Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Midnight Mousin' - Small stream 2014

Sunset over WNY
Yup…It’s that time of year again. Time for a little midnight mousin’.

Over the past several years some friends and I have made plans during the dog days of summer for a late night rendezvous with some local small stream brown trout. 

We try and meet up right at dusk to give us the opportunity to get tied up, go over the game plan and even walk in before it gets too dark.
Curtis, Jessie & Flyfish Horton
I had been watching the water gauge closely over the past few days, as some recent rain had brought the stream levels on Oatka creek up to just over 3.0 – a level that would make for some very difficult fishing at night. But as the weekend approached, the water subsided, and was now reading right around 2.85. Not ideal, but doable. The only hope was that the water would be clear enough to enable the trout to see our mouse patterns. The lower and clearer the water – the better the results!

This year I would be joined by a few old friends JessieHollenbeck of Wide sky Fly Fishing and Bob Burrows, and also a few new ones – FlyfishHorton and Curtis AnDrĂ© Lindo.

The creek seemed to be in good shape, but in the dark, how can you really tell? And we weren’t about to go around shinning lights in to the water to find out either.

Oatka at night
Curtis and Flyfish Horton were first up in a favorite spot of ours that typically holds plenty of willing trout, but after more than a half hour of fishing with only one good pull, we began to wonder if Oatka would give up any fish. Jessie and I soon joined the fray, and even with a move to some other downstream locations and a few more splashes and pulls, we all still remained fishless. We soon worked our way down to Bob’s location and found out that Bob and his wife Kim hadn’t faired much better.

Flyfish Horton and Bob left, leaving just the three of us pour saps to figure it all out for ourselves. And with another half hour of no action under our belts, we decided to make the move to Spring creek. And as we navigated our way out of the creek with lights now on, we could see why the trout weren't willing to commit to our flies - The water was still well stained.

Curtis' 1st mouse caught brown
A new start was what we needed, and as we started out for the stream Jessie said what we all were thinking - “I have a good feeling.” A feeling that would be proven right over the next hour or so.

Spring creek was fantastic, even though it took a little while for it to happen. Fish began to respond to our fly patterns with splashes and pulls, and then, as Curtis fished a new spot with a new mouse pattern – it happened – Fish on!! Finally one of us put a fish in the net. A few pictures later and Curtis gently released his first mouse caught brown trout. We were now on the board – well – at least Curtis was!

By then our fishing time was nearing its end, but not before we tried one more spot at Jessie’s suggestion before the walk to the car.

For the next twenty minutes we each hooked up and landed fish including a really nice fifteen inch wild brown, and as I was walking out, I watched as both Curtis and Jessie hooked up again. 
15 inch wild brown

A little bit later I got a text from Jessie letting me know that they each landed several more nice trout before the action slowed.

What a night!

One of the mouse patterns we used.
One of Jessie's Spring creek browns
Curtis and a well fed 14" inch brown
I’m just glad we stuck it out till the end. Perseverance was our lesson on this evening….what a blessing!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Late Spring Flasback - Chrome in May!

Lucas Carroll doing battle with a nice drop back hen.

It’s been awhile since my last post and plenty has happened since then, but before I post about some of my most recent adventures, I need to make mention of some fantastic spring fishing that I had in early May.

When you think of fly fishing for spring steelhead in WNY, you think of those early ice-out conditions on the local tribs, high water, and plenty of fresh chrome lake run steelhead making their way upstream in search of prime spawning gravel. 

This event takes place in late February and early March…usually. This year however was very different in WNY. Our winter ended late March/early April and because ice-out happened much later than it usually does, our steelhead season extended well into May.

Ready for release
During a normal spring cycle, you can still find a few steelhead in our small WNY tribs into early May, but you have to put your time in. Not this year!

I had the chance to meet up with my good friend Lucas Carroll for a few hours of fun on one of my favorite small WNY tributaries and the fishing did not disappoint.

There were plenty of steelhead to be caught and some very large lake run smallmouth bass up twenty inches or better. We caught all our fish dead drifting flies under an indicator and on the swing. And the best part of the whole adventure was the absence of other anglers – we were the only ones on the stream! 
Big lake run smallie on the fly!
Yet another nice lake run smallie

Usually I don’t have the time that is necessary to search out the few late season drop back steelhead that are still left in the small WNY tributaries during late spring. This year was different. It was bitter cold up until the end, but I am glad it was, it provided Lucas and I with a rare opportunity at some late season chrome.