Mar 29, 2011

Didymo confirmed in the Farmington River

Well it is official and confirmation of Didymo in the Farmington river was released by the CT DEP today.

One of the numerous clumps of didymo
 found in the West Branch Farmington River.
"This find is very troubling," said DEP Deputy Commissioner Susan Frechette. "Extensive blooms of this organism can harm the river ecosystem and decrease its recreational and economic value. In an effort to confirm identification, staff from DEP’s Bureau of Water Protection and Land Reuse surveyed a number of sites in the river and a major tributary along a seven mile stretch of the West Branch Farmington River in Hartland and Barkhamsted. Unfortunately numerous clumps of didymo were found at all the surveyed sites in the river downstream of the Riverton Bridge. Once didymo has spread, there’s no practical way to remove it from a river."

You can read the entire press release here:

For us in Connecticut, our states opening day of fishing is just around the corner and there will be numerous people out and about in our rivers as fishing opens up and the warmer weather continues so it is extremely important that everyone understand the issues and how to protect against the possible transportation of invasive organisms, like Didymo, to other bodies of waters.  This is NOT just a fisherman's issue, but anyone that uses a body of water as these species can be transport by any of your equipment like vests, tubes, boats, shoes and even your bathing suit and your pets.

Here is what DEP suggests that you can do to help stop the spread of Didymo and other invasive specieis.

Humans are the primary vector responsible for the recent spread of didymo. Anglers, kayakers and canoeists, boaters and jet skiers can all unknowingly spread didymo. The microscopic cells can cling to fishing gear, waders (felt soles can be especially problematic), boots and boats, and remain viable for months under even slightly moist conditions. To prevent the spread of didymo to additional waters, DEP asks that anglers, especially those who also fish the Farmington River or streams outside Connecticut, and other users practice CHECK, CLEAN, DRY procedures.
  • CHECK:
  • Before leaving a river, stream or lake, remove all obvious clumps of algae and plant material from fishing gear, waders, clothing & footwear, canoes & kayaks, and anything else that has been in the water and look for hidden clumps. Leave them at the site. If you find any later, clean your gear and dispose of all material in the trash.
  • CLEAN:
  • Soak/spray & scrub boats and all other "hard" items for at least one minute in either very hot (140°F) water, a 2% bleach solution, or a 5% dishwashing detergent solution. Absorbent materials such as clothes and felt soles on waders should be soaked for at least 40 minutes in very hot water (140°F), or 30 minutes in hot water (115°F) with 5% dishwashing detergent. Freezing thoroughly will also kill didymo.
  • DRY: If cleaning is not practical, after the item is completely dry to touch, wait an additional 48 hours before contact or use in any other waterway.
The above procedures will also be effective against other unwanted organisms.

Please take the time to spread the word through your blogs, clubs, forums and friends so we can make more people aware of the potential hazards and proper methods for ensuring that they are not helping the spread of such unwanted organisms.

Signs of Spring - I think.

Spring time is my second favorite season right behind Autumn.  The official start of spring is over a  week old and yet this week in Connecticut we had snow twice and temps hovering around 40 and snow possible this week.  YIKES!   But don't fret my friends, there are signs everywhere that old man winter is losing his grip.

Ice is still hanging on - barely

The snow is melting away to reveal what I'm pretty sure is my lawn, but after almost 90 inches of snow I forgot what it looks like.  The ice on our rivers and lakes is melting and this open water creates new playgrounds for returning waterfowl.  The days are getting warmer and longer which means after work I can spend time outside without using a flash light.  The only downside to spring is the loads of yard work and outside chores that will most certainly end up on my honey-do list.

The sightings of birds last seen in the fall start to increase as do sightings of plant life in the form of fresh buds on the trees or leaves pushing up from the snow free ground.   I'm not sure if there is just one specific sign of spring that sends me into a frenzy of anticipation but with each new sign I encounter, that anticipation gets harder to ignore and the more anxious I become to see what new life spring is going to provide. 

One of 15 in my yard this past week

For me the first sign of spring is the Maple sugaring season which I reported on in my Sap is really flowing - a sign of spring post.  It also brings the start of open water fishing season as well as the Spring Turkey hunting season which are just two of my favorite spring time passions.  Oh, and I can't forget the Spring Stiped Bass and American Shad runs in many of our Connecticut Rivers that dump into the Long Island Sound.  You would think with all these great opportunities I would be happy and relaxed, but with so many options for spending time outdoors I start to worry that I might miss something.  Fret not my friends I promise to do my best to ignore my chores and house work as to not miss a single opportunity this spring, but please don't tell my wife I said this.

For those that don't fish there is the return of birds and waterfowl from their wintering grounds as they migrate their way back north to their breeding grounds offering up some incredible opportunities for birding and photography.  It usually starts with seeing more geese and ducks, then the robins show up and of course the red winged black birds.  It also seems like our resident birds like the black capped chickadee, titmice and cardinals start to really turn up the volume in their sweet notes as they start to look for mates.  I know many days during the past two weeks where the birds on my feeder outside my bedroom window were so loud that I didn't need an alarm clock.  At first I was frustrated as I still had some sleep time available but then I realized that I couldn't miss this so I just laid there enjoying the sweet sounds.

The culprit responsible for my early awakening

Even if you never leave your back yard you can enjoy the signs of spring as the plants, trees and your grass starts to wake from a long winter rest.  The daffodils in my yard are starting to peek out from the ground.  I noticed plenty of earthworm holes in the yard as well and that probably explains why the 15 robins where hanging around out there

I can't leave out all the reptiles that start to make their presence known as snakes become more visible, peepers start their peeping and the spotted salamanders get ready for their spring migration.  Spotted salamanders make their spring migration to vernal ponds (just a fancy name for a temporary pool of water that offer up breeding habitat for many insects and reptiles) where they will breed and from what I have read it is a site to see a large migration.  I have yet to witness a large salamander migration and this is on my hit list for this spring so if anyone knows of a good viewing spot in Connecticut or surround states please let me know.

No matter what your favorite spring time sign is, it's time to pay attention and be on the lookout because it happens fast and you surely don't want to miss a chance to welcome an old friend home.

Welcome Home Spring.

Mar 24, 2011

They Have The Passion - Weekly Post #1

I've been thinking about a way to share with my readers some of the other outdoor bloggers that I follow so I decided to start a new weekly posting called "They got the Passion" where I will highlight one of my fellow outdoor bloggers every week that is sharing their passions for the outdoors in their blogging.

I try to follow many great outdoor blogs on a regular basis and there are many, and I mean many, great outdoor blogs out there.  Thanks to the folks at OBN (Outdoor Blogger Network) it makes finding these blogs a whole lot easier.  Now you would think that OBN would be my first choice for the weekly review but they are not and I'm sure that the crew at OBN and it's members would not mind following behind my first choice of  Joel over at A year on the Fly.


A year on the Fly combines Joel's passion for Fly Fishing with his passion for painting.  Joel started out on January 2010 with the goal of posting a piece of art every day for an entire year and he completed it.  That's right 365 posts straight. Now that is either a sign of a bigger problem or just a true showing of PASSION.   Joel's tag line of "The Art Of the Fly And The fish They Catch" says it all.

Just one of Joel's incredible works of Art

This is a must see blog for any fisherman or art lover as Joel does a fantastic job of showing the beauty of a fly and the fish it catches  and while doing so he will often offer up some additional musings and information.  If you see something you like on his site, then buy it.  If you have a fish you caught and a picture of it and want something unique for your wall, then ask Joel about creating an original painting for you.   Once again here is the link to A Year On The Fly.

I'm not sure I can commit to a post a day the way Joel did, but I plan on keeping up the weekly They Have The Passion posts as there are so many great outdoor bloggers that I want to introduce everyone to so stay tuned.

Mar 22, 2011

OBN Photo Prompt - Most Un-Frame Worthy Photo

The folks over at Outdoor Blogger Network came up with another embarrassing brilliant idea for a photo prompt.  

Here’s what Joe said, “We HAVE TO have a “Smallest Fish” or “Most un-trophy-like Trohpy” photo prompt.  If we can’t make fun of ourselves – who can we make fun of??

I still can't believe I am going to post these and I am sure I will take some serious ribbing for them but what the heck.  What's the old saying..."What doesn't hurt you only makes you stronger"....Well bring it on.

First up is a picture of my first fish ever on a dry fly which you would think would warrant a place on the wall but .....

Next up is what happens when Ray, Busch Pilot and myself  have one too many Yuenglings and Bubba is away.

This last one is a bad picture because of all the snow, but it is kind of cool.  It went from an overcast day to a full blown white out in minutes during one of our muzzle loader hunts down in New Jersey.

Ok, so let the ribbing begin but just remember what goes around comes around.

Mar 21, 2011

Finally Some Time on the Stream

The sap was all boiled and bottled, the weather was spring like and my house chores complete, so it was off to fish a local TMA (Trout Management Area) to see if I couldn't get into some open water trout. 

The first stop was my home stomping grounds of the Cole Wilde TMA located on the Willimantic River.  I wasn't sure what condition the river would be in with all the rain last week and the snow melt off so I was prepared for the worst but was pleased with the conditions of the river.  The water was high and it was running fast but much clearer than expected.  I noticed plenty of winter stones fluttering about and scurrying across the rocks but no fish activity.  I was also the only one fishing which was a sign that the preseason stocking hasn't occurred yet.  Oh well, that just meant that I would have to work hard for a fish which was fine with me as I was just excited to be on the water and using my new Greys Streamflex 10' 4wt.

I decided to do some indicator nymphing using a woven stone fly as my anchor fly and a small black Pheasant Tail nymph as a dropper.  Up until this trip I always used a 9 foot rod and I really didn't think that a 10 foot rod would be much of difference but that extra foot really helps with line control when nymphing.  The Streamflex was a pleasure to cast and handled everything I threw so needless to say i am very pleased with the new rod.  I worked over my favorites runs with out a single bump and no sign of fish anywhere.

I knew some of the TMA's had been stocked as I had reports from friends of their "slamming the stockies" outings, but that wasn't the case on the Willi so I packed it up and headed down to another TMA on the Hocknum River.   Once again I was greeted with a pretty open and easy to access stretch of the TMA all to myself so honestly I was expecting the same results as on the Willi.  The water was moving fast and high just like on the Willi, except it was a little cloudy.  I got all rigged up for some nymphing again and worked about a 200 yard stretch of water with not bumps and not a single fish seen.  There were stones fluttering around as well as what I would gather were midges.  As I was working the last stretch of water by my truck a couple of guys stopped to chat and see how things where going.  Turns out they were just on their way back from another TMA where they said it was like opening day.  Loaded with fisherman and fish.  It was the same TMA that I was getting the "slamming the stockies" reports from my buddy so I wasn't surprised.  We chatted for a bit and I decided it was time to head home.

So my first open water trip resulted in a big ZERO as far as fish count goes, but it was great to be back on the streams and to fish my new rod.  The upcoming weather forecast looks more like winter than spring but that's okay because the rivers and streams are open and flowing so the trout fishing will only improve and what more can you ask for.

Mar 16, 2011

The Sap is Really Flowing - A Sign of spring

Everyone has their own signs that they look for that tell them that old man winter is losing his grip and spring is around the corner.  For some it could be the first sign of Robins, like the twelve that were in my yard this morning, or your favorite fishing hole showing signs of open water and fish.  For my friend Jim (aka Bubba) it is the sound of sap trickling out of the trees and into his collection pails.  See Bubba has a passion for Maple Syrup but not the store bought kind, but the kind he makes himself every spring.  Every year as the days start to warm while the nights remain cold Bubba starts to get his sugaring gear out of storage and organized in preparation of hitting the outdoors to tap into the hidden treasure that the sugar maples are getting ready to provide.

The process of collecting sap and boiling it down into delicious maple syrup is truly a passion and a labor of love and it takes a commitment that is above and beyond what many of us would go through just to enjoy some of that liquid gold.   The passion and dedication required to produce your own maple syrup is similar to the passion  and dedication to shoot a large buck or harvest an old Tom.  It takes preparation, planning, hard work, commitment and reevaluation of your season oh and good equipment and lots of time.

Bubba repairing a tap and line

For Bubba it starts by gaining access to land that has plenty of sugar maples.  Once that access is gained a scouting mission to find the best trees and a plan to get the sap out of the trees and into collection pails begins along with equipment repairs and cutting and stacking wood that will be used to fuel the evaporator.   There are many different ways to collect the sap from simply taping the tree and hanging a bucket to running a connection of rubber tubing along the trees acting as a collection highway that allows the sap from multiple trees to run into a single collection container.  The later makes the process of collecting the sap quicker and somewhat easier.  Especially when you still have two feet of snow on the ground.
100 gallon holding tank over flowing 

Transferring the sap into the tank on the truck

Once you have the sap collected you now need a place and equipment to boil that sap down into syrup and all this occurs in the "Sugar House".  Bubba's shed is a multi-function facility in that it has many applications such as a meat room during the hunting season where we process all our deer, but for about six weeks during the months of February and March this shed is officially known as the "Sugar House".  The Sugar House is where the sugaring process really takes shape.  The sap is pumped from the containers used to pick up the sap from the field and into a hold tank on the outside of the Sugar House.  From here the sap is feed through a filter and pipe system that is connected to a wood fueled evaporator.  This evaporator is the tool used to boil the sap which removes the water from the sap leaving nothing but pure sweet and Delicious maple syrup.  This boiling process takes some time as it takes about 40 gallons of sap to produce one gallon of pure maple syrup.  I refer this part of the process being similar to watching paint dry, but knowing that the results will taste much better.
The evaporator boiling away

Jersey Jim stoking the fire

It take someone with a eagle eye to watch the thermometer

As the boiled sap moves through the different sections of the evaporator it and the water is boiled off the sap will be ready to be "drawn off" which means it is removed from the evaporator into a finishing pan with the temperature of the syrup now being 7.5 degrees above the boiling point of water.  Once the syrup has been transferred into the smaller pan called a finishing pan, the syrup will continue to be cooked and the density checked with a hydrometer until the the sugar maker, Bubba, is satisfied with it and then it is ready to be filtered.   The syrup is now run from the finishing pan and through a filtering machine and then into another finishing pan where it will continue to be heated to a minimum of a 180 degrees for bottling. 

Bubba checking the syrup in the finishing pan

Bubba preparing the syrup for the filter

Liquid gold as it comes out of the filter

This process will be repeated daily until the nightly freeze stops and the sap no longer flows.  For Bubba this means at work for 7am where he works for an 8 hour day and then heads home where he will collect sap and then start the boiling process which many nights will last until almost midnight.  On the weekend Bubba starts this process first thing in the morning and once again it will continue well into the night.  As I said it is truly a labor of love and requires great dedication and a deep passion.

The Finished Product

Finding help can be difficult at times but Bubba's rule is simple, If you want syrup you have to work - no exceptions.  So work we do.  Even the boys from New Jersey get into it and make at least one long weekend trip to the Sugar House where they spend the weekend sugaring.  The one added advantage to the weekend work is the opportunity to cook up a nice big breakfast for everyone helping out which allows us to enjoy the fruits of our labor as well enjoy a bottle of fresh made Connecticut Maple Syrup.

A must have when evaluating your work

A full griddle - Venison sausage, bacon, potatoes


If you have never tried pure maple syrup, then I encourage to do so and before balking at the price, think about the passion, dedication and work that goes into making just one gallon of this incredible liquid gold and then pour ever so carefully.

Below are some great links for additional information on sugaring and Maple Syrup.

Mar 9, 2011

March Madness and fishing.....Interesting

When people hear the words March Madness right away College Basketball pops into your brain, but yet it could be about fishing, right?  Well not normally but in this case the folks over at Cheeky Fly Fishing have decided to combine March Madness with their passion for fly fishing.   The best part about this is that 100% of the proceeds will be donated to Casting for Recovery, Stripers Forever and Bonefish & Tarpon Trust all of which are great organizations trying to make a difference.

Should I ride a number 1 seed like the Tarpon or Steelhead or go for a cindarella pick to win it all like the Bluegill?  I can tell you this I am NOT happy about the Smallmouth Bass being an 8 seed in the Eastern Division with a first round game against the Steelhead.  That is just disrespectful.   I guess I need to spend a little more time doing some research and analysis before submitting my picks. 

For additional details and to enter your bracket visit their website at

Good luck to everyone!

Mar 4, 2011

Two firsts - Guest Blog about First Buck

A while back OBN had a writing prompt suggestion about a blog post from a kids perspective and I have asked both my son and daughter to write a blog post for me so below is the first ever guest blog post, actually it's more like a short story, as written by my Son Brendan who currently is a Sophomore in College.

My First Buck

When my father asked me write about a hunting experience, my mind ran wild with the memories that I’ve acquired in the past 8 years of being able to hunt.  Should I talk about the turkey hunts in Connecticut (two doubles) or the harvest of my first ever deer while my father and his best friend watched.  It is tough to pick one specific hunt because they all have so much meaning.  The one I decided to write about was the 8 pointer I took in the Delaware Water Gap, New Jersey.  For those who don’t know much about this area, it’s something you need to go explore.  A place in New Jersey that is full of wildlife is hard to come by, but this place doesn’t lack excitement.  My grandfather, uncle, father, and I have grown up hunting the mountains of “the Gap” and chasing big whitetails.  

            My big buck was taken during the muzzleloader trip in 2007 that our hunting group goes on after Thanksgiving every year for the first two days of the NJ muzzleloader season.  We travel down the Sunday after Thanksgiving to hunt Monday and Tuesday.  We head down on Sunday to unpack and do some scouting before the two fun filled days ahead of us.  The food and company never seizes to disappoint and the atmosphere of a good camp is present.  As we sit down and eat we discuss where we are all going to sit in the morning.  I wasn’t able to hunt the archery season so I was depending on my father and others who were there to give me advice on where to sit for muzzleloader.  They decided to give me a spot overlooking a laurel area near the power lines we normally hunt.  I would sit behind a big tree that had fallen the previous year and watch out towards the pines that surround the power lines.

  As I lay in bed that night, deer fever got to me as it was hard to fall asleep.   The excitement of the hunt kept my mind racing all night.  As all hunters know waking up in the morning for a hunt isn’t hard at all and that’s what happened.  I jumped out of bed and got packed, ate breakfast, and we were off for a cold day in the woods.  My father dropped me off at my spot as he continued on his way to reach his spot down towards the power lines before sunrise.  It was a slow morning as the sun came up over the mountain and began to warm the air slightly.  I have to say one of the most amazing views is watching a sunrise light up the woods slowly.  There is nothing better than to sit and watch nature at its finest moments such as that.  The morning showed no activity so we decided to all meet up for lunch and discusses our plan for the afternoon.  I couldn’t walk away from my spot just yet; so I decided to go there again in the afternoon and wait it out for some deer to pass by my spot.
  As the afternoon rolled on, my hopes for anything coming by were diminishing.  Suddenly, a nice 8 pointer comes walking through the pine trees a little over 100 yards away.  My heart instantly started racing as my moment to take down a trophy buck has come.  I pull up my Thompson Center Muzzleloader and fire a shot.  After the smoke clears I lose sight of the buck.  I get a call on the radio about the shot and the situation.  My uncle Steve was the closest to me so he came and helped calm me down and prepare to look for a blood trail.  As we were talking about our approach of tracking this deer, the big buck appears on the hill about 75 yards away.  He seemed very much alive so my shot clearly missed.  Now it was my uncle’s turn as he slowly walked around the tree that I sat next to and set up for a shot.  Again smoke fills the air from my uncle’s muzzleloader.  The deer runs off and seems untouched as we sit in disbelief that this trophy has escaped two shots in the matter of 20 minutes.  

  As the day came to an end, we head back to camp for a big dinner and start swapping stories about our day in the woods.  Of course, I get a little heckling from the guys about missing a big buck, but it’s just part of being the young guy in the group.  I decided that I would go back to that same spot tomorrow regardless of the previous day’s events.  I had a feeling that my spot was in a prime location of the big buck’s path.

  The second and last day of muzzleloader camp came all too quickly as we all got up bright and early and headed out to our spots.  I was determined to sit in the same spot and hope for just one more chance at this beautiful buck.  Soon after we all settled down we get a heads up on the radio from Jimmy K about him spooking a couple deer as he was walking into his spot by the power lines and they were heading our way.  Thoughts raced through my mind about the buck coming by again.  My father sat with me on this day which made this hunt even more exciting.  He made the decision to walk to the bottom of the deadfall to get a better look at the deer that could be approaching from the hill below us.

  Sure enough, the big buck starts walking the same path he did before just 50 yards closer this time.  My father started using the grunt call to bring him to a closer range for a nice shot.  The buck decided to give me another chance as he walked 60 yards away and stood broadside.  Everything slowed down and got quiet as I looked into the scope and fired a shot at this buck once again.  As the smoke cleared, I could see the buck running directly away from me.  The difference between this shot and the other one was that the deer was running differently than before.  With the tail up this time, I was sure I had to of made contact, but was a little skeptical after the previous day.  My father came back up to meet up with me and had me retell what happened from the shot to where I last saw him.  After a couple minutes we decided to go to the spot of the shot and start to look for a blood trail.  Our first sign of blood trail was 50 yards after the shot and we knew we had a good chance of harvesting this deer.  As we were tracking the sign, we hear another shot that came from Ernie, one of our CT hunting buddies that was with us.  We hear from him that he put a second shot in my deer that was on a death run at this point.  As we were tracking our shot, Ernie and Bobby were tracking Ernie’s shot.

  Finally, my father and I get the call on the radio that the big buck is down and I have harvested my first buck.  As soon as we heard that, my father and I yelled with joy and hugged each other.  That moment we had is something I will always remember and cherish.  To have my father with me to witness the harvesting of my first buck made me feel proud and I felt that I made him proud.  He taught me everything I know about hunting and that moment made it all come full circle for me.  He always says that he gets more enjoyment from watching me hunt than him hunting by himself.  For me to see the smile on his face was all I could ask for because I knew that I was becoming the hunter he wanted me to be.  Once we finally got to the trophy, I sat back with awe at the beautiful creature.

After taking pictures and gutting it (thanks Ernie), the mile long drag was left.  I’m thankful the road was an old logging trail that was flat because the deer got heavier and heavier with every step.  As we made it back to the cars, I was congratulated by everyone on my kill.  I was the king of the woods that day and nobody could have brought me down. 

I want to thank my father for giving me the opportunity to write this story.  I always want to thank him for being a great teacher, role model, friend, hunting partner, but most importantly, being a Dad that has been there for me with the ups and downs.  Being at college, I have little time to get out in the woods due to my stacks of homework and extracurricular activities.  Having been away from hunting for a couple years, it has made me cherish the moments I had with my friends and family out in the woods.  Like my father and grandfather have told me though, “Get an education, have your fun, because hunting will always be waiting for you when you return.”  I think that is something that not many people realize is that the woods are accepting of hunters that care about it.  It’s a place to get away from everything and enjoy the beauty that is Mother Nature.