Thursday, December 18, 2008

Winter on the Oatka

Winter is one of my favorite times of the year to be on the water(along with spring, summer and fall.) It is a time when there are not "Big Hatches" or lot's of people fishing those big hatches. To put it simply...Fishing in the winter offers unique challenges that are found at no other time of the year.

Fishing subsurface is the way to go (most of the time.) And your presentation at times needs to be
precise. And when you add in high water to the equation it becomes very difficult to even find fish. This is why I love it!

Yesterday I ventured out to Oatka creek with my Dad in tow. We walked a trail that led to one of my favorite spots. The 4 inches of snow on the ground had no foot prints in it, accept for a few deer tracks. When we walked over the cow bridge, we looked upstream and down and found the water level to be very high, but not muddy. I knew I would have a tough time finding fish. And after fishing both nymphs and streamers for a half hour at one of my favorite spots with no fish, I knew I may go fishless for the day.

We then moved to some better looking water just below the cow bridge. Here the water was in better shape do to the trees and timber that collected themselves just in front of the bridge. The "make shift" dam proved to stop much of the high water and acted as a filter making visability a little better. I worked my way down from the bridge throwing a #8 conehead white rabbit strip streamer with my 6 weight. I cast to either side, taking a step after each cast. No fish took the streamer, and after I got back upstream I changed rods and flies. This time, I carefully placed a #12 beadhead black woolly bugger(under an indicator) at every seem and riffle that looked good. It wasn't until the end of our last half hour that my indicator dipped and I had my first fish on. A few head shakes and it was gone. My next drift produced another take, and this time I bent the 4 weight almost to the handle on the hook set. This fish came to hand, and after a photo(taken by my Dad) it was off to find a better holding spot.

I had to work hard for that fish. Winter does that sometimes to your fishing. But, you know what? I wouldn't change it for the world. I was able to show my Dad one of the fly fishing places I enjoy most, and even though it was cold and snowy, I would do it all again tomorrow.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Spring (Brook) Trout

Brook trout are not really a true trout. They are a member of the "Char" family. They are native to New York and other Eastern states, and where ever there is cold water year round you will find them. The best known spots to catch brookies in New York are the Adirondacks or the small streams that flow out of the hills of the southern tier. There is however an exception! Here in the Rochester area we have a tributary to the very popular Oatka creek that hosts a small number of brook trout. Spring creek is that tributary! And it's inhabitants are all trout and only trout.

My kids and I met Luke yesterday on Spring creek for a little visit and a half hour of fishing before we had to leave due to rain. We fished above the hatchery in a section that can be very tough. And it was, as we had nothing to show for our efforts in that half an hour. While we fished we talked about the small flies we needed to use and Lukes morning of fishing in the lower section below the hatchery. He had hooked a few, but was not able to bring any to the net. I then mentioned to him about the brookies that I saw in this stretch a few years ago, and how it would be great to catch a few. He then told me that he was furtunate enough to catch one last year. This turned out to be a very funny conversation, because after we left, he caught two brook trout and a few brown trout. Not only that, Jessie (who met up with Luke after I left) managed to catch a few brown trout for himself too! What a great afternoon for the both of them.

They both used small midge patterns dead drifted under a small indicator to get their fish. Some day I will post a few photos of the small midge larvae that are the key to catching Spring brook brown and brook trout. You would be amazed at how a trout could feed on something so small.

All photos were taken by Luke.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Fly Fishing, NY Magazine

With all the vast amount of spare time that I have(not really), I often become creative. Sometimes I paint, sometimes I play my guitar, sometimes I tie flies and sometimes I read. I kind of go through a transformation from average every day dad into a relaxed somewhat catatonic state of artistic expression. Now please don't get this confused with some sort of 60's hippie thing cause it's not! It stems more from a need to do what I was made to do, be creative. It's in my blood. And if I go too long with out releasing that creative spirit I become unresponsive and my eyes glaze over. And if you think that is being a little overly dramatic, just ask my wife.

So what do I spend some of my free time doing? Why I create fictitious magazine covers of course. Wouldn't you? And if you could, you would find pictures of friends and place their mugs on the cover with large fish, or making a nice cast or perhaps with a fish on! The point is, you can't do a project like this and put yourself on the cover. It would look....well, self centered I guess would be the nicest description. Plus you want to make your friends look good so they will go fishing with you. Besides, who is going to take a photo of me with an obscenely large fish. I can't do it myself(trust me I've tried.) Not to mention the opportunity to take a photo of me falling in the stream. And I have fallen on many occasions.

The point I am trying to make here, is I can't just sit around and watch T.V. all day. I need to do something that gets those gears in my head turning. And yes a few of the gears are missing some teeth, but we can discuss that topic when I see you on the stream. Until then, enjoy some future cover designs of the NEW! Fly Fishing New York magazine.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Oatka & Spring creek

"I'm thinking Spring creek and the Oatka" the e-mail read. Luke had sent me a short message on the details of his next fly fishing trip. He also said he was giving the tribs a break, and that Jessie would be meeting up with him in the afternoon at the Oatka.

The only problem I had with reading this message was, I could not go. I always enjoy fishing with these guys, as I do with all my fishy friends, but I couldn't go....but you already knew that!

Any way, spring creek fished really well I was told. "I think I landed over 12 at spring creek" was not something I wanted to read, especially when I wasn't there. Plus he missed another half dozen or so. These are things you hate to hear from friends when you can't join them for a day on the water. At least it's better than the times Bob would call me while I was at work saying he has a big steelhead on the line. To make matters worse, I could hear the running water in the background as he fought his fish.

Luke then headed to Oatka to meet Jessie. They fished for a while each hooking a good number of trout, but were only able to bring a few to the net. As always they do a great job of not only finding fish, but figuring out what the trout want to eat, and they feed it to them!

And even though I could not go, it was a blast to hear what I missed out on. Someday I will get them all back...ha ha ha! But, I would rather go with them!

Oh yeah! They used small nymphs of course. If you want the pattern just look at what's stuck in the mouth of the trout in the photos.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Bad weather = Good fishing....Right?

This is what it looked like outside Friday Morning as I was driving to Sandy creek. Not pleasant to say the least. However, to a dedicated steelhead fisherman such as myself, conditions like this mean the world. No people! Who in there right mind would stand out in the cold and snow for hours casting a fly to a fish. Yes I said "a fish."

Well.....I was not alone. Luke joined me for a spirited attempt at fishing today. And I must say it was an adventure.

Luke was already taking a "warming back up in his car break" when I arrived at the rt. 19 bridge. He said he had been on the water for nearly an hour and had no fish to show for his efforts. The water was high due to the release of canal water. And if matters were not bad enough, there were weeds, branches and small trees floating down river all morning. When he asked what we should do, I said we should get back at it and fish the seams and deeper pools. Note to self....when you meet a friend at a fishing spot and he is taking a break before you get there due to poor conditions and no fish, MOVE! This would be great advice to someone who had common sense. I apparently have none!

After two hours or so of picking ice out of our guides and trying to warm our hands, we moved. I know what your thinking...."finally they are going to a new stream where the water conditions are better." Nope! Instead I drove us to a new location on the same stream in hopes of changing our status from a bunch of "crazed wackos" to that of "courageous fly fisherman" who brave the elements to catch at least one steelhead. After all isn't that what separates the men from the boys? That transformation never happened. We flogged water for at least another hour with the same pitiful results.

Lunch! That would help right? We stopped at a local gas station and filled up with greasy pizza and coffee. We felt better, at least for a little while anyway. We let the pizza settle as we drove to our new location. And on the way, I thought about how the day was not all that bad. No one had fallen in, we still had feeling in our fingers and faces, and we still had hope of catching a steelhead or brown trout at our new location.

Oak Orchard creek looked much better. The water was high but not unfishable. And our walk upstream revealed 4 or 5 small steelhead on stringers. Our hope was renewed! That changed however in an instant when we were told that those fish were all caught during a small run that moved up at around 11:30 am. It was now going on 2:00pm and nothing had happened since. We slowly walked upriver fishing every likely run that we could find. Finaly, Luke found a slow run on the opposite side of the river. He had found some salmon and was drifting his fly downstream from them in hopes of finding a hungry trout. I positioned my self upstream from those fish and started casting a white beadchain woolly bugger. It did not take long and my stike indicator went down and I was hooked up. Fish on! My excitement faded a bit when I realized it was one of the salmon. But, I must admit at this stage of the game any fish was welcomed. Soon we had her at our feet and with a quick picture she was off to fulfill her duty.

That was it for the day. One fish! Not a trout, but we'll take it. I did mention we were dedicated, not insane....right?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

More Sandy creek trout

This morning I found myself and Ethan heading to Sandy creek. We drove through thick fog to get there...boy, it's tough sometimes to be a fly fisherman! Any way....the creek is still low, but not too low. And after a little walk down stream from the bridge we found fish. We hooked into a nice sized salmon and after a 5 minute fight we had landed our first fish of the morning. Then we spotted a trout! A steelhead trout. It wasn't big, but it would be my first steelhead of the year. And after a few drifts, a change of flies and a few missed chances I was hooked up with my first steelhead. And you no what? It jumped. About two feet in the air. Who knew these fish jumped...ha! I certainly didn't tell it too! But what a great way to start my steelhead season. I'm not complaining at all!

As we were taking some photos of the steelhead we heard more fish moving their way up through the riffle sections just below us. And after a 10 minute break to untangle my line(Ethan wanted to hold the fly rod while I was taking pictures) we resumed our search for fish. We walked upstream this time. We needed to be back in time to pick up Katie from school. But before we made it back, I spotted two good sized brown trout moving slowly upstream. Then, at the head of a run one of the fish stopped and held in a small riffle section. After some adjustments and careful drifting, I had the big brown peeling of line from my fly reel. With my rod tip jumping up and down every time the big brown shook it's head, I tried to apply the right amount of pressure to move the fish without pulling the fly out of it's mouth. This seemed to work really well and soon I was able to direct the fish into the shallows where I could get my hand around it's tail. A very nice gentleman who was fishing just upstream from us was kind enough to take a picture to end our morning of fishing. And he was the only other person we saw the whole time we were there.

There are definitely fish just need to go and find where they are!

On another note.....taking pictures by yourself of yourself does not always work well. The photo of me holding the steelhead was done by putting the camera on the bank and setting the timer. I am going to have to work on getting better shots when I am by myself.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Sandy Creek, November 4th

Today was a great day to be on the water. I was able to fish with both of my boys. And after we dropped Katie off at her school, we headed up to the Brick schoolhouse road section of Sandy creek.

Conditions did not look good from the start. Low water, weeds and most fish! We trudged our way upstream looking at every run, riffle and little pool hoping to find something. Then we found a salmon holding in a riffle section. It looked pretty old and ragged, but Jonathan wanted to try and catch it. It would be his first Chinook salmon ever on the fly rod. The fish stayed in the riffle section running here and there, stopping only to shake it's huge head in an attempt to get rid of the fly in it's mouth. With Jonathan straining to keep the fly rod's tip up, I coached him on putting some side pressure on the fish and soon we had his first salmon tailed. A quick picture and he was on his way. What a great fight!

We spent the next half hour looking for more fish. Walking downstream, we past the bridge and searched the water for any fish looking shape hiding along the greens and browns of the stream bottom. Then another salmon made it's way in front of us and within a few casts we had hooked our second fish of the day. This would not last however, as the fish brook off a minute later.

We then continued our march downstream and came to a slight bend in the creek where there appeared to be a good riffle section that would hold fish. As I began to scan the water below the riffle, two fish worked there way up into that riffle. I could see two beautiful brown trout holding in the current. A few casts, and "Fish On!" Jonathan held on as the brown trout ran up and down that run 3 or 4 times before I could get my hand around it's tail. Our reward was a beautifully colored male of about 7 lbs.

With fish number two landed, photographed and released, we headed back upstream in hopes of finding one last fish before we had to go back and pick up Katie from school. And just as it was looking like we would be done for the day, I spotted a really big brown trout holding in the tail out of the pool under the bridge. It was a very large female brown trout and it took a little while of careful presentation before I could say "Fish on" for the last time today. This fish put up one of the most memorable fights that I have ever seen. Jonathan strained to keep the fish under control, and soon it had all the fly line off the reel. He then had to work the fish back upstream gaining a little line here and there between runs. This went on for 5 or 6 minutes before the the fish went near the bank and some under water brush. Jonathan stood upstream with fly rod in hand waiting as I tried to find the fish. A tail appeared in the water under some brush. I tried to grab the tail. The fish went nuts swimming around me and tangling the line around my feet. At this point I thought it was over. I tried as quickly as I could to get that line unwrapped but it was not working. And then, in an instant I was free and Jonathan still had the fish on! After another minute I had my hand wrapped firmly around the tail of a 12 or 13 lb. female brown trout. What a fiasco! What a fish!

There were not a lot of fish moving today. In fact, I have seen a lot more salmon and trout during this time of year. But, we also don't have the water either. If we get a good amount of rain or water release from the canal, it could change everything! The weeds would get washed out and the fish that are waiting to run will have enough water to do it in mass numbers. On a good note......I was able to cast many times to a fish until it took a fly without spooking it. This means that the fish are used to their surroundings and not being pressured by lots of anglers. And most importantly, I was able to share a morning of fishing with my two sons, Ethan and Jonathan.

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Oatka: Late fall and Winter

Fly fishing the Oatka in late fall and winter can be a real treat. It is a refreshing change from the crowded tributaries, and often fishes better than their counter parts. This is probably due to the fact that the fish are not as pressured and the variety of insect life is greatly diminished by this time of year. You can often fish your favorite stretch all by your self.

There are some guidelines however. Especially if you want to be successful. To small flies is probably a good idea. I'm not talking about a #16 pheasant tail or hare's ear. I'm talking #18 and down to #26. This is small fishing at it's best! Small heavily weighted nymphs with even smaller midge larvae as a trailer works like a charm. And don't be surprised to see small midge and BWO hatching late morning through late afternoon depending on the temperature. So bring some #20 to #24 griffith's gnats and bwo for some dry fly action. And don't be afraid to tie on a really small egg pattern or san juan worm to mix things up. This is also one of the best times of the year(besides spring) to fish a streamer pattern. Weighted or unweighted, and with or without a sink tip. Cast slightly upstream throw in a mend and let it dead drift for a little while or start stripping a foot at a time across the current. There really is no bad way to fish a streamer. The fish usually let you know what they are looking for. When spring starts to rear it's ugly head, I'll do a post that describes a more in depth approach to streamers and how to fish them.

Here are some of the best flies to try during the late fall and winter period on the Oatka. See you on the water!
Heavily weighted #18 and #20 tungsten bead head flash back pheasant tails or hare's ears.
Midge larvae and pupae in #20 through #26 (black, white, red and crystal flash)
Egg patterns #16 and #18 (Oregon cheese, Niagara gold, etc) and San Juan worms (red and brown)
Weighted or Unweighted woolly buggers #6 through #12 (black, white, brown and olive)
Weighted or Unweighted muddler minnows #6 through #10 (a #8 conehead version is my favorite)
Bucktail streamers #8 through #12(brown/white, olive/white, micky finn, etc...)
Griffith's gnats #18 through #22
BWO in #18 through #24
Emergers in #18 through #24

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Oak 10/25

My dad(James) and brother(Andy) came out for the weekend to fish with me at the Oak. I hope that this is becoming a yearly event. It was great to be able to spend time with both of them and fish together. It was also nice to have my brother's brother in-law (John) join us for a few hours of fun. We even had some of my friends (Bob & Kim & Lucas) show up and fish with us for a while. It was great to be around such wonderful people!

Now to the fishing! It was a very very wet day. Rain and more rain was the order of the morning. Great for the fish! Not so great for us bipeds. And with rain pouring off the rims of our hats we flogged the water for hours with little success. We did hook a few fish but none were brought to hand. The only exception was Luke's nice steelhead and brown that he caught early in the morning.

We worked our way upstream searching for fish and eventually came to a long run with fish holding in pockets throughout. Andy hooked into a few fish and so did I. We had some fun watching dad try to control a few large Chinook salmon. This went on all morning until we met up with John(Andy's brother in-law.) After some lunch, John, Andy and I went back to the Oak in search of a few more willing participants in what would turn out to be an over matched tug of war between fish and man. Today, the fish won. The only fish we did manage to land was a nice male brown trout of about 7lbs. that I had to run 75 yards down stream to land.

Photos were as hard as the fish to manage. The rain prevented us from dragging our cameras out at every opportunity. Luke was the only one who took some shots and he only managed a few. So thanks to him, I have a nice shot of my brother and me fishing together at the Oak. Thank you very much Luke!

All in all it was a great weekend to spend some time on the water with family and friends. Sure it rained. In fact, it rained a lot! But our goal was to spend some time fishing together. And no amount of rain was going to stop us from doing that!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Sandy Creek Part 2

I thought I would post some more photos from the October 11th trip, since it was such a success. And included are a few photos from Bob and Jessie's stint at Oak Orchard creek. Plus, I've included a report from today's little scouting trip. Hope you enjoy!

Ethan and I went to Sandy today. We stopped at the rt.19 bridges and saw plenty of cars, so we drove upstream to the next bridge....more cars. So we kept driving up until we hit church street. There were only two vehicles here so we got out and geared up. Got to the bridge and looked down into the water just beneath the bridge and saw a nice big male chinook. We walked down and saw more fish moving upstream from below. We tried for a little while to get two salmon to take our fly below the bridge, but they weren't cooperating. A walk downstream revealed more fish holding here and there and we managed to hook a nice female. We fought her for a couple minutes and 3 guys from down below came up and helped me land her. These guys had three fish a piece on their stringers. I asked if they would take a photo for me with the fish and Ethan, as I have never had a photo with Ethan and me together yet! And you know what? camera, I left in the car. Oh well, that's the way it goes. Any way, we need rain!!!! still low and clear even up at church street were there are some decent runs and holes. Lots of people around too! I think once the hunting season starts it will become a little less crowded. I hope!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Sandy Creek, October 11th

We all met at Sandy creek this morning at around 6:30am. And as we rigged up our fly rods at our cars, we could hear salmon moving upstream in the shallows of the creek. Needless to say, our walk to the creek was full of anticipation. And it did not take long to find some salmon working their way upstream. A few minutes later, and Dan was holding on with all that he had, as a salmon stripped line off his reel. Soon, I tailed a nice 20lb.+ female chinook salmon for Dan. We took a few pictures and went back to find some more salmon.

Looking upstream we could see more fish moving up through the shallow sections and Bob and Jessie each took turns fighting a few fish. More pictures were taken. Then Drew came back to the group after he went to put on a pair of waders, and soon hooked into his first fish. This is how the fishing went all morning long. We would walk upstream and find a few fish to present a fly too. Then one of us in the group would get a fish to take a fly and the battle was on! By mid morning everyone had at least one fish landed and a few others hooked that they had lost.

I will post all the picture I have on my camera. And I will also post the other photos that the guys took, as I get them. Here is the link to my jumpcut page for a few more photos.

What a great way to start the 2008 salmon season!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Sandy creek salmon

Bob sent me an e-mail yesterday. He wrote about a little trip to Sandy creek in search of salmon. He and his wife Kim saw one fish shoot up from the bridge. Bob was able to hook and land that fish. His first salmon of the 2008 season. A nice female Chinook salmon. Way to go Bob!

Bob gets a special prize for catching the first salmon of the 2008 season. I will make the presentation this Saturday when I see him at Sandy.

The salmon will continue to build near the mouth of the creek. And as the season progresses, more and more fish will enter the stream. And soon after the brown trout and steelhead will follow. I can't wait to get going.

See you on the stream!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Oatka creek!

O.K. so the story really starts out at spring creek, and it does not involve me in any way. But, it is a good one none the less. Two of my friends (Jessie and Luke) started their day at spring creek, and after a few fish caught on a small grey scud, they decided to move to the Oatka. I was told they went to the "nice hole." The nice hole is a spot that produces a lot of fish for us on a regular basis. And for those that have fished with know where this place is.

Luke started things off by fishing a FB pheasant tail nymph. This produced a couple of good strikes, but no fish came to the net. Then a change here and there to the nymph rig, and an addition of a second fly...wham. This was the ticket! Fish came easily now. Soon after those changes, Jessie met back up with Luke. He too made some adjustments, and quickly got into a good number of fish. In fact I was told he was "slamming the fish." There were some good size fish that were landed I'm told, a few that were in the 15" range. This is what great fisherman do. They are constantly making adjustments to find what works in each situation. And it is only a matter of time until they find the solution, even for the pickiest of fish.

After a good while of catching fish, Jessie made his way back home and left Luke to his own devices. This is when Luke spotted "the White Whale." A fish of near mythic proportions for a stream like the Oatka. It was a large fish, maybe 20" Luke had thought. His head tried in vain to decipher the code of the great fish. It took an hour of refusals by the great fish before an addition of a small midge larvae changed the course of the day. Fish on! It ran upstream. Then with some effort, Luke worked the fish back down to the deep hole. Next, the fish jumped, headed for the weeds, and broke off.

Captain Ahab now recounts the tale with great enthusiasm. And his obsession grows deeper. The "White Whale" is free for now, but I would guess not for long. The good captain will be back to claim his prize another day.

Photos taken by Lucas.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Scouting Mission #1

After dropping Katie off at nursery school, Ethan and I headed up to Sandy creek to check it out. While putting my waders on, I told my self that it was too early and the water was too low. And after walking upstream about a half mile and seeing no fish, I realized that once again I was right! Sometimes I hate it when I'm right. I did see some shallow gravel sections where the rocks had been worn clean(the algae and weeds had been worn off.) This usually indicates that a fish or two have come up into the stream, at least a short distance any way. They may have gone back down to the estuary after first light.

The water level was not as bad as I thought it would be. The water was on the cool side too, maybe in the low 60's. But, as the sun continues to rise, it will warm that water back up into the high 60's. All we really need at this point is a couple of rainy cold days to bring the water level back up and trigger some fish to run the smaller tributaries, like Sandy creek.

Oak Orchard creek is already receiving small runs of fish, probably a few fish every night. And there are fish up by the dam. Plus there have been reports of people catching a few salmon and some trout as well at the dam. This is normal for this time of year, and soon the salmon and trout will be in every tributary.

Now....if we could just get a little rain to help things a long, that would be great!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Getting Ready!

It's that time of the year again! Cool weather, brilliant fall colors and big fish! Are you ready? Have you prepared for the fall salmon and trout runs?

I have been slowly tying flies to restock my boxes from last year. I am also checking all my reels, and my fly rods to make sure they are all working properly. It would be horrible to hook into a 15 lb. steelhead and have your line snap, or your reel freeze up just because you didn't take a little extra time to check everything before using it. And how many times have you gone to the river only to find out that you don't have your tippet material, or split shot, or a fly box, or.....I think you get the idea. I always try and make sure I check everything at least twice before I head out the door. It is always better to know that you don't have something before you go fishing, rather than stomping around the river like my 2 year old son does when something doesn't go his way. And the only reason why I know this, is because, I have done it many times before! And it really doesn't help, when this realization happens during a major run(this has also happened to me.) Trust me when I say, trying to land 20-30 lb. king salmon on 6 lb. test tippet is an exercise in futility. So take it from me....PREPARE YOUR SELF!!!

And when you're on the river this fall and you see someone stomping around like a two year old throwing a temper tantrum, you will know why!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Great Photos!

A photo can bring back a lot of memories. This is especially true when you capture a great moment while fly fishing. The photographer sees a great moment, takes a shot, and the memory is saved for ever. It's always nice to find those old photos. And they always seem to bring me right back to that time and place captured at that instant. It is good to go back and remember!

There is much that goes into taking a good photograph(more than I will ever know). Getting close to the subject, making sure you have the correct lighting, composition, etc, etc. This is all well and good. But, I must admit that I do not have a natural gift for taking great photos. I rely on friends to guide me. In fact, all of the really good photos that were taken for this blog, were taken by friends.

This photo was taken by Lucas Carroll during an early morning excursion to Oatka creek to fish a trico hatch. In fact, if you are interested in viewing more of Lucas' photos check out this link!

Good photographers capture the moment. Great photographers put you there!