Sunday, December 27, 2015

Fly Fishing for trout in New York City without a Car

There is no shortage of names and adjectives used to describe New York City – The “city that never sleeps”, the “Big Apple” the “Concrete Jungle”… The list goes on and on… but very few people know that NYC is a fly fishing hub.  The East River, Jamaica Bay, Far Rockaways, Staten Island provide a fantastic playground to anyone interested in catching striped bass and bluefish. 

But what about the "sweet water" enthusiast?

What are the options for the non-motorized New Yorker when the River is calling your name?  When the thoughts of wading a clean, cold river in hopes of rising trouts and you are left without a car and can’t drive over the Mighty West Branch of the Delaware?  There is hope, fellow angler! Just pack a 4 weight rod, a pair of waders and head to Grand Central station (or 125th street if you are uptown).  Get a $28 round trip ticket to Croton Falls and hop in the North Metro MTA.

It takes about 1 hour to get there, just enough time to get though your emails, enjoy a cup of coffee and catching up with the news. Once you arrive at the station, the river is literally 5 min away (see map - the red circle is the station). My advice here is to spend some time on the bridge and look for surface activity.

The Croton Fishery is basically 2 little rivers;  the West Branch – and the East Branch.  This is not the Bow river in Canada… but it provides a decent fly-fishing opportunity with a well-managed catch and release, artificial only, section.  The fish are mostly brown trouts, with an average size of 10-15 inch and since the river is not that deep they tend to rise pretty consistently.  See map - the green indicates where you can fish:

I enjoy fishing Croton for personal reasons. I fly fished there with my wife and we caught fish before a huge storm caused us to take shelter in the woods… and every single time I look at a specific tree I recall the words she was calling because, yes, she was right – the Storm was coming – but the trouts were raising too…  My best friend caught one of his first trout on a dry fly there as well.  5 years and thousands of hours fly-fishing later we still laugh at this poor little trout who was the catalyst, to an insane amount of fishing trips afterward…

Fly fishing is not just about catching fish… if our end goal was solely focused toward that end we would not be fly-fishing to begin with! Creating lasting memories, discovering new places and meeting friendly folks down the line (no pun intended) are an essential part of the sport.

While you are there don’t forget to get some food in local shops, sandwich, subs and pizzas are delicious, especially after a long day of wading, exploring and catching trouts.

Trains are running every 45 min or so on weekends so you’ll be back in no time in the city and will most likely have some good story to tell your colleagues on Monday!

Friday, February 28, 2014

2013 - The Year of Big Trouts / Streamer fishing in New York

2013 will never be remembered as a great year for dry fly.

Sure - we had some good hatches in the Spring but nothing compared to 2012 where the trouts were feeding on top from March to July...

Last year was a good year for me. I am not gonna complain. My number of trouts were down but they were a lot bigger than usual and I mean a LOT bigger!

When you talk about big trouts in New York City people sometimes give you the "funny look". Sure enough, you may have to travel a bit to find them but I will say it loud and clear: Big trouts, above 20 inches, wild trouts or holdovers are actually under fished.

Let me explain. These big fish have a singular behavior. They are the Alpha types, they don't have predators other than maybe otters, eagles and humans. Dumbing it down a little, we can say they OWN their pool, no other fish bother them and they are very territorial. Having said that, these fish are the living proof of an extraordinary self protecting instinct. They have survived, floods, fisherman and predators back when they were small. They are extremely wary and will spook / shut down at any unusual sound / sight.

Coming back to my original point, I sincerely believe that these big fish do not behave like majority of trouts. They live in large, deep pools or next to the strongest currents are very rarely specifically targeted by fly fisherman - myself included!

Fighting a BIG TROUT in frigid water

Since last year was not a great year for dry fishing, I reluctantly, turned to fishing streamers. And when I do fish streamers, I go deeeeeeeep. I like to use really heavy stuff because I know that, especially in early season, the big trouts are in the deepest part of the river. Fishing these deep waters means PATIENCE.

One, you have to wait for your streamers to sink.

Two, you have to mend the line a couple times to reach the right depth. That type of fishing is clearly not for everyone and demands a LOT of concentration.

Remember, these big trouts will NEVER take a dragged streamer. The action of your streamer has to be NATURAL, pretty much like a good nymph drift with minimal twitches.

My Biggest Trout of the West Branch of Delaware - A Fat Trout
For all the beginners out there and to give you a little perspective on this type of fishing - you basically cast upriver at 35 feet or so, wait and mend the line until it reach the deep part of the pool then realistically, you will be able to "fish" 2 or yards of river correctly... Your streamer is covering a lot of distance but really you are effectively fishing it just a little over 10%. This type of fishing implies a perfect positioning on the bank.

Targeting BIG trouts has not been my number one focus but I enjoy it more and more... These big fish are really beautiful [and picky]. Fishing for them require more discipline than usual and I wanted to share my 2 cents on it and hope that the 2014 season will be rewarding!

Keep these lines wet!


Sunday, February 23, 2014

This Morning We Saw a Dolphin next to City Island

Early this morning, my good friend and neighbor, Willem bumped into me while I was putting my SUP on my car. After less than a five minutes of chat I invited me to join me on a flat water winter training session in Pehlam Bay, in the New York Bronx.

After a quick trip we arrived at our launch point and the conditions were just EPIC. No wind at all, no wave, bright blue sky and not a boat on the water.

Leveraging on such good conditions we paddled all the way to Execution Rock Lighthouse, located between in Long Island Sound.

The paddle was nothing short of ideal and as we were going on our way back I spotted something on my left... It looked like a seal, only with a big fin...What is this THING???... I am like - could this be a....... DOLPHIN!?!?

We decided to paddle to it and we saw it - a grey little dolphin, taking little breath and "paddled" around us for a while!

Then a couple of seals decided to join our party and it was just UNBELIEVABLE... I mean, here we are, at approx. 10 minutes drive from the city, surrounded by a dolphin and a couple of seals...

After catching a wild Atlantic Salmon last year I thought I have seen it all... but NO Long Island Sound always manage to surprise me by its bio-diversity and its gorgeous colors!

Winter Paddling is amazing! Go out there!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Fishing at Night for Striped Bass around New York City

Hi everyone

Fishing at night is not easy.

You have to be prepared, concentrated and very aware. Because night is the time where the big fish feed, I have been doing a little bit of night fishing with my good friend LQN who likes it more than me.

Night fishing is daunting at first... you don't know where you are, where to cast and even if fish see your fly or your lure...

The only way to get strikes and catch fish is easy to summarize: FISH SLOWLY... That's it... nothing else beats a slow moving fly or lure when you fish at night. Don't focus on the depth of your lure but rather keep in mind that big fish will generally feed in the first 2 feet of water and keep in mind that you'd need to use dark color.

That is IT - Be concentrated, set your drag a little tighter if you are going to fish in rough conditions and do not forget your head lamp and your Korkers - Safety First!


Friday, August 16, 2013

What Do I Do When I am Not Fishing From My SUP? Well... I Surf it!

Hi everyone,

Fishing is my passion, but over the years I have come to SUP surf more and more often. I really do enjoy the adrenaline rush and the pleasure associated with catching [and surfing] a wave. There is something truly amazing in being able to enjoy the water freely. SUP Surfing is also a great way to stay healthy, strong and relaxed!

See below a little video about SUP Surfing in and around New York City.

Hope you'll have fun watching it!

All the Best,

Friday, May 3, 2013

EPIC - An article about me in the New York Times!

New York Times Article

Stand Up, Cast Off, Reel In


Relaxing with a rod and a beer is not the way someone named Pierre A. Champion goes about landing a prize catch.

“This is not wait-and-see fishing — this is run and gun,” he said on Thursday, referring to his style of angling: standing on a thick surfboard and paddling it like a gondolier, with his rods at the ready. It is the most challenging method he can find to chase schools of fish.

“I’ve never seen anyone else in New York doing it,” said Mr. Champion, 31, who suits up like a frogman and plies New York City waterways while many New Yorkers are hitting the snooze button or ordering dessert.

Using a stand-up paddleboard enables him to quietly position himself near a school of fish or next to a promising spot. Then he grabs his rod from the deck of the board and begins casting.

The board lets him reach the shallows, ply the jetties, and nose around the piers and rocks where fish linger.

One of his favorite spots is a craggy island inhabited by sea gulls between City Island and Hart Island in the Bronx. He paddled quietly up to it Thursday morning as the sun rose on Long Island Sound, and he pulled out a plastic case of his own hand-tied lures. He attached one to the line of his fly rod and began whipping it over the water’s glassy surface.

It was here, four days earlier, also at dead-high tide, that Mr. Champion landed an Atlantic salmon, a rare catch for this area.

Mr. Champion usually releases his catch, but the hook had mortally wounded the salmon. So he hauled it onto his kayak — which he was using that day because of rough water — and later took it to a City Island tackle shop, where the employees told him they could not remember one being caught on a rod and reel in these parts.

Mr. Champion sent snapshots to New York State environmental officials, who told him the endangered fish might have come from the Connecticut River and failed to head out to the ocean. The state officials came to Mr. Champion’s apartment in Harlem to collect samples of the fish from his freezer for further study.

“They told me they never heard of someone catching this kind of salmon on a lure here,” said Mr. Champion, who is not resting on his laurels.

“My goal now is to catch a bluefin,” he said, referring to a trophy tuna that would also have no business wandering around the coast of the Bronx.

“This is who I am — I’m always going to be the seeker — even in business, it’s the same,” said Mr. Champion, who works in Midtown for a private equity firm buying distressed companies. “In both pursuits, I’m the guy who’s going to seek the deal and never give up, no matter how many hurdles.”

He began his day on Thursday at 5 a.m. by stepping out of his apartment in the darkness, strapping his paddleboard to his sport utility vehicle and driving about 15 minutes to City Island. He parked and pulled on his wet suit, as well as a vest and waist pouches for his fishing tackle. He tucked two fishing rods — a fly rod and a spinning reel — under an elastic strap on the board and paddled out from a small beach toward the sunrise.

Mr. Champion said he grew up in Ardeche, in the south of France, and would fly-fish the rivers for trout with his father. He became an avid kayaker too, and used his kayak to fish.

Shortly after moving from France to New York City at age 25, he bought a stand-up paddleboard and began fishing from it.

On the windless Sound on Thursday morning, one could sense the city coming to life, with traffic whooshing on the parkways and building on the Throgs Neck Bridge. The BX-29 city bus rumbled over the bridge as Mr. Champion fished underneath.

At times, Mr. Champion held his rod down with his foot, letting the line trail in the water while he paddled. The goal, he said, was to get into rod-bending fights with big fish, like the 44-inch bass that recently pulled him around out by Execution Rocks lighthouse, in the Sound.

“It’s a stand-up sleigh ride,” he said.

After several hours of no luck, just before he was about to head in to go to work, he hooked something. It was no salmon, but rather a 2-foot long striper. Mr. Champion carefully removed the hook and let the fish slip back into the Bronx waters. Then he paddled back to shore.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The DEC confirms it - It was a Wild Atlantic Salmon

It is confirmed by DEC expert on the subject - the fish was a wild Atlantic Salmon:

From DEC's email:

"First, we got the opinion of Connecticut's salmon expert and he agrees with you. His response: "This is definitely an Atlantic salmon. Moreover, I do not believe that it is a hatchery fish—one of the broodstock that we stock into the Shetucket and Naugatuck rivers as part of the broodstock trophy fishery. I believe this to be a wild, post-spawned Atlantic salmon departing the Connecticut River, not entering it. I suspect that it entered the river last year, spawned, and was late to depart back to the ocean as a kelt due to the absence of a spring freshet. The fish is very skinny and not fully reconditioned as we would expect a bright incoming sea-return fish to have done. You can see that it is mostly head. It may have gotten lost in Long Island Sound and begun feeding and partially reconditioned."

Now the bad news. Atlantic salmon are an endangered species and you are prohibited by law to take or possess them. We know it was not intentional, and that the fish died because of bleeding. If you still have the fish or any parts of it, I'd ask that you please surrender it to DEC and we'll send it to Connecticut for analysis. I can make arrangements to have it picked up by Law Enforcement. We will not file any charges."

Since I have anticipated this answer I have saved tissue, scales and flesh along with high resolution pictures of the fish.

It is a little bit sad that I couldn't released this wild fish last Sunday. But it also may be the sign that environmental efforts are paying off and that fisheries around New York City are improving but we still do need to pay close attention to its fragile habitat.

An incredible wild fish and may be the sign that wild Atlantic Salmons are back