to be a good smallmouth bass fishery.  It also holds some nice walleye and the NY state record for Tiger Musky – a 35 lb 8 oz fish taken in 1990.

The Tioughnioga is my go-to smallmouth river in the Spring and a great back-up choice whenever water levels are elevated on the larger rivers of the Southern Tier.  Such was the case on Saturday.  The Susquehanna was (and still is!) relatively high and murky, and I figured the Chenango wouldn’t be much better.  So I headed to a favorite stretch…

My divining ord - in this case a Scott 9' 7 weight - points me in the direction of a tree line, that hides the river...

My divining rod - a Scott 9' 7 weight - points me in the direction of the river...

I entered the river at the top of a long deep pool, one I refer to in my fishing log as “the Schoolhouse Pool”.  Here the river runs quietly over grapefruit to basketball size boulders, deepening along the far bank.  This pool is loaded with crayfish; wading along the shallow end can send dozens scurrying from rock to rock.  Usually where there are crayfish, there are bass and I’ve caught some very nice bass here in the 15″ – 17″ range.

If the hydrology gods are in a good mood and the Spring has a spate of dry weather, I have done very well swinging a Murray’s Madtom streamer with a sink tip line at the head of the pool.  For the last 2 years this has given me my biggest Tioughnioga bass – I’m guessing females by their girth – and I’m also guessing that they hold here before moving up into a side stream to spawn.

The Schoolhouse Pool, looking downstream...

The Schoolhouse Pool, looking downstream...

I usually start at the Schoolhouse Pool whenever I fish the Tioughnioga and my Saturday trip was no different.  The water had a slight stain to it, but the level was good and the river temp was a relatively cool 68 degrees F.  I worked the pool top to bottom with a popper and had three missed takes.  Since the sun was coming up and lighting the pool thoroughly, I figured the bass would be moving back to shaded areas or heading deep in the cover of riffles, so I decided to head upstream to a favorite nymphing run.

Lone House Pool - a great place to nymph...

Lone House Pool - a great place to nymph...

I call this run the Lone House pool because, well, there’s one older home nestled up to the steep hillside just at the head of the pool.  Here the river runs strong through a deep cut, then broadens out and slows.  Like much of the lower Tioughnioga, there are lots of rocks, and some very big ones.  Although the far rocky shore is exposed to sun in the morning, working the slicks and eddies with a popper or streamer later in the day can be very effective as I believe the bass move out of the deep water and hold along the bank in the shade.  When the sun is out in full, however, its mainly a nymphing game.

Harry Murray of Murray’s Fly Shop in Edinburg Virginia is one of the greatest smallmouth bass fly fishermen I’ve read and studied.  He writes about a dead drift nymphing technique that I have been using with good success.  In heavier water, as was the case this day, I use a sink tip line and one of his weighted nymphs.  The technique calls for an upstream approach, casting directly ahead or slightly off to one side and then keeping a tight line to the nymph as it tumbles and bumps the river bottom on its way back.  Although I have not perfected feeling subtle strikes, there’s no way to miss the good takes as the lines instantly tightens and a lift of the rod sets the hook.

The first of 5 nice bass...

The first of 5 nice bass...

Nymphing dead drift as I waded up the pool got me into fish.  All total, I landed 5 solid bass and lost another 3.  One fish had a large crayfish hanging out of his mouth, yet still took a nymph, but all of these fish had obviously been feeding based on their extended waistlines.

Another bass that had a 4 inch crayfish hanging out of his mouth.

Another bass that had a 4 inch crayfish hanging out of his mouth.

I fished the run and basked in the warm sun.  Around noon I decided to call it quits and waded downstream back towards Schoolhouse Pool.  Life is good – tight lines…

The end of a nice day - wading downstream.

The end of a nice day - wading downstream.