Sunday, April 22, 2018

Hendricksons, Grannoms and Cold Clear Water

After spending time in SC visiting my daughter and the two little men, I returned this week to near perfect spring conditions on our New Jersey rivers.  At the Shannon's Beginners Fly Fishing Class yesterday I was talking to Tim Flagler, who has also been fishing the South Branch of the Raritan for many years, and we both agreed that the river is in the best early spring condition its been in many years.  This year the river rises after heavy rains, but recovers more slowly and levels out higher than it has in many years.  It also seems to be cleaner and very clear.  The there New Jersey rivers are much the same this year, perhaps the water table is recovering with regular rains and snow fall over the last few months.  Folks are complaining about how spring seems to be slow in coming, which is true, but for me it seems like its been more "normal" than it has been in many years.


Ok, so the hendrickson hatch is late this year, but the last week it has been the best we've seen in many years.  Yesterday afternoon while guiding one of the students, the hendrickson hatch was very good.  It was so good, the we could look down into the slow, clear water on the margins of the stream and see hundreds of hendrickson nymphs drifting by as they wiggled towards the water surface to hatch.  And hatch they did.  The dark mayflies drifted by on and off for several hours while the trout ignored them, which as an angler drives you crazy.  We kept hoping the trout would begin to rise so we could give the students the thrill of catching a fish on a dry fly, but it never happened.  Was it the cold water or some other unseen condition that kept the trout holding tight to he bottom?  We didn't even see fish flashing in the water column as they normally do when they feed on the ascending nymphs.  Dark Grannom caddis and some stoneflies were also on the water, and they too were ignored by the trout.

Dark Grannom
It was a very good day though.  Everyone caught fish and although it was cool and breezy, it was a beautiful day to be on the water initiating a few more folks to our wonderful sport.

Sharpen your hooks!

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Tying the Hendo Hammer

Our friend John Collins sat down in front of Tim Flagler's video camera's recently and tied his Hendo Hammer.  This quill bodied parachute style fly is intended to mimic a hatching Hendrickson nymph.  You can imitate any of the other mayflies in your area with this fly just by changing the colors of the fly and the size of the hook. 


Sharpen your hooks.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Another Easter to Remember

After Easter brunch this past Sunday, I headed to the South Branch to wet a line just as I have done on this holiday for many years.  Every time I fish on Easter I do it with my daughter Megan in mind.  You see, when she was ten years old, Vinnie and I took Megan fishing after Easter dinner to get both of us out of the house for a while so her younger brother and sister could nap.  We took her to a trout stocked pond in Sussex County and we had the whole place to ourselves.  That windless day in the fog and drizzle, while standing on the muddy bank of the pond, Megan caught seven good sized rainbow trout on a black woolley bugger.  I helped her cast the fly out and then she did the rest and giggled each time she hooked up. That afternoon and her big, dimpled smile is etched in my mind forever - I remember it as though it happened yesterday.  


This year I went alone except for the black woolley bugger in my vest from that day some twenty plus years ago.  That fly, along with one my daughter Leigh tied, and a few my son Matt tied, go along with me on every fishing trip.  The day was mostly sunny, cool and breezy with brief periods of calm.  The river was clear, cold and at a nice level for the 1st of April.  I started out fishing nymphs and after about an hour or so without a hit, I decided to tie on a black woolly bugger and see if the past would repeat itself.

As the afternoon moved on I started to see some dark grannoms in the air and a few blue-winged olives. When the breeze stopped for a few moments, quite a few little black stonefly females fluttered down from the tree branches and did their clumsy dance on the water surface as they attempted to drop their eggs.  I watched the bugs as they mostly drifted along untouched except for an occasional slashing take that was never repeated in the same location.  That is until a fish began rising steadily directly across the pool from me.

I quickly removed the tippet and the bugger from my leader, added a couple of sections to it and a 2 foot length of 6X, and tied on a #14 gray X-caddis.  After a couple of test casts to make sure my leader, tippet and the fly where landing on the water as they should, I made a cast to the rising fish.  My fly landed a foot above but wind blew just as it landed and moved my leader and the fly dragged.  After the fly drifted past the target, I picked it up, made a couple of false casts and with a reach cast dropped the fly  above the fish just after it had rose again.  That fly never had a chance with that winter hungry trout; it went maybe 3 inches before the fish grabbed it and I set the hook.  After a brief tussle, I netted the pretty brown you see above.

As it often happens, more stoneflies began to drop to the water and lay eggs as the sun started to move lower in the sky and with that more fish started to chase them on the surface.  I left the X-caddis on and over the next hour or so I took two more fish, rainbows, by immediately dropping my fly and skittering it over the area where a rise had just occurred.  If you have never taken trout by skittering a fly, when the conditions are right, give it try, the takes are nothing short of an explosion on the fly.

Sharpen your hooks.                            

Monday, March 26, 2018

A One Fly Day

Saturday I took advantage of the nice weather and spent much of it walking the banks of and wading in a few limestone creeks in the Lehigh Valley in Pennsylvania.  It was chilly when I hit the first stream in the late morning, but the sun was bright and quite warm despite the breeze that sometimes kicked up a few notches to a light wind.  The fresh snow of mid-week lay on much of the ground slowly melting, its run off mixing with the creek and coloring it the shade of tea with a touch of milk.  And among the brush and tree roots along the river banks, the first flowers of the year bloomed in small clumps, snowdrops.

At the first stream I fished nymphs in all the runs, pockets and pools that I know from years of fishing this creek hold wild brown trout that range in size from 5 inches to over 20 inches.  I know I was getting my fly deep enough as I lost a few to the rocks that cover the bottom, but the trout just weren't interested.  I even fished a few of Doug Freemann's flies to no avail. After a few hours of getting the skunk I needed to warm up so I walked back to my car, broke my rod down, got in and decided to warm up while I drove to another stream a short distance away.


When I got to the next steam, I was surprised to see only a few anglers spread out over a half mile or so of water.  The sun was high now, and an upside-down, daytime moon hung in the eastern sky looking very white against the deep blue sky.  The river was a little high, clear and a little "warmer" than the first creek I fished at 42 degrees F.  I rigged up again with a small beadhead pheasant tail and drifted it through every seam, foam line and pocket over a few hundred yards of water working upstream.  I switched flies a few times, lost a few, and managed to get one hit that was on for the length of time it takes the fish to turn and show one its tail.

By now it was mid afternoon and it being a beautiful day after several weeks of periodic snow storms, windy days and temperatures below normal, I wasn't going anywhere without catching at least one.  I walked back down stream slowly scanning the banks and foam lines trying to will a trout to show itself.  Sure enough, across a long, slow pool where a partially submerged log created a thin seam below where it split the current, a trout rose and took something off the surface.  A few seconds later it rose again, and I thought, "It looks like a dink, but what the hell."

I quickly redid my leader, added a two foot section of 6X tippet and tied on a #20 Matt's Gnat.  There being a lot of brush along the bank, I had no room for a back cast so I dropped below the fish and waded out far enough that I could get a back cast over the stream below.  My first cast pushed the fly past my target just off of the log, so I let it drift through and below the fish, and the fish rose again.  The next cast was good, but the fly dragged a little and went untouched.  I waited and the fish rose.  The next cast landed about a foot above the fishes last blip, drifted a short way and then was sipped in confidently.   After a spirited battle, I worked my net under the fish and lifted the rainbow you see above.  It measured about 12-13 inches long. I took the pic, removed the fly without touching the fish, and lowered it back into the drink when after a brief rest, it swam out and back to the deep, dark flow along the log.
 

Over the next hour or so I walked the bank back down to where I started and took two more fish, both browns, and both of them on the same fly I took the first fish on - the fly you see above.  I would have been more than happy to have had headed home with the just the first fish, and really wasn't expecting to see any more rises after that.  Some days are like that; nature gives you a rainbow and a pot of gold.     

               
Sharpen your hooks.        

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Lefty Kreh, Fly Fishing Legend, HasPassed

Bernard "Lefty" Kreh" passed away at home yesterday at the age of 93.  His impact on the lives of everyone that knew him, read his books and articles, or watched him work his magic at the fishing shows cannot be overstated.  He was truly a legend in every sense of the word.

Rest In Peace Lefty. 

                                                 Photo by David Cannon | davidcannonphotography.com

Here's a few links to articles on his life and legacy.


Marylander Lefty Kreh, a Hall of Famer and world-renowned ambassador of fishing, dead at 93

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Ed Engle Ties His Bubble Wing BWO Emerger

For those of you that live in a cave don't know who Ed Engle is, he is a well known fly fishing author and guide from Colorado.   I've gotten to know him and his dry sense of humor from doing the Fly Fishing Shows over the last couple of decades, and seem to learn something new from him every time we talk.  In this great video from Tightline Productions, Ed talks about his inspiration for the Bubble Wing BWO Emerger, how he fishes it, and or course shows us how he ties this very effective pattern.  
      

Sharpen your hooks!

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Spring 2018 Issue of Montana Fly Fishing Magazine



It's free and has some great articles and photography to help with the late winter cabin fever. Click on the cover above, or the link below.

LINK: Montana Fly Fishing Magazine - Spring 2018