Friday, May 31, 2013

Perhaps the Most Chilling Comment About Montana Stream Access I’ve Ever Read….

Our friends at Chi Wulff posted this today, and it's an important issue for all recreational river and stream users whether in Montana or anywhere else in this country.  Please click the link below and act accordingly to preserve public stream access.

“My client not only owns the land under the Ruby River in Montana. He owns the water in the river and the air above it. So, no member of the public has the right to be on the river running through  Mr. Kennedy’s property without his permission.”  
This is what I heard the lawyer for James Cox Kennedy say at the Montana Supreme Court hearing in Bozeman on April 29....

If you think this can't happen here, sit back and do nothing, let these people win, and then see how fast this kind of thinking spreads to your favorite waters.

Thank you.  Your children and their children, etc., also thank you.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A Brief Report - Get Out and Fish!

Yesterday morning I wrote a fairly detailed post about the stellar fishing we had Sunday evening and Monday, but the internet ghosts seem to have made it vanish like fog in the sun.   So today, I'll share a clipped version of the events, along with some photos.  In short, the fishing of late has been nothing short of fantastic on our local rivers and streams.  

On Sunday evening after a family BBQ, we fished the South Branch of the Raritan in one of the most accessible stretches of the river.  There were a few anglers along this 2 mile or so ribbon of water, but fewer than I had expected.  The air was cool and a slight breeze rustled the new leaves that hung above the water.  The river was still up some, but clear and very fishable.   

There were fish rising from the time I got there until I could no longer see my fly on the water.  There were Sulphurs, Light Cahills, Yellow Drakes, a couple of different caddis and even a few Isonychias hatching.  The first hour and a half the trout rose aggressively to emerging caddis - the classic porpoising rise of trout feeding on caddis - and we caught all our fish on the Iris Caddis.  Then the rise forms changed to a more subtle take; the trout slowed their pace and just poked their mouth through the surface to sip the next item on the menu, Sulphurs.   I switched to a size 16 Sulphur Usual, and continued taking fish on this one fly until I could no longer see it on the water.  I used three flies Sunday evening, and caught a bunch of stocked and wild trout.  Here are the two Iris Caddis and the Sulphur I fished that evening.  

On Monday I fished a PA limestone creek with Doug, who had awesome day catching fish after fish on nymphs - his weapon of choice - using a leader and techniques he had learned last weekend at the US Youth Fly Fishing Team Clinic.  Here's a beautiful brown he caught in a very difficult to fish, deep pool.

Nice going Doug, one of these days we'll have you catching them like that on dries. : )    

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Nymphs May Rock, but Dry Flies Rule

Yes, all you die hard nymph fishermen (Doug), it may be time for a little stint away from fishing nymphs.  We are in that wonderful time of the year when the evenings are warm and multiple insects are coming off the water, and the trout are feasting on top.  Tuesday evening was another perfect example - the air warm and calm, the river cool, clear and a little on the low side.  We had Sulphurs, both large and small, hatching with the last hour or so of light a veritable blizzard of insects in the air and on the water.  There were also Light Cahills, Pink Cahills (E. vitreous), some big light drakes, rusty spinners and cinnamon caddis and small dark grannoms.  And best of all, the trout were on them like a kid to candy.

And we caught fish, lots of them.  Most of them were browns, with a few rainbows and even a small wild brookie.  We used two fly patterns - a #16 Sulphur Usual, and a #16 Sulphur pheasant tail soft hackle; both flies were fished in the film off a 10 foot leader tapered to 6X.  Once the day turned to night we put our headlamp on the water and saw it was literally covered with thousands of Sulphurs - hatching and spent.  The trout continued to rise - we could hear them out in the darkness feeding unencumbered by the daylight that might reveal their location.  Here's a nice wild brown we took while we could still see our fly on the water.

Put the nymphs away and get out and fish!    

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Changing Seasons

Back in January, I posted the photo below of the stream near my home that is at the half way mark of my daily walk.  The picture below it was taken on my walk yesterday, from roughly the same spot.

The creek is home to little wild gems of the brook and brown trout variety.   The "largest" of which  I've caught here was about 6 inches, and was taken in a plunge pool a short distance downstream of where I took these photos.  I recall it took a small, size 18, brown serendipity; how serendipitous is that? 

Today is the first day of a 365 day journey around the sun, make the most of it.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Friday's Cakewalk, Saturday's Minutiae

After taking that beautiful wild brown on Thursday evening, which by the way is the largest wild fish by far that I have ever taken in New Jersey, I hit the South Branch again on Friday evening and then got tortured on Saturday afternoon at a PA limestone creek.  No complaints whatsoever though, the weather on Friday evening was about as nice as it can get, and although Saturday was cloudy and spitting, the river was void of anglers and framed by wild flowers.

Friday evening was silly fishing, with trout working the surface from the time I got on the water about 6:15, until darkness turned off my eyesight.  Early on there were lots of small dark caddis, and the trout were taking the emergers from the film.  I fished a small, size #16, dark caddis emerger on 6x and took a bunch of fish on it, both wild and stocked.  I had started with 5x, but I got too many refusals in the clear, smooth runs I was fishing.  The switch to 6x all but eliminated the refusals.
About an hour or so before dark, the river exploded with insects - hatching and egg-laying caddis, large and small Sulphurs, March Browns and some Light Cahills. Trout rose all around me, giving me many targets to chose from, so I concentrated on what appeared to be the larger fish.  I used one fly, a #16 pheasant tail soft hackle emerger, and took too many fish to count, with a few touching the 14 inch mark.  Again, as on Thursday night, I left the river with the trout still feeding with abandon.

Fast forward to Saturday afternoon, where I spent a few hours in the afternoon on a limestone spring creek pulling my hair out.  The sky was steely gray and spitting, and I was hopeful that would bring the bugs out and the fish to them.  I got half my wish, as the wild browns were feeding on minutiae.   It happens.  There were some caddis about and a steady procession of size #18 Blue-winged Olives, but the trout had other ideas and decided to pick only the tiniest of midges to munch on.  Seriously, I watched the water surface as caddis and BWO's drifted over rising fish unmolested, yet the fish would rise and take something I could not even see.
A close inspection of the water surface at my feet revealed the surface was covered with #28 (maybe) black midges.   These things had little black bodies the size of an average comma, and two clear, spent oval wings.  When I told Doug about this, he responded that I should have gone with an Al's Rat, and I would have concurred, but I tried that and the snooty little buggers didn't even look at the imitation, even though it was very small.  I also tried a small #24 zelon midge, having nothing smaller, and they laughed when the fly floated over their heads; no kidding, I heard them.  So I went to my Matt's Gnat in a #24, and with a 7x tippet I finally connected with a few fish before the rain and other plans chased me off the stream.  The trout really like that fly, and I should have gone to it much sooner than I did - see Matt's Gnat video to the right for tying instructions.

Sharpen your hooks.

Friday, May 17, 2013

An Evening to Remember

Last evening when I stepped into the South Branch of the Raritan River the bright green, newly emerged canopy hung over the water and provided shade for the first time this spring.  A light breeze carried warm air perfumed by nearby lilacs and other flowering shrubs.  Through gaps in the trees above, I could see bluebird skies mottled with white puffy clouds lit by the late day sun.  It was the perfect evening to be wading a trout stream; I'm not sure if I could dream a more pleasant slice of a day. 

 (Click on photos to enlarge)
And the fishing was wonderful, too.  It started out with several quick fish taken on what has become a trout favorite, the brown serendipity.  As the sun dropped and the shadows darkened, trout began to take caddis and the occasional sulphur off the surface.  So I switched to fishing dry flies.  And after taking a few smaller fish at the head of a run, I noticed a rhythmically feeding fish downstream along a tight run perhaps a foot off the rocky bank.  The rises were subtle, consistent, and drew my attention to the challenge of making the perfect cast to a narrow feeding lane bordered by rocks on one side, and multiple currents on the other.

I replaced my tippet with a new, 2-foot section of 6X, and tied on a size 14, pheasant tail soft hackle that I intended to fish dry.  Once in position, I knelt low on the rocky bank and watched the fish rise several more times in order to get into sync with my quarry.  My first two casts were short, but soft enough that they didn't alarm the fish.  I had no idea how large it was, nor did I care; it's feeding position and the difficulty that presented, was all that mattered.

The third cast dropped above the fish before drifting over it, but was ignored.  I let the fly drift far below the fish before lifting my rod and beginning to cast again.  The next cast, the fly lit down at the end of my serpentine leader just where I wanted it to.  It then drifted about a foot or so before the trout's buttery lower jaw lifted through the thin line and took my offering.  I set the hook firmly, and what I now realized was a monster brown, bolted upstream and shook its head wildly.  It then dove deep, shook some more, and stubbornly took line after every time I managed to wind a few feet onto the spool of my reel.  After what seemed like an eternity but was likely only minutes, I netted the beautiful, male wild brown resplendent with a wide tail and scarlet spotted adipose fin.                 

Here's the fly the "veritable beast" took.  The fly was retired immediately after our battle in deference to my encounter with one of nature's most beautiful creatures.

After carefully releasing this magnificent river giant, I gathered my wits and managed to catch several more fish  on dries before calling it a night.  As the sun fell below the trees and darkness swallowed the light of this wonderful day, sulphurs began hatching in waves and the trout responded accordingly, noisily sipping the little yellow insects off the water as I walked slowly down the bank.  I left the fish to enjoy their banquet untroubled.  They could see with what time has rendered less than useful for me in low light, which is just as well; I enjoyed my time on the river, now it was their turn.

Sharpen your hooks.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Wishing Doug Good Luck This Weekend

My friend Douglas will be leaving for Lamar, PA later today to attend the 3 day US Youth Fly Fishing Team Clinic, with hopes of making the 2013 team.  As you know from my posts, I've been fishing with Doug over the last couple of months and he is an accomplished fly fisherman, in addition to being a great kid.  He is confident yet humble, and although his goal is to make the team, he understands that mostly this is an opportunity to learn and experience more about fly fishing.

Good luck, Doug!   ><)))))'>

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Tying Les' Lemon Cahill

Here's our most recent tying video, Les' Lemon Cahill, produced by Tim Flagler of Tightline Productions.   The Lemon Cahill was designed by Les Shannon, who created it to imitate the yellow mayflies he found on his home water, the South Branch of the Raritan River, which was short walk from the fly shop he founded some 35+ years ago in Califon, NJ.  Although Les intended the fly to imitate the Light Cahills and larger yellow and golden drakes, in smaller sizes it is a fine imitation of the Pale Evening Duns/Sulphurs that hatch so prolifically here in the Northeast. 

Hook: Size 12 Mustad 94840
Thread: 6/0 Danville Tan or 6/0 Uni Light Cahill
Wing: Mallard flank
Tail: Straw hackle fibers
Body: 80:20 Yellow to white rabbit fur
Hackle: Straw
Tie them in sizes #10 down to #18, to imitate a wide range of yellow colored mayflies that hatch from Northeast trout streams.
Tie some up and sharpen your hooks! 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Life on the Water

Me and the kid trying to figure it out after the rains gave us a turbid water challenge.

(Click on photos to enlarge)
A wild brown; challenge met.

Doug landing a rainbow at dusk.

A family celebrating Mother's Day.

Rust in the rain.

The sentry.

"It's almost untangled......really."

Report From Last Evening

We fished until the sun no longer lit the sky.  Some large sulphurs hatched here and there, but not nearly enough to get the fish interested.  Caddis fluttered about, and we saw a couple of rises, but they were all of the one-and-done variety.  We're still in the in-between phase of the season, but it won't be long before that changes.  Caught a bunch of rainbows, all on brown serendipities, and nothing on top.  The river was in great condition as you can see here.

Fished today for a while, and then danced between the millions of raindrops and got soaked to the bones.  Seriously soaked, but had fun.  Doug did well before the torrent dropped like a sledgehammer from the gray skies, catching five.

Sorry for the short report, time to get some shut eye.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Current Conditions

We were in that in-between period when we fished last weekend here in New Jersey.  You know, that time just after the Quill Gordons and Hendricksons come off, and the next wave of hatches has yet to get going.  When we fished Sunday, there really wasn't a whole lot on the water to bring fish up; mostly small Grannoms and rusty spinners, but even then we didn't see too many fish feeding on top.  I'm sure it didn't help that the rivers were fairly low and clear, which is unusual this early in the season.

We did get some rain this week, and the river levels appear to be somewhat higher, which is good for the fish and fishermen.  The May hatches are starting to perk up, with March Browns, large Sulphurs and even a few Light Cahills being spotted.  That should only get better, and with any luck we'll get some cloud cover this weekend and maybe some showers, which the March Browns seem particularly fond of.  In addition to having imitations of the emergers and duns of the aforementioned mayflies, I would recommend that you have some spinners.  Rusty spinners in #12-16 should cover you in the evenings when the trout are gently sipping the spent flies off the water surface. 

The Grannoms will continue to hatch, and often in the evenings you'll see egg-laying behavior, so be prepared with small, #16-18, dark caddis dries with green egg sacs.  Depending on the river and where you are on it, these caddis may be diving, skittering or crawling down partially submerged logs, rocks and even wading anglers legs.  If you tie your own, just add a couple of wraps of peacock herl at the top of the hook bend, then tie your caddis dry with a dark gray/brown body and mottled wing of roughly the same color.  You can also use a short tuft of bright green antron or zelon for the egg sac, as I do in the egg laying caddis video found to the right.   

That's it for now after a busy week.  I'm heading back to New Jersey later today, and hope to be on the river before dusk.  If I manage to get out, which is very likely, I'll report back here by the morning with my observations and results.  Even if i get skunked, I let you know what bugs I see.

Sharpen your hooks.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Tying the Goddard Caddis

Here's another wonderful tying video from Tightline Productions, with Tim Flagler showing how he ties the Goddard caddis.   This pattern is a high floating, durable, caddis imitation that can be fished by itself, or as the top fly on a "hopper/dropper" rig.  Tim has been fishing this pattern often the last couple of weeks in the evening with good success.

If you want to make this pattern more hatch specific, you can add a dubbed body to the above pattern.  To accomplish this, leave the tag end of the tying thread hanging off the bend of the hook when you start your thread.  Once the hair "wing" of the fly is clipped to shape, dub a short section of this tag end of thread with an appropriate colored dubbing for the caddis you wish to imitate, and then slide the noodle up to the hook shank.  Then pull the dubbed thread up under the "wing" along the hook shank, and tie it off just ahead of the clipped hair, creating a body under the "wing".  Finish the fly just as you see in the video.  Whether you do this or not is up to you; either way, the fly is very effective and worth the effort to tie.  I always carry a few when on the water.  They are great for fast riffles and pocket water as they are very buoyant; they are also effective on slower water.

Tie some up and keep those hooks sharp.                  

Friday, May 3, 2013

Gray Drake - Male seeking female spinner
Single, gray mayfly dun
Age: 3 hours
Occupation: Pilot
DOB 5.3.13
Height: 8mm
Weight: .32 grams
Wings: Gray mottled
Eyes: Green
Tails: Two
Faith: Baptist

In my brief terrestrial life I am seeking a single, gray, clear-winged spinner, for ever so brief procreation over a nearby riffle or pool.  Must have two tails and be prepared to fall on the water, spent, after a very short, intimate airborne honeymoon, this evening.  Nice legs and gossamer wings a plus.  Give me a buzz.