Sunday, May 30, 2010

House of Hardy vs. Carpio

I was desperate to catch a carp on fly, but always doubted it could be done. For many years I knew of these fish. In England they're the quarry of course anglers, who pursue with dog biscuits and boilies. Fair enough, but why not a fly?

Andrew has been scouting a local river these past few seasons. He's done the hard work - which flies work; the best height of sun and water; length and type of leader; whether the 16oz or the 24oz can of corn offer best value; and perhaps most important,the varied habits of these fabled fish. [Note: I knew these fish were "old". I'd heard stories that monks introduced them in England. A quick search reveals that they found Europe from their Asian home over 8000 years ago. The Romans introduced them in some areas. They are a noble and historic species. That they're here in modern Connecticut is pretty cool.]

When we arrived dozens were ghosting around the stream; more gray than gold as their heavy-shouldered bodies silently drifted in a stream seemingly the wrong size for their sizable mass. The river was like England. Weeping trees; water lilies on sluggish water; bright sunshine. It was a beautiful scene.

Stealth and a knowledge of what the fish are doing are key. Fish moving quickly are worth a leading cast ("Connecticut Bone fish" is apt), but those more sedentary, yellow lips betraying breakfast time, were the ones worth more attention. For some time we had more of the former, but some feeders came into view within easy casting distance and after a few suspicious inhalations of the fly (a Woolly Bugger of AMS's tying - perfect in weight and visibility) I saw a fish turn and confidently take. A larger specimen from the group, my new Hardy's Traditional 4 weight buckled unnervingly under the heavy strain of the carp's initial short bursts, but finally subdued she came to rest on a convenient sandy bank.

A beautiful creature; vivid yellows, golds and oranges with a thick gray head and shoulders. My first carp to a fly, and I was ecstatic.

House of Hardy won today. An English rod, Asian fish, angled by a Brit in the heart of Connecticut. I can't help but delight in these rich dynamics. Another wondrous fish to hunt for as long as my legs can wade in water.

Here's the one that got away. I knew the 8lb fluorocarbon was frayed (its principal flaw) but I fished on regardless. Still; it made me cackle, and this is always the best bit. --JA

Thursday, May 6, 2010

A Personal Milestone in Angling

Quite a title, isn't it? But that's how it feels this morning.

This spring has already been good. The usual warm-up at the mouth of the Big River has been excellent. The herring run has been fascinating. I've seen my friends fight and capture big stripers. I'm lucky as all hell - I can strike out for CT's Big Rivers, to beautiful Rhode Island & Providence Plantations, or I can fish the discreet coastal marshes mere minutes from my home. All of these scenarios are superb, but it is the last that gets my blood up most. It is about culverts, concentrated bait, and skinny water. It is "trout fishing" for large striped bass.

I fished these local spots last year for the first time and I had modest success. Last night I returned for the first time in 2010 to see if there were shrimp around; perhaps a sign for the warmer weeks to come. The tide turned like a pendulum balance at 8.40 precisely, a full 3 hours after high at the nearest marker on LI Sound. My flies were barely wet before the first bass hit, and in the next hour I was busy fighting and landing lovely, chubby stripers. It was enough that the fish were there - they were back - but significant too because I was catching them on one of the foam shrimp recently tied by my own hand (a pattern of Andrew's). Another small but meaningful nod that sometimes one does manage to step in the right direction.

Foam Shrimp. The "fly" at upper right was the trick tonight.

With weak moon the night was dark but alive with stars and the usual sounds of spring. As I walked back to the car, completely elated, I heard the tell-tale noise that meant the night would not yet be over for me: bass were holding on station, popping on shrimp in the glassy waters of another bait funnel close by. Last year we started (say it again: started) to build our knowledge of how to fish here - a different game was needed; a static drifted fly; no movement. It is dry fly fishing for trout, only the quarry are larger and don't have the table manners. I lengthened my cast to cover the rises and hooked a fish straight off - our apprenticeship was already paying dividends. Another two bass followed, before a thumping take wrenched the 9 weight from my grip. This fish was better, though all gave great account. Laying next to my rod, she stretched from butt to stripping guide, a distance of 30 inches.

The best from a batch of "keeper" bass from my local waters, my first of this size since our arrival on the shoreline, all taken on flies tied by my hand for the first time this past year.

This morning I can only think about last night and my wonderful fortune to go fishing.


Sunday, May 2, 2010

Someone, Please Press Pause

It's the 2nd of May and it's 80 in old money. The trees are lime. The other night I stood in the river and there were trout-sized herring exploding all around. A large striper hit my 12" herring fly like a summer grilse on the Dee. Just like a summer salmon, when I hit , it missed. My chance was gone. But Bob did better, and there's a picture of him below. Steve and Bill did very well too - all of them landing fish of over 30 inches. These fish were all fat on the herring. They tore off down river and the anglers had to give chase to keep connected. It really was world class fishing.

Today I went to the Hammonasset river for some recalibration (from family, not bass). I wanted to fish my Scottish wet flies and I put up a team of three: Bibio (top dropper), winged Greenwells Glory, and bead-head flashback PTN - a sop to my new home, and a little added weight. At the first pool the fish didn't care for my romantic ideas. They were all on the surface; midges and caddis abound. So off with the cast from the old country, and to a longer leader with a single dry. A quick rotation through caddis, tiny midge, and eventually to the captor of 6 healthy and oft acrobatic trout, a size 14 dry Adams. The quintessential American fly was the winner today, and I couldn't be happier. My new Hardy rod was Christened; a lovely soft flex, just the instrument for cushioning the take to a dry fly.

The trouble is, unlike Scotland, where spring can last, well, all summer, here in Connecticut spring 2010 is running past me at warp speed. The herring and the free flowing rivers just don't hang around long enough, if you ask me.

A happy man - Bob with a superb striper, big on river herring.

A nice cock rainbow from the Hammonasset.