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.                        

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Why Does an Imitation Fly Work?

Why?  When you look at the previous post of a mayfly from below, why do trout take this pattern, or any other pattern that really does not look like that photo?     

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Is This What a Trout Sees?

Photo courtesy of Marc Fauvet

For more great photos and other neat stuff, go to Marc's blog - The Limp Cobra

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Father's Day Weekend Fishing the Upper Delaware

On Saturday after tying at the Whitewater Flies open house event in Lafayette, NJ, my son Hunt and I headed up to the Catskills.  We landed at my friend Paul's house in Roscoe at 4:45 PM, and by 5:15, we had the drift boat and trailer hooked up to the car and the three of us were on our way to the upper main stem of the Delaware River.   

We floated from the Shehawken access on the West Branch of the Delaware River to Stockport, a short float, but filled with opportunities the whole way.   The air was humid and hot for this region, so we waded every chance we got so we could stay cool in our waders.  The water was cool, and clear, with every rock and stone on the bottom visible, which meant we were very visible to the fish. When we came upon rising fish, we got out of the boat and tossed our offerings from a distance, because if we got too close, they would go down in an instant.  By darkness, we had hooked a bunch of fish, and landed a few, including a nice 20" brown that took my size #20 blue-winged olive emerger just as the sun fell below the mountain tops. 

On Sunday morning, Hunt and I packed our gear and headed to Whitetail Country Fly Shop, to meet Joe Demalderis "Joe D", of Cross Current Outfitters.   Hunt had never been on a guided float trip,so it was a perfect way to spend Father's Day with my son.  We put in at the Shehawken access on the West Branch at just about noon.  Dark puffy clouds glided by overhead, alternately providing shade and hot sun.  We decided not to put on our waders, instead we would wet to keep cool.  We also had the benefit (not) of almost constant wind - it may have kept us cool, but it also made casting a dry fly almost impossible at times.  Joe had one hell of a hard time rowing the boat against the up river unrelenting gusts.

As we made our way downstream looking for rising fish, we realized we pretty much had the river to ourselves.   You could count on one hand the number of floating and wading anglers we saw in the first half mile of water, which usually has 3 to 4 times that many on this stretch on a weekend day. Perhaps it was because it was Father's Day, or because as hard as it was to cast from a boat, it was certainly harder to cast from a fixed position while wading.  On top of that there were no bugs on the water, or in the air, as you might expect.  Despite that, we hit every fishy looking spot (or tried to against the wind) within casting distance.  We had some refusals, and in one long riffle, my son managed to hook three fish blind casting to the edges of soft water below submerged rocks using a deer hair Isonychia emerger. Unfortunately, they were brief hook-ups.  Most likely because the wind kept a big bow in the line between the rod tip and water, making it very difficult to get a solid hook set.  As Hunt said afterwards, "I got them to take my fly, and that's what its all about".

Anyone that has fished the Upper Delaware and its branches knows that more often than not there is at least a breeze just about every day, many days with low, gusty winds  Its a rare day up there that it is calm.  A we worked our way down river, we came upon a large pod of shad milling in a large eddy below a truck-sized boulder in the middle of the river.  With no bugs and no trout rising, Hunt tied on a size #12 copper john nymph to 4X tippet, and cast it at a 45 degree angle downstream and across before feeding out line and letting it swing into the eddy.  As the fly made its way into the target area, he began to slowly strip line in.  The had would swipe at the fly and some managed to take it and get hooked.  He landed two decent sized shad before we decided to pull anchor and look for trout in the riffles below.

After we rounded the bend about a half mile below where the shad were piled up, we entered one of my favorite runs on the Delaware.  Here the river is a gentle riffle that is broken up by scattered boulders provide perfect trout holding water for about 500 yards.  We saw a lot of one-and-done rises that we did our best to put our flies over, with little success.  As we neared the bottom of the run, a trout rose along the right bank in the soft water below a rock.  Hunt quickly cast the Isonychia emerger  he traded for the copper john as we entered the run and it landed about 10 inches above the rise.  The fly drifted over the fish and it rose confidently sipping the fly in like a natural.  He set the hook and the fish bolted up river, his drag buzzing, for about 50 feet before turning and then coming right at the boat and then passing it (see photo above).   After a brief struggle, he eased the fish to the boat and Joe netted a nice wild brown trout.

After that, we continued down river without seeing another rise, and called it a day just as dusk was beginning to draw upon us.  Although the conditions were less than ideal, we had a great day on the water fishing, talking fishing, laughing and listening to Joe tell us stories and share his wisdom from thirty plus years of guiding and fishing this beautiful, big river.  And what better way to spend Father's Day than watching your son work the water with a shared passion and determination for fly fishing, and catching fish despite tough conditions?

Sharpen your hooks!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

American Shad Return to the Musconetcong River After 300 Year Hiatus!

New Jersey was a British colony the last time the American shad swam in the Musconetcong River.

Colonialists nearly 300 years ago dammed the Delaware River tributary, which straddles the border of Warren County's Pohatcong Township and Hunterdon County's Holland Township just south of Phillipsburg.

The dams made the Musconetcong impassable for the shad, which live most of their lives in the Atlantic Ocean but swim up the Delaware River and smaller rivers that empty into the Delaware each spring to spawn.

Read the full article here: Lehigh Valley Live 

This is awesome stuff.  Thank you to all of those involved in the dam removal and restoration.

Sharpen your hooks!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

I'm Glad I'm Not A Trout

I write a lot of stuff most every day (night), and most of it is about fly fishing, fly tying or some aspect of being on a river or stream.  The following I wrote late one night this past February after tying a bunch of flies while waiting for the fire to die down before calling it a night.  I have no idea where I was going with the title, but in reading the following now, I realized that when I'm tying flies I'm doing a lot of thinking.............who knew?

As I write this, it is 15 degrees F outside.  I have been tying flies in front of the fire for the last two hours and it occurs to me that I may not be fishing in the foreseeable future.  Not that that matters, I tie every day whether I'm fishing the next day or in the near future.   Being an optimist, I'm always looking forward to being on the water casting a fly as soon as the time and opportunity arrives.  So I must be prepared with the right flies, recently tied so they have the right mojo.

When I tie a fly, I think about being on the water and how I am going to fish the fly I'm tying, and how it will look as I fish it.  I think about silhouette, posture, color, proportion, and how the materials will compliment each other to create the "look" I want in my mind.   I often imagine the specific situation that requires the fly I am tying as it forms in my vise with each wrap of thread and material.  As I prepare and then tie on each material, how the material feels in my fingers and looks as it is tied on to the hook, is a part of the process.  If it doesn't feel right or look as I wish once it is tied on, I will take it off and either "fix" what it is that isn't right, or I will simply discard it and start over with a new piece of the material.  It's not like I get strung out about it, there's no scissor flinging of bobbin thumping, it just part of the process of creating what looks right to my eye in the vise, and as it will look on or in the water (to my mind's eye).  As for the feel of a particular material, that's important, and if I cut a section of hair, or fur, or pluck a feather and it doesn't feel right, I don't use it.

Don't ask me to explain what it is about the look and feel of the materials as I use them, or the finished fly, because I couldn't answer that, except to say that I think the answer would be different for each of us.

Update 6/9/17 - The title was/is a reference to the fact that the trout were hunkered down in water that was barely above freezing at the time.  

Sharpen your hooks!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Speckled Caddis On the Musconetcong River

Fished the Musky tonight and it was awesome.  The speckled caddis (Hydropsyche sp.) hatch was epic,  with the caddis hatching by the thousands, and the trout on the emerging pupa like a child to candy.  I think every fish in the river was rising tonight.  The last hour of daylight there must have been 40-50 fish rising in the pool we were fishing.  They weren't easy, but a good cast and a drag-free drift got at least a look, and often a take.  All you needed was an iris caddis fished in the film - it's a dead ringer for the natural - and that's what I got all but one of my fish on tonight.  I got one fish on a sulphur usual just after I started fishing and before the caddis really got rocking.

Sharpen your hooks!

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

A Tale of Two Rods - The Long and Short of It

We managed to get out and fish the last four evenings on the South Branch, and for the most part the catching was very good.  The frequent rains and cooler than normal nights have the river in great condition.  The hatches have been as good as we have seen in the last few years.  Evenings we have seen sulphurs, light cahills, pink cahills, lemon cahills and their respective spinners.  Sunday during the rain, the little blue-winged olives hatched well, sizes #18-20.  Then there are the caddis; cinnamon or ginger caddis, dancing caddis, and the gray sedges are starting up.

A rainy day rainbow.

On Friday evening, the wind was up, so I broke out my favorite 5-weight; an eight and a half foot Winston Graphite II, 3-piece.  The rod is medium action at best and very pleasant to cast and fish, as it forces one to slow down and get into a relaxed casting rhythm.  This was the first time I have fished it since last spring, and it was awkward at first, to say the least.  You see, I have been fishing my 10 foot, 3-weight Hardy Zenith almost exclusively for the last year, even when I was in Montana. 

The Winston is light, responsive, and is a pleasure to cast.  The problem was the length; I literally felt handicapped having given up a foot and a half of length.  The amount of line control the shorter length gave up was very apparent.  I immediately found that it was just not as easy to place a cast, mend line, or control the drift, like I could with the longer rod.  Maybe I was just used to the longer rod, which was possible. I slowly made adjustments with the shorter rod, and after a short while I managed fine.  But I still missed the advantages of fishing with a longer wand.  I don't think I'll be running out any time soon to get a 10 foot, 5-weight, but the thought does cross my mind. Maybe I'll have to borrow one from a friend first.

....and about that iris caddis pattern I've been telling you about.  On Sunday I fished it wet, as nothing was rising, even with all the bugs on the water, and caught quite a few fish on it.  Last night, I fished it as a dry/emerger, and took a bunch of nice fish on it, including a couple of pretty little wild browns. The bottom line is that this fly works, and I recommend you try it when caddis are present.    

Sharpen your hooks!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Well-Chewed Flies

We've managed to get out on the local streams fairly often in the last couple of weeks, and the fishing has been great some days, and not so great on others.  Plenty of insects have been hatching, yet the dry fly action has been as variable as the weather.   One day its hot and the next wet and cold.  All of the rain is keeping the rivers up, so there are no complaints here.  And when the fish are not looking up, I've had great success with one pattern, the Iris Caddis fished dead-drift.   I've always had good success with this pattern fishing it as an emerger in the film during a caddis emergence, but after my friend Chris told me a few years back it also works fished wet, I've found it to be one of my go-to patterns in the spring and summer months when caddis area present but nothing is rising.  This past Saturday I fished with Vinnie on the South Branch, and between the two of us, we caught more fish than we could count.  I got most of my fish on the Iris Caddis you see here.  

(A well-chewed, size #15, Iris Caddis)

Yes, its a size #15.  The hook is a Tiemco 102Y, which is sized using odd numbers, and is the hook the fly is traditionally tied on.  It is a down eye, 1X fine, wide gape, forged hook that is black anodized.  Lacking a source for this hook, a size # 14 or 16 dry fly hook will work just fine.  I use them when I can't find the 102Y.

There have been plenty of bugs hatching, and when the fish are looking up, the dry fly fishing has been very good.  Locally, North Jersey, we have had sulphurs, lemon cahills, light cahills, little blue-winged olives, large blue-winged olives, and the slate drakes have started.  Then there are the various caddis that are hatching and/or egg-laying, including cinnamon or ginger caddis, dancing caddis, little dark granmoms, and a few lesser known species.

(Blue-winged olive - size #14 - Ephemerella cornuta)

(Dancing caddis - Mystacides sp. - size #18)

The dancing caddis shown above has been present every day I've been on the river.  They are often mistaken for the chimarra sp. caddis, as they are small, and jet black in color.  The difference is that the dancing caddis has horns, long speckled antennae, and a unique folded wing shape that is twice as long as the body.  You may have seen then dancing (fluttering) low over the surface of the water in small clouds.  They are only important to the angler when they fall spent on the water after egg-laying.  Otherwise, they hatch along the stream edge on rocks and other partially submerged limbs or logs. 

Here's my go-to sulphur pattern - the sulphur usual.  Tie them up in sizes #14-20 for all the light yellow mayflies that hatch for the next couple of weeks.  Also, tie a few with cream bodies in size #14 to imitate the light cahills.  It's a simple fly that takes fish consistently.

Sharpen your hooks!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Tying the SBR Sulphur Nymph

It's one of the best times of the trout fishing season right now with the weather and many hatches being at their peak on most streams here in the East.  One of those hatches is the sulphur, and over the last couple of months Tim has been telling me he has seen lots of sulphur nymphs in his stream samples, as have I.  It's a great hatch, starts with nymphing throughout the day, until the evening when the little, pale blue-winged, yellow bodied mayflies begin to hatch making it time to switch to a dry.  The nymphs are very active in the water column before the hatch, making them very vulnerable to the trout.  Here's is Tim's version of the nymph, which he based on the naturals he sees in his home waters, the South Branch of the Raritan River.  I suspect it will work anywhere in the East sulphurs are found.    

I would suggest tying some of these without the bead, too, for the late day, pre-hatch times when the naturals are ascending to the surface to hatch.

Sharpen your hooks!

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

An Unseasonable Season So Far

It's been a weird spring season so far, with plenty of rain and air temperatures that go from hot to cold overnight, along with more than our fair share of windy days.  Last weekend we fished up in the Catskills.  When we arrived Friday at dusk, it was hot and humid, windless, and much like an early July evening. Saturday morning when we first got up, it was cool and calm, but in the short time in between grabbing breakfast and getting on the Beaverkill River, the wind kicked up and made casting very tough, and often impossible during the high gusts.  The air was filled with caddis flying upstream with the wind, and the water surface had huge mats of floating caddis shucks that except for a sheen, looked much like oil slicks.   Fish rose sporadically, and at the end of the day we did catch a few fish.

This past weekend we fished Sunday on our local water, the South Branch of the Raritan River, and again the weather was very un-springlike.  I headed down to the river mid-afternoon.  The air was 48 degrees F, and as luck would have it, it started to rain just as I put on my waders.  Not one to let a little precip stop me from fishing, I geared up and walked to the river.  The water was clear, and the level perfect.  Not a soul was in sight, which is unusual this time of the year, and likely was weather related.

Over the next few hours the rain stopped and started several times, and as is often the case when it's raw, cloudy and rainy, little blue-winged olives hatched.  These little mayflies, size #22 or so, drifted unmolested by the trout on the brisk current, lifting off into the air casually - do you think the insects know when the trout are not interested?  I saw one rise.

I drifted a small soft hackle pheasant tail across and downstream, picking up a couple of stocked rainbows.  It may have been cold and raw, but it was pleasant being on the river with only the birds and the sounds of raindrops accompanying me.  Its fascinating how the swallows and purple martens fly over the water, drop down, and without slowing down pick off the little mayflies with just a quick tip of the head.

Sharpen your hooks.      

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!