Monday, April 1, 2013

Spring is Here!

As most of you know, today was opening day of salmon season in NH.  I was only able to fish today from sunrise until about 8:30am because I had to go to class.  I hit a section of The Winnipesaukee that opened today.  It was pretty crowded and the river was extremely low for this time of year.  The only person that I saw catch anything was right where the river enters another lake.  I think many of the fish probably dropped out of the river when the water dropped a few weeks ago.  Who knows though, I didn't fish the entire river and I was only there for a few hours.  I'm sure the fish will come back into the river when the water comes up again and especially when the suckers are in.  Stay tuned for a report of the salmon action this week!  Definitely a slow start this year but hopefully that means we will just have a longer spring season.

I had my spring break two weeks ago and I managed to fish The Salmon River in Pulaski, NY for the second half of the week.  The temperature was low and the lake affect snow was falling everyday but it was still a great trip.  The upper end of the river was full of spawning steelhead.  I was getting pretty frustrated at first because I have to admit, before this trip I had no successful experiences with nymphing.  Nymphing is pretty much the name of the game out there in less you are set up with a good swinging outfit (which I was not).  On the first day, the water was running just under 1000cfs which is normal for this time of year but pretty swift in comparison to most NH rivers.  I was having a really hard time getting a good drift and making casts due to the amount of weight that I needed to bounce bottom.  That night, they dropped the river to about 600cfs which made it so much easier for me.  I didn't hook anything that day but my buddy had one on up in the LFZ for a few minutes.  The bite was slow for everyone while we were there so one hookup was great news for us.  We secured that same spot in the LFZ first thing in the morning on the third day.  A few hours after arriving, my indicator stopped and I felt slight head shakes that felt like a 6 inch brook trout nibbling on a worm.  It wasn't huge but I landed my first steelhead on a fly rod and also my first ever fish caught by dead drifting under an indicator!  I had one more hookup that night but when the fish darted straight at me, I couldn't keep up with it and it shook off.  On the last morning we headed back to the same spot for a few hours.  The bite definitely turned on a little bit, at least for us.  I landed two and missed five.  My buddy also had two or three hookups.  All of them were caught on dark green estaz eggs.  I gotta run to class now Nation.  Here's some pictures of the trip in the mean time.

Get out there and catch some salmon!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, February 18, 2013

The New Spring

It's been almost a month since my last post and I've got some serious catching up to do.  I've been so busy since I've been back at school.  I've barely had a few minutes to go out and fish never mind write a blog post.  No matter how much home work I have, I always find a chunk of time to go throw a fly around.  I've been focusing on two rivers lately.  One of these rivers is known for holding big rainbows, but the other is completely top secret and I've never heard anyone talk about it.  If I was able to figure out that there would be big fish in a certain river, than anyone can.  Finding them is half the fun anyways!  This post is going to be picture heavy so brace yourselves.  Going through all these pictures has made it even more clear to me how awesome winter fly fishing can be.  This is the time of year that you can really get a chance at some big trout.  To start off here's a few that my buddies Alex and Ross and I caught while I was still on winter break at home.

My mind was completely blown when both Alex and Ross caught a wild brook trout that day.  One, because it was the middle of January and I've never seen anyone catch a winter brookie.  Two, because I couldn't believe that we found some in this particular river.  It flows out of a small lake from a top release dam, so the water gets very warm in the summer.  I'm not sure how the brook trout could have a sustaining population in a river like this but apparently it's occurring.  It's also possible that the brookies migrated into the main stem river from smaller tributaries to winter over.  Most of these fish were caught on woolly buggers.

No it's time for the big boys.  Here's a few bows caught by myself and Alex since we've been back at school.  We've both beaten our old personal bests multiple times for rainbow trout this winter.

The culprit of these big rainbows has been the slumpbuster.  I've been tying them from strips of an old gray rabbit pelt that I had laying around for some reason.  They're really not a hard pattern to tie if you've got some cone heads, rabbit or squirrel pelt, and some tinsel lying around.  I think I'm going to attempt at an articulated slumpbuster this week.  

Alex kept the fish in the bottom picture and when we gutted it, a three inch helgramite literally crawled out of its stomach!  Keep that in mind folks.  If these fish are going to move out of their way to eat something in such cold water, it's got to be worth it for them.  I've been using size 6 and 8 streamers all winter and they've been extremely successful.  I've watched a few fish this winter charge up from the depths to crush a big streamer right at my feet.

Winter is the new spring guys.  Get out there and enjoy one of these not so cold days!  I am excited for spring though!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Starting The New Year Off The Right Way

I hope no one has been getting cabin fever lately.  I sure as heck have not!  Amazingly, the fish have survived  and continued to actively feed into the new year.  I had been eagerly anticipating opening day of NH's rivers since the day they closed on October 15th.  There was a certain tail water that had been popping into my mind for months so I decided to spend my opening day there.  Despite brutal winds I manged to make a few casts and kick off the new year with a feisty, beautiful, crimson, thrashing, 6 inch native... fallfish.

Yeeep, there it is folks!  She's a real beauty!  It may not have been the fat prestigious brown trout that I was looking for, but I think it's exciting to catch any fish species this time of year.  The wind on new years day was making it nearly impossible to cast but I managed to stay for about an hour.  I caught another silver beauty and then out of no where hooked and landed a fine brownie!  

Both of these were caught on a tungsten bead olive woolly bugger tied with grizzly hackle.  I hooked the brown by swinging it all the way to the tail of the pool and then slowly stripping it up through the seam.

Today was another great day for fishing!  I hit the same river and caught a diesel fallfish in the same pool as the previous fish.  The wind was ripping through again making casting a major issue so I decided to test my luck on some water downstream that was new to me and out of the wind.  It was like a whole new world downstream!  Almost no wind what so ever and the sun was shining.  My first cast into a fairly shallow pool I hooked and landed one of the prettiest and healthiest looking browns I've ever caught.  I love when they are so golden-yellow.  I made my way to the next pool down which was a bit bigger than the first.  A few casts in I hooked and landed another brownie.  This one wasn't quite as pretty as the first but it made up for it in size.  It was probably about 14 inches.  When I picked up the fish, an orange liquid came out of its "vent".  I'm guessing maybe it was left over egg residue from spawning?  It would be pretty awesome if there was some successful or even attempted brown trout spawning in there.

Both of these guys were caught on a cone head olive woolly bugger with light brown hackle.  I feel like a broken record because pretty much every fish that I've caught in the last few months has been on one of my olive woolly buggers.  I'm heading back out tomorrow so I will try really hard to catch a fish on something new!  Can't say that I won't throw around an olive woolly bugger though, they are truly a deadly pattern!

There's one thing that I would really like to mention before I wrap this post up.  When winter fishing, please handle fish carefully!  When the thermometer is below 32 degrees, it can be very harmful to hold fish out of the water even if its just for a few moments so try to keep them in the water if you are planning on releasing them.  It's something that I have to work on myself as well.  Luckily today it was well above freezing so it was not a problem.  The brown that I caught on new years day inhaled my fly and by the time I was done trying to remove it, all hopes of a quick release were lost.  It's a good thing that I enjoy eating trout every now and then so keeping it was not a problem with me.

Tight lines nation! Get out there and take advantage of this warm fish feeding weather!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Some Chilly Browns

Howdy Nation!  It has been quite some time!  I haven't been able to fish as much as I would like lately due to all the school work that comes with the end of the semester and annual snowboard instructor training.  But I can see the light at the end of the tunnel!  In less than a week I will be on Christmas break and hopefully spitting out fishing reports like it's my job.

I've managed to sneak in a few hours on the water here and there over the past few weekends since Thanksgiving.  I had quite the streak going of catching one trout every time that I went out over the past few weeks... until today.  I hit The Contoocook at around 9:00 this morning and fished for about two and a half hours.  You know that it's going to be an interesting day when your guides start to ice up on your second cast.  My first stop was at one of my favorite pools that's been producing really well lately.  Only this time I fished it from the opposite side of the river that I always have.  Despite needing to scale a vertical granite ledge covered in ice, I really liked the approach from that side.  After observing no fish activity in that pool, I made my way onto some other ones that have been fishing well lately.  Between the next two pools I had three definite hits and a possible fourth one.  This morning was my only chance to fish today, I think it probably would have been better in the middle of the day once things "warm up" slightly.

Here's a few brownies from the past couple weekends.  Both caught on... you guessed it, woolly buggers!

The first one really had some great looking bright red spots that unfortunately didn't show up on my phone's camera.  The second one is probably one of my better browns this year.  I didn't measure it but was probably over 14 inches.  My dad really wanted to eat a trout for dinner so I decided to give this one to him.    I'm a strong believer in catch and release fishing but I do enjoy eating a nice trout dinner every once in a while.

One tip that I would really like to give for using streamers and woolly buggers (which can really fall under any of the "wet fly" families) is to use mending to your advantage to control depth.  Many of the fish that I've caught lately were when I mended my line so that my fly would swing deep through the bottom of pools.  Especially this time of year, the fish are going to be down on the bottom and don't want to move very far.  For example, lets say your fishing the main run of a pool and there's slack water in between you and the faster water where you think the fish are sitting.  You cast at about a 45 degree angle upstream and then mend your line downstream so that it creates a 90 degree angle in your line.  By the time your line straightens out in front of you, your fly will be dredging the bottom and ready for a nice slow retrieve or you can mend downstream even more for a deep swing.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The 12 Days of Winter Fly Fishing

Tis the season of frozen eyelets and numb toes!  I know that for most people, the open water fishing season is probably over but for those other die hard anglers out there, I'd like to give a few tips about fishing rivers in the winter.  While I may be new to the fly fishing game, this year will not be my first rodeo when it comes to winter trout fishing.  It can be a very frustrating thing and even miserable under certain conditions.  Many people shy away from it because they just assume they couldn't catch anything or maybe they just don't want to be out in the weather.  But the truth is, there are still hungry trout out there in the winter that can be caught!  So here are a few tips to help make your winter fly fishing experiences more enjoyable.

1.)  Save the fishing for nicer days.  It is pretty hard for anyone to enjoy themselves standing in an icy cold river with single digit wind chill in the middle of January.  Trout are also less likely to bite on those really cold days, they become extremely lethargic.  Especially take advantage of those random unseasonably warm days that were oh so common last year.  You might be surprised how active the trout can be on those days.  I've also had success on days when we've been hit by big snow storms.  Don't ask me why but it has proven to be successful for me multiple times.  I find fishing in the snow to be extremely peaceful and relaxing.  I'm lucky to have the luxury of being able to walk to The Contoocook from my house on snowdays but I'm sure plenty of you have 4x4 vehicles.  Snowshoes and waders make a great combo!

2.)  Don't go out expecting to catch fish.  I'm not telling you to lower your goals, but the reality is that it's going to be a lot harder to catch trout in the winter.  Key word there: harder, not IMPOSSIBLE!  Isn't that what everyone loves about fishing, that it's a challenge?  My philosophy is that I'm going out to enjoy being outside, and if I catch a trout on top that, what a great day!  That way if you don't catch anything you're not getting skunked, you still managed to beat the cabin fever.

3.)  Take advantage of your gear.  They make warm clothes for a reason so, use it.  One cold miserable day on the water could spoil a whole season of winter fly fishing.  I like to wear a pair of wool gloves with the fingers cut off and they also have a mitten flap that can be folded over when you don't need your fingers.  Wool and fleece clothing still have insulative properties when wet so leave the cotton at home!  I use 3.5mm Cabelas neoprene waders with insulated boots.   I know they also make some products that you can apply to your line and eyelets to help prevent them from icing up.  Anything that can give you the upper hand against the cold weather will add to you're enjoyment.

4.)  Stick it to the pools.  Many of the areas that hold trout for the rest of the year could be a baron waste land when winter rolls around.  Trout need a decent sized pool with well oxygenated water to winter over in. They don't feed as much in the winter so they're not going to waste their energy trying to sit in a fast run.

5.)  Don't stress over "matching the hatch."  There isn't going to be much insect activity going on in the winter unless you are fishing a tail water or spring creek which are pretty hard to come by in NH.  Since the trout don't have many options to be picky eaters, they are going to feed very opportunistically.  It's pretty much going to be a nymph and streamers game throughout the winter.  For nymph patterns I would suggest the usual suspects; hares ear, pheasant tail, prince nymph, copper johns, egg patterns and a variety of stonefly nymphs.  I would use medium to large sizes of nymphs.  For streamers, there are a thousand different patterns that could work on any given day but I would especially suggest the legendary woolly bugger in olive, black, rust and brown and a pattern called the aggrevator.  The aggrevator is similar to a prince nymph but tied on a streamer hook with a marabou tail.  I mostly fish weighted patterns because the fish will be on the bottom.  Wet and dry midge patterns can be of great use in some waters, especially tail waters where temperatures are somewhat warmer in the winter.

6.)  Fish deep and slow.  Like I said before, the trout will be on the bottom of these pools.  In most cases, they are not going to move far to feed this time of year so you really have to get your fly right in front of their noses.  Really try your best to read the water and prospect where a fish would most likely be lying.  I like to target seams and any area of a pool where there is a significant change in depth.  Mending your line can really help your flies get down where you need them.  Anytime the water is pulling on your line, it is probably pulling your fly closer to the surface or preventing it from sinking.  When using a steamer, I would suggest slow stripping and swings.

7.)  Minimal fish handling.  If you are planning on releasing the fish you catch, minimal handling time is a must.  Keep them in the water if you can especially if it's a really cold day.  Think about how fast the feathers on your fly freeze when you take it out of the water.  The same applies to the fish, the freezing air temperatures can be damaging and even fatal.  We don't want to lose any fins to fish-frostbite!

I hope these tips are helpful for anyone looking to give winter fly fishing a shot.  Although people driving by will look at you like you've got 5 heads when you walk down to the river bank with a fly rod, you won't be the only one out there!  I will be fishing throughout the winter.  It can be tough but also very rewarding.  You might not catch many fish throughout the winter but the ones that I've caught have been some of the largest trout I've ever caught in NH.  Here's a 16 inch brown that I pulled out of The Contoocook last January.

Tight lines!  

Sunday, November 25, 2012


I hope eveyone had a great Thanksgiving!  I know I did, I was determined to catch a Thanksgiving trout so I went down to one of my usual spots on The Contoocook that I hadn't check out all week.  The weather was perfect, sunny and in the mid 50's.  After I caught that brown the other day on my own woolly bugger, I've been able to fish them with much more confidence lately so that was what I started with.  I remembered a podcast that I listened to recently that talked about fishing streamers from this time of year through winter and the guy said that most of the hold over trout can be found in the heads of pools.  So I started with a nice swing right at the head of the pool.  After a strip or two of line, my woolly bugger got clobbered!  Ahhh finally a rainbow!  I had been wanting to land one for so long because it seems that all I could find in the river were browns! Which I am okay with, it was just nice to see some variety.  It was a great fish, about 15-16 inches and very thick. Put up a great fight.
I didn't get to fish much on Friday but me and my buddy Steve got to head out for a while yesterday.  It was quite chilly with some wind mixed in.  We started at an old favorite pool of mine and didn't get a single bite.  So we decided to head down to the next pool which was a little bit less windy and happened to be the same pool I caught a brown in on Wednesday.  A few casts into that pool and I hooked a fish by dredging my olive bugger across the bottom of the pool.  It put up a great fight and ended up to be one of the biggest and prettiest browns I've ever caught in The Contoocook and NH for that matter.
That fish was at about the middle of the pool so after that, I started to work the tail while Steve was at the head.  No action for either of us.  After casting through the wind I realized that my line got completely tangled around the tip of my pole.  As I worked to untangle it, my woolly bugger dangled on the surface of the water just five feet downstream from me.  All of a sudden a nice little brownie went full airborne after my bugger and missed it.  I tried working the bank where it was with no results.  After a while, me and Steve switched spots and he tried his luck with the stubborn fish.  Steve's toes were just about frozen and he wanted to leave but he decided to take a few more casts.  When I first saw his rod bent and heard him yelling I thought he was snagged and just trying to trick me.  But after I saw the infamous tip bounces I knew it was the real deal.  Steve's first trout on a fly rod!  I threw my pole on the ground and ran over to ensure that the fish was landed.  
You can ask Steve, when I throw my pole on the ground, someones either got a really big fish on or it's a very important one to land.  We've had a few of those moments that didn't exactly turn out the way we would have hoped for.

The fish are still out there nation!  Water levels are low which has made prospecting much easier!  Fish seams and the bottoms of pools.  Also try fishing the banks, but be sneaky.  You might be in for a surprise!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Hopefully Trout are Planning on Feasting Today

Happy Turkey day nation!  We've got a lot of fishing to catch up on over the the past week.

Last Thursday 11/15, a few friends and I fished the Pemi down in Bristol with ambitious hopes of tangling with a broodstock salmon.  We tried swinging and stripping streamers in spots that produced very well back in October with no results.  I feel that most of the salmon drop down from Bristol by this point in the year, especially after the high waters that Sandy brought.  We then switched over to target trout with just about every technique, also showing no results.

Last Friday, I went out to Mirror Lake up in Woodstock.  I don't have my kayak up at school as of now but Mirror Lake is an easy wade for most of the shore line.  I started with woolly buggers and streamers and just started blind casting and stripping.  For the first half of an hour that I was there, I kept seeing surface activity around a down tree off shore.  I crept over withing casting range of the tree and realized that there was a significant change in depth just on the other side of the tree where I saw the rises.  I was running low on woolly buggers so I threw on a black and orange egg sucking leech and attached a tungsten split shot just above the hook eye.  I threw it out just over the side of the drop off and instead of stripping it immediately, I let it sink for quite some time.  On the first strip the line was tight and my rod was bent in half!  I had the fish on for quite a while but it was staying deep.  It ran to the surface and did that all too familiar splashy hook shake move that gets all of us from time to time.

Sunday, I went to Robartwood Pond in Campton.  I totally was not expecting to find a completely frozen over pond when I got there but there was about an inch of ice covering the whole pond except for the area right next to the dam.  It was like fishing in a swimming pool with the amount of open water but I managed a scrappy little brookie on a white woolly bugger.  For the most part I was just throwing streamers and woolly buggers and stripping them back in.  I decided to switch up my tactics and try a very slow retrieve because I imagined the water was quite cold already and the fish may be slowing down.  I stripped in my olive woolly bugger veeeeerrrryyyy slooooowwwlly and hooked a small rainbow on the first cast of this method.  It shook not long after it was hooked.  That fish was hooked in only about 6 inches of water.  A few casts later, I was targeting the deepest part of the water that was open and retrieving right along the edge of the ice.  I let my bugger sink down to the bottom and started my extremely slow retrieve and then my indicator went under.  This fish had some real muscle to it unlike the last two.  It was a great fight and pretty unique to have it run under the ice.  I pulled it up on top of the skim ice that was directly in front of where I was standing and all of a sudden it shook free.  I immediately jumped down there breaking through the ice in just six inches of water.  And of course the beautiful dark red rainbow flopped right into the hole in the ice created by my feet.  I started moving the thick weeds around below my feet and saw a great spotted tail and lunged for it.  The fish escaped my grasps and freely swam back into deeper water.  All I wanted was a picture!  -__-

Here's the brookie that I caught there.

Yesterday I got to reunite with my home water again, The Contoocook!  I was eager to head back to the area where I caught trout last week.  Me and my good friend Lucas started at the pool where I caught those two browns with no results.  We decided to head to the next pool down which I haven't fished for years.  The last time I went there I was probably about 14 and for some reason decided I didn't like it so I never really returned.  When I got to the pool yesterday, I couldn't believe my eyes.  It is probably one of the most beautiful looking pools on the Contoocook.  There were steep rock ledges on the other side of the river with a small stream cascading down the rocks.  I started throwing an olive woolly bugger that I tied myself into the head of the pool right in the top of the seam.  A few casts later I hooked and landed a beauty of a brown, it was about 12 inches and appeared to be very healthy and thick.  We didn't have much luck after that but I'm heading back to The Contoocook today!

Have a great Thanksgiving everyone!!