Catching quality trout by simply flicking the Switch!

 

        

        The summer doldrums have officially set in and the numbers of fisherman have dwindled; leaving the banks littered with  fewer fisherman and plenty of exposed boulders and log jams.  The fish are weary and easily spooked as the low water levels and higher water temperatures force trout to be less active in the heat of the day.  We’ve all been there and few have mastered the art of long leader, small diameter tippet, dry fly fishing.  Hooking these educated fish in low water can try the patience of even the most experienced of fly fishermen.  For the last month I have been trying some alternative summer tactics. Though the tackle may be a great deal heavier and somewhat unconventional the results have been undeniable.

        Twilight and nightime hours when the water is at its coolest temperatures of the day and many natural predators have gone to roost provides predatory fish with the perfect set of circumstances to take advantage of  large food items ie, mice, frogs, or injured  baitfish  that are finding their way onto the river at night.  Larger fish actually seek these things out; cruising shallow tail outs, pocket water and even riffles with water barely covering their back. 

        With these thoughts in mind I was off, on a mission. I started experimenting with a few old bass patterns mixed with some newer, quicker, and easier tying materials.  Like a true mad scientist I twisted and turned, cut and glued until Whalaaaaa!  I called upon a few of my choice specimens to accompany me on my midnight spooks.

                Warning!  If all the teenage horror movies that  you watched as a teenager didn’t provoke absolute fear of the darkness and what’s in it, fishing in complete darkness just may.  How about a few bats zinging dangerously close to your head or a beaver/muskrat/racoon approaching you in darkness and erupting a few feet away when startled by you!  Wow, I hate that.  Explosive strikes from trout at a close proximity can be teeth chattering.  These circumstances are just unsuitable, and undesirable to most; however once tamed the anxiety transforms to the quiet focus of your primal senses.  The fear of not being able to see slowly diminishes and once relaxed you are amazed at how much you can actually see!  The unknown becomes know and those fishermen who master this beast can be in for some exhilarating and rewarding experiences involving trout of monstrous proportions. 

        The easiest way to tame the beast, so to speak, is to just call a fishing buddy or two and have them join in on the fun.  Teaming up is definitely the most productive and safest way to enjoy this method of fishing.  Two or more fishermen can cover water swiftly and provide comfort, sanity and safety to your expedition. 

        Many other precautions should be taken as well.  The first and most vital piece of equipment would be a couple of good, reliable lights.  I say couple because if one fails you may be left trudging around in complete darkness.  Nothing would be more horrifying than trying to hike back to your vehicle through briars, and dense underbrush with a flyrod in your hand.  On the other hand breaking a fly off early on in your trip without any light to re tie could bring an early end to your evening.  Carrying two good reliable lights with batteries that you maintain regularly is a must. 

        Scouting is another indispensable tool.  If deep cuts and drop offs exist you want to know ahead of time.   Big rocks and other tangles such as logs, brush and other debris make scouting the area you want to fish absolutely necessary. 

        Carrying a cell phone on these trips or any trips for that matter is a must for me (makes my spouse happy too).  Being able to dial 911 in case of an emergency can obviously save your life, The built in GPS tracking signal can aide local law enforcement in the event that you somehow become lost or injured.  When it comes to safety don’t take any chances, cover all angles, and always double check!

        Put a variety of patterns in your box that both sink and float which will provide lots of options on the water.  Good floating patterns should include cork poppers to mimic frogs and wounded baitfish.  Mice are a must on the list of most effective; floating flies as well.  These floating patterns should be tied with durable materials, large trout have no remorse and will quickly eradicate inferior patterns.  Even the sturdiest of patterns will require maintenance.  Like a patchwork quilt many of my patterns left tailless from ferocious strikes have new tails scabbed to the hook shank.  Though most materials are hardly a match for the large knifelike teeth of predatory trout, the destruction can be kept to a minimum by reinforcing your patterns with some good heavy thread and strong cement.  For sinking flies you will want go to large streamers that replicate the baitfish that are present in the water you fish.  The term baitfish is used loosely here as many of these large night feeding fish are certainly cannibalistic making all smaller fish suitable prey. 

        Terminal gear for this kind of fishing is greatly changed to facilitate the casting of these rather big flies.  With this in mind 5-7 weight rods are ideal and will greatly aid in casting.  A good stout 6-7 ft leader is also in order.    I like to use a butt section of 50lb test to help me turn these monster flies over on the water.  I taper this butt section down using 30lb and then 20lb mono to facilitate the 1x tippet.  This may sound brash I know, but believe me the fish are preoccupied with what’s on the end of your leader and don’t seem to mind or care about your leader at all.  I find heavier leaders necessary to minimize break offs and allow the angler to quickly subdue large fish.  Minimizing stress and exhaustion levels the fish endure before release is crucial when low water and higher water temperatures already have trout stressed.  For best results rotate your locations to ensure your on  fresh fish and not one’s you’ve spooked or put down.

        Nightime flyfishing can be a rewarding experience if the approach is thoughtful and organized.  It would be irresponsible for me to suggest this method without outlining safety concerns, proper gear and talking about the health and welfare of the fish caught in the light of the moon.  Thanks for appearances by my friends Brian, Mike and Steve I would have been very limited in water without them.  Good luck and tight lines to all!   

                                                                                                                                                  JW

  • Summertime on the Farmington River.

    Date: 7/20/10
    Water Flow: 220 CFS
    Visibility: clear
    Water Temp: 60F a.m.

    Water Condition: low-water

    Access Point: upper TMA

    Hatches (in order of importance): winter/summer caddis 20-22 a.m., Needhami duns 22-24 midmorning, Isonychia 10-14 p.m., midges 22-20 a.m.

    Comments: The winter summer caddis hatch continues to be a spectacle during the a.m. hours. Many fish line up on soft water seams rising to take these tiny Pupae as they row along in the meniscus to the shoreline to finish their emergence on the rocks and logs near the edge of the river. I had one of my best days on the river this past weekend when this hatch came on at 6a.m. and started winding down at 11a.m., we caught trout on everything from foam pupae patterns to french nymphing small winter/summer caddis larvae patterns.

         Needhami Duns are rolling off the water midmorning, their small spinners can drive fisherman nuts. Their small sizes make them very difficult to see on the water. The Duns however can be recognized flying in the air by their long sweeping tails.

         Isonychia have been filling the skies in the evening hours. Trout like these tasty morsels and will move greater distances from their feeding lanes to swipe at this super sized evening hatcher. When these insects start coming off the water in good numbers I prefer to fish a CDC Iso emerger pattern then as darkness sets in I switch off to a larger Iso parachute pattern, which doubles as a big spinner pattern and I fish this into the darkness.

         If you are fishing mid day I would suggest using terrestrials such as small ants, beetles, crickets, and hoppers. For all those fishing nymphs you can’t be beat fishing green caddis larvae 14-18 and Isonychia nymphs 10-14, with golden stone flies 6-12 rounding out the mix. Fishing on the Farmington River has gotten tougher forcing fishermen to take their tippet down to 7 or 8X when fishing smaller hatches such as winter summer caddis pupae and Needhami Spinners.  Good luck on the river. Remember, if you’re fishing into the afternoon hours, bring plenty of water it has been scorching out there on the river after 10a.m.

    JW

  • Rainy days and high water, try fishing some nymphs.

    3/13/10  When I got on the river the water temperature was a chilly 36 degrees.  The rain and low water temps ensured that the winter/summer Caddis were a no go. However, the rain and high water made an excellent opportunity to nymph for trout. Two important things to remember when targeting trout with nymphs are to identify their food source, and to get your flies down.  Identifying food source is important because it can certainly change drastically form one section of river to the next.  You can and should do this each time you fish by just turning over a few rocks and inspecting the life underneath.  So after turning some rocks over and sampling the streambed, I found the largest concentrations of macro organisms to include 20-22 green caddis larvae, and 16-18 mayfly nymphs.  I like to fish these patterns tied from the bend of a larger, and heavier point fly with a 12” piece of tippet material. The point fly should be larger, and weighted to help get the “team” of flies to the bottom quickly.  You can get your flies down with some split shot applied to the leader ahead of the point fly.  Next time your on the water and find nothing apparently happening, two things you might try are turning over a few rocks and determining a trout’s diet, or simply drifting some nymphs along the bottom.

  • Winter got you down? Get lifted up by restocking your fly boxes.

         I get slammed with this every winter,  even though I frequent the river on a regular basis.  The scenario is quite familiar to most of us.  The fish stop biting  and by mid December the cold water has them barely moving about.  On some of the winters warmest days you can still look forward to a little caddis action on the top.  Nymphs and Streamers provide some good fishing here and there.   However most fishermen have decreased their time on the water considerably.  If your anything like me you sit at home in your armchair and sulk, reading every fly fishing magazine you can get your hands on.  My junior flyfisher, and  lovely daughter  reminded me through her videos of what I should be doing instead.  So start giving your gear the once over now to avoid toils and snares later.  Tie some of the flies you know you are going to use this year.  The weather will be breaking soon, are you ready?