Mar 10, 2010

First fish of 2010

Well I had some things to take care of yesterday morning and decided to skip work and get some fishing in before running out to pick up my daughter.  I packed up and headed out to a local TMA - Trout Management Area - located in Northeastern CT.  The Cole Wilde TMA is located in Tolland and Willington on the Willimantic River.  The TMA starts at the mouth of Roaring Brook off Route 32 and ends downstream at the bridge on Route 74.  This section of water is designated as Fly Fishing only and is also a Catch and Release area meaning all fish caught must be released back into the river.  Many of the TMAs throughout Connecticut are open year round and most are Catch and Release or in some cases limited harvest.  This offers some good fishing opportunities to those willing to brave the cold water and weather throughout the winter.  The majority of Trout waters are closed as of the end of February and open back up for opening Day on the third Saturday in April.

I arrived at the river to find another fly fisherman with the same thing in mind.  As I put on my cold weather waders and prepared my gear I watched the other fisherman and noticed he had hooked a trout which was a good sign for sure.  I was hoping that the I would time my fishing with some sort of bug life hatching so I could work on my "match the hatch" skills.  Matching the hatch basically means trying to figure out what bug life is in the water and in the process of hatching into a flying insect.  The fish will key on the bug life and changes going on under water and start to feed on these insects so our job as a fly fisherman is to figure out what is going on and trying to offer a fly that matches the bugs the fish are seeing and feeding on in the water.  Much easier said then done for sure.  Before i started fly fishing I always thought that it meant drifting a floating fly on top of the water and a fish will just come flying up from the depths and devour it, atleast that is what I had seen on TV and in Magazines.

I've learned so much over the past 3 seasons of fly fishing and one important item is that the majority of a fishes food lives under the surface and actually in the lower 3rd of the water column.  These insects all start out as some type of creepy crawling type of bug normally refereed to as a Nymph or Larva where they spend their time hiding in weeds, attached to rocks, under rocks and sticks, where they remain until they are ready to change into adults.  Some insects even form a layer of protection like a cocoon out of sand, gravel and even sticks such as these cased caddis shown in the picture to the right. These nymphs live on the bottom of the stream until it is time to tun into an adult and they start to work their way to the surface in what is know as as an emerger stage.  During this emergence, the nymphs are much more active as they fight their way to the surface which is what the fish are keying in on.  As they emerge to the surface they actually stop just under the surface and begin to molt into an adult where they will break through the surface and fly away, well that is if a fish doesn't get hem first.

So with all my new found knowledge and having plenty of room to experiment with my fly fishing technique I decided to start out with a technique called nymphing.  Nymphing is basically presenting flies that represent the nymph or larva stages of the bug in the lower part of the water column along the bottom of the stream.  There are many different nymphing techniques so I won't get into much detail.  I was using an indicator - some type of float that rides the surface of the water that is supposed to help you detect when the fish takes your nymph.  Well for over an hour I worked a few small sections of water where I knew there was fish and as far as I could tell, I didn't get a single nibble.  I started to see some adult stoneflys on the surface of the water and even watched a fish rise once or twice.

I only had about an hour left to fish before I had to leave so I switched over to Old Faithful - An Olive Woolly Bugger.  As I have written in another post, they claim there is no wrong way to fish a Woolly Bugger and it is a great fly that represents so much from a baitfish, leeches to nymphs.  It didn't take me long with old faithful to hook and land my first trout of the 2010 season.  It was a nice rainbow trout about 10 inches in length.  It put up a wonderful fight considering the water was barely reaching 39 degrees.  I brought the fish to net and removed the barb less hook from his mouth and took a picture of him and released him back to fight another day.   That one little trout made my whole day and brought a huge smile to my face.  I continued to work the bugger in the same general area.  sometimes I would just left it dead drift along in the current, sometimes I would strip it in to give it a swimming action and sometimes I would just twitch it along as it drifted and swung in the current.  I ended up catching 4 more fish, 2 more rainbows and 2 browns all of which brought a smile to my face and released back into the stream as I thanked them for their participation.   All in all a wonderful day to get a little fishing in.

I did miss 3 fish, but what do expect from a long winter off.

CT DEP Fisheries - FAQ
CT Fly Fisherman's Association

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