Monday, November 12, 2018

2018 International Fly Tying Symposium - This Weekend Nov. 17 & 18

This coming weekend the 28th annual International Fly Tying Symposium is being held at the Sheraton Parsippany Hotel in Parsippany, New Jersey.  This will be my 28th year of tying and presenting at the show, and this year my son Hunt will again be sharing the tying table with me.  He tells me he's been tying a lot lately and should be in fine form this weekend.  It's hard to believe that he was two years old when the first tying show was held.  Time flies!

The show will be open on Saturday 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. and on Sunday 9:00 a.m.-4:30 p.m. and will feature seminars, tying demos, vendors, and all things related to fly tying.

I'll be doing one seminar on Sunday at 2:15 PM - “Dry Flies - Tying and Matching the Hatch for Trout” This is a power point presentation on the flies I use to match common Northeastern hatches and specifics on tying them, along with how to fish them.

LINK: 2018 International Fly Tying Symposium

Hope to see you there.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Autumn on the Water

We've managed to get out on the water a few times in the last couple of weeks with mixed results thanks to the frequent rains and resulting changeable water levels and clarity.  We fished a small creek in Pennsylvania and managed a bunch of small wild browns in a few hours of fishing.  The river was up but clear, and a good drift with deep nymph was the ticket.  Like a lot of PA waters, the top fly was a plain old Walt's worm.  I also took a few on Galloup's Improved BWO nymph.  This little nymph has become a fairly consistent fish producer for me everywhere I fish it.

 Lehigh Valley freestone steam.

Galloup's Improved Blue-winged Olive nymph.
Locally, the South Branch of the Raritan River has fished well.  The water levels have been as good as we've seen this time of the year, in many years.  Most of the fish we've taken have come on Iris caddis fished deep, Walt's worms, Vinnie's Isonychia nymph and black woolly buggers.  The majority of fish have been rainbows in the 12-14 inch range, with a few smaller wild browns.

Yesterday when I arrived at the river mid-afternoon a steady light breeze carried the distinct odors of Autumn - drying corn fields, wood fires, and decaying plant matter along the stream bank.  There were quite a few dot-winged caddis in the air.  These are Autumn's most reliable hatch caddis in these parts; its a medium sized, tannish-brown clumsy flier that on breezy, windy days like yesterday often gets blown on to the water surface where eager trout will grab them confidently.  The river was at a perfect level and clear.  I tied on a 30 inch section of 5X tippet to the end of my leader and then knotted a size #16 tannish-brown caribou caddis to the end of it.

I fishing a fast riffle where two currents joined below an island and spread out over a rocky bottom. The far bank has a mature maple tree about halfway down the riffle whose lower branches reach out over the broken water leaving about 5 feet of shaded space.  Beginning at the top of the riffle I cast my fly randomly onto the riffle and follow its path with my rod tip, mending my line as needed to get a long, drag-free drift.  Sure enough after a few drifts a wild brown of about 8 inches grabbed my quickly moving fly and shortly thereafter I netted it.

South Branch of the Raritan River wild brown trout.
Depending on who you ask you will get a different answer from each person as to what flies are most productive in the fall. My first answer is, use the flies you have the most confidence in.  If you often do well fishing a beadhead pheasant tail nymph with a smaller zebra off the bend as a dropper, fish that.  If you have confidence in a hare's ear nymph or a prince nymph, fish that.  For me, if nothing is rising, in the autumn months I tie on a pheasant tail nymph, Vinnie's isonychia nymph, Walt's worm, iris caddis or lately Galloup's Improved BWO nymph.  In fast pocket water or deep runs, I also like to fish a serendipity or $3 dip.  I rarely fish more than one fly, preferring to fish just one with focus.  If those flies fail me, I tie on a black wooly bugger, which usually will at least get fish to chase it.
If you see fish rising, your choices should be fairly straightforward.  Most of the caddis you will see are tannish-brown and sizes #16-18, although early in the am I fish a size #10 or 12 October caddis imitation right along the banks where these large caddis hatch just before daybreak.  Often in the mid-afternoon blue-winged olives will hatch, they are generally small, sizes 20-22, and quite dark.  Slate drakes are still showing, too, but that hatch is waning here in NJ.  And don't forget midges; they may show on any given day and in any weather.  I fish my Matt's Gnat or Simple Snowshoe Emerger for these diminutive two-winged insects.
Bottom line - if you have even an hour, get out and fish, the rivers are in great shape, there are few anglers about, and its great for the soul.
Sharpen your hooks.      

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

NJ Trout Unlimited 9th Annual Fly Fisherman of the Year Event 11/3/18

New Jersey Trout Unlimited 9th Annual NJ Fly Fisherman of the Year event will be taking place on Saturday November 3 on Shannon’s Private Waters at the Raritan Inn Bed & Breakfast, Califon, NJ. As in past year's, during the day an angler from each of the NJ Trout Unlimited Chapters will fish in the event in a one-fly style format.  The fishing is then followed by a banquet, silent auction and awards presentation. A fully restored 1850’s barn will house displays and dinner. The event is sponsored by The Raritan Inn, Shannon’s Fly and Tackle and co-hosted with the NJ State Council of Trout Unlimited.  

Each NJ Trout Unlimited chapter is invited to select one (1) member each to participate in the event. There is no cost to enter and the day will include events such as rod demos, fly tying and fly casting demonstrations. The day’s events will be followed by a pre-registration only dinner @ $60.00, silent auction, and an awards presentation immediately following the "competition".  Here's a video of the 2015 event produced by Tim Flagler.

Arrival and sign in will begin at 7:00 AM with an orientation at 8:00 a.m. and the start of fishing scheduled for 9:00 AM to 11:45 a.m. Initial contestants will be cut to three finalists competing from 1:30 to 3:00, followed by the banquet at 5:30. Dinner registration is available by stopping by Shannon's Fly Shop or on line HERE - click on the EVENTS tab. Presentations and awards at 7:00 pm will finish out the fun filled day.  Shannon's Fly Shop 908-832-5736.

The event is a lot of fun, and aside from the fishing, is open to anyone that would like to attend - TU membership is not required.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

The Second Season - Fall Stocking

Here in New Jersey we have what might be called a second trout season that begins with the annual fall stocking of trout in our rivers, streams and lakes. This year, unlike recent low-water years, we are fortunate to have very good water levels, so the fish will have plenty of room to spread out.  All of the fish will be rainbow trout in the 14"-18" range.  Stocking begins on October 9th with rivers and streams getting their allotment that week, followed by lakes and ponds the week of October 15th.  If you prefer the solitude of and rewards of catching wild trout, all of New Jersey's wild trout streams are in good condition and are open to angling year-'round.    

I'll post some information on my favorite fall flies in the next couple of days. 

Sharpen your hooks, and get out and fish!

Monday, September 24, 2018

Charles Meck R.I.P.

Charlie was a noted author and fly fishing expert. He wrote 15 books on fly fishing, as well as numerous magazine articles. He loved teaching others the sport of fly fishing and the appreciation of the beauty of the natural world.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Montana Part 2 - Madison River & Henry's Fork

I wrote this several weeks ago (a month) but being the easily distracted person that I am, I didn't realize it didn't get posted, so here is the rest of the story.......   

It's no secret I love the Madison River and everything about it. Sure, fishing it is a joy, but it also offers a variety of flows that can and will challenge the fly fisher from where it is born at the confluence of the Firehole and Gibbon Rivers, to the wide, even flowing expanses below Bear Trap Canyon - the lower Madison- and of course the 50 mile riffle that flows from Quake Lake to the braids above Ennis Lake. My favorite section is the long riffle that winds its way through a beautiful valley that fans out in benches to high mountains on either side that shelter all kinds of wild animals. 

Halfway through our trip we landed in the Madison Valley and as is always the case, I felt like I was home again. The river was higher than it has been in the last 20 years or so in July and its currents were loud and wild, music to my ears. I got there about mid-day, threw my stuff in the cabin and was on the water in 20 minutes. In 21 minutes I was into my first trout, a nice rainbow that took my brown serendipity like it was candy. The high, bright sun and warm air temps were no issue as I was wet wading and there was just enough of a breeze to keep things comfortable. The truth is, I rarely stepped in the water except to move up river and cool off. Most of the time I was on right on the bank working my way upriver, casting my fly straight up stream fishing it just off the bank to about 6-8 feet out. And the fish came often on that simple, size 16 brown midge pattern.

After about an hour or so I went back to the cabin to wait for the others and unpack my things. As soon as they arrived, I told them the river was ready and waiting, so Paul grabbed his rod and was off to his favorite nearby pool. It wasn’t long before he was hooked up to a nice wild fish that was hiding in a slow eddy along a very fast, heavy riffle that the fish did everything in its power to get to and use the current to its advantage. 

That evening, after having a bite to eat and tying a few flies, we headed down river to a stretch that seems to fish well every time we hit it. When we got there the only anglers in sight were on the opposite bank so we had the long stretch all to ourselves. We spread out over a quarter mile or so of bank and after a slow start, as the sun dropped in the sky fish began to rise steadily from the edges of the river out to just along the really fast currents. If there was a rock, pocket, or seam, a fish or two worked the surface. With all the caddis in the air, I tied on an Iris Caddis and took several dozen fish over the next two plus hours, mostly rainbows, before it was too dark to see my fly.

I spent the entire next day fishing the Madison while Paul and Steve went over to the Henry’s Fork to drift with a guide. I hit a whole bunch of spots on the river during the day and all of them fished well. Again, the top fly was a #16 brown serendipity fished alone with varying amounts of split shot placed above it about 6-8 inches. As long as I got it down near the bottom, fish took it. Late in the day I went to a public boat ramp and fish up river. There were caddis hatching, Little Western Green Drakes or “Flavs” duns and spinners in the air and on the water, and rusty spinners. The fish were finicky, with no single insect on the menu so I was continually changing flies to match what a particular fish was feeding on. I took quite a few fish, but had to work much harder for them than the night before. Shortly after I got back to the cabin, Paul and Steve returned with big smiles having each having caught a single big rainbow, 22-23 inches, on hoppers. 

The next morning we were all up early and after breakfast Paul and Steve headed back to the Henry’s Fork for a hoped for repeat performance sans a guide and drift boat, and I followed them over the pass. We got to the upper ranch parking lot around 9:30AM, and after gearing up proceeded to walk the bank down river. It was still cool with muted sunlight through high thin clouds and barely a breeze. Tricos danced in the air over the water and along the bank. Early on, small fish rose everywhere one looked across the broad expanse of flowing water – the river on the ranch is a wide, uniform depth of flowing cool water whose surface is continually changing from the thick grasses undulating below in the current. 

After walking for some time I stopped to watch the water while the others kept going. There were a bunch of anglers down river and since there were plenty of fish rising where I was and no one within a couple hundred yards up or down river, I stepped into the river and began watching and looking for larger rising fish. By now there were pale morning duns and also a few flavs hatching.

I tied a #22 trico spinner to the end of my 15 foot leader, the last of which was 30 inches of 5X tippet. I spotted what looked to be a decent fish rising in a long seam formed by a submerged rock and slowly worked my way out to where I was within a safe casting distance down and across from the feeding trout. After making a short cast to make sure my leader and fly landed on the water properly, I made a few rod strokes to let out enough line and then dropped the fly above the fish. It drifted to its right and went untouched. I made a few more casts over the fish, and it kept rising to everything but my fly. 

I reeled in my line and quickly changed my fly to a pattern #16 pmd/flav snowshoe pattern and began working out line before dropping the size #16 PMD imitation above the fish. The fly drifted a foot or so and then a nose poked the water surface and sucked it in. After a brief battle with the fish and accompanying weeds, I netted a nice 14 inch rainbow. At the same time I thought to myself, “I hope this isn’t going to be one of those first-cast-with-a- new-fly jinxes, where that’s it for the rest of the day.” 

Fortunately, that was not to be, as over the next 3 hours or so fish rose throughout the river. Literally everywhere you looked, up, down and across the river there were sips, and splashes and tell-tale rings from trout feeding on top. Most of the fish were small, maybe 6-8 inches long, which were easy to make out by their quick, splashy rises. Other rises were slow, nose-dorsal-tail rises, while others, the largest fish, poked their noses out and opened wide, shut, and then disappeared in a split second leaving a series of ever widening concentric circles. The trick was finding one of these larger fish and getting close enough to cast without putting them down. Your first cast had to be good, too, or a second chance was out of the question. 

I not only managed to get close and make enough good casts to catch about 15 fish. They ranged in size from 8 inches to about 16 inches. The smaller fish were so aggressive at times that they would dart up take the fly as it hit the water above a larger fish that my fly was intended for. I also lost quite a few after hooking up as the weeds are thick that once a fish managed to get tangled up in them you couldn’t turn their heads and then the end of the line would stop shaking.  I’d wade over to retrieve my fly only to find it stuck in the stem of a frond of grass and the fish long gone. All of the fish I took came on the pmd/flav snowshoe pattern and although I didn’t hook any monsters, it was a very good day wet wading in the big river taking in all that it has to offer.

Sharpen your hooks!

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Tying Walter Wiese's GFA Hopper

When we were in Montana and Idaho a few weeks ago, the hoppers were just getting started and now we hear this year has been one of the best in many years.  On the Henry's Fork they were everywhere, jumping and flying in all directions as we walked the grassy banks on the Harriman Ranch in search of heads.   And the fish were on them, big fish, with Paul taking a 23" fat rainbow on a hopper, the biggest fish for any of us on the Henry's Fork this trip.

Here Tim Flagler ties Walter Wiese's (Park's Fly Shop) GFA Hopper.  With all the complicated hopper patterns out there, this one is a effective pattern that Tim as shows can be tied with a minimum of hair loss.  Fish it alone, or add a dropper to the bend to cover more water.

Tie some up and sharpen your hooks!