Sunday, June 17, 2018

Happy Father's Day

Happy Father's Day to all of the dads out there!

I had an early Father's Day last weekend with my son, Hunt, who came down from Boston to fish with me and some of our friends in the Catskills.  Hunt worked until 5 before driving down so Friday evening I fished with Steve on the East Branch of the Delaware River.  It was a beautiful time to be on the river with barely a breeze, warm at first, and clear.  As the dusk settled in, the air cooled and sulphurs, isonychias, gray fox, green drakes and caddis hatched sporadically but the fish didn't cooperate beyond a bunch of one-and-done rises that were little more than a tease.  When the sun dropped below the mountains, the sky above us filled with march brown spinners.  The spinners hadn't dropped to the water by the time darkness set in so we packed it in and went to get some dinner and get back to the cabin before Hunt arrived.

(Click image to enlarge)
Here's a march brown spinners that greeted us under the cabin lights.  Check out the length of those tails! 


We were also greeted by this giant cream pattern-wing sedge - Hydatophylax sp. These are very large caddisflies - this one is a good 1.5 inches long! Over 2" including antennae.


Saturday we fished in the morning hitting many pools on the Beaverkill, but the bugs were sparse and with that very few fish were rising.  Being June, we had no interest in fishing nymphs so by early afternoon we called it quits and went back to the cabin to tie some flies for the evening and catch up with Hunt on the last few months in Boston and his new job.

Saturday evening the bugs really didn't get going until dusk, but when they did the fish responded and we took a few nice browns on Iris Caddis fished in the film.

On Sunday morning we fished a bugless Beavekill.  We hit a bunch of pools and all were pretty quiet.  We saw very few anglers as a result.  In the early afternoon though, we noticed a couple of fish working right off the far bank of a wide, flat pool and Hunt decided to see if he could reach them with a biot body/cdc wing cornuta spinner.  He worked hard, making 50' + casts, and over about 20 minutes or so managed to get a couple of soft takes but no hook ups.  Determined, he changed position to get above the fish a little more and after a short while he got a solid hook up that he brought to net to finish up a great weekend.


The only thing missing were Hunt's two sisters, Megan and Leigh, who are always with us in spirit when we fish.

Hunt, Leigh, Captain, Michael and Megan
Have a great day everyone!

Monday, June 4, 2018

It's Green Drake Time

It's hatch time all over the Northeast and our buddy Vinnie got in on the action Saturday catching a couple of nice browns on a green drake emerger while fishing the Upper Delaware River system.


Sharpen your hooks.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

It's Dry Fly Time!

Sorry for the lack of posts here in recent weeks - lots of working, fishing, social crap and tying, but not much time for blogging, although I'd rather be writing than doing the social thing. Not that I don't like people, I just prefer them in small quantities and doses.  And besides, I would much rather listen to the chatter of the birds mixed with the sounds of  the river with no one in sight.   

Locally, things have warmed up nicely and the rivers are at good levels and clear.  The sulphurs have been hatching great this past week with evening spinner falls that rival those of memories past.  There are also good numbers of caddis about, including the egg laying grannoms mixed in with the sulphurs at dusk. Most of the sulphurs are a size 16 and and 18, with some of the larger size 14 mixed in. Here's a great shot of an orange sulphur or pink lady, Epeorus vitreus taken by our friend John Collins, aka Electric Tyer.  This fly looks very much like the pink cahill (Stenacron interpunctatum) that also hatches around now, both a size #14, but with the cahill the fore-wings have distinct dark markings/mottling along the forward edge, and the wings have a pale creamy-yellow cast to them.  For the angler, the pink cahill covers both flies nicely.  


During the day the sulphur nymphs are very active before they begin hatching and fishing a pheasant tail nymph or sulphur nymph can be very productive before hatching begins typically in the early evening.  With all the different caddis hatching right now, an iris caddis fished wet during the day, and as a dry in the film in the evening if nothing else is hatching, can also be very effective.  This fly has become one of my most productive flies over the years fished wet or dry.  I highly recommend it.

Up in the Catskills and in the Poconos, the rivers are fairly high but clear with all kinds of bugs hatching.  The march browns are showing along with the ever present blue-winged olives, particularly on overcast or showery days.  The little dark grannoms (#18) and the lighter of the species, the apple caddis, have been hatching well.  Lighter tan caddis (#14-16) are also about in good numbers.  In the evening be prepared with some egg laying caddis near dusk as some evenings the fish will take them over all the other bugs floating over their heads. AND if you are on any river in the region make sure you have rusty spinners in #12-16 as there have been lots of them showing on the calmer evenings.

The walk to a lesser known pool in the Catskills in a soft rain.

Sharpen your hooks!

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Last weekend we went up to the Catskills again and fished the Beaverkill River both Friday and Saturday before a steady cold rain chased us off the river.  The fishing was good and the hatches mixed; at times there were a half dozen different insects hatching.  When I say the fishing was good, it wasn't easy, just rewarding with some good sized fish brought to net.  On Friday there were Hendricksons, and Blue Quills, Early Brown Stoneflies, Dark Grannoms and Apple Caddis hatching.  Like the previous weekend, it was almost like the trout took turns rising, and I rarely had more than two fish rising within casting distance.  The rises varied; some were splashy and quick (taking caddis), while others were very subtle, barely breaking the surface (taking emergers).  I took a few nice fish on my Apple Caddis emerger, and a few on a Hendrickson Sparkle Dun.

Matt's Apple Caddis Emerger


The Apple Caddis emerger can be fished wet swinging it as you would a soft hackle fly, or as an emerger/dry right in the surface film.  I took the brown above fishing it in the film over a quick, splashy rise in a seam along a fast riffle.

On Saturday we woke to light rain and chilly air temperatures.  After tying a bunch of flies and then having breakfast with the others, I headed back to the river about midday, while the other guys stayed back in the comfort of the cabin.  Hardly anyone was on the river as a steady rain fell.  When I got to the river bank after gearing up I walked up to the head of pool where I had the river all to myself. I few Blue-winged Olives were hatching and after my eyes adjusted to the light and conditions on the water, I saw fish rise above me as I waded out from the bank.  I tied on a BWO sparkle emerger and after a couple of casts over the fish it took the fly.  I landed the nice brown and released it quickly.

Within a short while, depsite the steady rain and chill, there were Hendricksons, and Blue Quills, Early Brown Stoneflies, Dark Grannoms, Quill Gordons and Blue-winged Olives hatching.  The Olives were the most abundant, but after observing different rising fish, it was evident the fish were taking whatever insect happened to drift over them when they were ready to eat.  My olive emerger was soaked so I tied on a Hendrickson sparkle dun and when I looked up I saw a head-dorsal-tail rise of a nice fish about 30 feet out in a slick.  I made a couple of tests casts and once I saw my fly was riding as I wanted, I made a cast to the top of the slick.  The fish rose, I set, and it took my line half way across the river in a flash.  I then got control and gained line on the beast before it made a shorter run.  We did this dance a few more times before I netted the fish you see below.


I managed to bring an other ten fish or so to net before I was thoroughly soaked and my hands stiff from the cold.  The rain was falling harder by now and I had a good day on the water, so i called it quits.  When I got back to the cabin the others had already left, so I packed my things and headed home knowing the forecast called for rain the rest of the day.

Sharpen your hooks.            

Monday, May 7, 2018

First Trip of the Year to the Catskills

This past Friday afternoon my friend Paul and I headed up to Roscoe, NY to meet up with a few other friends and get in a few days fishing the Hendrickson hatch.   When we got to the Beaverkill River late in the afternoon the bugs had stopped hatching and the wind was kicking up.  The guys that got there earlier said the hatch was good but the fish weren't looking up.  With the wind blowing fairly hard and nothing on the water, we wound up hanging out at the truck with the others catching up and sipping a beer.  We never got geared up; the water surface was rippled from the wind and after an hour or so we didn't see a single bug or rise.  By the time we got dinner it was just getting dark and a wicked storm moved through with high winds blowing the rain sideways. 

Beaverkill cut stone culvert along the old railroad bed.
Saturday morning arrived with bright sun and cool temperatures. A few high clouds drifted by casting shadows that moved across the tops of the bare trees lining the hillsides along the river corridor. After a hearty breakfast, the 8 of us split up; a few guys took the drift boat to float the Delaware, two went to wade fish the West Branch of the Delaware; and Paul, Steve and I stayed on the Beaverkill hoping to hit the Hendrickson hatch that afternoon. 

As the day turned from morning to afternoon, the bright sun was muted by high thin clouds and the air warmed to comfortable temps.  Around 2:00 PM a few olives and blue quills hatched but the trout laid low, ignoring the surface and ignoring our subsurface efforts as well.  I did hook a nice rainbow on a baetis nymph, but after a brief tussle my tippet separated from the my leader setting the fish free except for the fly in its jaw and a thin wisp of monofilament that hopefully with come free in short order.

Around 2:30 or so the hendricksons and red quills started to hatch along with blue quills, dark grannoms and a few quill gordons.  By 3:00 there were quite a few flies on the water which brought a few trout up, but surprisingly most came up only once and then didn't show again.  This went on for a while so finding a target wasn't easy.  Then like someone flipped a switch just after 4:00, quite a few fish began rising steadily.  I picked out what appeared to be a nice brown that was taking hendricksons in a slick alongside a large submerged boulder and after a few casts got a good drift and the fish sipped in the hendrickson sparkle dun like it was one of the naturals.  The hook-jawed brown fought hard and didn't come to net without a few good runs that made my drag sing.
         

The hatch continued and the fish kept rising.  Over the 45 minutes I took another five browns on the same hendrickson sparkle dun that took the first one.  One of the fish was a little bigger than the first while the others were around 14 inches or so.  And then just as quickly as the feeding started it stopped just as suddenly a little before five o'clock.  The insect kept hatching, but the fish made other plans leaving us to scratch our heads wondering what just happened.  The weather didn't change, the river didn't appear to have changed, but something made the fish change their behavior despite plenty of food in and on the water.  We stayed on the water for another hour hoping things would turn back on, but that wasn't to be so we packed it in and got some dinner. 

Here's a hendrickson sparkle dun before and after the fish got done with it.       


There's nothing like a well-chewed fly.


Sharpen your hooks!

Friday, April 27, 2018

The Day Spring Arrived

Sunday morning arrived like no other day we have had so far this year.  It was warm, the cloudless sky was deep blue, and the air had the unmistakable smell of fresh blooms and trees beginning to bud. Daffodils, tulips and forsythia were in full flower while robins, cardinals and other songbirds brought their chorus to the proceedings.  Even better, we met my son Matt and his girlfriend Kelly for brunch and spent a couple of hours catching up and hearing about his new life in Boston.  It was a wonderful time, too short, but they had a long drive home and he had to go to work at 2:00AM.


Fast forward to mid-afternoon Sunday.  When I got to the river around 3:00 PM, the sun was bright through a cloudless sky and a light breeze cooled the warm air.  The water was near perfect; clear with a strong spring flow, and in the low 50's F.   I was a little hyped up after seeing all those hendricksons the day before on the river, and the kid in me was enjoying every moment.  After rigging up my rod, I sat on the bank and watched the water for bugs and risers while I peeled and ate a clementine.  The river was quiet, but it was still early, and my expectations were high.

After a short while of watching and not seeing anything on the water, I tied a #12 soft hackle pheasant tail to the end of my 5X tippet and added some shot about 8" above the fly - this is my go-to  hendrickson emerger.  I waded out and began dead drifting the fly up and across before letting it swing below me in the current so it would rise to the surface as the line tightened.  After a few casts I stepped upstream some and cast above a seam on the far side of the river.  It took a few drifts to get the fly to drop into the pocket, but once I figured it out I took two stocked rainbows a few minutes apart.  One of the fish I thought was a koi at first, but it was this mutant instead.


As the time passed I began to notice some hendricksons drifting my me as well as some dark grannoms in the air.  Nothing rose to the hendricksons despite what seemed to me to be perfect conditions.  The insects were riding the water surface for long periods before taking flight giving the trout plenty of time to rise up and sip the in.  I didn't see a single rise though in the first hour or so of fishing.

Experience has taught me that often when flies are the water and trout are not rising to them in one stretch, another stretch may have actively feeding fish.  So I climbed the bank and walked upstream through the brush and over dead falls to a couple of pools that I thought might have some action.  When I got to the edge of the water I stood and watched the water in the pool in front of me, and the lower end of the one above.  After a few minutes, a trout rose in the tail of the pool above where I was right where the water transitions into the pool I was standing next to.  A short count later it rose again, so I took the shot of my leader, checked my knot at the fly and made sure the hook point was sharp before slowly stepping up the bank to where I could get a good cast above the target. This fish was hungry.  My first cast landed about 2 feet above the fish and it didn't hesitate.  It moved to the fly and took it in a splashy rise, I lifted the rod, and was tight to what turned out to be a nice rainbow trout.


Over the next hour and a half hendricksons hatched sporadically and those that took their time getting off the water where summarily taken from below.  Although the hatch was waning, there were enough to elicit takes, thus I had enough targets to keep things interesting.  I took 6 more trout, all on the same soft hackle emerger fished in the film.  My leader was 12-13 feet long, with the tippet being about 3 feet of 5X, and even without wading over my ankles (which helps a lot on this river), none of my casts were over 30 feet or so.


Sharpen your hooks.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Hendricksons, Grannoms and Cold Clear Water

After spending time in SC visiting my daughter and the two little men, I returned this week to near perfect spring conditions on our New Jersey rivers.  At the Shannon's Beginners Fly Fishing Class yesterday I was talking to Tim Flagler, who has also been fishing the South Branch of the Raritan for many years, and we both agreed that the river is in the best early spring condition its been in many years.  This year the river rises after heavy rains, but recovers more slowly and levels out higher than it has in many years.  It also seems to be cleaner and very clear.  The there New Jersey rivers are much the same this year, perhaps the water table is recovering with regular rains and snow fall over the last few months.  Folks are complaining about how spring seems to be slow in coming, which is true, but for me it seems like its been more "normal" than it has been in many years.


Ok, so the hendrickson hatch is late this year, but the last week it has been the best we've seen in many years.  Yesterday afternoon while guiding one of the students, the hendrickson hatch was very good.  It was so good, the we could look down into the slow, clear water on the margins of the stream and see hundreds of hendrickson nymphs drifting by as they wiggled towards the water surface to hatch.  And hatch they did.  The dark mayflies drifted by on and off for several hours while the trout ignored them, which as an angler drives you crazy.  We kept hoping the trout would begin to rise so we could give the students the thrill of catching a fish on a dry fly, but it never happened.  Was it the cold water or some other unseen condition that kept the trout holding tight to he bottom?  We didn't even see fish flashing in the water column as they normally do when they feed on the ascending nymphs.  Dark Grannom caddis and some stoneflies were also on the water, and they too were ignored by the trout.

Dark Grannom
It was a very good day though.  Everyone caught fish and although it was cool and breezy, it was a beautiful day to be on the water initiating a few more folks to our wonderful sport.

Sharpen your hooks!