Tuesday, October 16, 2018

NJ Trout Unlimited 9th Annual Fly Fisherman of the Year Event 11/3/18

New Jersey Trout Unlimited 9th Annual NJ Fly Fisherman of the Year event will be taking place on Saturday November 3 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 banquet, 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.  

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 rod demos, fly tying and fly 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".  Here's a video of the 2015 event produced by Tim Flagler.


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, followed by the banquet at 5:30. Dinner registration is available by stopping by Shannon's Fly Shop or on line HERE - click on the EVENTS tab. Presentations and awards at 7:00 pm will finish out the fun filled day.  Shannon's Fly Shop 908-832-5736.

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.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

The Second Season - Fall Stocking

Here in New Jersey we have what might be called a second trout season that begins with the annual fall stocking of trout in our rivers, streams and lakes. This year, unlike recent low-water years, we are fortunate to have very good water levels, so the fish will have plenty of room to spread out.  All of the fish will be rainbow trout in the 14"-18" range.  Stocking begins on October 9th with rivers and streams getting their allotment that week, followed by lakes and ponds the week of October 15th.  If you prefer the solitude of and rewards of catching wild trout, all of New Jersey's wild trout streams are in good condition and are open to angling year-'round.    



I'll post some information on my favorite fall flies in the next couple of days. 

Sharpen your hooks, and get out and fish!

Monday, September 24, 2018

Charles Meck R.I.P.

Charlie was a noted author and fly fishing expert. He wrote 15 books on fly fishing, as well as numerous magazine articles. He loved teaching others the sport of fly fishing and the appreciation of the beauty of the natural world.



Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Montana Part 2 - Madison River & Henry's Fork

I wrote this several weeks ago (a month) but being the easily distracted person that I am, I didn't realize it didn't get posted, so here is the rest of the story.......   

It's no secret I love the Madison River and everything about it. Sure, fishing it is a joy, but it also offers a variety of flows that can and will challenge the fly fisher from where it is born at the confluence of the Firehole and Gibbon Rivers, to the wide, even flowing expanses below Bear Trap Canyon - the lower Madison- and of course the 50 mile riffle that flows from Quake Lake to the braids above Ennis Lake. My favorite section is the long riffle that winds its way through a beautiful valley that fans out in benches to high mountains on either side that shelter all kinds of wild animals. 

Halfway through our trip we landed in the Madison Valley and as is always the case, I felt like I was home again. The river was higher than it has been in the last 20 years or so in July and its currents were loud and wild, music to my ears. I got there about mid-day, threw my stuff in the cabin and was on the water in 20 minutes. In 21 minutes I was into my first trout, a nice rainbow that took my brown serendipity like it was candy. The high, bright sun and warm air temps were no issue as I was wet wading and there was just enough of a breeze to keep things comfortable. The truth is, I rarely stepped in the water except to move up river and cool off. Most of the time I was on right on the bank working my way upriver, casting my fly straight up stream fishing it just off the bank to about 6-8 feet out. And the fish came often on that simple, size 16 brown midge pattern.


After about an hour or so I went back to the cabin to wait for the others and unpack my things. As soon as they arrived, I told them the river was ready and waiting, so Paul grabbed his rod and was off to his favorite nearby pool. It wasn’t long before he was hooked up to a nice wild fish that was hiding in a slow eddy along a very fast, heavy riffle that the fish did everything in its power to get to and use the current to its advantage. 

That evening, after having a bite to eat and tying a few flies, we headed down river to a stretch that seems to fish well every time we hit it. When we got there the only anglers in sight were on the opposite bank so we had the long stretch all to ourselves. We spread out over a quarter mile or so of bank and after a slow start, as the sun dropped in the sky fish began to rise steadily from the edges of the river out to just along the really fast currents. If there was a rock, pocket, or seam, a fish or two worked the surface. With all the caddis in the air, I tied on an Iris Caddis and took several dozen fish over the next two plus hours, mostly rainbows, before it was too dark to see my fly.


I spent the entire next day fishing the Madison while Paul and Steve went over to the Henry’s Fork to drift with a guide. I hit a whole bunch of spots on the river during the day and all of them fished well. Again, the top fly was a #16 brown serendipity fished alone with varying amounts of split shot placed above it about 6-8 inches. As long as I got it down near the bottom, fish took it. Late in the day I went to a public boat ramp and fish up river. There were caddis hatching, Little Western Green Drakes or “Flavs” duns and spinners in the air and on the water, and rusty spinners. The fish were finicky, with no single insect on the menu so I was continually changing flies to match what a particular fish was feeding on. I took quite a few fish, but had to work much harder for them than the night before. Shortly after I got back to the cabin, Paul and Steve returned with big smiles having each having caught a single big rainbow, 22-23 inches, on hoppers. 

The next morning we were all up early and after breakfast Paul and Steve headed back to the Henry’s Fork for a hoped for repeat performance sans a guide and drift boat, and I followed them over the pass. We got to the upper ranch parking lot around 9:30AM, and after gearing up proceeded to walk the bank down river. It was still cool with muted sunlight through high thin clouds and barely a breeze. Tricos danced in the air over the water and along the bank. Early on, small fish rose everywhere one looked across the broad expanse of flowing water – the river on the ranch is a wide, uniform depth of flowing cool water whose surface is continually changing from the thick grasses undulating below in the current. 

After walking for some time I stopped to watch the water while the others kept going. There were a bunch of anglers down river and since there were plenty of fish rising where I was and no one within a couple hundred yards up or down river, I stepped into the river and began watching and looking for larger rising fish. By now there were pale morning duns and also a few flavs hatching.


I tied a #22 trico spinner to the end of my 15 foot leader, the last of which was 30 inches of 5X tippet. I spotted what looked to be a decent fish rising in a long seam formed by a submerged rock and slowly worked my way out to where I was within a safe casting distance down and across from the feeding trout. After making a short cast to make sure my leader and fly landed on the water properly, I made a few rod strokes to let out enough line and then dropped the fly above the fish. It drifted to its right and went untouched. I made a few more casts over the fish, and it kept rising to everything but my fly. 

I reeled in my line and quickly changed my fly to a pattern #16 pmd/flav snowshoe pattern and began working out line before dropping the size #16 PMD imitation above the fish. The fly drifted a foot or so and then a nose poked the water surface and sucked it in. After a brief battle with the fish and accompanying weeds, I netted a nice 14 inch rainbow. At the same time I thought to myself, “I hope this isn’t going to be one of those first-cast-with-a- new-fly jinxes, where that’s it for the rest of the day.” 

Fortunately, that was not to be, as over the next 3 hours or so fish rose throughout the river. Literally everywhere you looked, up, down and across the river there were sips, and splashes and tell-tale rings from trout feeding on top. Most of the fish were small, maybe 6-8 inches long, which were easy to make out by their quick, splashy rises. Other rises were slow, nose-dorsal-tail rises, while others, the largest fish, poked their noses out and opened wide, shut, and then disappeared in a split second leaving a series of ever widening concentric circles. The trick was finding one of these larger fish and getting close enough to cast without putting them down. Your first cast had to be good, too, or a second chance was out of the question. 

I not only managed to get close and make enough good casts to catch about 15 fish. They ranged in size from 8 inches to about 16 inches. The smaller fish were so aggressive at times that they would dart up take the fly as it hit the water above a larger fish that my fly was intended for. I also lost quite a few after hooking up as the weeds are thick that once a fish managed to get tangled up in them you couldn’t turn their heads and then the end of the line would stop shaking.  I’d wade over to retrieve my fly only to find it stuck in the stem of a frond of grass and the fish long gone. All of the fish I took came on the pmd/flav snowshoe pattern and although I didn’t hook any monsters, it was a very good day wet wading in the big river taking in all that it has to offer.

Sharpen your hooks!

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Tying Walter Wiese's GFA Hopper

When we were in Montana and Idaho a few weeks ago, the hoppers were just getting started and now we hear this year has been one of the best in many years.  On the Henry's Fork they were everywhere, jumping and flying in all directions as we walked the grassy banks on the Harriman Ranch in search of heads.   And the fish were on them, big fish, with Paul taking a 23" fat rainbow on a hopper, the biggest fish for any of us on the Henry's Fork this trip.

Here Tim Flagler ties Walter Wiese's (Park's Fly Shop) GFA Hopper.  With all the complicated hopper patterns out there, this one is a effective pattern that Tim as shows can be tied with a minimum of hair loss.  Fish it alone, or add a dropper to the bend to cover more water.
    

Tie some up and sharpen your hooks!

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Montana Part 1 - Missouri River

Its hard to believe we have been back from Montana for over a week already.  We started the trip this year up on the Missouri River where we rented a cabin that was up in a canyon just outside of Deerborn.  There were only three of us this year and the 1933 two-room cabin was just fine nestled away up on Oak Creek where the neighbors kept a couple of wolves for pets.  The weather when we arrived that first afternoon was hot and dry, with barely  a breeze.  The river level was higher than we normally see this time of the year thanks to a good winter snow pack and frequent spring rains in the upper watershed.


After unpacking we headed up river to a spot we like that's a short drive up from the Wolf Creek bridge.  Paul and Steve went down river, and I decided to work up the left bank where being a right handed caster I could work my way up and the hit bank side risers.  Trout sit right very close to the edge here as the high, steep bank offers protection and there is deep, dark water just a short swim to the right if they do feel threatened.   I waded up the bank slowly where a fish rose steadily to what appeared to be pale evening duns.  The caddis, flavs and spinners that were also in the drift were ignored, so I tied a #16 PED cripple to the end of my 5X tippet off a leader that was roughly 15 feet long.  After I made a couple of short test casts to my right to make sure my leader and fly were doing what i wanted, I cast the fly about a foot and a half just to the right of where the fish was rising and as it came within its sight, it lifted its nose and took my offering. After a spirited battle I netted a nice 17-18 inch rainbow.


Before the sun dropped below the mountains I took a couple of more smaller rainbows on the same cripple and then headed back to the car as I couldn't see my fly and what it was doing.  It was a good start to the trip.

Pale Evening Dun CDC Cripple

The next day we rented a drift boat and put in below Holter dam where a carousel of a dozen boats with guides and their clients took turns fishing the long eddy just off the boat ramp.   In the short time we were there we saw lots of bent rods and happy fishermen as they fished nymphs off of bright indicators in the deep, cold currents fed by the dam.  We weren't interested in fishing nymphs, so we headed down river where tricos filled the air and fish rose to them as they dropped from the sky.  When the river is higher than normal as it was then, the first half mile of river below the dam is covered with eddies and seams that constantly change direction, which made it near impossible to get a good drift to any of the hundreds of trout rising to fallen trico spinners, even from a drift boat.
 
We kept moving and soon reached a riffle that had rising fish and was about mid-thigh in depth, so we anchored the boat and spread out below the working trout.  By now the pale morning duns had started to rise and the fish were taking them.  The wind had also picked up, blowing upstream which made it fairly easy to get our flies on the working fish.  We took a few nice fish, browns that moved quickly to take my sparkle dun, and then the wind kicked up a notch and the bugs disappeared and with that, the fish stopped as well.

To make a long day short, that was it for the day.  By noon the wind was blowing a constant 25+ mph straight up river.  The river actually had white caps where the current was strong, and casting was next to impossible.  It took 5 hours to row to Craig, with Paul doing the lions share, and me finishing up the last mile or so.  If we stopped rowing, the boat would get pushed upstream.

The next couple of days we wade fished, and did fairly well, with a few nice fish taken along with many 12-15 inch fish when the weather cooperated.  The hatches during the day were sporadic, and we often had to take cover from fierce thunder storms and heavy rains that book-ended brief bright, sun filled skies.   It was a mixed bag as is often said.   The last hour of light each day did bring good hatches of caddis and with that plenty of targets along the banks to cast to with some good fish landed to round out the day.  All things considered, it was an enjoyable few days on the Mighty Mo.

Rainbow taken on an Iris Caddis as the sun was setting. 
Sharpen your hooks.

Friday, August 10, 2018

American Museum of Fly Fishing Annual Festival Tomorrow - August 11

The 11th annual AMFF Fly Fishing Festival returns to beautiful Manchester, VT on August 11th this year from 10 am until 4 pm. This is our signature event of the summer—a growing event that showcases the joy of fly fishing with vendors, demonstrations, and a gathering of people who are all equally enthused about the sport. Come enjoy fly tying and casting demonstrations, try your hand at casting vintage rods, learn how to tie a saltwater fly, and mingle with like-minded people as you share the taste and joy of the great outdoors.  Admission is free. 


Stop by and celebrate their 50th anniversary. 

For more information and details click here: American Museum of Fly Fishing Annual Festival

Sharpen your hooks!

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Art Lee, Fly-Fishing Virtuoso and Writer, Dies at 76

Art Lee, a writer and guide who described the sylvan joys — and the slyest tricks — of fly-fishing to generations of trout and salmon anglers, died on July 25 at a hospital in Middletown, N.Y. He was 76.

 Photo Kris Lee
I still refer to Art's first book, Fly Fishing for Trout on Rivers and Streams, as it continues to influence my approach to trout fishing.  If you haven't read it, I recommend you do as Art offers many thoughtful and practical ideas and techniques that will improve the way you think and approach the stream no matter where you angle for trout.  I've had the pleasure of meeting Art a number of times on the Beaverkill over the years, and it was he who introduced me to snowshoe rabbit foot for dry flies way back in 1983.

R.I.P. Art 

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

More on Mercer's Missing Link From the Man Himself

Here's a link to a recent Fly Fisherman Magazine article by Mike Mercer on the Missing Link caddis as a follow up to my last post; thanks to an unknown reader.

LINK: Fly Fisherman Magazine / Fly-tying / Mercer's Missing Link 

I'm off to Montana, see you on the return.  Look for reports on my Instagram account - @mattgrobert

And sharpen your hooks!

Monday, July 23, 2018

Tips on Tying the Missing Link Caddis

I posted a couple of  photos recently on Instagram of Mercer's Missing Link Caddis and afterwards I got a bunch of emails and messages from folks that are having trouble tying it - specifically getting the hackle wrapped cleanly.  Here's how I do it and it works quite well - pardon my photography skills.

The trick here is to leave the wings - both the spent and the elk hair wing materials long until the hackle is completely wound and tied off.

Spent wings - wrap tight to a ball of dubbing to flare them.  


Elk Hair - Tie in on top of a nice even platform formed when tying in the spent wings.


Hackle - Tie in in front of the elk hair butts and wrap counter-clockwise looking from above for a right handed tyer, and tie off behind the hook eye.  The longer wing materials will allow you to wrap the hackle over the spent wings and around the base of the elk hair wing and butts without catching it. Make the spent wings about 2X the hook shank length, and cut the elk hair right at the skin so you have plenty of length.    


The finished fly from angle above.


Side view.


And here's the video we did with Tim Flagler on tying it from start to finish. 


Hope that helps!

We're headed to Montana in a couple of days, so we hope to have some posts from Big Sky country when we return since the computer is staying home.  We'll try to post stuff from the trip daily to Instagram though - @mattgrobert 

Sharpen your hooks.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Tying the Bluegill Belly Bean

With our local trout streams at their usual summer levels and warm temperatures, we turn our attention to warm water species - bass, bluegills and, sunnies.  Here's a great video with Tim Flagler tying our friend Paul Beel's Bluegill Belly Bean pattern.   We recently featured another of Paul's patterns here - his FrankenFrog. This is a fairly simple pattern to tie and by all accounts it's a fish getter.  Tie some up!
       

Sharpen your hooks!

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The Green Drake - Sweden

The Green Drake, or the Ephemera danica, is the largest mayfly in Sweden. When it hatches, a short period in late May to early June, the trout goes crazy. Even the biggest trout come out and feed on the juicy insects, and when that happens the fly fisherman should be on the river bank.


Sharpen your hooks.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Tying Flies for Montana

It has been many years since I first went to Montana for the first time with a good friend, Don, to fish the Madison River and the surrounding trout waters, and I still get just as excited today as I did then.  This year I'm going with the usual crowd, albeit without my son and a couple of the others.  We going to be spending half the trip on the Madison River, and the other half up on the Missouri River.  In preparation, I'm tying all the flies I typically use when on those waters in late July.  

Here's my Sawyer's Pheasant Tail nymph.  For me, this is a must have fly as it aptly imitates the PMD nymphs so common and available just about anywhere in Montana in July.  I typically fish it by itself on the end of a long leader casting it straight upstream at the heads of pools and in the riffles; depending on the water depth and speed, I may put a split shot or two on the leader above it.  It works great.       


This is Kelly Galloup's Improved Blue-winged Olive nymph, which is a variation on the Sawyer Pheasant Tail nymph.  It has a peacock herl thorax and gills of a white, sparse dubbing material.  I used Senyo's Laser Dub here.  This fly has been very effective for me the last few years both here in the East and in Montana.    


Here's the Iris Caddis, which as you may know is one of my very favorite patterns.  It was introduced to me that first year I went to Montana by Don, and like many of you, it took a few years for me to recognize its full potential.  I tied the thorax with touch-dubbed hare's mask, but the original is tied with the hare's mask just dubbed on the thread.  I like the touch-dub method because it give the fly a buggier look and the wax helps improve the way the fly floats without the use of floatant.    


Here's a Pale Morning Dun snowshoe rabbit dry.  The body here is dubbed with a mixture of yellow and light olive beaver fur mixed 50/50.  The lighting in the photo makes it appear bright yellow/olive, but its really a paler yellow/olive.  I like beaver because its a natural fur that holds its color very well even when wet.  


Here's a PMD sparkle dun side and front view.  Make sure you are using a high quality deer comparadun hair for the wing - short black intact tips like you see in the front view. If the hair tips are broken or long, don't use it, it is likely dried out and brittle or won't float very well.    


Front view of PMD sparkle dun.


Here's a fairly good photo of the colors I mix for the PMD dun for reference.


Sharpen your hooks!

Monday, June 25, 2018

The FrankenFrog


Our Friend from Indiana, Paul Beel aka FrankenFly, has come up with a great looking frog imitation that I want to share with you all.  Paul is a fellow fly tyer/fly fisherman who has developed a number of trout and warm water flies and shares our passion for improving fly designs to overcome tough fishing situations and hatches.

One of the primary reasons you might design a fly is to solve a particular problem. Many times, as a fly designer, there are various products that may give you an idea for a fly that you may not have thought of otherwise.

Through the years I have tried many times to design a frog fly. I was really trying to solve a problem which is to have a top water fly that resembled a frog, so bass would go crazy over it. I never was happy with what I designed for this type of fly or it didn’t swim or pop to my liking. Eventually I abandoned the thought of designing a frog and any time I wanted to fish this type of fly, I would just throw a larger popper.

Read the whole story on how Paul developed this pattern on his blog: FrankenFly

You can purchase this fly as well as his others here: FrankenFly Fly Shop

Nice job, Paul!

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Happy Father's Day

Happy Father's Day to all of the dads out there!

I had an early Father's Day last weekend with my son, Hunt, who came down from Boston to fish with me and some of our friends in the Catskills.  Hunt worked until 5 before driving down so Friday evening I fished with Steve on the East Branch of the Delaware River.  It was a beautiful time to be on the river with barely a breeze, warm at first, and clear.  As the dusk settled in, the air cooled and sulphurs, isonychias, gray fox, green drakes and caddis hatched sporadically but the fish didn't cooperate beyond a bunch of one-and-done rises that were little more than a tease.  When the sun dropped below the mountains, the sky above us filled with march brown spinners.  The spinners hadn't dropped to the water by the time darkness set in so we packed it in and went to get some dinner and get back to the cabin before Hunt arrived.

(Click image to enlarge)
Here's a march brown spinners that greeted us under the cabin lights.  Check out the length of those tails! 


We were also greeted by this giant cream pattern-wing sedge - Hydatophylax sp. These are very large caddisflies - this one is a good 1.5 inches long! Over 2" including antennae.


Saturday we fished in the morning hitting many pools on the Beaverkill, but the bugs were sparse and with that very few fish were rising.  Being June, we had no interest in fishing nymphs so by early afternoon we called it quits and went back to the cabin to tie some flies for the evening and catch up with Hunt on the last few months in Boston and his new job.

Saturday evening the bugs really didn't get going until dusk, but when they did the fish responded and we took a few nice browns on Iris Caddis fished in the film.

On Sunday morning we fished a bugless Beavekill.  We hit a bunch of pools and all were pretty quiet.  We saw very few anglers as a result.  In the early afternoon though, we noticed a couple of fish working right off the far bank of a wide, flat pool and Hunt decided to see if he could reach them with a biot body/cdc wing cornuta spinner.  He worked hard, making 50' + casts, and over about 20 minutes or so managed to get a couple of soft takes but no hook ups.  Determined, he changed position to get above the fish a little more and after a short while he got a solid hook up that he brought to net to finish up a great weekend.


The only thing missing were Hunt's two sisters, Megan and Leigh, who are always with us in spirit when we fish.

Hunt, Leigh, Captain, Michael and Megan
Have a great day everyone!

Monday, June 4, 2018

It's Green Drake Time

It's hatch time all over the Northeast and our buddy Vinnie got in on the action Saturday catching a couple of nice browns on a green drake emerger while fishing the Upper Delaware River system.


Sharpen your hooks.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

It's Dry Fly Time!

Sorry for the lack of posts here in recent weeks - lots of working, fishing, social crap and tying, but not much time for blogging, although I'd rather be writing than doing the social thing. Not that I don't like people, I just prefer them in small quantities and doses.  And besides, I would much rather listen to the chatter of the birds mixed with the sounds of  the river with no one in sight.   

Locally, things have warmed up nicely and the rivers are at good levels and clear.  The sulphurs have been hatching great this past week with evening spinner falls that rival those of memories past.  There are also good numbers of caddis about, including the egg laying grannoms mixed in with the sulphurs at dusk. Most of the sulphurs are a size 16 and and 18, with some of the larger size 14 mixed in. Here's a great shot of an orange sulphur or pink lady, Epeorus vitreus taken by our friend John Collins, aka Electric Tyer.  This fly looks very much like the pink cahill (Stenacron interpunctatum) that also hatches around now, both a size #14, but with the cahill the fore-wings have distinct dark markings/mottling along the forward edge, and the wings have a pale creamy-yellow cast to them.  For the angler, the pink cahill covers both flies nicely.  


During the day the sulphur nymphs are very active before they begin hatching and fishing a pheasant tail nymph or sulphur nymph can be very productive before hatching begins typically in the early evening.  With all the different caddis hatching right now, an iris caddis fished wet during the day, and as a dry in the film in the evening if nothing else is hatching, can also be very effective.  This fly has become one of my most productive flies over the years fished wet or dry.  I highly recommend it.

Up in the Catskills and in the Poconos, the rivers are fairly high but clear with all kinds of bugs hatching.  The march browns are showing along with the ever present blue-winged olives, particularly on overcast or showery days.  The little dark grannoms (#18) and the lighter of the species, the apple caddis, have been hatching well.  Lighter tan caddis (#14-16) are also about in good numbers.  In the evening be prepared with some egg laying caddis near dusk as some evenings the fish will take them over all the other bugs floating over their heads. AND if you are on any river in the region make sure you have rusty spinners in #12-16 as there have been lots of them showing on the calmer evenings.

The walk to a lesser known pool in the Catskills in a soft rain.

Sharpen your hooks!

Saturday, May 19, 2018

The Catskills

Last weekend we went up to the Catskills again and fished the Beaverkill River both Friday and Saturday before a steady cold rain chased us off the river.  The fishing was good and the hatches mixed; at times there were a half dozen different insects hatching.  When I say the fishing was good, it wasn't easy, just rewarding with some good sized fish brought to net.  On Friday there were Hendricksons, and Blue Quills, Early Brown Stoneflies, Dark Grannoms and Apple Caddis hatching.  Like the previous weekend, it was almost like the trout took turns rising, and I rarely had more than two fish rising within casting distance.  The rises varied; some were splashy and quick (taking caddis), while others were very subtle, barely breaking the surface (taking emergers).  I took a few nice fish on my Apple Caddis emerger, and a few on a Hendrickson Sparkle Dun.

Matt's Apple Caddis Emerger


The Apple Caddis emerger can be fished wet swinging it as you would a soft hackle fly, or as an emerger/dry right in the surface film.  I took the brown above fishing it in the film over a quick, splashy rise in a seam along a fast riffle.

On Saturday we woke to light rain and chilly air temperatures.  After tying a bunch of flies and then having breakfast with the others, I headed back to the river about midday, while the other guys stayed back in the comfort of the cabin.  Hardly anyone was on the river as a steady rain fell.  When I got to the river bank after gearing up I walked up to the head of pool where I had the river all to myself. I few Blue-winged Olives were hatching and after my eyes adjusted to the light and conditions on the water, I saw fish rise above me as I waded out from the bank.  I tied on a BWO sparkle emerger and after a couple of casts over the fish it took the fly.  I landed the nice brown and released it quickly.

Within a short while, depsite the steady rain and chill, there were Hendricksons, and Blue Quills, Early Brown Stoneflies, Dark Grannoms, Quill Gordons and Blue-winged Olives hatching.  The Olives were the most abundant, but after observing different rising fish, it was evident the fish were taking whatever insect happened to drift over them when they were ready to eat.  My olive emerger was soaked so I tied on a Hendrickson sparkle dun and when I looked up I saw a head-dorsal-tail rise of a nice fish about 30 feet out in a slick.  I made a couple of tests casts and once I saw my fly was riding as I wanted, I made a cast to the top of the slick.  The fish rose, I set, and it took my line half way across the river in a flash.  I then got control and gained line on the beast before it made a shorter run.  We did this dance a few more times before I netted the fish you see below.


I managed to bring an other ten fish or so to net before I was thoroughly soaked and my hands stiff from the cold.  The rain was falling harder by now and I had a good day on the water, so i called it quits.  When I got back to the cabin the others had already left, so I packed my things and headed home knowing the forecast called for rain the rest of the day.

Sharpen your hooks.            

Monday, May 7, 2018

First Trip of the Year to the Catskills

This past Friday afternoon my friend Paul and I headed up to Roscoe, NY to meet up with a few other friends and get in a few days fishing the Hendrickson hatch.   When we got to the Beaverkill River late in the afternoon the bugs had stopped hatching and the wind was kicking up.  The guys that got there earlier said the hatch was good but the fish weren't looking up.  With the wind blowing fairly hard and nothing on the water, we wound up hanging out at the truck with the others catching up and sipping a beer.  We never got geared up; the water surface was rippled from the wind and after an hour or so we didn't see a single bug or rise.  By the time we got dinner it was just getting dark and a wicked storm moved through with high winds blowing the rain sideways. 

Beaverkill cut stone culvert along the old railroad bed.
Saturday morning arrived with bright sun and cool temperatures. A few high clouds drifted by casting shadows that moved across the tops of the bare trees lining the hillsides along the river corridor. After a hearty breakfast, the 8 of us split up; a few guys took the drift boat to float the Delaware, two went to wade fish the West Branch of the Delaware; and Paul, Steve and I stayed on the Beaverkill hoping to hit the Hendrickson hatch that afternoon. 

As the day turned from morning to afternoon, the bright sun was muted by high thin clouds and the air warmed to comfortable temps.  Around 2:00 PM a few olives and blue quills hatched but the trout laid low, ignoring the surface and ignoring our subsurface efforts as well.  I did hook a nice rainbow on a baetis nymph, but after a brief tussle my tippet separated from the my leader setting the fish free except for the fly in its jaw and a thin wisp of monofilament that hopefully with come free in short order.

Around 2:30 or so the hendricksons and red quills started to hatch along with blue quills, dark grannoms and a few quill gordons.  By 3:00 there were quite a few flies on the water which brought a few trout up, but surprisingly most came up only once and then didn't show again.  This went on for a while so finding a target wasn't easy.  Then like someone flipped a switch just after 4:00, quite a few fish began rising steadily.  I picked out what appeared to be a nice brown that was taking hendricksons in a slick alongside a large submerged boulder and after a few casts got a good drift and the fish sipped in the hendrickson sparkle dun like it was one of the naturals.  The hook-jawed brown fought hard and didn't come to net without a few good runs that made my drag sing.
         

The hatch continued and the fish kept rising.  Over the 45 minutes I took another five browns on the same hendrickson sparkle dun that took the first one.  One of the fish was a little bigger than the first while the others were around 14 inches or so.  And then just as quickly as the feeding started it stopped just as suddenly a little before five o'clock.  The insect kept hatching, but the fish made other plans leaving us to scratch our heads wondering what just happened.  The weather didn't change, the river didn't appear to have changed, but something made the fish change their behavior despite plenty of food in and on the water.  We stayed on the water for another hour hoping things would turn back on, but that wasn't to be so we packed it in and got some dinner. 

Here's a hendrickson sparkle dun before and after the fish got done with it.       


There's nothing like a well-chewed fly.


Sharpen your hooks!

Friday, April 27, 2018

The Day Spring Arrived

Sunday morning arrived like no other day we have had so far this year.  It was warm, the cloudless sky was deep blue, and the air had the unmistakable smell of fresh blooms and trees beginning to bud. Daffodils, tulips and forsythia were in full flower while robins, cardinals and other songbirds brought their chorus to the proceedings.  Even better, we met my son Matt and his girlfriend Kelly for brunch and spent a couple of hours catching up and hearing about his new life in Boston.  It was a wonderful time, too short, but they had a long drive home and he had to go to work at 2:00AM.


Fast forward to mid-afternoon Sunday.  When I got to the river around 3:00 PM, the sun was bright through a cloudless sky and a light breeze cooled the warm air.  The water was near perfect; clear with a strong spring flow, and in the low 50's F.   I was a little hyped up after seeing all those hendricksons the day before on the river, and the kid in me was enjoying every moment.  After rigging up my rod, I sat on the bank and watched the water for bugs and risers while I peeled and ate a clementine.  The river was quiet, but it was still early, and my expectations were high.

After a short while of watching and not seeing anything on the water, I tied a #12 soft hackle pheasant tail to the end of my 5X tippet and added some shot about 8" above the fly - this is my go-to  hendrickson emerger.  I waded out and began dead drifting the fly up and across before letting it swing below me in the current so it would rise to the surface as the line tightened.  After a few casts I stepped upstream some and cast above a seam on the far side of the river.  It took a few drifts to get the fly to drop into the pocket, but once I figured it out I took two stocked rainbows a few minutes apart.  One of the fish I thought was a koi at first, but it was this mutant instead.


As the time passed I began to notice some hendricksons drifting my me as well as some dark grannoms in the air.  Nothing rose to the hendricksons despite what seemed to me to be perfect conditions.  The insects were riding the water surface for long periods before taking flight giving the trout plenty of time to rise up and sip the in.  I didn't see a single rise though in the first hour or so of fishing.

Experience has taught me that often when flies are the water and trout are not rising to them in one stretch, another stretch may have actively feeding fish.  So I climbed the bank and walked upstream through the brush and over dead falls to a couple of pools that I thought might have some action.  When I got to the edge of the water I stood and watched the water in the pool in front of me, and the lower end of the one above.  After a few minutes, a trout rose in the tail of the pool above where I was right where the water transitions into the pool I was standing next to.  A short count later it rose again, so I took the shot of my leader, checked my knot at the fly and made sure the hook point was sharp before slowly stepping up the bank to where I could get a good cast above the target. This fish was hungry.  My first cast landed about 2 feet above the fish and it didn't hesitate.  It moved to the fly and took it in a splashy rise, I lifted the rod, and was tight to what turned out to be a nice rainbow trout.


Over the next hour and a half hendricksons hatched sporadically and those that took their time getting off the water where summarily taken from below.  Although the hatch was waning, there were enough to elicit takes, thus I had enough targets to keep things interesting.  I took 6 more trout, all on the same soft hackle emerger fished in the film.  My leader was 12-13 feet long, with the tippet being about 3 feet of 5X, and even without wading over my ankles (which helps a lot on this river), none of my casts were over 30 feet or so.


Sharpen your hooks.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Hendricksons, Grannoms and Cold Clear Water

After spending time in SC visiting my daughter and the two little men, I returned this week to near perfect spring conditions on our New Jersey rivers.  At the Shannon's Beginners Fly Fishing Class yesterday I was talking to Tim Flagler, who has also been fishing the South Branch of the Raritan for many years, and we both agreed that the river is in the best early spring condition its been in many years.  This year the river rises after heavy rains, but recovers more slowly and levels out higher than it has in many years.  It also seems to be cleaner and very clear.  The there New Jersey rivers are much the same this year, perhaps the water table is recovering with regular rains and snow fall over the last few months.  Folks are complaining about how spring seems to be slow in coming, which is true, but for me it seems like its been more "normal" than it has been in many years.


Ok, so the hendrickson hatch is late this year, but the last week it has been the best we've seen in many years.  Yesterday afternoon while guiding one of the students, the hendrickson hatch was very good.  It was so good, the we could look down into the slow, clear water on the margins of the stream and see hundreds of hendrickson nymphs drifting by as they wiggled towards the water surface to hatch.  And hatch they did.  The dark mayflies drifted by on and off for several hours while the trout ignored them, which as an angler drives you crazy.  We kept hoping the trout would begin to rise so we could give the students the thrill of catching a fish on a dry fly, but it never happened.  Was it the cold water or some other unseen condition that kept the trout holding tight to he bottom?  We didn't even see fish flashing in the water column as they normally do when they feed on the ascending nymphs.  Dark Grannom caddis and some stoneflies were also on the water, and they too were ignored by the trout.

Dark Grannom
It was a very good day though.  Everyone caught fish and although it was cool and breezy, it was a beautiful day to be on the water initiating a few more folks to our wonderful sport.

Sharpen your hooks!

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