Thursday, October 22, 2020

A Long Dry Spell

It's been a year of less blogging and less fishing thanks to Covid, low water locally and having to be very close to home due to a family health issue that has now been resolved.  With Autumn in full swing, I did manage to get out on the river last week late in the day, and despite the low, clear water conditions managed to pick up a few fish.  

It was a warm, windless day and early enough in the season that most of the dying leaves were still clinging to the tree branches.  As is typical in the fall months here in the East, I saw many different insects over and on the water but only random, inconsistent rises.  There were light cahill spinners, blue-winged olives, micro caddis, slate drakes and squadrons of dot wing sedges flying upstream over the river. 


Since I really didn't have any targets, and it was clear the dot winged sedges had been hatching well in resent days, I tied on a size 16 brown and yellow LaFontaine sparkle pupa.  It took me a bit to get adjusted to the river flow and how much weight I needed, but after a short time my instincts took over and I hooked and landed a nice rainbow in a narrow, fast run behind a couple of large rocks.


It has been four months without fishing in NJ - this was the longest period in over 40 years that I did not fish local waters.  And in that period I only fished a handful of times in PA and NY.  I tied a lot of flies though, and while tying I do fish in my head.

We are in need of some serious rain though, as you can see by the photo above, the streams are low and clear with reduced flows.

Sharpen your hooks.      

Friday, September 4, 2020

September 2020 Riversage Journal

The September 2020 Riversage Journal is now available on line.  This month our contribution is "Olives and Ants".  In addition, there are a bunch of other great articles on fly fishing, birds dogs and wing shooting.   This month's giveaway is "A Hunter's Fireside Book, Tales of Dogs, Ducks, Birds & Guns" by Gene Hill. Click on the photo below to be directed to the site. 


Sharpen your hooks.

Monday, August 17, 2020

August 2020 Riversage Journal

Hi folks, hope you all are doing well in these trying times.  We've not been fishing much recently due to the low water levels and warm river temperatures in the region, and also because we aren't traveling. Even most of the Catskill rivers have been low and warm so we haven't been going up there. Most years we would be returning from Montana around this time, but that didn't happen this year for the first time in decades.  We have been tying everyday and writing, and I've been very busy at work fortunately.   

This month's issue of the Riversage Journal is out.  Lots of interesting articles on wing shooting and fly fishing in this one.  My contribution is a piece on what flies I carry during the summer months besides terrestrials to cover the more common hatches in the U.S.   And there's a tying video I did on tying a biot body rusty spinner that's from a live Instagram session from a couple of months ago that we did for a Trout Unlimited chapter.  Click on the logo below to read the Journal. 

Sharpen your hooks.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Riversage Journal


We recently teamed up with Ray Miller and a bunch of other highly talented wingshooting and fly fishing folks on Ray's most recent project, the Riversage Journal.  The Journal is a monthly EZine and can be viewed by clicking on their home page below.   


My contribution this month is a piece on the Rusty Spinner.  Please take some time to check it out and feel free to provide feedback here or directly to Ray at the link on the website.  We welcome your feedback.

On another note, our absence in recent weeks is a result of not only the current situation with the pandemic, but we also lost our mom to the virus a couple of months ago.  She was 92, raised 8 children yet always found the time to take me fishing or get fly fishing or tying supplies when I was a youngster. She lives on in me and the rivers I fish.

Sharpen your hooks.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Live Tying Session Tonight at 6:30 PM

If you have the time tonight I'll be doing a live tying podcast on Instagram on the @Jerseyshoretu sponsored site.   We'll be tying two very important May fly patterns - a Rusty Spinner and a Sulphur Usual.  Both patterns utilize snowshoe rabbit foot hair for the wings.  Just go to Instagram and log into the @Jerseyshoetu live broadcast and join us.  I'll be tying and answering questions as well as demonstrating what I have found are the most efficient techniques for tying these two patterns.   



Sharpen your hooks.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Give Your Local Fly Shop Some Love

The Hendrickson hatch is peaking here in New Jersey, and that's making a lot of anglers happy to be on the water.  That said, our mom and pop fly fishing shops should also be at peak sales with the fly fishing season coming into the height of the season from now through June.  Unfortunately, with the necessary statewide stay-at-home order and restrictions on non-essential businesses, the fly shops cannot allow walk in traffic.  Owning and running a successful fly shop, being that it caters to only a limited part of the general population, is not easy in normal times.  With the current situation, it is substantially more difficult. 

So please, if you need any fly fishing supplies or equipment, whether you are in New Jersey or elsewhere, call your local fly shop and buy from them.  Most have curbside pick-up and free shipping.  Because the shops are local, the time for shipping is minimal, and you will be making a difference in lives of folks that love our sport and who will be here after this is all over so we can have a place to go inspect the latest equipment, take tying lessons, shoot the shit, learn new techniques and get the latest information on whats hatching on your favorite stream.

Here's a list of New Jersey fly shops in alphabetical order and their contact info:

Shannon's Fly Shop - Califon, NJ 908-832-5736  www.shannonsflytackle.com

Streams of Dreams Fly Shop - Upper Saddle River, NJ  201-934-1138 www.streamsofdreams.com 

Tight Lines Fly Fishing - Parsippany, NJ 973-244-5990  www.tightlinesflyfishing.com

Whitewater Flies - Lafayette, NJ 973-229-0424 www.whitewaterflies.com

Be safe, patronize your local fly shop, and sharpen your hooks.

P.S. - It's physical distancing. : )

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

A Short, Successful Outing - More Hendrickons

Last Thursday I grabbed an hour on the stream after work and managed to hit the tail end of the hendrickson hatch that day.   When I got to the river in the late afternoon there were just enough of the mayflies hatching to keep a few trout feeding in the run I chose to fish.  The air was cool, and the breeze kept it that way on my face despite the bright sun.  The water was crystal clear and 50F on the nose.  Some little black stoneflies came and went, and early smokey-winged sedges were everywhere but on the water surface.

With only a few fish rising steadily, I quickly tied on about 3 feet of  fresh 5X tippet to the end of my leader and to the end of that, a size #12 Catskill style hendrickson.  I then picked the first fish I saw rising at the lower end of the pool.  It was holding just below the surface in a wrinkle just below a submerged boulder where it could just tip its nose up and sip in each freshly hatched mayfly in its path that didn't get off the water quickly enough.  Fishing from below the working fish I dropped my fly just above where the boulder sat.  The bumpy current pushed and bobbed the fly as it floated over the rock and the first few drifts went unmolested.

After a few minutes I changed position and moved up to a point where I was across from and just above the rising fish.  I hoped that I could drop the fly above the rock with a reach cast and feed to the fly down to the target and mend my line as needed to get a good drift.  My second cast landed just as I had wanted it to, with the fly first followed by tippet, leader and line.  Sure enough, just as the fly passed the rock and entered the chop the fish eased up and sipped in the fly.  After a brief battle, I brought a nice brown to net.


And that was it.  I watched and scanned the water but in the short time I worked that fish, the others stopped rising and the hendricksons all but disappeared.  The early smokey-winged sedges still filled the air but again stayed off the water.  I also saw a few little black stoneflies skitter along the water, but nothing chased them.  I walked up the stream a ways to check out other runs, but they were also void of working fish.  I stuck around for a bit enjoying the solitude and hoping for a stray rising fish  but to no avail. That's fishing.

The early smokey-winged sedges (Apatania sp.) are very abundant this year in the South Branch, their mineral cases lining the rocks in the calmer sections of pools where they pupate and hatch.   Apatania sp.  The ones I saw must have hatched earlier in the day and were just flitting around enjoying the sunset by the time I arrived.  I recommend that if you do get out to fish the South Branch in the next week or so, be sure to have some size #16-18 dark caddis imitations so you're ready in the event you catch the hatch.

Apatania sp. mineral cases - be careful wading to avoid crushing them.

Early smokey-winged sedge. Note that the body is about a size 20, and the wings are about 2X that. I tie them on an 18 and make the body short on the hook and the wings extending past the bend a bit. 

Sharpen your hooks and be safe out there.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Little Black Stone Flies and...Hendricksons

This past Saturday I fished the South Branch of the Raritan River for a couple of hours in the afternoon and had a great time fishing dry flies.   The river was a little low and clear as gin, the air was maybe 50F with a bright sun moving in and out of the clouds passing overhead.  When I got there I was expecting ot see the black stoneflies on the water, but I wasn't expecting to see Hendricksons hatching so early in the season.  Not a ton, but enough that the trout were focused on eating them over the more adundant stoneflies.

Of course, I didn't notice the Hendricksons at first, as there were plenty of stonesflies in the air and on the water and so that's what I initially set out to imitate with a #14 dark gray caribou caddis.  I dropped the fly over rising trout only to have them ignore it time after time.  My presentations didn't put the fish down, I thought I was getting a good drift, but the trout were having none of it and kept rising like I wasn't even there.  So I stopped casting and got down low to reduce the glare coming off the water,  and looked across the surface and saw a mayfly.  I watched it drift along and sure enough a trout went out of its way to take it.  I watched some more and much to my surprise I saw more of what turned out to be hendricksons, mostly red quills (males) but also a few of the larger hendricksons (females).  So as not to disturb the good water, I waded downstream to a shallow run and stepped out into the current to grab one of the insects to positively identify it.  Yep, a red quill!  About 2 weeks earlier than we normally see them in this region of the Northeast.

(Red Quill)
I did not expect this at all; 50 years of trout fishing in New Jersey and I had never seen hendricksons hatching this early in the year.  I have seen a random one here and there in late March over the years, but not enough to bring up fish.  I also saw a single quill gordon, large and looking much like the female hendrickson, but a lighter body and only two tails.  Hendricksons have three tails.

Once I got back to the run where fish were rising to the duns, I tied a size #12 Catskill hendrickson to the end of a new, 3 foot long, piece of 5X tippet.  I waited and watched until I saw a consistently rising fish and then with a quick cast I dropped my fly a couple of feet about the working fish.  The fly dragged before it got to the target so I picked it up and made another cast, this time a strong reach cast, and that did it.  The fly drifted right over the fish and it took it like candy.  I brief fight ensued before I netted a nice rainbow. 

A number of fish were working the run I was fishing, and a few casts later I hooked and landed another rainbow.  The hatch pulsed as it usually does, with brief periods of flies coming off the water and fish taking them followed by a 5 to 10 minute period with few bugs and the fish presumably resting on the bottom waiting for another pulse.  I wound up taking a bunch of cookie cutter rainbows and a nice brown trout.


And here's the one fly that did the trick.  I took this one in the sun where it appears very light, but it isn't, as you can see in the second photo.  The hackle and tail is from a rusty dun neck from Sidlinghill Hackle and the body is a mix of tan, pink and gray rabbit fur.  When I have a good day with a fly, I cut if off and save it leaving some of the tippet so I have a momento from a good day on the water.     



It looks like the hendrickson hatch is likely going to peak quite a bit early this year, perhaps before opening day in New Jersey.  So if you go out you will have to fish special regulation waters which there are only a limited amount of; don't expect to  be alone on the water.

Sharpen your hooks and give each other plenty of room on the water...it's just fishing.      

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Blue-winged Olives, Stoneflies and Rising Trout

Last weekend, 3/14 & 3/15, we managed to fish both days.  Saturday in Pennsylvania with a couple of friends, and that Sunday by myself on the South Branch of the Raritan River.  

Both days were typical late winter early spring days; cool, breezy and a mix of bright sun and clouds.  The river on Saturday was crystal clear and slightly lower than normal.  Blue-winged olives hatched in pulses, and tiny midges danced in the air and in the leeward sides of rocks and trees.  Trout rose in  tempo with the insect activity, and after carefullt watching the rises it was apparent that some of the trout were taking the olives, and others were gently sipping in the tiny midges.  The olives were a size 18, and the midges were generously 1/8 inch in length with slender black bodies and clear wisps of wings. It always amazes me that these minute insects have all the parts necessary to create energy to move their legs and also their wings to fly.

As I usually do, I wandered off upstream from the others and found one of my favorite runs with rising fish and free of anglers.  As we had seen in the runs downstream, some of the fish rose to the olives, and others sipped in the midges leaving only a couple of subtle rings as evidence.  Took a few small wild browns on a size #20 simple snowshoe emerger before the rise tailed off and the sun went below the hills.

On that Sunday I fished close to home, and while the PA stream was a limestone creek, the South Branch is a freestone stream that has an abundance of stoneflies along with mayflies and caddisflies.  I got to the stream mid afternoon, and initially I didn't see many insects in the air or on the water.  So I started out throwing a black woolley bugger at the opposite bank and stripping it back through likely holding water.  I got a few chases and bumps but no hook ups.

Around four o'clock the sun had come out in full force and with that the little black stoneflies appeared.  The females skittered and dropped down to the water to lay their and the trout began to chase them on top.  The breeze helped out to by knocking the clumsy fliers onto the water surface where many struggled before being eaten.  I put on a #14 dark gray caribou caddis and using my 10' 3wt rod and a long leader of 10 feet, I skittered the fly where trout were taking the naturals.  I think it took two casts before I took a stocked holdover rainbow of about 12 inches.


By the time I had to get off the water, I had caught a bunch of stocked rainbows, and one brown of about 10-11 inches, all on this one fly.

Sharpen your hooks and keep your distance.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

The Fly Fishing Show - Lancaster, PA - This Saturday & Sunday

The fly fishing show is this coming to Lancaster, PA this weekend - March 7 & 8 - 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 Catch Room - 1:00 PM - Tying and Matching Northeastern Hatches – Common Eastern Hatches & Their Imitations.

Sunday Seminar Release Room - 3:00 PM – Presentation - Follow Your Leader.  Techniques on presenting dry flies and emergers on trout streams.

Sunday - Featured Fly Tyer - 10:00AM - Tying simple flies for sophisticated trout.  

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.