Friday, August 19, 2016

Escaping the low and slow flows of summer...

Its been really dry, and while I've been out fishing a lot, there just isn't that much water. The temps have been up in a lot of places, and I'm letting the fish rest where needed. Luckily, there are still places with cold, clean, oxygenated water in which to seek refuge...

This year, summer is defined by a much-needed cool breeze in a cold water corridor...

the pastel colors that jump out from the dry forest floor...

a bird's nest after its young have moved out...

the small wild trout that keep the population alive...

and of course, Onigiri made by a friend to fill my stomach and fuel the next cast.

A new Mankyu net from Japan has already seen more than its "fair" share of these jeweled beauties.

And then in a run like this, or not quite like this...

the fish of a lifetime for this small stream struck a fly and was brought to hand!

An epic battle on 7x tippet and a small Tenkara rod designed for 9 inchers, not this 19.5 inch beast!

But dreary conditions in local waters have not held me back this season, and there is more to write about soon!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Northeast American Genryu #3 - NYC Tenkara Anglers in the High Peaks, continued...

On the third day of our adventure we woke up in the forest at our campsite to the sounds of birds singing and hikers walking up the trail towards the high peaks.

We grabbed the bear-barrels from their stash-spot, ate some breakfast, and got ready for a long day of fishing. The map showed that we had plenty of stream to cover, so we set off down the trail to get to our intended start point.

We figured the major challenge of the day would be bright sun and our shadows, cast on the water to spook fish...

But we were wrong. The fish were hungry, darting quickly from their hiding places under rocks to strike a fly at any opportunity.

We went pool for pool, and split the stream up into sections where we didn't have pools to fish, leap-frogging each other on the way up. There was plenty of water and we had plenty of fish to catch.

Areas like this one, below create wonderful hiding spots and deeper channels where the fish hide. Its always a good bet to drift through those little channels - they are like the "pools" of fast moving sections of stream.

And each one yielded nice fish, too.

A big portion of this trip was about surveying the stream to see how the trout were recovering... and it appeared they were recovering nicely! With an average of 7ish inches on the fish I caught, this stream has a head start on some of the other small streams I've fished in the high peaks. 

In addition to the average sized brookies I speak of above, some pools were clearly homes and possibly spawning grounds for the little guys, like this:

Other pools were deeper than they looked, and I lost a really nice fish here somehow.

But there was never a reason to fret, as around each bend and over each large rock a new waterfall, plunge-pool or small-run waiting just for us.

Part of this kind of fishing is the landscape, and I was paying more attention to that than to my drifts for most of the day, not such a bad "problem" to have, right?

I spent a lot of the day practicing casting with unweighted kebari and using a Nissin Air Stage 240 and an Oni type III. I switched to the standard bead head flies that I enjoy tying, like the one below, for the deep, fast plunges where fast-sinking was necessary. 

One of my favorite views of the day, where I ate an afternoon lunch. Afterwards, I grabbed a small brookie along that ledge.

And so it continued...

... for a few more hours, until the bugs got intense, and the headnets came back out.

We had been on the water for hours, a whole day almost, and I was starting to get a little bit tired and sloppy about my casting.

Luckily that didn't matter too much - as the sun dipped, the fish became more eager and willing to dart out from their hiding spots to grab a fly.

I wondered if there were possibly two different strains of brookies in the area... one seemed more turquoise and purple with more silvery undersides, with the other being more green and tan, tones of copper and all... as seen in this contrast. I don't know enough about the science to make any calls...

I decided to call it quits after this last perfectly-proportioned fish... I had lost count long ago, and was more than content with where the day had gone.

Weary and sore from three days of navigating large rocks and rushing water, I made my way back to camp to get us set up for dinner. 

Sugi joined me a a bit later and we set to cooking and relaxing, while I began to learn the Japanese Alphabet and some new phrases for my trip in September.

We retired early to our tents - Sugi in his Hilleberg and me in my zPacks Solplex. As I lay back in my sleeping bag, I recounted the events of the last 3 days, fishing so many beautiful spots for different kinds of trout, with different rods and flies. 

Slowly I drifted off to a sleepy dreamscape, loosely defined by the repetition of the motions of that day. The fly, landing perfectly in just the right place; something about the rhythm - picturing, no feeling - the perfect cast, and then that moment the fish appears and takes the fly...

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Northeast American Genryu #3 - NYC Tenkara Anglers in the High Peaks

Last weekend was the NYC Tenkara Anglers trip to the Adirondack High Peaks. It was sublime, and I don't really know how I'll do it justice in words, so this post is going to be photo-heavy and split into two parts.

A few of the other guys who were supposed to join couldn't make it, so it ended up being just two of us... with plenty of beautiful water to fish. We started at one of the C&R section along he Ausable West Branch on Thursday afternoon.

This river holds tons of fish, many more fish per mile than most rivers closer to home. Its worth a trek. If you're looking to hook into multiple larger holdover browns, or to spend a day drifting dries, this is a perfect river for it.

We both started off with some smaller fish - the action was on right away. It is possible to pick pockets with dries or soft hackle flies pretty much anywhere, and catch fish. What a treat.

Moving up to the bottom of one of my favorite runs, I hooked into the largest fish of the day, around 16-17" or so. It fought hard and made the Suntech Grayce II sing in the current. I love that.

Nice colors on this one, and good healthy proportions. Plenty of food to eat here!

Moving up to the faster water at the head of the run, I grabbed another decent sized fish. And this was after another guy had just pulled 4 or 5 out just 15 minutes earlier. What's not to love?

The colors were more beautiful on this fish, and it was almost the same size, maybe a bit smaller. Needless to say I was already really happy and it was only a couple of hours into our adventure.

That night we stayed at a local state campground and prepared for backpacking into the high peaks region the following day.

We did our best to keep the packs light and so we obviously left waders and vests OFF the list, carrying neoprene socks, gaiters and light weight water shoes in case we had to go in. The water is freezing cold up in the mountains, you need some neoprene - don't think you're going to stand there with nothing on your feet, they will go numb in seconds.

The forecast was almost unbelievable with 4 straight days of sun and beautiful weather. We knew that would make for some challenging fishing due to shadows and exposure, but that hardly mattered when looking at the big picture.

The hike in to camp was only about 3 miles, maybe a bit more. The trails here are well marked and well used, albeit mostly for hiking, not accessing streams and lakes for fishing.

Arriving at the site, we took a few photos in the "tenkara action figure" style. Why don't these exist yet? Good times.

 The most important thing you can bring here is a bug head-net. If you leave that behind you are in trouble. BIG TROUBLE. Bring gloves, too.

Needless to say, the streams here are epically beautiful. 

Some of them meander through beaver meadows and provide perfect deep-cuts along curved banks. Others cascade and tumble down the rocks providing pockets and deep bathtub pools. On the first day we only fished the latter.

The brookies here are not stocked fish. There is no regular stocking at all, and my understanding is the limited attempts at stocking in the past were not successful as the acid rain had kept the water at less than suitable levels for the fish and the insect life.

We discovered, joyfully, that at this point, a natural recovery is well under way. The rangers told us that they are working to plan the stocking of a few key high elevation lakes and ponds soon in order to assess if it is time to re-stock the entire region.

Luckily the they've been raising heritage-strain brookies, some of which have already been stocked successfully farther west in the "West Canada Lakes" region. It will be great that this won't be a standard stocking program... its designed to return the area to its former natural glory and nothing more! Stock once or twice, then let it go. Awesome.

Sugi caught the nicest fish of the trip not half way into the first day. It was a legit 11" brookie, and it was fat. I was so excited to see this fish that I almost didn't believe it. My hands were shaky and the photo came out just a little bit more blurry than I would have liked..

Moving up we began to pick up more and more fish, many in the prime 7.5-8.5 inch range, with a few hitting 9 or more. What a treat.

The holding spots were almost endless, and with no slack and just a few seconds of clean drift, fish were darting for the fly left and right. Each holding area seemed to support just one healthy fish.

Its really quite interesting to see the different coloring on the fish, some being much darker with purple, others being very green or even more turquoise. 

We got to a deeper pool with a small waterfall and each pulled a couple of fish out before moving up. The fish in this pool were darker colored than some of the others we had caught.

The Oni Type III makes a fantastic rod for this kind of fishing, and I used a combo of that, a Nissin pocket mini 270, and a Nissin Air Stage 240 for the tighter spots under branches and overhanging trees.

It is a little sad to know that the Oni type III will no longer be produced in the camouflage handle. It has become my favorite small stream rod. I hope that eventually they return to this grip style - its really iconic, recognizable, and unique among a sea of black rods with black grips. (Boring!)

As the sun began to set, we moved around a bend and into a beautiful set of cascading pools...

This might have been my favorite fish of the trip. But just as I thought it couldn't get any more beautiful, we came upon a truly amazing gorge with really steep walls and a set of small waterfalls at the top.

I wanted to know what was above the falls and around the bend, but the map indicated it could be the end of the "good" fishing... the stream splits some short distance above this location, and it seemed like the right time to call it a day.

Standing in the gorge for a few minutes I just soaked it all in. The emotions that his place stirred up were powerful and I walked towards the falls to take another photo.

Shortly thereafter we headed back to camp to make dinner and relax. We were tired and slightly worn out from a long day, but we were both excited about what the next day would hold. A full moon lit up the night sky and I could hardly wait for another beautiful sunny Adirondack day and more vibrant and colorful wild trout. 

To be continued...