Category Archives: Winter

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.

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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….

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

Beyond Fishing – Cape Henlopen

The New Year has not allowed for foolishness thus far. The wind has been up every day, or at least it feels that way, and the real cold is here now, too. The kind of cold that can make you downright angry between your car and the grocery store.

I did get down to my favorite secluded kayak dock on Trap Pond last week, and again to the brackish canal that cuts a demarcation between the towns of Dewey and Rehoboth just the other day; a trip that was made memorable by my casting into a steadily falling snow, but an absence of fish.  It was picturesque, beautiful. But it was also frigid and uneventful. The absence of fishing, even for a short amount of time, leaves room and time for other things. I layered up and took a walk through nearby Cape Henlopen State Park.

A bustling tourist beach all summer long, crammed with fisherman, swimmers, cyclists and hikers, the park remains ghostly quiet in the winter. The preserved remains of WWII era infrastructure is still here from when this land was in military hands. Observations towers, bunkers and mothballed artillery can be found amongst the sand dunes and in space made for trailside attractions, and they all add to the haunting ambience of the park in winter. Yet, it remains a comforting place. You can stand there within three hours of four major cities, atop a sand dune, and see nothing but trees in one direction, and open ocean in the other. It comes as no surprise that such a place becomes a haven for the remaining visible wildlife of winter.

The park also has a long fishing pier. I used to come here on occasion and go fishing at night. Something I think I’m less likely to do now, but still recall fondly. The comraderie between the hardy fisherman on this pier long after dark on a cold night is a thing of legend, and having experienced in first-hand more than once, I can safely say that most of it is true. On this day, however, there were no fisherman to be found at dusk, but the pier is still as good a place in the state to watch a spectacular winter sunset.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Ocean, Places, Scenery, Seasons, Winter

The Last Fish of the Year.

New Years Day, and the wind is gusting upwards of 20mph, which does not bode well for the fly caster. None the less, knowing my chances of getting out on the water tomorrow, after I’ve gone twelve rounds with the impending festivities that lie ahead, I went to the water anyway. I could use the practice while I can still feel my legs.

 

The wind did make my casting life a little more difficult, and it was the icy cold kind of wind that slips up your sleeve, but when the gusts would let up, and I could find a second to feel the sun, it was another unseasonably warm day, especially for the last day of the year. The water was capped and frothing from being whipped up by the westerlies, but most of the fish were indifferent. The Bass stayed out of sight, and eventually out of mind, but my Zap Bug was in the water only briefly before the little bluegills started eating it at regular intervals. This is not abnormal,not surprising. The surprises of the day were that the Calico were nowhere to be found. They are usually abundant here, and it was them I was fishing for. Also of surprise was that I was also catching a good number of Golden Shiners, basically a big minnow, but to describe it like that does it a disservice. It glitters in a silvery gold, it’s red dorsal fin in stark contrast, and it fights a lot harder than calico, bluegill, and sometimes, even bass. I only learned this now, having caught a grand total of one of these fish in all my time fishing here, and today, I find five. They are a heavily schooling fish, and I can only assume the school was in shallows and therefore in reach of my cast; an unusual phenomenon here, but a welcome one.

 

 

I hadn’t set out to have a day of reflection; a mental log book of a fisherman’s year, but thats the way it goes sometimes. I thought of all the memories made on the water this year, all those willing fish. The Bluefish blitzes off of Fenwick Island over summer, where we reeled them in one after the other. The big flounder I caught from the beach at the state park. The countless bass, pickerel, bluegill, and calico from my local grounds. The occasional trout from Newtons Pond. No Striped Bass, so far. They are late. But this is another reason for optimism for the coming year, as if a fisherman approaching spring needs such a thing. My bet is that the striper will arrive early on in the new year, and if I’m right, it could be a January to remember. I plan on spending some parts of that month knee -deep in trout streams, too. So much ahead.

 

 

As the afternoon drew to a close, all too early as we often complain at this time of year, a final tug on the line produced a tiny calico, among the smallest I’ve seen. I admired him briefly, let him know he would never be a big fish if he let clumsy fisherman like me catch him so easily, and sent him back to the deep. And that is how the reliable calico, savior of winter, become the last fish of this fisherman’s year.

 

My Best wishes for a Happy New Year!!

-Neil @ Fly & Gin

 

 

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Filed under Bluefish, Bluegill, Calico Bass, Crappie, Fishing, Fishy Water, Flounder, Fly, Freshwater, Largemouth Bass, Panfish, Pickerel, Seasons, Striped Bass, Sussex County Ponds, Winter

Give ’em Green.

Walking through the woods on a thick layer of crunching brown leaves last week, in the dying light of a rather unproductive afternoon of fishing, I came across two men at the make-shift boat ramp, red faced and soaked to the waist, attempting to remove their small Jon boat from the lake. It was particularly cold, but I was dry and well layered, and had been fishing from the shore in the lee of a small stand of woods that had kept me comfortable. These two exhausted looking gentleman had been skating across the lakes surface, in direct contact with the elements, and now were standing in lake water looking ever more as if they were about to croak. I walked down to the boat ramp and grabbed a free line and helped muscle the boat toward the waiting trailer. Without a word, one of the men, his beard collecting ice crystals, waded out of the water and around me, and into the truck. He lurched the trailer from the drink, and the boat transitioned from vessel to cargo.

The man climbed out from the truck and smiled at me, offering his hand, which was icy to the touch. Catching his breath, he thanked me for helping, and then looked at me with wide eyes, and said. “Chartreuse. It’s Chartreuse this  year. Bass, Crappie, whatever. Try Chartreuse”.

Of course, I knew what he meant. He had noticed my fly rod and the brown and olive colored woolly in the hook keeper. He was a spinning reel fisherman, but this was his home water, and he knew what the fish were biting at any given time, fly or Rapala, it didn’t matter. The way he relayed that information, though, made me think perhaps he didn’t give it away very often or very easily.

The next day, I once again found myself with time to fish. I considered my options, and decided that I’d go back to that same lake, and try some form of chartreuse fly on the frozen man’s advice. I looked in my fly boxes, and realized I didn’t even have anything in that color, other than a couple of poppers that weren’t the best choice for winter fishing when the fish are low and slow. With the truck warming up in the driveway, I sat down at my vice and very quickly tied up some flies; the kind I though might be of use. A small woolly worm, and a couple of my own creations I like to call zap bugs. Simple affairs; some pearl and chartreuse chenille wrapped around a size 8 hook, and tail tipped with a small, but sturdy piece of hackle. I find that, if tied well, this fly can stay on the surface and be fished dry, or can be retrieved and fished as a small streamer. In fact, I’ve often found that the transition from floating to the diving and swimming action it produces when retrieved is when most of the strikes take place.

I had ignored chartreuse, as the search of my fly boxes proved. I’d been relying on more natural colors of browns and olives, and the occasional white in my tying and fishing. Complacency.

I would soon learn that this was an oversight, as I went on to catch enough fish to lose count of, and four species; Bluegill, Calico Bass, Largemouth Bass and a Golden Shiner, a big minnow I’d never taken on a fly rod before.

Not big fish, but fish none the less, and that’s the point in the end. For a dark, cold day in late december, this was a treat.

The moral of this tale? Don’t forget to change something when what you’re doing isn’t working; advice I knew, yet foolishly neglected. If your local freshwater isn’t giving up fish, chartreuse and white with a sparkle have been the ticket for me. You can tie up flies in any number of ways with any number of materials and have a good day catching fish.

Oh, and always help a man with his boat……

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Filed under Bluegill, Bug, Calico Bass, Crappie, DIY, Fishing, Fishy Water, Fly, Fly Tying, Freshwater, Largemouth Bass, Panfish, Places, Seasons, Sussex County Ponds, Winter, Woolly Bugger

Fall, Winter, Baseball, Fishing, and the promise of the Sweet Season….

The fishing is not yet over in my neck of the woods, and nor will it be completely over, but the writing is on the wall, the view from my back porch expanding as the leaves settle to the lawn, and the slow fishing and icy lake shores are definitely around the proverbial bend. That bush was a brilliant green just a month ago, and Thanksgiving plans are being made as I write. The alarm bells of nature and time are ringing.

So, it’s time to consider preparations for Spring, when baseball season and fishing season will come to life along with everything else. I’ll be organizing my tying desk, stocking up on materials, and filing fly boxes for next season while I keep abreast of the Philadelphia Phillies off-season moves. The birds and the striped bass are moving south, the foxes digging in. I’m thinking about that trip to Utah in March to chase rainbow trout with an old friend.

We are all, in our own way, preparing for the sweet season ahead.

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Filed under Baseball, Fall, Fishing, Fly Boxes, Fly Tying, Freshwater, Gear, Scenery, Seasons, Winter