Sunday, July 25, 2010

I've added a "fly with a story" from Phil L. of Germany

Last year I received a nice email from Germany from Phil.  He was excited about the Hare & Herl Bugger pattern and sent me a few pictures of a successful outing using this fly.

He also sent me a sample of his version of the fly.  I have uploaded the story and his pictures, and a photo I took a few days ago of his version on this effective pattern.

You can check it all out here:

Sunday, July 18, 2010

A strategy for finicky panfish during the "dog days of summer"

I heard on the evening news last night that this has been the warmest first six months of the year (overall, for the entire country) in history.  Since we don't have central air-conditioning at our house, we have been suffering these last few weeks.  I don't think the fish like it either.

Locally there's not a chance that I will fish for trout.  Some will find underground springs to help them holdover, but my guess is that a lot will die off. 

So, I fished again today from my floattube for bass and panfish.  But the fishing on my favorite farm pond was as slow as I have ever seen it.  I fished the first 30 minutes without any action, trying topwater poppers and hoppers and gradually fishing deeper and deeper.   Nothing.

Thinking about what other strategy I could try, I felt a need to fish something smaller and deeper.  If I had some really heavily weighted small nymphs I would have tried them. Something like a Copper John would have been excellent. But, sometimes the best strategy for getting small nymphs down deep without adding more weight is to make adjustments to your leader.

I was fishing my standard panfish leader:  A 6 foot tapered leader with about 2 feet of tippet added.  That usually means a 3x tippet as that nicely turns over the poppers and buggers.  To get deeper, I added about 3 feet of 5x tippet to the 2 feet of 3x tippet to create a 10 1/2 foot leader.  I attached a beadhead and went to work.  The 5x tippet material helped the beadhead sink because its thinner diameter sliced and sank through the water better.  It also placed the fly further from the end of the floating fly line. Once the fly is down deep, it is important to move the beadhead only slightly because when you strip the line the beadhead will move up in the water column, and away from the fish.

This worked great.  I kept the line barely taught and waited for the subtle "tap, tap, tap".  The first beadhead was a size 12 herl body nymph with a short tail of rabbit fur.  Basically, my "Hare & Herl Bugger" without the hackle.  I managed to catch some big bluegills, and I also managed to loose a couple of fish that got wrapped around lily pads or underwater structures.  With 3x I can usually coax them toward me, but 5x is a different story.

I then moved to an even smaller nymph.  Probably a 14, but it had no tail.  Just a bead head, white wool body and a couple of wraps of white hackle tied aft, rather than in front.  Little white grubs like this work well for me during the summer.  I find this interesting because usually I find dark colors better.  To really change things up, try a white grub on a scud hook.  This gives the nymph a little wiggle.  Unfortunately, the scud hook grub was another fly I was without today.  I would have tried it next.

Below is a picture of what was perhaps the largest (almost 10")  bluegill of the day, followed by the largest (and only) Pumpkinseed.  Pumpkinseeds don't get quite as large as bluegills.  At nearly 9" this was a big one.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

First outing at the "Land of the Nuclear Sunfish"

Every year I look forward to my first day on a local farm pond my brother calls "The land of the Nuclear Sunfish".  That's because the sunfish are very large here, especially for New England.

On this first outing of the year I caught more small ones than usual, but nevertheless most measured an honest 8.5" to 9.5" in length.  The largemouth bass here are big too, and I do catch a fair bunch of smaller ones (under 14"); but mostly the big ones are there for the baitcasters who can stand in their boats and yank them out of the weeds.  We're all helped by the fact that this is a catch-and-release fishery.

This is a float tube pond.  Wetlands surround the pond and the lily pads around the circumference is dense.  Fortunately there's a dock that I can use to get myself in and out of the water.  From here I usually take about 3 hours to circle the pond once, in counterclockwise fashion, then I go home.

The yellow gurgle-pop popper has always been my favorite for surface play.  These sunfish like big flies, so I tie my foam poppers on a size 6 barbless (Cabela's) dry fly hook.  The size of the hook may be one reason I catch the bigger sunfish (and why I catch generally the smaller bass). I often fish an entire outing with nothing but this size 6 yellow foam popper.

But this day I had a new experience.  Half way through my morning I lost the third and last guggle-pop in my box, when a very large (I presume) bass broke me off around lily pads. 

Searching my box for anything foam, I spied in the corner two samples of a foam hopper pattern I had first tied when "razor foam" was a new product. I hadn't fished this pattern for a while.  And, when I last used it, it was probably on a smallmouth river.

Long story short, the fished loved this fly.  It's thinner than my poppers and due to the bullet head it will not "pop".  Maybe this, or the black body, are the features the fish were attracted to!  The sad news is that I lost both of these foam hoppers before I finished fishing; but the good news is that the second one was lost just minutes before reaching the dock to go home!

It's been a while since I have tied flies, but now I will have to: Gurgle-pops and foam hoppers!


Additional Image

Not caught with a foam popper or hopper, I did catch a few on a streamer early in the day when the water was coolest.  This bluegill is nearly 10" long.  It was the catch of the day.

Friday, July 2, 2010

My annual day-trip to Vermont

Last week I took my annual trip to Vermont with my friend Paul. Paul enjoys frequent day-treks north to Vermont and New Hampshire from his home south of Boston. It's a heck of a lot of sitting for a day trip, even with Paul doing all the driving, so generally two or three one-day trips per season is just the right amount for me.

Paul has been fishing small streams in Vermont for nearly 40 years, so he's a great guide. He's currently working on a small stream fly fishing book, which will be published by the folks from the magazine On the Water. I'm flattered that he's asked me to supply some photographs. I'll keep you posted on his project.

On this particular trip it was just Paul and me. But frequently we squeeze three people (driver plus two) into Paul's Suburu Forrester. Talking is the main activity in the car. Lot's of good conversation. (I remember when we were lost driving backroads in Vermont at night two years ago, we had a rather long and indepth conversation about ice cream.) We normally reach Warren, NH off of Rt.89 around 9 am for breakfast at the Foothills. On weekends there's a hefty waiting line, but on Friday after 9 am we had the place to ourselves.

Then its on toward White River Junction where we cross the Connecticut River and enter Vermont.

Today's trek was going to be a long one. Paul wanted to show me the Lamoille River, north of Burlington in what is known as the Northeast Kingdom. I don't know exactly where we were but it was near the covered bridge shown below, when we started fishing. Generally, the plan is to get one or two hours of fishing before a late lunch of sandwiches, chips and fruit from the cooler. Then a few more hours of fishing until dinner. And finally an evening of fishing the hatch, until dark. Getting home at midnight is typical.

This day we made a couple of stops before we started fishing. Though my breakfast of scrambled eggs, sausage, and homemade wheat bread had been perfectly adequate, I decided I needed to partake in another cup of coffee and a fresh apple cider donut from the Cold Hollow Cider Mill. Paul stops there whenever he is near, to buy a dozen doughnuts or two to take home to his family.

We also stop at local fly shops to find out more about water conditions. In this case it was Green Mountain Troutfitters. Unfortunately we were to find out that the water was a bit high and discolored due to rain the prior night. I was very impressed with the completeness of this little fly shop and guide service. Paul bought some waders.

As good as the water looked on the Lamoille, neither of us were able to turn a single fish during a couple of hours of trying. We covered a lot of water with Paul going upstream and me going downstream, but nothing was moving. So, we got out of our waders and drove east toward St. Johnsbury and then south along the NH/VT border.

We finally settled in on a small stream on which Paul has never seen another angler. Here we had some luck. Nothing to really brag about but I think we were both happy to hook 7-8 native brook trout apiece. By then it was about 5:30 and together we decided that it was unlikely that there'd be an evening hatch, that we'd had a great day, and that we'd take a slow drive home. I got home about 9pm. Not a lot of fish for a long day, but the more I fish the more I realize that (for me at least) it's not about the fish. It's about the day.


Additional Images

Native brookie takes my parachute.

This is my favorite dry fly for small streams.  It's a bit bushy and this sample is definitely not "exhibition" quality.  But the bushy parachute post really helps me follow the fly as it is landing and as it drifts in and out of shadows on water that is usually a bit frothy or bubbley.  Difficult to tell because the body is wet, but it is made with 3 or 4 stands of peacock herl, wrapped around the shank.  This one lasted the entire day and I never switched flies. It caught 7-8 brookies and an equal number of low-lying tree limbs.