Saturday, October 31, 2009

Swift redux

As planned, Stan and I hit the Swift River again from the hatchery pipe to the area below Cady Lane. Short report: crowded; fooled a few; had fun.
The real story is that unlike Monday (see Oct 27 report) all the "good spots" were taken. This proved to be a blessing in disguise. The hatchery pipe is like fly fishing junk food. Fish stack up there and if you are even a marginally competent "bobber" angler, you can clean up with fish after fish falling for your egg pattern or tiny nymph. The further you move from this epicenter of trout gluttony, the tougher the fishing is. Just 30 or 40 feet downstream, the successful anglers usually need to bring their "A-Game" matching the hatch, perfect presentation, etc. When I saw the big crowd huddled around the pipe run, I had to readjust my expectations. On Monday, after being satiated with junk food, I had moved upstream to fish the run from the roll dam to the gauge pool with some success. This time I chose to follow Stan downstream on shanks mare and find some solitude and tough fish - mission accomplished. The trout downstream were highly visible, since the water is clear as air and slick as didymo on a door-knob. Like all trout, when the water temperature is right and food is available, they are compelled to feed, so there was no shortage of opportunities. Conditions like this can either intimidate or inspire the fly angler. Since it was the only game in town, I had no choice but to become inspired. I would like to say that I conquered every fish I targeted, but as often as not, the most I got was a perfunctory glance before being summarily dismissed. But, often enough to keep me interested, I was able to elicit a quick strike, about half of which resulted in a break-off. I always figure that fooling the fish into a strike is 90% of the fun of fly fishing, so I wasn't too disturbed, other than with the loss of a successful fly on a number of occasions. Oddly enough, some of the successful patterns were not hatch-matchers, but the fly fishing equivalents of "Hail Mary" efforts. Who knows why these pea-brained trout Einsteins chose a skated Henryville Special after ignoring a dozen different tiny BWO patterns, but some did. In any case, fish were seen, fish were fooled and fish were caught-and a few were self-released wearing a bushy mustache, a day early for Halloween. None were caught with the benefit of an egg pattern, floated under a bobber. (Not that there is anything wrong with that! See Ken's commentary <Why I hate indicators>)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Great weather and decent flows equals great fishing and mediocre catching

Today I fished the Isinglas and Cocheco Rivers with my buddy Dick. Last week these rivers were stocked and Dick had fished there a couple days later. Some guys had caught over 100 fish in a few days. Dick had caught a lot. We figured we would catch a lot of fish, but today we only got a few. Even the regulars we talked to wondered where all the fish had gone. I usually get over there at least once in the fall. Great Bay TU used to pay for the stocking, but now it is handled by Three Rivers Stocking Association, a private group that raises funds and stocks the fish. The Isinglas River borders land owned by Waste Management Inc (WMI)and they stock about 500 fish in that river. Too bad Fish and Game doesn't do a better job with fall stocking. Southern NH has a lot of rivers that are open year round, or have an extended season, and they could provide great fall fishing.
Often freshly stocked fish will strike at anything that remotely resembles food. If the "food" turns out to be an erratically stripped woolly-bugger, they soon get conditioned not to strike anything that moves. Today most of the fish were caught either dead-drift or a very slow swing/retrieve. I guess their little pea-brains got programmed to tune out streamers.
Tomorrow, Stan and I are going to hit the Swift River again. I have been tying up some fresh egg patterns, soft hackles and a few Hotspots. We'll see if these fickle critters are on to something different this time.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Postscript to yesterday's post

One of the hot flies on the Swift River was the Hotspot, a nymph I learned about from Ken Elmer's Miller River Fly Fishing Forum. I don't know if it is taken for a pellet, an egg, a pellet/egg sandwich, or whatever. I just know it works. Thanks, Ken!
Also, I frequently get some off-line email commenting or asking questions. That is fine, but feel free to hit the "Comment" button. This blog is for my fishing reports, but also for sharing information (thanks Eric and Bob) that advances our community of FFers. So get out of lurk mode every now and then and let's hear from you!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Fast action, then skunk-city

How can one river make you feel like king of the river and then a hopeless fishing chump, all in the same day? The Swift River does it again! Stan and I arrived around 9AM and had the entire hatchery pipe run to ourselves for over an hour. Fish were piled up all over, just waiting in line to get caught. They were all hatchery rainbows, a strain which the biologists have tricked into spawning in the fall, so they can stock them sooner. They were all full of fishy-testosterone and ready for action. Those that weren't trying to spawn were in the chow line behind the unlucky lovers waiting for a free meal. I suspect the hatchery pipe was also delivering a steady dribble of eggs from hatchery hens. Being a long-time proponent of matching the hatch, I matched the eggs. Every time I changed size or color I got a fish or two. Pink, orange, yellow all worked their magic. I also got some on white sparkle softhackles and white midge pupa. After I ran out of tiny single egg colors, I was staring at one of my fly boxes trying to select the next fly and my eyes kept coming back to a sparkle egg-cluster that I had used on the salmon river in NY to fool the steelhead. It looked so big and clunky compared to the little eggs I had used so far. "What the heck, they ate eggs and they ate white sparkle flies, why not a big clump of white sparkle eggs?" Well, three fish on three consecutive drifts had me snipping off the fly and retiring from my perch at the pipe. BTW all the fish were real chunkers - smallest over 12 inches and biggest almost 18 inches and FAT!
Well, I followed Stan downstream, who had tired of catching chunky rainbows at the pipe run. He was agonizing over the brainier cousin rainbows who were turning their nose up at smaller-than-size-20 flies in the gin-clear water downstream towards Cady Lane. I told Stan I would be fishing upstream from the gauge when he tired of bashing his head against the intellect of the pea-brained denizens of the Swift. I didn't see anything at the run/pool at the USGS gage, but landed a very brightly colored rainbow at the roll-dam pool. I also lost another after a brief tussel and fooled another that tried to eat my lime-green strike indicator. It refused to eat anything I tossed at it that had a hook in its tail. After a bite of late-lunch Stan and I retired to the Cady Lane area for another frustrating session trying to fool the trout that were rising to nearly-invisible specks just beneath the surface. Stan got one and I was pleased to miss a strike on another, but surely these must be some super-trout that have escaped from a secret government program, unlike the dunces at the hatchery pipe.
When the flow levels recede, I'll be hitting one of the local rivers later this week - hopefully the Pemi or Contoocook.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

What a way to warm-up for the game!

My buddies at Evening Sun FS have been raving about the hatches/rising fish on the Squannacook and Nissitissit Rivers. I was going to go this afternoon during the second half after the Pats kick the crap out of the Bucs. Just in case there is a Wembley SNAFU, I decided to go this morning. I started out in W. Groton at the lower end of the Bertozzi WMA area (my favorite spot on the river.) I thought for sure I would be able to "pound-up" a rainbow at the cable pool, but no dice. I switched over to a BH caddis pupa with a white-sparkle softhackle dropper, still in the cable pool, but to no avail. I moved up to the run above and got a brown and a rainbow on the SH. (Thanks for the idea Bob W.) Then I moved a little further up and got another brown on a golden stonefly nymph. Then moved below the cable pool and got my last rainbow on the SH. Time to bail for the Pats game. All-in-all it exceeded my expectations. The fish were beautiful - very dark, indicating they have been there quite a while. The water was at a great flow level - about 70CFS after the recent rain. I bet the risers will be active when the water warms a bit in the afternoon and the insects start moving around. I got mine this morning and will leave the afternoon hatch to the rest of you. Tomorrow my buddy Stan and I plan to hit the Swift River. Report to follow.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Where's the action?

After my day off fishing the Farmington River with Stan, I got back to work on Friday and Saturday. These are the last two trips I have booked. Both groups wanted to fish for the broodstock Atlantic salmon in the Pemigewasset River. If you have been following these reports, you know that salmon have been hard to get this fall. In fact, the few people I have run into on the river all ask me where the salmon are and say that nobody has been catching them. Well, they are scarce and tough to hook-up even if you do find some, but it is not impossible. I had a couple young men contact me from Virginia wanting some fly fishing instruction and a chance to catch a salmon. Casting in the wind is difficult even for experienced fly fishers, much less beginners. They were motivated and worked hard and we did find some salmon. Then on Saturday I took a couple experienced anglers who had never fished for salmon. Last year I took Ish out to the Contoocook River for a lesson and we fished the Hendrickson hatch and got some nice trout on dries. He has been reading these fishing reports and wanted to take his friend Rob for some salmon as a birthday gift. They had originally booked the trip for Sunday (today), but when I saw the weather forecast, I suggested that we go on Saturday, which turned out to be a great day (which today obviously is not!) In addition to fishing, the other objective was to learn the river for future fishing on their own. We hit all the usual places and a few unusual ones throughout the day. Rob got the first fish in the big pool on Coolidge Woods road in Bristol. Then after eating lunch, we moved down-river a ways and Ish kicked it up a notch with a nice brown trout and some very feisty salmon. We had the entire river to ourselves. We saw one other angler getting into his truck and that was it. Nobody but us on miles of river in Bristol, although there were quite a few fishing below Franklin Falls dam when we stopped by there to finish the day. Here is a link to Ish and Rob's pictures: <salmon pictures> Be sure to check out the video at the bottom of the page to see a serious bend in Ish's 6wt rod.
Don't forget that the Contoocook and Sugar Rivers are now open until November 30. There have been quite a few caddis and tiny BWO hatching on the Contoocook in the afternoon and plenty of browns rising to them. Also the NH seacoast rivers will soon be stocked and should fish well after next weekend. In Massachusetts, many of the rivers were stocked a couple weeks ago and are fishing well, including the Squannacook and Nissitissit Rivers. The weather should warm up in a few days, so take an afternoon off from work and hunt some fish before the fall rains come.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

End of the season Rush

What a rush - big browns on dry flies! Stan and I hit the Farmington River yesterday in the upper TMA. We hit the usual spots: Hitchcock Chair, Whittemore, Church (just to look and have lunch in the sun), central riffle and Ovation. Stan got a couple nice browns in the run into Whittemore on softhackles, while I had to work hard for a couple salmon parr (big ones about 9-10 inches.) As we moved down river things picked up even more - I think the warming sun had something to do with it, as we saw more insects as the day wore on. There were BWO, a couple different caddis and a few of what looked like Isonychias, although I couldn't catch one to verify. We finished up at my favorite pool and found some large, hungry browns. Some were more interested in spawning than food, but quite a few were willing to take a well-presented dry. I caught most on a gray parachute Adams, about a size 12. Pretty exciting to see a 16+ inch brown slowly suck-in your dry fly and then go berserk when it realizes it is hooked. Probably not too many days like that left in the calendar.
Last weekend and early this week I had clients out wading on some ponds (a few rising brookies); the Newfound River (nice rainbow on a heron fly); the Contocook River (afternoon hatch of black caddis, tan caddis and BWO brought some nice browns to hand.) The biggest disappointment continues to be the broodstock salmon - small, scarce and heavily pounded by anglers.
Get out there and enjoy the end of the season fishing. The water is cool, still some hatches and the foliage is spectacular.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Catching up

Last Wednesday I got back from our week in Errol on the Androscoggin River and didn't get to catch my breath before guiding on Friday, Saturday and Monday on the Contocook and Pemigewasset Rivers. I just now finished downloading some of the pictures and forwarding them to clients. If you want to see some beautiful foliage and beautiful fish, check out the flash files. Every day we were there, the fishing got better and better. On the last day there were fish rising to gray mayflies (Isonychia?) black caddis, pumpkin caddis and who-knows-what-else. The water was cooling down from the low 60s to the mid-50s and the fish loved it. We saw a lot more leaf-peepers than we did fishermen. Only on Saturday September 26 did we see many other anglers. One thing that surprised me was that we didn't see any moose - weird, since we saw at least 2 or 3 every day in June. We saw eagles, fox and grouse, but no moose. Did I mention that the brook trout were resplendent in their spawning colors and that the foliage was spectacular?
I took a father and son fishing for the broodstock salmon on Monday. Fantastic foliage on the Pemigewasset River in Bristol, but the salmon were a disappointment. We caught a 14" rainbow that was as big as the salmon we caught. Also caught a few small browns in Franklin, which was an added bonus. Hopefully my trips on this weekend will produce bigger fish.
Anybody been fishing the Squannacook or Nissitissit Rivers? They have been recently stocked and should be fishing well.