Saturday, December 21, 2013

A fitting end

to the season
Yesterday I made my final-final outing of the year, to where else but the Swift River.  The forecast was for overcast skies with temps in the mid-40s.  A bonus was a few hours of sunlight to make it feel even warmer.  As I made my way down River Road towards the turnoff to the USGS gage parking area, I saw a car on the side of the road with two guys getting out.  It was two NH buddies looking to sample the Swift River fishing.  They had fished above route 9 before, but not downstream.  In particular, they wanted to fish the vaunted hatchery pipe area, but had no idea where the access was. I told them I was going there and to follow me and I would show them around.  Ronnie had fished with me on the Androscoggin a couple years ago and we had been on a salmon river trip together a few years before that. I had met Herm, but not fished with him before.  Ronnie is the nicest guy you would ever want to fish with and I discovered that Herm is just as nice a guy as Ronnie.  With all the snow we have had over the last week, the road was rutted with snow and the parking area was even worse.  There were a couple people fishing the pipe outflow and a couple more fishing downstream.  Herm and Ronnie were concerned about crowding other anglers, but soon got into the Swift-River-synchronized-cast-and-drift-without-snagging-your-neighbor's-line scenario. Ronnie was sandwiched between Terry and George (Swift regulars) and got some tips and flies from them. As all this was going on, now and then a fish would sip one of our tiny offerings and add a little spice to life at the pipe. 
It struck me as the day went on that this friendly environment meant more to me than the occasional strike of a slob rainbow.  If we were fishing in Montana or even the White Mountains, we would all have been trying to get out of sight of other fishermen.  If somebody ventured within 100 feet he would receive a dirty look or a curt comment to ward off the unwanted approach.  Not at the Pipe.  I can't quite put my finger on it, but the total package of standing in crystal clear water with slabs of rainbows swimming around your feet and eying your tiny fly with disdain is part of a shared experience unlike few others.  Yes, everybody stakes out a small piece of liquid turf. But that little fishing territory is not vigorously defended.  The entire Swift River experience is so unreal compared to most fishing environments that it seems to foster a different set of unwritten rules of etiquette.
When I first started fishing there in the 70s there was a certain novelty about being able to fish over nice specimens twelve months of the year.  But the often crowded nature of the small river with localized concentrations of fish put me off.  In the last few years I guess I have mellowed.  I understand that some people look at the Swift with disdain as not being "real fishing."  Stocked fish; crowded conditions; limited hatches, etc. Fly fishing junk food.  I am not certain I could take a steady diet of it, but there is enough variety available most of the time, so you can get away from the crowds if you want.  There may not be as many fish, but you can still fish over nice fish in solitude if you are willing to do some walking and exploring. Enough philosophizing for now. It's not for everybody, but it serves a purpose when you just need to get out and have a shot at a fish that will put a serious bend in your rod. I know Herm and Ronnie will probably get their fill of fishing it over the next few weeks.
I have a few more days of cleaning and organizing my gear for next season before I head to Florida for the winter.  I added a couple more flies to my salt water box, made sure I have some stout tippet and cleaned my 8 weight line. Now I need to organize my mayfly dries, and my nymph boxes, so I can hit the ground running when I get back in April.

I have posted the calendar for the June Androscoggin Special Package trip, check it out and let me know if you want to go.  It is an especially good deal for singles.

Merry Christmas to all and a Happy 2014!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

SE NH Late-season

Yesterday Dick and I fished the Lamprey River. We started by scaling down a cliff at Packers Falls.  The rapidly changing weather chased us out of there after we fooled a few lethargic rainbows on egg patterns.  We then moved up to Wiswall Dam area and got a royal skunking in the run below the dam.  About 30-minutes was about all I could handle in the misty, breezy, cold environment.  Based on the forecast, that is surely my last foray for 2013.  (Maybe one more outing if the temp creeps above 40F.)

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Swift memories

Yesterday I went fishing with an old buddy.  Actually, I went fishing with the bamboo rod he made for me right before he passed away a few years ago.  Every time I use that rod I remember Dan.  He was a good guy, a real gentleman. I have a lot of rods. A couple I wrapped myself that I particularly enjoy fishing. But as the years go by, what I fish with means less to me. Not that I don't appreciate the high performance characteristics of the new technology.  New rods are so light and powerful, they almost cast themselves.  I also appreciate the craftsmanship of the various bamboo rods I have.  But a rod is just a tool.  How you use the tool is what counts. To me the satisfaction of fishing with a fine tool is to be able to get the most out of the tool. To fulfill the vision of the rod maker. If the rod doesn't get in the way of my fishing experience, that's enough to ask for.  When I fish with Dan's rod I know that it does what Dan wanted it to do.  The taper he designed creates the smooth action. The craftsmanship he put into the construction and finish of the rod clearly show the pride he took in his work.  A little bit of Dan is there in the rod.  He would be glad to know that his work was fulfilled on the Swift River yesterday.
Tomorrow I'll be fishing with my friend Dick on the Lamprey River. It is one of the "Three Rivers" that get a late season stocking. I hope I tie into a rainbow or two to equal the ones from the Swift.
If you are looking for some winter fly fishing entertainment, check out our events/presentation page for some ideas.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thanks for your concern

Sorry to be such a lazy bum and not update the blog all summer and most of the fall. No excuses. Thanks for the concern many of you expressed.  Your emails, phone call, and questions when I met some of you on the river or elsewhere have finally stirred me to action.  Now that old man winter has raised his blustery head, I am not sure how many actual reports I will generate before I hit the Gulf of Mexico and the backwaters in search of snook, redfish and sea trout this winter.

Some of you may have already realized that I have posted dozens of trip videos on my YouTube channel - more than 100 to-date.  It is something I do for my clients and students, as a memento of their time on the water.  I also really get a charge out of looking at the videos, which remind me of how fortunate I am to be able to share a fun time on the water - one more thing to add to the list of things for which I am thankful.  As I look over the list of videos, I can trace my progress from the Everglades last winter, to the Swift River in early April, through the the Squannacook and Contoocook Rivers in April, May and early June, to the Androscoggin for the Alder fly hatch, to the Pemi in White Mountains in mid-summer, back to the Androscoggin and then fishing the Pemi for salmon with a couple side trips along the way back to the Swift.  Hopefully, the weather will break and I'll have one more Swift River trip before heading back to Florida.

Over the last couple weeks I was busy creating a new presentation (Fishing the Great North Woods of NH)  that my guiding partner Jim and I can use on the "rubber chicken circuit" this off-season.  In creating the presentation, I looked numerous times at every picture and video I have taken over the last three or four years - probably over a thousand photos and a couple hundred videos.  Last night we debuted the presentation at the Squanna-a-tissit TU chapter meeting in Pepperell.  I think it went over pretty well.  Jim and I each spend 30 to 40 days guiding in the Great North Woods of NH in and around Errol. NH.  We are guiding the Androscoggin River from below the Pontook Dam in Dummer all the way up to the dam in Errol - about 20+ miles of river.  We also guide a lot of ponds and streams in the area. The new presentation gives an overview of all the water available to fish in the Androscoggin watershed in the Great North Woods of NH. Soon, I'll be updating the presentation/event schedule on our website with dates and locations where we will feature that presentation.
Thanks for your interest and patience.
Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

May flies fast - pun intended

It seems like yesterday that we fished the Hendrickson hatch on the Farmington River. That hatch is long gone. Since then, there have been a lot of new new fly anglers initiated in the way of the gentle art.
Yesterday my buddy/guiding partner Jim and I hauled a new (to us) old boat up to northern NH and dragged it on a one-way trip into a trout pond.  We bought the boat early last winter, patched it up this spring and now it resides alongside a few other dilapidated craft, waiting for a few hours of glory called the evening hatch. This particular pond is one we had fished in September from a couple of the forlorn pondside craft.  We caught so many fish that we immediately decided to find a craft large enough to provide a fishing platform for two people with a third rowing.  I can hardly wait for our initial voyage in a couple weeks.  After lugging the boat into the pond, we ran into another friend/fishing guide Dave in Errol. Having fished (and lived) for such a long time, it no longer surprises us when we run into somebody on a river 185 miles from home. It has become rare that I DON'T run into a friend, former client, student, reader of this blog or subscriber to my YouTube channel when I am fishing.
How about a fishing update?  The story I hear from a ot of people is that the fishing this spring in New Hampshire has been pretty underwhelming.  Not as many fish and smaller fish than in past years. Massachusetts streams seem to have more and larger fish.  My experience has paralleled this, with a few exceptions.  I fished the Pemigewasset River in Woodstock/Lincoln area in early and mid-May with poor results.  Also fished the Newfound River a couple times with only one decent smallmouth bass to show for all the time and effort expended. We had three Northeast Fly Fishing School classes since my last report and all the classes caught some fish, but fewer than in past seasons.  The good news is that plenty of fish are now stocked in the central and southern NH rivers and the recent rains and cooler nights bode well for June to be an improvement over May fishing. Or maybe I am just being the eternal optimist. Probably.
I have topped off my fly boxes with Alder Fly and hex mayfly patterns. Made sure my Frogs Fanny bottles are full and stocked up on 4X and 5X tippet.  I have worked on the menu and started the shopping list.  We hauled the boat into the pond and are ready to pack the car, load the canoe on top and head north next Thursday for a couple weeks on the Androscoggin River in Errol.  We have a couple spots open on June 24 and 27th, so if you find yourself jonesing for dry fly action,  check the website and get ready for epic topwater trout action. We are also starting to book dates for the September trip, too. 
For May fishing reports, scan through my YouTube channel. 

Saturday, May 4, 2013

It's official - Dry Fly season is here!

Some people measure the season by when the stocking trucks begin to roll.  Others by the first bugs they see on the water.  I know the season is in full swing when the Hendricksons emerge.  On Thursday my fishing buddy/guiding partner Jim and I headed down to fish the Farmington River in northwest Connecticut.  I have been following the fishing reports and online forums, so I knew that the hatch started a little over a week ago.  I wanted to make sure we not only hit the emergence in the afternoon, but the spinner fall in the evening, which doesn't happen until there is a critical mass of adult may flies to start the mating swarms.  It is a 2.75 hour drive from my house to New Hartford, so I wanted to make the most of the trip.

No worries. For once we hit it just right. For the afternoon emergence we fished the upper river, not too far from the village of Riverton, having parked in one of the People's Forest parking lots.  There were a few cars in the parking lot, but only one guy fishing in the main pool.  Jim and I moved upstream of the main pool into the area where a fast riffle ran into a deep run and then into the final riffle above the pool.  We had the whole run to ourselves.  There were a few insects buzzing around, but no hatching may flies.  While we waited for the emergence, we fish nymphs.  I used a size 12 flash-back pheasant tail and caught 4 or five rainbows and a brown trout.  None were much over 12 inches, but all fought hard, using the fast current to their advantage.  When we started to see more hatching may flies, I added a soft hackle as a dropper behind the nymph and caught a couple more fish.  Around 3PM the hatch got pretty strong and fish were actively rising and we had quite a few hook-ups.  About then another angler came squeezing in between Jim and I.  We thought we were fishing fairly close to each other already, and felt crowded by the interloper.  We didn't say anything and after getting only one fish during the height of the action, he left the water to Jim and I. We each caught a few more fish until the flies stopped hatching and the rises slowed down.  After eating our lunch we looked at a few more pools, going as far up as the Beaver Pool, where we saw no rises and few flies.  The water temp had been 56F where we caught all the fish and it was only 46F when we checked the temp in the run below the Riverton Bridge, so it appears that the hatch still has ways to go above where the Still River dumps warmer water into the Farmington River.
We went downriver to New Hartford to one of my favorite pools for the spinner-fall.  WE hit that lucky as well.  When we got there one guy was just leaving and another was fishing in the lower part of the pool, leaving the entire upper pool vacant.  Jim and I set up in a prime location and before long we started seeing Hendricksons.  None were on the water yet, but soon we saw the females swarming with their bright yellow egg-sacs aglow. To make a long story short, we reeled up at 7PM while there were still bugs over the water and fish still rising.  We had caught enough fish, so we decided to leave a few for the next time.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Hitting the ground running

This has been a busy few days.  We wrapped up our first Beginner Class of the Northeast Fly Fishing School yesterday.  As usual, the new fly fishers were an inspiration to us old guys.  It was fun sharing our knowledge about the sport we love.  Comparing our pictures from this class to those from April 2012, last April had leaves on all the trees and bushes - obviously not the case this year!  The water in the
Squannacook River was 51F, which is not too bad, but the air was the same temp. Our next class May 4-5 should have more leaves and more trout-food flying around.  Think like a trout, act like a bug!
Yesterday was also the day my partner Jim and I were quoted in the Boston Globe Travel section about beautiful spots in NH.  As I told the reporter, I actually revealed my fourth or fifth most beautiful spot, since I was not ready to share the very best ones.  Truth be told, I could name hundreds of "most beautiful" spots.  On any given day on the water there are bound to be multiple awe-inspiring views. As they say, "God didn't put trout in ugly places."  So fortunate to able to hang around in beautiful places with such nice people.
And tonight we have our New England Fly Box presentation at the Greater Boston TU meeting at Drumlin Farm in Lincoln, MA.  Hope to see some of you there.
UPDATE:  There were over 30 people at the meeting last night, who attended our presentation.  At least a couple are regulars here on my blog. Thanks for coming and saying hi.  I hope you enjoyed the presentation.  I would be interested in your feedback, either as a comment, or via email if that is more comfortable to you. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Finally feels like spring

There is still snow in the woods and a few vestigial plow-drifts at the shady end of a few driveways, but today it finally felt like spring. My guiding partner Jim and friend Dick and I scouted a couple rivers today for our upcoming Northeast Fly Fishing School classes.   Last week the Squannacook and Nissitissit River in Massachusetts and the Souhegan River in New Hampshire were stocked.  Stone flies and a couple mayflies were buzzing around on the Squannacook River.  We all stung a few fish and some were even landed.  We ran into to David (Hi David!) who had been fishing since early morning.  He probably caught every fish in the river at least twice!  David attended our Fly Fishing School a few years ago and then we guided him on the Androscoggin River at our lodge.  Our prize student!
The water temp in the Squannacook was 47F and the flow was about 200CFS. If you got deep and bounced a fly on their nose, they would take, but weren't in the mood to chase anything.  After hitting a few spots on the Squannacook we hopped over the border to fish the Souhegan DHZ in Greenville. Water was 48F and the flow reported for Milford was 560CFS, although up in Greenville it would have been a lot less. Stocking occurred the week of April 1, but no fish were evident in the two spots we hit.
Next Monday, April 22, my partner Jim and I will be on the program at the Boston TU Chapter April meeting.  We will be presenting our New England Fly Box presentation, which describes our favorite flies, the hatches they target and some rivers to fish them. The meeting is at Drumlin Farm on Rte. 117, Lincoln MA. Doors open at 6:30PM.  We hope to see you there!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Local trout rivers are finally . . . Trout Rivers!

I had heard that the trucks would be rolling this week to the Squannacook and Nissitissit Rivers.  I couldn't find any evidence of trout on the Squannacook River yet.  It was running quite high, and there were no anglers at any of the early stocking locations in Townsend.  Either it hasn't been stocked or the locals are holding off until the water level drops a bit.  On the other hand, the Nissitissit was stocked yesterday, April 10.  There were plenty of people and trout at the Prescott Street bridge and the oil company.  I walked into Gilman's Pool in the FFO section and saw no trout or fly fishermen.  The only place I actually fished was the run downstream of the 111 bridge, along with four other guys.  I was too lazy to put on the waders, so that is a spot where I could cover a little water without wading.  Using a white clouser-bugger, I found a slot that yielded 6 strikes, with four landed - all nice, colorful, chunky rainbows.  The biggest was over 12 inches and the smallest probably 10.  Hopefully there will be a few fish still left in the water when it warms up next week.
Last week the Souhegan and Piscataquog Rivers were stocked. Both are running VERY high.  They should also drop by next week.  Finally, we will have lots of choices of where to fish.  In a couple weeks we should start to see some quill gordons and that will mark the real beginning of the fly fishing season on local waters. Get out there and educate those fish before they all get taken home as table-fare.
We still have a couple spots open in our May 4/5 fly fishing school as well as the Intermediate class

Friday, April 5, 2013

Breaking the ice on the new season

Last Wednesday I got back from Florida to a chilly homecoming.  The first five days back I don't think the thermometer got to 40F.  Finally the forecast got friendly and I needed to get my trout fishing itch scratched.  I checked all the stocking schedules, FF forums and fishing reports, as well as tapping into the informal network of fishing buddies. Cold water, no stocking, not a fish to be found.  Then I saw the MASS Wildlife stocking report and noted that the trucks had rolled to Ware and Palmer. I tied a couple flies; packed up the gear and headed to the Swift River.  After parking at the route 9 bridge area I hiked up to the Y-pool, noting any sign of trout on the way.  I counted only 6 fish - not good.  There were a few trout lethargically cruising the Y-pool, but none in the bubbler arm.  I worked my way back to the car, hooking one fish in the cable pool area.  Not a total skunking, but not what I had envisioned. But hey, it was a beautiful day, there WERE some fish to been worked, and it was just great getting onto a river again.
After checking the run from the bridge down to the duck pen, I found a couple guys working a pod of recent stockers without much success,  The fish were kind of milling around, chasing their buddys' tails and doing what recently stocked trout do.  Not much fun to be had there.  Then it was off to the always-reliable hatchery pipe - hopefully the meat hunters hadn't cleaned it out before I got there.
There were a few cars in the parking lot, but considering the usual pressure it gets, it wasn't too crowded.  Three guys congregated below the pipe and two more fishing across from each other in the run-in to the fallen tree pool.  One of them was the ubiquitous George. I was able to prevail upon the kind generosity of Dick L. to join him at close quarters in the tree pool.  George soon reel-up, but soon returned with Bob O who set up across from Dick and I.  We had a great time educating a large quantity of trout and enjoying the day and enjoying the shared experience.  After an hour or so, Dick observed that fly fishermen were really nice folks. That has been my experience, too, but when you think about it, how you you be cranky or rude in such a beautiful environment?
Dick left first, then Bob O and finally, after my feet went from cold, to numb, to painful, I took the hint and started to leave.  Well, maybe a couple drifts up by the hatchery pipe, since the folks there had left shortly before.  I got into position and where I could usually see a half-dozen or more fish, I could only spot one trout.  After about 5 drifts through the run, the chunky rainbow took the orange size 20 soft hackle.  As soon as the fish felt the hook it took off down-river on a short run. I hadn't taken any pictures until then. Although it wasn't the first trout of the year, or the largest trout, it was probably the most energetic.

 With the weather improving daily, it looks like more rivers will get a fresh supply of salmonids, so next week we should all be able to fish close to home with some expectation of success.  Have a great season, and leave a comment telling us about your local FFing experiences.
Also, our Androscoggin River package is almost booked out, but we have a couple openings if you want a shot at the Alder fly hatch, the most prolific hatch in the northeast. And if you know someone who wants some formal fly fishing instruction we still have a few openings in our Beginner and Intermediate fly fishing classes.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Manatees, Gators and Snook

No I didn't catch any manatees or gators, but there were plenty around where I was fishing.  I had a day off free from tennis, golf or beach responsibilities and the weather cooperated, so off I went to the canals along the Tamiami Trail in the Everglades.  There are a limited amount of places where you can usually find some fish without a guide and/or boat.  When they built the highway from Tampa to Miami in the 1920s the section from Naples to Miami cut right through the Everglades.  To raise the roadbed above the water line they dug canals which were linked to the Gulf of Mexico.  Now these canals teem with aquatic life.  The water is brackish, so there is a mix of freshwater species, such as bass, gars and alligators and saltwater species, such as snook, tarpon, and manatees.  In the winter the saltwater species are seeking refuge from the cold water in the Gulf and hang out in the canals which warm quickly.  In the video you will get a feel for the area. To get the right effect, put on your long johns, fleece and a couple heavy wool sweaters so simulate the 86F temperature. (Sorry, I couldn't resist that jab at all my frozen buddies!) Although the video shows some huge snook swimming by, the biggest I caught was about 18 inches. White and chartreuse Clousers were the favorite fly, which I discovered after trying about a dozen other patterns. Next week I hope to get out with my buddy Dick on Charlotte Harbor. While I am fishing for redfish and seatrout next weekend, I suggest you head to the Fly Fish NH Show at Pelham Fish and Game Club on Simpson Mill Road in Pelham, NH on March 2 and 3. There are lots of exhibits with fishing guides, outfitters, fly shops and organizations. Also continuous seminars and even a class on how to build a fly rod. Be sure to stop by the NH Rivers Guide booth and say hi to my partner Jim.
Show flyer.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

2012 Wrap-up/2013 Preview

As you may have noticed, we have been having some strange weather the last couple years. I guess we are experiencing “The new normal.”  Last year we had a dry spring and summer – same this year.  Last year we had a late season hurricane.  Same this year.  Last year we had an early snow storm. Same this year.  Last year we had a warm, dry winter.  This year? (Maybe not so warm!)  I sometimes feel like I'm a farmer, always watching the weather; second-guessing the weatherman; worried that it will be too hot, too cold, too wet or too dry.  Having been fly fishing so long, I've learned to adjust, based on conditions.  We always hope that we can execute Plan A, but we are always plotting Plans B, C and D as contingencies.  Last year we had to implement Plan B more than once.  Over the years, we have also learned that sometimes Plan B or C can be as much or more fun than Plan A.  We have found that oftentimes trout ponds are not as severely impacted by aberrations in the weather as rivers are, making them a great “Plan B” resource.  We are fortunate that New England in general and New Hampshire in particular has some beautiful trout ponds.  These ponds are deep, clear and cold remnants of the last glaciation period. My guiding partner Jim and I haul our canoes into some ponds each summer to fish the evening rise. There is nothing like fishing to rising brook trout on a NH trout pond.  We plan to haul a boat we just purchased into a fly fishing pond that is a short hike-in from a logging road. We fished it a couple times in September and were amazed at how many darkly colored brook trout were willing to rise to our flies. Let’s hope they are as willing to be caught when we fish for them next June!

Both our June and September Androscoggin River All-inclusive Special Package trips were a lot of fun.  The Alder Fly hatch was a little early again in June. We fished over rising fish for the entire two weeks, although the last few days we really had to work hard, since the fish were full of the plentiful zebra caddis that they had been feeding on for over two weeks. The hexagenia hatch on the ponds, as well as the evening rise on the river, also provided some stellar fishing. Here is a link to the overview photo-album of the June 2012 Androscoggin Trip.
The September Androscoggin Trip was also a lot of fun.  When we arrived in mid-September the trees were all green with just a touch of color. When we left two weeks later the trees were ablaze with color marking full-foliage in The Great North Woods.  Here is the September 2012 trip photo album.
We are well underway with plans for our Northeast Fly Fishing School and Androscoggin River Trips.  Dates and information about the intermediate and beginner classes are posted on the website.  Information about the Androscoggin River trip with availability calendar is also found on the website. You will note that we are already booking spots for the June trip, and the  last two years we booked-up early, so pick your dates and let us know ASAP.  For regular guided trips, we have limited weekend availability through June, but plenty of open spots on weekdays.  If you are limited to weekends and want a trip this spring, contact us ASAP before all the spots get filled.
For the next couple months there are plenty of opportunities for you to expand your fly fishing horizons.  Jim is leading some free fly tying classes in Manchester and Hooksett, NH.  There are also a number of presentations that we have scheduled between now and the end of April. Complete list of events and dates.   Finally, Jim is the chairman of the 11th annual Fly Fish NH Show to be held March 2 and 3 at Pelham fish and Game Club. There are booths with fly shops, fishing guides, authors and other vendors; continuous seminars and demonstrations and other activities. This is a fun event that I can highly recommend to you.  Flyer with complete details.
If you are more into online than real world activities, check my YouTube Channel for fishing videos.  

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Cap and Camera Found

I got an email today from Bob, a FFNE regular.  Bob found a video camera attached to a cap on the Squannacook River a few days ago. If you lost a camera-equipped cap, just send me an email describing the hat and camera and it will be returned to you.Gerry's email

Thanks Bob!