Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Late season tributary trout

The weather is finally starting to cool off a bit, and so too has the fall migration of lake run brown trout. But before this new changing of the guard ceremony takes place, and the world of WNY slides into the bitter cold and snow that we all know is coming, I have to say that the fishing has been pretty darn good.

Fresh steelhead have now been showing up more frequently and even the occasional fresh lake run brown has made an appearance or two throughout the past few weeks. I even had the opportunity to land a late run Coho salmon while swinging big streamers for post spawn brown trout. This was a great treat for me, as I haven't had the pleasure of Mr. Coho's company in some time.

The female brown trout are the first to get off the beds and look for food, as the males haven't figured out that the spawn is done. So up until this past week, most fish that I have heard that took a fly on the swing were post spawn female brown trout.

The lake run steelhead are still on the egg bite, therefore about 90% of them have been taken on various egg patterns. This will change as the cold sets in, and everything slows to a crawl.

I have enjoyed the company of new friends and old over the past couple of weeks. Bob B., Joe K., Lucas C., Mr. Rich, and Matt S. have made the hours of standing in near freezing water bearable. And watching them hook, fight , and land fish has reminded me that fly fishing is as much about fellowship as it is about the process of catching fish with a fly. They all, like me, have spent many hours in search of fish with a fly rod in hand and have photographed, written, and blogged about it in their own way. A way that is artistic and inspiring. So please click on their names to view their work.

But to everything there is a season, and the beauty of autumn must die away like the salmon to make way for new life. Or in this case winter. It is now time to play a different game, one that requires a dedication unlike anything else in my neck of the woods. And by dedication, I mean a dedication towards building a tolerance to the cold. A tolerance that comes easier with each new battle fought with giants from the lake.

Monday, November 7, 2011

October & WNY Lake Run Giants

I have been way too busy to keep this blog updated like I would want over the past month or so. But I did start the fall by blogging about fly fishing WNY tributaries and how the season could be broken up into three separate parts. And I made sure to put as much info as I could into the first segment.

I am happy to report that I have finished the remaining two segments weeks ago, but like I said - I have been way too busy to post - so I will have to redirect you to for the second and third parts, as I would much rather post some pics from this fall.

Fishing for lake run trout and salmon can be at times very frustrating. Some days you can often see many giant salmon, up to 30lbs., holding just feet from where you stand unwilling to take a fly. But then, on the very next day, they become more aggressive and will take that same fly they refused just the day before.

Even the trout can get picky, especially when they are being bullied by salmon and or fishermen on a constant basis. But I refuse to complain! I really have it good here in WNY. And even if I end up landing just one or two trout in a day, that average a good seven pounds, it is still better than most have it. So I take full advantage of the amazing fishery we have, when I can. And I do it with those who would have me as a fly fishing companion, even if for only an hour. And I take it all in before it is gone.

So here are just a few photos from this far!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Fall tributary fly fishing - Part 1

I know the fall tributary season has been going on for some time now, especially at the Salmon River. And our WNY tribs are starting to see some fish too, but that has been a more recent development. So before our tributaries really start to heat up, I want to take some time to share some thoughts on making the most out of this early part of the season. And in my experience, there is a difference between early season salmon and trout fishing on the tribs as opposed to mid and late season salmon and trout fishing on the tribs.

First of all let’s break down the season. For those of you who fish the Salmon River, you already have figured out that it is quite a bit different than most of the other rivers that flow into lake Ontario, and therefore gets the best early run of fish, sometimes as early as late August. And for that reason, it is the exception, not the rule. For most of the other area tribs, they will see fish a bit later, usually early to mid September, as do most of our bigger WNY tribs. When and why the fish start to run is a debate that has been going on ever since I can remember, but in the end, it is up to the fish. So in this first installment I will go over some of the lessons I have learned over the years.

This early part of the fall can be a whole lot of fun. It’s the time when you will see your first salmon or large trout, and even though you may only see that one fish, it’s enough to send you over the edge! The weather is usually still quite warm, and you can often get away with wearing a t-shirt. You also tend to have the last bit of the summer time “low water” conditions, and if conditions warrant it – your first crack at catching that first tributary trout or salmon. But the icing on the cake is the amount of water you will find all to yourself. It usually takes a good weekend or so of multiple confirmed catch reports, and photos, to put the crowds on the stream. So until then, enjoy your privacy!

Because of these reasons and more, I have found that fishing to these early run fish is way different than those fish that have been in the system longer and those that enter toward the middle part of the season. And here are a few tips to help get you that first trout or salmon of the early season.

1 – Fish the early part of the day and again in the evening. The early season fish that enter often do so in smaller groups until they decide to run in big numbers (figuring that out is a crap shoot.) The fish will feel more at home in low light conditions than when the sun is beating down on them in a small stream, and low water conditions. And the smaller the stream or river is, the smaller the group of fish will be that enter the system.

2 – Keep back from the fish if you can. When fish are just entering a system, they are often very wary of every movement and sound. And fishing smaller tribs will only amplify this effect. The shallow water of a stream or river is a whole new world for fish that are coming from a deep lake - This will change later in the season as fish numbers build, water temperatures lower, and salmon start to spawn – So it pays to be extra careful in the early part of the fall tributary season. It’s also a good idea to stay back from the fish when fishing in the low light periods of the day because the fish will often hold right near the bank, and many times you may not even need to get into the water.

3 – Don’t fish egg patterns…yet! This sounds easy enough, but I have seen tons of early season anglers come armed with plenty of egg patterns to throw at fish when the salmon haven’t even started to spawn. It is better to stock your fly boxes with fly patterns that resemble what the fish will see, such as large minnows, shiners, sculpin and other aquatic insects such as nymphs (stonefly and mayfly) along with caddis larvae and pupae, not to mention a few dry flies! So carry woolly buggers, comets, rabbit strip streamers, and any other favorite pattern in both naturally subdued colors such as brown, black, olive along with bright attractor patterns such as white, chartreuse, pink, orange, etc., in sizes #12-#2. I would also carry plenty of stonefly patterns, hare’s ears, caddis larvae and pupae, along with wet flies in similar colors in sizes #6-#14. All these flies can be either dead drifted, swung, or both! The morning and evening will be the best time to swing the big bright stuff on heavier tippet, while the late morning through the day light hours into late afternoon, may be the best time to lighten up the tippet and go small with a more natural colored fly like a nymph.

4 – Pick your spot well! Depending on the water you fish, salmon and trout will be in the greatest numbers in either the lower part of the system or at the top. For instance – The Salmon River has already received some good runs of fish so far. And when that run comes in, the lower end will fish really well, as the fish are still concentrated together. Once they get into the middle part of the river they really start to spread out. And then as they finally reach the top end of the river their numbers once again build, as they can’t go any further. This also holds true for many of our WNY tail water tribs. Fish will enter the lower part together, spread out in mid river, and then congregate at a dam. Fish can still be found mid river in deeper holes and long pools, and it’s worth the effort to scout the head of these spots early in the year when fish are still on the move. Again – this will change as the season progresses and more and more fish fill the river and spawning starts to get under way.

5 – Trout vs. Salmon. Both fish can be very aggressive when they first come into a system, but the salmon will be on a mission to get to the spawning grounds, and the trout are there to follow the salmon to get a free meal when that time comes, and until the brown trout spawn starts in Late October and all of November. The point is their behavior can be very different at times! You may be able to pick up a few salmon while slowly swinging a wet fly deep at the head of a pool, and then while fishing a transition piece of water like a run or riffle section, pick up some fresh steel while dead drifting a stonefly pattern under an indicator. It pays to either carry two rods with two different rigs, or be ready to switch it up at any time. This of course doesn’t mean that you can’t catch trout while fishing for salmon or vice versa (I have done it many times), it just means that they are different fish and will often hold in different spots and behave differently, so it pays to be observant and willing to change when needed.

6 – New Perspectives & Expectations - Early fall fishing on the tribs can be at times long and fruitless, due to the fact that there aren’t as many fish in the system yet. So re-evaluate your expectations to fit the season. I know this sounds a bit crazy to do, but it can really make your day a whole lot better. When I was a younger less experienced angler, I would try and tell myself that I could still have those great days of hooking and landing fish early in the season that I enjoyed so much during the height of the run. And more often than not, I would come home very disappointed because of it. If only I could have had changed my perspective and expectations to meet the reality of the situation, it would have made for a much better experience. So instead of getting frustrated that you aren’t catching fish, even though you saw a photo of a few guys catching a few fish here and there, maybe you could try and work on a new technique or go explore some “off the beaten path” water you’ve always wanted to try. You never know….you may be surprised!

Next time I’ll go over what to look for during the middle of the season.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

End of summer fishing in WNY

The end of summer is always bitter sweet for me. I am sad to see the last of the summer hatches end on my favorite WNY inland trout streams. And there is always a transition period at the end of summer that can be at times difficult to wade through, which only means that fishing can be at times on the slow side.

This year, however, many things have been a bit different from the get go. Spring decided to extend its self into summer and dump copious amounts of rain that put off much of the great fishing that can be had during the first early season hatches. And for me personally, it put an almost permanent damper on any successful dry fly fishing for the year. I also had many projects to attend to this summer, both in and around the house, which also contributed to my frequent absence from the stream during those peak hatch times. But as you may have guessed, I did find some opportunities to stretch a line, even when the fishing may have been less than stellar, and have found success. And a part of that was due to the fact that I was able to take part in a different kind of fly fishing – but that is another story that I will tell at a different time.

The only part of the end of summer that seems to have stayed the same this year for me is the opportunity to catch some big fish in the local inland trout streams. On average these fish will reach between 10-11 inches with 1 out of 5 fish being somewhere in the 12-15 inch range, and on occasion, a fish that will push a good bit beyond that. So in truth this is small to medium sized stream fishing that requires light rods and tippets. But every August I seem to get some of my biggest fish of the year at these places and so do some of my friends as well. Much of the fishing at this time is with small flies. Tricos, midges, small nymphs and wet flies in sizes #20-#24 are the key to consistently hook up with fish. And with the low water of late summer, it also allows us to do some sight fishing to some wonderfully picky brown trout.

I have also had the pleasure of bringing my kids with me on a few of these adventures, and watched them all get into fish here and there. And even that is coming to an end as they will all be in school by the end of the week.

But like everything else in life – change is inevitable – and fall is here!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Pond fishin'

Pond fishing has a lot going for it. For one, the fishing is usually always good. And depending on the pond, you have a nice variety of fish to throw a fly at. But perhaps the best feature about fishing ponds is how close they are to almost anywhere you happen to be at the time you get the urge to fish.

This past winter at the Guys, Flies & Pies event (WNY’s Premier fly tying party), Michael Simmons (the event organizer) and I had a conversation that ended the way most do at an event like that – “Let’s get out and fish together.” I quickly agreed and secretly vowed to be one of those guys that actually followed through with what I said. And lucky for me, I remembered. And when summer rolled around I made a few calls to try and get some dates together for a family picnic/fishing trip, or as Mike likes to call it a “fishnic!”

This past Monday ended up being the day to go. Mike e-mailed me with a map to the pond and a meeting time. When my family and I got there 15 minutes early to see a man dressed in purple pants sleeping on a picnic table under the pavilion we were supposed to eat dinner at, I thought we were off to a great start! The picnic was fantastic, with everyone enjoying some great conversation and laughs, but that can only go on for so long before the fly fishermen need to get a fly into the water.

The layout of the pond was perfectly set up for fly fishermen. With a long cast you could reach half way across to the other side, giving you plenty of time and distance to work a popper back to shore the way you would like.

After setting up the kids with flies, I tied on a small caddis and began working the shoreline with my JP Ross beaver meadow 2 weight, and quickly got into a sunfish. But Mike, who is always up for a little competition, quickly upped the ante and got the first bass of the night. And then, a few minutes later, another nice pond largemouth bass came to hand to which he said “I see your panfish and raise you one!” And so the competition began. The kids also got into the action as well and had plenty of fun holding the fish, releasing them, and even catching a few themselves.

The night ended with a tie score, and Mike and I have vowed to go back another day to try and find a winner. That is if there is such a thing when pond fishing with family, but maybe we’ll have to find some time to get out solo and really go at it.

I would like to give a big thank you to Mike & Crystal and their wonderful family for playing the perfect hosts for this great family adventure. Way to go guys!!!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Summer tricos and nymphs in WNY

Summer is now in its full glory here in WNY. It has been dry, hot, and humid for a while and it appears as though it will continue for the foreseeable future. No worries, we will adapt and make the best out if it just like we do every year.

Fly fishing for warm water species has been great, and many fly anglers are enjoying some awesome top water action for largemouth and smallmouth bass. And those of us who enjoy trout on a fly can now take advantage of one of the best hatches of the year – The tricos!! And for the first time this year, it has been every bit as good as one should expect. Plenty of bugs, picky trout, and low water can make this an incredibly tough challenge at times that will often require long light leaders, tiny flies, pinpoint accuracy when casting, and stealthy wading. And the reports that I have gotten from friends have been excellent! And if you are looking for a really great pattern to try out on these picky trico trout, look no further than Lucas Carroll’s wonderfully easy to tie spinner pattern at his website - Full tying instructions included!!

Unfortunately I have not been able to take full advantage of the early morning tricos, and have been regulated to accept what my schedule can give me….which isn’t much for the time being. So when I had the chance to get out and fish in the afternoon last week with the kids, I chose to get out on a local trout stream. I missed the technical aspect of chasing picky trout with a fly, and the kids seemed up to the challenge. But fishing to fish that have been sipping tricos all morning proved to be a little more difficult than I first thought, especially when there had already been a host of fly fishermen on the stream since 5:00am sticking fish with size #20 and smaller imposters.

The plan was to nymph small midge patterns, scuds and nymphs, and pick at the few trout that still wanted to eat. And seeing as though it was afternoon, and there were very few rising fish, it appeared to be the best option. But my oldest son surprised me when he said he wanted to fly fish with a rather large beetle pattern that he had gotten as a gift at this year’s Guys, Flies & Pies fly tying event held in Rochester, NY. The beetle was a robust size #10, and looked more like a small bass popper than the smaller more delicate beetle patterns that I have used for trout in the past. But holding to the promise that I would allow the kids to pick out their own flies to try and allow them to enjoy learning the sport partly on their own, I quickly tied it on and watched as Jonathan began casting into the pool. It didn’t take long and fish were moving with interest to the fly. He began to get more and more excited with each fish that would come up and investigate the beetle. And then in an instant, a fish rocketed up of the bottom and pounded the fly. It was a moment that neither one of us was prepared for, and left us momentarily surprised, and I might add, fishless! But that is a part of fly fishing and we moved on.

The rest of the afternoon was filled with making adjustments, and trying to find the right fly. But I am happy to say that after many fly changes we narrowed it down, and began to hook up on a regular basis. We ended the day with a good number of nice small stream brown trout to hand; all of them coming on pheasant tail nymphs in size #20-#16.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Summer fly fishing in WNY

Last week the kids and I had the chance to meet my good friend Lucas Carroll and his daughter at a local inland trout stream to feed the trout. And if any of you have ever taken more than one child out fishing at a time, then you know things can get a little dicey from time to time - Especially when it is the first time this summer that all three kids have been out fishing together. But I must say, even with a more stressful environment, it worked out just fine, and the fishing wasn’t too bad either.

There were no fish steadily rising, save a very select few that would take something off the water we couldn’t see off the far bank. And even those few trout only rose once, maybe twice, the whole time we were there. So that meant if we wanted to get into fish, it would have to do it while prospecting with a nymph.

Small pheasant tail nymphs in size #18 and midge patterns in size #20 proved to be the best flies of the day. We fished these under small indicators with light tippets and a few small shot to keep the flies in the feeding zone. We even were able to sight fish to some, which provided a bit more excitement than the blind fishing we would do in the pools.

Jonathan managed a few nice trout on his new JP Ross 8 foot 5 weight Blue Line fly rod fishing a small midge pattern, while Luke and I hooked a few fish using small nymphs. This went well for a while until Luke decided to break out his Sage TXL-F 000 and went to dry fly fish a nice stretch of broken water just upstream from our pool. And within a few minutes he hooked a nice fish on a stonefly pattern and landed it. We took a few photos and sent it back home. That one fish was the only dry fly caught fish of the day!

The day ended well with flurry of nice fish caught in the last hour, including a gorgeous deeply colored 16 inch male brown trout caught by Lucas. I also had a blast catching a good number of fish on my JP Ross Beaver Meadow 7 foot 2 weight. I had not fished that rod for a while, but a fly line from Lucas, and a quick set up job on-stream got me right back into the ultra light fly fishing game. And boy was it fun!

For more photos, make sure to check out Lucas Carroll’s photo page here!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Post-Dentist fishing trip with Ethan

With my ability to bite into my favorite grilled foods restored, I now feel whole once again. It's funny how the intense pain of an infected tooth can turn a grown man into a something far less than what he thinks he is. Especially when he can't tear into his favorite hunk of burnt meat!

So after getting shot up for the last time with Novocain, and having the dentist poke, prod and pull my tooth for what I hope is the last time, Ethan and I decided it would be a good idea to treat ourselves to a celebratory fishing trip. Besides, the stream we wanted to fish was on our way home and it looked primed for some good fishing!

Irondequoit creek is a very well known popular small stream that has a good resident trout population all year long, with the added bonus of lake run trout and salmon that start to run it's course in late fall through spring. It does receive generous stocking from the NYS DEC every spring, but also has plenty of holdover fish and a few wild trout thrown in for good measure.

At first the fishing was slow, as I tried a few dry flies and Ethan threw some spinners with his spin cast rod. But a change to a #16 BH pheasant tail nymph proved to be what the trout wanted and I quickly brought 4 fish to hand in a matter of minutes. This prompted Ethan to want a fly rod of his own, so a quick trip back to the van to pick up rod number two was in order.

With two rods now at the ready, rigged with nymphs, Ethan and I walked a good three to four hundred yards or so of the stream fishing every little pocket, pool, and riffle. I am happy to report that we picked trout out of every little spot we stopped at - Small stream fly fishing at it's finest!

Ethan worked hard at trying to get his own fish on the fly, but it wasn't until we neared the end of our little trip did he finally hook up and land his very first trout on the fly. We stayed at this spot for a while, both of us hooking fish after fish out of a nice riffle section with Ethan pulling a good 3 fish out for himself. Every thing else was now a bonus!

With several dozen fish already brought to hand, we ended our day fishing a large pool below a small water fall. I could see at least 30 fish holding in the tail out and pool and decided that it was time to try and take a fish on a dry one last time. Well, it worked - sort of! With no sign of any bug activity at all, I tried an emerger pattern. Several fish made a move toward the fly, but in the end refused. So I decided to add a little movement to the fly and began to strip it just under the surface. This worked wonders and I began to get a few of those trout to not only follow the fly, but take it! I then worked the tail out of the pool fishing down and across like you would when fishing to Atlantic salmon or steelhead. And as the fly darted across the stream just under the surface, several nice fish would come up off the bottom to investigate. In the end I took several fish using this method, but was it really dry fly fishing when the fly is submerged? This is why my "dry fly" attempt sort of worked. I know I can't really count those fish as "dry fly" caught fish, but at this point, I'm taking what I can get!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Afternoon trout in WNY

Over the past week I have been watching the local water levels fall to almost perfect dry fly fishing conditions. And although we aren’t quite there just yet, the bugs and trout are now starting to come together nicely. Thank God for drier weather!!!!

I have been able to get out a few times for an hour or so in the afternoon, and I am now seeing sulphers and March browns popping off here and there with some sporadic caddis emergence. I am still waiting for my opportunity to get out in the early morning or evening to take advantage of a major hatch or spinner fall, so in the meantime I am making the best out of what time I do have.

We have been enjoying some fantastic nymph fishing as of late. And the hot fly has continued to be a #14-#16 gold bead head OS nymph. I have even tried various other patterns to see how the trout respond, but to no avail, they want what they want, and I am always willing to oblige.

I recently had the opportunity to get out to the stream with my youngest son Ethan for a little fishing on a lower section. This particular section gets stocked by the NYS DEC, and gets pounded during the early part of April just after the opening of the state’s trout season. But by this point in the year, the pressure is off, the fish have turned on to the bugs, and you can usually find plenty of stocked fish left along with a few larger holdovers and wild fish.

Ethan and I had a blast during the time we spent together on the stream. We both caught numerous fish up to 16” and ended our time with close to 18 fish landed. Most were stocked, but on occasion I would get a small 5 to 6 inch trout that I know the state does not stock.

I also had the chance to swing some flies for fish as they are now starting to look up in the water column more and more. This technique seems to have been lost by many anglers, as I mostly see guys fishing nymphs or dries. But I still know that there are some of you out there that haven’t forgotten this great technique. One of my favorite methods is to fish a weighted wet fly or nymph. I cast the fly slightly upstream, throw in a mend and let it dead drift near the bottom. When the fly nears the middle part of the drift and the fly line starts to bow, I let it swing up off the bottom towards the upper part of the water column, making the fly look like an emerger shooting towards the surface. And if the fly makes it to the end of the drift without a strike, I let it dangle in the current below me for a minute. Of course this method is best used before a hatch occurs, but if I start to notice splashing rises from fish at any point during the day, I try and make a point to change my technique! Seeing a fish chase down my fly or come rocketing out of the water with it, is an event I never forget!

I have also found a little time for some warm water fishing at another local stream. Both small mouth bass and carp have been willing to take a fly. Although I must admit that the carp have had to take a little more convincing than the bass.