Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Gift of Rain

We got our first good dose of rain in months yesterday, and it was much needed.  With the cold weather on its way, the very low rivers we had would have been very vulnerable to anchor ice if we got one of those major freezes.  Instead, we have rivers full to their banks today that look more like chocolate milk than trout water.  That's okay, in a few days they will recede and clear, and if you're up for spending some time out in the chill, they should fish well.
You likely won't see any dry fly action, but nymphs and streamers will take fish.  Be patient and don't be afraid to fish the skinny water.  You would be surprised how often trout hold in the skinny stuff as long as it has some cover, flow and a quick route to deep water protection.  Faster runs that have a choppy surface and bank side water comes to mind this time of the year.  Not that the pools and deeper runs are not going to hold feeding fish, it's just that this time of year I seem to have some pretty good days fishing the "other water".
I like to start downstream of where I intend to fish, and work my way up, casting a weighted nymph without split shot into likely holding water.  I strip my line back to me just short of pulling the fly, and if my line or leader stops or jumps, I lift my rod.  Drop your fly right along side of rocks and what's left of overhanging shrubs and leafless tree branches.  Cover the water systematically and take your time.  I find fishing this way to be very relaxing and easy on the mind, as well as productive.
Flies?   I like pheasant tail nymphs, with or without a bead, pumpkinhead nymphs, beadhead caddis larvae, weighted hare's ear nymphs, weighted scuds and zebra midges. No need to get fancy, tie on a fly that you know works for you - don't guess or hope, go with a pattern you have confidence in.  If you like a two fly rig, by all means, fish that way.
Dress warm, bring a friend, and enjoy the clean, chilly air, and the peace being on the river in winter brings.
Sharpen your hooks!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Montana Fly Fishing Magazine

If you want to be in Montana fly fishing, or would like to know more about it as you plan your trip there in the future, or just want to feed your obsession, here's a great magazine for you.  Good writing and some great photography.

Click here: Montana Fly Fishing Magazine

Saturday, December 15, 2012

One Thought.........

If you do nothing else today, tell your kid(s) that you love them. It's the only thing that truly matters in this crazy world.
I spoke to each of mine yesterday, and it was the best sound in the world......

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Beadhead Soft Hackle Pheasant Tail Nymph

This is one of my favorites, particularly in the winter months.  Tie some up and fish them hard, with or without a dropper.

Sharpen your hooks.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

A Couple of Bright Spots on an Otherwise Gray Day

Today was one of those late fall days that keeps most fisherman off the water and in the house.  Most, but not all, and I was one of those that just had to get out and see what the trout might be up to.  The sun hid behind the heavy clouds, and the air was damp but still.  Last night's rain brought the river up some, but it was still mostly clear but quite chilly.
The fishing was unhurried and pleasant despite the chill, and the trout cooperative.  A couple of nice rainbows and brown came to hand, and this monster that took a black beadhead bugger, brightened the day considerably.
The other rainbows came on nymphs, and a simple soft hackle took the brown. 
Sharpen your hooks! 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Tying the Hornberg Dry

Who knew?  A Hornberg dry? I sure didn't until Tim Flager tied it and produced this fine video.  Like the well-known wet, its a fairly straightforward pattern made from common materials.  It looks great, and as Tim shows here, it catches fish.


Hook: Dai Riki #310 size 18
Thread: 6/0 Olive Danville
Body:Flat silver tinsel
Underwing: Yellow saddle hackle fibers
Overwing: Mallard flank fibers
Hackle: Mixed grizzly and brown

Tie some up, and sharpen your hooks!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

2012 NJ Fly Fisherman of the Year Video

As I've previously posted, we had a great time at the event this year.  Tim Flagler produced this video of the day's events, and as usual, he did a great job capturing the highlights of the day.  He even caught me on tape holding a jar of florescent red salmon eggs - yep, I tied those, and we'll be making a video of how you can tie them, too.

It was very enjoyable to spend the day with, and speak in front of, so many friends and truly good people that volunteer their time to various activities in TU's conservation efforts in the Garden State.

We hope to see you at next year's event, when Angelo goes for the three-peat, and who knows maybe it will be one of you that takes the title.
Sharpen your hooks!  

Friday, November 30, 2012

You Never Know......

It is so very true that as we get older the days pass by at greater and greater speed.  It seems like it was only yesterday that I spent a few hours on the South Branch fishing, yet it was a week ago!  Do any of you know how to slow things down, especially now that I am older and understand better how to use my time.....such is life.  Anyway, we did manage to get out and fish in between the holiday parties, and much needed yard work after the recent storm. 
I guess it was mid-afternoon when I arrived on the river.  The air was cool, and calm, the sky bright through hazy clouds.  The river was still somewhat low, clear, and very cold - 46 degrees F.  Shortly after I started fishing, I was into a nice rainbow of about 15 inches, which I landed after it made several leaps clear of the water.  It took a gray scud, and I thought this was going to be a good catching afternoon, but as is often the case when we get one early, I only managed to hook two more and lost both before I could get them to hand.  Regardless,  I did enjoy the afternoon on the water.  
Shortly after I arrived, Jim from Shannon's Fly Shop, showed up and began fishing the water just below me and we compared notes.  I fished a couple of patterns I do well with in the fall - switching from the scud, to a Pumpkinhead Midge, to a small Pheasant tail soft hackle.  The two I hooked after the first fish were on the Pumpkinhead Midge. Jim fished a scud and a RS2 for a bit, and then switched to other patterns, one of them being a small peach-colored poly egg that took this beauty. 
Rainbows everywhere seem to have a natural affinity for an egg pattern. And it didn't disappoint this day.  It gave Jim's Scott 8ft, 4-weight quite the test, as the rod was bent into a tight horseshoe several times as he inched the fish towards his net.

So that's the latest from this end of the pond.  I hope to get out at least one of the two days this weekend for a few hours, but time will tell.  There's still a lot of debris and a couple of large trees down on the homestead from the storm that need clearing and cutting before winter seriously rears it chilly head and throws snow on the works.
I also intend to fill you in this weekend on "the rest of the story", with respect to why and how I dub my thread wrong, courtesy of Bill N.
Stayed tuned and  sharpen your hooks.      

Friday, November 23, 2012

Parachute Adams - Size 22 With a Twist

I'm a little behind posting tying videos, so here's one from Tim Flagler, who ties a small parachute Adams.   This is a great pattern for the small Blue-winged Olives that hatch on most of our rivers, and it's a good searching pattern when prospecting, or when midges are present.  Tie some up and fish them.

I'm going to hit the stream in a little bit; we have to take advantage of the warm, sun filled day today, because the weatherman says that come tomorrow, winter will rear its cold head.

Sharpen you hooks.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope you all had a great day with family and friends.

It was a great time at the symposium this past weekend.  Spoke with a lot of friends and caught up with some of the tyers from other parts of the country and world.  I tied dozens of flies and gave away all but a half dozen or so, and my seminars were well-attended.  I also didn't buy a single thing, in fact, I didn't even look at any of the stuff vendors were selling as I really don't need anything after all these years.
But that didn't stop me from coming home with something new.  The guys from Regal finally got me to try their stainless vise on Sunday, which I have been reluctant to do after tying on my HMH vise for 30+ years.  I tied on it all day Sunday, and then was asked/told to take it home and try it out for a while.  So I did.  The jury is still out, but I do like the fact that it doesn't need to be adjusted, the jaws open and close with a simple squeeze, and it holds a hook very well.   I'm still tying with my HMH and alternating between the two.  Old habits die hard...........
In an upcoming post I'll fill you in on my friend Bill Ninke, who stopped by at the show and let me know (and demonstrated) that I dub my thread all wrong.  Yes, I dub wrong.....who knew?!  He also showed me how to tie the perfect nail knot.  That will have to wait though, as I couldn't explain it in words if I tried, but it does work.  Maybe we'll see a video of his technique in the future. 
All I know is that I always learn something new from Bill every time see him...and now I know I dub my thread wrong.  I'll explain when I'm not so tired, so I'll end in telling you Bill does make an interesting point, and now every time I dub my thread, I think about the error of my ways.  Thanks, Bill.  : ) 
That's it for me tonight. 
Sharpen your hooks. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The International Fly Tying Symposium

The power is back on at the homestead, and we are gearing up and prepping our presentation for the big show this weekend.  I'm on the road til Friday, which may be good, as I have no distractions sitting here in a hotel room working on my presentation. It's being changed up - the focus being on making fly selection a more practical matter when it comes to fishing hatches.  Emphasis will also be placed on improving presentation without making it complicated, which it is contrary to what some folks will tell you.  The title?  Eastern Hatches, Practical Matches.
Whether you are a serious or not so serious fly tyer, or a fly fisherman who buys your flies, come on down to the Garden State Exhibit Center this weekend in Somerset, NJ.  There will be a whole bunch of tyers from all over the world showing their skills at the vise, seminars and presentations, fly fishing merchandise vendors, casting ponds to try rods out on, and generally a great bunch of folks with common interests.  The show hours are:         
Saturday 9-5
Sunday 9-4:30
For more information:  The International Fly Tying Symposium  
See you at the show.      

Monday, November 12, 2012

Another Day....A Brief Report

First, we still have no power as of now.  We are in our third week of dark time and hoping for the best.........tonight perhaps?  I'd ask the shadow, but there none with out some kind of light.
I did fish yesterday, for about three hours into the darkness I am so getting used to spending time in.  The weather was beautiful for November; low 60's, clear and calm.  The river was at a good level but slightly off color, kind of milky really, not that after rain fall turbidity but more like man-made, perhaps from storm related work.  Not a problem though, just being on the water in a T-shirt was enough for me.
I did okay, after going hitless in the first half of the outing.  I wound up hooking 4 fish and landing none, at least technically speaking - 2 LDR's, and 2 fish I got to the net, but when they saw the thing they panicked, turned and bolted, and I slept.  Some might count these, but I don't.   Shit happens.  All 4 fish fought very well, some leaping several times clear of the water.  Very cool stuff.  Two fish took a Pumpkinhead midge, 1 took a brown Serendipity, and the other a gray Caribou caddis.  Getting one to take a top water fly is always fun, particularly when you set the hook and it rips line off your reel as it heads for the Atlantic Ocean. 
On another note for you non-fly tyers, Shannon's Fly Shop in Califon has Pumpkinhead Midges.  Lenny there showed them to me, and although they are a more streamlined version of my fly, they should work as well.  They lack the wing bud, and the tail is woodduck fibers.  Nice ties.
Lastly, we are in the home stretch and looking forward to the International Fly Tying Symposium this coming weekend.  If you are in the area, please come to the show and stop by my table and say hi.  I'll be doing seminars both days as well.  For more info, click on the link to the right.
Sharpen your hooks!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

.....Life Goes On

It's been 13 days and we still have no power here at the homestead.  We got tired of living with others, so yesterday we borrowed a 9000W generator from a friend that has power now, and our friend and electrician Andy Miller hooked it up to our service.  The furnace works, hot water, fridge, lights - just no stove or microwave oven.  We are powered and living at home again!  We're doing fine, just a little inconvenienced.
Yesterday I spent the afternoon at the One Fly Angler of the Year Contest that preceded the 2012 NJ State TU Council Banquet.  It was a nice afternoon and lots of guys showed to watch and cheer on the contestants from the bank of the river.  In the end, during the final round, with a minute to go, one of the three anglers hooked and landed a beautiful brown trout of about 17 inches long.  It was the only fish of the round, and again, just as last year, Angelo Conti pulled it out at the last minute, literally!    Congrats to the two-time winner.
The banquet last night was fun with good food, and great conversation. The winner of the fly tying contest was Pete Romano, and again this year, Bart Lombardo won the fly casting contest.  Congrats to Pete and Bart.  And finally, as the keynote speaker, I poked some fun at all of us fly fishers and then spoke about some of my history of getting into hot water for fishing when I was supposed to be elsewhere, which segued into how Trout Unlimited came along, chapters sprouted and brought us all together to share days like we had yesterday - a few precious hours with like-minded folks away from the daily rigors and stresses of our regular lives.  For me, and I think for all of us there last night, it is one of the most fulfilling parts of our lives - the fishing, the meetings, the conservation activities, the friends.  I may not have power, but I had a great day and evening thanks to Trout Unlimited.  Slainte!
And now, I am going fishing.  It's 62 degrees, sunny and the river is calling.  Report later.
Sharpen your hooks!                 

Monday, November 5, 2012

Still No Power - Life Goes On

We are still in the dark at the homestead, but thanks to generous friends with a generator and lots of space, we have been keeping warm and showered.  Our road is still a mess with lots of trees still to be removed, but our house went untouched this time around, and we only lost one tree up back on the hill.  Some of our friends were not so lucky with trees on their homes or roof damage from high winds.  My office got power back early this morning, so I spent the day in the office getting caught up and returning the back-log of phone calls.  No complaints here, everyone is safe, and after last year's disaster I'll gladly take the no power headaches we currently have.  Our thoughts and prayers go out to those less fortunate.
Mr. Q did manage to get out today on the South Branch of the Raritan River, and had some luck on our Pumpkinhead Midge.  This is a great Autumn-Winter pattern that continues to earn it's place in our fly box.  Here's the tying video for those of you unfamiliar with the pattern.

Hook: #16 - 20 1x long nymph
Thread: 6/0 Olive Danville
Bead: 2mm orange tungsten
Tail and Abdomen: Pheasant tail dyed brown
Rib: Copper wire
Wing bud: Clear zelon
Thorax: Peacock herl

And finally, for those of you that prefer lake fishing, here's this year's trout stocking schedule for Hunterdon County lakes and ponds, beginning on November 19.  Click on the link here for more info and the locations to be stocked: Hunterdon County NJ Trout Stocking      
Sharpen your hooks!  

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Couple of the Year - Ohio Idiots Edition

In April of this year, nearly 31,000 dead fish were found floating in a three mile stretch of the Rocky River.
Federal and state officials announced charges against Renato Montorsi, 79, and his wife Teresina, 74, along with their collectible coin company located in Strongsville, Kennedy Mint, Inc.
“Last April, Mr. Montorsi tried to dispose of a drum of liquid cyanide by putting it in a dumpster, the drum was marked as being toxic, clearly labeled as such and it clearly had the poison sign, the skull and crossbones on the drum,” said Steven Dettelbach, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio.
Investigators said the garbage company refused to take the dumpster, and allege that Montorsi found his own way of disposing of the chemical.
“He took a hammer and a sharp metal object, according to the indictment, and punched a hole in the drum after he had moved it to a storm drain, a storm drain that fed directly into a branch of the Rocky River,” Dettelbach said.


Via Moldy Chum

Monday, October 29, 2012

More Photos From Our Montana Trip

As I sit in front of the fireplace, warm and toasty, outside the wind continues to increase in speed, the rain falls at sharp angles, and the gray skies hang low and ominous.  It doesn't look like we'll be fishing in the very near future, and who knows what the rivers will look like when we do, as they are calling for serious rainfall late today into tonight.  I do know the fish will still be there, they just may be holding in newly formed runs and holes, as is often the case when flood waters reshape the river beds.  
In the meantime, I thought I would share some more photos from our Montana trip last month.  This little guy, a pine martin, watched me and Mr. Q as we fished a fast run on the Madison below his rocky bank. He stuck around and watched closely, perhaps looking for tips on catching trout, until a large bird of prey glided over us and sent him running for cover.         
Here's a rainbow trout parr that was feeding heavily on small caddis, hoping to become a monster of the deep someday.  From the way it was eating, that may happen sooner than later. 
Here is the upper Gallatin River meadows looking northwest - the smog from the Idaho fires dulled the distant mountains.  The fires had that piny, burning sap smell that reminded me of those cold nights after the holidays when we'd go to the town mulch area to watch the Christmas tree bonfires when we were kids.
And here's Mr. Q., as he tests his skills (and patience) on the Madison River in the meadows of Yellowstone Park.  The wind was brutal that day, and the currents varied and inconsistent, and trout rose everywhere for hours to white miller caddis and blue-winged olives.    
I'm going to post this before the power decides to go off.  If you arte in the Northeast , be safe.  

Friday, October 26, 2012

NJ Fly Fisherman of the Year Video

With the date (November 10) fast approaching, I thought I'd post the Tightline Productions video from the 2011 event.  As you can see, we had a nice Autumn day, albeit on the chilly side with the normal November mid-day breezes, which made the casting contest a challenge, but everyone seemed to have a great time.          

For more information, see our post of October 21, 2012 below, or click here: New Jersey Fly Fisherman

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Autumn's Splendor

I managed to get out and fish the last hour and a half of light yesterday; there's nothing like dusk at the end of a warm, calm Autumn afternoon.  The trees are now in their full glory - golden amber, yellow, red and mixed shades of each filling in the fading greens of summer.  The river was clear and on the low side, with the colors of the fallen leaves scattered in the water and on the surface. 
The low water conditions made for some tough fishing as many of the trout likely saw me before I even cast my fly.  Where I fished there was little room for cover, so after spooking a couple of fish that hung within inches of the bank, I took the low approach with each run/pool, fishing away from the water's edge and from my knees.  I managed a few nice rainbows, all on a brown serendipity, and just before dark, I took a beautiful little wild brook trout on a Mercer's Missing Link caddis dry.
It's a wonderful time of the year to be on the water, so get out and fish!
Sharpen your hooks.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The 3rd Annual NJ Fly Fisherman of the Year November 10, 2012

The details are in and the date is scheduled for the NJ Fly Fisherman of the Year Tournament and NJ State Council Trout Unlmited Banquet.  The all day event will held at the Raritan Inn in Califon, NJ, and the contest on their private waters of the South Branch of the Raritan River.  The event is presented by Shannon's Fly & Tackle Shop and The Raritan Inn.  The whole day is a blast with food and friends - finished off with the banquet, raffles, awards, and yours truly as the keynote speaker.  Click on the notice below for the schedule of events and more information. 
(Click on photo to enlarge)
The NJ Fly Fisherman of the Year Tournament is a not-so-hard-core competition where one member from each of the 10 local T.U. Chapters competes with the others for the most points as determined by the number, species and size of the trout they catch during the day. The rest of the attendees serve as the bankside peanut gallery, providing encouragement and heckling the participants as they stand in the cold, clear waters hoping to hook the hog that will bring them and their chapter this year's award.  
Hope to see you there.
Sharpen your hooks! 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Tying the Thorax Style CDC Blue-winged Olive

Here's our latest tying video from Tightline Productions - the thorax style CDC Blue-winged Olive dry.  There are many mayfly species we call Blue-winged Olives and all of them seem to be a favorite on the trout's menu.  Generally, they have an olive-toned body that can range from light yellow-olive to dark brownish-olive, and everything in between, with slate blue-gray wings.  In most cases though, we tie them in a medium olive color with slate wings, as the trout seem to be less concerned with their color than some tyers.  There are times when it is necessary to match the body color more closely to the naturals, so feel free to tie them in any shade you wish, if the conditions where you fish warrant it.  Most species we call Blue-winged Olives tend to be #18-24, with some being larger, and some being as small as #28. 

Hook: Dai Riki #305 size #18
Thread: 6/0 Olive Danville
Wing: Natural gray CDC
Tail: Medium dun hackle fibers
Body: Medium olive Superfine
Hackle: Medium dun

The fall months are a prime period for hatches of Blue-winged olives, particularly on cloudy, showery days. In the Autumn, I typically will fish #18-22 in this style, and use patterns that are simpler to tie for the smaller ones that hatch his time of the year.  An olive or gray RS2 is a great small Blue-winged Olive pattern, which you will note in our RS2 video, I tie with CDC for the wing.  The reason I do this is that it allows me to fish the fly subsurface, or in the film, when trout are sipping the tiny insects off the surface.  In my experience, the buoyant CDC wing holds the fly just under the surface film much better than the webbing of a saddle hackle feather that is used on the original RS2.    
Tie some up, you'll likely need them in the weeks to come.
Sharpen your hooks!  

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Pine Squirrel Streamer

Here's an all-around effective streamer pattern tied by Tim Flagler.  And to add to the fun, he sneaks in a little video of a brown he caught on one of these creations.

Sharpen your hooks!

Sunday, October 7, 2012


A few weeks ago now, I returned to one of my favorite places, Southwest Montana, with none other than Mr. Q.  It was wonderful to be back there in September, with the crowds gone and the sky lit up in bright reds and yellows at dusk, enhanced by the ashes of wildfires rising into the sky over Idaho to the West.  The days were warm and comfortable, and the nights very cold, with ice on the river's edge and our waders frozen, at dawn.     

 (Click on photos to enlarge)
We stayed at Kelly Galloup's Slide Inn, right on the banks of the Madison River a short distance below Quake Lake.  Here the river is fast and powerful, and the trout that reside in these blue-green rushing waters share those same attributes.  We caught many of them, mostly on subsurface patterns, with the brown Serendipity taking 80% or so of the fish.  Here's a typical Madison River slide area run - you don't wade the river much throughout this section, you walk the banks and primarily fish the water within a rods length of the water's edge.  If you find a large boulder, you fish the water around it hard and deep, and hang on when a fish takes your offering because they don't take it lightly, and before you know it they will be halfway to Ennis if you aren't paying attention.       
Here's a big brown I took one evening near dusk just below the run shown above on a #16 brown "dip".
And we fished in Yellowstone Park - here's the Firehole in the canyon a few miles above where it meets the Gibbon to form the Madison.  The water here is crystal clear, and deceptively deep.  We hit a fairly heavy hatch of white miller caddis that were hatching and egg-laying simultaneously.  They are a white #16 caddis that is best imitated with a hackled pattern, as the trout seem to key in on the skittering adults. A dead-drifted pattern would be ignored, yet the instant you twitched or skittered your fly, they would follow.......and sometimes grab it. 
And here's the Madison a mile or so below where it is formed by the two aforementioned rivers.  It is very much like a spring creek here, and full of rainbows and browns, that also chased the white millers, and sipped the blue-winged olives, that hatched throughout the day.  As you can see in the photo, there are a myriad of currents just waiting to drag your fly, and reveal it as the fake it is. The strong, gusty winds that course through the Madison meadows this time of year also make it a real challenge, but if you are patient and wait for a lull in the wind, you can take some of the most beautiful wild fish you'll ever lay eyes on.    
And here is the view from one of my favorite stretches of the Madison River, just below Hebgen dam looking down river and up to the sky.  The fish here are very strong and torpedo shaped.  They take flies off the surface so quickly as they bolt up from the bottom, that if you blink, you will miss the take and the fish, and they'll be back on the bottom out of sight.......and a little smarter for the wear.
Here's a female rainbow I took shortly after I took the photo above.  Check out the tiny black spots and pink gills plates and fins - typical of the rainbows "between the lakes". 
On the day before we came home, we hit this small creek that sits in the mountains just south of Bozeman. It is loaded with wild rainbows that eagerly took our dry flies - white millers and little blue-winged olives.  We took too many fish to count before a cold rain moved in and we decided to call it quits and go visit our transplanted friends in Bozeman, before heading home the next day.      
And here is one of those mountain creek rainbows - not very big, but beautiful all the same.

That's our story, and we are sticking to it.  I'll share more photos in the weeks to come, but no more fish pics as I only took a few, preferring to get the living gems back in the water as quickly as possible. We had a great time, and look forward to going back as soon as possible.
Sharpen your hooks!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Tying Matt's October Caddis

I know I'm overdue on a report of my recent excursion to Montana, and it will be forthcoming, but when you go away for ten days you pay the piper when you return.   We did manage to do another tying video with Tightline Productions this past Sunday AM, and here it is.   The October caddis is the "Isonychia of caddis hatches" in that it is a large insect that hatches sporadically, and the trout become accustomed to their presence for about two, autumn-colored months of the year. 
Here in the East, the October Caddis primarily hatches at night into very early morning. I'm not sure about out West, but it is an important hatch there as well.  Although it will take trout at anytime of the day, I like to fish it early in the AM along the margins of fast water and bank side pockets.  It prefers faster riffles and pocket water, making an imitation an important pattern on all of our boulder strewn, freestone rivers and streams.     

Hook: #8-12 Standard dry fly
Thread: 6/0 Orange
Tail: None
Body: Mixed rusty orange rabbit and zelon (or antron)
Underwing: Amber zelon
Wing: Orange dyed elk body hair
Thorax: Same as body, touch-dubbed (It should seem somewhat heavy when you dub it, but after a cast or two, the loose fibers fall out, leaving a nice, fuzzy, floating thorax.)

Thanks again to Tim Flagler for the great production!

Sharpen your hooks, and fish a big, juicy fly for a change.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Tying JC's Electric Caddis Pupa

Our friend John Collins recently sat down with Tightline Productions to demonstrate how he ties his electric caddis pupa.  John is an accomplished fly tyer and fisherman, whose passion for the sport is evident in every fly he ties.  This pattern has proven itself over the last few years in our area, and can be adapted to imitate any of the myriad of caddis available in our waters.  John will be at the International Fly Tying Symposium in November demonstrating this and other original patterns of his. 

Nice job, John!

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Birth of a Tool - Axe Making

It's been a little crazy since returning from Montana, so I haven't had time to post a report. In the meantime, here's a really cool video from John Neeman, who makes tools the old fashioned way - hot coals, raw steel, hammer, andiron and raw wood and leather.  No synthetics here.  Enjoy.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Tying the Isonychia (Slate Drake) Spinner

I just returned from Montana, and will provide a report with photos in the next couple of days.  In the meantime, here is our latest tying video, which we made shortly before heading to wild trout heaven.  The fishing in Montana was great, and we did fairly well in Yellowstone Park/Wyoming, despite high winds the days we visited the Firehole, Upper Madison and Yellowstone Rivers. 

The Isonychia spinner here is an extended body pattern that has worked well for me over the years in the summer months and this time of the year, on cloudy, showery days, in the late afternoon until dusk.   As usual, Tim Flagler does a great job with the video production showing the methods I use to crate this pattern.

Hook: Dry Fly #10-14
Thread: Danville 3/0 brown
Tail and Abdomen: Moose body hair
Wing: Deer body hair
Thorax: Mixed rabbit fur - 2 parts claret: 1 part brown: 1 part gray

Sharpen your hooks!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Tying the Yellow Humpy

Here's a great pattern that works well when fished alone, and when used as the top fly on a dry/dropper rig.  I've caught trout on it during a PMD hatch on the Missouri River, and closer to home on the Musconetcong River during terrestrial time.  The fly works just about everywhere there are trout, and will also take panfish and bass.


Hook: TMC 100 # 12
Thread: 3/0 Danville yellow monocord
Tail: Moose body hair
Hump and Wing: Elk body hair
Hackle: Dry fly - one brown and one grizzly

Tie them in sizes #10-16.  You can also use red or green thread to change the view, or any other color you may wish to try your luck with.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Tying the Forget-me-knot Midge

Here's a simple little midge pattern tied by Tim Flagler, who is usually behind the camera while someone else ties.   All it takes is some 15lb. mono and dubbing, and you can crank them out in no time.  He uses Amnesia, which comes in a few different colors for the body and black dunning for the thorax.  It might not be a bad idea to tie some with a peacock herl thorax, too. 

I'm tying a bunch up in a couple of different colors for my trip to Montana, as an alternative to the serendipity.  I'll report back after we return.

Tie some up, and sharpen your hooks!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Predator - Drake Fly Fishing Magazine Best Video Award

Since we're back to waiting for the weather to change, here's a teaser from The Drake magazine. 

Hit the full-screen icon for a better view of some serious footage.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Conditions are Improving...Finally!

After almost 2 months off from trout fishing in New Jersey, the weather and water temps finally reached trout friendly alignment this past Sunday, so I spent some time wading, casting and catching trout.  The weather cooled late last week, and by Sunday the water temperatures were around 66 degrees at 5:00PM, when I stepped into the clear, low water of the South Branch.   The skies were overcast but fairly bright; the sun fighting to find its way through the thin clouds.  I had the river all to myself.

The trout weren't looking up, so I went down to them.  Not very far down, as the water levels are fairly low and very clear.  Caught a bunch of holdover rainbows, the largest being about 14 inches, and they all fought well and seemed healthy even after a few hot weeks with little rain.  The pumpkin head  midge, size 18, took all but one; fished it without any weight on a long leader with a fine, 6X tippet.  I also took one on a brown serendipity, size 16.  I also drifted this on the same long leader without any weight.  The takes were subtle, and the lack of split shot on the leader provided a direct connection to the fly, and little resistance to the trout.  My leader would jump a mere inch or two, I'd lift my rod quickly but gently, and a short battle ensued.

There's nothing like spending an hour and a half on the water to work out the rust and invigorate the soul.  With any luck, we'll get out a couple of more times before heading to Montana in a couple of weeks.  Maybe next time, I'll tie on a beetle or ant pattern and fish that exclusively.  The trout have to start looking up for their food, don't they?   If not, we'll still have fun.

Sharpen those hooks!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Tying the X-Caddis

I have been tying lots of flies lately getting ready for my upcoming trip to Montana.  One of the flies I'm tying is the x-caddis, so we thought we'd share how we tie it with you.  The pattern was invented by Craig Mathews, the owner of Blue Ribbon Flies, located in West Yellowstone, Montana.  I've been catching trout on it ever since the first time I fished it on the Madison River some 20+ years ago.  It can be tied in any size and color; and best of all it only takes three materials and basic tying skills to turn out what has become a very effective caddis imitation all over the world.


Hook: Dai Riki #305 #16 Dry Fly - any standard dry fly hook will do
Thread: 6/0 Olive Danville
Trailing shuck: Olive zelon
Body: Mixed rabbit and antron - olive
Wing: Deer body hair

The pattern could not be any easier to tie - I tie them in ginger, black, olive, and cream.  Because they are so easy to tie and have minimal materials, they are also great for imitating micro-caddis - #18-22.

Tie some up, the weather should be getting cooler soon, and you'll want to be prepared.

And sharpen your hooks!

Monday, August 13, 2012

It's Still Hot and We Continue to Leave the Trout Alone

It's been so long since I posted here I almost forgot my log in info.  Not that much has changed, the rivers are still quite low around these parts and too warm to fish.  The herons are having a field day from the looks of the marks on the trout holding tight in the clear waters.

We spent a while at the shore, swimming and beach bumming, and in the evenings caught a bunch of small bluefish.  The stripers either didn't want to cooperate, or they were further north.  It was a hell of a good time with family and friends.

After the shore, I came home and caught up at work for a few days before flying to Maine for a spell.  That was a blast.  Hot days on the water sailing around the islands off Acadia, cool nights with friends, good food and tasty adult beverages.   The lobster was as good as it gets. Then after tacking on an extra couple of days from work, we flew home and went back to the ho-hum of the office.  The good news is, I'm heading to Montana in a month with Mr. Q., who has never been there, so that should be a good kick in the arse!  I think he's going to have tied enough flies by then that his baggage will be over the weight limit! 

The good news is we're back in tying mode.  Last night we made a new tying video with Tightline Productions, which should be ready for human consumption in a week or so.  We'll be back to our regular schedule with the videos, so stay tuned.

Here's a few photos of the Maine trip for your viewing pleasure.  Not much, but what good is a post without pictures?  Hopefully, we'll be posting about our fishing adventures before too long!

Approaching Acadia ........


See you soon, and do a rain dance before you go to bed each night.  

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Mercer's GlassTail Yellow Sally

Here's a link to a 2009 post of mine about the Mike Mercer Yellow Sally imitation I mentioned in the prior post, that is tied with glass beads.  This is a good alternative for the stimulator pattern when you need to go smaller than size #14.  

Mercer's GlassTail Yellow Sally

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Tying The Yellow Sally Stimulator

A few summers ago I was fishing the streams of Northern California - the Upper Sac, McCloud and Pit - and purchased a few local flies from one of the Redding fly shops.  One of the patterns was a Yellow Sally imitation designed by Mike Mercer, using small beads for the abdomen, a synthetic wing and yellow hackle.  The beads were bright yellow, with the last bead being orange to imitate the egg sac of the female.  The fly worked great, but soon I lost the two I had. 

That evening, not having any beads to tie Mercer's pattern, I tied up a yellow stimulator and eliminated the tail and instead dubbed a bright orange fur ball for the egg sac.  The next day, I fished the fly, and it too, worked great.  Since then, I have used this fly with success both out west, and on Eastern streams during the summer months. The stoneflies drop their eggs in fast water and riffles on the edges of slower deep pockets and eddies, and that is where this fly excels. 

The pattern itself has some interesting history, too, as to who actually came up with the pattern.  Check it out here, on the Orvis News blog - Orvis News Yellow Sally.   

Tie some up and fish them with confidence during the day or evening.  Thanks again to Tim Flagler for the great video production.

Sharpen your hooks, and check the water temperature before wetting a line - if it's over 68 degrees F, let the fish be.  

Friday, July 20, 2012


I'm off to chase stripers and blues until further notice ........ I'll post some results from the wild blue yonder if I get the time and the necessary WiFi the meantime, is it an alligator or a log? 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

A Couple of Trico Patterns

The Trico hatches this year have been good, and although there are only a few places you can safely fish them in New Jersey, there are quite a few creeks in PA that are cool enough to fish this hatch.  I won't spot burn, but if you do some homework, there is some very good early AM trout fishing in the region to fish rising to these diminutive flies. 

Here are a couple of patterns I've posted here before that seem to always take fish.  Add to these the simple Trico pattern in the video I posted a few days ago, and you should be all set for this hatch.  Tie them small, sizes #20-26, and be prepared to go smaller if you are getting refusals.  This is one of those hatches that having the right size imitation on the end of your tippet can make the difference between catching and just fishing. 

This simple pattern is Al's Trico.  A reverse tie pattern that works exceptionally well. (Click on photos to enlarge)

This one is your standard zelon wing Trico.  You can substitute whatever material you prefer for the wing - poly, antron, snowshoe rabbit foot, etc. 

And if all else fails, or when the hatch wanes, tie on an ant.  Trout love ants!  And this one sort of looks like a Trico from below 

Get up early, and see for yourself.          

Friday, July 13, 2012

Typical July in New Jersey......Sort Of

Yellow Sally Brown - J.B. McCollum photo

Just about every July we experience warm water temperatures in our rivers and streams, and most years we also have low water conditions. The bottom line being, we don't do much fishing for trout in July in the Garden State. This year, the situation seems to be unusually severe, mostly due to the lack of rain.  Needless to day, I haven't fished much the last few weeks in my neck the woods.
Fortunately, there are the Lehigh Valley limestone creeks, the upper Delaware River tailwaters in upstate New York, and the Farmington River, another tailwater in Connecticut.  I plan on being on the Farmington fairly regularly in the coming weeks/months to get my fix.  In fact, I just started a 12 month project about 30 minutes away, so naturally I'll have to fish it as much as possible after work during the week.  What else can one do when a great tailwater is nearby and you're away from home? 

The warm temps have not stopped the bugs from hatching though.  In the mornings there have been good hatches of Tricos, as reported last week.  As the weeks pass, the Tricos generally get smaller - they are down to sizes #24-26, and the wild trout in the creek down the street have been on them.  In the evenings, the porch lights have been attracting good numbers of little amber and olive Stoneflies, Little Yellow Quills #20-22, Isonychias #10-12,  small Rusty Spinners #18-22, Spotted Caddis (Hydropsyche sp.), micro caddis, and a cream drake or two some nights.  I also saw one of the huge Litobrancha's the other evening, about a #6-8 mayfly, that is truly a wonder of nature.  At least we know the fish have plenty of food available.

That's it for now.  I'm on the Acela heading  home and figured I'd post something since it's been a few days.  Mr. Brook Trout (Small Stream Reflections), I see you have been fishing the Farmington lately, we may have to meet up there in the next few weeks so we can do corresponding posts on our blogs.     

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Trout Shall Inherit the Earth - Steelhead spawning in the Elwha

The gray ghosts of the Elwha are back: wild steelhead, already spotted beyond the free-flowing stretch of river that used to be Elwha Dam, for the first time in a century.

stlhd tag_2 small.jpg

Read all about it here: Steelhead spawning in the Elwha | Field Notes | The Seattle Times

Nature is awesome and inspiring, we just need to give back what we take, and she does the rest.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Tricos Everywhere, Fishing Nowhere

The tricos have been hatching well lately on New Jersey rivers and streams.   The problem though, is that unless you managed to get on the water when the temps were cooler last week, you are out of luck.  I went down to the South Branch early this morning, and where expected, I saw clouds of tricos dancing in the air above the riffles.  Below, trout rose calmly to the falling spinners, gently sipping them in without a care in the world.  It was as though the trout knew no one would be casting imitations of their food to them today.  The water was 72 degrees, far too warm, even at that early hour to safely hook and land trout.  I checked a few spots on the river, and all of them had the living clouds of dancing tricos in the air above the riffles with the noses of trout poking through the water surface below as they fed on the falling spinners.

Tim Flagler pulls it all together here as he shows us how to tie Eric Stroup's simple trico pattern, then ends with some great footage of a hatch and trout sipping the little buggers with abandon.

We may have to head out to PA to hit one of the limestone streams today.  Even then, our expectations will be tempered, as the water temps there may be too high as well.  If not, we'll fish and report back to you, otherwise we may have to partake in a local brew or two and call it a day.

On another note, some coward decided to post a comment after one of my entries the other day, using someone else's web name.  Why anyone would do that is beyond me, except perhaps that they wanted to say something that they know they shouldn't say, and the only way they would do that is to hide behind someone elses identity. 

I have never censored the comments here, and don't intend to start now. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and perspective.  Those who follow my blog know that if they have something to say they can say it, or they send me an email, and I always answer them with respect, even if they disagree with me.  Fly fishing is an ever-evolving process that requires an open mind and flexability.  If you have something to say, go ahead, just do it with the respect that you wish to be treated with in return.  Understand that hostile, or passive-aggressive comments will be ignored - if you want to crash and burn, you can do that on your own.

Finally, I truly appreciate and thank all of you that read my writings.  If you have a comment or a question, please add it to the mix.


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Tying the Deer Hair Isonychia/Slate Drake Emerger

I have been tying and fishing this fly for many years, having first come across it while fishing the Catskill rivers some 30 years ago or so.  I don't remember who introduced it to me, but I do know it has been a productive from the very first time I fished it.  It's effective from late spring right through the fall, which coincides with the hatch cycle of the naturals - Isonychia bicolor.  Because the naturals are on the water over a period of months, the trout get used to their presence, making this a good searching pattern during non-hatch periods, too.


Hook: #12 Dai Riki #125
Thread: 6/0 Danville olive
Tail/shuck: Brown antron or zelon
Body: Rabbit mix of burgundy, gray and brown
Wing: Deer body/comparadun hair

Easy to tie, and effective.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Fly Fishing New Jersey Trout Streams - 2nd Printing

The second edition is now available.   I got home after being away for the week and was pleasantly surprised to find several copies of my "new and improved" book waiting for me, and a note that copies were being shipped to distributors and bookstores.

When my editor called me last month to tell me the first edition was sold out and we needed to talk about updating the book, I couldn't believe it.  When it was first published, I was told it would likely be years before the first printing would sell out, so this was a great news. 

I took the opportunity to change the cover of the book, and cleaned up the text and punctuation issues that were in the first printing.  The map for the Paulinskill River was also changed to reflect the removal of the "special regs" section from the east branch.  Sadly, that water has been permanently changed by "progress" and no longer holds the wild fish it once did.

The next trick is going to be getting my second book out by the end of the year.  That's the goal, but it isn't as easy as it may seem, so I'm not making any promises.  It's a broader book than this one, combining my approach to both the technical and mental aspects of fly fishing for trout after 45 years of passionate pursuit.

And yes, it covers the importance of sharpening your hooks. 

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Tying a Sulphur Usual

Here's another snowshoe rabbit foot wing pattern that is both easy to tie and very effective.  It is a variation on Fran Betters' venerable pattern, the Usual.  The great thing about this pattern is that by changing the color of the body and the size, you can imitate any mayfly dun you wish.  The pattern is durable and floats great - after you catch a fish or two, blot the fly dry and restore it with Frog's Fanny, and it will float like new.  There's nothing like a fly that's easy to tie and catches trout!

Hook: #16 Std. dry fly
Thread: 6/0 Danville yellow
Wing: Snowshoe rabbit foot hair
Tail: Woodduck flank fibers.  You can also use zelon or antron for a shuck, or snowhoe rabbit foot hair just as Fran did
Body: Yellow dyed rabbit fur

Sharpen your hooks!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Snowshoe Rabbit "Legs"

Andy Baird of Small Fly Funk, commented on our Extended Body Light Cahill, suggesting that we might add hackle to give the impression of legs on the fly.  With just about any dry fly, the addition of hackle is always an option, so feel free to add it and anything else that suits your tying/fishing style. 

I've never felt the snowshoe rabbit foot winged flies needed hackle, as they float just fine, and many of the outer wing fibers tend to be drawn down to the water.  This provides a hint of legs, or footprint.  Here's a photo took today after dropping one of these flies onto a glass of water showing the footprint the wing creates.  It's not the best photo, but you get the idea.

That's a keeper!  Be sure to check and sharpen those hooks.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Tying the Extended Body Light Cahill

Back in the 70's, Catskill tying legend Harry Darbee, came out with his Two-Feathered mayfly pattern using a woodduck flank feather and a dry fly hackle, and ever since then I have experimented using the technique to create my own semi-realistic patterns. The use of the arching woodduck flank feather to imitate the tail and abdomen always looked so right to me for imitating mayfly adults.

This pattern combines the tailing technique Darbee used with one of my favorite materials, Snowshoe Rabbit Foot. It is incredibly durable, fairly easy to tie, and works very well. You can adapt the pattern by changing size and body color to imitate green drakes, brown drakes and other large mayfly patterns.  If you don't have natural woodduck flank, you can substitute mallard or teal flank with good results.   

I've been using this fly the last couple of weeks in the evenings, and some nights it has been all I need to tie on the end of my tippet.  After a fish or two, dry it out some with Amadou or some other absorbent material, then restore the fly with Frog's Fanny, and it will continue to float well without the use of paste or liquid floatants.  Hat's off to Tim Flagler for another great production.

Sharpen your hooks!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

A Breath Away, Yet So Far

Yes, it is true, on any give day any number of us fly fishermen are full of **it.  It happens.  We get skunked and have all kinds of idiotic excuses as to why.  It is the nature of our predicament.  We are fishing, and fish do what they do, and we being "smarter" than them fishes, rationalize our failings.  The interesting thing is that we failed according to our own expectations - the fish don't give a rat's ass whether or not we caught them.   

And we do have excuses.  There weren't enough bugs on the water.....the weather put them down.....I didn't have the right fly (whatever the hell that is/was) was too windy......and so on.  The fish don't cooperate, and we blame it on them.

So is it possible that the trout just don't give a damn sometimes?   Maybe they need a rest, or take a break, or have their own agenda.  Can they have an agenda?  Do they think or feel, "Man am I tired." Why is it that we, the almighty fly fisherman, think that trout even think?  They don't.  And sometimes, we don't, and that's often the problem.

Trout have absolutely no clue what we think or care about.  All they know (and I use the term "know" loosely, since trout have no cognitive abilities) is that they are hungry, or not, and they want to survive at any cost.  They (the trout) may require rest, or down time, to recharge their batteries, and so they ignore every morsel that floats by them be it real or artificial.  Who knows, maybe they are sleeping after a rough night out.  

In the end, it is the fault of neither fish nor fisherman when the fish don't bite and we go home with an empty feeling that somehow we failed.  Of course, that is what keeps us coming back for more, because we did fail - we didn't catch anything.  So we "have" to go back and catch something next time. That, and the reality that we want to once again stand in a clear, cool stream as it flows around our legs and sings a song that only water can sing.  We can't resist the blanket that nature wraps around us, our senses and our mind, when we set foot in the watery world that defies our being.  Fish can live there, we cannot, is there anything else we do in our lives that has such contrast as to be of different worlds?  

Insects, and the fish that feed on them, live and thrive in a world where no fisherman could even so much as breath a single breathe.  The dynamics of water and of air, other worldly, yet so intertwined.  Are the differences of our existence, fish and man, so simple as to be the thin line that is the surface of water where it meets the air? 

It is, and it is not.

The line that truly separates us is somewhere in the dense gray matter that makes us tick. 

The fish, they truly do not give a damn.  If they can even do that.

So go fish, take it all in, and when you catch something, behold the life that lives where you cannot.               

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Lots of Bugs, Fish and More Bugs

I've been back fishing the last week or so, albeit like a one-armed paper hanger, but with the all the bugs on the water and the fish rising to them its got to be good for the healing process. (I got crushed by some guy texting and driving on Route 84 in CT 6 weeks ago.)   I can use my left hand to hold the line and tie knots, and that gets it done as long as I don't have to lift or bend the elbow too far.  Fished the last 3 of 4 evenings, and a couple were great, and one challenging, all of them well worth the time and effort.  Here's a nice 14-15" rainbow that took a Light Cahill just after dark the other night.

The dry fly fishing has been great lately here in the Northeast, with excellent river conditions and tons of hatching insects to bring the trout to the surface.  Last evening we saw several species of mayflies, caddisflies, and stoneflies in the air and on the water.  There were Sulphur duns and spinners from size #16 down to #20, many of the females struggling to carry their oversized egg-sacs as they flew over the river.  Isonychia dun and spinners #8-10, Light Cahills #12-14, Pink Cahills #14, Blue-winged Olive spinners #16-20, Rusty spinners #12-16, Little dark grannoms #16-18, Apple caddis #16, Cinnamon/speckled caddis #14-16, Golden stoneflies #6-8, Yellow Sallies #12, and a bunch of other assorted small caddis, midges, and craneflies.  After we got done fishing, Vinnie and I were covered with these insects as they congregated in front of my car lights and on our clothes.  Here's a Light Cahill spinner on my pant leg:

Where we were fishing, the trout seemed to prefer the small dark caddis that were hatching.  I spoke to others folks that said they did well on small sulphurs - duns and spinners - on the stretches they fished.  It all depends on where you are as to what the fish may be keyed in on.  The trick is to carry a basic arsenal of patterns that both cover most of the primary hatches, and that you have confidence in.   Across the board, we all did best using 6X tippet in fairly long leaders - I was using a 12-13 foot leader.

As I said, last night, the fish were on the small dark caddis, and took most of our fish on my Caribou Caddis - tan-gray body.  After I caught a number of fish, I decided to experiment and did manage a few on a Light Cahill, and one on a sulphur emerger.  Vinnie and Tim got their fish on caddis.  Here's the well-chewed Caribou Caddis I used last night - this one has a Zelon trailing shuck.

The other evening a bunch of us fished above Califon, covering a lot of water as we spread out, and the results were mixed. It did rain on and off throughout the evening, and that may have effected the outcomes.  Some of us got fish on caddis, others on sulphurs, Jim got his on a #18 Parachute Adams, and I got one on caddis and the others on a Light Cahill.  I think that night, like most, it was more a question of getting the right drift with a fly you had confidence in.  I had seen a number of Light Cahills disappear from the surface where I was, so that's what I fished with confidence.

We didn't make a video this weekend, as we had lots of family obligations during the days, but we'll be back next week........maybe with a Sulphur thorax style pattern.  

Get out there and enjoy the great dry fishing to be had, and sharpen those hooks when they need it.