As I write this it is a couple of days since New Year's Day. Many people, around this time, are thinking of the past Holiday season, the Winter ahead, Collage Bowl games or waiting on Summer. To me, New Year's day means one thing, up-holding a new 4 year tradition of catching a wild Brown Trout on the first day of the new year. The first 2 years were well before web sites and blogs. Last year I did blog about this tradition while I was writing for a different site. Well, it is a new year, the site is mine, but the tradition remains the same. I was fortunate that my company shut down between Christmas and New Year's giving me 11 days off to do what ever I wanted, and I wanted to fish! Balancing time between the holidays, family and the river is a delicate act at best. Our kids are older and working all the time and my wife is EXTREMELY understanding of my passion (or sickness) and I was able to get on the river 5 of the 11 days I was off. Not too bad considering one of the days I had to go to New York City to look at a new machine my company is thinking of purchasing and the last two days, Saturday and Sunday were a complete wash out with heavy rain.
I had spent a couple of days on the White Clay and one day on Valley leading up to New Year's day. You can read the White Clay post here. I had an OK day on Valley with a few fish landed spending a lot of time fishing a #24 CDC puff over some risers. Hooking and landing fish on a #24 is a challenge in itself and I can say I was not up to the challenge. I could get them to eat, but as soon as they fealt the hook, 2 head shakes and they were gone. It became a vendetta of sorts that I was gonna land a trout on a #24 that day. Finally, after several hours I did get one to hand only to have the hook pull and the fish flop back into the water as I was trying to take the picture. Oh well, it was still a fun and challenging afternoon on the water.
For the big New Year's day trip we had decided to hit the Gunpowder in Maryland. The Gunpowder or GP as it in known in the vernacular, is a bottom release tail water originating at Prettyboy Reservoir in northern Baltimore county. The reservoir system (Prettyboy and Loch Raven), the watersheds and the surrounding woodlands are owned by the city of Baltimore and they are responsible for about 60% of the municipal water for the city. Be that as it may we are attracted to it for it's scenery, wildlife (I saw several deer including a nice 8 pointer that bounded in the water right below me in an attempt to avoid some people trail running) and it's beautiful wild Brown Trout. I have not fished the GP since late last Winter and decided to fish a spot that always seems to give up a few fish. I had "One Boot" Ed with me and this would be his first time on this particular river.
This is the first thing you see when you step out of your car in the parking lot. No pressure here! After rigging up at the truck we decided I would walk down about a half mile and fish my way up, Ed would start at the truck and fish his way down. We would meet somewhere in the middle, compare notes, and finish out the day. We said our "good lucks" and I started the 30 min walk downstream. When I got to the spot I wanted to start the first thing I did was take a water temp; 34 degrees! so much for the theory of a bottom release tail water being warmer in the winter! I had decided to fish 3 flies under a indicator and let the fish tell me what was there preferred food of the day. I guess I could have used a stomach pump, but the rule of thumb is not to pump when the water is that cold. It is too stressful for the fish to regain the calories you take from them. My rig consisted of a #16 biot bodied BYO nymph, a #18 Flashback PT and a #20 Al's Rat. I have become quite fond of this rig. It has served me well in the past and covers many bases of wintertime food availability. I am happy to say that shortly into my New Year's day fishing (less than 10 minutes) I was snapping a picture of a beautiful, little wild Brown. The tradition continues! (BTY he is not hooked in the pectoral fin. I didn't even realize the fly was laying there until I downloaded the image from my phone)
Nymphing my way up the run produced 3 more gorgeous fish, It was shaping up to be a pretty good day. An hour or two later I came around a bend just in time to see my buddy landing a fish. I snapped a couple of pictures of him landing it and hollered for him to hold it up.
This was one of several fish he had taken on his way down. I asked him what fly and was surprised to hear he had taken all of his fish on the Rainbow Warrior! An attractor pattern, the Warrior has served me well over stocked fish, I never thought to use it on a wild Trout river.
Giving Ed's success with the Warrior I decided to try an experiment. I tied up an "attractor" rig with a Green Weenie, a Rainbow Warrior, and a San Juan Worm. Not your typical "wild fish" rig, and I am sure people reading this, one guy in particular, is shaking his head at me. I had already had a good day fishing naturals and I wanted to see what happened. I broke the worm off in short order so I just fished out the day with the two flies. The first half dozen casts with the new rig produced 2 fish, proof positive that wild fish eat attractors two! Here are some pics from New Year's day.
Here are a few of the pics Ed sent me.
The ride home was a good time. It was filled with stories of "did you fish that log" or "did you see this" type of stuff. These conversations have become as important of a part of the day as the fishing itself. What good are all of these great experiences if you have nobody to share them with. I am fortunate enough to have a bunch of good friends to share with! Now the question... where to fish tomorrow.
After thinking it over and weighing the pros and cons of Valley vs the GP I decided to make the hour and 45 minute ride back to Baltimore County. I already knew the fish there were active despite the cold water temp. I already had an idea of what flies would be effective and based on a few conversations and what I saw on Facebook Thursday evening, it didn't look like Valley was fishing very well at the moment. So at 9:00 am it was Rt 1 south... again.
I arrived at the spot a little earlier than the day before. On the way down I thought up the rig I would fish and decided I would stick with the same rig all day. I rigged up my 4X Harvey leader with a #18 tungsten bead Rainbow Warrior and tied a #18 Flashback PT and a #20 Mercury Midge on 6X droppers. Unless I saw something drastic, like a pod of rising fish, I was dancing with who brought me and this rig would stay on the whole day.
As it turns out the fishing spot and the rig were both the right choice. I had another solid day. Not quite as god as the day before, but very good in it's own right. Forsake of one EPIC leader tangle that required a complete rebuild from the 3X section down the original 3 flies were never off of my leader.
All in all I had a great Holiday season. I received some cool presents from Santa, got to spend some time with family and friends and fished my ass off! What more could you ask for? Til Next time...
Well, here we are a couple of days past Christmas. I hope everybody has had a safe, fun Christmas Holiday and that everyone received all of the fly fishing gifts from Santa they were looking for. My Christmas was great and the best "fishing" gift for me came from my son Tyler. The Fishpond Nomad net will be out to good use, trust me. Thanks buddy for a great, and needed, present. With the hustle and bustle of Christmas not what it used to be for my wife and I (our kids are 21 and 19) and being SEVERAL years away from grandchildren the holidays, for us, are a simpler time. After the big day I got to spend a little time the White Clay on Friday and Saturday. I was hopeing to take advantage of the Holiday Stocking that the White Clay Fly Fishers have been doing the past several years. Things were done a little differently this year. In the past the club would do one stocking of several hundred to sometimes over a thousand fish typically right before Christmas. This year the river will be stocked three times; once in October, December, and February. Knowing the river was full of fish had me rigged and on the water by 11:30.
I have been playing with a winter time rig that I learned from my buddy Eric Stroup www.ericstroupflyfishing.com in fact during his last Face Time Fly Fishing show he spent a little time discussing this very subject. During the winter take 3 flies (the maximum number allowed by the state DNR) and place them fairly close together. The Idea is to grab the fishes attention with a smorgasbord of food in close proximity to each other. A single Zebra Midge needs to bump them in the nose sometimes before they will eat it. Certainly they will move no more than a few inches, maybe a foot, to eat such a small meal. That is why you need to be extra diligent to be sure you have covered 100% of the hole you are fishing before moving on. On the other hand a fish is more apt to move several feet if it knows it has the opportunity to fill his gut. I usually will fish a big attractor like a Walt's Worm or a PFN and trail a small Nymph and a Midge, or 2 Midges of different color. This technique has worked quite well for me in the past, especially on stocked fish. One word of caution, be sure to cast an open loop or you will have a mess of tangled spaghetti in short order and be sure to use barbless or de-barb all of your hooks. With 3 flies no more than 18" apart the opportunity to hook the body of the fish with one of the other flies is heightened.
I hit the river solo on Friday and fished from about 11:30 till they shut off at about 4:15. Water temp was 36 degrees and at the warmest part of the day there was a pretty steady Midge hatch coming off. Steady enough for me to switch to a dry and stick a couple before the bugs shut off causing the fish to follow suit. With the water at 36 degrees I decided to fish the deeper pools and cover the water thoroughly before moving on. I pre-tied two rigs, the first had a #14 PFN on point with a #20 Black Mercury Midge and a #22 olive Al's Rat as trailers. The second rig was a #10 Walt's Worm on point with a #18 Flashback PT and a #20 Frostbite Midge as trailers. I have done well with all of these flies on the Clay in the past ant Friday waI no different as I landed fish on all 6 flies.
The highlight of the day came at around 3:30 when several fish started to rise on the far bank from where I was fishing. It stopped as fast as it started, lasting only about 20 minutes. I had just enough time to switch my leader to a dry on 6X. I chose what is quickly becoming my favorite Midge dry, the CDC Puff. This is my buddy Rick's pattern and it is as effective to fish as it is easy to tie. A hook, thread and 2 materials.
Saturday was to be much different than Friday. First off I was fishing with 2 good friends. Jim Stephens whom has been taking private tying lessons for some time now and has become a good friend and my partner in crime Ed "one boot" Hays. We met at around 11:30 and quickly realized there were MANY more people fishing today, the weather was beautiful, the temp was in the 50's and everybody had the same idea. Ed had a few new streamer patterns he wanted to fish so he decided to fish down. Jim and I were Nymphing and fished up. I had already decided to spend the bulk of the day in the area I had the most luck the day before...stake my claim if you will. I don't normally like to do that, but I knew there were fish there and if I was not fishing over them somebody or many somebody's would be. I started with the same rig I had the most success with the day before. In the beginning I actually spent more time talking as several of my old customers that were on the water. Conversations with Dennis, Ray, Bill, Rob, and Adam were a good way to rest the fish in "my" hole and it was nice to catch up with these guys. The fishing was tough and I was having no success with any of the flies that worked the day before. At one point I watched a fish move 6 inches to his left as my rig drifted past him. When the rig was safely past him he moved 6 inches to his right back to his preferred lie. I sent a text to Ed to ask how he was doing and received this picture in return.
At this point I had been fishing for 3 hours and only had one fish landed and another LDR (long distance release). I have switched flies to every combo imaginable and just couldn't get the same results as yesterday. Finally as a last ditch effort as I blankly starred in to my nymph box I decided to do something I NEVER do. I picked a single fly, one I rarely if ever fish, tied the single fly under the indicator and cast it out.
On the first cast I was tight to a good Brown. I had just enough time to fish my way up through the run one more time, which I did landing 3 more fish. Who would have thought, fishing technical all day and the Green Weenie was the top producing fly!
At the end of the day we all compared notes and it turned out to be not too bad of a day. When you are on the water with good friends is it ever a bad day? Off to tie Weenies. Till next time