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!