Archive for the Trout Fishing Category

FishHound

Posted in Fishing Reports, Trout Fishing, Uncategorized, Writing with tags , , , on October 7, 2018 by stflyfisher

“If I fished only to capture fish, my fishing trips would have ended long ago.

Zane Grey

He sat upright in the back of the pick-up truck, like a tall, dome-headed, and very dignified old man. Adam, owner of FishHound Expeditions, opened the back door of his truck and there he was, “Hatch”, a blue-tick coonhound of massive scale and the namesake for Adam’s growing guiding business. I let Hatch sniff my open hand, then pet him. He lightly pawed at me when I stopped. He had those droopy eyes, lazy ears, and goofy charm only a hound-lover could appreciate. I was smitten…

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“Rado”, left, along with the original FishHound, “Hatch”… (picture courtesy of FishHound Expeditions)

Hatch would not be accommodating my wife and I on our fly fishing float, unfortunately, but there was another “guide dog” in the offing. Adam asked if I was OK fishing with “Little Bear”. After meeting the Malamute/Australian Shepherd mix, I was all aboard.

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Little Bear checks out one of many rainbow trout netted by Jay, our guide.

Before launching our raft, our guide, Jay, told me he needed to take his truck and trailer down to the takeout. My wife followed him in our rental car and Adam drove his truck, already occupied by FishHound Expedition’s two official canines, the honorable Hatch and his sidekick, Rado. Before leaving, Jay set me up with a nymphing rig to fish the beautiful riffle and run at the access while he was gone. One of the many nice offerings FishHound Expeditions provides to customers is tackle and waders. In this case I fished a Redington 9 foot 6 weight rod with WF floating line. The rig was a classic indicator set-up. On the business end Jay had an Alaskan favorite – the bead. I fished the indicator rig at the head of the run and worked it from the top to the tail-out. After just a few casts, I landed a 14″ rainbow that spent more time airborne than in the water. A little later I hooked a 18’ish+ rainbow – another acrobat – but this one threw the hook after a few fantastic sky-borne jumps. Then just in time for the return of Jay, Adam, and my wife to the access, I was into my third rainbow.

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Early success! This third rainbow really made my day and we hadn’t even started the float!

Jay netted my fish and Adam high-five’d me. Shortly after, as we readied the raft for our float, Jay commented that he could see I didn’t need “Fly Fishing 101”, a before-float class he gives to newbie and beginning anglers. It’s always nice to get a compliment from a guide!

Willow Creek is full of wild rainbows. These fish feast on an abundance of salmon eggs in late summer along with the flesh of dead spawned-out salmon. As we began the float, Jay explained that despite the presence of October caddis, midges, and a few mayflies, the rainbows key in on both salmon eggs and salmon flesh as these food sources provide “more bang for the buck” in terms of nutritional value.

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Jay at the oars with Little Bear, ever-present at my side, on lookout…

We launched onto Willow Creek with me in the bow, Jay at the oars, and my wife in the stern seat. My wife was not fishing, but it was a first for me to; 1) have her on a float trip, and 2) have her floating IN waders!

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My wife in waders, and not any low-budget waders, but top-of-the-line Patagonia…

From the access we drifted the clear, cold waters of Willow Creek, a tributary to the Susitna River. We were fishing the lower half of the river. FishHound Expeditions guides the upper and lower Willow, and considers this gem of a tributary to be their home water, and for good reason. The Willow turns out to be one of the most popular fisheries in South Central Alaska, although on the day we fished it, with the salmon run essentially over, it was as if we had the Willow all to ourselves. Located about 60 miles north of Anchorage on the Parks Highway, Willow Creek offers excellent fishing for four of the major salmon species: kings, silvers, chums and pinks. In addition to big rainbows (up to 30 inches), the Willow also holds Dolly Varden, Arctic Grayling, and even small numbers of burbot and whitefish.

Willow Creek gets a strong run of salmon each year because of the excellent spawning habit it holds. The creek’s bottom is a majority composition of pebbles, cobble, and small rocks. And it is full of snags, the result of downfalls of the white spruce that dominate the land. The creek is named for the presence of of the ubiquitous Alaska willow – not the willow of the Eastern US that Southern Tier fly fishers may be so familiar with – but a shrub-like willow that is the preferred forage for the abundant moose. Indeed, during a bio-break to the bush I saw numerous moose tracks and dung.

Since we were nymphing with an indicator, the key to “bead” success was a true dead-drift presentation. Fishing from a drift boat – in this case a spacious raft – made a dead drift that much easier, but I had no problem hooking up when we stopped and waded a bit as well.

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Willow’s wild rainbows are beautiful, strong, and egg-crazy…

The snags made fishing a little more challenging. The Willow is definitely a “woody” creek and anglers would be advised to have a lot of flies, shot, and rigging materials on hand to do well here. As much as I tried to pull my rig out of potential snags, I still lost flies with some regularity. The saying goes, if you’re not hanging up, you’re not fishing effectively, but I started feeling bad with the number of times Jay had to re-rig me. Nonetheless, Jay always had an alternate rod rigged for the inevitable quick change-out. That alternate rod was rigged the same way but instead of a bead, had a flesh fly on the business end.

As with the bead, I’d never fished a flesh fly. Jay instructed me to fish it dead drift like the bead, but to give it some time to tail out before picking up and casting again. There were dead salmon hung up here and there in the snags, and Jay was able to demonstrate, “in the flesh” (pun intended) what the real thing looks like in the water by nudging a dead salmon. Sure enough, a chunk the size of my fly came loose with Jay’s prod of the oar and it drifted seductively downstream. The flesh fly I was using was tied by Jay, and looked just like the real thing in the water. My first “flesh” drift proved just so as I hooked up with another nice rainbow.

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A flesh fly similar to the one Jay tied and had me use.

Partway through our float Jay decided to change things up. At four different times, smaller rainbows rose to the pink indicator I was using. They were beautiful with their plentiful spots, emerging from the clear green of the creek, pausing a millisecond to study the indicator and then trying to take it with a swirl. I laughed at their vigor and Jay added, “can you imagine what they’re thinking?” “That’s gotta be the biggest salmon egg I’ve ever seen…” But that display gave Jay an idea. He tied on a slightly larger bead with a stronger pink color to it. After our shore lunch he showed me a real salmon egg he had found among the pebbles of the creek’s bottom. The bead egg was pretty close to the size and color (very pale white/orange) of the actual egg, but he wanted to see if the size and color change might further improve our results. First cast with the new bad and I was immediately into a rainbow, followed by many more. We continued to use that new color bead along with the flesh fly.

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This rainbow had a faint lime color to its lower sides…

Midway through the float, Jay pulled us over to a long gravel bar. There he set up shore lunch – a small portable grill and cooler – reindeer brats, chips, apples, beer, water. We stood and talked as Jay cooked the brats. Little Bear lay down on the gravel, very content. And the Willow washed by.

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Guide-turned-chef, Jay, sets up a nice shore lunch…

After shore lunch, we continued our float down the Willow. The Willow often appeared as creek, stream, and river. Wide sweeping stretches with deep holes made me think more of the West Branch of the Delaware, mid-sized riffles – the Beaverkill, and then narrow choke points had a bit of lower Owego Creek flavor.

As we worked farther downstream, we began to see a few silver salmon in the deeper holes. At one nice run Jay pulled ashore and rigged an 8 weight rod with a streamer. He said it might be possible to rouse one of the silvers if they were holding in the deeper holes and backwaters.

We gave it a shot, casting the Dolly Llama, a favorite streamer for salmon in Alaska…

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With no one apparently home in the salmon hole, we continued our float, slipping easily down the Willow.

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Jay deftly maneuvers our raft through a choke point and downfall…

I’ll never tire of indicator fishing. And on the Willow, it was all the more exciting, casting to its deep snaggy holes and imagining what egg-crazy rainbow might be laying in wait. This was new water, truly wild, and a frontier farther west than I’d ever fished.

We hauled out where the Willow met the Susitna River – a big brawling glacial river, slate-grey in color, braided like a pretzel across a wide river valley. Born of Denali, the Susitna flowed to Anchorage and emptied into the Pacific.

Before hauling out, Jay paused long enough to let me get a few more drifts in. I fished the seam where the Willow’s clear flows met the silty flows of the Susitna, and quickly caught three more rainbows – a wonderful send-off to a trip that went way too fast.

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Last cast…

For those who have never fished Alaska, my experience with FishHound Expeditions had me immediately planning a return trip. I cannot recommend them enough! There are a lot of choices of quality outfitters in Alaska, and on top of that, myriad fishing possibilities from fly fishing small creeks for grayling to fishing the big salmon runs. Locations are another choice with overwhelming possibilities, given the size of the state. But I would definitely consider a trip or trips with FishHound Expeditions, particularly if you are in the Anchorage area. In addition to floats of their homewater, FishHound offers trips to the back country via plane or helicopter. These trips expand opportunities in fly fishing to big fish days and luxury back-country glamping.

As I write this, I am at once missing the good country, great fishing, and the hardy people that make Alaska. This wonderful day on Willow Creek offered a fine taste of a place that beckons me back. One day I’ll return, and maybe, just maybe, spend an extended trip in the backcountry with fishhounds…

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Looking back: Fly fishing in 2017 – adapt, improvise, overcome…

Posted in Fishing Conditions, Rod Building, Saltwater, Smallmouth Bass Fishing, Trout Fishing, Uncategorized, Writing with tags , , , , , on January 5, 2018 by stflyfisher

2017 will go down in the annals of the Southern Tier Fly fisher as very unique year in a myriad of ways. Some fishing for me was off compared to typical years but I am grateful that for every ying, there was a yang. The United Sates Marine Corps trains its Marines to “adapt, improvise, overcome”, under challenging conditions and so it was with fly fishing in 2017. Where I could not fish one venue due to conditions, I was able to roll with circumstances and create fly fishing success in other areas. I believe this is a key trait of good fly anglers: the ability to accept what Mother Nature hands us and still make lemonade out of lemons…

Before looking back at fly fishing, let’s review the weather history for the year, as so much of fishing often depends on the weather and climate. The following climate summary chart says a lot about the year, and in particular, that it was a very wet one…

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Daily temps were overall on par with historic norms, but precipitation was certainly anything but normal…

Weather highlights for the year were:

Record snowfall

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Binghamton NY achieved the status as snowiest city in New York after Stella left a whopping 35″ of snow on March 14th, the most snowfall Binghamton has ever received in 24 hours.

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Yours truly digging out during Winter Storm Stella…

High precipitation

The big snow-pack left by a snowy winter in combination with some significant rain in spring/summer made for some high water levels in area creeks, streams and rivers. In particular, the Susquehanna watershed took longer than usual to dry out, leaving the warmwater rivers high and largely unwadeable through mid-summer. My own records show I didn’t really start fly fishing for smallmouth bass until early August.

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Water flows on the Susquehanna in Vestal averaged in the 8 – 10K CFS range through early August, putting off fly fishing by wading. Once the Susquehanna watershed did dry out, the river dropped significantly.

But all the water made it a good year for trout, after last year’s long summer drought.

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Flows on the West Branch of the Delaware River were on average very healthy for 2017, but there were still some big swings due to continued water flow mismanagement on the part of the DRBC.

A cooler late spring and summer…

Temperatures varied around historical norms for most of the year, but there was one significant trend of average to cooler than average temperatures from mid-May through early September. It was a cool summer and there’s no doubt that was good for the coldwater fishery.

Fly fishing in 2017 – a summary:

Rod building

I started building a fly rod for my brother-in-law in January, enrolling for the second time in BC Flyfisher’s Rod Building Class, led by master rod builder, Joe Swam. I built up a TFO Finesse, 8′ 9″ 4 piece 5 weight rod using all of TFO’s original components. THis moderate action rod was just the ticket for fine presentation, according to TFO, and the rod performed outstandingly on the Bighorn during the trico hatch in Jeff’s able hands.

Fly tying

I also enrolled in BC Flyfisher’s annual fly tying class, though I could not attend all of the classes. Led by a cast of several very experienced BCFF members and guest tyer Joe Cambridge, the class once again added to my skill base and provided some simple guide fly patterns to add to my fly boxes. among them the Utah Killer Bug and The Turd.

Casting

One thing I tried to do a lot of in 2017 was casting practice, especially during high water conditions. It is said that the best anglers will practice casting BEFORE fishing, particularly to shake off the casting rust at the beginning of the year, to develop and perfect better casts and in preparation for guided trips. I found that it was important to have a curriculum set so there was some purpose to the practice. There are a plethora of casting videos on YouTube to use as part of any curriculum. Local fishing clubs will usually hold casting classes, as did the BC Flyfishers. I found practice helped me tremendously in preparing for my Bighorn trip as well as my saltwater trips, where being able to cast in windy conditions can make or break the day.

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Different color hula hoops, a lawn, a fly rod of choice with clean line and a lawn fly – tuft of bright yarn at the end of the leader – are all one needs to work on becoming the next Lefty Kreh.

Thank God for trout

While the warmwater rivers were high and not wadeable / fishable, I relied on the trout fishery for my fly fishing options from spring to early August. A significant blessing we anglers of the Southern Tier enjoy is the diversity of fisheries available to us. We have tremendous opportunities in cold and warmwater angling along with very unique fisheries that offer a variety of spawning-related runs of lake fish.

In early spring through May, I fished the local creeks for stocked, holdover, and native browns. I fished some typical haunts and a few new ones and found the fishing good.

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Yours truly releasing a nice upstate brown, pic courtesy of Eric Tomosky.

I had some very good days swinging a classic old pattern introduced to me (and tied by) fellow angler Eric Tomosky.

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The Carey Special, a classic western wet that seemed to appeal to eastern browns…

I also fished the bigger rivers, including my favorite, the West Branch of the Delaware.

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Late start to Smallie fishing

The USGS water gauge for the year says it all; unless one had access to a boat, many of the warmwater rivers were off limits due to high unwadeable flows for all of the spring and much of the summer. It’s certainly always a hit or miss thing to get into the pre-spawn smallmouth bite in May as flows are normally high then, but this year I couldn’t get a break until early August. What windows of opportunity there were seemed to coincide with my work schedule.

I fished the Tioughnioga River alone and with some fly fishing friends, including Eric Tomosky and my cousin’s husband, John Greco. The Tioughnioga fished well for smaller bass and fallfish and at least one very big bass that ended with a just-beyond-the-reach release.

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A long deep pool on the Tioughnioga River…

As the Susquehanna dropped I shifted over to this favorite water, one I consider my home water, and found solid fishing for smallmouth bass in fall feeding mode…

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A beautiful chocolate fall smallmouth bass. This bass hit a white Murray’s Dying Minnow fished off a large tree downfall along the river’s edge.

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Another smallmouth bass that couldn’t resist a streamer…

The catfish bite, however, was disappointing for me and did not compare to past years.

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My lone channel cat of 2017. I miss their hard hits on a fly and the deep bend they’ll put in an 8 weight fly rod…

Saltwater fly fishing in Florida

As previously mentioned, while some forms of fishing suffered in 2017, others took off. Such was the case for me and saltwater fly fishing. I enjoyed a repeat of fly fishing Choctawhatchee Bay in Destin, Florida in April and caught some trout, a redfish, and flounder on the fly there. Though most of the fish I caught were small, these catches were a good start in my quest to learn how to fly fish the vast saltwater flats of this 130 square mile bay. Like learning to fish for trout or smallmouth bass, each fishery requires time and dedication in order to achieve a level of mastery.

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To walk the beach with a 9 weight and fish the blitzes of ladyfish was heaven…

I had read of ladyfish, considered by some anglers as a trash fish and even a pest for their sheer ferocity and willingness to attack anything that swims. They are present in big numbers in the bay and surf along most of Florida’s coast. I returned to Destin in late August and decided to fly fish the surf. I found the ladies very willing to take the fly. It was not uncommon to catch 20 to 30 of these saltwater speedsters in a few hours of fishing. And boy, do they dance and jump!

Bighorn River trip

I was able to return to “the last good country” in mid-September and wet a line with my brother-in-law on the fabled Bighorn. It was a great trip, all in all, featuring some phenomenal dry fly fishing during the trico hatch as well as some solid nymph and streamer fishing.

Float trip with Todd

While I did float the river in my kayak twice in the fall, I had the privilege and pleasure to float the river with Todd Smith, Sayre, PA resident and proud owner of an awesome 16′ Towee skiff. For those not familiar with this boat and the brand, the Towee skiff caught my eye a while ago as a true design hybrid that just might be the ideal fly fishing boat for rivers, lakes, saltwater flats, and even nearshore salt. This combination driftboat, skiff, and canoe is very stable and draws only 4″ fully loaded.

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Looking forward from aft on Todd’s beautiful Towee skiff. Note the clean layout, rod storage, electric trolling motor, storage, and partially seen, a 30 horse Evinrude jet outboard (Pic courtesy of Todd Smith).

After emailing back and forth and trying to juggle schedules most of the year, Todd and I were finally able to meet up for a nice afternoon/evening float on the Susquehanna in late September. We caught a few fish and enjoyed some banter about our different military backgrounds (Todd – Army, Me – Navy). Best of all, I got to see what Todd’s Towee could do on the river. As low as the river was in late September, I was impressed with how well it could skim over shallow riffles. It’s stability was also very impressive. Todd and I stood and cast flies all afternoon without an issue.

Saltwater fly fishing off New Jersey

I had two quality shots at northeastern saltwater fly fishing from a boat thanks to Fishhead Greg (Greg Cudnik), who owns and operates Fisherman’s Headquarters in Ship Bottom (Long Beach Island), NJ. Greg guided me on two occasions, the first for albacore in October and the second time for stripers in late November. The albie fishing was on fire and I fulfilled a goal to catch not one but 3 of these saltwater rockets on the fly rod. The stripers never came to the surface but the troll did produce…

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Mom

I can’t end this 2017 fly fishing review without the mention of my mother, who I lost on December 18th. She died of dementia and other complications after taking a fall that broke her hip. She was 88. As is often the case when dealing with the death of a loved one, time is spent looking back on their life, recalling wonderful memories. As part of this process, I had the opportunity to sort through hundreds of pictures chronicling her life, and my early life just as well. Among the pictures, I found a few of her as a young lady fishing on a party boat in the fall. According to my father, this was a trip fishing for cod and other bottom fish out of Boston. I’m not aware of her ever fishing again, but she loved the fact that I fished. I was raised in a non-piscatorial family and outside of a few saltwater fishing trips my Dad took as part of business, I was the only one in our family to pick up the long rod, or any rod for that matter. Nonetheless, my Mom was always there for me, whenever fish called. I can remember her making me a big breakfast and then driving me to the Saddle River in suburban NJ for put and take trout fishing as a 10 year old. I can remember her making a cooler of food any time I went fishing on one of the party boats out of Barnegat Light. When I brought fish home, she was always there to cook what I caught. She was a fishing cheerleader if there ever was one. And though her dementia eventually dimmed the light of her life, to the very end she was the most optimistic force in my life. I could do anything in her eyes on this good earth.

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A favorite picture of my Mom with my older son Chris, at his college graduation from Campbell University in December, 2015. At this point in her life, her light, a great guiding beacon that always steered one straight, was just starting to fade…

So I look back on 2017 with some sadness, having lost the greatest fishing guide in my life. But I wade forward into 2018 knowing she is still there for me; in the riffles, the river runs, amidst the pretty morning hatches, and the blitzes in the surf.

 

The Last Good Country – Part 2 of 2

Posted in Fishing Reports, Trout Fishing, Uncategorized, Writing with tags , , , , , on December 10, 2017 by stflyfisher

Part 1 of this post covered the first four days of my Bighorn River fly fishing trip in mid-September. My brother-in-law and I fished those days on our own, and did pretty well. With some initial successes under our belts, we couldn’t wait to spend some time with guides provided by Eastslope Outfitters.

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The Old Hookers Guesthouse – a true fly fisher’s home away from home…

We checked in to the Old Hookers Guesthouse on Tuesday afternoon. We each had our own well-appointed bedroom and bathroom and the run of the house. The house is a very roomy split level – the basement floor had a convenient walk-in to a rod/wader room and utility room, perfect for stringing and storing your fly rod, donning your wading gear, and grabbing a few for the road from the “beer fridge”. Adjacent to the utility room were two of the five bedrooms in the house and a very comfy family room. The conveniences provided at the guesthouse impressed me – cleaning supplies of all types, a stack of cloth patches for line cleaning, and even spare waders and boots, if needed. Upstairs was another family room with fireplace, large kitchen, and dining room, as well as 3 more bedrooms with private baths.

Kent, Jeff’s co-worker and part of the original “10 year group”, had joined us on Sunday afternoon and fished with us on Monday. Kent arrived minus a prized fly rod, lost somewhere in the luggage on the flight to Billings. He was able to replace it with a brand new Sage, on sale at the Billings Cabelas. On Tuesday, the rest of the group trickled in – this included Dave, another of Jeff’s coworkers, and Jace and his daughter. The group represented a diverse mix of angling experience, from beginner to advanced angler. Fortunately, Jim and Joyce’s team of guides handled the mix of experience exceptionally well.

After everyone settled in, our cook prepared hors d’oeuvres and the beer and wine began to flow. This was a nightly ritual. Jeff and I had considered fishing that first evening, but we knew we’d be up early, so we decided to relax with the rest of the group, enjoy dinner, clean our lines, and get to bed early. It was customary for Jim and Joyce to stop by every evening around “happy hour” and check in with guests – a very nice touch. Besides getting to know their guests, they also used that time to make arrangements for the next day, including pairing anglers with guides.

Wednesday started early with coffee and a light breakfast and it wasn’t long before the guides pulled up, drift boats in tow. For my first day, Jeff encouraged me to fish with Jim, aka “Stretch”, while Jeff went with guide Jason and fellow angler Dave. Kent accompanied me for the day. Jace and his daughter went with Tyson. The two wanted to fish together and Tyson ended up being a perfect match for the mix of their fly fishing abilities.

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Looking downriver at daybreak from Jim’s drift boat.

Jim does double-duty as Eastslope co-owner and guide. I was eager to fish with him: Jeff had nothing but raving reviews from previous years and claimed Jim could see fish where none seemed to exist. We launched that first morning from the 3 mile access and were soon drifting downriver while Jim talked about the plan for the morning.

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Jim, left, rigs Kent up with a tandem trico dry fly set-up.

Jim talked about the trico hatch and the area of the river we’d fish. He rowed us downriver past cattle, grazing on the aquatic grass, and white pelicans getting set for their own fishing. After a 30 minute drift, we anchored along the river bank and got out to wade and sight fish. Jim set Kent and I up with tandem trico dry flies. He preferred to fish the dropper on 6X tippet. In his opinion, this removed doubt as to whether 5X was too much and putting the fish off. He also used desiccant on the flies pretty regularly so they would float well. He started me fishing and then walked with Kent upriver to get him situated.

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Looking upriver on the Bighorn, with Kent fishing along the weed edges. Big pods of browns cruised upriver feeding in much the same way Jeff and I had observed on our first days on the river.

Eventually, Jim waded back down to me. He scanned the river for fish, his height and slightly stooped posture making him look like a big blue heron on the stalk. It wasn’t long before he sighted some browns slurping the steady downstream drift of trico spinners. He had me quietly move into position below them, then instructed me to put the flies just 6″ ahead of the fish at the tail of the pod. It was maddening seeing these fish feed with reckless abandon and at times almost bump my fly as they took the real thing. But both the odds and fishing Gods were in our favor: I watched my point fly disappear in a rise. “Set” was the word Jim loved to use to tell you when to set the hook on a take. And following his timing cue was a sure way to stick a brown.

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Kent points to a mat of spent trico spinners pooled up in the river edge weeds.

I landed two nice browns under Jim’s guidance and though I was pleased as punch at the early success, he wasn’t satisfied with the number of shots I was getting. The pods were very sporadic in his opinion, popping up, going for a few minutes and then vanishing, reappearing elsewhere. He told me to continue to look for rising fish while he headed downriver to scout out another area. I managed another hook-up before he called me from the high river bank to tell me to follow him downriver. He led me to a nice run below the broad tail-out where we’d previously fished. As we waded back upriver, I could see a large pod of fish – at least a dozen or two – gulping tricos along the weed edges. Jim had me work the lower fish first. The tandem rig did its job and we picked away at the pod, yielding many quality browns in the 16″ – 18″+ range. Partway through the morning, Jim had me change to a glass bead sunken spinner. This fly would sink and the lead trico emerger would act as an indicator when a trout picked up the sunken fly. It worked like a charm and I enjoyed a little dry fly indicator fishing.

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Jim gives my new Orvis Helios 2 6 weight fly rod a test cast. He loved it…

The hatch began to dwindle as morning faded. The pods of voracious browns were gone except for an occasional and sporadic riser. Jim suggested we move on down the river.

We strung up our streamer rods and began casting. Jim pointed out one area where a fellow guide had a client hook into an 8 pound brown – the biggest of the year it turned out – that they fought quite a ways down the river. But this big fish went to a “hacker” – a client with little fly fishing skill. Jim’s guide friend had wished it on someone like Kent or I. Beginner’s luck is apparently alive and well even on the Bighorn River!

Kent and I didn’t move a fish with streamers. We stopped bankside for lunch and enjoyed a delicious venison meatloaf sandwich, salad, chips – a gourmet river meal if there ever was one (word was Jim makes the lunches). After stuffing ourselves, we pushed off and drifted downriver, ready to give nymphing a shot.

Jim anchored his boat tight to a high bank and along a fast and deep run. He rigged Kent and I up for nymphing with an interesting sliding weight, similar to a steelhead slinky but much smaller and made with lead putty. The nymph rig was “tractor trailer” under an indicator. Initially Jim had planned on using scud patterns, but Kent wanted to try the split case PMD that had performed so well for me when I was fishing on my own.

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The split case PMD – a very effective Bighorn pattern…

I wondered whether the split case PMD would work wonders like it had originally for me. It didn’t take long before Kent was hooked up, validating the nymph’s effectiveness.  I started hooking up as well, including a really nice rainbow lost at the net.

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Kent, seen here, is nymphing the deep and fast run just downstream from where we anchored for lunch.

We ended the day fishing streamers to the takeout. Once again, the streamer bite was not there, but after a lot of fish in the net, it was nice to just cast away and enjoy a beautiful river. Jim proved to be a great guide – knowledgeable, wise in the ways of trout, patient, and fun. His forte is dry fly fishing, so if the hatches are on, he’s the guide you want for at least one day on the Bighorn.

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An abandoned farmhouse on the Bighorn River…

Jeff had fished with Jason that first day. Relatively new to the Eastslope stable of guides, Jason was also knowledgeable, professional, and very capable. Jeff had good fishing with Jason and my second day of guided fishing would certainly validate that.

Jason picked us up bright and early on Thursday and discussed his plan of attack as we drove to the river. We would fish the same red bluff area that he’d taken Jeff to the previous morning. The hatch had been good there and the fish were willing. After that we’d fish streamers.

We reached the red bluffs and anchored up. Jason sent Jeff upriver to a spot that had some fish already working. He then climbed the steep bank with me in tow. We walked a trail downriver to a spot where the feeding was on. We descended below these fish and carefully waded up river towards them.

Jason rigged me up a little differently than Jim had. In Jason’s world of dry fly fishing the Bighorn, there was no need to use less than 5X tippet and in some cases he preferred 4X or even 3X. An interesting aspect of fishing with multiple guides is that one gets exposure to a variety of fly fishing methods, techniques, and tactics. Some differ significantly in their approach and views, but all of that is good for the angler who will listen.

Jason used his own flies and I could immediately tell he was a skilled fly tier. We fished a tandem rig of trico spinners and emergers. He had me work the pod from the tail but once again, the fish I hooked did not seem to spook the other risers. Jeff and I fished the hatch well, netting numerous good fish, losing some as well. Jason taught me to pick up the slack after every cast and to stay relatively tight to the fly to ensure a good and quick hook-set. It turned out to be a stellar morning.

As the morning hatch petered out, we set out downriver and switched over to streamer fishing.

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Jeff hangs out in our drift boat while we break for a shoreside lunch.

Jason set me up with a sparkle minnow streamer (his own tie) as the lead fly.

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The Sparkle Minnow had amazing movement and flash.

He then tied off the first streamer an 18″ section of tippet to which he tied a smaller streamer called, of all things, “the grinch”…

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The Grinch – a streamer that might not steal Christmas but certainly will steal some trout…

Together, these two flies seemed like a perfect one-two punch; the sparkle minnow moving the fish and the grinch giving any hot trout a second chance if they missed the lead fly. Most fish were caught on the grinch but a few couldn’t resist the sparkle minnow streamer.

Jason was an excellent streamer guide, calling out where and how we should fish the river as we drifted. He’d say, “I want you to fish left here, give it a 5 second count”, “be ready to cast to the bank”, or “pick your flies up while we drift through this shallow riffle.” We fished the deep parts of the river using a sink-tip line, letting the flies sink up to a 10 second count depending on river depths. Jason also had us pounding the banks on a relatively short and fast cast. The visual of watching a nice brown peel off the bank to chase down a streamer made the repeated casting well worth it, even if they didn’t always take. Jason explained that when fishing the bank, you want to cast slightly behind the boat (upstream) so the fish has time to intercept the fly naturally and turn with the current rather than making the fish chase upstream. He also corrected my long strips, instructing me to work the fly in very very short staccato strips that better imitated baitfish movement. He explained the rationale very simply: how many baitfish can out-swim a big brown? By the end of our float, Jeff and I had done reasonably well but Jason felt the bite was off.

Thursday evening was windy with big gusts firing off the mountains and roaring across the river valley. Dust was blowing everywhere – a sure sign a front was coming through. Sure enough, as forecast, Friday dawned very cold and rainy – highs dropped from the 90’s to the low 40’s in just 2 days! Jim and Joyce’s advice to pack and be ready for almost any kind of weather was spot on.

Jason picked Jeff and I up early Friday morning at the lodge. As we drove out of Fort Smith he discussed his plan. He was concerned that the heavy overnight rains might begin to cloud up the water and that it would only get worse the farther downriver we fished, so rather than start at the 3 mile launch, he wanted to launch at the Yellowtail dam access, drift and strip streamers, then pull out at 3 mile and do another loop.

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The after-dam access. This is the highest up the river you can launch on the Bighorn.

We were fine with the plan. Once we launched we were immediately hit head-on with a stiff cold wind that came right up the river. Though Jeff and I had foul weather gear on and had layered up under our waders and rain gear, the rain wet any exposed skin and the cold winds soon numbed fingers and faces. Neck gaiters and wool hats helped, as did the heavier work of casting and stripping tandem streamer rigs on sink tip lines.

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Jeff cinches down while guide Jason re-ties a streamer. Jeff, from Northern Cal, was not so used to this type of fishing weather. For me, a north-easterner, it was not so bad. As the saying goes, “there’s no bad weather, just bad clothing“…

Despite the weather, I enjoyed the streamer fishing. Jason set me up once again with the sparkle minnow streamer as the lead fly and the grinch riding tail gun.

We picked up some fish, mainly browns in the deep pools, and then came to a river braid that Jason felt might hold some good fish. This braid was often overlooked apparently. We anchored at the end of the island and wade-fished the braid. I could see some fish periodically rising to something very small but nymphing this stretch was not moving any fish. After a while I asked Jason if I could try throwing a streamer. He was all for it so I pulled out my Helios2 6 weight and gave it a shot.

I walked up to the top of the braid and made casts across and up, letting my streamer sink and swing down. Occasionally I short-stripped across, and sometimes I did this on the swing. Just below the head of the braid was a large log-jam and perfect cover for trout. I worked my streamer through this area and had a solid splashy take.

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The first of 6 trout from Jason’s river braid…

Repeated swings down the length of the braid and below where the water cut into a red clay bank brought many strikes – some short and some solid – for a total of 5 browns and 1 rainbow.

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This rainbow smashed the sparkle minnow on the swing.

We continued our drift, throwing streamers, and hit the 3 mile pull-out at noon. We were pretty wet and cold and per Jason’s suggestion, drove back to the lodge to eat our lunch in the comfort of the dry and heated rod and wader room.

Jeff was done with fishing at that point. His rain jacket had been not much more than a wearable sieve to keep the big raindrops out; he was soaked through from the driving rain. I was pretty dry and wanted to give the fishing another round.

And so we went – just Jason and I – back out into the gray cold rainy afternoon. It was the same drill; casting, stripping, casting again, but oh how good it was to get out one more time. I caught some nice browns and lost a really good rainbow that I considered a final “thanks” offering to the river.

We all left the lodge the next day for home. I was the only one heading eastbound – the rest traveled westbound by plane or car. By 2 o’clock that afternoon, I was wing-borne and climbing high over Montana. From my window seat I got one last look at the khaki high desert landscape marked by little veins of green and gold. Then we were in the clouds and the last good country was gone. But, like Hemingway’s own northern Michigan woods, I now realized that one never really loses such a place.

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Ernest Hemingway posing with a nice trout caught from the East Branch of the Fox River. This river was the river portrayed in his classic short story, “Big Two-Hearted River.”  And it was the very definition of Hemingway’s “last good country.”

My thoughts turned to fly fishing the Bighorn: the pods of rising browns, the trico hatches so thick they looked like rising smoke over the river, the sight of an indicator plunging down in fast water, the savage strike of a big trout intercepting a streamer on the swing, the company of friends, good food, a cigar and bourbon on the deck, the sun setting ablaze on high desert mountains, the good tired feeling after fishing hard all day, a worn-out casting arm, and the unfailing work of great guides. And I decided then, I’d return as long as I could to refresh my fly fishing soul in my last good country.

 

The Last Good Country – Part 1 of 2

Posted in Fishing Reports, Trout Fishing, Uncategorized, Writing with tags , , , on November 4, 2017 by stflyfisher

It’s great northern air. Absolutely the best trout fishing in the country. No exaggeration. Fine country. Good color, good northern atmosphere, absolute freedom, no summer resort stuff and lots of paintable stuff.
—Ernest Hemingway to his friend Jim Gamble, 1919

I recently got a chance to escape the rat race and spend a glorious week on the Bighorn River in Montana. It’s the second time I’ve gone, and once again I am already missing it: the broad khaki river valley marked by clusters of green and gold cottonwood, the high desert mountains, and the red cliffs that bound the river. Of course there are many rivers in Montana and great trout fishing, but the Bighorn has found a place in my fly fishing soul; a soul that needs rekindling with future visits – hopefully lots of them.

This blog post is in two parts – Part 1 covering the first 4 days of the trip and Part 2 covering the remainder. The first part of the trip was unguided – the second part was done with a great outfitter and each day’s fishing was with a guide, fishing from a drift boat.

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As I have been drawn to the Bighorn, so was Ernest Hemingway to the woods, lakes, and rivers of Northern Michigan. His family purchased a cottage on Walloon Lake and summered there every year from the time of his birth. The place made an indelible impression on Hemingway: one that shaped him as a man and provided a well-spring for his work as a Nobel prize-winning writer. Hemingway referred to Walloon Lake and the surrounding area as “the last good country”; a place he held near to him even later in life as he spread his wings and set up shop in more distant locales like Key West, Bimini, Kenya, Idaho, and Cuba. One of Hemingway’s great short stories, “Big Two-Hearted River” takes place in Northern Michigan, and it is one all anglers should read.

I first fished the Bighorn back in 2007 with my brother-in-law, Jeff. On that trip, the two of us fished for 3 days with the same guide (who still guides there – Ryan Stefek), and we experienced incredible fishing, mainly through nymphing. I was somewhat new to the game of nymphing, armed only with the basics. I knew how to mend and at least attempt a drag-free drift. I learned a lot from our guide, among them how to keep flies clean, how to set on any hesitation of the indicator, and how to do the reach cast. As I recall we caught 20+ good quality browns and rainbows a day, with double hook-ups on the drift a somewhat regular occurrence. I landed a few big rainbows too, some in excess of 20″.

As good as the fishing was, I had returned since, but Jeff had, fishing with a regular group of anglers over the next 10 years. These anglers found Eastslope Outfitters, a husband-wife fishing and hunting business catering to anglers and hunters in the Bighorn valley. Jeff had invited me along many times but I declined for myriad reasons. That was a mistake.

I finally accepted yet another invitation way back in January of this year. Reservations were made for the mid-September trip that at the time seemed so distant. Time passed: the month of August was consumed with preparation – prepping new lines, assembling leaders, and lining up my rods. I brought with me a favorite nymphing rod – my 10’6″, 4 weight, Cortland Competition Nymph rod with a double taper 3 weight line. Added to the mix would be my Scott A2 9 foot 4 piece 5 weight for dry fly duty – this was the “veteran” rod that had served nymphing duty and a little dry fly duty on my previous trip. But suddenly I was confronted with a streamer rod void.

I own several great streamer rods but they are all 2 piece 7 weights. I needed a 4 piece 7 weight so I could pack all my rods in a duffel bag. I considered building a 4 piece 7 weight, but time just ran out on me. I looked over alternatives and read an interesting post on the Bighorn Angler website about their favorite gear. Tucked within the words of wisdom in the post was a blurb about the 9 foot 4 piece 6 weight Helios 2 being a really great streamer rod and a good back-up nymph rod. This rod is built for saltwater use as well and has a fighting butt. That made it even more appealing – a very light fast action (tip-flex) rod I could fish streamers with and use double duty for light saltwater use (a great rod for the ladies). And so I purchased one…

Trip preps were made in January but August came quickly. I began to get my gear in order in the weeks ahead of my flight. Lines were checked and cleaned, leaders were replaced, and a book on Bighorn River fly fishing was purchased and then read and studied. The book, Fly Fishing the Bighorn River, by Steve Galletta, proved an excellent guide to fishing the river. Jeff and I would be fishing the first 4 days on our own, and while Jeff was very knowledgeable of the dry fly game, I wanted to be ready to do some nymph and streamer fishing as well.

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Steve Galletta’s book on fly fishing the Bighorn proved well worth the read. I highly recommend it for anyone looking to fish this terrific fishery.

We arrived in Billings on Saturday and I was immediately surprised with two things – the high heat and the haze in the air as a result of forest fires. Our outfitter had warned to be prepared for anything, from high heat, to freezing and snowy conditions, and everything in between, and that advice would prove right on.

After picking up our rental car and stocking up on beer and liquor (Fort Smith is dry!), we drove the 1.5 hours to Fort Smith where Jeff had set up at a nice motel room. We checked in, picked up some dry flies at one of the fly shops, and headed out in hopes of cashing in on the evening black caddis hatch. We fished from the 3 mile pullout and while the black caddis seemed to be hatching just fine, the trout were either busy subsurface or not interested in this epic hatch. It would turn out that the black caddis dry fly action never really turned on. Locals, including guides and fly shop staff had no explanation for the lack of surface feed on this heavy hatch.

We returned to our motel room, drank beer, and readied for the trico hatch, an early morning hatch that could involve millions of these tiny mayflies and lots of trout hungry for them.

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Brother-in-law Jeff, relaxing on a hot evening after setting up for the morning trico hatch.

That first morning of fishing was every bit as good as I could have hoped it would be. Jeff and I arrived at the access point a little late compared to what we’d do the next few days, and combined with being a Sunday, the parking lot was already pretty busy for 6:30 am. We fished our 5 weight dry fly rods with a 9 foot 5X leader. Attached on the business end was a size 20 spent-wing trico followed by 12″ – 18″ of 5X tippet and a trico CD emerger.

The tandem rig worked well but visibility was difficult in the early morning darkness. We would later fish a dark trico CD emerger followed by a white winged trico emerger. The dark / black lead fly was often easier to see. Regardless, fishing a tandem rig increased the odds of watching the drift and obviously increased the odds of an eater.

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Jeff with a nice “trico” brown. Note his fly rod, one that’s been mentioned here before!

Jeff was off to the races the very second we were rigged up at the car and and it wasn’t long before we were huffing down a dusty trail that wound along the river. It was already on the warm side – in the 70’s – and we had decided to wet wade. We came around a bend in a river braid where the river had gouged out a nice deep bend pool. We were a good 6 feet above the water and looking down I could hardly believe my eyes.

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A nice male Bighorn brown caught on a #20 trico dry…

From my perch on the elevated bank, I could almost touch a pod of nice browns with my fly rod as they gorged on the spent tricos drifting down the river. We quickly and carefully descended on the feast and I hooked up but then lost a solid fish as it fought in the heavy current below. We moved upriver and began to cast to steady risers. The action lasted 2 hours, waning in the last 30 minutes. The sun climbed and the morning heat began to press down on us.

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Looking upriver at a tailout where browns and rainbows feasted on the early morning trico hatch. Note the big mats of aquatic grass – signs of the water’s fertility.

We enjoyed a late breakfast at “Trico’s”, appropriately named and then wandered the fly shops in “downtown” Fort Smith. I stocked up on some nymphs I had read about in Steve Galletta’s great book, namely the poodle sniffer and the split case PMD. Both nymphs would turn out to be outstanding patterns and helped me dredge up quite a few browns and rainbows in the hot afternoons. Both flies featured triggers – namely the green wire on the poodle sniffer and the bright yellow spot on the PMD.

Fished in a tandem rig below a few split shot and an indicator, these nymphs seemed to outfish the standard scud and sowbug patterns more typical of Bighorn nymphing. Black caddis were certainly around in the evenings, so I figured a pupa pattern would definitely be about in the afternoons, and PMD’s (pale morning duns) could be seen hatching in the afternoons.

On successive hot afternoons I had some nice sections of the river around the access all to myself, save a few drift boats passing through. I found a nice run on a river braid that featured some fast water entering into a deep hole with an undercut bank. This too was heavy water but not as fast as the main river section it fed.

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The upper end of the run. Farther upstream was very fast water.

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The lower end of the run where it enters the main river channel. Note the weedy frog water in the foreground.

Rigged with a split case PMD as my anchor fly and a poodle sniffer on the trailer, I worked my nymph rig through the fast water at the head of the run. I adjusted my indicator for the depth and it wasn’t long before the indicator plunged forward and a nice rainbow launched out of the water. As fast as it was on, it was off. What followed was steady action. I worked the run from head to toe and there was no shortage of affection from browns (the majority), rainbows, and one stocky whitefish…

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Bighorn brown…

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This rainbow could not resist the split case PMD…

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The only “whitey” of my trip. On my first trip on the Bighorn, my first fish was a whitefish. I remember our guide lamenting – a curse on the trip. In both cases, whitefish actually seemed to bring good luck for me, anyhow. And so I welcomed this one…

My first day of nymphing proved excellent – my second day was even better, with 15 trout landed and quite a few lost.

The dry fly fishing also got better. On the following mornings, Jeff and I were up earlier, walking to the river in the dark with the moon high above. Being prepared the night before and rising earlier meant choice fishing locations. Wading wet was delightful, and easier, but the first hour or so was pretty chilly. Most anglers who dressed in waders enjoyed the morning coolness but wilted as the sun climbed high in the morning sky. Daytime highs were hitting the upper 90’s!

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Jeff casting to early morning upstream risers. He loved the rod I built for his 60th and it showed in his tight-looped casting.

We had the dry fly fishing dialed in nicely by the second morning. Sometimes the trout would school up in big pods and just wander back and forth across the river, slowly pushing up river, snouts up. It was an amazing sight that made one’s hands shake and fumble with excitement when tying on a fly…

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Another beautifully marked Bighorn brown. 

The fish were not spooky when in “full feast mode”. With just a little stealth, one could easily approach behind a working pod. Most times, even hooking up did not put the pod down.

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Can you see the brown?

Jeff and I fished the river on our own until Tuesday – we then moved from our hotel room to the Eastslope Outfitters lodge. The last time I had fished the Bighorn with Jeff, we started off with guided fishing and ended up with a day or two fishing on our own. I felt good about our first few days of fishing success and now looked forward to fishing under the tutelage of Bighorn River experts.

Part 2 of 2 follows…

The week ahead in fly fishing: September 4, 2017

Posted in Carp, Fishing Conditions, Fishing Reports, Smallmouth Bass Fishing, Trout Fishing, Uncategorized with tags , , on September 4, 2017 by stflyfisher

Labor Day, the traditional gateway to Fall and the official “end of summer” is here. Like most of 2017, the weekend weather, with the exception of a gorgeous Labor Day, was odd with very cool temperatures and rain. But rivers and creeks are nonetheless starting to show their bones. Reports that the salmon are starting to enter the tribs continue to roll in – a good sign. And some trees are starting to display hints of fall foliage.

Fly Shop Talk: A tip I learned from Harry Murray, smallmouth bass expert from Virginia and owner of Murray’s Fly Shop, is to always assemble and rig your rod last when arriving at your fishing destination and do the reverse when packing up for the day. Don your waders, set up your vest, etc., before rigging your rod to fish. That assures the least amount of opportunity to break your rod by leaving it leaning up against an open car door, or worse yet, lying on the ground. Do the reverse when wrapping up your fishing by first breaking down your rod and storing it in its protective rod tube. Only after your rod is stored away should you attend to putting your other gear away.

Here’s the week ahead in fly fishing report:

Lake Ontario Tribs: The Douglaston Salmon Run is reporting that the salmon are coming into the Salmon River in greater numbers now. CFS dropped to 335 last night / 419 at Pineville and water temperature is up to 65 F. Fishing has been good to very good. Whitakers reports that the majority of anglers who fished the river reported getting into mostly kings with a few cohos in the mix. The best action has been in the lower end of the river with the majority of anglers fishing at the DSR. The lower end of the river has also been producing action in the Ballpark, Town pool, Staircase/Longbridge and Black Hole. First thing in the morning has produced the best fish movement, especially on bright sunny days, but yesterday we had heavy cloud cover along with rainy conditions so fish continued moving throughout the day.

Lakes: John Gaulke of Finger Lakes Angling Zone provides the following lake-by-lake report:

  • Cayuga Lake: Jigging success varies, ranging from slow to downright superb depending on the day and conditions. Occasional salmon, rainbow trout and brown trout are in the mix. Largemouth bass fishing is fair; pickerel action is good.
  • Owasco Lake: Smallmouth bass fishing should be fair to good here. Lake trout fishing should be picking up markedly here. Expect occasional bonus browns, rainbows and bass while jigging.
  • Skaneateles Lake: Smallmouth bass fishing is good. Lake trout jigging is fair. Plenty of large rockbass and some perch are around.
  • Seneca Lake: Fishing is fair for lakers – a couple fish is a good day. No recent reports from here.
  • Keuka Lake: Lake trout fishing should be fair to good here. Laker action generally picks up a lot here in October and onwards. Bass fishing has been good.
  • Otisco Lake: Bass fishing here has been good. Expect decent tiger musky action.

Catskill Rivers:  

The Catskill Rivers have been in good shape and fishing well thanks to rain and cool temps. Following are some local fly shop reports:

  • The West Branch Angler is reporting that the Catskill rivers are all in good shape and up a little since the rain started Saturday night but the bugs have been the same over the last few weeks. Stilesville on the upper West is now 378 cfs and 52 degrees and down at Hale Eddy we are looking at 507 an 50 degrees. The upper East Branch at Harvard is 170 cfs and 52 degrees and downriver below the Beaverkill at Fishs’ Eddy the flow is now 372 cfs and 57 degrees. The mainstem down at Lordville is currently 981 cfs and 58 degrees. The rain over the last 12 hours hasn’t really dirtied up any parts of the system yet but there has been a slight stain to the West Branch for a while due to the release. The bugs have been the same for a while now with Blue Winged Olives in the 18-24 range, a few Iso’s in size #12 and Cahills in the #14-16 range. Winged ants have been around too and are good flies to have for the next few weeks. The streamer bite today should be very good with the rain and low light, even though there’s not a lot of water or dirty water.
  • The Delaware River Club is reporting that the release from Cannonsville has been dropped to 400 cfs. The recording hasn’t been updated but we’ll go with that number. Water temperatures are not a problem after the last few nights and the rivers are okay for floating or wading at these levels. The wind was unkind for a good part of yesterday but did finally drop in the evening. Once it dropped the dry fly fishing picked up with olives, cahills, and Heptagenia coming off. We have been fishing olives from size 18 down to 26 so bring the whole box. Some fish aren’t picky while others get stuck on the tiny ones.
  • Ken Tutalo of Baxter House Fly Fishing Outfitters reports that over the last week the cooler weather has had a positive effect on all of our local rivers. At this time the conditions are in transition back to the temperature range where trout will become more aggressive in their feeding habits. This week there are far more options for us fly fishermen. The water of the Beaverkill, Willlowemoc, Lower East Branch and Main Stem are cooling quickly. They are all in a good range now for Trout to be active. Water temperatures may be a bit sensitive if we get a scorching sunny day but for the most part temps. are good. Over the last few days our guides have visited some stretches of river that they have not fished since spring. I have first hand reports now from all of the freestone rivers and here is what you can expect in the coming days. The best action is with nymphs in and around the fastest water. This is where a lot of fish spent the summer and they are still there. The Wild Rainbows will feed aggressively now right through late fall. Every year this time period offers about the best nymph action of the season. The dry fly activity will improve as the days turn colder. Right now the action is well worthwhile. The trico fishing is good every morning. The best areas for tricos are in pools with lots of weed beds in the water. The best locations also have low brush and grass along the banks. The late afternoon has been improving quickly. Some areas have been excellent but there is still some unpredictability in the late day activity. The unpredictability is regarding location. The insect activity is in pockets and an area can be bug soup wile 100 yards upstream or down is void. It pays to pick your evening spots based on insects in the air. If there are bugs there will be fish. In the areas that are hot you can expect to find Olives, Isonychia, Cahills, White Flies, Yellow Drakes, Midges, Caddisflies. There have been some intense spinner flights and all of my recent trips have found fish gorging just before dark time. Fishing Isonychia and Cahill patterns will get you some fish in the faster water. The best bet however is a #16 or #18 hackle spinner. If you are able to fish these on light leaders you will pick off about every riser you find regardless of water type.

Hatching:

Slate Drake #12-2xl – 12 – Isonychia bicolor
Sulphur – #16 – 20 – Ephemerella dorothea
Light Cahill – #14 – Ephemerella rotunda
Light Cahill – #14 – Ephemerella invaria
Little BWO – #22 – 26- Pseudocloeon sp.
Blue Wing Olives – #18 – Baetis sp.
Little Tan Sedge – #16 – 18 – Glossosoma sp.
Green Caddis – #16 – Ryacophilia sp.
Tan Caddis #16 – 18 – Hydropsyche spp.

Local creeks: Local creek flows are low and clear. The cooler weather has kept temps decent for fishing but it’s always good to “fish with your thermometer” when the water levels are low. It’s time now to put terrestrials in the vest if they aren’t there already. Grasshoppers, crickets, beetles, and ants. Don’t forget inchworms also. While fishing with nymphs and dries will produce, look for terrestrials to become a main course item for trout as the hatches begin to dwindle. Hopper fishing can be great where creeks flow by open fields – especially when the wind is blowing.

Warmwater Rivers: The warmwater rivers have been fishing good to very good. River levels remain excellent for nice wading and good fly fishing. Clarity is excellent. The bass seem to have acclimated to the recent drop in water temps. The rivers are loaded with crayfish and minnows and the white fly hatch continues.

Topwater will continue to produce into fall as the bass begin to put on the feedbag. On a recent trip I fished a slow water area adjacent to a large weedbed and saw quite a bit of movement from bass chasing bait. A few casts with a popper resulted in a very nice bass. When bass are “lit up” you can usually expect aggressive takes on poppers and streamers, particularly when the light is low. During the day, fish big nymphs dead drift or swing large streamers. Experimenting with retrieves will increase your success – sometimes the bass want a slow swing, sometimes they’ll be more apt to jump a fly that has a lot of movement. Besides smallmouth bass, fallfish, channel cats, and walleye have all been on the hunt for a well-fished fly. Walleye, in particular, will begin to feed more aggressively as water temps drop. And remember, where you find one walleye there are usually more about.

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Ponds: Ponds remain a great place to fly fish right now, and with the water cooling, look for action to carry over into daylight more. Largemouth bass are in summer mode and are more than willing to take a fly. In the case of sunfish, any time of the day will work. Fishing the edges of weeds and around structure with wooly buggers, big nymphs, and streamers should remain effective, but topwater will also be effective especially in the early morning and towards evening.

Fly Fishing Events / Activities: Local fly fishing clubs will begin their fall programs over the next few weeks. Here’s what’s on tap for September thus far:

  • The Twin Tiers Five Rivers Chapter of FFI has announced their September meeting: We welcome you to join us on September 11th at 6:30pm, when Scott Feltrinelli will be visiting to talk about fishing the great lakes tributaries for salmon, steelhead and bass. Scott has over 27 years of fly fishing experience in both fresh and saltwater, and is the owner and guide of Ontario Fly Outfitters. Ontario Fly Outfitters is one of New York’s premiere fly fishing guide services specializing in providing a wide variety of fishing experiences for every level of fishing ability. He regularly targets the world class fishery we have within Western New York, on the tributaries of Lake Ontario and Lake Erie from the Salmon River to Steelhead Alley. Scott is an author/photographer for On The Fly Magazine, Cortland Line, Simms and LOOP Tackle Pro Staff. Scott’s talk will cover the techniques he uses to catch salmon, steelhead and bass in the Great Lakes tribs, as well as some of the streams he frequents. If you want to catch more steelhead or smallmouth bass this year in the great lakes tribs, you won’t want to miss this presentation. Unlike past presentations, we will not be starting with a fly tying demo. Instead, Scott’s presentation starts at 6:30 sharp, at the Big Flats Community Center, 476 Maple Street, Big Flats, NY 14814. Please note Sept’s date is shifted from our normal first Monday of the month timing due to Labor Day holiday.
  • The BC Flyfishers chapter of FFI has announced their first chapter meeting for the Fall. The speaker will be area angler, writer, and fly shop owner, Mike Hogue, who will present: “Biking, Solo Canoes and Float Tubes: Ways to Enhance Your Fly Fishing Experiences.” The meeting is scheduled for Thursday September 21, 2017, Endicott Public Library, 7:00 PM (informal tying demonstration at 6:30). Mike has done all the hard work by evaluating the best ways to combine exercise, fly fishing, and finding low pressure venues, all while enjoying nature’s scenery. Mike will share with us his hard learned fishing strategies and methods for rigging for mobility as well as some of his favorite “solo” fishing locations and experiences. His presentation will explain why he chooses a solo canoe over other watercraft options. He will discuss the vitally important issues of handling, durability, paddles, gear, rod holders, fly patch, gear bag, and will remind you to plan on flipping the watercraft when you devise your setup. He will talk about how to select gear and rig it up for fly fishing from small watercraft. Surprisingly, nothing has been written about this material and Mike’s information is unique. Mike will also be our pre-meeting fly tyer demonstrating an Old Adirondack pattern called The Devil Bug which will be featured in a future Fly Tyer magazine article. Mike is the owner of Badger Creek Fly Tying, a fly fishing shop in Freeville, NY, just outside of Ithaca. He has had articles published in numerous publications, and has served as VP of Conservation for the IFFF North East Council, as well as on the National Conservation Board.

The Week Ahead Weather: WBNG’s forecast is as follows:

 

 

We get a brief spell of dry weather before the rain and thunderstorms move in again. Labor Day will be a decent day with mostly sunny skies. We’ll have a breezy southwest wind with warm temperatures. As a cold front approaches, we’ll have showers in the forecast tonight.

We’ll have a better chance of rain and thunderstorms on Tuesday as the cold front comes through. We’ll have rain and thunderstorms, with the potential for strong storm. With an upper level trough setting up over the Great Lakes and Northeast, showers, along with cooler temperatures will be in the forecast for the remainder of the work week.

High pressure and nicer weather arrives for the weekend. We will be cooler with highs in the mid to upper 60s, we’ll have partly cloudy skies. Dry weather continues into Monday with mostly sunny skies and highs in the upper 60s to low 70s.

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The week ahead in fly fishing: August 28, 2017

Posted in Carp, Fishing Conditions, Fishing Reports, Smallmouth Bass Fishing, Trout Fishing, Uncategorized, Writing with tags , , on August 30, 2017 by stflyfisher

Put August in the books. Labor Day looms and it won’t be long before we are into Fall and arguably the best fishing of the year, assuming Mother Nature cooperates. Precipitation totals continue to climb for our area but at a slower rate. The warmwater rivers are finally down. The increased precip and cool temperatures have been great for trout fishing. Lastly, there are reports that the salmon are starting to enter the tribs.

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Air temps have been in the normal to cooler than normal over the last month.

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Fly Shop Talk: I’m currently reading the book My Life was This Big, by Lefy Kreh. It’s an interesting read and I’ll be doing a full book review on it when I am finished. One impression I have of Lefty from the book is that he certainly is an unconventional thinker and he applies that way of thinking to almost everything he does, fly fishing included. He believes that fly fishing is paralyzed by tradition, and gives numerous examples, but highlights the way anglers learn to fly cast – the 10 and 2 approach – arguing that for small stream casters it is appropriate but not for anglers fishing big water and windy conditions. Lefty is known for a much longer and more horizontal casting stroke. At 92, Lefty still give casting demonstrations!

Here’s the week ahead in fly fishing report:

Lake Ontario Tribs: To sum it up in a few words, the salmon are starting to trickle in. There are some salmon being landed – with many more brief hook-ups. This is encouraging to see even though the numbers are small so far. Look for things to pickup more after the water release next weekend. Every year is different but so far this looks like it should be a great river season.

Lakes: John Gaulke of Finger Lakes Angling Zone provides the following lake-by-lake report:

  • Cayuga Lake: Jigging remains good. Occasional salmon, rainbow trout and brown trout are in the mix. Largemouth bass fishing (with bonus pickerel) is fair to good here.
  • Owasco Lake: Smallmouth bass fishing should be fair to good here. Lake trout fishing should be picking up markedly here. Expect bonus browns, rainbows and bass.
  • Skaneateles Lake: Smallmouth bass fishing is good. Lake trout jigging is fair. Plenty of large rockbass and some perch are around.
  • Seneca Lake: Fishing is fair for lakers – a couple fish is a good day. No recent reports from here.
  • Keuka Lake: Lake trout fishing should be fair to good here. Bass fishing has been good.
  • Otisco Lake: No recent reports from here but with drier conditions the fishing should be good here for bass and tiger muskies.

Catskill Rivers:  

The Catskill Rivers have been in good shape and fishing well thanks to rain and cool temps. Following are some local fly shop reports:

  • The West Branch Angler is reporting that water levels, bugs and the fishing have been pretty consistent the last few weeks. Stilesville on the upper West Branch is running 526 cfs and down at Hale Eddy we have 637 cfs and 49 degrees, pretty good flows for late-August. The upper East at Harvard is now 268 cfs and 54 degrees and down at Fishs’ Eddy we have 437 cfs and 60 degrees. Down on the main Delaware we have 1,200 cfs and 62 degrees this morning. The mornings have been a good time to hit the water with some Tricos on the Main and East Branch with a few on the lower West Branch. As usual up here the Tricos can be hit or miss and a lot depends on the weather of the day and getting some spinners on the water. The Blue Winged Olives in #18-22 have been pretty reliable this year with some bugs usually showing up early afternoon on. Small Rusty Spinners for the Olives are essential flies to have this time of year. We’ve been seeing some pretty small winged ants in size 24 or smaller and are good flies to have, even if the fish seem to be feeding on mayflies. Terrestrials in general are always good to have this time of year. We have a little stain to the West Branch and it seems to be coming from the release/reservoir, which is usual this time of year, and is not a bad thing for the streamer fishing as we approach fall. It looks to be fairly cool all week with little rain.
  • The Delaware River Club is also reporting that the olives hatches have been good over the last few weeks. The fish are eating a lot of them just under the surface or in the film so watch the rise forms carefully. Otherwise nymphing or swinging wet flies will be your best shot. There are a lot of small olives on the rivers so keep that in mind while choosing the sizes of your wets and nymphs.
  • Ken Tutalo of Baxter House Fly Fishing Outfitters reports that the good fishing continues. With the regular rainfall and cooler weather mother nature has been taking care of our wild trout and insects. Just about every trip that went out this week was very good. All of our guests have had great action on nymphs regardless of the river section chosen. Right now the trout want to eat and if you get a nymph in front of them they will take it. During the last few days our guides have been spread out with boats on both the upper and lower sections of the West Branch and on the East Branch. The majority of the floats have been spent fishing nymph rigs and the fly rods have been bending. There was also a brief period this week where intense local showers caused turbidity. During this brief turbidity the streamer bite turned on pretty good. Guide Matt had an early day trip where they had steady action on streamer flies. The best news this week is that there were a few days where the fish rose pretty steady for a prolonged period. I put my guests into this action on both the East and West branches recently and the action was good for about the last 2 hours before dark. With the cooler afternoons the insect activity has been picking up. Most of the activity has been with olives. They are emerging well most days. There are also Trico’s, Sulfurs, Isonychia, Cahills, Midges and terrestrials in the drift. In addition to these insects there has been the occasional mix of Caddisflies and some brief sightings of giant yellow drakes in places. Overall however there is enough insects on the water to keep the trout interested. On my last float trip we had really steady catching with both Olive Cripples, Olive Klinkhammers and Rusty Spinners. From late afternoon until dark the fish have been looking up. Anglers will find the trout just about everywhere but there have been pods of juvenile and mid size browns feeding heavily in the bubble lines of the eddies and in the tailouts of pools where insects accumulate. These pod feeding trout have had tunnel vision and zero selectivity. When we have found this action it has been a fish on every cast. Anglers planning to fish in the coming days will now finally have some options. There is good Trico Action early day and streamers may tempt a few during this time period as well. The mid day period has been fishing well with nymphs. With the cooler weather anglers will now have some additional areas to nymph as the Beaverkill, Willow, Lower East and Main Stem are back into a decent temperature range. Anglers should start to look for risers in late afternoon. All of the main pools will now have action and in some places they have been going wild. From this point on we can expect the fishing to continue to slowly improve with every cool day. Now is a great time to plan a float trip on one of the Delaware Branches. The Smallmouth Bass action has been hot which is normal for July through mid September. Guide Zach has been putting some time chasing these gamefish. He has been fishing the Delaware below Callicoon regularly and with great success. The next few weeks are a great time to get out for smallies. They will start to feed heavily as the waters start to cool down. This cooling period also coincides with the migration of baby shad dropping back down the river. Every year this event causes heavy feeding blitzes in many of the eddies down river. We will continue to offer smallmouth bass trips through mid September.

Hatching:

Slate Drake #12-2xl – 12 – Isonychia bicolor
Sulphur – #16 – 20 – Ephemerella dorothea
Light Cahill – #14 – Ephemerella rotunda
Light Cahill – #14 – Ephemerella invaria
Little BWO – #22 – 26- Pseudocloeon sp.
Blue Wing Olives – #18 – Baetis sp.
Little Tan Sedge – #16 – 18 – Glossosoma sp.
Green Caddis – #16 – Ryacophilia sp.
Tan Caddis #16 – 18 – Hydropsyche spp.

Local creeks: Local creek flows are dropping to summer lows, though storms will continue to periodically revive them. It’s time now to put terrestrials in the vest if they aren’t there already. Grasshoppers, crickets, beetles, and ants. Don’t forget inchworms also. While fishing with nymphs and dries will produce, look for terrestrials to become a main course item for trout as the hatches begin to dwindle. Hopper fishing can be great where creeks flow by open fields – especially when the wind is blowing.

Warmwater Rivers: The warmwater rivers have indeed been acting strange, mainly due to the weather. While all of our local rivers are good for nice wading and good fly fishing, water temps are down due to the cooler than normal air temps and recent rains. My personal opinion is that this sudden change in water temp may have put down the bass temporarily. The fishing should come back.

All of the local rivers are in superb shape with excellent clarity. The rivers are loaded with crayfish and minnows and the white fly hatch is most liely now in its later stages. This hatch usually stretches out over 6 weeks beginning in late July and lasting well into August.

Right now topwater should produce as should fishing big nymphs dead drift or swinging large streamers. Focus efforts on low-light conditions or fish the shady areas of the rivers for the best action. Remember to experiment – sometimes the bass want a slow swing, sometimes they’ll be more apt to jump a fly that has a lot of movement. Besides smallmouth bass, fallfish, channel cats, and walleye have all been on the hunt for a well-fished fly.

Ponds: Ponds remain a great place to fly fish right now. Largemouth bass are in summer mode and are more than willing to take a fly. As the water heats up and the sun is bright, it’s now time to shift fishing to early or late, but in the case of sunfish, any time of the day will work. Fishing the edges of weeds and around structure with wooly buggers, big nymphs, and streamers should remain effective, but topwater will also be effective especially in the early morning and towards evening.

Fly Fishing Events / Activities: It won’t be long until local fly fishing clubs begin their fall programs. September is usually the start of monthly meetings.

  • The Twin Tiers Five Rivers Chapter of FFI has announced their September meeting: We welcome you to join us on September 11th at 6:30pm, when Scott Feltrinelli will be visiting to talk about fishing the great lakes tributaries for salmon, steelhead and bass. Scott has over 27 years of fly fishing experience in both fresh and saltwater, and is the owner and guide of Ontario Fly Outfitters. Ontario Fly Outfitters is one of New York’s premiere fly fishing guide services specializing in providing a wide variety of fishing experiences for every level of fishing ability. He regularly targets the world class fishery we have within Western New York, on the tributaries of Lake Ontario and Lake Erie from the Salmon River to Steelhead Alley. Scott is an author/photographer for On The Fly Magazine, Cortland Line, Simms and LOOP Tackle Pro Staff. Scott’s talk will cover the techniques he uses to catch salmon, steelhead and bass in the Great Lakes tribs, as well as some of the streams he frequents. If you want to catch more steelhead or smallmouth bass this year in the great lakes tribs, you won’t want to miss this presentation. Unlike past presentations, we will not be starting with a fly tying demo. Instead, Scott’s presentation starts at 6:30 sharp, at the Big Flats Community Center, 476 Maple Street, Big Flats, NY 14814. Please note Sept’s date is shifted from our normal first Monday of the month timing due to Labor Day holiday.

The Week Ahead Weather: WBNG’s forecast is as follows:

Our weather remains a large body of high pressure over the St. Lawrence River. This will give us mostly sunny skies and mild temperatures. We will put a few more clouds in the forecast for Tuesday, but our string of beautiful weather will continue.

We’ll watch a storm working its way up the Atlantic Coast on Wednesday. This will give us more of a glancing blow. We’ll have clouds with a slight chance of scattered showers.

A cold front will move through Thursday giving us mostly cloudy skies with showers and thunderstorms. A quick shot of cool air will follow on Friday with highs in the 60s. We’ll see mostly sunny skies on Friday and into Saturday.

A warm front will approach on Sunday giving us clouds and showers. Temperatures will rebound into the 70s Sunday and Monday with partly cloudy skies on Monday.

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The week ahead in fly fishing: August 7, 2017

Posted in Carp, Fishing Conditions, Fishing Reports, Smallmouth Bass Fishing, Trout Fishing, Uncategorized, Writing with tags , , , on August 7, 2017 by stflyfisher

Summer seems to be finally here. The wet weather has eased somewhat, though we are still on a record-setting pace. Precipitation totals year to date are greater than 2016. But the rain events have been more sporadic with dry breaks between storms. This is helping drop river levels more quickly. It has also been cooler with daily highs holding in a tight range around the average for this time of year.

A recent hike with my dog along Choconut Creek in Vestal showed the impact of the significant flooding we have had this year. This creek flows from Pennylvania through Vestal and is a tributary to the Susquehanna. normally at this time of year it is low and clear – a trickle in some places. The upper reaches of the creek in PA and some of its tribs, such as “No Name Brook” hold native brookies. This year will be a good year for them!

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Major bank erosion on the Choconut Creek resulted in large tree downfalls in places. This picture, taken on 8/6/17, shows the Choconut flowing fairly full for summer.

Fly Shop Talk: A must-read for every fly fisher is the book, “A River Never Sleeps” by Roderick Haig-Brown. Bob Card, friend, fellow angler, and steelhead enthusiast, recommended the book to me one morning as we drove to the Salmon River. Card highly recommended it – a “couldn’t put it down” recommendation – and he was right. Buried deep in the book’s 352 pages, is a great essay titled, “Why Fish”. The 8 page essay begins with recounting a run-in Haig-Brown’s father – a big man and Army officer – had when a “little Cockney private” came running round a street corner smack into him. The collision prompted the larger man to ask of the smaller man, “why run?” The answer from the Cockney private: “to please myself”. Haig-Brown goes on to explore the many reasons we fish, but principally comes around to “enjoyment” as the main one. He goes on to remark that “fishing” started so many thousands of years ago when a tribe member took off in secrecy to fish long after a hunt had provided all the food the tribe needed.

Here’s the week ahead report:

Lakes: John Gaulke of Finger Lakes Angling Zone provides the following lake-by-lake report:

  • Cayuga Lake: Jigging is back to top-notch form. Occasional salmon, rainbow trout and brown trout are in the mix. I expect good largemouth bass fishing on Cayuga Lake.
  • Owasco Lake: Smallmouth bass fishing should be fair to good here. Lake trout fishing is fair to good.
  • Skaneateles Lake: Smallmouth bass fishing is good. Lake trout jigging is fair. Plenty of rockbass and some perch are around.
  • Seneca Lake: Fishing is fair for lakers – a couple fish is a good day.
  • Keuka Lake: Lake trout fishing should be fair to good here. Bass fishing has been good.
  • Otisco Lake: No recent reports from here.

Catskill Rivers:  

The Catskill Rivers have been in good shape and fishing well thanks to lots of rain and generally normal to cool temps. Following are some local fly shop reports:

  • The West Branch Angler is reporting that today is looking like a great day to be out with a slight drizzle since this morning and cloudy skies all day. The air temps are great and feel more like September than August at 57 currently which is great for the mainstem and East Branch. It looks like we won’t get too much rain today, probably 1/3″ total, not enough to bring it up too much. Currently the upper West Branch is 526 cfs at Stilesvill and 47 degrees. Down at Hale Eddy the flow is 611 cfs and 49 degrees. The East at Harvard is now 225 cfs and 56 degrees and downriver at Fishs’ Eddy the flow is 488 cfs and 62 degrees. The mainstem at Lordville is now 1,360 cfs and 62. A great temp going into August and would be a great place to be with the current overcast conditions. If you’ve had enough of the Sulphurs in the no kill try the main with some Blue Winged Olives or blind casting a large Isonychia in likely spots. We should have some good Olives on the West as well. The streamer fishing is also a great option for today with the low light and possibly a little stain from the rain.
  • The Delaware River Club is reporting that Oquaga Creek was pushing a lot of water into the West Branch over the weekend. The river was a chalky color rather than brown making it decent for throwing streamers. We found mixing up the streamer selection made the difference and finally settled on small, dark patterns. The water was clear enough for fish to rise and there were some eating in the evening when the olives hatched. The Upper West Branch above Oquaga was in fine shape and had the normal hatches of sulphurs and olives. We are coming off a cool night so the water temperatures are starting off a couple of degrees cooler this morning. Today looks good with partly cloudy skies and air temperatures in the low 70’s. Winds should stay in the single digits.
  • Ken Tutalo of Baxter House Fly Fishing Outfitters reports that fishing has been very good for both trout and smallmouth bass. With the cooler weather and mix of sunny and overcast conditions the fish and insects were very active. The steady supply of thunderstorms recently has kept certain stretches of the river running with turbidity. This has been in every local river. Our guests have had periods of exciting action with streamers. There have been a lot of trout on both the East and West branches that are more than willing to chase streamers pretty hard. The trick has been turning the chasers into takers. To accomplish this we have been fishing mostly smaller patterns. Buggers, Urchin Buggers, EP Baitfish and 4″ or smaller articulated patterns. These smaller offerings have been the best at sealing the deal.
    The cooler weather and cooler water has been great for the hatches and the overall activity of the trout. On my trips there were plenty of targets as trout have been feeding steadily to a mix of insects. I have been out both early and late recently and there is action. There is a huge amount of trico’s emerging every morning. As long as the water is slow enough for the trout to feed efficiently they have been on them. Yesterday we had a few nice pods of mature rainbows feeding steadily on these tiny duns. We also had very good nymph fishing during the AM portion of the day.
    The evening rise has been better simply because the insects are more widespread and varied. There are olives, sulfurs, isonychia, cahills, midges. The evening is also a bit easier since the fish have been set up feeding in faster water as well as the pools. Finding a good fish eating larger insects in fast water makes for a much easier presentation. On all of my recent trips I have been able to locate solitary trout in riffles that were blowing up on the occasional Isonychia or cahill that floats by. Most of these trout have found their way to the net. The forecast for the week has daytime highs in the mid 70’s so conditions should be stable for a while. Now is a great time to take a crack at some mid summer dry fly fishing. We have been hitting the bass waters hard and with a good reason. The bass action is hot and it is all surface action! These great game fish have good water temperatures to be super active now. Now is the time where they will feed heavy in anticipation of cooling waters later in the fall. On all of our recent trips we have been able to fish the POPPER from start to finish. The action is good all day but it increases in intensity as the day progresses. On my recent trips the late afternoon has produced non stop action. On all of our recent trips the catch rate has been up. 20 + fish on the fly rod is common now and we have been taking some nice fish. Yesterday we had lots of 14″ to 18″ bass come to net. Right now we are fishing size #2 poppers on 5 weight rods. This combination is perfectly matched for Delaware Smallies. The best action is on brightly colored poppers. Orange has been hot.

Hatching:

Slate Drake #12-2xl – 12 – Isonychia bicolor
Sulphur – #16 – 20 – Ephemerella dorothea
Light Cahill – #14 – Ephemerella rotunda
Light Cahill – #14 – Ephemerella invaria
Little BWO – #22 – 26- Pseudocloeon sp.
Blue Wing Olives – #18 – Baetis sp.
Little Tan Sedge – #16 – 18 – Glossosoma sp.
Green Caddis – #16 – Ryacophilia sp.
Tan Caddis #16 – 18 – Hydropsyche spp.

Local creeks: Local creek flows remain in a yo-yo pattern with the variable weather we’ve had. They will continue to rise and fall with the sporadic storms. To many anglers, these high water events are an excuse to fish elsewhere, but to creek-savvy anglers, change is a good word. Fishing after a high water event can be difficult but highly rewarding. Nymphing with big “nymphs” like cranefly larvae, worms, crayfish and hellgrammite patterns, can lure big browns waiting for the washdown of all sorts of food forms. Large streamers fished dead drift and on the swing can also take high water trout.

Warmwater Rivers: The warmwater rivers were on the way down through this past Thursday, but Friday’s rains proved to be a spoiler for the weekend. Flows are again dropping and with a string of dry days in the forecast, should provide good fishing by late in the week. Some anglers have managed to produce by capitalizing on days when flows have dropped. Topwater and subsurface flies will work, with topwater being the choice for when the light is low. Pay attention to the USGS water gages for now.

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The Tioughnioga River was at a nice fishing level up until Friday, when rain had put it back on the rise. This river, along with the Chenango and Chemung, should give anglers hunting for bronze some good fishing access in the week ahead.

Ponds: Ponds remain a great place to fly fish right now. Largemouth bass are in summer mode and are more than willing to take a fly. As the water heats up and the sun is bright, it’s now time to shift fishing to early or late, but in the case of sunfish, any time of the day will work. Fishing the edges of weeds and around structure with wooly buggers, big nymphs, and streamers should remain effective, but topwater will also be effective especially in the early morning and towards evening.

Fly Fishing Events / Activities: It won’t be long until local fly fishing clubs begin their fall programs. Here is one update on a fishing tripped planned by the TTFR chapter of FFI:

  • Chemung River Fishing Trip Moved Again to August 26 – Due to the water conditions on July 22, the Chemung River float fishing trip was postponed. The trip has been rescheduled for August 26th and is again open to all TTFR International Federation of Fly Fishers members and visitors. We need to know before August 23 if you plan to come. This is usually a productive and popular float for bass and carp. Plan to meet at 9 am in Corning NY at the Cohocton Street launch (behind Pressware) and float 7 miles to Botchers Landing. We will grill out a shoreline lunch halfway through the trip. We expect to be off the river around 5 pm. For lunch, the club will grill burgers with all the fixings. The club will have bottled water and some drinks. There will be plates, napkins, plastic silverware, etc. If you want to bring food to share, that would be great. Chips, cookies, wine, beer, or whatever else you would like. Fishing is for smallmouth bass and carp. An 8 weight outfit is recommended with a floating and maybe an 8 weight with a sink tip line. If you don’t have an 8 wt – bring what you have. If you need to borrow a rod, the club has 6 weights. I think you will find a 7 or 8 is perfect for the size of flies and longer casts. I suggest bringing clouser minnows, foxee minnows, suspendors, twistertails and gurglers. Big wooly buggers are a good bet. Felt sole wading boots are recommended. The rocks are very slippery – so best to avoid tennis shoes or Tevas. Bring a raincoat. You will need a canoe, kayak, driftboat, or inflatable pontoon for the float. If you will have space and would be willing to take along another person in your boat – that would be great! If you would like to come, but do not have a watercraft – we will try to hook you up with someone who has an open spot or you can rent a canoe ($45) or a single person kayak (35$/day). Please let us know your needs and we will make the arrangements with the rental company. Life jackets, paddles, etc will be provided if you rent. Please contact Matt Towner 607-542-0285 ( townermj@corning.com) before August 23 to let us know you plan to attend. You may also contact Kirk Klingensmith ( kklingensmi@stny.rr.com ), but he is out of town until 8/18, so a response may be delayed until he returns. In the case of bad water conditions or severe weather, we will notify folks who are coming by e-mail or cellphone.

The Week Ahead Weather: WBNG’s forecast is as follows:

After a relatively dry weekend, there’s a chance of showers for Monday with temperatures in the low-70s. High pressure then pushes in Tuesday through Thursday afternoon. Temperatures crest in the mid- to upper-70s under sunny skies, before the chance of showers returns late on Thursday and persists through Friday. At this time, Saturday looks to be a mainly quiet day, as a pocket of high pressure moves north through Ontario, perhaps keeping our atmosphere stable enough to prevent any convective rain or storms.

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