Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Connecticut River (2nd episode)

I kept hearing about Upper Connecticut River, especially the Trophy Stretch between Lake Frances and First Connecticut Lake, so I decided to give it a try last weekend. Most of the rivers of central New Hampshire only hold stocked trout and I'm always looking for the wild one. The high waters over the whole season encouraged me, that means that fishing pressure was quite small over the summer. A week ago the flow rate was over 300 cf/s but just a few days before my planned trip it went down to 191. And I have to tell you I LOVE that flow rate. It is low enough to allow me to cross the river in a few places, without a wading staff, but high enough to make the river perfect for nymphing.
I got there Saturday night, at sunset. On the way to the campground, on River Rd. I see a guy that was coming out from the river, ready to wrap it for that night. I asked if he got lucky that day and he told me that he did, fishing with dries. "Great!" i though, my goddard caddises are gonna have some work to do tomorrow. I first learned how to tie this elk hair caddis last week-end at W . S. Hunter shop in Concord, with Jed and Jimmy and I really love it. It floats excellent, is very visible and fish love it.
At 6 am I was up, I skipped the breakfast and headed for the river. The weather was cloudy and I had some ugly thoughts for the guys of Yahoo Weather, especially after a few short showers. My rain coat was still in the car because the forecast was saying: "mostly sunny".
The water didn't inspire me to start with dries, no rises, so I decided for the bead heads. First small pools right upstream from the camp were pretty frustrating. First five fish that tried my nymphs were totally against coming out of the water, and after a second or two got loose. I couldn't understand why this happened even after I changed the flies, thinking that the hooks were bad. Then I realized that the overlaping layers of water were moving in different directions, so it was very hard to keep the line straight in the current. Therefore i was noticing that I had a strike only a few fractions of a second later, so the fish got extra time to notice the fraud.
one of the first things I've caught was some line, definitely not coming from a fly fisherman. Fish and Game, what's going on???? Not to mention the guy fishing with a bobber right where the river was entering the lake. Is that legal??? Anyway, there is no cell phone coverage in the area to call the good guys.

Finally, I got a few fish, a couple of small brookies and a tiny rainbow. The bigger ones were still hard to convince to come out of the water for a picture. Then I got to the Skating Rink. I realized that is the name of the pool as soon as I saw it. Perfect pool for dries.
I exchanged the nimphs for a goddard caddis and as I was tying it on, I spotted a fish sipping flies from the surface. First cast and it was fighting at the end of the line.
I only got a few more strikes over the next half an hour, although I combed every square foot of the pool, but the fish didn't take the fly. At the upper end of the pool and I was able to hook a nice brookie, where else, but next to a fallen tree. I'm telling you, these trees are gold!

That was the last fish caught on a dry that day. I was around 8:00 am. I went back to nymphs, a little dissapointed by the strike rate. And I didn't regret it. Because the brookies and rainbows were fighting over my heavy #12 tungsten bead nymphs. That's when I lost count of the fish I landed. Not to mention that probably 30% of them managed to escape before landing. The ratio was around 2 rainbows to 1 brook trout, all beautiful and strong fish. To have an ideea of their size, on my rod there are 3 silver rings. The middle one is at 30 cm (12 inches) from the butt and the third one at 40 cm (appx. 16 inches).

I hooked the first salmon by the tail of the current, in pretty shallow water. I knew it's different from the others by the way it jumped out of the water and it was fighting by shaking its head. I first thought it was a brown trout, based on the yellowish color, but the lack of red spots, the forked tail and big black spots convinced me it was a salmon.
Then more brookies, some of them in spawning colors, fighting like bulls, and nice rainbows.

I was getting ready to go when I hooked the second salmon. First I believed I got my hook between two rocks, because I got no reaction after setting the hook. Only after I gave it a couple of thrusts, trying to recover the line I realized it started to move. I witnessed two 2 feet tall jumps out of the water but it gave up pretty easy after that. The fly instead was totally destroyed. I estimate it around 17 inches. After releasing it I sat down for a second thanking GOD for a wonderful day. It was 1 pm, and that was the time I got the first ray of sun.

Quick lunch, then I set my vise on the steering wheel to tie a couple of flies. I didn't have any orange nymphs left, and those ruled the morning. Then I moved tot the bridge over Perry stream, thinking to fish the junction pool, where the stream meets the Connecticut River. There were a couple of guys there, one on each side of the river so I fished the riffles above and below the pool. Results: 2 rainbows and 2 brookies in 20 minutes.

I slowly moved downstream to Doc's pool, where I only got a rainbow and a salmon, probably the smallest of the day, around 13-14 inches. It was almost 5 o'clock and I wanted to try the pools bellow the dam, so I moved on.

The parking lot was kinda packed, around 7 cars. I waded all the way down to Jurry's box (a wonderful pool), where I got my last salmon of the night. The picture is blurred but I only have one because it took off before having the chance to take more. Good job!!

On the way there I caught a few brookies. I spent a lot of time changing flies, few feet away from 3-4 beautiful brookies, trying to find the one to make them take a bite, but no success. I could see their orange belly in 2 feet deep water and I have to say It was a little frustrating, but I think those fish were so used to people, and probable hooked for so many times, that it wasn't easy to fool them again.

This last salmon concluded the day. It was almost 7 o'clock and I still had close to 3 hrs of driving ahead. It was my best day of this season and one of the best of my short life as fly fisherman. My only question: how can some people kill those incredible beautiful fish? I want more C&R waters in the state!

Monday, September 15, 2008

More fish!

I returned today to the brook I was fishing on Saturday, but this time I went closer to the Winnipesaukee river, hoping for some more fish. I hooked 3 in total, all brookies, but only managed to land one of them. They didn't come at the surface, I had to go deep and I lost 2 flies in the sunken branches. It's an ugly stream to fish, but hey, it has some fish and it's really close to where I live. So it's perfect for an "after work" fishing session.
It was funny that I saw when two of the fish took the fly. The 2 I've lost. So I think I just got too nervous and set the hook too fast. I don't know, maybe I was a coincidence.
You can see the in the picture the fly I am using, the same that brought me the rainbows Saturday night. But I'm running low in hooks: Daichii 2220 size 8. I guess I'll have to take another trip to Concord soon.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Finally some flyfishing!!!!

Today I had a really good time tying flies with a couple of friends that know muuuch more than me about fly tying. The result: I've learned a lot! Besides my friends from Romania that taught me the basics, when I started fly fishing and fly tying, I've pretty much learned by myself (thanks GOD for the internet). But I can say that in those few hours that I've spent in Concord I accumulated a great deal of information, and I'm looking forward to go there again. Sorry guys, it's going to be really hard to get rid of me from now on!
On the way home I stopped to check a brook that flows not even two minutes from my apartment. Two years ago this little stream brought me the personal record for brown trout caught on a fly: 46 cm, that's a little over 18 inches. Plus a lot of 14 inch-ers, most of them rainbows. Last year I didn't catch anything there so I assumed 2006 was just an accident and I've kind of forgot about that place. But I had my spinning rod in the back of the car so I decided to give it a try. The spinning rod is much quicker to set up than the fly rod, that's why I use it to "test the water", to see if it's worth to try fly fishing. Although I used to fish 50% spinning and 50% fly fishing, lately I don't use my spinning rod too much.
First cast, I see a trout chasing the bait, 2 inch taildancer from Rapala. Second cast I managed to hook a fish, a brookie. Luckilly the treble hooks didn't do much damage and I was able to return the fish to water with excellent chances of survival. Then I packed my rod and went home.
Two hours later I returned with my fly rod, ready to try the flies I've tied the same morning: some soft hackles and a Goddard caddis. Probably one of the ugliest of it's kind, but my first one.

First, the caddis. 3 seconds on the water and the surface explodes: a brown trout decides to take it. Judging by the size, one of those stocked this summer in the Winnipesauke River, which receives the waters of this little brook 300 yards downstream. I assume the fish go up in the brook because the water temperature is cooler than the main river.

I released the fish and tried to place my fly a little further up, close to the branches hanging over the opposite side of the river. Bingo: second fish, this time a pretty brookie. Followed two casts later by another one, a little fish, maybe a native.

Than nothing, I think the rest of them were spooked, so they decided not to rise to my fly anymore. And when my fly landed in a tree with no chance to recover it I decided to move downstream, below the bridge, where I knew there was a deep pool. The place is pretty hard accessible, I was lucky it's just a few feet from the road, but the water levels were high and that pushed me back into the bushes, with almost no room to cast. A good opportunity to test my roll cast. Since I had to change the fly anyway, I put a sinking one, tied on a streamer hook no. 8, with a red tail, ostrich herl for the abdomen, ice dubbing for thorax and a soft hackle. A few rounds of wire under the thorax makes the fly sink faster. I usually let it sink and jig it slowly on the bottom. Two years ago a similar fly gave me the biggest fish in this spot.
This time it looked that nothing was going to happen. I tried at the head of the pool, at the tail, on the bottom, in between, slower, faster, nothing seemed to approach the fly. But when I was thinking to change the place, especially because the mosquitoes were killing me, I notice a quick pull on the line, as the fly was sinking. I set the hook and after a short fight, a nice rainbow trout stops by to have his picture taken. 12-13 inches, nice and fat.

I sent it back and try again, but the very next cast my fly decides that it wants to end its life on the bottom, hooked on a log. That was my breaking point, really annoyed by mosquitoes that were fighting for a landing place over my hands and face. I'm trying not to use DEET when handling fish that I'm going to release because I know how sensitive they are.

I got out of the bushes and went back to the place I started, thinking to try again, with another one of the flies I've tied that morning. Green and black wire body, ice dubbing thorax and soft partridge hackle. It's easy to tie and I really love the way it looks, so I think it's going to be a constant presence in my flybox. Especially now, after I caught a fish with it the very first time I used it:

It was another rainbow about the same size of the previous one, an excellent fighter.

And that concluded that fishing session. One and a half hours in total, five fish of 3 different trout species and only 2 flies lost. A perfect end for the day...

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Nova Scotia

Week-endul trecut l-am combinat cu Labor Day (luni), care e o sarbatoare mare la americani si de obicei e zi libera si cu inca doua zile libere. A rezultat o vacanta mititica, numai buna pentru a ne implini unul din visele de calatorie: Nova Scotia, mai precis Cape Breton Island, cea mai renumita portiune a provinciei candiene. Drumul nu a fost usor, in total peste 3200 km dus- intors, dar a meritat din plin.

Speram sa prind o zi de pescuit pe unul dintre cele mai renumite rauri de somon de pe coasta de est a Canadei: Margaree River. Din pacate, dupa mai multe zile de ploaie, raul arata cam asa:

Asa ca a trebuit sa imi iau la revedere de la somoni. Chiar si oceanul era tulbure pe o raza de vre0 20 de km de la varsarea raului.

Drept urmare ne-am concentrat pe vizitarea Cape Breton Highlands Park, unul dintre cele mai spectaculoase locuri in care am fost vreodata. Pe langa peisajul de vis si abundenta animalelor salbatice, m-a impresionat enorm modul in care canadienii au grija de parcul respectiv. Si modul in care turistii, in marea lor majoritate din Canada si SUA, respecta regulile. Nu am vazut in trei zile de stat in parc nici un ranger sau politist sau jandarm, dar nici nu am vazut vreo situatie care sa necesite prezenta lor.
Cum ziceam nu demult, nu as pierde o ocazie sa vad balene din nou, asa ca in prima zi acolo ne-am ocupat de aspectul asta. Vremea era cam ploioasa, dar barca era acoperita si in plus echipajul iti oferea pelerine si haine groase daca aveai nevoie. De data asta tinta nu mai erau humpback whales ci pilot whales, care-s mai mici, dar super simpatice.

Am ramas surprins de cat de aproape de mal vin sa se hraneasca. Spre norocul nostru, una dintre ele avea un pui probabil de anul asta, care statea lipit de maica-sa. Nu l-am vazut decat dupa ce ne-am uitat la poze:

Ultima seara am petrecut-o in Fishing Cove, pe malul oceanului, intr-un golf unde se varsa un rauletz. Apus de vis, in noapte am avut un elan care a dormit langa cort iar dimineatza s-a plimbat pe langa noi si a trecut raul catre locul lui de pascut.

Ghici cine era fricosul care nu vroia sa iasa din cort???

Colac peste pupaza, inainte de a pleca ne-am cocotzat pe un deal de unde puteam sa vedem balenele hranindu-se in larg. Era practic aproape tot ce ne-am dorit de la locul acela. Nu-i de mirare ca la plecare ma uitam asa cu jind la golfuletzul cu pricina:

Binenteles ca nu puteam pleca din Nova Scotia fara a completa Cabot Trail, un drum renumit in lume pt pitorescul pe care-l ofera, intre ocean, munte, lacuri, animale salbatice si flora caracteristica zonei, cu pini, plante insectivore si orhidee.

Elanii erau la ei acasa, in cea mai "fructuoasa" zi am numarat 7, de toate genurile si marimile. Sunt obisnuiti cu oamenii, uneori se opresc in mijlocul drumului si nu se lasa convinsi sa plece cu una cu doua. La urma urmei noi eram intrusii, nu ei.

Per total pot sa spun ca a fost aproape perfect. Daca aveam si sansa sa pescuiesc ar fi fost vacantza perfecta, dar asa am un motiv in plus sa ma intorc...
P.S. ghici prin ce mai e renumita Cape Breton Island? Glen Breton whisky, produs aici: