Mar 22, 2010

Spring Practice

Bright, sunny and temps in the high 60s are the daily forecast around here.  Seems more like summer than spring, but in New England just give it time and it will change.  So before the weather changes it is time to get outside and get your spring practice in.  Spring practice in what you might ask, well it all depends on what you like to do and it really doesn't matter either.  Just use these days to work off all the rust from the long winter.  If that means, getting yourself reacquainted with your hiking boots and GPS, then maybe some quick Geocaching trips are in order. If it includes swinging a bat and shagging fly balls, well then break out the old mitt  gather up some friends and hit the park.  If fishing is your thing, then get out your tackle and hit an open pond, lake or stream to work out all the kinks.

This spring practice time offers you the opportunity to get out and take some test runs with your gear that sat all winter or longer before going off into a full fledged adventure.  How many times have you encountered that early spring day and your grab your gear in a frantic rush to take advantage of the early spring weather only to find your batteries in your GPS were dead, or your baseball gloves pocket is broke or you search frantically in your fishing vest for some tippet material only to find the spools empty.  Or worse, a hole in your waders... It may feel like spring but the water in the streams around me are barely breaking 40 and the last thing you want to do is find yourself hours from the car only to find you have a leak in your waders.  brrrrrrrrr,

Well,   I took advantage of the spring practice this week to hit up the little pond at my office where I could work on my fly fishing skills during my lunch break.  The pond at work offers some challenges with the trees and bushes which will cause me to work on my roll casting, as well as offer some open space where I can work on my false casting and distance casting.  Ofcourse, practicing my casting accuracy is part of this ritual spring practice.  It allows me to work on everything from my streamer fishing to my dry fly presentation of achieving that ever so softly drop onto the water of a dry fly.  All I can say was WOW, I'm rusty.

The pond also offers up the opportunity to practice my hook setting , fish fighting and landing techniques on the the large population of Bluegills or sunfish as I affectionately called them when I was growing up.  I'm sure if you have ever fished, then bluegills were something you caught at one time or another and for a small little fish they can be a challenge and loads of fun.  As we grow older and take on new fishing challenges the poor little old bluegill gets forgotten.  Fishing for bluegills can be a lot of fun for the kids and a great way to introduce new comers to fishing.  They are abundant in almost every pond, lake and even some small creeks and it doesn't take a lot of special or expensive equipment or technique to catch, but don't mistake this as them being easy to catch.  Try a light action rod with a light line for some real fun.

Bluegills will spawn from late May into August and during this time, male bluegills will build and defend plate-shaped nests along shorelines and in the warmer water. The females lay eggs in these nests and the males fertilize the eggs, guards them from predators and keep them silt-free by fanning over the eggs with their tails.  The spawning beds are a good sign that you have found quality bluegill waters

Bluegills can be pretty finicky at times so having the right offerings is a must. When it comes to bait of choice (Flies, jigs, live bait), think small because bluegills have very small mouths. If bluegills are hungry a they will bite anything that will fit in their mouths and this could lead to non stop fishing fun for everyone.  Bluegills can be real skittish so make sure to be quiet, walk softly and try not to be seen when approaching your fishing waters.

Now take advantage of the nice weather and get some spring practice in.  I know I will.

Tips on Catching Bluegills


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

Mar 9, 2010

My Review of the Northeast Hunting & Fishing Expo

Well, I'm finally getting around to my review and observations about the recent Northeast Hunting & Fishing Expo and apologize for being late.

The show itself just seems to get smaller and smaller, which seems to be typical of many shows I attend.  This could be due to the economy as well as companies taking advantage of open houses or special weekends at their shops instead of loading up and dragging it to the show.  This show was represented well from many of our local companies, charter boats, captains and guides but was very light on out of state charters, guides and outfitters.  Some of that could be due to the Sportsman show just weeks before in Springfield MA, but still a disappointment. The show leans more towards  those that fish then those that hunt but fortunately I do both.  I didn't find any great deals on any gear and I didn't see anything that caused me to say "I have to have that".  So in simple terms the show was just ok.  I was able to work my way through the 6 rows of booths in just about an hour and a half.  One nice thing was no SHAMWOW guy!!  There was a small section that included fly tiers who were tying flies and you could ask questions and even purchase their flies.  A trout pond for those to try their luck at catching a fish and a casting area where some of the pros presented casting instruction and demonstration.  definitely a little something for everyone, but the keyword here is little.

One thing i did see that I hadn't seen before was a new game drag called the Game Sled from Hunting's a Drag Inc.  Currently my hunting partners and I use a game drag called the Dead Sled from Arc products.  The Dead Sled  is basically a big piece of thick plastic with some holes for strapping down the game.  Kind of like the little blue roll-up sleds you had as a kid.  They hold up well for the most part, but it takes a beating on some of the areas we hunt and some don't make it past a single use as the rocks chew holes through them or we rip the strap due to the sled getting brittle in the cold or hung up on a deadfall or something.  Another downside is the Dead Sleds we use now are their width.  Because it is a big piece of long plastic rolled up, the width is about 2+ feet and becomes difficult to carry around with you.  The bag and strap that comes with it won't last long either.  The Game Sled however looks to solve some of the problems with our current Dead Sleds.  First is the material itself.  I'm not actually sure what the material is but it is a pliable material that looks and feels extremely durable with the straps and buckles securely sewn to the sled. Because it is a pliable material it allows you to fold up small and then roll making it fit in my backpack.  It does seem to be a little bit heavier than my current one, but the size and pack-ability out weighs the extra weight in my opinion.  The Safety orange color of the sled is also a plus in my opinion.  I have one on order and hopefully i will be successful this fall and can report back on the Game Sleds performance.

After we completed our trip through the exhibitor area we decided to take in some seminars from the local Captains and Guides that were at the show.  This by far was the highlight of the show for us.  We got so much out of these seminars which were also included in the $10 entry fee.  We attended 4 seminars related to salt water fishing, but they also had seminars on fly fishing the upper Delaware and  a few for the hunters as well.  The first seminar was on fishing blackfish and black sea bass presented by Captain Kyle Douton from J&B Tackle in Niantic, CT.  Captain Douton is the captain of the J&B Charter Boat and provided a very informative session for sure.  The second session was Light Tackle Trolling Tubes & Spoons with T-Man Trolling Systems presented by Captain Pat Renna from TMan Custom Tackle.  Captain Rena also runs a Charter boat where he takes clients out to experience this light tackle and tubing technique for striped bass and bluefish. Captain Renna is very active on one of the fishing forums (CTFisherman) that I participate on and  I've seen the reports from many of Capt Renna's trips and he surely knows his stuff and is always available to help answer your questions.  Our next session was by far the most entertaining as Captain Greg Dubrul who is the owner and captain of the Blackhawk II Party Boat out of Niantic, CT kept everyone laughing and interested as he discussed techniques for night time striper fishing.  It's been many years since I fished on the Blackhawk II but now that Capt. Dubrul is in charge I'll have to add the Blackhawk to my list of visits this season.  We finished the sessions with Capt Blaine Anderson from Anderson Guide Service who spent the last hour discussing catching trophy stripers on live bait.  If you are interested in live bait fishing for big stripers, then you must take in one of Capt. Anderson's clinics. Capt. Anderson also manages Connecticut Outfitters located in Wethersfield, CT and is a shop I frequent often and they also offer many fishing seminars at their store.  They are very friendly and knowledgeable about all types of fishing and carry an incredible array of items for chasing trout to striped bass.  Make sure to check them out.  Capt. Anderson also is a regular on CTFisherman and someone willing to help with your questions.  Make sure to contact the store for information on upcoming seminars.

Although I was a little disappointed with the small exhibitors section it did allow me the time to take in those great seminars and take away some new found knowledge that hopefully I can apply to my fishing this year.  Time to get on the water.  Tight Lines everyone.