Thursday, October 31, 2013

salmon with a side of steel

The fishing continued to be quite steady on the Winooski for a little while longer, producing two more salmon over 24" and a small cookie-cutter steelie.  Had more shake off than I'd like to admit....

25" hen on the swing!

22" male who tried to take a bite out of me!

Fresh chrome!
One of my favorite pictures in one of my favorite spots.....I don't think I had a hookup on this day, but the scenery was well worth it!

Unfortunately, the lack of rain made the fishing slow right down.  The flows were at record lows, and the fish didn't seem to be in the usual spots.  I think they were in the deep rocky canals that were pretty much impossible to fish because of the turbine pumping out water so fast.

The Clyde

Chris and I headed over and fished the Clyde for the first time the weekend after my 10 lber.  We planned on a two-day trip, and stayed in a hotel Sat night.

The scenery on the way there was downright amazing.  It looked like the mountainside was on fire!

We got on the water just after sunrise on Sat morning.  The parking areas were already littered with cars from NH, NY, ME, MA and only a few Vermonters...oh boy....

The fishing was tough, and from what we could tell, it had drastically slowed just days prior to our arrival.  but I managed to go 2 for 5 on Saturday and Sun morning.  The crowds were thick, and I wasn't really loving the water that was open to fishing.  It was too fast and shallow for my liking, but since we apparently didn't get there an hour before sunrise we couldn't hold down a decent spot, so we were forced to keep moving and fishing the small pocket water in between the good holes.

My first fish came right after we just started fishing.  Someone was swinging through a decent looking pool and was leaving as we walked up.  I rigged up, drifted a chartreuse egg through the same run and got hit by this 18" male on the first drift!  Just goes to show that changing methods can pay off.

You could  tell this guy had previously been caught and released.  His lower jaw was deformed.  You can't tell by the picture, but his kype is pointing out to the right instead of straight up.
My second fish landed came later that night before dark, it that took right before we were about to call it quits!
Just like the first male, this hen had damage to her mouth as well.  Just goes to show how hard people fish this river for salmon.  I'm willing to bet nearly ever salmon that comes up will get hooked at least once, which is insane to think about.  I felt pretty bad for making them worse...makes me think about using barbless hooks if I decide to go back next year for sure.  I already went with pretty small hooks, but these wounds looked like they were from pretty big hooks.  
Unfortunately, Chris had no hookups until we had left the Clyde for an afternoon lunch break.  We hit a small little outlet of a Lake that was a bit of a drive but ALWAYS worth it.  His first rainbow, about 12" ended up being chased by an even bigger rainbow in the 18-20" range.  We knew he was still in the same hiding spot, so Chris kept casting to him until he took, and sure enough he got him!  A beautiful wild rainbow!
Sunday morning was terrible - I won't lie.  We got up EARLY and left REALLY EARLY to get on the river BEFORE it was even light out.  Apparently 10 other guys had the exact same idea.  When we pulled up to the parking areas in the pitch dark, cars had already filled it.  We couldn't even see our hands in front of our faces, yet there were about 6 cars already empty in the parking spots.  We still rigged up and hit the river, but once again didn't find any open decent water.  It was humind and raining - we had enough.  At that point, the fishing was so slow that it wasn't worth waiting 10 hours for two spots to open up in one decent run - we just left.
We took the scenic route home, right near Jay Peak.  We stopped every once in a while on some good looking water and fished.  I came up empty handed but Chris got into two small wild browns.
It was good to finally fish the Clyde, but boy was it crowded for only having a mile of fishable water...jeez.  I even witnessed 3 snaggers below the waterfall and had to yell at each of them, along with other anglers who were fishing in the area!  I hate to think of it this way, but it felt like a miniature Salmon River over there.  Nice water, nice fish, but I wonder if the crowds even make it worth it?  Maybe I'll try to time it better next year and have a double-digit fish weekend that will hopefully change my mind, ha!

Personal best landlocked!

I honestly never thought I'd ever be sitting on a Champlain trib, cradling a massive 10 lb salmon, but things just fell into place that fine September morning.

First, let's rewind back a few days.  I'd just landed my first landlocked of the year on the swing with a few other hookups.  I hit the water the day after - landing yet another big landlocked while losing a few more - all on the swing!

To keep the momentum going, I hit the river for a third day in a row after work, it was Friday, September 20th.

I'd just gotten a new net with a much larger basket and a long wooden handle that I wanted to get some slime on...I had no idea what I was going to hook into.

  I had been swinging a Mickey Finn without any interest.  A friend had sent me a picture of a decent sized male he'd taken on a marabou black ghost the previous morning, so I figured why not?  As i flipped open my box full of streamers, the memories followed will be forever burned into my memory.  The sun was bright, and a breeze hit me as I was glancing at my selection.  One of my smaller ghosts fluttered as to say, "pick me!"  I obliged, and plucked it from the box and then put Mr. Finn back in his home. 

A few short back-casts and a powerful forward cast later, about 60' of line was laying in front of me, attached to that my sinking poly, with about 3' of fluoro tippet, then my ghost.  As the line hit the water, I did a big mend, placing my line upriver for a slower swing.  I followed my fly line until I could see my fly line start to straighten.  The C shape in my line was slowly straightening.  Right as it completed straightening, I paused for a few seconds before retrieving my line - how did I know?

After a few second pause, a subtle tug came from the other end of my line.  I set the hook sideways quickly and held my rod high to determine where the fish was in the water.  Once I knew it was too close to the downstream rapids for comfort, I put the side pressure to it.  A few minutes after hooking up, I eagerly picked up my new net off the rocks below me, somehow thinking this behemoth of a fish may come in easily - I was dead wrong.  I was forced to drop the net and start zealously stripping fly line as this silver torpedo ran straight towards me.  Honestly I thought it was off with all the slack line it had caused.  I was pleasantly surprised to find out it was still attached when I got a tight line back.

At this point, I had no idea just how big the fish was.  I was thinking between the 4-5 lb range.  It wasn't until it was close that I saw just how big it was.  It was a massive hen, the fattest I'd ever seen.  After realizing how big she was, my heart nearly jumped out of my chest.  After her close-up, she took off downstream, ripping off line faster than I could say, "Oh S#%&".  She got right at the border of the calm water and the rapids downstream.  It was at this point that I had to grab my net and prepare myself for a chase downriver.  Thankfully I somehow turned her and she came back upstream.  After a few net attempts, I slid my net under my personal best salmon, a 29" 10 lb 5 oz hen.  I was overwhelmed with joy, and couldn't believe my eyes.  She didn't even fit in my net, which was MUCH bigger than my regular trout net that I'd been using for landlocks and steelhead without any issues.  She fell right out of the net, luckily I scooped her back up before she got her bearings....

After the celebrations ended, I just sat in thigh-high water on my knees, holding her under water in my net, hoping I wasn't about to wake from this dream.  I must have sat there and looked at her for 5 minutes.  It felt like she was staring into my soul - asking me for mercy.  Little did she know, she'd be out of my net and into the water shortly after.  A few pictures of her, a measurement and a few minutes of holding her in the water, she was back in the river for someone else to catch!  Coincidentally, so was my net - I had let it drift off downstream in the commotion and ended up losing it and not realizing until 20 minutes after.  That's alright though, she had ripped my net in two places when I first netted her, so the basket would have needed replacing anyway.

The pictures definitely do not do her justice whatsoever. She was beautiful, and I could not believe the tail on her(look at it compared to my hand!!).  I only wish someone had been around for a picture of me holding her....but I'll take what I can get.  She makes my new big net look like a little trout net...unreal!

After the release, she swam away and held behind a boulder right in front of me.  I stood in front of her, guarding her from the sun and other anglers who may come and see her in the water.  It wasn't until she left that I was ready to go home.  The great thing is - the Biologist running the fish ladder informed me he'd tagged her just a few days after I released her....he confirmed the 10 lb 5 oz!  Never thought I'd have landed the heaviest biggest salmon to ever be tagged or even caught in the Winooski River.  It's an awesome feeling, and I hope that big hen lives a long a healthy life...maybe we'll meet again when she's a State record.

Monday, October 21, 2013

First landlocked of the year

After checking water temps on my favorite river for landlocks, it finally dropped below 65 for a few nights, and after work I hit the water with a plan of attack - to swung up some landlocks!

Last year almost all of my salmon were taken on nymphs dead drifted and swung, but I've always been told fresh fish will take a streamer over a nymph, so since it was mid-September I was hoping there was a small population of fresh salmon in the area.  I was spot on with my hunch that fresh fish were roaming and within the first half-hour at the end of a picture-perfect swing through a tailout I felt a tug.  I set the hook and, "the leaper" turned into the rocket!  It flew out of the air and took off downstream with me in tow, trying to go from backing through my fingers back to fly line!  I chased him down and after an awesome tug-o-war he was in my net and posing for pictures.

I was a happy camper!  I wasn't expecting to hookup but this guy crushed my ghost.  I spent the next few hours before sunset fishing the same water he came from and within 20 minutes of releasing him I had a big hen chase my fly for 20 feet and then swipe at it right on the surface, making a huge boil!  Great thing to see, and I just love how aggressive these fish can be.  When the sun was behind the trees and I was walking to the car, I had one landed with two other hookups and shake-offs.  It was a great short tip for me, and I couldn't wait to get out of work the next day!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Back to the Mad

I had a free weekend, and invited my buddy Jerry to go check out some more water on the Mad with me - he found some time to sneak out for a Saturday and we arrived early in the morning. 

It was great exploring some water I didn't fish last time - and I wish we had more time to fish but we had limited time.  I managed to get yet another beastly bow within the first hour, I couldn't believe it!!  It had taken a hares ear dropper swung slowly through a deep tailout.

Trolling Lake O

My buddy Chris invited me to spend a few days with him in a cabin right on Lake Ontario going out on his friends boat to troll for staging kings at the end of August, so how could I say no?

The drive was long but scenic, but when we got to the cabin (trailer with a deck built on it that was bigger than the whole trailer itself, and about 25 feet from the lake...great location for sure) it was a great feeling to finally look at the great Lake Ontario.  It was an emerald green color and was beautiful!

Chris's friend, Fred was a great guy.  He'd been making trips every year to Lake O to troll for somewhere around 20 years if I remember right.  From the cabin to the boat was a 10 second walk, which made things easy as pie, especially since we were waking up around 4 A.M!  Freds boat was amazing, and looked brand new even though he'd had it for 20 or so years!

The weather turned out great, and so did the fishing!

In the 2 1/2 days we managed to boat something like 8 kings, the biggest being around 25 lbs!  My first king was crazy!  400 feet behind the boat, it was doing aerials and the drag was screaming.  Finally Fred netted it for me and I held up my FIRST king!

While I'm not one for harvesting fish, the ones we did boat were harvested, hence the way I'm holding it (it had taken a club to the head prior to the picture)

Chris and I took turns when the rods popped, taking turns landing fish.  The peacefulness of being out on the lake turned into chaos when we had doubles though, wow!  Reeling in other rods, moving around in the boat to avoid crossing lines...the fish I had shook off but Chris did get his to the boat. 

After the first day on the boat we had the afternoon to relax before going back out in the evening, so we opted to try the Salmon River to see how things were.  I had high hopes of hooking into some fresh kings in the river, but was quickly disgusted by what we ran into.  Right in town, 2 minutes after getting out of the car, a group of young teens were fishing a popular hole, just snagging salmon out in the open, ugh...

A friend of mine suggested we fish Black Hole, so we hopped in the car and headed over, geared up and walked toward the river.  The first decent water only had one guy fishing it - he wasn't doing much and it seemed the fish weren't holding in that area so we moved downriver a bit.  We ran into a crowd and boy was it a sight to see.  Two dozen people, lifting, snagging....

We were seeing fish regularly, but they'd been in the river for a while judging by their color.  We were just too far upriver to run into fresh kings and it was a bummer.  So we decided to just keep fishing some decent looking water while watching all the hacks in action.  The top of the DSR was being fished by half a dozen people without passes, who were snagging the salmon as they were moving up the rapids.  I was sick to my stomach, and felt so bad for the fish.  One French-Canadian guy went over to a spot between two big boulders in skinny water in the DSR, snagged a salmon and pulled it onto the bank within seconds, strung a stringer though its gils and then attached the stringer to his waist and kept fishing.

I've never felt so out of place in my life.  The entire crowd of people were lifting and snagging, and here I was...trying to actually get one to take.  I was regularly watching 20-30 lb kings swim right by my feet too.  To top it off, two young boys probably under the age of 10 were SWIMMING in the water that people were fishing!!!!  The water already wreaked of death, and dead salmon were already littering the bottom of the river, and these two kids were frolicking in the water like it was a swimming pool, what the hell?

Then, when they left, their role-model rather made them drag two salmon each (he had two salmon as well).  Now I wonder how two 10 year old boys ended up hooking and landing two 20 lb salmon when we didn't even see them touch a rod nor even have rods themselves.

Anyway, it was as I was leaving that hole that I decided I'll never fish that area of the Salmon River for salmon again....I'll be hitting the DSR if I ever decide to chase salmon, that's for sure.  Good news is, D.E.C was pulling up as we were heading to the car, I hope they served justice to every pathetic snagger there!

On a more positive note, my trip was awesome and unforgettable.  It was crazy fighting fish that were so powerful and huge, and our host Fred was an awesome guy that pretty much let us have all the fun when a rod popped!

On our way back, we took the scenic route through the Adirondaks and stopped to see the Ausable Chasm - how beautiful! I wished we could have made it down to the water to fish (I can't imagine there aren't some huge trout in those deep holes) but we snuck down under the waterfall below the reservoir and managed to find some willing smallies to smack swung flies.

I hope I get invited next year - but I'll definitely talk Chris into fishing the DSR for some fresh kings on flies!