Friday, September 22, 2017

Friday 9/22/17 Report- new Hatch reels & Hardy rods in da house

It's that time of year when new products start showing up. Hatch has done a re-design of their Finatic reel. It now has a bead-blast matte finish/new colors, it's lighter, and they improved the drag range and made the drag seal truly water-tight. We're big Hatch fans at UpCountry. FYI the spools are compatible with the previous generation of Finatics. Hardy has some new rods out, including the Zephrus Ultralite and the new Demons. Standouts include the Zephrus Ultralite in 8' 8" #3 & 8' 9" #4 for dry flies, the "crossover" Zephrus Ultralite in 9' 9" #2-5, and the fresh & saltwater Demons at $500 (they now use Sintrix 330 technology, and are probably the most durable rod out there at that price point, and still nice & light). The 9' 9" Zephrus rods are really cool, as they cross over from Euro nymphing to dry flies, making them a great choice if you split your time between the two methods but don't want to carry two rods (the #3 & 4 are great dual-purpose rods, the #2 is softer and more of a pure Euro rod for protecting lighter tippets, and the faster action #5 is more of an Indicator stick, but all four rods will throw dries when necessary).  

I hadn't really noticed it, but apparently we are in a drought in our neck of the woods and the reservoir levels are getting low now. As such, the MDC reduced the release from Goodwin/Hogback Dam on Thursday to 50cfs (Riverton gauge reads 51.5cfs, Still River is 15.8cfs), making total flow in permanent Catch & Release (C&R)/TMA about 67cfs. They are releasing an additional 50cfs from Lake McDonough, which goes into the East Branch and dumps in about 3/8 mile below our shop, making the flow from there down 117cfs. Flow is low and similar to the end of last summer & fall. The upside to this is low flows typically equal more rising trout, easier wading, and it's easy to read the water. During low flows like this, only fish the better water where you have some flow & depth (depth is a relative thing, when flows are down, a 2' pothole in a 1' riffle can hold a big trout). The downside to low flows is spookier trout and less spots for the them to hold. A big key to success during these conditions is a stealthy approach, smaller flies, and use longer leaders (12 foot or longer). Stay a bit further away from the trout, and if you have a lighter line weight rod, now is the time to use it for a more delicate presentation. Highs well into the 80s from Saturday through Wednesday, combined with sunny weather, means the better water temps will be from New Hartford to the dam in Riverton. Start downstream in the mornings, then work your way progressively upriver as the day progresses- they will keep you in the best water temps. Lowest water temps will be from first light until late morning, so it's worth getting up early (this also helps you beat the crowds!). The upside to the temporary hot weather is Flying Ants- they tend to having mating swarms and fall to the water on warmer, humid afternoons. Make sure to have a least a couple (#18-24) in your fly box, as  trout LOVE them.

While I wouldn't say it's foliage season, we are starting to see some splashes of color. Still seeing  some Trico spinners #22-26 in the mornings, albeit the hatch is more upriver now- I'd stay between Campground and the dam in Riverton, and be aware the hatch is steadily moving upriver.  Trico spinners normally mate & drop to the water when morning air temps hit mid/upper 60s. Terrestrials (ants & beetles #12-18, hoppers #8-14), Attractor dries & Nymphs remain your best midday bets.  For Attractor Dries try: Mini Chernobyls #12-16, Monster Beetles #10, Stimulators #10-16 & Hippy Stompers #16-18, #10-14 Wulffs, etc. You can even combine a buoyant dry with a small beadhead nymph for a Dry-Dropper combo. Tie 1-3' of tippet to the dry fly hook bend, and run the beadhead nymph on the other end. Go longer (2-3') when there is not much hatching and/or you are fishing deeper water, go shorter (12-18") when there is hatching activity and/or you are fishing shallower water.

Other bugs you may see:
Assorted Caddis #14-22 (tan, brown, black, olive), especially the tan/brown variety in #16-18- anytime from morning to evening. If you want to blind fish Caddis dries, stick to slightly bigger ones around #14-16. Pupa in #14-18 are excellent choices to nymph with. The other Caddis of note is the Summer/Winter Caddis #18-24, typically an early to mid morning deal. Isonychia ("Isos") #10-14, typically hatch late afternoon to evening in the faster water. They get smaller as the season progresses, and will average #14 in October. Blind fishing Iso dries can be effective, as can fishing Iso nypmphs or swinging Iso wets/soft-hackles. We've also been seeing Cahills/Summer Stenos #12-16 & Blue Wing Olives (BWOs/Olives) #22-26 in the eves (BWOs also hatch on cloudy afternoons). Sometimes fish will key on BWO spinners, which are typically change to rusty brown, not olive. The best dry fly activity has often been in the riffles and the upper end of pools including Pipeline, Roberts, Whittemore, People's Forest, Church Pool, Greenwoods and the Boneyard.

The Farmington River is now Catch & Release from 9/1 until Opening Day in April (21 miles straight from Goodwin/Hogback Dam in Riverton down to Rt 177 Bridge in Unionville). If you see anyone keeping trout, POLITELY inform them that it's C&R now- not everybody is aware of this, especially when it first kicks into gear this month. The state stocked the river just before Labor Day weekend, from below the Rt 219 bridge in New Hartford, downstream to Unionville. Soon the FRAA will stock 1,000+ rainbows & brookies in the upper river- we are still collecting donations to fund this stocking, just drop them in the jar next to the cash register. The more we get, the better the stocking.

Lower flows combined with months of heavy fishing pressure can make for some technical fishing in the late summer /early fall, especially when it comes to the small dry fly game on flat water. Most of the hatches (with a few exceptions fortunately, like Isonychia) are of tiny bugs (#22-26 & smaller), which require you to be on your "A" game. Wading needs to be slow & stealthy so you don't spook your quarry by sending shock waves through the water. Casts need to be dead accurate, as trout generally won't move more than an inch or two to either side to eat a #24 dry. Fly size can be more important than the exact pattern, with smaller usually being better: trying to force a #20-22 on a trout that is focusing on #24-26 flies is a recipe for catching no fish. Leaders should be long & light (at least 12', and I like to add tippet to that) to separate your fly from the splashdown of your fly line, and to help get a natural, drag-free float. I like longer tippets 3-5' feet for this game, they tend to land in "S" curves, which buys you some drag-free float time. The thin tippets (6x-8x) typically employed with this are not to make the connection to your small dries invisible, but rather to help you get a natural, drag-free drift (thinner tippets are both limper/more flexible, as well as tending to land with a little slack in them). I often hear customers say they like a particular leader because "it straightens right out on the water"- well guess what, if your leader lands poker-straight, you have instant drag, you need a little slack in your tippet. Subtle drag is often impossible for you to see from 30-40' away, which is another reason to get as close as is reasonable/possible to rising fish. Learn how to make a Reach Cast, which will show the trout your fly before anything else, as well as giving you both a longer & better float. Trout will often get into a rhythm where they rise at precise intervals- if it's 10 seconds between rises, make sure your fly drifts over them in an accurate drag-free float at the precise moment the fish is ready to make its' next rise. Pat yourself on the back for every fish you catch on a small dry here in the late summer.

FYI we currently have a big selection of used rods/reels, many are listed on the website, but some purposely are not, so stop by the store and take a peek. Please no phone inquiries for unlisted used rods/reels, they are for walk-in customers only, plus we are so busy we don't have time to run through all the used equipment in the store over the phone. 

Summertime bugs are smaller on average, so when nymphing make sure to downsize your flies, especially when flows are lower. #18-22 nymphs are often the key to success, with fly size more important then the exact pattern (although I prefer either a little flash or a fluorescent hot spot in my small nymphs).  I like 5x-6x flurocarbon tippet for fishing small nymphs (5x is usually light enough, but they will sink quicker on a long 6x tippet due to decreased water drag from thinner tippet). If you like to go light on your nymphing tippet, I HIGHLY recommend the new Cortland Ultra Premium Fluorocarbon, it is stronger and more durable than any other fluoro on the market and will save you both flies & fish. 6x in this stuff will break less than 5x in other brands. Some days small flies are the difference between struggling to hook trout versus catching a bunch. The two main exceptions would be Isonychia nymphs #10-14, and big Stonefly nymphs #6-12. Isos are typically active later in the day, say late afternoon through dusk. The evening Cahills are also bigger at #12-16, and can be nicely imitated with either a Fox Squirrel or Hare's Ear nymphs. The big Stonefly nymphs emerge by crawling out onto rocks overnight and in the early mornings, making early/mid mornings prime to fish their large imitations for larger trout. If you do have a big fly on, make sure you also have another pattern in your rig no bigger than a #18, it's more in line with what they are seeing this time of year. Or pair it up with a #16 Caddis pupa.

Nymphing has typically been the most productive method from late morning through early evening (when the insect activity is sparsest) and is accounting for the lion's share of truly big fish, using patterns like big Stoneflies #6-12 & Pat's Rubber Legs #6-10 (especially in the mornings), Caddis Pupa #14-18 (tan, olive-green- Caddis pupa are especially active in the mornings), Antoine's Perdigons #16 (various colors), Attractor nymphs #14-20 (Frenchies #14-18, Egan's Red Dart #14-16, Rainbow Warrior #16-18, etc.), Quasimodo Pheasant Tails #12-22,  BWO nymphs #16-20, Isonychia #10-14 (mid afternoon thru eves), Fox Squirrel Nymphs #12-16, and Zebra Midges #16-22.