Sunday, March 25, 2012

Tying the Cloud Emerger

Here's a mayfly emerger pattern of mine I've been using with success for a number of years that uses the Matt's Gnat rabbit twist technique for the thorax.  The shuck and abdomen are pretty standard matters, but the thorax and wingcase are unique in style and technique, which gives this pattern a buggy look and great buoyancy.  When trout are taking emerging mayflies off the surface, this is one of my go-to patterns.  As usual, Tim Flagler did his magic creating the video.

Hendrickson Cloud Emerger

Hook: #12-14 Dai Riki #125
Thread: 6/0 Danville Olive
Shuck: Mayfly brown zelon
Abdomen: Rusty brown Australian opossum
Thorax: Peacock/snowshoe rabbit foot twist
Wingcase: Natural goose wing

It's not as difficult to tie as it may look; the key to getting it right is that same as for any fly - leave yourself enough room at the head.  This starts with the thorax, which should begin at the halfway point of the hook shank.

Tie some up and keep those hooks sharp!

Friday, March 23, 2012

All Bets Are Off

It seems like Mother Nature throws us a curve ball (screw ball) more often than she ever has these days.  Typically, the Hendrickson mayfly and Grannom caddis, begin hatching from New Jersey rivers and streams in early April and peak sometime during the second week.

If you bet the farm on that scenario, you're going to go broke.  The Hendricksons/Red Quills have begun to hatch as have the Dark Grannom caddis.  With the rivers being low and clear, and the weather warm, they couldn't wait for opening day to show their faces.  

Here is a photo of a Red Quill, the male Ephemerella subvaria, that hatched  from the South Branch of the Raritan River in Califon yesterday.  Sure looks tasty, doesn't it?
Photo by Tim Flagler - Tightline Productions Click photo to enlarge

What does this mean to the NJ angler?  If you want to catch trout during this hatch you only have the option of fishing in the Trout Conservation Areas, of which there are three, and the Wild Trout Streams.  The rest of NJ trout stocked waters are closed until April 7, and by that time, it is very likely that the Hendrickson hatch will be over, or well past peak.  The Dark Grannom hatch will also be past its peak here in NJ on opening day, although the adults do live for 3-4 weeks and will be back to lay their eggs on warmer evenings in April.

Only time will tell if future 2012 hatches are this early, but it seems very likely given the mild, snowless winter we had here in these parts.

If you do want to bet the farm on something, take odds that the TCA's in NJ will be packed with anglers the next two weekends barring high water or some other hilarious prank by Ms. Nature.

In the end, it's just one more thing to keep us guessing; and isn't that what keeps us going back to stand in cold, flowing water to cast a feather and fur adorned hook in an effort to attract a fish?

And they say golf is for idiots.....

What the hell, go for it.............and sharpen your hooks! 

Monday, March 19, 2012

Matt's Gnat in the Orvis News

We got a nice write up on my Matt's Gnat in the Orvis News blog.  Thank you Phil Monahan.  Click on the photo below if you're interested in checking it out.
Matt's Gnat
We made another video yesterday with Tightline Productions/Tim Flagler of my floating nymph using the same snowshoe rabbit and peacock herl technique you see here - it's called a Cloud Emerger.  I'll post it here when Tim does his magic with it.

In the meantime, tie some of these up and give them a go. 

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Happy St. Patrick's Day - The Origin of the Pumpkinhead Midge

Today is the day we celebrate our Irish heritage along with many others that embrace a good reason to lift a pint and party with abandon.  Feel free to not celebrate, but if you must know, the Irish have the market cornered on celebrating their heritage and welcome anyone and everyone regardless of their family tree, to join them.

So appropriately, today we will reveal the origin of the Pumpkinhead Midge/Nymph that has set the world of subsurface fly fishing on fire.  Yes, that ubiquitous, orange-headed fly that draws trout to it from afar and puts smiles on the faces of those anglers that dare to fish it.

So here goes.................
The reality is, the model for the Pumpkinhead is ages old; in fact, its origins go back about 150 years ago to Easter Island, in the South Pacific.  I know that sounds incredulous, but it's true.  You see my great, great grandfather Harry J. O'Featherline, was an Irish whaler who spent his years at sea hunting whales and visiting islands most of the world would never see.
The story goes that his ship, His Royal Highness Corned Beef and Cabbage, anchored off of Easter Island in 1862, so the men could go ashore for some grub and sightseeing.  While there they did some research on the Moai; the large, stone head sculptures facing the sea, that had been carved by the natives many years before.  It is a little known fact that the Moai had nose rings when they were completed, fashioned from stone, bronze, and feathers from the now extinct Dodo bird.
Harry apparently was fascinated by the nose jewelry, so before he and the crew left the island, he spent the better part of a day carving a description of one on his laptablet.   That wee, carved stone with the clear description of the Easter Island Moai nose ring, has since been passed on from generation to generation until my mother, Shirley O'Featherline, gave it to me on St. Patrick's Day during a blizzard Skawla stonefly hatch.  It was epic.
Thankfully, the Irish are hoarders, so the laptablet survived intact, which is doubly good since the original Moai nose rings have since been looted by armadas of bait fishermen never to be seen again.  In fact, the laptablet is the only surviving record of the Moai nose rings.

Fast forward to 1972, when I was given a package of small, orange, tungsten beads by some fly-by-night fly tying outfitter.  These beads looked exactly like I had imagined the orange stone bead had looked on the Moai nose rings. 

Then it hit me like a ton of potatoes, all the nose rings needed was a bend with a point at the end of the Dodo feathered ring, and it would look just like a fly.  You see, great grandpa described a bronze shaft with small angled ring on one end, to which the actual nose ring was attached.  This ring was on one side of a round orange stone bead, which was followed by a wide band of iridescent Albatross feathers with a tuft of white coming off one side.  Then the rest of the shaft was wound with brown Dodo bird feathers tied in with copper wire - the ends of the Dodo bird feathers stuck out past the end much like the tail of a fly. All that it needed to make the piece a fly, was a hook on the end of the bronze shaft!

So I grabbed a hook, put an orange bead on it, and then placed the beaded hook in my tying vise and tied the first fly fashioned after a Moai nose ring using modern materials and methods.  In days, I was catching a boat load of trout on the fly in every river, stream and creek I cast the fly into.   

Finally, you ask, "How did I come up with the name?"  That was easy.  You see, all the whalers on the Irish whaling ship naturally had reddish/orange hair, which led their countrymen to call them the "Pumpkinheads."

It all makes perfect sense now, doesn't it?


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Tying Sawyer's Pheasant Tail Nymph

In this video, our friend Lou DiGena, ties the original pheasant tail nymph as tied by the originator, Frank Sawyer.  This is the pattern that spawned all of today's pheasant tail variations.  It is a safe bet that one or more versions of this incredibly effective nymph can be found in just about every trout fly fishermen's arsenal.

Tim Flagler, of Tightline Productions, filmed this at the Annual Sparse Gray Matter Fly Tying Festival a couple of weeks ago in Califon, NJ.

The fly could be more simple in terms of technique and materials.

Hook: #12-24 1X long nymph
Thread: Copper wire
Tail/body/wingcase: Pheasant tail

I'll take a dozen, Lou.

Sharpen those hooks!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Tying Matt's Gnat

Since posting a photo of this variation on the Griffith's Gnat, a lot of tyers have asked me how I tie this fly.   So, we sat down at the tying bench with Tightline Productions - Tim and Joan Flagler - and made a video to share this wonderful pattern and how to tie it. It has all the great attributes of the Griffith's Gnat, and its very durable and floats like a cork.   I've taken trout on it here in the East, and out West, including the big rainbows that sip little midges off the surface of the Missouri in the side eddies and channels.  I tie them in sizes #16 down to #24.

Hook: TMC #2488
Thread: 6/0 Danville Claret
Body: Peacock herl and snowshoe rabbit foot fibers

Tie some up and give them a try next time you encounter trout that are sipping the little stuff off the surface film.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Is it March or Mid-April? Who Cares, We've Been Fishing.

According to the calendar, it's March, but you wouldn't know it by the balmy weather and all the daffodils in bloom on the hillside behind the house.  Today the temps reached into the low 70's.  Our rivers are on the low side, and clear as gin, which is unusual for this time of the year as we typically have snow runoff and spring rains to muddy the waters and keep us guessing with respect to hatches.  The hatches have been great this year so far, with  daily hatches of both Little brown and black Stoneflies, Blue-winged Olives, midges, and even sightings of a few Quill Gordons here in NJ.  
On Saturday I had to be in Bethlehem, PA in the morning, so I made the most of it and brought my fishing gear.  In the afternoon,  I fished the Monacacy and Little Lehigh, both of which are fine little limestone spring creeks in the Lehigh Valley.  Although the air was cool and breezy, the bugs and the fish didn't mind at all.   I took a bunch of trout on both steams using only dry flies, mostly Matt's Gnats, sizes #20-22.  I also landed a few that took small, size #18, Little black Stonefly imitations.  It was a mixed bag of rainbows and browns, the largest being a 13-14 inch rainbow that took the Gnat.

On Sunday, after teaching back-to-back fly tying classes at Shannon's Fly Shop in Califon, NJ, I hit the South Branch of the Raritan River for a couple of hours.  There were lots of bugs on the water and in the air, and pretty much the same menu as I saw in the Lehigh Valley the day before.  The only difference being the Olives I saw on Sunday varied between sizes #18 to #24; the Olives I saw on Saturday were pretty much size #20s.  Here the trout wanted the stoneflies, and what was unusual was that they would only take them when I dead-drifted my offering.  This was one of those "you never know" days, as even though the trout were chasing and taking the active stonefly adults, an active presentation didn't even get a refusal from the fish.  But when I presented the fly dead-drift, they would nail it like it was getting away!   I ended the day with a half dozen or so rainbows to net, all of them on my Little black stonefly imitation in a size 14.   

It's a simple pattern, tied using only three materials.

Hook: Dry Fly
Thread: 6/0 Black Danville
Body: Deer body hair dyed black
Wing: Mallard or goose primary wing quill - natural
Hackle: Medium dun

Substitute brown thread, deer hair and hackle for the little brown stonefly.

Sharpen your hooks!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Pumpkinhead Midge, Don't Leave Home Without It

While I have been forced to work at both my "real" job, Mr. Q., has been fishing his life away.  In fact, he has been rubbing it in by sending me texts with photos like this one.....

He has been catching them on my Pumpkinhead Midge pattern and Hare's Ear Nymphs.  The rainbow pictured above was taken from a small stocked stream in Warren County, where it appears the fish held over well thanks to the unusually mild winter we've had.

The Pumpkinhead Midge: 

For instructions on how to tie them, just click on the video to the right. It's fairly straightforward, using materials and techniques that have been around for longer than I have, excepting the orange tungsten bead head.

Hook: #16 - 20 1x long nymph
Thread: 6/0 Olive Danville
Bead: 2mm orange tungsten
Tail and Abdomen: Pheasant tail dyed brown
Rib: Copper wire
Wing bud: Clear zelon
Thorax: Peacock herl

Sharpen your hooks! 

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Turning Tail - The Atlantic Salmon's Great New Leap

The Atlantic Salmon is one of North America's greatest gamefish, and thanks to man and his dams, it has also endured great losses of spawning habitat.   Today, we're doing more to restore the rivers and habitat, and with time and proper management practices, perhaps we can  give this wonderful fish back what was not ours to take in the first place.

If ever there was a fish that could steal the soul of a man, it's the Atlantic Salmon.