Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Skunks, snakes, bass, kid's and wild brookies.

Been funky.  Back to busy, and likely will be through the summer as I wrap up my Masters degree... But I've been working hard to sustain a bit of balance here... and that means a bit of fishing and family.

This past weekend, my wife was called into work on Monday afternoon, and thus the kids and I needed something fun to do.  We shot out and fished for blue gills... and threw rocks, and hunted snakes, and drew pictures, and told passers by on the rail trail that we saw a "4 eyed chipmunk who eat's walrus"... Dont ask me about that last one, the brain of an almost 5 year old girl came up with that :)!  Below my son is reeling in a nice sunny - "It's pulling! Why is it doing that?" was what he said between giggles.

I've been playing with some sort of new ideas.  One is a picket pin with a zlon wing v squirrel tail - so far it's worked about the same as the squirrel...  the other is a simple emerger with a synthetic quill body... That's most of what decorates the dunks cup below...

I got out once last week to fish the big local freestone again.  Last trip was epic... this trip, on a hot afternoon... I missed a few and was broken off once.  But left a bit skunky - having had a blast non the less.  This watersnake is a nice, muscular specimen... but, was on a rock in the middle of a 50-60 yard wide section of stream.  Not sure I've ever seen one mid river like that before.

This past weekend I hit Wachusett Reservoir here in central MA.  It's nice water... but despite living near by, I feel like I've never really figured it out.  I catch fish, but not with the feeling of reckless abandon that I have at the Quabbin - which is the reservoir to the west of Wachusett - both of which are part of Boston's water provisions.

I missed one nice smallie that took several swipes at my deer hair bug, but that was it.  Even swapping to a kinky muddler (below) I couldn't raise a fish.  Ill try again soon.  Feeling itchy for bass for some reason this year.

Finally, today I was going to help my folks out between various work tasks.  That put me going straight past a little wild trout stream I like.  I only fished the road pool - since I had 30' flat to fish.  But I caught several and saw one that had to push a foot.  He kept checkout out my micro bugger but, per a previous president, he wouldn't inhale :).

Oh well, several of his buddies took the bugger, and several others a dry.  I couldnt tell what they were rising to, but fish were nailing the surface of this pool repeatedly, and happily were taking a stimmi or other surface fly.

This pool always surprises me.  it's very deep given most of this stream is quite small.  it's bottom is scoured, but both sides do have some undercuts, and the steep bank to the road offers surprising shade.  Add in the springs which feed this stream and you have a very good brookie hole.

I took this pic, because while it is what this pool looks like... it's nothing like the rest of the stream! Almost looks like a pond here :)

Enjoy the outdoors!

Friday, May 20, 2016

Big Water, Big fish, Big bugs...

It's been to long my friend.

Last night I headed the 45' west to a river about 10 miles north of where I grew up.  The river is one of MA's best, a freestone that's a blast to fish, and between the state, local fishing clubs, and TU local, it gets about 8 kajillion fish stocked into it each year.  Couple that with amazing bug, crustacean and small fish life and this river holds over fish, maybe even grow's some of it's own (trout) and in it's mid and lower reaches has a super fun small mouth bass fishery to boot.

But, if I can, and the water is still decent from a temp perspective (reduce stress on fish, hoping they can hold over) I fish the upper section.  It's a C and R area, but runs through a big chunk of state forest.  You feel like you are 100 miles from anything when you are there, and oddly, last night I was the only fisherman... must have been the coming thunder storms.

This is the first run I normally fish.  A fast chute of water initially that broadens, slows and tails out.  I guess you could call it a pool really... It does share some common traits... I guess Ill call it a Pun, or a Rool since it feels like a combination of the two :).  the way the light was coming through the clouds and hitting the budding leaves felt surreal.  

I started off nymphing, but seeing a few vicious, slashing "rises" I figured emergers were the key, and went to an olive and partridge spider.  Weirdly, I got several short takes, often with impressive swirls as the fly was on the dangle... but no solid takes.  Hmmm.  

Looking in the box, I saw a little olive quill nymph I came up with that was very slim.  I tried that and caught nice browns on probably 5 of 15 swings!

All were nice brown's like these.  Ironically, i'd brought my 11ft euro nymph stick intending to build my short line fast water nymphing skills... But my inability to resist this spot, and the fact that they were smashing emergers, shifted my focus to swinging.  I found that the 11 footer, a 4wt with a soft tip but pretty stout butt section, was great... I was basically single hand spey casting and getting 60-75 feet out to the far bank, giving a mend or two - which is easy with such a long stick - and then letting the current swing the fly from slow to fast water.  Killer.

I dont want to say I grew tired of catching fish.  That's not true.  But the lure of the pool below got me, so I fished the short broken water section between the two and caught a first for me.  In 20 years, I have never caught a brookie up here.  I've caught a few in the middle section, but never up here.  Well a little below the big rock on the far shore, as the new fly - a "test" pattern I came up with that's basically a #16 curved nymph hook with an olive body, silver rib, grizley soft hackle (hen) and a silver bead - was creamed.  The fish fought hard, and a gorgeous 15~ inch brookie came to net.  While several feeder streams in this area DO have wild brookies, I'm pretty sure this fish was stocked.  A big part of me wants to dream he seeks refuge in those little waters during the heat of summer then slides into the river for refuge and food during other seasons... But logic say's he was a stocker.  Regardless, fun to catch him.

 After a few more in the fast water and the pool below, I was "tired" of seeing a few fish assault bugs on the far current seam in the original pool.  There was some sort of massive may fly occasionally coming off.  I thought it was a hex, but it seems to early, and the habitat to rocky for them... Whatever it was, it was frigging big!  So, what else do you do when you have already caught a lot of fish... You try something crazy just to see if it works.  On goes a darn near 2" long Hex dry I have and to work it goes :).  It took me 2-3 casts to get the drift right, and wham, a nice brown nailed it.  He was the only one I could seduce, so back to emergers it was...

After a fish broke off my "test" fly, I put on a size 12 picket pin.  Always a great fly, everywhere... and a nice emerger imitation with the squirrel wing.  I took the last few on that, managing to come one short of the "grand slam" by catching the day's only rainbow.  Some where a tiger trout must lurk in there, but it's a long and varied river... I best not get greedy :).

Not long after catching this bow, lightning lit up the sky, and I figured holding an 11 foot rod standing in the water was not an ideal scenario if I wanted to see my family again, so I packed up... a bit begrudgingly given how good the fishing was!

That said, it was my first non-small stream trip this year.  And it didnt disappoint for sure.  Big fish, heavy pulls, really aggressive takes.  Really helped alleviate stress for sure!

Driving away, the lightening flashed brightly, thunder clapped, and the rain came down in torrents.  But my spirit was high.

Keep well

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Rambling - On Keeping Fish

A few weeks ago we hit a local pond, and the kids caught a mess of pumpkinseeds and blue gills - it was great fun.  Emily was a slayer - though they were all released :)

The other night I got out when everyone went down, and hit a local stream - it was great... And all the fish were released.

 Saturday we managed to hit the fishing derby at the gun club in my home town.  I've been hoping to get there and finally was able!  It's silly.  The pond is maybe 1.5-2 acres and they stock it very well.  The 5 and under kid's start first and get an hour.  Emily hooked but then lost a fish, and Will landed his first trout with Mom's help.  A chunky 13" rainbow.  Pride does not quite describe what he expressed with his catch.

Of primary concern for him... Eating the fish!  I think he would have done it right there if he'd had the choice.  Instead we brought it home, filleted it and cooked it in butter.  It's been YEARS since I caught and kept a trout... so even though I knew it was ok, it felt a little weird sinking a knife into this fish.

But it got me thinking - kids always want to keep fish.  All of them.  Some where that changes.  And those who love to fish, tend to shift towards catch and release.  But man, kids love to eat what they catch.

I think it's primal.  It's just a basic human need - "Me catch food, me eat food" to channel my inner cave man.

It's not until some level of greater awareness is found that we realize we dont need to, nor should we keep everything.

That said, the pendulum likely swings to far at times.  I see people freaking out (sort of) in blogs or forums related to fishing as if keeping any fish is akin to dropping chemicals in the water.  Number one, if you are helping a kid find fishing - whatever.  Allow them to experience it in whatever way gets them to love it!  If you are a grown up and want to keep a fish or two now and then to eat, cool, rock on.  Hard for a hunter like me to "cast stones" at anyone for keeping a fish.  Heck, my dinner last night was wild turkey I shot yesterday morning.  Doesn't get healthier than a big plate of veggies and wild game (or fish)!

That said,  there are very concrete limitations on game harvest, and a significantly greater landscape for game to roam to avoid you as you hunt.

Trout in a stream.  Even in a smallish pond.  Much less space to avoid you.  Much less of an ability to evade capture.

So, stocked trout, cool, keep a few now and then for a nice meal.

But wild trout, something that's just scraping by in many places.  Lets protect them.  They are not as adaptable as say panfish or bass or bull heads.  Those other fish dont have to fight against stocked fish who compete directly for space and resources.

Now, that said, stocked fish are fish too.  We all have a lot of fun chasing and catching them.  Lets all help to push out those who choose to keep multiple times their limit or keep fish with no desire to eat them.  Ill never forget, when I was a teen, and a guy held up a stringer of trout - probably 5-6 gorgeous fish - so he was done or close to it for that stream.  One brookie had to be 18" (stocked - all of these fish were stocked) and he asked if I wanted them because he was going to have them in his car while he was at work and they wouldnt be good any longer.

Even as a kid I could see the insanity of that situation.

Sometimes... Limits are not there for reaching.

Enjoy the amazing resource we all have and can experience.  Treat it like family.  Treat it like you hope to be treated by others.  Fairly, kindly, and with compassion.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

A PR & Interesting Info for the Brookie Inclined

As is often the case for me, I hoped across the street today at lunch time for a little fishing fix with the 2 weight in hand.  Lucky for me, because I caught a few real corkers for this little stream.  One was 10 inches or a bit over, which may be my best on this water.  Certainly my best in a couple years... luckily, the fish posed for a nice looking in water photo, and a nice shot above deck as well...

Weirdly, the flow was not what I would have figured.  We have had a lot of rain of late, and I was real surprised to see the water only at adequate levels.  Must be the rapidly blooming greenup resulting in more water being taken up by plants before running into the streams.  

Now, if you want to learn some awesome ideas about finding brook trout, wild brook trout, check out the Trout Stream Day Dreams blog.  Coleman over there has some great adventures in the midwest and hear in MA and New England.  But better, he's done an amazing job of laying down some great info on how to find excellent trout water.  Check out his blog and poke around - information about how geology and hydrology impact fish and insect populations, and how you can use government sources to find out about your area or areas near you.

Most of my stream finding is old fashioned.  It may have been the result of word of mouth - someone mentioning they or someone they knew used to catch wild trout in X Y or Z area.  Or my curious nature and enjoyment of exploring the forests near my home.  You start exploring and finding good water, and suddenly you start understanding how to find it in new areas.  You apply heuristic decision making strategies - given you cant know all there is to know about an area - and you determine how certain areas may workout... Often just by looking at a map or driving and then hiking or biking through the area.

Weird observations start to come to you.  For example, I used to think sandy areas would drain quickly... but I've found consistently over the years that there is often lots of sand (sand pit's even) near areas where good trout streams flowed.  I've learned that those sandy areas often have better than average ground water flows and thus help keep streams flowing nicely and cooler than other near by streams.  I figured that out by osmosis, but with the technology today, you can reach those conclusions about given areas much easier.

Likewise, I've found clusters of streams often occur.  For example, on one ridge within a couple miles of my house, there are 4-5 named streams which start their flow.  Each seep out of the same hill side over about a half mile section.  Among local wild brookie fishermen, one is "famous" as much as a brookie stream can be, another is known by a few but hard to fish given much of it's run is private land or literally through factories - that's the stream which flow's through a landlocked (by private property) bit of state land into a larger local river - and across the street from my house.  It's where I caught the fish pictured above.  A few others flow within a quarter mile of the stream by my house - one right through the center of the 36,000 person city I live in.  Each of these is listed as having cold water fluvial fish.  A couple have not shown brookies via electroshocking, and I've not caught them either... But Ill keep trying... 

That will be my last point.  If you know a stream has wild trout, check out everything near by.  There's a stream in my home town, which has a few wild trout streams - fueled by cold seeps along their routes and interestingly, beaver swamps with massive floating grass mats which act like insulation for acres of water which sits under those mats, dark and cool even on the hottest days.  One stream, supposedly showed no brookies when electroshocked several years ago... I'm not going to say it's a favorite of mine for the catching... but it is for the beauty, and you know what, sometimes I catch a brookie or two in the awesome pools and runs along it's length.  If a stream enters a another system you know has wild fish - check it out, more than once.  Dont give up because you dont catch fish the first time or second.  Very often, they are there, just in small numbers.  You may have a super peaceful, beautiful and rewarding bit of water that NO ONE will share with you.

So, check out Coleman's blog, use the amazing info he lays out there to find likely spots near you, and now, get out and wear out the boot leather checking out streams.

Just do me one favor, if you are going to keep trout for the table, please keep stocked fish vs wild ones.  At the risk of sounding obnoxious, I'd like my 4 year olds to have a shot a wild trout here in MA as the grow.  The state here does an amazing job providing fish via stocking.  If you are going to keep fish, keep those.  Let the wild fish go.

Enjoy the woods and waters

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Awesome interview with MDFW regarding trout in MA

I found the following on Trout Stream Day Dreams, where Coleman over there had discovered this interview with MDFW regarding trout in MA via another blog, Talkin Trout.

Even if you are not from MA, it's worth checking out.