Monday, April 25, 2011

This Week's Video From Tightline Productions

This week we have an underwater view of a full range of South Branch denizens.  More hendrickson nymphs and adults - check out the male at 0:36.  There are other mayfly nymphs, various cased caddis larva, and some stonefly nymphs - notice how they do "push-ups" to move water across their gills.  Also crawfish, dace and a mess of trout at the end. Enjoy.

South Branch Sampler 4-22-11 from Tightline Productions on Vimeo.

Great stuff, Tim.  Thanks for sharing.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter - Here's One for our Friends at Double Haul Fly Fishing

Yesterday the monsoons came again in the early morning hours, washing out any hope we had of fishing.  Even the wild trout stream down the street was in fine chocolate milk shape as it struggled to stay within its banks.  So we went to Shannon's Fly Shop to pick up some hooks and say hi to Jim and George, before coming back home to tie up some phunky bugs for the upcoming hatches.  I ran into Uncle Hooli of DHFFwhile there and he was asking me about my egg-laying caddis and how we tie it.

So here goes, but first a glimpse of a nearby trout sancturary doing its best imittion of Yohoo.

The egg-laying caddis shown here is a dead-ringer for the grannoms that are hatching now in great numbers - thus their latin name - Brachycentrus numerosus.  Although they hatch now, they will live for several weeks among the budding trees and shrubs before mating and dying.  When the weather and water warms sufficiently, they will mate and come back to the streams to crawl down partially submerged logs, rocks and even anglers legs, to lay their eggs on the down stream side 6 inches or so below the surface. 

This pattern works like a charm on those warm May evenings when the mature grannoms retunr to do their thing.  Looks for the clumsy flyers, with their bright green, egg sacs hanging from the end of their abdomens, swarming just above the water around partially submerged rocks and logs.  You may also see them around your legs, as they like to crawl down anything that's in the midst of flowing water, to lay their eggs.   (Click on any of the photos to enlarge them.)   

1. Debarb a size #16 dry fly hook.  Tie in a piece of caddis green antron or zelon as shown.

2. Clip the tag end so its about 1/2 a hook gap in length, and clip off the front excess.  Dub a tapered body using gray Australian Opossum fur.

3. Tie in an underwing of clear or white antron or zelon.

4. Tie in a bunch of snowshoe rabbit foot hair - the crinkly, gnarly hair from the toe is what we like best for caddis wings as it looks right and stays in a fairly tight bunch.

5. Chop up some rough, natural hare's ear dubbing.    Wax your thread with tacky wax - not the dry, wimpy stuff that comes in a big lipstick tube - that stuff is only good for........nothing if you're a fly tyer.  Then touch dub maybe 1 1/2 inches of the thread with the chopped hare's ear, and wrap the throax.  Stroke the fibers back as you wrap the mess so it stays spikey.  Here's the finished fly.  That thorax will pop out as you fish it and give it the perfect silhouette.

This is another of my dual-purpose flies.  We fish it dry to rising fish, and we'll also add a small shot 6 inches above it and fish it behind rocks and logs where we see trout flashing in the water column below as they pick off the egg-layers that have lost their grip in the current.

Tie some up, go fish, and sharpen those hooks as you fish!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Tying the Soft Hackle Hendrickson Emerger

I got a bunch of emails asking about how I tie my SH Hendrickson emerger, so here goes.......
Sizes #12 and 14 - Dry fly hook.

1. Tie in a bunch of pheasant tail fibers for the tail and abdomen, as shown.  Tie in copper wire rib.  

2. Wrap pheasant tail fibers back to tail and then tie them down with copper wire.  After securing pheasant tail, continue wrappping wire to front forming rib, and then tie off as shown.    

3. Clip excess pheasant tail and wire.  Coat about 1-2 inches of thread with sticky wax.  Touch-dub medium Austrailian Oppossum to waxed thread as shown.   

4. Wrap dubbed thread forward forming a thorax.

5. Tie in a speckled hen feather by the tip, fold the fibers as shown. 

6. Wrap the hen hackle as a collar, as shown, and tie off head.  Go fish!

Tie some up and fish them with confidence.  Dead-drift them deep, swing them in traditional wet fly fashion, and when the trout start taking the adults off the top, dry it out and get out the Frog's Fanny - fish it dry.  It works great for me, hope it does for you. 

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Meet the Hendricksons/Ephemerellas

Tim Flagler of Tightline Productions sent us this very cool under water video of mostly hendrickson nymphs, and a few other Genus Ephemerella nymphs.  The hendrickson nymphs, Ephemerella subvaria, are easily identified by the three light, mid-abdominal segments, and two dark bands on the tibia of each leg.  The end of the film give us a water's edge view of an adult male hendrickson -  a red quill to us fly fishermen.

Meet the Hendricksons from Tightline Productions on Vimeo.

Neat stuff, and Tim tells us that he intends to take aquatic insect samples from the South Branch of the Raritan River on a weekly basis and photograph them.  Something to look forward to, look for updates here in the coming weeks.

Thanks Tim, we look forward to more great shots.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

A Brief Hendrickson Hatch

JB and I managed to get out yesterday and fish for a few hours before the cold, raw winds moved in and shut things down.  I got to the river about 3:30PM, and JB was still on his way.  A few hendricksons hatched here and there, but they were being ignored as they drifted and took flight from the water surface.  Knowing the nymphs would be active, I tied on a soft hackle hendrickson emerger, and before long I was into fish.  I could see the trout taking the nymphs in the water column throughout the run.  The golden-silvery flash of their flanks gave them away as they rushed to take the ascending nymphs before they reached the surface. 

In the first half-hour or so, I caught many fish by dead-drifting my fly through the lanes I saw trout feeding in, a foot or two under the surface.  I had a small split-shot 6 inches or so above the fly.  Most of the fish took the fly as it drifted toward them, and the others took it as it rose at the end of its drift as the current tightened my leader and line, bringing the fly upwards as though it was about to hatch.

JB arrived and along with his fly rod, he had his camera, hoping he might get some underwater shots for my book.  He got there just as the trout started taking the emerging mayflies off the water surface.  So I took the split shot off my leader, then I dried the fly by squeezing it in a felt patch followed by a generous application of Frog's Fanny dessicant.  My soft hackle was now a soft hackle hendrickson dry fly.  I then would pick out a rising fish, cast the fly above it and let it drift down into the fishes feeding lane.  A good cast and nice, drag-free drift, many times would draw the trout up out of the depths to take the offering.  As more hendricksons hatched, more fish rose to them, giving me multiple targets up and down the long run. I caught a boat load of trout during this period, and JB took a boat load of photos of many of the fish just before I landed them.  I don't know how he managed to keep taking photos, because if that were me and all those trout were rising around me, I would put the camera down and start fishing!

Of course, JB could only hold out so long.  And how many pictures can you take before you've had enough.  He grabbed his rod, I gave him a couple of my flies, and he headed upstream of me to fish the top of the run.  In short order he was into a nice rainbow that put a deep bend in his new 9ft 5wt, before tossing the fly.

And then, a half-hour later, it was over as quickly as it started.  A moist cold wind kicked up, clouds blocked the sun, and the bugs stopped hatching as though someone had flipped a switch to off.  The trout quit rising just as quickly.  We continued fishing though, as the trout continued to take nymphs below the surface.  I added a split shot to my leader, and using the same fly, took a bunch more fish before the raw weather got the best of us and we packed it in.

Here's a soft hackle hendrickson before being fished.             

Click to enlarge 
A nice trout that took the fly..........

And the fly at the end of the day.......

Click to enlarge

As I write this, it is windy and raining out....and cold.  I doubt the hendricksons hatched today around here, so yesterday is even sweeter knowing I hit it right.

Sharpen your hooks and go fish! 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A View From Below the Surface

Click on the pic...'nuff said.......

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Here Come the Bugs!

Yesterday I briefly fished the South Branch of the Raritan River for no other reason than to keep my tradition of fishing on NJ opening day.  I fished with Dan Ansbach, who in addition to being a dad of three and working full-time, is a fishing guide out of Shannon's Fly Shop in Califon.  It was a warm day with thin, milky clouds taking the edge off the bright day by muffling shadows.  The river was in great shape, although a little lower than we'd like for this early in the season.   It was clear and about 52 degrees at 2PM.

And best of all, like daffodils signal that spring is near, we saw the first serious hatch of aquatic insects!  Waves of dark grannoms came up the river on the light breeze, along with lots of little black and brown stoneflies. I saw my first red quills of the year, a sure sign that in 3-5 days the hendrickson hatch should  really get going, bringing the trout to the surface.  And we saw a couple quill gordons - large, steel-gray mayflies riding the current briefly before taking flight.

Despite all the bugs, we didn't see fish rising to them, not that we were surprised.  Early in the season, the trout tend to be less inclined to rise and feed on the surface, particularly the freshly stocked fish.  As more bugs hatch, and the water temperatures become more consistent, that will change.

The hendrickson is one of the best hatches in NJ, and just perfect for the fly fisherman to get the winter cobwebs out of their heads.   You fish the nymph early in the day up until you see fish flashing in the water column as they take the pre-emergent nymphs dancing in the water column,, usually in the early afternoon.  Then you switch to a subsurface emerger or soft-hackle fly - dead-drift it, lifting it half way through the draft, and also let it swing below you and rise on the current to the surface.  When the trout begin to take hatching flies on or near the surface, switch to a floating emerger.  And finally, when the flies are plentiful on the surface and the trout are focused on them, put on a dry fly and have a ball.  Late in the afternoon, when fish continue to rise, but ignore your dun, switch to a dark spinner pattern.

It's almost post time, so plan accordingly.

And sharpen your hooks! 

Thursday, April 7, 2011

It Nevers Grows Old

Yesterday I was at a job in Massachusetts, near Marlboro, inspecting the roofs in a community that rests on a hill top. The sun shone bright through a clear, blue sky warming the day to the mid-fifty degree mark. Throughout the afternoon I kept seeing little-black stoneflies on the building trim and siding, lots of them. Almost everywhere I looked I saw the thin, dark shapes moving along the warm, white trim, or in the air, their two sets of smoky wings fluttering like a confused helicopter.

By the time I got done with the inspections, I had one thing on my mind. I had to find out where the stoneflies were hatching from and if the stream was fishable. I left the community and I headed down the hill to where the land flattened out and began looking for what in my mind was a clear, clean, freestone stream contained by rocky banks and shadowed by bare hardwoods and low, leafless brush.

After following my nose for a bit I found the stream as it passed under an empty, one-lane road. The stream was just as I had imagined - small, swift and clear, with clay-lined rocky banks and a graveled bottom. It paralleled the road through fallow farmland, filled with overgrown brush and pale, tall dead grasses and weeds. There were also quite a few trees of mid-life size, scattered along the banks and the surrounding land.

I pulled off the road about 50 yards from the stream and walked through the field to the stream. As I approached the narrow flow – a 20 foot cast would span the banks – I saw more stoneflies in the air. Upon reaching streamside, I also saw some stones on the water trying to take flight, and others skittering along dropping their egg laden abdomens to release their progeny.

And then I heard that familiar sound every angler associates with feeding trout, and looked to where the noise came from. Downstream along a low, curving, cut bank, a trout rose in a splash to take one of the hapless stoneflies. And then another did the same, or maybe it was the same fish, and I walked quickly down to get a closer look.

The stream curved gently and widened into a smooth flow along the outside, creating the perfect conveyor of food to trout hanging under the bank in the shadows. I watched as several brook trout took turns ascending from the secure darkness of the depths to chase the stoneflies on the surface for an early spring meal. The fish were small, maybe 7-8 inches, and deep olive in color. I imagined that up close, their flanks had the typical brook trout red spots surrounded by pale, blue halos, and their dorsal sides showing the vermiculated light and dark patterns so well known to anglers in the Northeast.

I imagined, and watched, and walked and watched some more and found in every likely holding spot, a trout or two rising to take the plentiful stoneflies. Some rises were subtle sips, and others were splashy aggressive affairs, with the trout sometimes torpedoing completely out of the water. I couldn’t help but think the trout were happy in some way, with the warming water and first hatch of the year going full-tilt. I know I was happy, and fascinated, as the site of feeding trout never seems to grow old, especially after a long, cold winter.

Note to self - carry your equipment everywhere you go!

And sharpen your hooks.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Back to Ed Engle and His Blue-winged Olive Emerger

The other day I posted an article by Ed Engle in which he wrote about the first mayfly hatch of the season, the Blue-winged Olives, and how best to imitate them.  He wrote:  

Remember that the fishing action really begins when the blue-winged olive nymphs, which are good swimmers, make their way from the stream bottom to the surface where they will emerge from the nymphal shuck as winged, air-breathing adults. Look for blue-winged olive emerger patterns in sizes 18-22 that utilize flashy synthetics .............. silver-lined glass beads. Besides giving the impression of movement and action, the flashy stuff also imitates the bright air bubble associated with a nymph as it heads toward the water's surface or as it begins to extricate itself from the shuck.

Here are two versions of a blue-winged olive emerger I tied using Ed's sliver lined bead method. This first one is my sparse version.  It's tied with a few woodduck flank fibers for a tail, a thread abdomen, dubbed thorax and a small, glass silver-lined bead.

Here is a more robust pattern I tied using pheasant tail for the tail and abdomen (which is how Ed demonstrated the pattern), a dubbed marbou thorax (my addition), and the silver-lined bead.  This one is tied on the Czech Dohiku hook.  I've been using the dubbed marabou thorax on some of my emergers in recent years with good success.  It makes a real messy, buggy thorax that "breathes" in the water.  Give it shot and see of you like it.

The beads in the photoslook like they are just clear glass, but they are silver-lined on the inside hole, and have a great flash to them.  I use a piece of 6X tippet through the hole to bind them to the hook shank before I wrap the thorax material around the base of the bead and the hook.

I'll report down the road on their effectiveness, or lack thereof, after I have given them a good soaking in front of some trout noses.

Go get 'em!  And sharpen those hooks.