Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Tying the Hendo Hammer

Our friend John Collins sat down in front of Tim Flagler's video camera's recently and tied his Hendo Hammer.  This quill bodied parachute style fly is intended to mimic a hatching Hendrickson nymph.  You can imitate any of the other mayflies in your area with this fly just by changing the colors of the fly and the size of the hook. 

Sharpen your hooks.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Another Easter to Remember

After Easter brunch this past Sunday, I headed to the South Branch to wet a line just as I have done on this holiday for many years.  Every time I fish on Easter I do it with my daughter Megan in mind.  You see, when she was ten years old, Vinnie and I took Megan fishing after Easter dinner to get both of us out of the house for a while so her younger brother and sister could nap.  We took her to a trout stocked pond in Sussex County and we had the whole place to ourselves.  That windless day in the fog and drizzle, while standing on the muddy bank of the pond, Megan caught seven good sized rainbow trout on a black woolley bugger.  I helped her cast the fly out and then she did the rest and giggled each time she hooked up. That afternoon and her big, dimpled smile is etched in my mind forever - I remember it as though it happened yesterday.  

This year I went alone except for the black woolley bugger in my vest from that day some twenty plus years ago.  That fly, along with one my daughter Leigh tied, and a few my son Matt tied, go along with me on every fishing trip.  The day was mostly sunny, cool and breezy with brief periods of calm.  The river was clear, cold and at a nice level for the 1st of April.  I started out fishing nymphs and after about an hour or so without a hit, I decided to tie on a black woolly bugger and see if the past would repeat itself.

As the afternoon moved on I started to see some dark grannoms in the air and a few blue-winged olives. When the breeze stopped for a few moments, quite a few little black stonefly females fluttered down from the tree branches and did their clumsy dance on the water surface as they attempted to drop their eggs.  I watched the bugs as they mostly drifted along untouched except for an occasional slashing take that was never repeated in the same location.  That is until a fish began rising steadily directly across the pool from me.

I quickly removed the tippet and the bugger from my leader, added a couple of sections to it and a 2 foot length of 6X, and tied on a #14 gray X-caddis.  After a couple of test casts to make sure my leader, tippet and the fly where landing on the water as they should, I made a cast to the rising fish.  My fly landed a foot above but wind blew just as it landed and moved my leader and the fly dragged.  After the fly drifted past the target, I picked it up, made a couple of false casts and with a reach cast dropped the fly  above the fish just after it had rose again.  That fly never had a chance with that winter hungry trout; it went maybe 3 inches before the fish grabbed it and I set the hook.  After a brief tussle, I netted the pretty brown you see above.

As it often happens, more stoneflies began to drop to the water and lay eggs as the sun started to move lower in the sky and with that more fish started to chase them on the surface.  I left the X-caddis on and over the next hour or so I took two more fish, rainbows, by immediately dropping my fly and skittering it over the area where a rise had just occurred.  If you have never taken trout by skittering a fly, when the conditions are right, give it try, the takes are nothing short of an explosion on the fly.

Sharpen your hooks.                            

Monday, March 26, 2018

A One Fly Day

Saturday I took advantage of the nice weather and spent much of it walking the banks of and wading in a few limestone creeks in the Lehigh Valley in Pennsylvania.  It was chilly when I hit the first stream in the late morning, but the sun was bright and quite warm despite the breeze that sometimes kicked up a few notches to a light wind.  The fresh snow of mid-week lay on much of the ground slowly melting, its run off mixing with the creek and coloring it the shade of tea with a touch of milk.  And among the brush and tree roots along the river banks, the first flowers of the year bloomed in small clumps, snowdrops.

At the first stream I fished nymphs in all the runs, pockets and pools that I know from years of fishing this creek hold wild brown trout that range in size from 5 inches to over 20 inches.  I know I was getting my fly deep enough as I lost a few to the rocks that cover the bottom, but the trout just weren't interested.  I even fished a few of Doug Freemann's flies to no avail. After a few hours of getting the skunk I needed to warm up so I walked back to my car, broke my rod down, got in and decided to warm up while I drove to another stream a short distance away.

When I got to the next steam, I was surprised to see only a few anglers spread out over a half mile or so of water.  The sun was high now, and an upside-down, daytime moon hung in the eastern sky looking very white against the deep blue sky.  The river was a little high, clear and a little "warmer" than the first creek I fished at 42 degrees F.  I rigged up again with a small beadhead pheasant tail and drifted it through every seam, foam line and pocket over a few hundred yards of water working upstream.  I switched flies a few times, lost a few, and managed to get one hit that was on for the length of time it takes the fish to turn and show one its tail.

By now it was mid afternoon and it being a beautiful day after several weeks of periodic snow storms, windy days and temperatures below normal, I wasn't going anywhere without catching at least one.  I walked back down stream slowly scanning the banks and foam lines trying to will a trout to show itself.  Sure enough, across a long, slow pool where a partially submerged log created a thin seam below where it split the current, a trout rose and took something off the surface.  A few seconds later it rose again, and I thought, "It looks like a dink, but what the hell."

I quickly redid my leader, added a two foot section of 6X tippet and tied on a #20 Matt's Gnat.  There being a lot of brush along the bank, I had no room for a back cast so I dropped below the fish and waded out far enough that I could get a back cast over the stream below.  My first cast pushed the fly past my target just off of the log, so I let it drift through and below the fish, and the fish rose again.  The next cast was good, but the fly dragged a little and went untouched.  I waited and the fish rose.  The next cast landed about a foot above the fishes last blip, drifted a short way and then was sipped in confidently.   After a spirited battle, I worked my net under the fish and lifted the rainbow you see above.  It measured about 12-13 inches long. I took the pic, removed the fly without touching the fish, and lowered it back into the drink when after a brief rest, it swam out and back to the deep, dark flow along the log.

Over the next hour or so I walked the bank back down to where I started and took two more fish, both browns, and both of them on the same fly I took the first fish on - the fly you see above.  I would have been more than happy to have had headed home with the just the first fish, and really wasn't expecting to see any more rises after that.  Some days are like that; nature gives you a rainbow and a pot of gold.     

Sharpen your hooks.        

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Lefty Kreh, Fly Fishing Legend, HasPassed

Bernard "Lefty" Kreh" passed away at home yesterday at the age of 93.  His impact on the lives of everyone that knew him, read his books and articles, or watched him work his magic at the fishing shows cannot be overstated.  He was truly a legend in every sense of the word.

Rest In Peace Lefty. 

                                                 Photo by David Cannon | davidcannonphotography.com

Here's a few links to articles on his life and legacy.

Marylander Lefty Kreh, a Hall of Famer and world-renowned ambassador of fishing, dead at 93

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Ed Engle Ties His Bubble Wing BWO Emerger

For those of you that live in a cave don't know who Ed Engle is, he is a well known fly fishing author and guide from Colorado.   I've gotten to know him and his dry sense of humor from doing the Fly Fishing Shows over the last couple of decades, and seem to learn something new from him every time we talk.  In this great video from Tightline Productions, Ed talks about his inspiration for the Bubble Wing BWO Emerger, how he fishes it, and or course shows us how he ties this very effective pattern.  

Sharpen your hooks!

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Spring 2018 Issue of Montana Fly Fishing Magazine

It's free and has some great articles and photography to help with the late winter cabin fever. Click on the cover above, or the link below.

LINK: Montana Fly Fishing Magazine - Spring 2018

Thursday, March 1, 2018

The Fly Fishing Show - Lancaster, PA - This Weekend

The fly fishing show is this coming to Lancaster, PA this weekend - March 3 & 4 - at the Lancaster Marriott in Lancaster, PA.  I'll be there both days tying flies and doing presentations.  Show Hours are: Saturday 9:00am – 5:30pm and Sunday 9am – 4:30pm.

Here's my schedule for the weekend:

Saturday Seminar - 1:30 PM - Fly Fishing Northeastern Trout Streams – Common Eastern Hatches & Their Imitations

Sunday Seminar - 1:00 PM – Mayflies – Patterns & Techniques for Trout

Sunday - Featured Fly Tyer - 3:00 PM - Tying Simple Dry Flies for Trout  I'll be demonstrating how I tie a bunch of simple and effective dry flies.  These flies require only two or three materials to create and fairly straightforward tying techniques. 

I'll be tying flies the rest of the weekend on the show floor.

For all the details, click here: The Fly Fishing Show Lancaster, PA

Hope to see you there.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Sparse Grey Matter Tying Fest This Sunday

The Annual Sparse Grey Matter Fly Tying Festival will take place this Sunday February 25, 2018 at the Califon Firehouse, Califon, NJ from 10 AM to 3 PM.  The event is sponsored by Shannon's Fly & Tackle and Dette Flies of Roscoe, New York.  The event is a great way to break up the winter doldrums and hang out with local fly tyers and anglers alike.  Everyone is welcome to come tie or just show up and chat with like-minded folks.  The NJ Trout Unlimited Chapters will be well represented so if you are looking to know more about the organization or join, this is a good place to do so.  There will be tackle and related items raffled.  And food offered by the Califon Firefighters.

Come on out and join us for an hour or stay for the whole event.  Hope to see you there.    

Saturday, February 17, 2018

A Changing Season

This is the time of the year when our sunsets are a vibrant orange that when accompanied by high thin clouds are often followed by red, yellow, violet and pink watercolors as the orb dips below the horizon.  At dawn the pattern is reversed. The days are growing longer while shadows shorten as the sun moves back over the Northern hemisphere; darkness now has to wait until after 6:00 PM.  It's still often quite cold as we are in the middle of winter, but even single digit temperatures can't stop the midday sun from providing warmth and the promise of the season of rebirth that lies ahead.

And barring any mid-winter spates and runoff, our rivers tend be the clearer than at any other time of the year.  With the trees bare and the riverbank shrubs and grasses dried and brown with the tips of their stalks arcing downward, the brightening sun penetrates the water easily, providing energy to the aquatic invertebrates that forage among the rocks, stones and clumps of dead leaves and other decaying organic matter.   And the trout, too, also seem to draw energy from the sun, moving to and fro feeding more frequently as the water "warms" a few degrees as the afternoon wears on.  There is no need for the angler to get on the water early in the day as most often the best time to wet a line is afternoon into dusk.

Today, before the sun disappeared behind the clouds and snow started to fall, I went down to the river to eat some lunch and walk its banks.  Just after noon the sun was bright and warm, the air chilly at 38 degrees F with a steady light breeze that rattled the dry leaves still stuck the branches of young oak trees.  After eating, I pulled rocks and grabbed bunches of leaves from the shallow edges of the stream to examine them for life.  I found a few caddis cases clinging to the rocks along with small mayfly nymphs too tiny to identify them.  In the submerged leaves I had better luck finding bugs.  There were lots of scuds, a few stonefly nymphs and in some places I found hendrickson and sulphur nymphs, Ephemerella sp.  I also found a single Chimarra sp. caddis larva, easily identified by its bright orange body and brown head in a size being that of a typical #18 scud hook.  This was a surprise because these free-living brightly colored larvae are normally found in moderate currents among the gravel and stones, not along the edge of the river.  I didn't see any little black stonefly nymphs, but I know they are there in the faster currents and pockets, as several friends have been seeing them along the river for the last couple of weeks.

It's a great time of the year to get out on the water.  The fishing is fairly simple with a well fished nymph and low expectations usually making for a quiet day on the water and a few fish to hand on an average day.  As for what to to fish, start with your favorite nymph or pair of nymphs and get them down near the bottom where the fish hold and aren't going to move too far to take a potential meal. Or you can match the subsurface "hatch" by using patterns that mimic the flies I mentioned above. The little black stoneflies are abundant and active, and can be imitated with a black pheasant tail nymph, or a black hare's ear nymph.  The key is to have a pattern that is very slender like the naturals. Here's my black p-tail nymph with a small bead head.

The chimarra caddis larva are very available to the trout from now until late March when they hunker down on a rock, form a case and begin the process of metamorphosing into a little black caddis to hatch in early May.

And finally there's the scud.  Scuds are very abundant and available throughout the year in our waters.  Trout recognize and feed on them every chance they get.  I wouldn't fish NJ or PA waters without them, as they have saved an otherwise slow day on the water many times for me over the years.  Here's an unweighted scud.  When wet, the loop dubbed body and "legs" turn translucent much like the naturals.

And here's one weighted with .010 wire.  I tie a piece of 6/0 claret thread to the hook eye so I can easily identify it as weighted.

Sharpen your hooks.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Dispatch From a Friend

Bill Shuck sent me this photo of a Major Woody he tied after seeing the video by Tim Flagler.  He used materials he had on hand, but as he says in his email, "I think it'll fish."  I agree, nice tie.  

Sharpen your hooks.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Tying the Best Sea Trout Fly

And now for something completely different.......from Frank Surdal.

Sharpen your hooks!

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Tying the Major Woody

Here's a very buggy wet fly/emerger trout pattern tied by Tim Flagler using woodduck and woodduck colored materials.

Sharpen your hooks.


Monday, January 29, 2018

Tying the BWO Improved Sparkle Dun

I finally had time recently to tie Craig Mathew's great mayfly pattern in front of Tim Flagler's camera.  I've written about this pattern many times over the last few years for good reason; it works very well when trout are feeding on olives.  It's fairly easy to tie with only three materials that are readily available.  

Hook: Dai Riki #125 size 18 -24
Thread: 6/0 Olive Danville
Wing: Dun dyed deer hair - fine
Shuck and Wing: Light dun Zelon or substitute such as EP Trigger Fibers or Antron
Abdomen: Thread
Thorax: Dark olive dubbing - I like Australian opossum  or beaver

Sharpen your hook.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

The Fly Fishing Show - Edison, NJ - This Weekend

The fly fishing show is this coming to New Jersey weekend - January 26, 27 & 28 - at the New Jersey Convention & Expo Center Edison, NJ.  I'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:

Friday Featured Fly Tyer - 11:30 AM - Tying Simple Dry Flies for Trout  I'll be demonstrating how I tie a bunch of simple and effective dry flies.  These flies require only two or three materials to create and fairly straightforward tying techniques.  

Saturday Seminar - Catch Room 2:00 PM - Fly Fishing Northeastern Trout Streams – Common Eastern Hatches & Their Imitations

Sunday Seminar - Release Room 10:15 AM – Simple Dries for Sophisticated Trout

Author's Booth - Friday 12:30 PM, Saturday 3:00 PM, Sunday 11:30 AM

Saturday - Regal Vise Booth 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM - Tying Demo

I'll be tying flies the rest of the weekend at Table #22 with Tim Flagler 

For all the details, click here: The Fly Fishing Show Edison, NJ 

Hope to see you there.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Broke the 2018 Ice

We managed to get out yesterday and fish the South Branch of the Raritan River for the first time in 2018.  Up until last weekend when we had high water from heavy rains, the river was encased in ice and pretty much unfishable.  When I got to the water yesterday in the early afternoon, the air temperature was nearly 50 degrees F and the low winter sun fought its way through high thin clouds casting its dull winter light across the land. The water was a mere 36 degrees F.    

When the conditions are such as they were yesterday, I keep it real simple.  I tied a size #6 beadhead krystal bugger to the 4X tippet I first added to the 9-foot leader.  I cast the fly across the river leaving it just short of the bank (or the ice) and then brought it back in short, quick strips.  After missing several short strikes, I hooked and landed a nice 14-15 inch brown that was in my net only for the few seconds it takes to back a barbless hook out and then dip fish back into the current to swim away.  I also took a 10 inch rainbow that fought like it was twice its size, and then called it day as my feet were protesting the cold water relentlessly.

Sharpen your hooks.    

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Tying the WD-40 Plus

The WD-40 is a midge imitation that has stood the test of time.  The pattern has been around for decades and produces well anywhere that trout are found.  In this video, Tim takes the pattern one step further by adding a short wing bud of CDC protruding through the wing case.  It's an easy fly to tie and you can change the color simply by changing the thread you use and matching the dubbing to it.  

Tie some up and sharpen your hooks!

Monday, January 15, 2018

The Rivers Await

We spent another weekend doing lots of fly fishing related stuff but no fly fishing.  Our rivers were first frozen solid and then Friday it warmed into the 60's and rained like hell.  It took a full day for the rains to move the ice out, but by Saturday morning the rush of water cleared out the inches thick ice and filled the rivers bank to bank and then some.  So Saturday I went over to Tim Flagler's and tied for a video whose subject pattern has been long in coming.  While there we also covered lots of ground ranging from fly tying to fly fishing to equipment to the Denver Fly Fishing Show. 

After tying for the video and hanging out with Tim, I headed down to check out the South Branch.  It was a far cry from where it was the last couple of weekends.  Below is a photo I took about two weeks ago, and below that is one I took Saturday from the same exact location (sort of - I couldn't stand where I had the time before as it was under 2 feet of water).  To see how much the river had come up, check out the two snow covered big boulders in front of the trees in the first photo on the left side of the river a little more than half way up.   In the second photo you'll note that they are water bound.  Its all good; winter spates are nature's way of cleaning house on the rivers.  

On Sunday morning we taught the free fly tying class at Shannon's Fly and Tackle Shop and had a good turnout despite the frigid cold that made its way back in after the rains - it was 13 degrees F.  We tied a simple scud, Galloup's Improved Baetis nymph, Improved BWO Sparkle Dun, and a Pumpkinhead Midge.  It was a great time with some of the usual folks, and a few new tyers to the class that really turned out well tied flies.  This Sunday our friend John Collins will be teaching the class and I believe demonstrating how to tie his sculpin patterns

Today was back to work - you don't want to hear about that so I'll sign off.

Sharpen your hooks!

Friday, January 12, 2018

Shannon's Fly Tying Class This Sunday

For those of you in the area, I'll be doing the free fly tying class this Sunday morning at 9:30AM, at Shannon's Fly & Tackle in Califon, NJ.  Bring your vise and tools and tying thread (6/0 Olive Danville is preferred, but black will do).  I'll be tying a few winter trout patterns for our local rivers - usually we get in 3, sometimes 4 patterns.

Sharpen your hooks!

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Tying JC's Electric Caddis Larva

Here's another great video by Tightline Productions - Tim Flagler - of our friend John Collins tying his Electric Caddis larva. In this case, John is tying a Rockworm larva - genus Rhyacophila, which are present throughout the year in Eastern rivers and streams.  By just changing the wire and tubing color, you can imitate any caddis larva you wish.  I can say from experience, these flies work.

Sharpen your hooks!

Monday, January 1, 2018

Turning the Page

We finished 2017 by walking the South Branch of the Raritan from Hoffman's Crossing down through the gorge and back again.  We started 2018 by walking the river from Hoffman's up stream to the pond in Califon and back.  We didn't fish, it really wasn't an option, but I wanted to be on the river to enjoy its charms and think about the year past and the year to come.  Yesterday the temperature in the gorge was 8 degrees F, today it was a comparatively balmy 19 degrees F along River Road.  The pond in Califon is a skating rink with lots of kids enjoying the ice and fresh air.

Wishing all of you a very Happy New Year!

Sharpen your hooks and get down to the river every chance you get even if its just to hear the water flowing over and around rocks and boulders.