Wednesday, April 26, 2017

A Quiet Sunday On the Water

This past Sunday I had planned to fish with my friend Chris and his dad in the Ken Lockwood Gorge section of the South Branch of the Raritan River, but when I got to there, the upper lot in the gorge, and the lot at Hoffman's Crossing, which is a short walk above the gorge, were full.  Being one that does not like fishing with a lot of other folks that may or may not be fishing, I decided to go elsewhere and let Chris spend some time with his dad.   

I headed up river to a stretch that had only a few scattered anglers with plenty of room for one to get some solitude.  It was a perfect spring day; thin high clouds, a slight breeze and air temperatures in the low 60's.  The river was at a perfect level, clear, and so inviting that I didn't bother to take the water temperature.  I figured it was a treat just to be on the water, and if bugs came off, that would be a plus.   Truthfully, with the muted sun and good water level, I tried to will a hatch of caddis or some leftover Hendricksons.

After I parked and geared up, I walked a few hundred yards down river to a nice run where I could wade one side that was fairly shallow, and fish to the opposite bank, where a long, fairly deep slough flowed a few feet off the bank.  At the top of the slough, a large rock breaks up the flow creating eddies and foam lines that fall off on either side of the submerged boulder and continue for 30 feet or so before melting into the water.  Feeding fish tend to sit down stream of the rock under the foam lines and slick areas formed by varying currents, and also in the thin water flowing along the bank under the overhanging stream side shrubs that at this point of the season were mostly bare except for regularly spaced, small, lime green buds that in a few weeks will grow to create a low riparian canopy.  I positioned myself at the lower end of the run, and settled down low, resting my knees on the gravel bottom using my heels as a seat, in about a foot of water.  I watched as small grannom caddis came off sporadically along with scattered tiny midges.  

As I quietly watched the water, I heard a light cough above and behind me. I turned and looked up to the top of the high bank where an old man stood watching me.  His hands in the pockets of his pressed khaki pants, above which he wore a light blue, hard cotton work shirt, and a white, five day old stubble on his leathery face obscured by the smoke of a burning cigarette hanging from his lips. He nodded to me under an old, tattered green baseball cap; the rest of him as still and solid as an ancient oak tree.  I gave him a short wave and a smile, and turned back to the task at hand.  I thought to myself, Either he wants to see if I catch anything, or he is waiting to see if the idiot kneeling in the river with a fly rod will take a fall when he stands up.

In short order, as the old man might say, a trout rose just off the opposite bank and a little ways above me.  The old man saw it; he gave a low grunt as if to say, Let's see what the half-submerged guy is going to do with this opportunity

The second the trout rose, I fixed its position above me in relation to a rock on the opposite bank, and mentally measured how far off the bank it rose.  It had some out from under the brush, so my cast would just need to be above it and close enough to the bank where the trout would feel safe coming out of its lair.  My target would be about two feet above that to give the my fly enough time to settle down and drift into the feeding lane like any other insect that might find itself adrift.

My first cast was a little short, so I let the #16 Grannom caribou caddis drift down below the fish and picked it up to cast again.  The next couple of casts and drifts weren't quite right, with the trout being the ultimate indicator of whether I was getting it right. When this happens, I bring my fly in to check it, blow moisture off it, and take a a few moments to rest the occasion.  After about 30 seconds, and a few false casts, I dropped the fly above the fish.  I watched as a dark shape glided out from under the brush and rose up under my offering before softly sipping it in.  I tightened my line and the rainbow came shooting out of the water before trying to head back into the safety from it came.  After a brief battle, I brought the bright silver, 13-inch fish close enough to grab the fly and back it out, and release the fish.  A short grunt followed from the peanut gallery, and by the time I turned, the man had already taken a few steps away with his back to me.

I spent the rest of the afternoon working my way upstream and covering every fishy looking spot I found.  I caught a bunch more fish, all rainbows, about the same size and temperament of the first fish.  And all of them on the well-chewed caribou caddis you see here.               


Hook: Partridge #16 Dry Fly Supreme
Thread: 6/0 Olive Danville
Trailing shuck: Amber zelon
Body: Dark olive Australian opossum
Rib: Pearl krystal flash - 1 strand
Underwing: Clear zelon
Wing: Medium caribou hair
Thorax: Dark hare's ear - touch-dubbed

Sharpen your hooks.

Friday, April 21, 2017

The Red Quill - Tied by Joe Fox

Here's a great video by Tim Flagler/Tightline Productions, of Joe Fox tying a Catskill Red Quill dry fly using techniques he learned from Catskill legends Walt, Winnie and Mary Dette, his great grandparents and grandmother. The Dette's are one of my primary tying influences, and I spent many hours in their fly shop in my younger years watching them tie and asking questions, and learning not only about tying flies, but also how to fish them.  Joe now runs that same fly shop in the front room of that white house on a quiet street in Roscoe, NY where he welcomes anglers from all over the world with the same friendly, warm regard his family did for so many years. 

Here's a link to the Dette Fly Shop: Dette Trout Flies - Since 1928

Sharpen your hooks.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Fishing With Henley and Friends

Yesterday we took my 3 year-old grandson Henley fishing at one of the bass ponds a short drive from his home here on Hilton Head Island.  The pond has bass, bream, crappie and catfish in it, and lots of turtles and a few other four-legged reptiles that made it hard to fish at times.

Here's the little man heading to the water armed and ready to do battle.

We got him rigged up and fishing in no time with his Ninja Turtle fishing pole his uncle Hunt bought him last time they were down visiting.  Once he started fishing, there was no telling him how to do it, he was on a mission and focused on the task at hand. 

He fished for a while, casting off the dock, trying both sides, while the turtles watched closely hoping a free meal might fall off his hook.  While all this was happening, the other pond denizens took notice and before long we were joined by them.  I don't know for sure, but I'm guessing that any fish that might be nearby swam off to safer waters.

These guys also seemed to be waiting for a free meal.  It's likely that some folks can't read signs, or just don't care, and feed them from the two fishing docks, so when they see anyone on the docks, they come calling.  They averaged about 6-8 feet in length, and then of course, there was the king of the pond that looked to be a good 10 feet long that couldn't be bothered with us.  It stayed on the far bank sunning itself, which was just fine with us.

I don't think many folks get ticketed.......

At the end of the day we had a good time even though Henley didn't catch anything.  He was fascinated with the turtles and the alligators, which in itself was worth the trip to experience. The alligators are very cool, from a distance, and unlike any creature I've ever come across when trout fishing.

Sharpen your hooks!

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Galloup's Improved Blue-winged Olive Nymph

I've been tying some new flies for this year, and one of them is a Baetis sp. nymph that comes from the vise of Kelly Galloup.  I saw his video on it, and it's one of those patterns that just looks like it will work. It's a fairly straightforward tie that is similar to a pheasant tail nymph, but with a couple of changes in materials, and the addition of gills.  Yes, gills, that are tied in at the thorax and meant to fold back along the abdomen using a light material, that in water, fades to a mostly translucent veil.   Kelly uses Senyo's Lazer Dub, but I used EP Trigger Fibers in mine.

It's an interesting take but does make sense as the gills of a baetis nymph are a prominent feature of the natural.  There's a line of thinking (myth) that this genus of mayflies hatches on the stream bottom and that may be why this pattern is effective, but they don't, they hatch just under or in the film. Baetis do crawl or swim to the bottom to lay their eggs, which may be part of the confusion.

So the early season verdict is that this pattern works.  In fact, my son fished it earlier this week and took a bunch of fish on it.


Hook: #16-20 nymph
Thread: 6/0 Danville olive
Tail: Pheasant tail fibers
Abdomen: Pheasant tail fibers
Thorax: Ice dub - peacock
Gills: Senyo's Lazer Dub - sparse
Wingcase: Peacock herl

Here's Kelly talking about this pattern and tying it.

Sharpen your hooks!

Friday, March 24, 2017

Tying the Top Secret Midge...On a Size #26 Hook!

In his latest tying video, Tim Flagler ties Pat Dorsey's Top Secret Midge pattern, which is a hard enough task for most tyers without having to get it right in front of a camera.  If there's an upside to tying this pattern, it is that it's fairly easy to tie and works well in sizes #20 on down to #26. It was designed for fishing tailwaters, which are midge factories, but it works well anywhere there are trout (midges can be found in just about any river or lake in the world). 

To give you an idea of the size, here's a comparison with a size #20 above it on a quarter. 

Sharpen your hooks!

Monday, March 20, 2017

The X-Caddis

I go through quite a bit of deer and elk hair, as I use it often for various dry flies and emergers. Last week I was placing an order from Blue Ribbon Flies, and I saw that they had early season cow elk hair available, so I ordered a piece.  This stuff is great; fine hair with nice even, unbroken tips and the perfect color for medium to lighter colored flies.  I tied up a bunch of tan X-Caddis with it, which is a pattern developed by Craig Mathews of BRF, and the results speak for themselves.    


Hook: Partridge Dry Fly Supreme #16
Thread: 6/0 Olive Danville
Shuck: Amber zelon
Body: Tan zelon dubbing
Wing: Natural early seasons elk 

Sharpen your hooks. 

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Clear Water Dry Fly FIshing In Norway

Here's a great short film about dry fly fishing in Norway on a beautiful, crystal clear river called the Laagen. 

Looks like something I may have to add to my bucket list.

And here's a link with information on the fishing and the river: Fishspot

Sharpen your hooks!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Winter? Spring? Fly Tying Is Where It's At

As I write this the bright winter sun is streaming through the living room windows giving the room a golden glow.  Outside, high up in in the red oak where a past storm tore off a large branch exposing the hardwood to insects, a pileated woodpecker taps loudly as it searches for a late day meal.  On the south facing hill below that, several dozen robins root among the thick blanket of dead leaves searching frantically for a meal to fight off the cold.  They hop from spot to spot, grabbing leaves with their beaks and toss them aside hoping to reveal a worm within the warm, decaying matter.   They don't stop moving; I wonder if they stay in motion in an effort to keep warm.  Nevertheless, many chirp that familiar song that often accompanies the blooming of daffodils.

It wasn't but a couple of days ago that it seemed spring was overtaking winter with temperatures in the 60's and friends texting me to leave the office to go wet a line.  There was no fishing this weekend, but we have done plenty of fly tying and thinking about warmer days and rising trout.  The shows are over, the last one being Lancaster a week ago, and that was a great time as usual.  Before I get to the fly tying, here's a shot of me and some of the hoodlums that sit along fly tyers row on the show floor enjoying a cigar after Saturday dinner in Lancaster, PA.

(Click to enlarge photos...or don't)
With opening day in New Jersey and Pennsylvania being about a month away, we are tying flies in anticipation of warmer weather, hatches, and rising trout.  Below is a Hendrickson Sparkle Dun that I tied today, as we typically see these mayflies hatching around opening day in NJ and PA.  They hatch later in the month of April in the Catskills and Delaware system.  I also tie these with a snowshoe rabbit foot wing; both work well for these early season mayflies. 

And of course, we are tying several versions of blue-winged olives, as these little flies are abundant and often the only mayflies hatching in early season.  This is a variation of the Comparadun; woodduck flank tail, thread abdomen, tied on a size #20 emerger hook here.  6/0 olive Danville thread, don't leave home without it.  

And here's a new pattern designed by Bucky McCormick of Blue Ribbon Flies in West Yellowstone.  It's called an Almost There Baetis, and imitates an emerging blue-winged olive.  The tail is woodduck fibers, thread abdomen, small dubbed thorax, and grey EP trigger fibers for the wing; also tied on an emerger hook.  Tie some up and fish them with confidence.

And finally, there's a new Atlantic Salmon fly rocking the crusty fly fishing world called a Jock Mop!  Look for details in a future post.

Sharpen your hooks.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Tying the Kinder, Gentler Mop Fly

I watched Tim tie these at the Lancaster Fly Fishing Show this past weekend, and the result is a streamlined, wiggly fly that in the right colors imitates a cranefly larva well.  In the video Tim adds some underwater footage of the natural that confirms this.  As usual, the production is second to none.

Sharpen your hooks!

Friday, March 3, 2017

The Fly Fishing Show - Lancaster, PA

This weekend, March 4 & 5, 2017 we'll be at the last of this season's Fly Fishing Shows taking place at the Lancaster County Convention Center.  I'll be doing a presentation each day, the featured tyer gig, and the rest of the time I'll be on the floor with the usual tying hoodlums you have come to know and love.

My schedule is a follows:

Saturday at 1:30PM - Release Room - Simple Dry Flies for Sophisticated Trout

Sunday at 1:00PM - Release Room - Eastern Hatches and their Imitations

Sunday at 3:00PM - Featured Tyer - Tying Simple Dry Flies

For more information and the full schedule: The Fly Fishing Show Lancaster, PA

Hope to see you there.

AND the first "BUGS and BREWS" fly tying event takes place tonight........

The first Bugs and Brews fly tying event will take place at Czig Meister Brewery in Hackettstown, NJ, located at 106 Valentine Street starting at 6:00PM.  This is the first time for this event, which has been organized by Frank Rosata of Ridge and Valley Trout Unlimited.

Press release:

On March 3, 2017, RVTU will host its first "Bugs and Brews Night." This is an open tying event. Bring materials to tie your own patterns or match up with other tiers and learn theirs. This is a great opportunity to learn and ask questions.

We encourage other Trout Unlimited Chapters to participate and help spread the message of TU's cause and our great sport of FlyFishing/FlyTying. We also encourage you to bring a banner supporting your local TU chapter.

Some notes about Czig Meister Brewery. They have a ample selection of their craft Brews. YOU CAN NOT BYOB. They do not serve food but they encourage you to support local restaurants (many of which deliver) or bring your own food. The space they will reserve for us in the back is rather large. I noted they lighting was actually pretty good but a tying lamp always helps. I also took notice of the tables. C- Clamps will work on some, but if you have a base clamp bring that. We're hoping this will be the first of many events for us.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Tying Ken's Crystal Worm

In this video Tim ties another Ken Walrath pattern that is about as simple as it can get.  The end result is a durable, worm imitation that can be tied in any combination of colors, to match whatever the predominant color of aquatic worms are in your favorite streams.

The other pattern of Ken's that Tim produced is Ken's Crazy Ant.  Click here to view it: Ken's Crazy Ant

Sharpen your hooks!

Monday, February 13, 2017

EPICWILDERNESS - 3 Best Fly Fishing Tips

Recently, John Lewis of Epicwilderness online magazine, contacted me and a bunch of other fly fishers from across the globe, and asked:  "What are the 3 most important things you wish you knew when you started fly fishing?"

46 of us sent answers, and John put them together in the following link.  Some of the answers are as you might expect, and others are a little out of the box; all of them thoughtful and worth reading.   

LINK: Click here

Sharpen your hooks!


Saturday, February 11, 2017

Public Lands are Not for Sale

America’s 640 million acres of national public lands—including our national forests and Bureau of Land Management lands—provide hunting and fishing opportunities to millions of Americans. They represent the uniquely American values of freedom and adventure that are the envy of the world.

And while no sportsman would say that federal management of our lands is perfect, the idea that individual states will do a better job at running them is fundamentally flawed. In fact, proponents of the public land transfer movement have drawn up some pretty fantastical scenarios about how much better off we’d be with land in state hands.

States are simply not equipped to shoulder the enormous costs associated with fighting wildfires, maintaining roads and trails, treating noxious weeds, and conducting habitat restoration on millions of acres of public lands, which currently belong to you and me.

As public lands hunter and outdoor television host Randy Newberg explains, the transfer of national lands to the states would result in one likely outcome: the fire sale of these lands to the highest bidders, like billionaires and foreign corporations who may neither understand nor value America’s outdoor heritage. Once privatized, these lands will become off-limits to most sportsmen—for good.

Join us in telling lawmakers that America’s public lands are NOT FOR SALE.

Be sure to sign the petition at the end. Your grandkids will thank you.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Land Building Hawaiian Style

Everyone once in a while nature likes to remind us who the real boss is on this big blue orb.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

The Fly Fishing Show - Somerset, NJ

The big fly fishing show is this coming to New Jersey weekend, Friday, Saturday and Sunday - January 27, 28 & 29 - at the Garden State Convention Center 50 Atrium Drive in Somerset, NJ.  We'll be there all three days tying flies, signing books and doing presentations. Show Hours are: Friday 9am – 6pm  Saturday 8:30am – 6:00pm and Sunday 9am – 4:30pm.

Here's my schedule for the weekend:

Author's Booth - Friday 4:00 PM, Saturday 3:30 PM, Sunday 2:30 PM

Friday Seminar - Strike Room 1:00 PM – Mayflies - Eastern Hatches, Patterns and Techniques
Saturday Seminar - Catch Room 2:00 PM – Eastern Hatches and their Imitations

Sunday Seminar - Strike Room 1:00 PM –Simple Flies for Sophisticated Trout

For more information on the show, directions and other programs being offered, click here: The Fly Fishing Show - Somerset, NJ

Hope you see you there.

Sharpen your hooks!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Fishing for Sea Run Arctic Char in Greenland

Beautiful, clear rivers and rugged terrain combined with a fly rod makes for some pretty great fly fishing in a place few folks think of as a fishing destination.  Looks awesome.

Sharpen your hooks!

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Henley Turns Three Today

He's off to a good start, the fly rod won't be far behind.

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.