Monday, May 23, 2016

An Evening on the Beaverkill River

On Friday I had meetings in Scranton, PA, so I packed an overnight bag and my fishing gear into the car before I headed out in the morning in order to end the day fishing in the Catskills.  I got to the cabin in Roscoe in the late afternoon, and then quickly headed to the river.  As I drove down along the river, I could see that many folks had the same idea as I did; all of the popular spots had anglers lined up in them.  The lot at Barnhart's was full with about 7 or 8 cars, Hendrickson's pool had a few guys, Cairns of course had a small legion of folks fishing it, and so on down the river.  I went to spot I thought might have a few anglers, but much to my surprise and delight, it was void of fishermen.

The weather and water were perfect.  Thin high clouds muted the sun and the breeze was negligible.   The air was in the low 60's F, and thick with humidity.   The river was at a good level, clear, and in the low 50's.  A fair number of caddis were mingling about above the water, and March Browns hatched sporadically.   The caddis were a mix of early ginger caddis, shad caddis, and smaller grannoms.  A fair number of #16 rusty spinners also dotted the water surface, likely of the Blue-winged Olive species that hatch in the mid to late mornings this time of the year.   As I rigged up my rod on the riverbank, I scanned the currents that skirted the  half-exposed rocks along the far bank, and noted a few rising fish in the seams and eddies.

I waded out past the halfway point and watched the couple of fish rising for a few moments.  One was rising aggressively, likely to caddis, and the other two were sipping in their meal, likely spinners or spent caddis.  I decided to move up to work the one rising just above an exposed rock with regularity.  This was the one I thought was working caddis that were either emerging or trapped on the surface.  I tied on a tan bodied caribou caddis, size #16, and after making a couple test casts, I focused on the target.   After landing a few casts above the target that created drag almost immediately, I realized I needed to get closer and above the target, so I could lay down a parachute cast and let the current bring the fly into the fish's feeding zone from above.

Once I was in position, I dropped my fly about three above the working fish, only to have the fly move in a circle before it got to where the fish was rising.  Multiple current played havoc with my fly and line, which meant I had to drop the fly only a few inches above the fish in order to get a good drift.  It also meant the fish had to react in a nanosecond in deciding if it wanted my offering.  It was the only option.  So I false cast for a bit to feel the rhythm of the rod and line as it laid out in front of me in the air.  Once I was comfortable, I stopped my forward cast as the fly moved past the target, and it bounced back with slack  in the leader while the fly landed only 6 inches or so above where the fish had been rising.   The fly moved a few inches and then a golden shape moved rapidly from below and grabbed the fly like it was just another caddis drifting by.  After a brief but spirited fight, I reached out with my net and landed a nice brown of about 14 inches.        

I had been so focused on the fish I didn't realize until I'd released it that several anglers had joined me down river.  So I moved up a ways to work a few fish that were working near the bank in a short run that had seams and eddies and soft water.  The surface currents were hard to read, and made the majority of my casts worthless well before the fly got near the fish.  I love a challenge, and worked hard over the next hour to get the right cast and drift.  The results were good, but not great, with three fish hooked and one of them landed.  The two that got off I had on for a bit before the hook come out.  I suspect they were not hooked well due to the fact that I had to have a lot of slack in my tippet to get a good drift, so the hook set was less than solid.  Who knows for sure?  I got them to take my fly, which is the whole point, but it would have been nice to land them.  All of the fish took the caribou caddis.

Sharpen your hooks.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

What We Are Tying

We didn't fish this past weekend, instead we spent most of it hanging out with Henley and tying flies during nap time.   You see, my daughter came up Thursday and dropped him off with "Pop-pop," before heading to Philadelphia for a few days.  It was a wonderful few days with the Little Man.     

With it being mid-May and some great hatches coming up (once winter moves out for good), I had to catch up on tying the dries I'll be fishing in the next couple of weeks.

First off, here's an Extended-body March Brown tied on a size 12 dry fly hook.  The first picture shows the unfinished fly with the exposed shank in front of the wing - after I tie in the hackles, I cover the shank with a single layer of thread - this allows allows me to wind the hackle uniformly without crowding the eye.   

The finished Extended-body March Brown.

I tied a bunch of Caribou Caddis, too.  Some with tan bodies, some with olive green bodies, and a few with gray bodies.  

And with the small Sulphurs about to start, I tied a bunch of #16 and 18 snowshoe rabbit Sulphur emergers - Sulphur Usuals.  It's a simple fly that works well both here in the East, and out West for the PMD's.  

And here's Henley sitting on the couch watching Sponge Bob Square Pants.  I haven't watched that many cartoons in decades!  The phrase of the weekend was, "Pop-pop, sit here!"  It didn't matter where we were, I had direct orders to sit next to him at all times.

Sharpen your hooks!

Monday, May 9, 2016

Tying the BPS Spent Caddis & the Dustup Caddis

Here's a couple of recent tying videos from Tightline Productions of Tim Flagler tying a spent caddis and an adult caddis. Now that we are well into the springtime hatches, caddis are an abundant food source for the trout, so its imperative that anglers carry various imitations when out on the water. 

In addition to having spent and adult imitations, make sure you carry emerging caddis patterns, such as the Iris Caddis or LaFontaine Sparkle Emerger, and egg-laying patterns such as the Egg-laying Grannom Caddis. All three of these patterns are featured on the Tightline Productions video Vimeo or YouTube pages.

Sharpen your hooks.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Henley Is Getting Promoted in October

To big brother!

Yes, that's a fishing rod in his left hand.  He takes it everywhere he goes.  It's in his genes. : )

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Dispatch From Doug

Doug spent some time on a Northeast Pennsylvania river this past weekend and sent me a few photos from the trip.  How's that for an awesome brown?  The kid can fish!

Sharpen your hook!

Friday, April 29, 2016

A Long Winded but Successful Weekend In the Catskills

(click photos to enlarge) 
My son Matt and I went up to the Catskills last weekend to spend a couple of days fishing with a few of my friends.  We arrived on Saturday and headed straight to the East Branch of the Delaware where we met up with the rest of the gang.  The river was a little low, clear and cold; the weather was cloudy, cool, and a fierce wind ripped through the river valley relentlessly.  And all kinds of flies were hatching in good numbers - hendricksons, blue quills, early stoneflies and grannom caddis.  Occasionally, a bug would get blown onto the water where it would be quickly gobbled up by a fish.  Unfortunately, this was the exception rather than the rule, as most of the bugs that got hammered to the water surface drifted without being taken except for getting waterlogged by the little whitecaps.  We went fishless, cold, and called it a day much earlier than we had hoped.

Sunday morning a bright sun bathed the landscape.  The air was cool and the wind still crashed the party, but not as hard as the day before, and today it offered breaks to the patient angler.  My son and I decided to fish the Beaverkill, which turned out to be a great choice.  When we got to the water, only one other angler was in sight.  The air was filled with thousands of freshly hatched Shad Caddis - Brachycentrus appalachia. This caddis species is easily identified by its fairly bright olive-green abdomen and brown and grey mottled wings that are roughly twice the length of the insects body.  Along the banks where rocks sheltered the water from the wind, the surface had mats of freshly jettisoned pupal shucks. Midstream, in the riffles, trout were rising everywhere.  It seemed as though every fish in the river was taking flies off the surface.                    

With all the caddis hatching, in our excitement, we first tried olive bodied Iris Caddis imitations. Our flies were ignored, so we stopped fishing and carefully watched the activity of the flies and the trout.  The trout were sipping in the flies, which is an indication that they are not feeding on emergers.  And, we observed dozens of spent caddis on the water around us, which may have been spent egg-layers or perhaps freshly hatched insects that got blown onto the water so hard that they couldn't regroup and take off again.  Many were struggling, sending tiny concentric wave vibrations out along the surface.  I then focused on one of these drifting, spent flies and sure enough, it was sipped in by a brown.  I watched another and another caddis, and all had the same fate as the first I saw.

I tied on an olive bodied caribou caddis, size 16, and using my thumbnail at the base of the wing, I forced it to spread out over the body like the naturals.  Before I began looking for a target, I called Matt over an gave him a few flies.  And then it was game on. A challenging game with the high wind, but nonetheless the opportunity was there as long as we were patient with the wind.  When it would calm down enough, we cast quickly and dropped our flies above rising fish, and if the drift was clean, the fly would get sipped in with confidence.  If the fly had any amount of drag, even the slightest bit, it wouldn't even illicit a cursory glance upward by our quarry.  Other times, the wind would rise just as our line and leader unfurled, and our line, leader and fly would land anywhere but where we intended it to go.  Yes, we did some swearing, had some wind knots, lost flies, but mostly we had a great time on the water.  Matt did a great job handling the wind and making good casts, and hooking up.

Over about 4 hours or so, we hooked dozens of fish and landed the majority of them.  All of them brown trout, with most displaying distended bellies from gorging on the caddis. We didn't land anything huge, but we did manage to bring a few 16-17 inch fish to net.  All were released to continue their food fest.                    

Sharpen your hooks and fish with your kids!

Monday, April 25, 2016

Soft~Hackle Journal - Bill Shuck Form & Function

Just Emerged PMD - Bill Shuck
Our humble friend and soft hackle magician, Bill Shuck, has a nice write up about his flies and his thoughts on tying, in the Soft~Hackle Journal blog.  His sentiments on flies, their form and function, and their origin are well worth the read.  His flies are sparsely dressed, well-proportioned and visually appealing, and as such, its easy to understand why he (or any angler) would have nothing but confidence in their effectiveness.

Read it for yourself here: Soft Hackle Journal - Bill Shuck Form & Function