The river, high and off-color, which has been the norm this spring.........
A wild fish............
A stocked fish.......
A fly that continues to puzzle me: why does it work?...............
The hatches - sulphurs - have been epic some evenings, and the trout, more often than not, have been only marginally interested in them. One evening a couple of days ago, there were two different species of sulphurs hatching, and they were on the water and in the air in tremendous numbers. We're guessing the high water levels and limited visibility have hampered the trout's ability to see the flies on the water above them.......why else would they be passing up the thousands of flies moving along on the current half-submerged and crippled. Easy targets to say the least............
So, when a fish did rise, we tossed a simple snowshoe rabbit foot sulphur dry on the end of 6X tippet, and in most cases we hooked the fish and landed it. Otherwise, we fished a soft-hackled sulphur emerger and did well....we also continued to experiment with Walt's Worm, which seems to be some kind of trout candy .........and we are still scratching our heads. In fact, we are quickly going bald!
The soft-hackle sulphur we are fishing is the same pattern we wrote about for the hendrickson, but this one is a size #16 and 18, with primrose colored dubbing for the thorax. Tie some up and give them a go!
Hit the river tonight after dinner. Water was high and a little off-color still. Around 8:00PM, the sulphurs started to hatch and within about 15 minutes, there were flies everywhere...on the water, in the air and most importantly, being taken by the trout. Not as many as there might be if the water were lower and clearer, but enough to provide plenty of targets. We caught a bunch of nice browns before it got too dark to see. Once the water comes down a little more, we should see many more fish coming up for the bugs.
That's it. Got to crash. I'll be on the water this weekend and will fill in the gaps I left tonight.
Seriously, sometimes when we have a successful time on the water we come away with more questions than answers. Last Thursday evening was one of those times.........
Stepped into the river around 7PM, and the water level was slightly higher than normal and clear. The air was cool and calm and the sun was fading in the western sky. I chose a nice long, curving run with a rocky outside bank that took the main flow of the current. Above and along the entire bank, there is a heavy canopy of newly sprung hardwood leaves. The perfect place for bugs and trout.....and a solitary fly fisherman.
I started at the top of the run with an Iris caddis dry/emerger, as there were speckled caddis flying clumsily in the air above the water. A fish rose, I threw my first cast above the ring on the water, and after a short drift the fly was grabbed in an aggressive take. Shortly thereafter, I brought to hand a 7 inch wild brown trout. Good start.
After that, I made a couple of dozen more casts with the Iris caddis to likely holding spots, but nothing was happening on top. In fact, I didn't see another rise the rest of the night. After giving it a decent shot with the top water imitation, I decided it was time to put on a subsurface emerger, as trout were flashing in the water column as they fed on what were likely to be ascending caddis pupa.
I tied on a brown and yellow, #14, LaFontaine sparkle emerger to my 5X tippet and added a small shot about 6 inches ahead of the fly. Now the trick was to sight a fish working in the run, get a bead on roughly where it was taking naturals, and then cast the fly a few feet above that and sort of guide the fly through the zone without pulling it unnaturally. This takes some concentration and focus, but once you get the hang of it, it works very well in these conditions. Although you can't see your fly, you can gauge where it is by watching your line and the speed of the current. .
When in your mind's eye, you see the fly in the trout's feeding zone and the trout flashes or moves up, down or sideways, lift your rod tip as that's a sign it's taken something.....your fly! I love fishing this way. Once you take one fish, you stop and watch until you see another feeding trout. Then you position yourself accordingly so as to maximize your drift, and go to it again.The fish were working all through the run this night, and by slowly moving down stream over the next hour or so, a couple of dozen trout came to hand.
And then it got interesting.
Having caught a bunch of fish, it was time to experiment. The fish were still actively feeding, so there were still plenty of targets. This past winter, my good friend Eric Stroup of Spruce Creek Fly Co., convinced me to tie some Walt's Worms at one of the fly fishing shows. He swears by them and uses them while guiding clients when nothing else seems to work. The fly is about as simple to tie as any fly ever created. A little lead wire on the hook shank, followed by wrapping a nice tapered body of dubbed natural hare's ear mixed with a little antron, and tie off to finish.
I tied this minimal fur ball to my leader where the sparkle emerger had been, and left the shot on right where it was, intending to fish the fly in the same manner I had been fishing the emerger. I sighted a working trout, moved into position, and then started fishing the fly, albeit with little confidence. And then it happened... a couple of casts later I was into a nice rainbow. Huh? Had to be a dumb fish, after all, the fly looks nothing like a caddis emerger or any other aquatic insect emerger for that matter.
After landing the fish, I went back to it, and sure enough I hooked and landed another trout in short order. This "strange" thing happened again and again over the next hour or so before it got too dark to spot fish. Strange because I couldn't, and still can't figure out why, the fly worked so well. It worked as good as, or better, than the sparkle emerger! The messier it got from fish teeth, the quicker they seemed to take it. The only thing I can think is that it looks to the pea-brained trout like a scud (fresh water shrimp). Scuds are a favorite food of trout in these parts, and they are very abundant. But why did it work so well before it got torn up and scraggly? This puzzles me to this day....only a week I know, but when you're rabid about this stuff, it can wear you out...............
Here's the torn up, post-fishing, Walt's Worm that worked so well.
Here is what it looked like before I started to fish it. Note the fished fly above has a shorter hook point - yes, we sharpen our hooks as we fish!
So that's the story and we're sticking to it. The damn fly works, it really works! The only thing left to do is to keep fishing it to see if it continues to produce, and keep wondering what the hell goes through the tiny neural center of a trout's world.........who was it that said trout are selective??? Maybe he should have his head examined, too!
What's your take on this? Inquiring minds want to know.........we look forward to reading your well-thought out comments.
And sharpen those hooks, it definitely makes a difference.
Got out on the water the last two nights and had a great evening Thursday, and a so-so evening last night. The water in these parts is still relatively cool for this time of the year, and the fish and bugs are acting accordingly. The bugs are not hatching well, and so the trout are not doing much surface feeding.
I'm off to to PA to play some golf for a change, so here's a few pictures I took last evening. I'll post a more thorough report later this weekend.
A large crayfish was keeping an eye on me while I fished.
The South Branch of the Raritan River in all its spring glory.
A pupal shuck from a freshly hatched Hydropsyche - Speckled Caddis
It's supposed to rain all this coming week, so get out and fish this weekend, and shapren those hooks.
I finally got out and fished for an hour or so the other night after being out of town for the last two weeks. The air was cool and breezy, the river was clear and slightly high. We are in that lull between major mayfly hatches, with caddis being the predominant insect on the water. Tons of cinnamon/speckled caddis were in the air and some grannoms were back to lay their eggs. Once it warms up for a few days, the real mass of egg layers will return and the fun begins. I also saw a few sulphurs in the air, so get ready for the serious hatch to start in a week or so. We just need some consistent warm weather!
It was 7:30pm when I got to the water, and I was surprised that very few fish were rising. Usually, this time of the year, the evenings are the best for rising fish. It has to be the cool, unsettled weather we have been having for weeks. The water was only 61 degrees, and the air was in the 50's. I did manage two browns before dark, both on a #16 soft hackle emerger tied with a sulphur colored thorax.
Here's another video from our friend Tim Flagler. This one gives you a fish eye view of some stocked trout...the title says it all. Enjoy, and thanks Tim.
New Jersey saltwater anglers to be fined $300 if they fail to sign up for FREE registry...........
Recreational fishing advocates who won a fight to keep saltwater fishing free in New Jersey got a surprise this week, with new state rules that decree a $300 fine for those who don’t sign up for the new registry of ocean anglers.
“It’s outrageous to put in a fine system. It’s totally vindictive. They’re going to be chasing people down and writing tickets,” complained Jim Donofrio of the Recreational Fishing Alliance, an activist group that fought off moves to impose a paid saltwater fishing license.