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.