Sunday, November 4, 2012

Fly fishing on the Housatonic in West Cornwall attracts international crowd

CORNWALL BRIDGE >> It sounded like an international bazaar at the Housatonic River Outfitters Saturday morning, what with all the thick accents that were being spoken among the chatty crowd.

There were your New York-ahs, of course.

There was Alexander Hvatsky, a Russian-born tour guide with the busy shop.

Then there was also the Castelli brothers, Federico and Vittorio, who hail from the village of Biella in northwest Italy.

And what made them all leave their respective homes, to figuratively hang “gone fishing” signs on their front doors?

Why, to journey to northwest Connecticut and indulge in the fabulous fly fishing of the Housatonic River, or “Hoosie,” as it’s known in these parts.

“Fall is a great time to fish here,” said Torrie Collins, 47, manager of the outfitters, in between helping fishing enthusiast select items in the rustic, supply-stacked store nestled next to the Hoosie.

“You get a real mix of people here. A lot of English people, for some reason,” Collins noted. “It’s well-known, famous fishing area.”

Fisherman from near and far agreed, as the peak fall season for fishing, particularly fly fishing, is winding down on the windy, twisty river, which was finally flowing at regular levels a week after the rains of Hurricane Sandy fell.

“It reminds me of fishing in Montana,” Adam Franceschini, 32, the outfitter’s head guide, said a few miles upstream as he stood in gray “waders,” or overalls, and prepared to launch the Castelli brothers in his blue 12-foot hard rubber raft for an all-day fly fishing excursion.
Franceschini makes his living as a full-time fishing guide, taking out fishing parties about 250 days a year. He spends his summers in Alaska, spring and fall here on the Housatonic, and winters catching Red fish in the marshes of the low country near Charleston, S.C. He also spends time on the Salmon River of Pulaski, N.Y.

The Housatonic, he said, “fishes more like a free stone river” in Alaska.

Saturday, as he took the Castelli brothers down the whole 14-miles stretch of the Housatonic between Sharon and South Kent that offers fly fishing, there were plenty of Trout to be had.

That’s because the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) agency regularly stocks the Hoosie with 9,000 Rainbow Trout and Brown Trout each April and September, according to Hvatsky, the Russian-born tour guide with the outfitters.

In addition, the Housatonic River Outfitters raises money each year to stock the river with an additional 800 “large size” Rainbow Trout bought from private hatcheries in Pennsylvania, said Collins, the outfitter’s manager. The large size trout range from 14 to 18 inches long, he said.

Hvatsky said during the spring and fall the outfitters arrange tours for Europeans “pretty much every weekend” – usually those who are traveling to New York City for business and have free time on the weekend.

In Europe, Hvatsky said, fishermen usually need a special permit for every river they fish. The rivers there are typically owned and maintained by private landowners who don’t want intruders on their property, he said.

But in Connecticut, and the rest of the United States, rivers are run by federal, state and local governments, and are free to the public, he added.

In Italy, the Castellis fly fish in “much smaller streams,” which are located in “real mountains” – the Alps, said Vittorio Castelli, a researcher who lives in Westchester County, N.Y. and was hosting his brother Federico, an accountant who was on a business trip to the city from their hometown of Biella.

“It’s wonderful, what a beautiful area,” Federico marveled. “From one of the biggest cities in the world you drive [not much more than] an hour and here you are, in the middle of nowhere, fly fishing in this nice river.”
Franceschini, their guide, said the brothers are experienced fly fisherman, “better than average.”

Vittorio Castelli, in fact, has fished the Hoosie three others times prior to Saturday’s trip, which saw them catch – and release – six trout, including a few that were 18-inch long, and one 22-inch monster.

“The scenery is fantastic, the river is large, and the fishing’s good,” Vittorio said of the Hoosie.

Collins agreed.

“November can see some great fishing, as long as you don’t mind the cold.”

The outfitters had arranged six guided fly fishing tours this weekend, according to Franceschini, the head guide. He’s been busy since his return from Alaska on Sept. 26.

“The first two weeks I was booked solid everyday,” he said. “It starts to taper off the next couple weeks and by the second week of November we’ll be done.”

Not everyone wants to be done.

Further downstream from where Franceschini started his all-day $350 tour with the Castelli brothers, Jeff Toland of Milbrook, N.Y. was wading in the water alone, casting his fly near the covered bridge in West Cornwall.

“This is my therapy,” said the 54-year-old general contractor, who was raised on Long Island. “I’ve got salt water in my veins, but I really love fresh water fishing.”
By Greg Seigle
For The Register Citizen

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Adam Franceschini in This Months The Angling Report!

I want to Thank GOOD Friend Alex Kinsey for the Kind words in this Months The Angling Report. We had a great trip on the Housatonic River last February. Click the link below and scroll to pages 10 and 11 to read all about it!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Upcoming Events

Christmas Banquet 2012 

Speaker: Adam Franceschini, head guide for Housatonic River Outfitters, 
Cornwall, CT, will be doing a presentation on the “Hatches of the Housatonic.”

John Fischer 

Wednesday, December 5 at 6:30 pm at the Knights of Columbus hall, 475 
Sandy Lane, Warwick, RI. 


Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Early Season Nymph & Streamer Clinic w/ ADAM

Adam is Housatonic River Outfitters  Head Guide and a veteran Alaskan guide at Tikchik Narrows Lodge, AK (still guides there every Summer), and has guided also in Brazil & out West. He has fished extensively in many different places, and is a recent convert to Great Lakes Steelhead. Adam is the real deal, a local guy who eats, sleeps & breathes fishing and guiding. March & April normally see challenging fishing conditions for many- cold & often high water, not too many hatches, and lethargic trout. The antidote is a well-fished streamer or nymph, that's how we get our clients into early season trout. Adam is well-versed in both techniques, and he will show you some of his specialized methods, rigs & flies that he uses to consistently get his clients into fish. Learn how to read the water and adapt to the conditions. Benefit from his years of experience guiding and fishing in diverse geographic regions, he truly is a student of the sport and loves to teach it to others. Clinic  will be Held on Saturday  March 24th meeting at the shop. Clinic  runs 10am till 2pm  rain or shine. Coast $50 Call the store at 860-672-1010 to book a spot.

Torrey Collins !

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Catch' em on the Swing!


   At a dinner the other night, my uncle pulled me into his study to show off a recently purchased collection of antique flies tied by some obscure Catskill tier. Naturally, I could not help but ask where he keeps his collection of nymphs and wet flies. My uncle is an exclusive dry fly fisherman in the mold of Frederic Michael Halford and the Southern England chalk stream school. My request set him off on his usual tirade on the beauty of fishing only to rising trout and his sardonic appeasement to my youth and choice to throw sunk flies.

   Adam Franceschini, guide, friend, and author of this blog, emailed mid-week about doing another Farmington run on the upcoming Saturday. Several weekends earlier, he and I had fished two spots in the TMA (Trout Management Area) of the Farmington with moderate success. Considering that the water temperature was low and that it was January, we were very happy to have hooked more than five fish each. Itching to fish, I agreed to fish with Adam again that Saturday. Unfortunately, I clearly forgot my obligation to make and host a dinner for my girlfriend’s siblings Friday night… in Brooklyn. Friday afternoon I get an email from Adam: “Hey buddy, just set up my raft and the Housy [sic] looks real good. We could do a half day float if you are interested.” After some discussion, we decided to talk at 7:00 am the next morning to finalize the plan.

  The 5:00 am alarm Saturday morning was painful. I had been up too late with the dinner party. It was snowing. I only hoped that there was no accumulation at the Housatonic. I got Adam’s 7:00 am call in route: “Conditions look good. The flow dropped further that night falling below 1,000 CFS. What kind of sandwich do you want for lunch?”

  Two and a half hours later, Adam and I were launching the bright blue raft from his normal put-in. Adam had brought two rods, a 10-ft 5-wt with his Abel reel and new Rio indicator line and a shorter 6-wt with a special leader designed to dead drift sculpin-head streamers. I had brought my 11-ft 7-wt switch rod for throwing tandem streamers and my 11-ft 5-wt Hardy Marksman with the Torrey Collins signature indicator leader. After a short downstream row, Adam set me up on a nice eddy just as the sun peaked out from above a large cloud bank. Other than being exhausted, the day was off to a pleasant start.

       Winter fishing, especially on non-tailwaters, is tricky. Weather conditions are adverse. Rivers are often high, cold, and murky. The trout are lethargic and reluctant to eat. This being the Housatonic, wind is also a major factor. However, February 11th was gorgeous. There was little to no accumulation, the water was low and crystal clear, the air temperature was comfortably above freezing, and there was no wind. Apparently, we had made a good decision. We only hoped the fish would be as accommodating.
They were. Unfortunately, I was a mess. Perhaps it was the lack of sleep, the exhaustion after an abnormally strenuous week of work or the buzz from the A. Fuente cigar clenched between my teeth, but I could not hook a fish to save my life. This was not because there were fish, my drift was off, or my fly selection was bad. I was just late, very late, on the hundreds, if not thousands, of takes. Granted the takes were subtle, even the best angler would miss a few. I, however, could not even come close. I think Adam, despite his assurances otherwise, was ready to make me walk the plank.

    Fortunately, amateur hour is just that. After an hour of tangled lines and missed strikes, I managed to hook a nice trout with the help of Adam yelling “SET!” at the correct moment. Several minutes later, we netted a nice fat rainbow. Not surprisingly, Adam set us up in the sweet spot. Just minutes from the put-in, I was hooking trout on size 16 droppers with 6x tippet in February. Despite hooking at least 13 more fish, we only managed to land 3 more nice rainbows in the eddy. The fish were fighting hard and shaking free more times than not.

     Fishing off of a boat, whether with a guide, a friend, or, in this case, the combination of both, is very different from wade fishing. There are the obvious advantages of access to areas that are impossible to access wading or from bank and the ability to cover a much greater body of water than one can on foot. However, the often overlooked and most important distinction (at least in my opinion), is the aspect of teamwork needed to successfully fish from a boat. Drift management is not the sole task of the angler; it is a balance from both the angler and the guide/oarsman. As such an excellent angler is nothing without a strong oarsman and a superb oarsman cannot insure that an angler will catch fish. Luckily, Adam is a great oarsman and despite my mediocre skills, we continued to catch fish as we circled up and down the eddy.

      After several more hours and lunch on the banks of the Elms, we decided to move further downstream and try our luck on streamers. Apparently, our luck was running out. We justified our dwindling success by blaming the afternoon Housatonic wind, the loss of the sun behind more clouds, the falling temperature, etc. It was OK; we had successfully hooked up on well over ten fish and landed four larger ‘bows in February. It was at Garbage Hole that we saw our first angler of the day. “How’s the fishing? Not great, you? We hooked around 14 and landed 4….” He did not say liars, but it was clear that is what he was thinking.

    A little further downstream, Adam dropped the anchor in another deep and promising spot. At this point conversation was taking precedence over fishing. The day was waning and we were not far from Cellar Hole, the take-out. Lazily, I let my nymph rig swing behind the boat into the shallows. SLAM! A nice ‘bow took the emerging pink San Juan worm. The day ended several minutes later. We had managed to land one last fish, a beautiful Rainbow hen. All in, we had managed to hook 15 fish (by our best estimates) and landed 5.

     Back to my uncle. Last Saturday is my rebuttal to him and to all exclusive dry fly fishermen. If one only presents to the rise, one misses opportunities, like this one, to bunk the myths around winter fishing away from a tailwater. To quote from the bible of the dry fly exclusivist: Dry-Fly Fishing in Theory and Practice, by Frederic Michael Halford.

There is far too much presumption of superior scientific knowledge and skill on the part of the modern school of dry-fly fishermen, and I should be the last to wish to write a line tending to encourage this erroneous assumption of superiority, or to depreciate in any way the patience and perseverance, coupled with the intuitive perception of the habits of the fish, requisite for a really first-rate performer with the wet fly. The late Francis Francis said that “the judicious and perfect application of dry, wet, and mid-water fly-fishing stamps the finished fly-fisher with the hallmark of efficiency.” This sentiment is to my mind pre-eminently characteristic of its author, and worthy of adoption by his admirers in later times.

Anyone up for fishing the Housy this weekend?


Friday, February 10, 2012


Here it is for all you naysayers on Alaska that think all the fishing is done with beads! 

Every year there is a gap period between the smolt run and the bead drop when a select few Tikchik Guides known as the PAK Rats showoff some trophy trout. Located in the heart of the Wood-Tikchik chain of lakes is the famed Agulapak River or "PAK " as we call it. This is a two-mile stretch of river that connects Lake Beverly to Lake Nerka. For a few weeks every summer the PAK turns into a very challenging tailwater. The words midge and light tippet leave anglers shaking their heads in frustration. In this "how to" article I will discuss some fly patterns and tips to help you land a  fish to remember. 

The Leader 

I use a hand-tied ten to twelve foot fluorocarbon leader with an aggressive taper from the butt section to the tippet. There are three reasons for this leader.  First, tippet has a smaller diameter then a normal tapered leader and, as a result, the attached flies will sink faster and will be in the strike zone longer during your drift. Secondly, when midge fishing you must eliminate all drag. The longer leader will allow you to keep your fly line on the reel, which results in less surface drag. Lastly, fluorocarbon is less visible and denser then monofilament, which is key on the PAK where the fish get a lot of angling pressure. 

Leader Formula
28 inches of .019in/483mm - Butt section
17 inches of .017in/432mm
15 inches of .015/381mm
8 inches of  .011in /279mm - Attach tippet ring to the end 
60 inches of tippet attached to tippet ring.  

The Rigging

When nymph fishing, you want the flies to tumble and bounce along the bottom freely. One common oversight I find with lots of anglers' technique is that they fish with the same indicator depth all day. Because the PAK has both deep buckets and shallow shelves, you need to constantly change the depth of your indicator matching the depth of the water. If you set your depth too long, you will miss strikes due to the slack in your system. On the other hand, if you set your indicator depth too short, you won't be in the strike zone. A good rule of thumb: you want your indicator to just slightly bounce as it drifts downstream. 
There are many different ways to rig your tandem flies, but I find that a distance of 15 inches between the split shot and the flies works best. At the end of the leader, I tie a piece of 5x tippet section with a double surgeons knot to stop the split shot from sliding down the tippet. Attach your first fly, or point fly to the end of your tippet off the bend of the first hook.  Then add a second piece of tippet usually 5 or 6x pending on your fly size and attach your second fly, or dropper fly, remembering the 15 inch rule to the end.  Now with the spilt shot bouncing on the stream bed, you are able to cover the first 30 inches of the water column with your flies.

The Fight 

To allow these tiny flies to drift drag free you will need to use 5 or 6x tippet. Again I use fluorocarbon.  On most streams this would be within the standard size range of tippet. When you are targeting 24 plus inch fish, this puts you at a huge disadvantage. Therefore, you must, firstly, set the drag loose; once you hook a fish they will bolt off with runs going into the backing.  If you tighten the drag, the fish will easily snap your line.  Second, DON'T EVER Palm the reel! I cannot tell you how many times I have set-up on a fish with guests only to have the fish come off due to the added resistance by palming the real. More often then not, their fingers hit the reel handle and cause a jerking stop to the reel and the fish is gone. Lastly, TRUST your guide.  I see people all the time with their heads hanging low because they were too proud to pull up anchor and chase these fish down. You have to go after these fish if you want a shot at landing them.  Sometimes the fight lasts more the ten minutes. But when you have the Trophy pin at dinner time, it's all worth it.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Steel Canvas is off to Alaska

                                                               STEEL CANVAS

As a guide, I am always looking for that new or different fly pattern that will keep guests’ rods bent all day in any condition.  I am pleased to announce that in 2012 Tikchik Narrows Lodge guests will have the opportunity to fish some brand new patterns contributed by my good friend James Plant of the Steel Canvas. Head guide Chip King, Capt. Brandon Beebe, and I will be working with a few of these new patterns on the different rivers, lakes, and streams throughout the summer. In addition to being my friend, James is also a signature fly tier for Rainy's. I am really excited to see what he whips up next! 

Check out his Blogs. Just go to the links list on the left side of the page.

A.P. Franceschini

James Plante is a part time fly fishing guide and instructor for the Housatonic River Outfitters, Inc. Has been with the shop for 7 seasons. He guides and instructs on several Connecticut rivers primarily on the Housatonic and Farmington Rivers. Not only is James an avid fly fisherman, he is also an avid fly tier. He spends countless hours at the vise tying flies. He loves creating his own signature patterns as well as tying up already established flies. In 2011 he became a signature fly tier for Rainy’s. He is Regal Vise endorsed and on Ross Reels Pro Staff as well. He loves to travel and fish different parts of the U.S and the world. This wonderful sport has brought him to Montana, Colorado, Alaska, Wyoming, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, the Bahamas, and all of New England. You can check out some of James travels and Flys on his too Blogs. 

Sunday, January 22, 2012


Look close. There! You see Him? 
Ok. That’s a nice fish, take your time. Look behind you to see where you can make a back cast. Ok! 
When you are ready, make the cast.

This is a common conversation between Tikchik guests and me as we hike just a few of Southwestern Alaska's small streams. Each year as the salmon finish spawning—they start to die off come about September—you will find the river banks lined with dead fish. And the smell? Well I'll spare you that one. It’s not uncommon to find piles of dead salmon hung up on sweepers as well. If you are lucky you might find a big rainbow siting downstream of the flesh pile resting or eating.

Out of respect of the river, I'll refer to it as location X. Location X is a good Beaver flight from Tikchik Narrows Lodge where I am a fifth-year guide. Tikchik Narrows Lodge owns three de Havilland Beavers and a Cessna 206. At Tikchik, we refer to each plane by their tail number. Each plane has a permanent pilot, and between the four of them, there is over one hundred years of flying experience in the Bristol Bay region alone. Having some of the worst weather on record last season, I can tell you that these four pilots rank amongst the best in the world. 

As we taxi off the dock I run through my mental gear list one last time. Flies, check, lunches check, ammo got it right here in the front pocket. WAIT! did I pack the lunches??  yeah  remember there in the back pack. Right!  The pilot reaches down and pulls up the water rudders then pushes the red button with his left thumb on the steering yoke. He speaks into the head set, "697 taking off West, departing Southwest through the narrows." He lets go of the button and then firewalls the engine. The beaver lunges forward and that’s when us guides take our "guide naps." I put on my head phones and turn up my iPod. The next thing you know we are circling the stream looking for fish AND any furry friends. 697 turns and sets up for the landing on a very small tundra pond. With no room for a mistake 697 lands with perfection.  We taxi over to the bank and I jump out to turn the plane around so we can tie the tail rope off to the bank, and from the cabin I can hear, “Great flight, 697!” “Yeah!?” “Pretty good!"

Today I am fishing with two Brits, one a beginner and the other an intermediate. Both are great guys that I have fished with earlier in the week on the Agulapak River—the "PAK" as we call it, but I'll save that for the next blog. We unload the plane and I start rigging up the rods. Location X is a narrow stream that is on the more shallow side as far as rivers go. As the guys finish organizing their personal gear, I finish tying on the last fly. My guys are fishing on 7 1/2 foot 12-pound hand-tied leaders. One has a white and ginger double bunny fly and the other a mouse. The double bunny is fished both as flesh and a streamer to finish out the swing. And yes, a mouse! The ‘bows in AK do eat mouse patterns and they work well on overcast days, besides it’s fitting for a flesh story. 

As we start out across the tundra, The QUESTION comes up: "So Adam, have you ever had a bear encounter before?"  “Yeah, if we do run into a bear, make sure we all stay together and make no sudden movements." Because hiking across the tundra can be difficult, we pace ourselves with short breaks. As we make our way down a small ridge, an unfamiliar feeling comes over me. SPLASH, SPLASH, SPLASH! Then it registers. It’s a bear! With the rest of my crew just behind me I yell out. "HEY BEAR!  HEY BIG BEAR!”  Silence. "Hey guys there is a bear down there let’s take a break and wait here for a second.”

With tall grass blocking our view of  the river, we keep talking LOUD! “There!" As 697 points to the top of the bluff on the far bank, we see the bear disappear out of sight.

"Adam, Mate, that was close! Never saw a bear that close before."  Laughter fills the air as we all take deep breaths and pass the water bottle around.  Our relief only lasts a few seconds.

"GET THE GUN OUT! STAY TOGETHER!" A water bottle falls to the ground as I swing my head around and reach for the gun. The bear that we thought had moved on is now running right towards us. We huddle up and prepare for the worst. “Stay together as we move back slowly…." With all the hair on my neck standing on end, the group starts to back up.

WOOF, WOOF. "Stay calm guys keep moving back." WOOF, WOOF. Unable to see the bear through the tall grass, we start making our way to higher ground.  From a safe vantage point we are able to see that there is not just ONE bear, but FOUR!  We had just walked up on momma bear's fishing 101 class. The reality starts to set in.  "Let’s just stay here for bit guys, sows with cubs are some of the most unpredictable bears and walking up as uninvited guests for breakfast is never a good idea." All four bears rise to their hind legs; the cubs are just tall enough to see over the grass. We watch as the sow checks on each cub and then with a quick bump of her nose she gets them all moving in the opposite direction, while looking over at us from time to time.

With all the bears out of sight, we finally make our way down to the river. “Ok guys, move slow and fish every bit of water.” We want to stay in the middle of the river casting to the cut bank on a 45 degree downstream angle. After you cast, you want to mend up stream so that the Double Bunny can sink and tumble like real flesh. As the fly drifts past, you start to stack mend your line. It will keep the fly on the bottom and it will allow you to control the speed of your swing. Once the fly is at the end of your swing, start to work it like a streamer moving down stream after each cast.  Don't worry about having slack in your line and missing strikes, these fish will not miss.

I make my way over to the mouse rod. “Adam, are you up for the challenge today?" I grin.  After the bears this is easy. “Ok, start your cast on the same 45 degree downstream angle and mend right away. You want that mouse to swim slowly across the surface.” “I GOT ONE!”  "Ok keep working that mouse, while I go net this other fish; …be back in a sec." As we unhook and release the first fish of the day a big cheer comes from across the stream.  “Got one!” “Ok, great job; I am on my way.” “…Damn…."  “What happened?” “It got away.”  “Ok, cast and drift that again. With the mouse, you have to be patient!" After a second eat and miss, “what happened? I saw him eat it!" "After you see the fish eat say ‘god save the Queen’ and THEN set the hook.”  “Ha ha, you crazy yank! You can’t be serious?” “Trust me.” As we watch the mouse swim across the river, I think to myself , “no way that ‘bow will eat a third time.” Just then, a strike.  “You are bloody right. You crazy Yank!”  “See I'm not that crazy.” 

We finish our day with plenty of fish and fun all the while looking back upstream from time to time to make sure we are all alone.  

Stay tuned For PAK RATS. It’s BIG AK ‘BOWS on size 24 midges with 6x!

Pro Guide: A.P. Franceschini

Tikchik Narrows Lodge

Head Guide Housatonic River Outfitters

Monday, January 16, 2012

Tikchik Narrows Lodge Alaska is on TV

If you missed the Tikchik Narrows Lodge episode on Ford Fishing Frontiers the first time. Just click the Fords Fishing Frontiers below and enjoy!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Tikchik Narrows Lodge, located in the heart of Bristol Bay Alaska, opened up its doors to the Orion Entertainment film crew last summer. The film crew shot more then a weeks worth of footage on some of our most remote waters and caught a lot of Alaska's trophy fish species!

The Ford Fishing Frontiers episode featuring Tikchik airs on January 13th at 7:30am (ET) on the Outdoor Channel. It will re-air, so you may want to search on your TV guide for all the additional times and dates. This is a DON'T MISS show!
Tune in and Experience the legend of Tikchik!

A.P. Franceschini
Guide - Tikchik Narrows Lodge,AK

Friday, January 6, 2012

Happy New Year to All! With a new year comes a new look and the relaunch of the Dead Drift Anglers Blog. Started a few years back, the blog was a forum to share my guiding experience in the Amazon Basin of Brazil. The New Dead Drift Anglers Blog is a place were Anglers can get an inside look at the professional world of Guiding with, real-time river conditions, rivers we're fishing and the fly patterns on which we are working. The blog also provides info on favorite fishing destinations, and an Angler's gear list and where to find our suggested fly fishing equipment. Recently a couple of us went up to the Salmon River in Pulaski, NY, for our first shot at the famed Great Lakes Steelhead run and it is safe to say we are definitely hooked. Stay tuned for this story and many more.

Tight Lines In the New year

A.P. Franceschini