Thursday, March 31, 2011

Bird Watching and Trout Behavior

I spend a fair amount of time watching the birds as they feed at the birdfeeder out behind our home in the morning, and it occurred to me several months ago that I could learn a lot from them as their behavior relates to fly fishing for trout. After all, they both live in a wild environment. They both have the same basic survival instincts as trout do, all predicated on self-preservation. And from all appearances, they have behavioral cycles that effect when and how they feed that may or may not be effected by the weather, sun light, or lack thereof, or the presence of predators. And of course, birds have the same obvious physical limitations that trout have; they do not have hands, and so must test food items with only their mouth (beaks), along with sight and smell. None of this should come as a surprise to us, as birds likely evolved from fish.

One of the things I notice is that when I go out to refill the feeder, the birds naturally move away from the deck and feeder area to what for them I assume is a safe distance from me. They view me as a threat. Trout feeding on the surface often do the same thing when we step into a pool to fish to them; they stop feeding and stay near the stream bed or move to deeper water. After I go back inside the house, sometimes the birds return quickly to the feeder, and other times, it takes an hour or more before one or two return to feed. Again, trout tend to be just as unpredictable; step into a pool one day and they keep rising, and on another day you step into a pool and they stop feeding as though someone flipped a switch.

When the fish will start to feed again can vary from a few minutes, to sometimes longer than you can wait them out. We would like to think that there is something we can do to get them to start feeding again when this happens, but it sure escapes me. This is the moment when many anglers begin changing flies at a very rapid pace, or worse, they tie on a big, ugly streamer and start ripping it through the pool thinking that the faster it moves the more it might piss them off enough that they will chase it and grab it in a fit of anger. Perhaps this is a form of transference – we’re pissed off, so maybe we can piss off our quarry, too. This is also known as stupidity, and there isn’t an angler that hasn’t been there done that.

For both the birds and fish, it seems their behavior can be as capricious as ours, but for different reasons. Although I can’t help but think that like humans, there are external factors that affect the birds and fish much the same way. I wonder…….when the sun comes up, are there some nights the fish didn’t sleep well? Do they mope around the stream the next day barely eating and just being grumpy? Or maybe they eat something that doesn’t “agree” with them. Maybe they had bad fish dreams about herons trying to stab them with their long, sharp beaks, and then the next day feel like crap, so they don’t feed. Or their lack of shut-eye maybe makes them tense and nervous, so they freak out when anything enters their realm, bird or man. One never knows, does one?

Well, we do know. Trout do not have cognitive brain function; they behave in order to survive. More likely, when the birds are skittish to the point my presence is clearly sends them packing, something probably occurred before I went out to refill the feeder. Maybe a cat was nearby, or a bird of prey, and my coming outside was the last straw and they bolt for a long while. And so with the fish, it’s just as likely a predator puts them on edge sometimes before we get to the water. The gliding shadow of a large bird overhead, a furry paw entering the water nearby, or maybe a large, dominant alpha trout has been asserting itself. So when we enter the stream, the sound of our boots on streambed rocks or surface ripples, become the last straw for the fish. They shut down. Enough is enough.

In fly fishing, like much of life, timing is everything. And something we often don’t have any control over. So, if you can get out and fish, relax and enjoy it…..and move your ass to another stretch of water if the trout don’t cooperate in the one you’re in at the moment.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

More On Spring Blue-winged Olives By Our Friend, Ed Engle

Although the article linked below is written for Ed's backyard - Colorado - his comments and information are apropos for matching and fishing the early spring blue-winged olive hatches anywhere in the continental U.S.
Remember that the fishing action really begins when the blue-winged olive nymphs, which are good swimmers, make their way from the stream bottom to the surface where they will emerge from the nymphal shuck as winged, air-breathing adults. Look for blue-winged olive emerger patterns in sizes 18-22 that utilize flashy synthetics such as Mylar, Krystal Flash, Antron or silver-lined glass beads. Besides giving the impression of movement and action, the flashy stuff also imitates the bright air bubble associated with a nymph as it heads toward the water's surface or as it begins to extricate itself from the shuck.

Link: Ed Engle: Spring winds delay the fly-fishing season - Boulder Daily Camera

I have recently tied up some emergers with the silver-lined glass beads after he showed his technique for them at one of the winter fly fishing shows. I'll post a photo when I get chance.

Some great information from one of the guys in our sport that speaks softly and should always be listened to.  I learn something from Ed everytime I talk to him, and he usually good for a laugh or two as well.

Get out and fish!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

A Couple of Olives for Early Spring

It's the time of year anglers will likely encounter hatching Blue-winged Olives just about any day on the water.  Baetis tricaudatus, has been showing on our local waters most days now, although the trout are not so eager to come up to the surface to feed on them as the water remains fairly cold.  On the limestone streams of Eastern Pennsylvania, reports are that the trout are looking up and taking the little olive-brown bodied, slate-winged mayflies.  It's only a matter of a few warms days before we'll see some action closer to home.  We are limited here in NJ to only the special regulation waters, as the season is closed on open regulation waters until April 9th.

Here are a couple of surface patterns I prefer for this hatch, as one sits right in the film, and the other sits on the film.   I like these patterns because the naturals they imitate tend to be slow to leave the surface as they fill their soon to be wide, blue-gray wings with life giving fluid in the cool, spring air.

This first one is a simple soft-hackle, size 20.  Tail is a few fibers from a dark, mottled Hungarian partridge neck feather; the body is dark olive with a touch of brown; and the hackle is also a Hun neck feather.  I fish this fly just as I would a dry.    

This one is a no-hackle, also tied on a size 20 hook.   The tail is a few Hun neck feather fibers; the body and thorax again is dark olive; and the wings are primary feather sections from a mallard wing.  Those wings stay together as they are here for about all of two or three casts, then they generally splay in place and the works great.

The one pattern not shown here is a cdc wing thorax olive.  I like it for the same reasons I like to fish the above patterns - it sits right on the water surface.

Tie some up and fish them!!!

And don't forget to sharpen your hooks.    

Friday, March 18, 2011

A Taste of Spring

Looks like the warm weather the last couple of days has awakened the streamlife around here.  The rivers and streams are receding from the recent heavy rains and snow run-off.  They are clear now, and at normal spring levels - on the high side, so wade carefully and make sure you cinch up the top of your waders to keep the water out if you go for an accidental swim.

The Little-black Stoneflies and Little-brown Stoneflies have been hatching quite well.  Look for the aggressive rises of trout along the margins of the stream as they chase the egg-laying females skittering on the surface to drop those eggs.  So far, from all the reports I have heard, the fish aren't looking up and taking them, but you never know. 

The early seaon Blue-winged Olives, Baetis tricaudatus, have also been hatching fairly well on some streams, and that can only get better as spring approaches.  

Here's a Little-brown Stonefly catching some rays on a streamside stone.  

Photo by John Collins

Get out and fish!  And sharpen those hooks.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

March Madness - Bahamas Style

From the lens and fly rod of J B McCollum, comes some true March Madness.

Click image for full size
Link: JB McCollum Photography

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Ramsey Outdoors Fly Fishing Day

With the local rivers blown out and in many cases flooding, if you're in New Jersey this Saturday, you may want to head to Ramsey Outdoors Store in Succasunna. In addition to a number presentations, they have a strong line-up of fly tyers who will be showing and teaching their skills to anyone that wants to sit across the table from them.

Join them for a day dedicated to Fly Fishing!

10:00 AM - Brian Cowden, River Restoration in New Jersey
11:00 AM - Darren Rist, Fly Fishing the Upper Delaware River
12:00 PM - Lance Wilts, Central Pennsylvania Fly Fishing
1:00 PM - Mike McAuliffe- 12 Months of Fly Fishing in New Jersey

Andy Brasco
John Collins
John Kavanaugh
Anthony Giaquinto
Lance Wilt
George Douglas from Kype Magazine
Joe Cebellos
Steve Fogel
Tim Mahony
Mike Nutto
and Leslie Wrixton!

And many more!

Saturday, March 12th, 2011
9:00 AM - 2:00 PM
Ramsey Outdoor, Succasunna
Call (973) 584-7798 for more information

I wonder if any of the tyers will mention the imporance of sharpening your hook while astream.

And if you are wondering what my local river looks like......can you say chocolate milk?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

We're Back From the Dead...

We're up and running again after a stretch of down time thanks to finally switching my URL from Blogspot. All kinds of bugs got created with the switch, none of which I understand, but after some help from a techie friend, looks like Caddis Chronicles is back to normal.....or as normal as it can be.

I'll have something for you later, got to tend ot my real job first.

Sharpen your hooks!