Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Early Spring Steelheading with the boys!

Jonathan holds his first steelhead ever!

Just this past week, as the kids were off from school for their winter break, we received a wonderful gift. The gift of warm weather! And although it is not uncommon for us to have a little bit of a thaw during February, especially towards the back end of the month, we were not expecting daytime temps to soar into the sixties. 

The kids spent most of their time outside riding bikes, playing with our two dogs, taking walks and playing with friends. Even I was able to get outside and finish a few projects before I couldn’t take it anymore and announced an afternoon fly fishing trip with the boys.

And as always during this time of year, especially when conditions warrant it, we made plans to hit up a local Lake Ontario tributary for large lake run steelhead and drop back brown trout. The only problem is picking the right stream where water conditions are in your favor and being in the right place at the right time. These are anadromous fish after all, and finding where they are in high stained water can sometimes be a challenge. But when you do, it can be amazing as you can often find both large spring run steelhead and big drop back brown trout that have wintered over in the stream until the thaw.
Ethan holds the 1st fish of the day

Our first “plan A” location had five cars parked at the pull-off. Not wanting to fight for space to fish, I made the call to head upstream to our “plan B”. This is when putting all those hours and days and years into learning a stream can really pay off. We can go to a different less crowded section of the stream and know where the fish should be. And on this day our move certainly paid off.

The water, although still on the cold side, was in perfect shape. High and stained with a good eighteen to twenty inches of visibility.

Within the first forty five minutes we were able to land two colored up steelhead out of some great looking pocket water. The male took a dead drifted streamer while working a deep run, and the female we landed ate a big rabbit strip streamer in mid-swing while fishing a pocket pool above.

Even dad gets to catch one
Over the course of the next hour we fished hard at each little spot that looked like it should hold a fish or two. But to my surprise, we moved nothing and saw nothing.

On our walk back up towards the car my oldest son said he wanted to try our first location again. He really wanted to try and get his first spring lake run fish before we headed home, and hopefully his first steelhead ever to the net.

It did not take Jonathan long until he swung up a big colored up male steelhead. With water being thrown everywhere by the fish, and big hard pulling runs, we all watched nervously as he fought to keep that fish close. In the end everything played out perfectly and I had the pleasure of sliding the net under Jonathan’s first spring steelhead. And what a fish! At twenty nine inches it also was the largest fish of the day. Congratulations Jonathan!

Jonathan swings a streamer through the head of a pool.

Another great fishing trip with the kids. Can’t wait to do it again……see you out there!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Birthday Fishing trip

My largest fish of the day with Matt Smythe on the net
Matt S. releasing a future lake run giant

Every year right around my birthday or sometimes the day of, I take the time to get out and fish. I guess you could say it’s a birthday present to myself. And when I can, I try and take a good portion of the day, as I usually only get an hour or so if I’m lucky.

In years past, my trips have been regulated to walking the banks at public access points. These spots have provided plenty of great fishing and some pretty amazing trout, but more often than not, you don’t get to choose who you share a stretch of water with.
Jessie Hollenbeck with a nice buck steelhead

Earlier this month I got the chance to fish some private property on one of my favorite Lake Ontario small tributaries for giant lake run trout. And I got to do it with some great people who I have gotten to know through the past 4 or 5 years, or more. 

Most of the guys were already there by the time I arrived. Their Cars lined up in the gravel parking area by the barn, with lift-gates and back doors adorned with all kinds of fly fishing stickers and such. It's one of those visuals that if you weren't already "in the know" of who took up driving said vehicles, you would turn tail and run. But fish need catchin' and I was more than ready to answer the call!

Post lunch photo of the crew
Water had been released from the Erie Canal earlier that week, pushing water flows up, and bringing in new fish every day. To say my expectations where a bit on the high side would be accurate, even with a cold snap that usually puts fish off the bite.

My good friend Bob Burrows and I headed down to the water in high spirits.

By the time we met up with everyone at the water’s edge several nice steelhead and brown trout had already been brought to the net.

Another future giant
Each of us worked through the various sections of stream that bordered the private property, taking turns at each spot, and then warming up by the streamside fire. We spent time sharing stories of fish tales past and present, talking about our families and showing off flies from our boxes. Only breaking the conversation every once and a while to help net a fish and take some photos.

Denver Miller snaps a photo of Matt S.with a colored up buck brown. Chris on the net
Our fish filled afternoon was only brought to a halt by an amazing lunch, which was provided by our wonderful host family. Venison stew, hard rolls with butter and a nice birthday cake in celebration of Denver Miller and my Birthday were on the menu. The delicious food and short rest off our cold feet was more than welcome and we were soon ready to head back down to the water.

The rest of the day was filled with much of the same, great conversation and large lake run fish.
It was an honor to spend a day on the water with all those guys. And in the end, I think almost everyone landed at least one fish, with several of us putting multiple fish in the net.
Leif Mermagen with a big hen

As Denver said “That’s what happens when you put a bunch of great fly anglers all together in one spot!”

Special thanks to Jim Metcalf and family, Bob Burrows, Jessie Hollenbeck, Denver Miller, Matt Smythe, Leif Mermagen, Ethan Law, Jake Kwap and anyone else I may have forgotten, for making it such a great day.

See you on the stream.

Matt S. putting the screws to big hen brownie with Leif M. looking on and Jessie H. on the net.

Matt's big hen brownie

Saturday, December 3, 2016

My 2016 Fall Tributary season.

1st Chinook of the fall

The 2016 fall salmon run is done and gone and with it goes the last remnants of autumn. It seemed to arrive late and leave early this year, or maybe it just seemed that way to me because my focus has been on a busy family schedule. Either way, the leaves are down and as I am writing this, wet snow is falling.

Black bead head copper and brown buggers worked well this fall
The amount of time spent on the water these past few years has diminished from years past, so I really try to make the most out of each trip. And even though I didn’t get out as much as I would have liked (when do I ever?), I did manage to catch a few fish for myself and even help guide some others into a few of their own.

Guide Jessie Hollenbeck of Wide Sky Fly fishing coaching some clients
Water, or the lack there of, has once again been an issue for our local tributaries. This summer’s drought was severe enough to reduce the water table to a point where even the most robust rainfall couldn’t restore it in time for the fall. Even when we did get a bump in water flow, it didn’t last long. In fact, even with all the precipitation we have received this fall, I believe we are still running a deficit.

Even with less than ideal conditions, we found a few good windows of opportunity.

Ethan trying to turn a Chinook
During one of those post-robust rainfall events in mid-late October, I managed to be at the creek at the right time to find the water level up and stained. Many large Chinook salmon where moving upstream in good numbers. I worked the tail outs of pools and deeper runs, swinging natural colored buggers in front of resting kings, sometimes having three to five fish at a time to work my fly to, with at least one or two of them willing to intercept. 

Jonathan helps Ethan hoist his catch
As the fall run progressed, more and more big lake run trout began to enter our WNY tributaries to take advantage of all those loose eggs being deposited by the spawning salmon. And once again I found a couple of great windows of opportunity to take full advantage. It is at this time that using egg patterns will produce the most consistent action. 

Once the spawning is done, streamers and large nymphs and wetflies will begin to produce a good number of fish until a good slug of water dislodges eggs from all the spawning reds and once again putting fish back on the egg bite.
Jonathan with his spawned out Coho salmon

And so it goes, Summer to fall. Fall to winter. Winter to spring, and spring back to summer again.

Large 10+lb. lake run brown trout

Landlocked Atlantic salmon brought to you by Streamwalker Nets.

I can’t wait to get back out there, See you on the stream!