Category Archives: Trout

Happy New Year!!!

I was in the city of Baltimore last night – out for a spectacular dinner followed by a NYE bash at the Hyatt Hotel. Good times were had with good friends – or so I hear…..

Shaking off the cobwebs the following morning, we crossed the street to the Baltimore National Aquarium where I was greeted just inside the front doors by a few hundred brook trout.

Camera 360

I took it as an omen.

All the best for your 2013. Let’s go get our new fishing licenses……

Leave a comment

Filed under Holiday, Trout

Trout Season – The Good, the Bad, & The Ugly.

 

The opening weekend of trout season on my local waters was wet and cold, windy and gloomy. If there were any anglers out, I couldn’t say, I was holed up. But, I found my way there as soon as the weather cleared. I chose Sunday for it’s sun, warmth, and lack of wind, and found a handful of anglers at Newton Pond, on both boat and bank. The boats had motors. That was a surprise. They aren’t allowed on this pond, according to the sign post on the gate.

The pond was in character – clear and unruffled -but was showing signs of a rough weekend. Trout season had been open for one week, and the number of fisherman who had visited had left a trail of trash and debris behind them. I’d been fishing here, almost always in solitude, since late last summer without the jarring sight of coffee cups, styrofoam worm containers and Strike King spinner packages strewn all over the banks.

This is a catch-to-take fishery. The state prefer you keep the fish, as they won’t live through the hot summer months, and most of the fisherman here now are interested in keeping a fish or six to eat. This is confirmed by the freshly filleted trout carcass near the trash heap. What are we to make of this? That people show up with a rod and reel to catch fish to eat, and yet litter the banks and the pond itself with all manners of garbage? Ignorance? Stupidity? Both?

No matter. I packed out what I could, and I wasn’t prepared to let a few slobs interrupt my personal opening day for trout.

 

I found the small cobblestone boat ramp unoccupied, and began casting from there. The action was not fast, but the clear water provided some great opportunities to cast to cruising fish. Casting a fly to fish you can see is just about as fun as it gets. There’s the added layer of anticipation, and a more active roll in the catch. You get to see it all happen, right in front of you.

You spot a trout, about 15 yards away, just beneath the surface. He is moving slowly, deliberately, from your right side to your left. You don’t want to make more than one false cast if you don’t have to; your line in the air above the water may spook him. You want to cast the fly ahead, and above him. You want room to work the line and animate the fly, and hope the trout thinks you are as good a puppeteer as you think you are.

You make your cast.

The line hits the water gently. The fish doesn’t spook. You begin to work the fly towards you, never taking your eye off the fish. He stops and hovers just few inches below the surface, and rotates a few degrees to get a look at the object swimming nearby. You know he’s seen it. You don’t know for sure if you should give it another twitch, or let it hang there in the water column. The wrong move may scare the fish. The right one will catch him. It’s just a few seconds, but it feels like a long time. You’re thinking “Eat it. Eat it!”, but he keeps staring at it as if mesmerized. You give another twitch, just enough to trigger the trout’s instict to eat and survive, and he lurches forward with one stiff kick of his tail. You feel the line go tight in your hand, and you pull it back, and raise the rod tip. Trout season has officially begun…..

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Fishing, Fishy Water, Freshwater, Seasons, Sussex County Ponds, Trout

SITREP

New Year fishing has been unsatisfactorily quiet thus far. Between the sudden cold snap, many high-wind days, and the business of life, January and most of February have not seen anything approaching my usual level of fishing expeditions. None the less, the last few days have seen warm afternoons approaching 60 degrees, and late night rains; good conditions for fresh water fishing locally. All indications are that we will see an early start to the fishing season this year. A warm fall followed by a mild winter, and what looks to be an approaching sudden spring.

Yesterday, on a warm afternoon, I took the opportunity to grab a rod and do some scouting at one of my favorite freshwater locations; Trap Pond. What I found was encouraging. There are lots of bait fish in the shallows. Huge numbers of fish. The surface was alive with rising bait and pan fish, and the splashes of breaching predators can be heard over your shoulder at any given time. Casting into some favorite honey holes was producing a strike on just about every tug of the fly, but almost no takes, indicating that; even with my smallest sized popper on the line, the striking fish were simply to small to take it.

I saw some incredible boils – hundreds of baitfish being chased by some predator or another until they break the surface in a thrashing frenzy of foam and chaos. There were no big fish to be caught, perhaps because of the sheer volume of bait, and thus, competition for my fly. The ever-cooperative Bluegills prevented a catch-less day, but I would have preferred an early spring bass or pickerel.

The warm afternoon, which required only a t-shirt and left me shedding layers, was suddenly interrupted as a wind picked up and the tall pines sounded their alarms. A storm was approaching. The surface became more active with feeding fish as a cloud cover rolled over, and thunder could be heard in the distance. I chose to call it a day. I hadn’t made it through the woods and back to my truck before the rain started, and by the time I got home, some 35 minutes later, we were sitting in full-on torrential rain conditions, thunder and lightning, and mild flooding.

I hadn’t been the only fisherman on the water, but I was the first to leave, and I’m glad I did, as I was the only fly fisherman, and in a lightning storm, one does not want to be the guy with the tallest poll.

On another note -the Division of Fish and Wildlife has announced a trout stocking of two nearby ponds with approximately 300 pounds of rainbow trout for the upcoming season, which begins at 7 a.m. March 3rd. The fish are said to have an average size of 11 to 13 inches, with some significantly larger fish in the mix. Re-stocking of the ponds will take place again on March 15. In the northern part of our state, six streams will receive thousands of fish for that season, which opens April 7th.

I’ve never fished the local ponds during opening day of trout season. I’ll be there, camera in hand, as I hear it’s a ridiculous sight to see, with all the fisherman from all over showing up to grab a few take-home trout. These are waters I fish regularly, and usually in relative quiet; the only angler around. It will be interesting to see what transpires.

Hope your early year fishing has been more productive and regular than mine, but I do remain hopeful for an excellent season ahead. All indicators are there.

2 Comments

Filed under Bluegill, Fishing, Fishy Water, Freshwater, Seasons, Sussex County Ponds, Trout, Winter

To Do:

In the early days of a new year, I find myself making lists of things to do. Not the usual promises of gym routines and minimal alcohol intake, the kind that are designed to be broken, but the fishing kind. My home waters will obviously be well worked in 2012; that’s a given. But where else would I like to go? Costa Rica, of course. Bonefish in Hawaii. Chile, Argentina, The Bahamas. Yeah, right.

I’d love to do all that, and while out of pure stubbornness,  I’ll never rule any of it out, I’m talking realistic goals I can pick off like like swatting flies. The kind of trips that, assuming good health and no cracked limbs, there is no reasonable excuse not to complete.

In the next week or so, I will make the short two hour drive north to wander the White Clay Creek in search of brown and rainbow trout.

The White Clay Creek - Christmas Day 2011

The White Clay meanders into northern Delaware from the south-east corner of Pennsylvania, and is the biggest reason I have for considering a purchase of a Pennsylvania fishing license. I wouldn’t think twice, except that the PA license is a full $50 more than my DE license, due to non-residency and the significant difference in the sizes of our states. There are of course, other great reasons to hold a PA license. I’d like to fish the Spring, Beaver and Allegheny creeks, too. But the White Clay is the closest stretch of good trout water, and when scouting upstream, I’d prefer to not be halted by the invisible state line that renders my DE license worthless and my fishing illegal.

The White Clay is stocked every year by both the state, and the White Clay Fly Fishers Club. It is also home to some large holdover trout from previous seasons, and sees a spring run of shad every year. It’s truly year-round water, and I plan to make much more use of it this year than in years past. Thankfully, family is nearby, making it an easy place to stay and fish.

While on the topic of licensing in other states, my third license of the year will be purchased from the good people of Maryland, so that I can fish a stream that truly excites me. The Big Gunpowder River starts in Pennsylvania and tumbles through Maryland into the Chesapeake Bay.  The upstream Prettyboy Reservoir Dam releases 55 degree water  all year long, creating a fertile, east coast, Blue Ribbon trout water populated predominantly by browns, but with some rainbow and brook trout in the mix. While the brown trout population has been naturally sustaining for decades, there is some stocking of rainbow in the lower catch and release section of the river.

These waters made some news in fly fishing circles this year when The Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the Maryland Board of Public Works renamed the Gunpowder South Trail the Lefty Kreh Fishing Trail in honor of the Maryland native, and ambassador to our sport.

Fishing reports have been good all winter, and I’d like to get there sooner than later. In the meantime, I read Backwater Angler and Knee Deep; locals on the Gunpowder who share more advice and information than anybody has to.
Most of the stream consists of long pools divided by short riffles, tree lined banks and beautiful scenery, is a few hours form home, and I’ve never caught a brown trout. I can’t wait to try.

Gunpowder Falls, MD

I looked at the date yesterday and almost fell out of my chair. It may be a cliche, but it’s truly amazing how time will fly. Blink, and January will be over.

Fair enough, because February will find me in Lancaster, Pa for my first Fly Fishing Show. I’m looking forward to viewing all the latest tackle and materials, meeting some of the guys who write the books I’ve read and who designed the flies I disgrace by attempting to tie, (Mr. Clouser, Mr. Kreh, how are you?) and learning as much as I can. There are demonstrations and clinics on everything from casting and tying flies and knots. As if that were not enough, the International Fly Fishing Film Festival will be there, screening several films over the two days. With films based around our sport getting better, prettier and more interesting every year, this may well be the highlight for me.

Well, that gets me through February. More to come, no doubt….

Leave a comment

Filed under Blogs, Film, Fishing, Fishy Water, Industry, Places, Trout, Winter, Writers

Except Trout.

The truth is, this water is stocked with trout by the state, and they want you to keep them because it’s tough for a trout to survive the summer here. None the less, being that this is just a piece of paper carelessly taped to the sign, I instantly pictured the rogue fisherman creeping up to this sign in the wee hours, and planting his alibi in case the ranger found him with a full creel at days end. I had to laugh…..

2 Comments

Filed under Trout

Fly Fishing in the United Kingdom.

The concentric cirlces from a rising trout can be seen on the water in this shot I took at Mere Beck, UK.

Towards the end of my week-long visit to family and friends in my native England, I was beginning to think a chance at casting on British waters was evaporating like the morning fog from a glassy lake. My one local fishing connection, my Uncle Steve, had not returned a message I left for him inquiring of the quality and availability of local fly fishing, and I was running out of time. But then came Saturday night, and a birthday party for my Grandmother, where family from near and far gathered in celebration for drinks and a little catching up. It was here that I eventually found myself sitting across from uncle Steve and his wife and, naturally, Steve and I immediately switched the conversation to fishing.

After sharing some comparisons of our respective fishing universes, Steve asked if I’d like to go fishing before I was due to leave on Tuesday. We made plans on the spot for Steve to pick me up on Monday afternoon at lunch, and then we would fish until twilight. He knew of a local fishery where he learned to use a fly rod several years ago, and where he fishes today, when he finds the time. As he began to describe the lay of the land to me, I realized this was a place I’d read about just a week before, when researching the possible nearby waters in advance of my visit.

Mere Beck is a fourteen-acre, man-made fishery consisting of several pools and streams connected by spillways and creeks. It is said to have taken five years of development and careful planning and landscaping to create this unique water system, and the result is a beautiful piece of land in which you are free to explore all it has to offer, for a modest fee.

The waters offer Rainbow, Blue, and Brown Trout, and this is, of course, the main attraction and the reason people pay to enter. But despite the construction of the pools that has taken place here over the years, the remainder of the land has been left untouched, and the fishery is bordered by farmland, leaving the fishery with a natural feel for both fisherman and animals. On my visit I observed Pheasant, Swans, Coots, and geese along with a host of native plants, both terrestrial and aquatic.

On Tuesday morning, I had second thoughts about the trip as I looked at the accumulated frost on the lawn and saw that the temperature had no intention of climbing much further than the current morning chill. I was, after all, completely unprepared. No boots, no warm jacket (at least not one I was willing to wear while hugging a trout), and no gloves. It took very little mulling over to snap out of it. How often was I going to get an opportunity to catch trout in England? With a little help from family members I was able to scrounge up a little cold weather gear, but I’d still be going fishing in sneakers.

Steve showed up, and I threw my bulky ski coat into the back of his Volvo, and off we went.

After rigging up and paying the fee, (Steve’s treat. Thanks Steve!) we walked down a grassy trail to the first pond. thankfully, Steve had everything I would need; a rod, leader material, a couple of boxes of flies, and nippers. After a brief discussion of the various waters and a couple of suggestions from Steve on where I might find fish, we did what fly fisherman do, and walked off in different directions.

I started by casting to a shallow pool near some overhanging branches and some low-lying Lilly pads with a Montana nymph, just a hint of red atop it’s matted black. My first few casts were clumsy and I even managed to hook an innocent tree, but soon I found my rhythm and was delivering the fly where and how I wanted. I was casting from this spot for no more than five minutes when a rainbow trout jumped from the water just to my left. Then he jumped again, this time in-front of me, where he hurdled my floating line and landed with a splat. He size and aggression were equally impressive, and I thought this might be a sign of a good day ahead. At the very least, I knew the fish were here, and active.

This was to be an event that would set the trend for the rest of the day. While Steve and I spent the majority of the day out of sight of one another, I saw many rising, jumping, and slurping trout. Some were making the kind of disturbances a breaching carp will make in Spring time. Their size was impressive and the rises were never out of casting distance, but they simply would not be fooled by the fools on the banks. Once I gave up on the Montana, I tried dry nymphs, a fly that looked a lot like a Prince with a twist, and a small streamer.  None helped me get on the fish that were active all around me. Over the next two hours I walked from pond to pond, tormented by concentric circles and phantom splashes that echoed over my shoulder in the otherwise serene countryside environment, until i noticed that my fingers were going numb from the lingering cold. I reeled in, and found Steve casting from a nearby bank. He had had equal luck as I, so we did what Englishman do when they need to regroup and renew. We went for a cup of tea.

On the grounds of the fishery are a few small cabins. They are bare inside other than a bench, a sink, a heater, and all the equipment required to make a decent cup. Images of fisherman holding large trout caught in these waters hang from the walls, and the windows are damp from condensation. Steve got to work brewing the tea, while we discussed how we would change our luck.

A pond-side cabin. The fisherman's refuge.

Steve makes Tea.

Over tea, I mentioned to Steve that I’d been reviewing the fisheries catch record online, and had noticed a pattern. many fish had been caught on a Cats Whisker, a fly I was unfamiliar with. it turns out to be quite a popular fly, but somehow,  among the tens of thousands of fly patterns available these days, it had escaped my notice. Steve described it as a simple affair, white marabou against a chartreuse body, and that he had some with him.

We finished our tea, and headed back outside. As if by fate, there on the bench where we had stashed our backpacks was someones discarded Cats whisker fly. I examined it as Steve produced an new version from his box, then I held them both in my hand to compare. I commented that the one we’d found was poorly tied; clearly someones hurried tossing together of glue and feathers, and that Steve’s was very clearly purchased off the shelf, a clean and secure, professionally tied fly. It was then that Steve casually mentioned that he had tied this fly, and that I realized Steve was an excellent fly-tier.

Once again, Steve and I parted ways in search of fish. I eventually settled into the far corner of the fishery where small strip of grass protruded into one of the larger ponds. About 30 feet across the water was a narrow walking platform flanked by bulrush and cattail reeds, a good place, I thought, to find one of these noisy trout. I tied on one of Steve’s Cat Whiskers and went to work.

Daylight savings time was in effect, and before long I was fishing in the twilight. I sent a long cast up to the edge of a clump of reeds and grass and the fly dropped gently on target. About 3 feet away from where the fly now sank gently, I detected a swirl in the water that then became a ripple, and in an instant, as I began to tug the line for my retrieve, I felt a strong, hard bite. I reacted quickly, but the line was limp before I could process what had just happened. I let the line lay in the water and waited, hoping for a second chance, but I was wasting my time. After I retrieved the line, I found that the trout had escaped with Steve’s beautifully tied fly, thanks to my poor knot. It’s a dysfunction I suffer from in the fading light; I begin to hurry. I hurry knots, casts, retrieves, and hook-sets when I feel pressed for time, and once again, I had no one to blame but myself.  I tied on my remaining fly and made several more futile casts to similar locations.

So, the day would end without either of us ever catching a fish. But like many, if not all fishing trips, it was not in vain. I’d fished for trout in picturesque English waters, surrounded by wildlife. I’d learned a new fly and how it was tied. I’d felt the rush of a large trout taking that fly. And I’d spent time with Uncle Steve, one of many family members I don’t get to see nearly as much as I would like. I also observed Steve’s accurate casting, and made a slight adjustment in my own cast based on my observations that has improved my accuracy. I was, by no means, coming home empty handed, and all was well with the world. England will still have trout when I return….

Some more photographs I took at Mere Beck.

5 Comments

Filed under Fishing, Fishy Water, Fly, Fly Tying, Foreign Fish, Freshwater, Places, Trout