Thursday, December 16, 2010

Winter is here!

Yes winter is here, even if the calendar doesn't agree quite's here!

Cold and snow have raged continuously for the month of December, piling up impressive numbers, at least for us out here in Western New York. Temperatures struggle to get into the 20's when we are supposed to be in the 30's. And we are now just over 40" inches of snow for the month of December, and we are only at the half way point - the December record for Rochester, NY is 48" inches. I think it it relatively safe to say that it will be broken this year!

The fishing has changed as well, and small tributaries are now beginning to freeze up, making tributary fishing for giant lake run trout a little on the difficult side for this angler. So I now must concentrate my time on fishing inland streams that are close, and still open to fishing.

But in the midst of this crazy change in weather, I did sneak out for some fishing here and there, and even found a few trout that were willing to take a fly - both of the inland and lake run variety.

Maybe this would be a good time to challenge some of my other fly fishing friends to pick up their fly rod and brave the elements to pursue trout in below freezing temperatures. We could be a part of a club, a club in which the only requirement is to catch a fish (yes just one fish will do) in temperatures below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, or if your not from the US, 0 degrees Celsius....either's cold. And even though the requirement will only be one fish landed, more fish in the net will only enhance your status. Other things that can enhance your status would include; frost bite, falling in, hiking in a mile or so in waist deep snow, fending off starved wild animals, reaching into the water to dislodge a snagged fly, etc.....I think you get the idea. But you still must catch a fish to get the bonus points. Falling in and fishing for the next two hours is great, but it means nothing if you can't get a fish to the net.

All we need now is name for this little club...any suggestions?

Friday, November 19, 2010

A change of heart!

A week ago I found myself fishing a small LO tributary that has been very kind to me this fall. In fact it has probably produced more big brown trout in the past few weeks than it did in just the past few years. The reason is simple....water!

We haven't had any big rain event where we see an inch of rain or so at one time, but just enough here and there to keep this particular stream a good 4 to 6 inches above what I have seen in the past 4 or 5 years. And because of that fact, we are seeing large numbers of brown trout make their way upstream. And last Friday I was able to capitalize on the current state of affairs, landing 5 trout in a few hours. And better yet...I was able to enjoy it with some friends, who also caught a bunch of trout.

This week I made it back to that same stream hoping to find conditions in much the same manner as I left them last Friday. But in the back of my mind I had a sneaky suspicion that I was in for change. And that change came in the form of an excess of water, both from mother nature and man.

Every year at this time many of the streams that empty into Lake Ontario along the Western part of the state get a boost of water from the Erie canal. The draining of the canal has been in the past, a way to get a fresh push of fish during low water periods. And in those years, we eagerly await this event because it greatly improves the fishing. This year however, we received plenty of rain to go along with the Erie canal water, and on Wednesday the stream was the color of chocolate milk.

So...yesterday Ethan and I made our way to a small inland trout stream. And I'm glad we did! And to be honest, I missed fishing it's crystal clear spring water that is filled with wild trout. It's a much different game than the one we play with tributary fish. It's a light line and small flies king of game. The fish are a bit smaller too, with the average trout being somewhere in the 10-12" inch range, and not the 6-8 lb. average of the typical tributary brown. But there is something special about fishing to these fish that draws me back to this stream, even in the midst of an incredible fall tributary season. I could have gone to another tributary yesterday that is a tail water and doesn't suffer the same as the smaller tribs, but I didn't. Maybe the reason I headed inland was for the chance to get a wild 15" or 16" inch brown on something smaller than a size #10 egg pattern. Or maybe it was just that I was lazy and didn't want to drive the extra 20 minutes to get connected with a monster. Either way, I was more than happy to be spending my time casting my 4 weight to a smaller foe.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Good water = Good fishing!

We have been blessed with enough water this fall to keep our Western New York tributaries flowing at near perfect conditions since the beginning of October. And now that we are into the middle of November much remains the same!

I can't tell you how important rain is to these wonderful great lake tributaries, and in years past it has been tough going because of low water. The fish just aren't there in big numbers when we don't have a good flow. Last year I would see just a few big trout holding in the same section that I would see a good 10-12 fish this year. Having a good water flow means that fish have more cover to hide in, they can move freely whenever they want, and will spread out throughout the whole system, which means we should have a great winter and spring of fly fishing ahead of us!

I am now seeing good numbers of lake run trout in most sections of all the tributaries, and have been able to take advantage of it from time to time. And it now seems as though the female brown trout are starting to show up in greater numbers, and should be paring up with males in the next few weeks to spawn. Try and concentrate on fishing the pools and deeper runs where you wouldn't see spawning fish - it is best to leave those fish alone, and allow them to do there business. The only exception to this would be fishing to steelhead and lake run rainbows that will station themselves behind the spawning trout and feed off the lose eggs.

All fish as of late have been caught on #10 sucker spawns, nuclear roe bugs, and a few other small egg like patterns.

In the next few weeks we should see a flow increase in all the are tribs regardless of whether we get rain or not. And that will be due to the draining of the Erie Canal. And when that happens, look for even more numbers of trout entering our local tribs....especially steelhead!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The brown trout are coming, the brown trout are coming!

November is typically the month to fish for lake run browns. It is the time when they run the rivers and streams in greater numbers as they make their way upstream to spawn. But before they do - spawn that is - they can often be seen sitting behind salmon picking off loose eggs.

It is an exciting time to be on the stream for sure. Sometimes you can sight fish to a half dozen lake run brown trout that are pushing the 10 lb. mark or better. But there are also other opportunities. Steelhead and Atlantic salmon also make a good push at this time as well, and if you happen upon the right place at the right time, fishing can be amazing!

But we must also be careful to handle each fish carefully and take as much time and effort in releasing them carefully as we did in playing the fish out. It is an amazing and wonderful resource that we must take care of if we want it to continue to be as good as it is.

Over the past few weeks I have had the opportunity to fish with family and friends, both new and old, and even land a few really nice fish in the process. To see more photos from some of these friends please check out Lucas Carroll's flickr page and blog, and Graham Owens flickr page and photography website. They do a wonderful job of capturing both the fish and the fishing, and are able to do it in an wonderfully artistic style of their own.

As the fall progresses into winter the fishing will change again. The brown trout will eventually come off the spawn and the steelhead numbers will continue to build before the small tributaries are locked up with ice. When this happens, we will have a small window of opportunity to take advantage of a wide spread feeding frenzy. Egg patterns will still work well, but don't forget nymphs as well when dead drifting under an indicator. And if you really want to have some fun, break out those big streamer patterns. Playing around with large streamers can be a blast, and you never know what can happen when fishing these flies....let's just say you had better be prepared for anything, so fish accordingly.

See you on the stream.....

Friday, October 29, 2010

Ethan's wins at Fishykid

My good friend Lucas Carroll led me to a great fly fishing website for kids called fishykid. It is designed for kids and parents who take their kids fly fishing. But it also provides a forum for parents and their kids to work together on their skills as anglers, share photos, and promote the world of fly fishing together. And isn't that what fishing is all about? Bringing people together - and more importantly families!!!

I have been a regular visitor at the site for a while now, and have entered each child into a fish catching contest. I provided the photos for the warm water fish contest, and wouldn't you know it...Ethan won a great prize pack!

So here are a few photos of Ethan enjoying his prizes from fishykid, and if you have the time, please go and check them out at's worth it!!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

2010 fall family fishing trip

This past weekend marked the fourth time that family members have made it out to the Western part of the state to take part in an annual fly fishing trip. This year I was joined by my Dad and brother who would fish with my oldest son and I on a tour of some of WNY finest Lake Ontario tributaries. And with the exception of a rather lengthy train delay, that required a rather aggressive plan "B", the trip was a great success!

Saturday we got a late start, but made the most of it at a small trib that has had a small but steady push of salmon since early October. We found a few fish moving up through our location and Dad hooked up with a few fish early, but couldn't seal the deal. We then worked our way downstream, stopping at every good looking location to fish. We even found a nice pocket pool that held a few salmon and worked to those fish for a while, but some tangled lines and bad timing left us fish less once again. Then at the end of a nice riffle section I spotted a fish holding in the tail out. It was a good sized salmon that appeared to be resting. I worked a fly to that fish for a minute or two before the line went tight and we had our third fish of the morning hooked up. My son Jonathan took over and battled the Chinook salmon for a good 15 minutes before he could tire it out enough to slip a net under it. It was an older fish that had a white tail, and in a week or two would be dead. But it put up a great fight and provided us with some wonderful memories.

After a much needed lunch break, we headed West to a larger more well known stream where we would find some other friends and a few more fish. We worked some water above where my other fly fishing friends were, and every now and then could see some fish move through. But it took a long time before any of us was able to hook up with a fish. As we were heading back toward the trail that lead to the parking lot and the end of our fishing trip, Andy and Dad met up with Jessie on the opposite side of the stream. They spotted what they thought was a nice trout holding close to shore, and Andy worked that fish while Jessie helped give him some pointers on his drift. After a missed opportunity, the fish moved and we waited for it to settle back in. Another 10 minutes later I was able to hook that fish and play it to the net where Andy scooped it up. But it wasn't a was a female Atlantic salmon that was very dark in color. It was a very unique fish with a black colored head, back and fins and silvery purple sides. Lucas Carroll had by that time made his way up to us to see what we had caught, and graciously took some family photos for us...thanks Luke!

It was now getting late in the afternoon, and Dad and Andy decided to make their way back to the car while Jonathan and I tried one more spot. And I was very glad that we did! Jonathan and I walked to the head of a large pool where we spotted 3 fish holding close to shore. I got us into position and handed Jonathan the fly rod. He began casting to the fish, but was having a little trouble getting the line to do what he wanted. After about 5 minutes he handed the rod to me and said "dad it's your turn!" A good 4 or 5 drifts later the water exploded...Fish On!! I gave the rod back to Jonathan and he did battle with a fish that spent a whole lot of time flying out of the water and peeling line off the reel at an alarming rate. But Jonathan held his ground and when the fish tired enough, I slid the net under our second fish of the afternoon....a large male Atlantic salmon!! What a way to end our trip. Not only did we get into a few fish, but we were able to make some great memories with family and friends. I can't wait until next year...thanks everyone!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Fall trib season is here!

It's now mid October and the fish are running in all the WNY tributaries. It has taken a little while to get to this point, but it is normal for this part of the state.
Several of my friends have already had great outings in which they have caught both good numbers of lake run trout and salmon. And although I have yet to get into fish like that, I have still managed to hold my own with a few nice Chinook salmon to the net.
This weekend I will be playing host and guide to my Dad and brother, and I can only hope that we can get into a good run of fish for ourselves. We will have the whole day which will allow us to move around and find fish. This is the key to success when trib fishing because the fish are always on the move. One day they will be there, and the other they will be gone, making their way further upstream as each day goes by. Sure you can find fish here and there, but to catch a run is the best way to assure yourself a chance at landing several of these overgrown salmon and trout. It is a task that is easy to understand, but much harder to do...unless you have lots of time to find fish!
So with that said - I hope you enjoy the photos I have taken so far, and check back in the near future for a family fishing trip update.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

More late summer trout

Summer in WNY has now slowed to a crawl, it has moved into the far right lane to allow the fall to move past it in the left passing lane. This also seems to be the case with our fishing conditions, as the inland trout fishing seems to be slowing down, as our tributary season is just starting to get underway. In fact, just to the north of us, the Salmon River has been experiencing it's annual run of Chinook, Coho, Brown trout and Steelhead for the past few weeks. We are not so least not yet!

In the mean time we have passed our time by catching what we can in our inland trout streams. Fishing has been a little on the tough side, but we are still finding a few fish willing to take a fly. The trout have switched off of the small midge patterns of late summer, and we have struggled to find a "go to" pattern. This means we have had to switch patterns frequently, and therefore have caught fish on at least a half dozen different flies.

These late summer excursions have been a lot of fun, mainly because they have included the kids. Jonathan has just about mastered dead drifting a nymph, and has enjoyed great success because of it. The other kids are content with helping net the fish and releasing them, and on occasion reeling them in. I have also had the pleasure of being joined by one of my good friends Lucas Carroll and his daughter for several of these inland adventures. It is always a good thing to have someone to bounce ideas off of, especially when you are trying to figure out witch flies will work. If you would like to view some other photos from our time on the water you can visit Lucas' flickr page and blog pages...well worth the visit!!!

We have put our time in, and we have been rewarded for it! Many wonderful fish have been caught and I think we are now ready for the fall trib season, were fish are measured in pounds...not inches!

See you on the water....

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Late summer trout and the power of the midge

Before we take that turn into the fall season that is filled with large lake run fish, we must finish out the summer by taking advantage of every opportunity we can. Most of us have resigned ourselves to fishing the morning trico hatch, or have switched completely to the pursuit of warm water fish on the fly. And for the most part, I have joined in on this with great enthusiasm. But there is still another option to be explored - Fishing midges during the early afternoon! This of course is done on streams that maintain a more agreeable water temperature. A certain stream that lies to the South of me and it's tributary provide just that - "An agreeable water temperature!" They both boast much cooler water temperatures than other inland streams, due to their many spring influences. And although one is purely a spring creek, and stays near 50 degrees all year round, the other's water temperature actually rises when we get a warm summer rain. It is in these waters that the trout thrive on tiny midge larvae. And during the ultra low late summer water conditions, you can often sight fish to trout that you can see feeding on small midge larvae.

The past few weeks have been filled with trips to this inland stream, where we found many willing trout, and even a few suckers too. My kids and I have been joined by my good friend Lucas Carroll and his daughter on several of those outings, and nearly missed by another good friend Bob Burrows, who had spent a good portion of one of those mornings fishing the trico hatch, and lastly "Mr." Rich, who joined us for a few minutes one morning.

Our technique was rather simple - Dead drifting small midge larvae that ranged in size #18-#26 on 6x tippet. Our execution, on the other hand, needed to be precise. We needed to get the fly in front of the fish and keep it there for as long as possible. This required many adjustments to the indicator, fly changes, and the addition of extra weight. Once those criteria were met, the fishing became catching and everyone enjoyed doing battle with some inland brown trout.

My oldest son, Jonathan, made history on the first morning on one of our outings by casting, hooking, and landing his very first brown trout on the fly rod. A wonderful moment for both father and son. His success didn't stop there either, as he proceeded to hook even more fish on his own the very next time we went.

These little fly fishing trips, have solidified the importance, and the power of the "midge." No other fly can claim such popularity when dealing with our local inland trout, by both fly fishermen or fish. Without the midge, our success would suffer, and we would most likely turn to other less lofty pursuits.....perhaps not, but it would most certainly narrow our choices.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Trout, Midges & Going Solo

Just recently I found myself with a whole bunch of spare time to do anything I wanted to do. And just like a hunk of prime meat dangling in front of a hungry bear....I took full advantage it!
And what did I do with my new found freedom? I went in pursuit of some trout.

I ended up at a Spring creek, which was the only real option I had after a good bit of rain, and tried my best to catch a few. The morning started off a little rough, but I was not about to throw away my new found freedom. I pulled into the parking lot to see 4 other cars already there, and to make it interesting, it started to rain. Then it poured - Hard! Good thing it only lasted 20 minutes. From that point on conditions improved. I caught fish, the rain stopped all together, and the sun started to poke through the clouds. And by late morning, the sun had pushed every last bit of ugly out of the sky.

A few nice fish came to hand in that time, along with a trophy sighting. It's funny how those sightings seem to happen. One minute your fishing to a pod of fish, and the next, a huge shape appears out of no where. It's almost like spotting big foot. You could tell all your friends, and they may nod their head in understanding, but you know in the back of their head they just moved you up on their list of crazies.

I caught some more trout after that and then packed it all in and headed East. I came to location number 2 and brought out the big rod for some streamer action. The water was high and stained - perfect conditions for throwing big ugly flies, to big ugly trout.

I walked upstream heaving a 4" lead eyed black rabbit strip streamer, covering every last bit of big ugly trout water I could find. I got some follows, but no commitments. And then at the tail out of a certain "honey hole" I got my first pull - but no hookup. Two more pulls later and I hooked up with my first streamer hungry trout. It wasn't big, but it fought great in high water. And when I got it to hand, I could see why this trout couldn't lay off the meat. It was 14" and thin - like a hammer handle.

That was that! I headed home fulfilled with a day of fishing - even if it had to be solo! And as one of my friends says "sometimes you just need a day to get your act together, refocus your fishing skills, and concentrate on catching fish." So that's what I did. I re-focused my skills and caught some fish - and it was great!