The first week of August has come and gone and our bigger rivers are fishing as well as they have all year. This is due to the cold fronts that pushed through last week. Water temps have dropped significantly in the last seven days and the fish have responded in a big way. About a week ago I was pushing clients to schedule trips early and late in the day, while we still caught plenty of fish at those times, the recent cooler temps have had fish rising right through mid-day.
On July 30 I guided Garry Peterson in the Afternoon. With the threat of thunderstorms in the forecast we were uncertain if we would be able to stay on the water. Luckily after a brief shower the rain abated and the fish began to show signs of life. We had a few misses on big attractor dries before we switched to small streamers that helped us to a nice 15" brown, a rainbow and a brook trout... With the Saco grand slam complete we moved downstream to finish the evening on some good dry fly water. With the sun setting the water began to boil. I quickly tied on a rusty spinner that has been reliable all season. After ten casts without a strike I began to wonder. The air was thick with humidity and although about a month early I took the chance with a size sixteen cinnamon flying ant. I tied the fly on and we landed three big rainbows in near pitch darkness...Garry setting the hook to their splashes. Thanks for getting them to the net Garry!
Monday was the last day of the heat wave and Steven and I had Scott Vokey his brother Craig and Mark and their friend Mark Fallen. When Scott booked the trip I secretly wondered if he had any blood relation the recently famous April Vokey of FlyGal adventures. Well it turns out that she is a distant niece of Scott's. I had Scott tell Steven that April was on our way to film with us and after last weeks brush with fame Steve almost believed us.
With none of the guys ever having touched a fly rod before I knew we would have to focus on casting for a while before getting to the fish. But we needed to be in position to catch as the sun was only going to get hotter. So we made our way to a stretch of water that offers open casting room with trout to catch nearby. Once the men had their casts calibrated Steve moved down river with Scott and Mark Fallen and I worked with the other Mark and Craig. We were on rising fish immediately but they were being very picky. Mark was able to sting four and almost landed two before we took a break for lunch.
After lunch we headed to the wildcat where everyone was able to hook into some wild brook trout. Mark even hooked a large rainbow in the Ellis which would have been landed if it weren't for a large boulder that it was able to burrow under.
Last Tuesday I guided client Garry Marshal. Garry was a seasoned angler from the White River in Arkansas. He was thrilled to fish small dry flies to rising trout here in NH. We found fish quickly rising to black caddis in a small riffle and Garry quickly hooked into a wild rainbow. Then a brown, then a brook trout. Now all we needed for the grand slam was a salmon. Salmon are a rare catch in the southern stretches of the Andro as they migrate from lake Umbagog in Maine and need to come down seven or eight dams. I was skeptical that we would find one. But as we fished on Garry hooked into a silvery fish that shot into the air and a salmon came to the net. With a grand slam under our belts before lunch we worked the river with patience focusing on bigger rises in the slower water. Garry missed a few good fish before a thunderstorm rolled in and pushed us under the cover or a tent where we were able to eat lunch in comfort. With the thunderstorm through we were back on the water and Garry was able to get a few more bows to the net on nymphs before the day was through.
I had a quite a few beginner half day trips scattered throughout the week as well and all clients were able to test their new casts on wild brook trout. All were able to catch quite a few with some gorgeous specimens landed.
On Thursday I was back on the Andro with client Michael Kimball. We were again on a black caddis hatch from the get go with hits on just about every cast for the first hour of the float. With a few good fish just missed on dries I tied on a small dark nymph to see if we couldn't get a solid hook-set sub-surface. On the first cast Mike came tight to a nice brown and we landed the fish after a solid battle. We were able to get a few more wild rainbows on dries before the action slowed and we moved downstream. With time for only a half day float we had to move fast and we were able to get one more rainbow on the dries and a few close calls stripping nymphs before the day was through.
On Saturday I guided long time clients Carl Schoenbacher his boys Owen and Dean and his grilfriend Cathleen. I always enjoy guiding this crew as the boys have really taken to fly fishing at only eight and ten years old. With a late start we decided to head right to wild brook trout water. All caught fish with Cathleen landing three wild brook trout of about eight inches in just three casts. The boys got into a few as well.
After lunch I decided to show the group one of my favorite wild brook trout spots. (If you are interested in a very unique brook trout experience you will want to request a trip to some of my wild brook trout waters) I unlocked the gate to this gem of a wild brook trout stream and took the crew down to one of the larger pools where the boys eyes bugged out of their heads at the massive school of trout fining in the calm crystal clear waters. Dean ran for his fly-rod but I tried to slow him down. "These fish will probably not bite much right now, they can see us as much as we can see them." And after the first few casts the boys had the fish darting around in a tight ball. I told the group, "Our best bet will be to fish some of the pools that we can sneak up on better and then come back to this pool at dark. So we hiked through thick grass and dodged poison ivy to get to a secluded beaver pond well upstream. With the high grass I told the boys that I'd do the casting and let them do the retrieving. The deal was that they each got five casts or a fish per turn. Owen was up first and his turn was a quick one with a solid eight inch wild brook trout on the first cast. Then it was Dean's turn...it took him just two casts. Owen was up again and he got one more within three casts. From here every fish came unbuttoned before landing and the sun was beginning to set so we worked our way back to the big pool.
There were few rises when we approached so I put on a fluffy CDC caddis that we could pop through the surface film. I showed the boys the technique and they began taking turns working on the correct twitch. The fish in this pool hit like smallmouth bass and it was a blast to see the boys jump at every explosion. The boys were having trouble with the hook set as they were bantering back and forth while they fished, but Dean was finally able to focus in and hook one before the night was through. All in all a great day with good people. Looking forward to our next adventure together.
On Sunday I had David Clay an experienced angler from Ohio who spends a week each year in Bozeman Montana.
*If you follow us on facebook you will want to pay attention now to find out what we were catching those fish on!
I was hoping to show David some solid White Mountain Fly Fishing. Luckily the weather was cool and cloudy and the fish were on the feed...But they were not feeding on my lucky ant or my trusty rusty spinner...What was it now? I scanned the water as David made cast after cast with beetles...ants, grasshoppers etc. All that I saw in the water was one drowned housefly...no trout food. Finally David hooked into a nice rainbow. It had taken a size sixteen rusty spinner...and I thought we had things figured out. Then after another twenty minutes of casting to explosive rises nothing touched the spinner. Time to re-evaluate again. The rises were explosive...so the fish were not eating something small and dead like a rusty spinner. They were eating something slightly bigger that was probably moving a little. Again I scanned the water and again all that I saw was a dead house fly...but then I saw another...and another. I looked closely at the moving water and I saw more...then I saw a head come up and take one. Quickly I rummaged through my boxes...a house fly? What on earth do I have that looks remotely like a housefly. Finally I settled on a flying ant with darker wings. I tinkered with the fly spreading the wings apart to give them that delta style of a houseflies. We tied on the makeshift fly and David hooked a brown...then lost a bigger brown. Okay we had things figured out...or so I thought from there on the fish seemed to ignore our imposter. We moved upstream and found some fish feeding on a wider variety of bugs. We got another brown on the darker ant and then a few on beetles and hoppers.
After lunch I told David that we needed to stop by the fly shop to scrounge up a better housefly imitation. I scanned the boxes and finally found a short dark flying ant with a grey and black mottled wing. I held the fly up and looked from underneath. to my eye it looked almost identical to the houseflies we had been seeing on the water. We drove to a new spot to try our new fly and as we approached the first pool there was a good fish rising. As an experiment David started with the same flies we'd been fishing before lunch. After about ten fruitless casts I tied on the new housefly. The fish hit as soon as the fly touched water. And it wasn't a fluke David hooked eight more trout and landed four on the housefly before the day was through. All fish landed were over twelve inches with a few in the 15-17 inch class. It was a good day to learn something new.
On a side note I spoke with my good friend Bob Mallard later that evening. Bob said he had seen these flies himself and clarified that they are not exactly houseflies but a species known as cluster flies. I researched these bugs and sure enough they are exactly what we saw. If you'd like to learn more about cluster flies click here. http://ento.psu.edu/extension/factsheets/cluster-flies
I'll be working on a new pattern for these guys over the next few days. Of course who knows if I'll ever even see this phenomenon again. But if I do I'll be ready!
So what is to come? I am scheduled for an evening Andro float tonight and I'm psyched because I think that there will be a good hatch of stoneflies, caddis and pale evening duns tonight. The rains tomorrow will have fish on the feed. Streamers may become more important if water levels rise enough. On cooler days look for BWO's and Cahills to become important. On warmer days stoneflies, flying ants and all other terrestrials will be important. As August progresses flying ants should become an even more consistent trend with the best ant drops on the most humid and overcast days. As fall nears Isonychia mayflies and October caddis will become more consistent. As you can see there are always surprise hatches or food sources that can pop up from time to time. Always try to be observant and never expect hatches to be exactly the same every day.