Archive for musky

The week ahead in fly fishing: October 3rd

Posted in Fishing Conditions, Fishing Reports, Smallmouth Bass Fishing, Trout Fishing, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on October 2, 2016 by stflyfisher

The colors are beginning to fill in the hillsides. And the silver maples that line the river are turning to gold. This upcoming week will only get brighter in terms of the colors as we move towards peak. Meanwhile, the rains over late last week and the weekend served to at least add a little to our woefully deprived creeks. The fact that the Susquehanna bumped up a bit is a good sign but we still have a ways to go.

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This week we wade into October and the great fall fly fishing transition. Get out and wet a line now while conditions are still good for a broad swath of the species covered here. Remember too that the general trout season closes in two weeks, so the trouty types should get their fill while the getting’s good.

Fly shop talk: Many of us start off fishing with some idea on where we want to go and what we want to do. We may arrange to fish a river or stream with a friend or we may decide to fish alone. Whatever the case, how many of us have a well thought-out plan? Especially for those who work, time is precious, and time on the water even more so. Our fly fishing hours are precious, after all, and any fly fishing outing deserves a plan of some sort. I like to develop a Plan A and a back-up plan, Plan B. Plan A is developed after checking the weather, the USGS water gauge for the areas of interest, and fishing reports. Timing, access and egress, stretches of the water to be fished are all reviewed in advance. Plan B develops along the same lines but is a back-up plan with a twist. I always have a Plan B whenever I go fishing thanks to Mike Hogue, a well-known Ithaca area angler and owner of Badger Creek Fly Tying. Mike writes a lot about “exploring” fishing trips, and so my Plan B is always fishing new water. That way, if Plan A is a bust because the fish aren’t cooperating, I always end the day on a high note by feeling like I made the best of it and took time to explore new water. One never knows when new water ends up being favorite water, too.

Here’s the fly fishing report for the week ahead:

Great Lakes / Finger Lakes tributaries:  The DEC recently announced that it’s closed the Lower Fly Zone to fishing until further notice. This announcement came in conjunction with a cut in the release for the river. The release cut was apparently made to conserve reservoir water in case the current drought persists. It’s being done to protect the spawning salmon, according to the DEC. It’s anyone’s guess what impact this lower release will have on the salmon run. Some believe lower water hinders the run, while others believe the salmon will run to spawn, regardless of conditions. The Douglaston Salmon Run is reporting that there’s currently a very light trickle of fish into lower part of the river (“3s and 4s”), and throughout the DSR section of the river. Anglers are catching fish but the best action seems to be in the early hours of the morning. Whitakers Sport’s Store and Motel is reporting that the fish have adjusted to the low water and have mostly been holding in the deep holes during the day and moving from hole to hole at night. With increased fishing pressure the best action has been first thing in the morning and later in the day once the crowd thins out. Anglers who have had the most success stayed in and around the deeper holes.  The low water pushes the fish to the deeper holes because it’s the only place they can hide and have cover. Because these areas can be crowded and the water is low and clear, the fish may be skittish or more line shy then normal. Using fluorocarbon, adjusting leader/tippet, and using more natural colors instead of big bright flashy stuff can all make a difference under the current conditions.

Catskill rivers: The West Branch Angler reports that the area got some rain this weekend but not enough to make much difference to the river but they did increase the release overnight bringing Stilesville up to 642 cfs and just under 800 cfs at Hale Eddy. The river still has a decent amount of stain, especially on the West due to the release this time of year.  We’ve had rain the last few days and the streamer fishing has been decent for most. We have had some Blue Winged Olives and Cahills but the dry fly fishing has been spotty at best overall.  The temps are in the low to mid 50’s on the West and upper 50’s on the mainstem.  The water is a bit cleaner down on the mainstem as the silt drops as you head down river.  Nymph fishermen are doing well now that the rivers aren’t too high due to releases. The Delaware River Club reports that the recent release from Cannonsville Reservoir is 696 cfs. This leaves the West Branch is decent shape for both floating and wading. The Mainstem will rise a little but will also remain good for wading and floating. The East Branch temperatures are decent and the river is in good shape for wading. We have been hearing some reports of fish being landed on the lower stretches. Wet flies and caddis pupa have been working for the nymphers while small dark streamers are taking some fish. We are seeing some isonychias in spots. They still seem a little spotty but some people are finding decent numbers of them.  Most of the dry fly action has been on small olives in the afternoon.

 

Here’s what’s hatching:

  • Slate Drake – 12-2xl- 14- Isonychia bicolor
    Sulphur – #16-20 – E dorothea
    Light Cahill – #14 – 16 –
    Tiny Blue Winged Olive – #22 – 26 – Psuedocloeon spp.
    Blue Winged Olive – #18 – 20 – E. lata
    Light Blue Winged Olive – #16 – 20 E. attenuatta
    Tan Caddis – #16 – 20 – Hydropsyche spp.
    Dark Brachycentrus sp. – #14 – 18 – Dark Grannom
    Little Black Caddis #18 – 20 – Chimarra sp.
    Blue Winged Olives #16 – 18 – Baetis vagans (updated name: Baetis tricaudatus)

Local streams and creeks: Creeks picked up a little water with recent rains but not much. Cooler nights are helping the warm water but it’s still best to give the creek trout a break for now.

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

  • Cayuga Lake:  Fishing for lake trout is fair to good. Bonus salmonids are occasionally in the mix.  Crews are replacing the intake screen at AES.  There are a couple barges out there.
  • Owasco Lake:  The water level here is low but launchable without problems thus far. Lake trout action here has been fair to good.  Bonus bass, rainbow and brown trout are around. Smallmouth bass fishing should be good.  Perch and pike fishing should pick up.
  • Seneca Lake:  The water level here is very low.  Launching could be a problem in areas. Expect pike fishing to pick up as the lake cools.  The southern third of the lake should offer some fair fishing for browns, lake trout and salmon, but it’s still a crapshoot.
  • Skaneateles Lake:  Smallmouth bass fishing is fair to good.  Bonus perch are around as well as the usual rockbass.  The water level is very low here but launching at the State Launch is not a problem.

Ponds: As we move into cooler weather, fishing will be best in the late afternoon and early evening when water temps are highest. Bass and sunfish will remain active and willing partners to fly fishermen under current conditions. Topwater is a good choice and don’t forget the damselfly, grasshopper, cricket, and beetle patterns. Poppers will work well along weed edges, structure, and lilly pads.

Warmwater rivers: The warmwater rivers were dropping to new lows but got a little recharge due to the recent rains. Still, they are easily waded, making for great fly fishing. These river levels are allowing a lot of normally out-of-reach pools, runs, and riffles to be accessed safely.

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The Susquehanna, like all of the warmwater rivers, is seen here “baring its shoulders”, evidence of a very dry year…

The smallmouth bite remains excellent thanks to cooling water temps which seem to be strengthening the fall bite. Water temps are as low as the mid 60’s.

The rivers are loaded with bait and that bait is getting bigger as fall progresses. Water clarity is excellent. Early morning and late afternoon to sun-down are the best times to hit the rivers. Focus on the pool tailouts where smallmouth often set up to chase bait in the shallower water. Key in on structure and in particular, rocks, downfalls, and weedbeds. Streamers are the best bet, however, poppers can also be good, particularly in pools, slower water, and eddies. And remember on bluebird sky days where the sun is really bright, look for shady areas to fish as bass are light-shy.

In addition to smallmouth bass, be prepared to encounter a variety of other warmwater species. Fishing streamers and large nymphs in the deeper pools and around structure can often times drum up a good mix of river species. Channel catfish, walleye, northern pike, carp, fallfish, and musky can all be caught on any given day on the warmwater rivers.

Fly fishing events: Here’s a summary of what’s in store for the week:

  • The BC Flyfishers chapter of IFFF is auctioning their prized 100th Anniversary Cortland Fly Rod. Read more about this unique and valuable fly rod, here.
  • The Twin Tier Five Rivers chapter of IFFF will hold its next general meeting on October 3rd. Former Cornell professor Dr. Tony Ingraffrea will be visiting to talk about fishing Alaska. While some know Dr. Ingraffrea from his talks about fracking and the Marcellus Shale, he also has had the pleasure of fishing in Alaska many times, and on Oct. 3rd he plans to discuss those many trips, along with tips for making your own trip of a lifetime to the last frontier the best it can be.

The week ahead weather: WBNG’s week-ahead weather forecast is as follows:

According to WBNG’s Nathan Hopper, the cut-off low pressure system is still hanging around the Great Lakes just as we thought it would because it’s separated from the main jet stream. We don’t expect it to move very far from that area, which means that clouds and showers will be possible up through Monday here in the Southern Tier. High pressure then looks to kick that cut-off low back into the main jet stream and move it toward the northeast early in the week. Once that high pressure takes hold in the central plains, we’ll start to see a clearing trend and drier conditions will work their way in by mid-week. Thursday will be sunny under that high pressure, and temperatures will be comfortable as they work toward the 70-degree mark. 70 degrees is about 8 degrees above average for the first week in October. The next weather-maker looks to come in Friday and affect Saturday, as well, with a 30% chance of showers on Saturday.

 

 

Bob’s Most Excellent Kayak Adventure

Posted in Fishing Reports, Smallmouth Bass Fishing, Uncategorized, Writing with tags , , , on October 11, 2014 by stflyfisher

Loyal readers of this blog will likely remember a post I did way back in September 2009, entitled “Kelly’s Excellent Canoe Adventure”. Kelly was a coworker who owned an old aluminum Grumman canoe and he happened to live just a short portage from the Susquehanna River in Owego. That trip was a good one for two reasons: Kelly paddled me around while I fished, a luxury to any fisherman, and 2) the fishing was very good. But since that enjoyable trip, most of my fly fishing has been afoot – wading the muddy and rocky shoals, riffles, and pools. While I’ve certainly caught a good number of smallmouth bass over the last years on the hoof, I’ve always wondered – what’s it like in the back country – could there be places where the bass are bigger and less visited by feather-throwing types?

I set the goal to get out and float the river again the following year after my first Susquehanna float. But the trip somehow eluded me. I changed jobs in 2011, lamented high water for two years and a lack of time in others. So back when the big river was still locked in ice, I developed more resolve towards this goal. And with the river flowing low and clear and the weather splendid, I found one recent weekend to be the perfect opportunity. My daughter and son were home from work and college and could assist in doing shuttle service to make sure I had the reliable kayka-conveying Subaru Outback in place for me at the boat launch in Owego. All I had to do was gear up and get in the water at the NY DEC fishing access in Apalachin.

The trip would take me down-river past a favorite honey-hole and beyond to an area along the Hiawatha Links Golf Course where google satellite imagery showed me some very bassy looking water. I had never fished this area. The call was too great to ignore and somewhat pathetic Salmon River reports just added to the appeal.

Come one Friday evening I hauled my kayak – an Old Town Loon – from its pond-side lair. I was able to get it on the roof rack and tie it down single-handed. The next morning I was off to the access, with a stop thrown in for a Sausage Egg McMuffin and hash brown. Us river rats have to eat, don’t you know!

The river was fogged in as expected with the air temps in the mid-40’s. I had my kayak ready to go at the access and met another angler getting ready to launch his river boat to fish the long pool in front of us. We talked fishing and shared stories, one of mine being the infamous meet-up with a musky covered in this blog some time ago.

The Old Town Loon ready for action...

The Old Town Loon ready for action…

I launched my kayak and fished the tail of the pool, then slid down the riffle following the tailout. In just a few minutes I pulled ashore at one of my favorite pools on the river. Most recently, bass fishing has not been as good as it normally is, but I had to at least wet a line just in case. Between wet wading and enduring the chilly morning air temps and fog, I was close to shivering after about 20 minutes and without any action, decided to get back in my kayak and enter into the unknown waters beyond.

A foggy cool morning on the Susquehanna...

A foggy morning on the Susquehanna…

As I paddled downriver, the fog began to burn off, the air temps warmed, and the colors of fall came out. With a little bit of sun poking through, I noticed the northern bank of the river was still dark with shade. A downfall piqued my interest, so I tied on an olive soft hackle bugger that I tie with a little added schmaltz (gold flash and some long rubber legs) and that has served me well this year.

This downfall caught my attention as I drifted down river, and I'm glad I fished it thoroughly...

This downfall caught my attention as I drifted down the river, and I’m glad I fished it thoroughly…

I cast upstream of the downfall and as I drifted past, stripped my fly down and across its edge. I only needed to do this twice before setting the hook on a nice fish. It immediately bolted downstream, jumped high and mighty, and I was all smallie smiles…

The result of observation, some skill, and a little luck - a beautiful Susquehanna smallmouth...

The result of observation, some skill, and a little luck – a beautiful Susquehanna smallmouth, all browned up…

The north shore of the river hosted a number of such places – areas where debris piled up during floods, downfalls, eddies – and all of them were shaded from the strong morning sun.

Another nice bass that fell to an olive soft hackle bugger...

Another nice bass that fell to an olive soft hackle bugger…

I missed a few strikes and even spooked some bass, witnessing the telltale “puff of river bottom” as I glided down the river about 20 feet off the shoreline.

I passed a few river braids on my voyage that were inviting but fishless…

I explored this river braid but did not find any fish. It re-entered the river at a big bend and deep pool.

I explored this river braid but did not find any fish. It re-entered the river at a big bend and deep pool.

And then I came to a wide riffle and a river bend where the water slowed and the bottom disappeared. A river braid re-entered the river just above the the bend, but what looked very fishy was the line of thick weeds that formed on a bar at the transition point. I fished the edge of these weeds and was soon rewarded with a take and another nice bass…

Another nice bass that liked to hang near the weeds...

Classic smallmouth camo. This bass liked to hang near the weeds…

I continued to paddle, drift and fish as I passed through the bend. In some ways it was difficult fishing as there was so much good water to explore but only so much time to fish and make the long paddle down to Owego. There was also the fall colors and a rich selection of wildlife on display, including blue herons, bitterns, mink, osprey…

Nothing better than the Susquehanna River in autumn wear...

Nothing better than the Susquehanna River in autumn wear…

After fishing the big bend, I came upon a stretch of river that was a lot more like the St Lawrence River than what I’m used to on the Susquehanna. The northern shore was rocky and in places large boulders jutted from the river. As I paddled closer, the bottom came into view, strewn with large rocks in places. Depths varied – in some places the waters were shallow – in others the bottom would fall away. After recon of a 50 yard stretch, I paddled back to the head of this stretch, rigged one of my own crayfish flies, and started casting. It didn’t take long to catch a few nice smallmouth bass, with smaller ones mixed in as well. As I suspected, this was great holding water for smallies. But it was holding water for other predators, which I soon learned.

This stretch of rocky shoreline featured just the kind of habitat smallmouth bass love, along with some bigger toothy predators...

This stretch of rocky shoreline featured just the kind of habitat smallmouth bass love, along with some bigger toothy predators…

I hooked a small bass that, as most bass do, went airborne and then bulldogged down in the 6 foot depths beneath my kayak. As this bass ran around, I saw a golden brown flash come out of nowhere and snatch my fish. My line tightened immediately, my rod bent over double and what had to be a big musky slowly towed me up-river.

I quickly realized that if I was to land this fish, I better get to the other side of the river where the slope to shore was gradual and made for easy wading. I used my free hand to slowly paddle across and downriver as the musky swam upriver. I gradually made my way to shallow water and, keeping rod high and steady pressure on the fish, beached the kayak and struggled to my feet. I then got parallel to the fish, put sideways pressure on it, and tried my best to work the fish in to me, knowing it was probably not hooked.

I could only hope the musky would hold on long enough for me to get close and grab it (carefully) under its gills. But as in my first encounter with such a fish, it was not to be. I could see the beginnings of the sink tip section of my fly line when the fish had finally had enough and released the fish. Remarkably, this bass looked virtually untouched, save one or two puncture marks. I could only surmise that the musky had fully engulfed the bass in its mouth for the bass to escape major tooth wounds. I actually released the bass and it swam away. Also amazing was the fact that my 1X tippet held up to a mouth of teeth known for line-parting effectiveness.

The luckiest bass in the world...

The luckiest bass in the world…

After leaving two great fish to fight another day, I took a moment to soak it all in, trembling a bit from a great battle. The musky had twice taken me down to my backing and bucked my fly rod with massive head shakes for over 20 minutes.

I decided then that it was time to call it quits. Sometimes it’s good to end on a high note, stopping at the end of a crescendo. This would certainly be one of those days even though I never landed “the fish of a thousand casts”. But also, as afternoon advanced into evening, it was still a long way to Owego. Effortless, so effortless, that long paddle home seemed…

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Just one last cast…

Posted in Fishing Conditions, Fishing Reports, Smallmouth Bass Fishing with tags , , on September 22, 2010 by stflyfisher

We’ve all thought, said, or murmured the phrase a million times: “just one more cast”. This mantra of anglers comes at the eleventh hour of a day on the water when we know we have to get back home for myriad reasons and the fishing has not been great, but we can still feel some luck out there. So we make that last cast and most times the results are no different than the 100 casts before, but every once in a while we are pleasantly surprised…

Such was the case for me this past Sunday evening. I only had time for 2 hours for fishing, so I hit a local favorite pool on the Susquehanna River for smallmouth bass. I rigged up with a sink-tip line and 1X leader and tied on a Murray’s Dying Minnow streamer. Casting at the tail of the pool and then across the riffle adjacent to it produced 2 decent bass and some fallfish, but with the cool water and tons of baitfish about, I was hoping for the type of action I’d recently enjoyed on the Chenango River.

I experimented with different patterns of streamers and fished some other sections of the river to no avail. Before hiking back to the car I returned to the pool tail-out for one last cast and was rewarded with a solid thump – the kind that catches you off-guard and puts a “yeah!” in the air. After setting the hook, a bass thrashed to the surface. At first it felt like a smallish fish. It dove and held briefly in the current but then about-faced downstream with supercharged vigor for a fish its size. I put the fish on the reel, thinking I might have underestimated this bass. With fly rod bowed nicely, I thought, “maybe this was one of those bass that suddenly grows in size when it feels the hook?”

I applied some drag, put the brakes to the downstream charge, and steered the fish with sideways pressure out of the riffle and into a patch of slower water, but even out of the current this “bass” was acting, well, very “un-bassy”. Missing were the acrobatics, the darting and diving, and the bulldogging for deeper water. The fight was plain old “down and dirty” – almost walleye-like – and I started second-guessing what might be at the end of my line. More pressure to raise the fish met more throbbing resistance. Finally, a very long green form emerged, like a submarine surfacing for air…

Musky bait on the fly...

The fish came up, porpoised and dove again, and as it did I saw the telltale markings of a musky, and that put a “holy crap” in the air, stirred renewed enthusiasm in my heart and put prayers on my lips of “dear Jesus, if only he’ll hold”. Alas, just as fast as I thought and prayed he was gone, the heavy bend to the rod lightened, and a very tired and limp smallmouth of about 12 inches came to hand. This poor guy had taken my fly with gusto, only to be taken himself with tooth and fang. Talk about a bad day: caught on both ends, no less! I took a quick picture but the pic does not do justice to what the jaws of our local underwater version of cujo can do to scaled and muscled flesh. Barely visible in the pic is a slash mark behind the pectoral fin that sliced open the bass halfway up his side. Other tooth marks were there as well – like bullet holes in the side of Bonnie and Clyde’s getaway car. This poor guy looked like he’d been dipped into a garbage disposal.

Remarkably, the bass was still alive, so I tried to revive him in the current a good while. Before long he was shaking his head and I let him swim off, a piscatorial version of Rocky back for another round. Friends of PETA might chide me for my act of mercy, but I thought any bass that could survive such an attack deserves a chance. Of course if he did not fully regain strength, there was that musky waiting back in the pool and a bald eagle and osprey that regularly patrolled the river.

After that last cast I left the river with a new-found longing for a fly box arsenal of long leggy-looking musky flies…

This is no wooly bugger...

I thought about that new 9 foot 8 weight JP Ross rod I’ve been reserving for the upcoming Finger Lake trib runs, the heavy mono I have for a tooth-proof leader and a long-handled boat net I use in the salt. Then the lyrics of the Jimi Hendrix song, “Foxy Lady”, blasted away in my head…

“I’m coming to get you….”

Tight lines…