Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Flowers and Fish

Yesterday was a beautiful day here in St. Paul, with sunny skies and a high in the mid 60s. I had a little time in the evening, so I decided to take a walk down to the river and fish for a little. I've tried a couple times in the last few weeks, but the water was still pretty cold, so I don't think the smallmouth were active yet.

On my way down the bank I recognized a plant with a distinctive three-lobed leaf. It was a species we studied in my botany class this fall, and I remembered that it's usually one of the first flowers to bloom in the spring. I looked a little more closely and saw one small pink flower poking out of the dead leaves on the forest floor.

Anemone acutiloba 
I took the flower sighting as a good sign and made my way down the steep bluff to the shore. The wind was starting to pick up, but the spot I chose to fish is a relatively sheltered cove where a storm drain empties into the river.  I tied on a size 8 beadhead streamer and a short leader to help with casting in the wind.

At first all I caught was the bottom, which is exciting at first...until you feel dead weight on the other end. A few casts later I felt my line stop again, but this time I felt movement on the other end. The fish pulled hard, and it took a solid minute to get it in. I love trout, but sometimes it's fun to catch something that can really pull.

I moved to the other side of the cove so I could get a better angle to cast to the spot where water from the storm drain enters. My first cast fell short, so I cast again. I've found that early season bass tend to take the fly as it initially falls or on the first pause, so I wanted to get the fly right where I thought the fish would be. The second cast was right on the money, and a second later I saw my line tip dart underwater. I pulled up and saw a bright flash in the water. This fish fought even harder, even taking line off my reel at one point. I had to scramble over rocks to get to a spot I could land it, but I managed to keep it on the line. This fish was about 16" and probably around 2 pounds.

That was all I got, but it was a great way to end the day.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Another Salter Video

Geoff and I made another video from our recent salter fishing trips. It was a lot of fun to make, and I think it came out great!

Check it out here:

Salter City: What winter? from Geoffrey Klane on Vimeo.


Monday, March 21, 2016

A Few Meadow Brookies From Last Week

Last Thursday I was able to get out to a couple of my favorite wild brookie streams. Both have meadow sections in the place of former impoundments, which makes casting a breeze and provides an alternative to the woodland streams common around here. It was warm and sunny, but pretty windy, which made casting a little difficult. I saw some rises, but elected to use a streamer because it wouldn't require the same degree of casting accuracy.

I worked my way down through a meadow at the first stream, and it wasn't long before I pulled my first brookie out from under a log. He was aggressive, leaving the water after grabbing the fly.

Massachusetts Wild Native Brook Trout

Soon after I found another, but then the fishing slowed down. I tried one more pool by the car, one in which I have never caught a trout, and was surprised to find another brookie there.

Massachusetts Wild Native Brook Trout

After that I went to the other stream, which is conveniently located on the way home from the first stream. The wind was really picking up, so I went straight to my favorite pool, where I got one brookie, then went home.

Last year this was two channels flowing close to each other - at some point this winter the bank must have been breached

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Mid-Week Report

I've been able to fish every day this week so far.

On Monday the forecast was for showers and highs in the low 40s, so I decided to stay relatively close to home. The weather turned out even worse, with highs in the 30s and some sleet mixed in with the rain. I knew the water would still  be on the warmer side though, so I figured it was worth a shot.

I fished through the majority of the stretch I intended to fish with only a couple of bumps, some of which may not have even been fish. Growing disheartened, I elected to try one last pool before hitting the road. After a few drifts through the pool, I felt nothing. As I turned away and began climbing out of the pool I felt a jerk on my rod. I pulled up and felt a fish on the other end. It's funny how the strike always comes the moment you stop paying attention. I pulled in this small wild brown, and, encouraged by my success, decided to fish a bit further downstream.

Again, I had little success through this section, and I decided I would fish one more spot before turning around. It was a textbook undercut bank, about 3 feet deep, with fast riffled water in the main channel and slower water under the overhang. I cast my streamer into the riffled water, then slowly swung it towards the bank. As the fly reached the current seam the line stopped dead. I pulled up, saw a bright yellow flash, and then felt slack. I cast again and found nothing. I've found that with browns, unlike brookies, you usually only get one strike before they're gone, especially if they feel the hook.

On Tuesday the weather forecast was similar, so I went to the same stream as Monday. This time I got a few bites in the first pool I fished, but nothing else, so I moved to another stream nearby. I had a long distance release in the first pool I fished, so I knew I picked a good spot. As I moved downstream I didn't find much else until I reached a riffle flowing under a fallen tree. I drifted the streamer under, and once again the line stopped dead. I felt a strong tug and saw a large brookie, at least 10" long, splashing at the end of my line. Unfortunately it, like the brown the day before, got off. I didn't get anything else that day, but it felt good to hook into a few fish at least.

On Wednesday I decided to head a bit farther afield. I started out at the Western MA stream I visited with Aaron on Sunday. In the same pool where he took his large rainbow I saw a bright flash behind my fly. Then on the next cast I felt a pull, but when I pulled back I snapped the line. I haven't fished for anything big enough to snap my tippet in a while, so I think I was a bit overzealous on the hook-set. I rested the pool and then tried again, but this time I was successful.  After a brief fight I pulled in this hook jawed male - I wonder if the rainbows are attempting to spawn? This stream has wild browns and brookies, and it's been stocked for years, so I think if rainbows were able to reproduce here, they would have by now. It would be pretty exciting to have another wild rainbow fishery in MA though.

Hook-jawed Male Rainbow

I moved upstream, breaking off yet another huge fish in another pool and landing a small brookie. At this point I had fished most of the good water in this stretch, so I moved upstream. The upstream section is slower and deeper, with numerous fallen trees providing cover. My first strike came as I was drifting my streamer under one such tree. In the process of pulling in the fish I got the line (and fish...) stuck in the branches of the tree, but I was able to get it in without losing the fish.

I lost a big fish below the crooked tree
Skunk Cabbage in bloom
After that fish I saw a rise in the corner pool ahead of me. I watched intently and soon after saw another rise, then another. It became clear that at least one fish was actively feeding on the surface, so I switched to a dry. I've noticed a lot of stoneflies flying around this week, so I tied on a humpy of similar size. While a humpy doesn't look much like a stonefly at first, I think the bushy hackle is a perfect representation of the way stoneflies rapidly flutter while laying eggs on the surface. The brookies seemed to think so too, and on the first cast I got a strike. My dry fly fishing being as rusty as it is, I missed that strike, but managed to hook the next fish. After that I got one more strike from what seemed to be a bigger fish, but again couldn't hook up. After that the rises ceased.

I decided to break up my drive home with a stop at the same brook I fished Monday and Tuesday. I arrived at a different section, this one located in a drained impoundment, in hopes of finding some dry fly action. Things were looking good until I saw a coupe fly fishing out in the meadow! They didn't look too stealthy, so I'm hoping they didn't catch anything and won't come back! Fortunately there are several other streams in the area, so I decided to explore one just up the road. I got 3 more brookies here and even saw a few rises, but I didn't like how close the stream was to some houses, so I called it quits early. Next time I'll explore further downstream away from the houses.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Daydreams Fulfilled (Part II)

On Sunday I met up with Aaron to explore some streams in the Pioneer Valley of Western MA. We started out around dawn (after much confusion over DST...) and started working our way west on Routes 2 and 202.

We arrived at the first stream around 8:30 and hit the first large pool. Having caught plenty of fish on Saturday, I told Aaron to take the first pool. I started walking downstream towards another hole, but soon I heard him yell and I turned to see his rod doubled over. As I reached him I saw the fish - a huge holdover rainbow. This stream is lightly stocked, but the last stocking was last spring, so this fish was in the stream for a long time, a fact confirmed by its excellent fin condition and vibrant colors.

We moved upstream a bit, where Aaron hooked and lost what like a small wild brown. I didn't catch anything in this stretch, and we had exhausted the nice pools, so we went back to the car to move upstream.

I've mostly caught wild brookies in the upper section, but some of the browns and stocked rainbows end up there as well. the fishing was slow at first, but soon Aaron hooked into a very big wild brookie in a nice corner pool. As we moved downstream I missed a big strike on a small streamer fished in front of a fallen log.

Aaron's ~12" Brookie (he has huge hands, so it might look smaller)
At one nice pool we spooked a big trout that must have been at least 18" and a few others in the 10-12" range. This stream has some of the biggest fish I've seen for its size. We got to a section with thorny banks and several beaver dams, so we decided to explore a new stream instead of bushwhacking, although there was some nice looking water in this stretch.

Coltsfoot getting ready for an early bloom
The final stream was farther up into the hills on the Eastern end of the Pioneer Valley. Though the hills aren't huge, this stream had characteristics reminiscent of a mountain stream, with large boulders and many solid bedrock ledges. There were also several waterfalls and cascades nearby.

The fishing was slow, but I did manage to get two brookies on a pink squirrel in a pool below one of the falls. At one point we stood next to a very deep pool and watched two brookies feed right below our feet, apparently unbothered by our presence. We tried to get a nymph down to them, but the water was too deep and fast to get a good presentation, so we gave up and started the long drive home.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Daydreams Fulfilled (Part I)

I started this blog as a result of the constant daydreams I had about fishing while stuck inside last winter. With the good weather (at least from a fishing perspective) we've experienced this winter I haven't had nearly as many of these, at least until this week. I was busy over the last few weeks and didn't have any time to get out and fish. I knew the weather was getting nicer, which only led to further frustrations. Every time I let my mind wander, images of deep, clear, flowing waters filled my head.

Fortunately, I was able to get some relief this past weekend.

On Saturday Geoff and I left bright and early for a Salter trip. We were the first car in the parking lot, and quickly made our way to our favorite pool. We didn't get much action at first, but just as I was suggesting to Geoff that we try a new spot, I felt a tug on my line. I turned and quickly pulled in a nice brookie.

Soon after, we ran into Max and his son Nate, who were fishing for Salters for the first time. They seemed pretty thrilled at the couple of big salters we pulled out from under the road while they watched, and they took a few pictures for us. They later told us they were unsuccessful for the day, but this stream can take some time to figure out.

We moved upstream, where we found some smaller, but still fun, brookies hiding out among the watercress and fallen logs.

A beautiful day on Buttermilk Bay
Around mid day, having fished most of the good spots, we decided to hit a small wild brook trout stream in Central MA on the way home.

Looking downstream into the meadow
We saw a ton of stoneflies flying around the stream, so I decided to try a dry, while Geoff stuck with his small streamer. Geoff was the first to pull in a fish, getting two hookups from a pool beneath a culvert. We moved up to a large pool below a small impoundment, and I was able to get my first fish on a dry. It was small, but beautiful nonetheless.

We moved downstream and began seeing occasional rises. We managed to move a fish in nearly every likely spot as we moved through a meadow formed by a drained impoundment and then into a forested ravine. After that we headed home and I geared up for my planned trip the next day.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Looking Forward to a Week of Fishing

I'm coming home to MA tomorrow for spring break, and with temperatures forecasted in the 50s and 60s all week, our small streams should be on fire. One stream with a gauge I watch is already at 46 F and will likely continue to rise. That should bode well for dry fly fishing! I've been tying up some comparaduns and humpies that I'm hoping will get some action this week.

Stocked Dry Box
Some small streamers for salters 

I'm hoping to hit streams all over the state, and if I have luck there will be reports to follow. Hopefully the fishing will be good for all!

A beautiful day at the Mississippi
Bald Eagle

Sunday, March 6, 2016

A Late Report

I've been busy the past couple of weeks and haven't had a chance to post, but here are a few pics from the trips I've taken over that time. It's starting to warm up here, so the fishing should only get better! I'll be back in MA next week, and I'm looking forward to what should be good conditions on some of my favorite streams.