Sunday, December 10, 2017

Dispatch From Ed Ostapczuk

Dec. 1st – NJ wild trout stream: Our youngest grandson needed someone to pick him up after school in New Jersey this afternoon, so I volunteered. I did this partly to help family, and partly to attempt to catch a December trout. I had lots of options, for larger fish, both wild browns and rainbows, but I chose to wander a special place instead, in pursuit of little wild brook trout. This is revered soil, steep in American history, paid for dearly by men committed to the ideals of a young nation. Plus I thought I might be able to seduce a few trout on dry flies, maybe for the last time until next spring.

I wandered some trails and found my way down into a hollow. The brook was clear, cold, and very low; somehow I don’t think the Garden State received as much rain as the eastern Catskills did in late October. Fish dimpled as I setup; a few tiny midges buzzed above the brook. Still I attached a #18 Adams, one of my favorite flies for situations like this. Without much effort, I successfully put all these fish down without nicking any. Thus I slowly worked my way up the tiny flow.

Soon I came upon a favorite spot, one that has always produced for me no matter the conditions, one where I think a spring seeps into the brook. Fish dimpled; I nicked two here, then caught my first little wild brook trout, all five inches of a mighty fish.


Continuing on I moved several more fish. Wherever one dimpled, it took my Adams though I fell short of hooking them all. And in likely looking spots, if I twitched the Adams--- a la Leonard Wright, often a fish would appear out of nowhere to grab it. I probably moved about two dozen fish to the dry fly, catching 9 brook trout.

Then around 12:30 conditions changed. For one thing, an overhanging branch stole my only #18 Adams on a sloppy backcast. So I attached a #18 Dorato Hares Ear, but it wasn’t the same, no fault of the pattern I’m sure. Shade creeped throughout the hollow, and masked the brook. Air temperatures dropped, bugs disappeared, and trout stopped rising. This little flow was shutting down for the day.

I spooked a couple more trout in sunlit tailouts, even a fish that probably pushed 8” to 9” long. But I only caught two more brook trout before quitting at 1:15 PM.


Thus today I wandered and fished this hollow for 2¼ hours, catching 11 wild brook trout 4” to 6” long all on dry flies, but only two fish during the last forty-five minutes.

If one has never fished this time of year, or during winter, I feel that angler has truly missed something unique. For one I know when summer fishing at Frost Valley, some days catching trout by the dozens, I often take moments like those for granted and don’t value each individual trout as much as I should. This time of year I believe the angling window of opportunity is very narrow, often one needing to be on the water when fish are active for a limited time. When a trout stream comes alive, when bugs move and fish feed, when a trout--- no matter its size--- puts a bend in one’s rod, and then just like that, everything shuts off for the day, maybe several days, those are magically moments to be appreciated and not diminished.

As Rene Harrop wrote in Trout Hunter, “Treat each trout as an individual and with respect. A wild trout is a worthy opponent; therefore, study it carefully and take nothing for granted.”

Growing up in the Garden State I never knew this environment existed, a sad commentary on my part. For now I’m probably done fishing for December, unless I get a bad case of the piscatorial itch, or we get a very warm day and I try a Catskill stream still open in hopes of finding a few rising trout. But for now, December is in the books.

So that’s it.

Ed

Thursday, December 7, 2017

The Perfect Body

I've been tying a lot of Catskill dries lately, and I thought I would share what I think is the key to getting a nice even body on a quill bodied fly. It's kind of like building a house; you have to start with a solid, level foundation so that the framing can be laid evenly on it.  In fly tying, that means making uniform, purposeful wraps of thread as you tie in the butts of the wing and the tail of the fly.  Simply put, every wrap of thread should have a purpose.  

Here's a Red Quill showing the before and after of the quill being wrapped.  I've coated the quill after wrapping it with head cement, which draws out the rich, red color of the natural red hackle stem.   I don't care for dyed quill quill bodies as they are too uniform in color.  Stripping a natural red/brown saddle hackle of the hackles, wrapping it, and then coating it after wrapping it brings out what is to me the perfect male hendrickson body imitation.        



Sharpen your hooks.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Holiday Weekend Rainbows

I managed to get out on the South Branch this afternoon for a few hours and ended the weekend on a high note.   It was around 2:00 pm when I waded along the banks of the low, chilly water that was so clear one could make out every leaf moving along in the water column, and even some of the trout holding on the bottom among the rocks and stones. The skies were mostly clear with a decent breeze that made the 45 degree F air feel like it was much colder.  There wasn't another angler in site and only the faint sound of bicyclists and their chatting from the old railroad bed turned walking/cycling path that follows the river a short distance away.


I started out with a #15 ( TMC102Y) tan Iris Caddis off the end of 2 feet of 6x tippet with a small split shot about 6-8 inches above the fly.  I typically would use 5x tippet, but the water was quite low, clear and moving at a snails pace compared to what it usually is.  I moved up the left bank of the river making straight upstream presentations into seams and deeper pockets; after giving the fly a second to sink, the line is stripped back at roughly the same speed as the current.  In a very short while my line stopped, I lifted the rod, and was into a nice rainbow that jumped a couple of times before I netted it.  

After working my way up the stream a bit without another take, I switched flies to a #20 pumpkin head midge and took off the split shot.  I continued to fish upstream, covering the water from the near bank to the far bank before taking a couple of steps up and repeating the process.   I hooked and landed a few, and lost one as I brought it to net.  The fish were all rainbows that were 12-15 inches or so long.

As the sun dipped to the Southwestern horizon I came to a favorite pool that always holds a few fish and despite my hands and fingers being pretty much frozen stiff, I changed back to the Iris Caddis since the midge had stopped producing.  About a dozen casts into top of the tail out my line jumped and I set the hook on the rainbow you see in the photo above.  After releasing the fish I snipped off the fly, reeled in and took my rod apart, and made my way back down stream in the draining light to my car.

To see how the two flies mentioned above are tied click on:

Sharpen your hooks.              

Thursday, November 9, 2017

International Fly Tying Symposium - This Saturday & Sunday Nov. 11 & 12 - Lancaster, PA

This weekend, November 11 & 12, The International Fly Tying Symposium will take place in the ballroom of the Marriott Hotel, Lancaster, Penn. The move was made necessary by the closing of the Garden State Exhibit Center in Somerset, NJ.  The 9,000-square foot ballroom is in the stately hotel on Downtown's Penn Square, 25 So. Queen St. Lancaster, PA.


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.

The exciting part for me is that my son Hunt will be tying also - look for him among the miscreants that I am mixed in with at these events.

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 I put together on the flies I use to match common Northeastern hatches and specifics on tying them, along with how to fish them.

For the official brochure, click here: 2017 International Fly Tying Symposium     

See you at the show.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

8th Annual Fly Fisherman of the Year Event - This Saturday November 11

New Jersey’s 8th Annual NJ Fly Fisherman of the Year event will be taking place this Saturday November 11 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 dinner, 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.  A video of last year's event is at the bottom of this page. 

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 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".

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. A cash bar will be open from 4:00 to 6:00pm followed by dinner. Dinner registration is available by stopping by Shannon's Fly Shop or on line HERE. Presentations and awards at 7:00pm will finish out the fun filled day.

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.  We would be attending ourselves, but we have another obligation this weekend.



Sharpen your hooks!

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

1,000,000 Page Views!!

Some time in the last 24 hours we reached a million page views since we started Caddis Chronicles in late 2006.

Thanks to all of you that take the time to visit!

And to celebrate, here's the next generation of our clan starting out early:

Henley

Bryson

Sharpen your hooks!

Monday, November 6, 2017

A Quiet Afternoon On the Water

Managed a couple hours on the the South Branch of the Raritan yesterday under cloudy, damp conditions. It was comfortable thought being fairly warm for November, low 60's F, and very calm.  After last weeks heavy rain and high water, I was surprised to see the river so clear and on the low side.  I guess we need more rain to make up for the dry weather of the last two months.  I went to a less traveled stretch of the river and had it all to myself as I worked the runs and pools upstream covering about a 1/2 mile of water.      


The river is not stocked in this section but those hatchery trout do make their way into the holding water here, and along with some wild rainbows and browns, it can be productive.  There were a few blue-winged olives about along with some midges and micro-caddis, but not enough to get the fish to rise in any kind of steady fashion. I fished a #22 olive sparkle dun and got a couple of wild fish that were on the smaller side of the scale and that was more than enough for me.  I just wanted to be on the water away from all the stuff that has to be dealt with during the week and not have to worry about who wanted to fish where.  Some trips to the river are more about clearing the mind than anything else.   

I noticed another thing in this stretch of water that is unusual; the bottom was well cobbled and mostly devoid of the sand that is so prevalent above and below this stretch.  It's hard to tell from the photo below, but there is very little sand filling the gaps between the stones.  Over the last few decades there has been a lot of development along the river upstream, which has resulted in changes to the river bottom due to sand and silt being washed in during rain events.  Unfortunately, there are some pools that now have sand bottoms that  were all cobble when I first started fishing them - the sand has literally covered the river stones. One would think these cleaner, cobbled stretches will have better insect populations than the other sandy bottomed areas; we'll just have to come back in the spring and find out.               


Don't forget, next weekend is the International Fly Tying Symposium in Lancaster, PA.

Sharpen your hooks.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Some Flies We Tied Recently

We've been doing a lot of fly tying lately on the premise that we need to practice for the upcoming International Fly Tying Symposium next weekend in Lancaster, PA.  The truth is we tie flies just about everyday because that's what we do, and one of things that brings us great pleasure when we can't be out on the water casting them to the wily trout on rivers and streams.   After 50 years of tying it doesn't get old and we still try to tie the next fly better than the one we tied before that one.   As you can see, we stink at taking photos, and that's because we're using an iphone and also because we'd rather spend our time tying flies.  

Quill Gordon

Hendrickson

Red Quill

Tan X-Caddis

$3 Dip

We threw the dip in here because I've been tying them since they are a very effective fly just about everywhere we fish. I highly recommend it. Learn to tie it here: $3 Serendipity After viewing that video, you would think a little of Tim's photo ability might have rubbed off on me.........

Sharpen your hooks!

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Giant Trevally vs. Bird

A giant trevally shoots out of the water and plucks a bird from the sky in rare hunting scene captured for Blue Planet II. 


Sharpen your hooks!

Friday, October 20, 2017

Montana - Final Thoughts & Photos

Any time I can get to Montana its a very good thing, even when conditions make it less than ideal like our trip this year.  There are so many things that make these trips memorable - the rivers, fish, bugs/hatches, the mountains and pretty much just being there along with the friends we go with.

Here's another rainbow from Hyalite Creek  

(Click on photos to enlarge)
A herd of pronghorn antelope grazing above the Madison River.


The dining room table on day one; we waste no time getting down to business.


The Gallatin River in the valley.


And an old man among his progeny.


Sharpen your hooks

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Montana - Finished Strong

On Thursday, after 4 straight days of crazy weather, the forecast called for heavy snow overnight and on Friday.  Steve had already left on that morning to go tree hunting in the mountains east of Livingston.   Steve's other passion is collecting bonsai trees; he's got a serious collection of many dozen trees, some worth more than most folks cars.  He goes up into the mountains where the tree line ends in search of 200-300 year old wind and weather stunted evergreen trees, most less than a foot tall.  Anyway, Thursday's weather was cold breezy and although we caught fish on the Madison that day, we decided to pack up and head to Bozeman after dinner rather than take a chance on the forecasted storm..

Friday morning Paul left for the airport to head home around 4:00AM. We got up much later and after a great breakfast at the Western Cafe and a stop at Montana Troutfitters Fly Shop, Chris and I headed into the mountains south of Bozeman to fish Hyalite Creek.  Having fished this little gem in the past, we knew it was full of wild rainbows and some brook trout, and we also were confident that the cloud cover and light showers would bring a good hatch of blue-winged olives.  Hyalite creek is small by western standards. Its crystal clear water flows through a beautiful, heavily forested deep canyon around rocks and boulders and over a gravel bottom.  We also hoped the canyon walls would keep the wind to a minimum.  


Sure enough when we got to the first spot fish were rising to blue-winged olives in the tail out of the pool and in the broken water at the head of the pool.  The olives were coming off in decent numbers and were about a size #20, so I tied an olive sparkle sparkle emerger to end of a new, 2-foot long piece of 6X tippet and cast to a rising fish just off the near bank above me.  The fly drifted a foot or so before it was taken by what turned out to be a 6 inch brook trout.  As the day turned to mid afternoon, the hatch increased and with it fish rose throughout the river for a couple of hours before the hatch subsided as quickly as it ramped up.  We caught mostly rainbows that averaged 6-8 inches long, but also landed a few that went 12 inches or so.  These fish are beautiful and fight hard for their size, especially on the 3-weight I was using that day.      


On Saturday, we decided to head up to the lower Madison River and fish it just below the lower end of Bear Trap Canyon.  It was cloudy with a light breeze and the temperature was in the low 40's. The river here is very different than the 50 mile riffle between Ennis and Quake Lake - it has a more consistent, flatter flow more like that of a tail water river.  The river bottom is covered with rocks and boulders that break up the flows and provide cover for the trout, but there is very little pocket water and riffles, which is is a challenge when reading the water.  There are plenty of trout in the river though.

When I first stepped into the river there were a few olives on the surface and as I watched the water surface a single trout rose just below a submerged rock.  I focused on the spot and the trout rose again. I had expected to fish nymphs when I rigged up at the car, so I quickly changed over to a couple of feet of 6X tippet and tied on a #20 blue-winged olive cloud emerger.  I then made a couple of test casts above me and when everything looked right on the water, I shifted my position and dropped the fly above the rising fish.  A nose poked through the water surface a few inches from my fly and took a natural.  I cast again, and after a short drift the fish sipped in my offering and after a short battle I landed a nice brown.


After that more olives began hatching bringing more trout to the surface to feed on them.  Over next few hours fish rose constantly all around me as the water was covered with olives hatching.  I took rainbows and browns that averaged 13-14 inches with some larger and others smaller.  It was the kind of fishing we dream about.  I switched flies between the cloud emerger and the olive sparkle emerger, only doing so when the fly I was fishing got so water-logged no amount of desiccant powder would restore it.  Here's a video of the trout rising all around me that afternoon.  The rises were subtle as you can see here and many belied the size of the trout that created them.


Eventually the hatch subsided as the sun descended to the west and the rising fish followed suit.  As I prepared to called it quits I heard the rich, high-pitched sound of an eagle far up on the mountain across the river for me.  There above a tight stand of pine trees along the highest ridge, a golden eagle circled, powered by the cool, steady breeze that rose up from the valley below.  I took that as a signal to be grateful for the week we spent in its home territory and I called it a day.  I can still see that eagle in my minds eye silhouetted against the diminishing sun light as it soared with a purpose only known to itself.

Sharpen your hooks!

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Tying the Peacock Caddis

Here's a great pattern that I used for years, as have many of my friends, as tied here by Tim Flagler.  The peacock caddis has many of the elements of other effective multi-purpose dry flies - peacock herl body, a deer body hair down wing and grizzly hackle.   It works during caddis hatches, as a searching pattern, and in smaller sizes it is an effective flying ant imitation.  Another variation of the pattern is the use of two hackles - a grizzly and a brown.  Either way, the pattern works well anywhere caddis are found.
 

Sharpen your hooks!

Friday, October 13, 2017

Montana - Winter in September

We had early winter weather in September that Monday through Thursday of our trip.  When we woke on Monday, it was sunny but quite cold.   We went and got breakfast and planed our day.We decided that we would head over the Continental Divide at Raynold's Pass and fish the Henry's Fork in Idaho.  The Henry's Fork Angler in Island Park said it was cold over there, but the wind was calm and under cloudy skies.  They reported that blue-winged olives had been hatching the last few days along with mahogany duns "paraleps".   Of course, by the time we got there it was spitting and a steady breeze moved upriver, but olives were coming off and a few fish rose to take them in broken water.   Steve took a nice rainbow early on, but after that it was slim pickings - we did hook a couple before breaking them off in the thick weeds that cover the bottom of the river this time of the year.  Here's Paul in zeroing in on a riser.


By mid afternoon the mist had turned to wet snow and the wind was became steady, enough to screw up your cast and push your tippet and fly off target.  We left to go back to the Madison, while Paul and Steve stuck it out.  This was the first day of a weather pattern that stuck around all week.  A low pressure system sat over the Northwest and an outer band picked up moisture and drove it in a Northeasterly direction dropping snow and/or rain (depending on the hour) right over the Henry's Fork and Madison Valley just north of there.


Tuesday we woke to heavy clouds, snow and freezing temperatures.  Here's the view from my room.


Again, we headed over to the Henry's Fork, where it was colder with a good breeze and thunder snow.  We put up with that for a while before the snow really came down then we blew out of there and went into West Yellowstone to visit the fly shops and grab some lunch.  When we got back to the Madison, it was still snowing but not too windy, and we caught a few before dark on olive sparkle duns.  The hatch was sparse, but the fish seemed to want to eat every one that floated over their space below.


And then there was Wednesday.  Not much to be said about hump day; we fished the Madison in bright sun and gale force winds.  It was tough, lots of shot on the leader, which more often than not, did no good.  My line, leader and flies spent more time flying like a flag off my rod tip than in the water.  Again, we caught a few fish, had fun despite the conditions and I even finished up the day taking a nice rainbow on a dry.


Thursday the wind was down some, but the rain and snow was back.  We caught some fish, but again we had to work for every one.  It was a tough few days, but we dressed right and made the most of it.  Evenings were always fun as once we ate, we sat around the table for hours tying flies, talking about the day, having a few beers, and busting each others chops relentlessly.  

Sharpen your hooks.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Montana - You Never Know What You Will Get

A week ago today we returned from an 9 day trip to southwest Montana.  We arrived on Saturday the 16th, and after leaving the Bozeman airport and stocking up on food for the week, we hit the highway out to the slide section of the Madison River.  As soon as we got to the mountains, the temperature dropped and the landscape turned white from snow fall earlier that day.  The Madison valley was beautiful and very winter like for September.  After a two hour drive, we reached the cabin far above Raynold's Pass bridge overlooking the Madison River at the base of the mountain where a massive rock slide occurred during the Hebgen Lake/Yellowstone Earthquake of August 1959.  


After unpacking and getting sort of settled in, a couple of the guys got geared up and headed down to the river below the cabin.  Chris and I drove down to fish a favorite section of fast water above Kelly Galloup's Slide Inn that is roughly across the river from the cabin.   At the end of what was a short time on the water, we all had caught a couple of fish.  We ate, then settled down to tie flies and talk about plans for the following day.  

The next day we woke to bright sun and mostly clear skies, and a pretty steady breeze.  We made a quick trip to get breakfast between the lakes, and then after couple of stops to photograph the Madison between the lakes and the snow covered slide, we headed back to the cabin.     

The Madison River between Hebgen Lake and Quake Lake.

Quake Lake and a snow covered slide mountain in the background -  the snow covered area is where the mountain slid away.

That morning all of us fished the fast water, pockets, and long slicks that line the edges of the river,  below the cabin.  A couple of guys went with streamers, and I fished a dark brown #16 serendipity on a short line and did quite well.  All the fish were rainbows that fought hard before being released to fight another day.    


Later that afternoon, we decided to hit the water around Raynold's Pass bridge where the water, while still fast, flattens out enough behind many of the big boulders that we could nymph or fish dries in the event olives hatched.   About mid afternoon, high thin clouds moved over the sun and sure enough blue-winged olives began hatching in numbers, drawing the trout to the surface to feed.  The olives were varied in size, some as large as #18 and others as small as #26.  I chose a #20 improved sparkle dun, which I fished on the end of a 12 foot long leader tipped off with 5X tippet.  The rises were subtle and quick, barely breaking the surface of the fast moving water.  

It took a good, accurate cast, with a drag-free drift to get a look or take. I made many casts onto the fast moving water that didn't hit the spot for every one that did.  With all the currents and slicks between myself and the fish I was constantly moving a little this way, a little that way, until I could find what I thought was the best drift for each fish.  It took lots of line mending and leader tweaking, which was great fun and exactly the kind challenge that takes me to another place and soothes the soul like few other things in life do.  I took as many fish that afternoon/evening as I did in the morning on nymphs, only this time I saw each and every one of my targets.

It was a great start to what turned out to be a tough week of fishing thanks to the fickle weather of Montana.  More to come, stay tuned.

And sharpen your hooks!   

Friday, September 15, 2017

Eagle River, Colorado

Last week we spent a few days in Colorado in the shadows of high mountains laced with ski lifts.  Our friends had lots of stuff planned in the afternoons and evenings, but the mornings were open for fishing and we took advantage of that.  As luck would have it, the Eagle River flowed through the narrow valley at the base of the mountains below the village.  The first day we went to Vail Valley Anglers and got the lay of the land, licenses, some new stuff, and a bunch of the local favorite flies.   The three of us got to the river around mid morning under blue skies and a bright sun.  The water temperature was 48 degrees F, and the air was in the 60's.  We were wet wading, and the water was cold at first, but once you got used to it and the air warmed into the 70's, it was perfect.


All three days of fishing went the same.  Early on we had bright sun and no rising fish, so we fished dry/dropper rigs.  I use a hopper with a size #20 zebra midge off that and that worked well.  By mid morning, the air warmed and the breezes started, which in turn pushed the haze from nearby forest fires into the valley.  The haze was fairly thick and had the same effect on the insects cloud cover does; shortly after the haze moved in, blue-winged olives started hatching and with that the trout would begin to feed on top.   


Once the fish started rising, I switched to a #20 blue-winged olive sparkle dun and began taking fish on top. This lasted for a few hours into early afternoon, and a good cast with a drag-free drift over a working fish often drew a good take.  We took dozens of chunky rainbows and browns along with an occasional cutthroat trout.  Each day we fished a different section of river, each with its own character, and did well.  I used one fly for almost all of the fish I took on top - I had to switch to another once in a while as the fly would get totally water logged.  Once it dried though, it went back on the end of my 6X tippet.  It took a beating all three days, but it stood the test as you can see here.  It's now retired.


I know it sounds like it was easy fishing, and for the most part it was, but it wasn't like every cast got a strike.  We got plenty of refusals, and even more drifts that were not even getting a look.  These fish wanted a perfect drift!  The other thing is that the wading was not easy.  The bottom is strewn with round, slippery rocks of all sizes that make it much more difficult than it looks in the photos.  Also, the water is very clear and as you can see below it looks fairly shallow, it is not.  Right in front of where I took that photo the water was a good 2 feet deep, and across the way on the other side of that big rock, it's 4 feet or so - we know, we tried to cross there. 


We had a blast and I hope to get back there sometime soon.  I do want to thank the guys at Vail Valley Anglers as they were very generous with information and all around nice guys.  If you are ever in Vail or Beaver Creek Colorado, be sure to go see them. 

LINK: Vail Valley Anglers

I'm off to Montana tomorrow morning - I'll report back when I return.

Sharpen your hooks!      

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

An August Afternoon on the River

After getting a few things done around the house Sunday morning, I had some lunch before the call of the river had me heading to the South Branch to wet a line.  The last few nights had been very cool, and that day we had high thin clouds filtering the high sun and perfect temperatures for October in August.  After getting set up, I took the water temperature and it was a comfy 65 degrees F.  This is one of my favorite times of the year to fish - water and air temperatures are such that you can literally immerse yourself in the river by wet wading.     

      
I started well above the Ken Lockwood Gorge section of the river intending to work my way down into the gorge and then back up.  I really had no goals in mind except to take a long walk/wade in the river on a beautiful day and take in the sights and sounds of the woods; and if a trout should take my fly that would be icing on the cake.  Initially, I had an iris caddis on the end of my tippet, which I fished wet.  I took a couple of rainbows in the first few runs and as I was moving down to fish the next run, a fish rose on the far bank under a clump of multiflora rose bushes overhanging a soft spot in the current.

I quickly cut off the iris caddis, changed tippets to a long 6x, and tied on a #20 Matt's Gnat.  This is my go-to fly when I don't see anything on the water and conditions are such that subtlety is required - slow, clear water flowing like it is thicker than it really is.  I cast the fly well up above where I saw the rise to get a read on how it looked and floated on the water, before lifting and making a couple of quick false casts and then dropping the fly above the fish.  The fly floated along unmolested, so I picked it up and in one motion dropped it a little further above the first spot.  It drifted less than a foot before it was grabbed by a wild brown that after a brief battle measured about 8 inches long.

From that point on decided I would only fish the dry for the rest of the outing.  Over the next 4 hours I waded and walked (around other anglers) my way to the bottom of the gorge before turning and heading back up river.  I fished only the shallower riffles, runs and pockets that most anglers pass on and took quite a few rainbows and wild browns, nothing over 10 inches. As I moved along, I dropped the fly in every foam line that flowed below rocks over the darker river bottom made up of small cobble and stone.  I rarely saw the trout, as they blended in well with the bottom.  It was all about making a solid first cast along with the knowledge/confidence that many of these runs held at least one fish.  I fished this one fly the whole time, retying it on to the tippet after every few fish, and I don't think I made a cast over 20 feet.         

It was one of those days that is very satisfying, not only because of the weather, but especially because my low expectations were met with good results.

Sharpen your hooks.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

2017 World Youth Fly Fishing Championship Results

As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, Doug Freemann and the rest of the US Youth Fly Fishing Team, competed in Slovenia last week against 12 other International Teams.  Despite tough conditions on new waters, they finished with the bronze medal.  France took gold, and Poland took silver.  Congratulations team USA! 


As I write this, Douglas is beginning a new chapter in his life.  He just texted me that he is moving in to his dorm for his freshman year at Colorado State University.  Good luck, Doug, and make sure you study as hard as you fish!

Sharpen your hooks.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

A One Fly Morning

When I rolled out of bed this morning, the room was very cool with wide-open windows letting in the 58 degree F outside air.  I went into the kitchen and made a cup of coffee and then walked out onto the deck and everything about the weather told me it was the rare, perfect August morning for fishing.   The air was calm, and high, thin clouds muted the early sun.  The cool night would have lowered the water temperatures to trout-comfortable levels, which meant I only had to travel a mere ten minutes to be on the water. (Typically, this time of the year in New Jersey, one has to travel 2 hours or more to find suitable water temperatures and levels for trout fishing.)   


I parked my car at Hoffman's Crossing bridge and walked the half mile down to the top of the Ken Lockwood Gorge, where I took the water temperature just to be sure it was good to fish.  The thermometer read 65 degrees F, and the water level was very good for this time of the year.  As I walked down the rutted dirt road that skirts the east side of the river, I looked for bugs and rises without much luck, so I tied on a size #17 Iris Caddis and then added a small split-shot about 8 inches above it, intending to fish the fly as a nymph.   I stepped down to the river and began casting the fly into a short, deep pocket.  It only took a couple of casts before I was into a 12 inch rainbow.

I took one more rainbow in that hole and then started to work my way downstream hitting every pocket and run that had some depth and a "fishy" look to it.  Over the next few hours of working my way downstream, I took several more rainbows and even a couple of small wild brown trout.  All of them on the same Iris Caddis I started out with.  


I did see a few other anglers as I made my way down river, but everyone was spread out and only a few times did I have to get out of the river to go around someone to leave them a wide berth.  The air temperature stayed comfortable and it was a pleasure to wade in shorts without waders.  The gorge is very rocky, and even when the water levels are low, you do need to wear wading boots with felt or studs to be safe.

I covered about two-thirds of the gorge before turning around and heading back towards the top, stopping at various holes and runs, and fishing them.  It was a hatchless morning, and during the entire time I saw only one rise. So I fished the same fly the whole time and did well, including catching a beautiful 6-7 inch wild rainbow just before calling it a day around 2:00 PM.      


A size #17 Iris Caddis tied on a TMC 102Y hook.


Sharpen your hooks!

Friday, July 21, 2017

The 2017 Youth World Fly Fishing Team Is Ready for Slovenia

Just a few short years ago I spent many weekends over a couple of years fishing with Doug Freemann, who at the time was fairly new to the sport. He was fascinated with fly fishing and wanted to learn as much as he could about it.  At the time, he was focused mainly on nymphing with competition style leaders and nymphs. We often fished the same pools near enough to each other that we could talk about the water we were fishing with respect to flows, holding water, and how best to cover it.  Fly tying also became a big part of his world, too (how could it not with my obsession). After a few months he started competing in the fly fishing competitions that determine the team members for the USA Youth Fly Fishing Team.   


As time went by he expanded his techniques to dry flies and streamers and  became proficient in all aspects of the sport.  He not only made the US Youth Team after a couple of years, he traveled to Spain last year with the team for the world competition, and the team took silver, and Doug was the top angler for team USA.  This year Doug will be going to Slovenia for the world youth fly fishing championship in about a week as the team captain. Not only is Doug a very good angler, we couldn't have a better young ambassador for our country.  I know I'm biased, but if you met him you'd certainly agree.  In the fall he is headed to Colorado State University in Ft. Collins, CO.  I am very lucky to have been given the opportunity in this life to have fallen into Doug's orbit. 

I would be remiss if I didn't include the rest of the team here, as although each angler fishes independently, its the team that they each truly fish for in the end.   All of these young men have worked hard over the last year to earn their place on the team.  In addition to being very good anglers, they also represent our country very well.

The 2017 USA Youth World Team:

Douglas Freemann, Captain
Grant Hawse, Co-Captain
Holden Price 
Seth Drake
Evan Vanek
Mike Komara

Kalvin Kaloz, Coach


The US Youth Fly Fishing Team (Team USA) is a carefully selected group of youth anglers from across the United States that has been associated with leaders in the sport. It was incorporated in 2008.

FIPS-Mouche, the world sanctioning body for competitive fly fishing has well defined rules of competition. All fishing is “catch and release.” Anglers fish five different sessions of three hours each, all on different rivers and “beats” of water. Scoring is based on the number and size of fish caught. Placement points are awarded for each session with the goal of scoring as few points as possible. A person catching no fish in a session receives the greatest number of penalty points and considerably jeopardizes their chances of medalling.

Just as important as the fishing, is the camaraderie and the cross-cultural connections that are made through the events. Team members are also involved in a number of other areas of fly fishing such as guiding, offering fly fishing tying clinics, participating in watershed preservation projects, and promoting environmental stewardship.

Please join me in wishing the 2017 USA Youth Fly Fishing Team the best of luck in Slovenia this August. 

Go get 'em, boys!

Monday, July 10, 2017

The Yellow Sally - The Summertime Stonefly

Last week I posted a photo of a yellow sally stonefly imitation on Instagram, and an observant viewer sent me an email noting that in the tying video I made with Tim Flagler, I did not tie in a tail like the one in the photo.  They wanted to know why.  


The answer is simple; I tie my Western version with the tail so it floats well in the big, fast waters that are found in Montana.  Here in the East I tie them without a tail as our waters not as big and fast as those out West, and a sparser fly tends to work better.  I will also carry some without a tail when out West for the spring creeks and fussy fish.  


The trout mostly see the egg-laying adults, thus the egg sac on the fly.


Sharpen your hooks.    

Monday, July 3, 2017

Stripers at the Cape

My son is up in Chatham on Cape Cod this holiday weekend and he's making good use of his time up there.  He's got a kayak and his fishing equipment and has been catching small stripers in the backwaters and sand bars on spinning equipment.  He tells me that now that he has found them, he is going to go to the fly rod today.  We'll let you know how he makes out.




Sharpen your hooks.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Another Weekend In the Catskills

Last weekend we headed up to the Catskills again with the usual characters.  This time though, after fishing Saturday evening, the four of us were joined in the evening by seven anglers from Rahway River Trout Unlimited, making for a crowded cabin on Saturday night.  It worked out great though with everyone pitching in with the burger and dog dinner, before we settled in around the fire and talked fishing, fly tying and music.  A few guys had to camp out on the floor in their sleeping bags, but no one seemed to mind.

Earlier, we fished a favorite pool on the Beaverkill, where the sparse hatches of sulphurs, caddis and tiny blue-winged olives brought trout and shad to the surface.  At dusk light cahills began hatching and in the dark we could hear quite a few fish working the surface.  We had a good evening with a couple of trout and two shad, one that was good sized and battled hard despite having swam over 300 miles up the Delaware then the East Branch before taking my Iris Caddis on the lower Beaverkill.


On Sunday morning everyone split up to fish their favorite pools on either the Willowemoc or the Beaverkill.  Vinnie and I went down to angler free pool on the lower Beaverkill.  The day was very warm and humid and we knew that by midday water temperatures would hit 68-70 degrees and put a halt to fishing.  The path to the river was thick with invasive knot weed thanks to the frequent spring rains - every year it seems to grow higher and thicker than the last. 


The river was clear and at a normal level, with only tiny blue-winged olives, some of which were hatching along with spinners falling.  A good breeze blew upstream. Trout rose softly to the little insects drifting on and in the surface film along the far bank where hardwood trees provided shade.  We split up each heading to where small pods of trout dimpled the water surface as they took in morsels that to us seemed way too small to be worth their effort.


I tied on a size 22 snowshoe rabbit foot blue-winged olive to the end of my 6x tippet and then slowly worked my way within casting distance of the nearest working fish.  I made a few test casts, found that my 12 foot leader turned over well, but the light tippet and fly were sent upstream at a right angle thanks to the breeze.  It would be one of those mornings when one had to time their cast to drop when the wind dies for a brief moment.  I cast to the working fish and when I got a good drift, it rose up, inspected my offering, and then drifted back down to the bottom.  This happened several times, and I think the issue was micro-drag thanks to the myriad of currents shifting from the many large rocks lying just below the surface.

After a short while and a few dozen casts over that fish, a trout rose about 25 feet above me in a fast slick.  I let it rise again, pin-pointed its locations, and made a quick cast dropping my about a foot above where it rose.  Almost immediately, the fish came up and sipped in my fly, and after a brief fight I brought the 11-12 inch wild rainbow to my net.  I admired it for a second, removed the fly from its upper jaw and then dropped my net back into the water where the fish swam out to safety.

I fished a while longer, getting more than a few refusals, and then backed out to shallower water where took the water temperature.  It has hit 69 degrees F, so I cut off my fly and reeled in.  Then I waded down to Vinnie and gave him the news, and he too, called it a day.  He had a few good takes he said, but missed them, which is unusual for him. It was a good day for both of us though; how often in late June can you find a pool on the Beaverkill with no other anglers and rising trout?

Here's the fly I have been taking the bulk of my fish on the last few weeks up north.


Sharpen your hooks.