Saturday, July 27, 2013

Seeking out colder tribs

It's been rough not being able to fish like I usually do (a few different rivers in the same day - a lot of walking from good water to the next)  I hadn't really planned on fishing last weekend but had a big urge to the night before.  I asked Katlyn if she wanted to go with me and she reluctantly agreed.

I rigged up my spinning gear for her to use if she wanted once we got there.  Our first stop (my fav little trout spot) was inaccessible.  The person who's yard I have to walk through (with his permission of course) looked like he was having a birthday party for someone.  We didn't want to be intrusive, so we were on to the next trib.

Good thing, because we had a quick downpour in the car on the way to the next spot.  I was excited though, it was good for bug activity.  There had been a small amount of rain a few days prior to Saturday, so the tribs were looking perfect.  They weren't low and clear like they usually are this time of the year.  They were up just enough and had just enough stain.  The next trib looked perfect...and I just had a feeling.

We parked the car and walked through the woods to the first decent run on the trib.  I got her set up first with my spinning rod and a pinched barb.  It didn't take her long at all to find fish!!  Within minutes she'd reeled in a beautiful wild brown, about 10".  Less than 3 drifts later, another beautiful wild brown, this time a healthy 14"with color you could spot from a mile away.  After a little while without a bite, she wasn't interested and it was my turn!!

I opted for a euro-style rig, and had 3 small flies (14 bh pheasant, 14 bh prince, 16 brassie)  Didn't take long at all for me to find a fish.  Another sweet-looking brown, and then a rainbow, and another brown!!  I couldn't believe how many fish we'd got into in just this one area.  The rain had really helped, I watched a few fish rise to emergers while tying one on.  To my left was a very deep swirl-hole that looked difficult to fish.  I knew there had to be fish against a rock wall that the current went by - and sure enough there was.  First drift produced this gorgeous wild rainbow with some pretty bad wounds on the other side of its back! (bird of prey?)

The fish was actually a much darker maroon color than in the picture, it was awesome!

I released him and waited a few minutes before I drifted the same water.  It didn't take long to hook up again, this time with a rainbow a little bit bigger.  Of course I'd left my net at home, so by the time I'd limped down the rocky bank to cradle the fish out of the water, he'd shaken off....ugh!

I stood in front of the first water we fished when we got there, tying on a different fly.  While wetting a knot in my mouth, I scoped out a patch of water that the sun was just starting to hit.  I could barely see the pebbly bottom.  All of a sudden, out of the clear green-tinted depths of the water....a huge rainbow (20+")came up from the bottom to grab an emerger.  It stopped me in my tracks, and I finishing tying my fly quickly and started drifting through the same area I just saw him.  Of course this guy would be hard to catch, but I was determined to get him on the end of my line.....

The sun had made it's way above the tree that was giving us shade, and it was getting hot!  Katlyn opted to take off to the car for the AC while she waited for me.  I fished the same stretch of water I spotted the big bow hard, but had no love at all.  I decided to fish the deep swirl again before I took off, and quickly hooked up and landed another colored up brown.  Not too long after, I hooked into yet another big rainbow!  I landed him after a fierce, aerial filled fight on my 3 wt but had no camera on me! (Katlyn took my phone to the car...bummer)  It wasn't the 20"er I spotted, but another big bow compared to the size of the water I was fishing.  Awesome fight on a 6'6" 3 wt for sure!!  I couldn't believe how many fish I'd hooked into in just that one spot on the river.  It really was a bummer I wasn't able to walk any further to fish more water on this trib...but I took what I could get, and it was an awesome day.  Catching wild fish in a beautiful setting with the girl of your dreams.  You couldn't ask for any better.

Ditch Pickle Classic

Well, I had the opportunity to fish the Ditch Pickle Classic this year(  It's a fly-fishing only tournament mainly aimed at bass, but had other categories such as exotic species and even pike.  There was about 50 teams of two (or three in some cases I think) and we all met on the morning of the tournament to get a grab bag of goodies and to sign in.  It was nice to see some familiar faces there, but for the most part everything was new to me. 

I've never been one for competitive fishing.  I guess I lack the confidence needed since I still consider myself a beginner at fly-fishing.  I got a text a week prior from my friend Mike, asking if I wanted to join him for it.  I really couldn't say no, I knew it would be fun even if we didn't win.  Mike is very knowledgeable and I always have a good time fishing with him.  The tournament didn't start until late afternoon on a Saturday, so I had time to relax and get geared up in the morning.  After check-in, we headed from the Missiquoi Wildlife Refuge to the closest launch.  Some guys took a long drive to some other water, but we figured we'd stay local and poke around.  I kind of wished the rivers weren't so blown or we'd head back and fish the Winooski.  I knew they were still in there deep, and have quite a few areas to fish for them.  Couldn't change the weather or water height, so we changed the game plan accordingly. 

We launched and headed towards a huge flock of seagulls on the water.  Where there's birds there's fish right?  We immediately ran into wasteland of hex carcasses.  There was a huge hatch going on!  We were in about 10 feet of water, and could see bottom for the most part.  We geared up, Mike with full-sinking line, and myself with about 15' of sink-tip.  We thought for sure we'd get fish right off, but for whatever reason, they weren't keyed in on the hatch that was going on, or we couldn't find them at least.  We didn't manage to see any follows, or any surface action either.  There was thousands of bugs still buzzing on the water, and not one strike?  Bummer.....we motoroed half a mile to a cove that looked promising, but nada once again.  We fished in 4-20 ft of water with clousers, buggers, zonkers, marabou streamers....even this guy had no love

  We tried near the surface, hitting bottom, but just couldn't make anything happen.  After a few hours we switched the game plan up.  We headed over to some wooden pylons we passed by that I thought right away looked good and knew would hold fish.  Approaching shore in about 10 ft of water, we had our first decent sized bass (we picked up a few rock bass prior to moving from the previous area)

We spent quite a while poking around the area, and then we started to see some fish cruising near the surface.  I immedately thought they were carp because of the color, shape and size of them.  The behavior was a little off because they weren't roaming in groups, and were in about 10 ft of water.  We also spotted some that were suspended stationary.  We tried casting to a few, but just like carp they didn't like the splash.  We weren't seeing them regularly,  and ones we did see were close to the pylons, so we had no way of casting beyond them and then stripping to them and letting it fall (carp style) so we brushed them off for a while.  After a few hours of catching small bass, we headed to the same area we first spotted them. We started seeing a few, and had some good fly placements right on their nose, but they'd look at it and refuse it (I had some nice buggy carp flies too).  I knew something was off about them, so I tied on a great crayfish pattern I whipped up the night before.

I let my fly sink to bottom, and started a slow retrieve to the surface while the boat was almost motionless.  A big snag turned out to be a big fish - yeah baby!

A very snag-like take from this guy....he must've grabbed it on the run.  The first run it took immediately sent backing through my guides, I thought for sure it was a carp.  Mike had to turn the boat and chase the fish.  My 9 wt with 12 lb tippet was being laughed at.  I was pumped, and it was great knowing I'd have a chance at winning the exotic category!

Once I got the fish close enough to the boat to get a good look - it was a sheepshead! (freshwater drum)  I was so surprised, and honestly never thought I'd ever get a sheepshead on a fly.  Turns out he liked how my crayfish pattern looked and gulped it in.

I was happy and told Mike we should just keep fishing for them.  He still wanted to try to find some big bass to try to win the prize for biggest bass (the prize was a nice lump of cash, I don't blame him) so we ended up ignoring all of the sheepshead around us unfortunately.  I really wanted to get a few more, or at least a bigger one.  I was seeing fish approaching 40" regularly, and my 28" was quite small.  I wanted to lock in the exotic category, but Mike had other plans.  We fished a different area just before the tournament ended for the day at dark, and found a TON of smallies around structure.

We had 3 doubles in less than 20 minutes, and almost a dozen fish on for each of us.  We lost quite a few of the bigger ones (17"+) but managed to boat about 6 of them that were qualifying size.  I also hooked up with a little pike (24") that I thought was our biggest bass winner for a few minutes until we got it close.

The tournament ended at 9, so our lines were in and we were headed back to the boat launch right at 9.  We ended the day on a great note.  Found a ton of fish and got some points on the board.  After check-in everyone quickly learned that one team had an utterly fantastic day in terms of bass points.  They had something like 50 points, which would be like catching 20 smallies over 16".  Some teams didn't put any points on the board, and we pretty much knew we couldn't win for points, and had to go for the biggest the next day.  After the drive home, I got less than 4 hours of sleep before I was in Mike's car with the boat in tow.  Our plan of attack was to fish the same area we found fish the night before.  We found out pretty quick that they had gone elsewhere, so we decided to try a few areas Mike thought would be good.  We picked up a few here or there, nothing too great.  With only a few hours left before the DPC ended, we decided to try to lock in the exotic category with some bigger sheepshead (it was on our way back to the launch anyway) but just like the bass, they were pretty much gone.  In the last hour or so I tied on a few big pike flies to see if I could get any toothy love but had no such luck...the day wasn't as good as we'd hoped it would be, but that's fishing isn't it?

I think we did pretty well for not even knowing the area!  I've rarely fished from a boat, and it was pretty much my first time fly-fishing from one.  I had a great time, even though my 28" sheepshead got beat out by a 32" pike/pickerel hybrid (awesome fish!)

Mike and I stayed at the check-in spot for quite a while, chatting with some people, finding out what the scoop was.  Looks like the highest point earners on day 1 kept their momentum into day 2 and had another epic day!

It was great to see so many fly fishermen in one spot..I enjoyed it and hopefully Mike and I will be back next year with a vengeance!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Brookie fever

It's been longer than I'd like between posts, but I've been struggling with a fracture in my foot for the past months and just barely found out what it was last week - really annoying.  In short, I'm in a walking boot for the next 6 weeks, and I'm trying to figure out how I'm going to get a line wet for the next 6 weekends.

Rewind to Saturday, June 22nd.  Chris called me the night before with a game plan to chase some more brookies.  We made plans to fish some water that was stocked with brookies, but also had wild brookies, browns and bows in it's system.  This water was closer to the roads, so less walking for me which was good for my sore foot.  We headed out, made a pitstop at a store and filled out packs and bags with drinks and a few snacks then hit the water and the fun began.

Within 15 minutes of us fishing, I took a nice spill and got myself soaked (wet wading has its disadvantages, but that day was a hot and humid one) Shortly after my swim, Chris (who was fishing 100 yards upstream of me) came walking down towards me in a panic - he'd just lost a HUGE brown for the size of the water we were fishing.  His estimate was a solid 18" brown, which would be just awesome in brookie water!  He wasn't prepared for such a big fish, and it broke him off after showing himself.  He set the tone for the day, and we were psyched!!

Unfortunately, we only managed to pick up a few small brookies in about a mile from out starting point.  We were scratching our heads.  Chris had always caught fish in this system in late Spring and Summer, so what was different?  I think the water we were fishing were home to a few peoples "favorite" spots, judging by the traffic through the woods leading to the good looking spots.  We happened upon a few fantastic looking holes, at least 5 feet deep, but they just didn't produce.  Seemed like all of our fish were in the shallow faster-moving water, so we changed tactics and headed upstream even further.  The results were the same - only a few small ones.  Our last spot was the deepest spot we'd fished.  A whopping 8'ish feet deep, it was a narrow, carved out run that looked very promising.  The type of water that you just knew a huge brown was hiding in the undercut.  We both landed a few small brookies each, but the rain started and we had a long walk back to the car.  We left this section of river and headed back to the car, getting pretty wet on the walk back.  We got to the car and it started to really come down, and I mean REALLY.  We ended up sitting in the car for probably 45 minutes to an hour until it settled, and we headed a few miles downstream to some better looking, more gradient water.

This is when things started to really heat up.  We parked the car, Chris went upstream and I, down.  I immediately got into brookies, the first being a beautiful wild 10".  I was standing knee deep in water, so taking a picture with my phone wasn't much of an option.  I found some awesome pocket water less than half a mile away from the car, and within an hour had landed a dozen brookies with one wild brown about 10"....The further down I went, the better the water looked.

I fished from pocket to pocket meticulously.  Fish weren't taking any dry fly offerings surprisingly, but then again I didn't see much of a hatch for the day.  I was mostly swinging wets and streamers.

A few hours after we split up, I was kind of worried Chris was back at the car waiting for me (we had no service to call eachother)  so I stopped at one of the deeper pools I saw on the stretch, which was just beautiful...the water was clear, yet had color to it.  While playing a brookie, I watched something well over 15" follow the fish to the surface, and swim away back into his hiding spot - maybe another big brown?!  I put on a bigger streamer and tried enticing the brown to come out to play but he wasn't having it.  He spotted me and knew what was going on.  Of course he didn't get that big in such small water for being stupid!  I was happy with my mixed bag of stockies and wild brookies.  My last fish was this average sized stockie(clipped pelvic fin) which had more color than other stockies so it deserved a pic!

Feeling satisfied, I started my trek back to the car to see if Chris was waiting.  He wasn't, so I decided to wait thinking he was coming back at the same time.  Turns out he wasn't!  I waited almost an hour before I decided to go track him down and find out he was hammering fish, and 10" brookies regularly.  We walked to the area he was getting them all, and it was some of the best water I'd seen on the whole stream.
Chris fly-fishing the pretty spot where he'd landed half a dozen brookies an hour prior - no takes though!

Long-exposure shot that Chris took of some great ladder-type water.  I missed the same brookie about 3 times in the bottom right hole which was very deep.


More awesome long-exposure shots of some of the water we fished.

While I'm C&R, Chris had a great dinner catch piled up by the end of the day.

We spent almost the entire day on the water, and it started getting dark along with rain we called it a day when we were soaking wet and I couldn't even tie on a fly because it was so dark.

Another day of great memories and beautiful fish!