Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Tying the Rusty Rat

In this video I tie an Atlantic salmon fly known as the Rusty Rat.  The Rusty Rat is a classic hairwing salmon fly that was developed by Joseph Pulitzer II and Restigouche County, New Brunswick fly tyer Clovis Arseneault.  The original pattern actually had a black thread head, but sometime later the red thread head became the standard.  The pattern also become popular when tied using other colors of floss, thus in addition to the Rusty Rat, we now have Green Rats and Blue Rats. As usual, Tim did an awesome job producing the video.

Here's a Green Rat, which is also a popular color for Atlantic salmon.  I actually tie more of this color for clients than the Rusty Rat, as I am told it produces better overall for them.

Sharpen your hooks!

Monday, January 16, 2017

Sawyer Pheasant Tail Nymph - The Original

In the years since Frank Sawyer created his ubiquitous Pheasant Tail Nymph, tied using just pheasant tail fibers and copper wire, the fly has undergone several incarnations here in the USA. Many of these variations involve the addition of peacock herl for the thorax, and legs, and of course there are several beadhead pheasant tail patterns widely used.  All of these variation have one thing in common; the use of thread to bind the materials to the hook.  Sawyer's version, meant to imitate the slender, streamlined Baetis sp. nymphs so common in the chalkstreams of England, is elegant in its simplicity and very effective.  It's my preferred version, which I often fish alone on a long leader and light tippet, straight upstream.  Whether I'm fishing the shallow riffles of an Eastern freestone, or those of the Madison River, the fly produces.

Sharpen your hooks!

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Elements of Style - The Prince Nymph

The Prince nymph is an elegant, effective subsurface fly that in its original form is recognized by fly anglers all over the world.  With subtle changes in materials and the position of them, we have tied the same fly the same way, the results of which are two distinct profiles of this wonderful fly. 

One is tied with a coachman brown hackle collar and the white goose biot wings turned upwards. And the second is tied with a brown speckled hen hackle collar and the white goose biot wings with the tips turned downwards.  It's the same fly, yet each style offers a specific profile.  See what you think below.  The first set is taken from a top angle, and the second set from the side.         

Click on photos to enlarge


In the end, I think either pattern, when fished properly, will produce equally as well as the other.

Sharpen your hooks!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

A Reader Writes - Thoughts on Nymph Color

Phil M wrote us an email asking about our thoughts on why light colored nymph patterns are successful:

Ginger Hare's Ear Nymph

Here is an interesting question I would like your take on:

I grew up in New Jersey, moved to Illinois and will be moving back to New Jersey in the near future.

In looking at the major Eastern hatches (Sulphurs, Hendricksons, Slate Drakes, Cahills and BWO’s) most of these nymphs are either an olive, a brown, or an olive brown mix. That being said, anglers in New Jersey do very well using a light colored Hare’s Ear nymphs. Some March brown nymphs are a very light brown or cream mixture and I’ve see nymphs marked Sulphurs that are almost white or hendrickson nymphs tied with an orange hue. I am aware of the molting stage that make these nymphs lighter, but in the case of the species of mayflies I mentioned, shouldn’t 99% be an olive, a brown or some mixture therein? 

If a majority of these natural nymphs are an olive, a brown or somewhere in between, than why do we see success with light colored mayfly nymphs?

What would be your preferred choice of nymphs for NJ?

Thank you.

My take is that I agree with Phil's take; the majority of mayfly nymphs are on the darker side, most are mottled with dark and medium dark colors primarily browns and olives, with some golden or amber shades mixed in the mottling.   Many of the lighter nymphs are burrowers - they dig down into the sand or silt, which naturally tends to be shades of light brown and tans.  The trout see these nymphs mostly when they ascend to the surface to hatch, otherwise they are burrowed in the sandy bottom out of sight.  When stonefly nymphs molt, they are white for a very brief period before their new carapace hardens and becomes mottled with pigment. 

So why do trout readily take lighter nymphs?  I think for the same reason they take any fly - trout are opportunists.  They will grab anything that looks as though it may be food if it is drifting naturally and they are in a feeding mode.  I also think there are times when a trout takes a fly drifting by them simply as an intuitive, ancient reaction to "test" its authenticity, just as we know they grab small sticks or rise to a strike indicator.  Also, depending on the  color thread used and the dubbing blend, I have seen many light colored nymphs that darken quite a bit when they get wet.

 Natural Grey Hare's Ear Nymph

Rusty Hare's Ear Nymph (Hendrickson)

In the end, we really don't know for sure why trout take any of our flies no matter what color they are, except that in the absence of hands and fingers the only option they have to grab anything for any reason is to use their mouth.

Sharpen your hooks!

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Bud Lilly - Fly Fishing Legend R.I.P.

Bud Lilly, who became one of Montana’s best-known fly-fishermen and pioneered the catch-and-release ethic that saved wild trout fisheries and powered a huge expansion in the state’s outdoor economy, died Wednesday. He was 91.  Read more here: LINK

Sharpen your hooks and let 'em go.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Goodbye 2016

It was a very good year for us personally and we have much to be thankful for: a good job, new grandson, wonderful kids, my son is fishing again, good friends and our health.  Let's hope the rains come, the rivers rise, and we fish more in 2017 - and we'll blog more, promise.

Photo: Audun Rikardsen - Link
  Sharpen your hooks.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

A Chilly Outing

Monday December 26, 2016 -

I finally got on the water at around 3:30 pm.  You see, I had arrived at the river about a half hour before that, put on my waders and vest, only to find that in my haste to get out of the house I forgot to put my rods in the trunk of my car with the rest of my gear. Thankfully, I live only 10 minutes from the South Branch of the Raritan River, so I still had time to get in an hour or so of fishing before darkness set in.

The air was calm, 36 degrees F, and a light mist fell softly making for a raw but pleasant late afternoon on the water.  Did I say that?  Yes, sometimes it feels good to stand in a quiet stream, the cold, heavy air pinching at the bare skin on your face and hands.  It reminds me that I'm lucky to be alive and that all my senses work; it reverses the numbness that sometimes takes over the rest of my daily life.

The river was clear, sort of low for this time of the year, and right around 41 degrees F.  I was fishing my 10 foot, 3 weight, which has become my favorite rod to fish when the air is calm.  It even casts quite well in a light breeze, and has enough punch to turnover a hand-tied leader and small dry in those same conditions. Nothing was rising nor were there any bugs on the water or in the air, as you might have guessed.  So I tied on about 2 feet of fresh 5x tippet to the end of my already 10 foot leader, before tying on a size #16, green, beadhead Matt's Buzzer. The flow of the river across from where I was standing, and where I believed the trout would be holding, was fairly consistent so I dispensed with adding split shot to the tippet and fished by following my fairly straight line and leader with my rod tip, after throwing an upstream mend with each cast.

After about 10 minutes, and a single take that I missed, I decided to switch flies and tied on a #14 weighted Walt's Worm.  I fished this fly the same as I did the buzzer, and took a short step downstream after every few casts.  A few minutes into it, I had a solid take and after a brief fight landed a very dark brown trout that was about 11 inches in length.  I'm pretty sure this was one of the fish from Shannon's Christmas Stocking a few days earlier.

Another fine photo by M. Grobert
I covered most of the length of the pool in about 20 minutes, and although I didn't hook any more fish, I did see a number of fish move and flash in the clear water.  Being that the day was closing in on dusk, I decided to go back up to the top of the run, after which I shortened my tippet and tied on a black beadhead krystal bugger size #6.  Its one of the few streamer type flies I carry now, and with it, I can cover a lot of water in a short period of time.

I cast it right up against the bank, sometimes landing the fly on the rocks or in the brush, and if that happened I'd give it a brisk snap with the rod tip to pop it back into the river.  Either way, once the fly landed, I'd begin stripping it in short, quick strokes with my rod tip low, perpendicular to the flow.  And the fish couldn't resist it.  They came off the bottom like a torpedo to chase it, often hitting it short before turning and sliding back down to their holding position.

It was crazy streamer fishing from that point on, with fish chasing the fly on every retrieve.  I worked every inch of the water, stepping downstream every few casts.  I slowed up slightly, and began hooking up and landing fish.  More often than not, the strikes were short grabs of the marabou tail, but when they wanted the fly, they took it in and stopped its forward motion instantly.  In the last half hour of light I hooked 9 or 10 fish, and landed 6.  As the light faded, a hard take separated my tippet from the fly and I called it a day.

Sharpen your hooks!