Friday, November 29, 2013

Hatch - Fly Fishing Trailer

A film documenting the world's most extraordinary insect hatches and the fantastic fly fishing that accompanies them. The first fly fishing film to be shot on a RED One Camera. A Gin-Clear Media production.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

I am thankful I can go for a walk on a chilly, breezy, bright sun filled day, and think about the people in my life that make it so wonderful.  

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The International Fly Tying Symposium

There was no shortage of bullshit and laughter this past weekend at the tying symposium, and we participated in the festivities fully and to the greatest extent possible.  Not that we didn't share what little we know about tying flies and fishing them with whomever stopped by our tying table, we just went with the flow and pretended to have a modicum of knowledge about which we were there to defend.  If you didn't know already, fly fishing and fly tying is under attack from the computer generation - why fish or tie flies when you can stare at a screen and play Dirty Birds in your pajamas?     

As you know, I shared a tying table with Doug Freemann, the youngster from PA that shares our passion for all things fly fishing.  The kid delivered, too.  He tied the flies he typically fishes with success and explained to those who stopped to watch the particulars of why he ties them the way he does and the tactics he employs when fishing them.  Here he is demonstrating how he ties his quill nymph to a couple of my friends, Jake and Tom.  It should be noted that Jake was a student in the very first fly tying class I taught back in 1983!  Jake is now an accomplished fly tier and instructor in his own right.                        

Tim Flagler of Tightline Productions, the tying video guru, stopped by our table and had a lengthy conversation with Doug about his flies and the methods he uses to fish them in competitions.  Both Tim and I had little knowledge of the modern day fly fishing competitions and how they work, etc., until Doug got involved in them.  Having now been immersed in them for the last year or so thanks to Doug, I've dropped my aversion to fly fishing competitions such as those held by members of Trout Legend.  They are less like competitions than they are a bunch of like-minded folks getting together to challenge themselves and each other to improve their skills, learn from each other and have fun  doing what they love. 
As Sunday wound down and the crowds thinned out, we got serious: Doug decided it was time to imitate yours truly.  "Hey, Uncle Morty, do you think these here flies will catch a twout?"            

The best tee shirt we saw:

And finally, here's another quote from the show:

"Yeah, I fished the Gorge other day, and the water was so low, what it amounted to was me taking my fly rod for walk."

It was a great weekend spent with friends and fellow fly fishers and fly tiers.

See you there next year.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

A Wonderful Weekend

The International Fly Tying Symposium was wonderful mix of tying, talking, laughing, sharing and meeting of like-minded folks having fun.  I'll report on the event after I get my batteries recharged with some much needed sleep.  In the meantime, I'll leave you with one of our favorite quotes heard over the last two days.
"Hey, Uncle Morty, take a look at the flies this guy is tying here."  

You had to be there.......

Friday, November 22, 2013

The International Fly Tying Symposium

Come see us and a boat load of other fly tyers from the USA and from around the world, this Saturday and Sunday at the International Fly Tying Symposium being held at the Garden State Exhibit Center in Somerset, New Jersey. 

Stop by and say hello. 
Hope to see you there.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

New Jersey Fish Code Changes Passed

Great news for two popular stretches of trout waters - the changes to the New Jersey Fish Code have passed.  Effective January 1, 2014, a 4.2 mile section of the Big Flat Brook, from Route 206 bridge downstream to the Roy Bridge, and the South Branch of the Raritan River, Ken Lockwood Gorge section, will officially be catch and release only, artificial lures and flies only. 
Here's the Ken Lockwood Gorge section of the South Branch of the Raritan River.
And here's the Flatbrook in Autumn.
"They say you forget your troubles on a trout stream, but that's not quite it.  What happens is that you begin to see where your troubles fit into the grand scheme of things, and suddenly they're just not such a big deal anymore." John Gierach    

Saturday, November 16, 2013

National Geographic Photo Contest 2013

National Geographic has once again opened its annual photo contest, with the deadline for submissions coming up on Saturday, November 30. One first-place winner will be chosen from each of the three categories, and the winning photographs will be published in National Geographic magazine. The overall grand-prize winner will be announced in December of 2013.
The Atlantic features 39 of the entries so far submitted here: In Focus

And just for the fun of it, I'll share one my recent favorites taken on the Musconetcong River a few weeks ago.  It won't win any awards, but it brings back to mind a wonderful day on the water.

An finally, after my last post, "Ice On the Pond", the local news confirmed that we are in a drought.  Something like down 8 inches of rain in the last 3-4 months.  What are you going to do?
Adapt, and do a rain dance.
Sharpen your hooks.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Ice On the Pond

When I woke this morning it was 22 degrees F outside and it was mostly dark except for the hint of soft pale light spreading across the Eastern horizon.  I could see the dark silhouettes of several does milling about the edges of the pond nervously, as a large buck lay still in the grass under the cedar tree watching them intently.  Unseen birds welcomed the new day with song.

As the darkness gave way to the expanding light, I noticed that the pond had a film of ice on it, which in itself wouldn't be a surprise except this was the first time I have seen my pond iced over.  In the 6 years I have lived here, the pond has never had ice on it, even when the temperatures have dipped below 0 F.  You see, the pond is spring fed, and the bubbling earth borne water that fills it has always been as steady as the tides; the crystalline flow from the rocks below has maintained a water temperature in the small pond above freezing season after season, year after year, until now.  The flow of late is barely a trickle, the level of the pond is down about 6 inches, making the water temperature now subject to the moods of the atmosphere.

The small pond and its present condition is a microcosm of what is happening throughout Northern New Jersey.  The water table is falling from the lack of rainfall over the last 3-4 months.  The ground is dry and the fallen leaves brittle and colorless.  Our rivers and streams a mere shadow of what they typically are. Their flows slowed to a crawl, barely filling the stream beds they have nourished for eons.  The trout hover quietly in the deeper pools and runs, feeding when they must, otherwise laying low from flying predators above.  Their only solace the cool temperatures of Autumn and fewer anglers invading their space.

Although the weather folks tell us we are not in a drought, and that it's only an aberration in the local weather patterns, there are contrasting signs everywhere you look.  Things are dry around here, very dry.  The usual tapestry of radiant fall colors was muted this year; the dry leaves mostly withered and faded, and the exceptions stood out brilliantly against the otherwise dull background.  The ground is dry and dusty, lichen and moss easily dislodged from where it lies.  And when it has rained - mostly brief showers - the earth soaked up the moisture so quickly that by the next day there was little evidence the skies had cried.

Like everything else in nature, we know things will change, waters will rise, and we will re-adapt to the new conditions.  In the meantime, we can fish, although I'm not inclined to fish our local streams and instead have been heading over to PA to fish. 

One positive is that there are things to be learned with the water levels so low.  Gravel bars are exposed, as are rocks and other normally hidden stream bottom features.  If you want to see the contours of your favorite river or stream and where every rock and holding lie is, do it now.  The rivers and streams are giving up their secrets to anyone that cares to look, and the information you get now may be invaluable in future fishing trips. When nature restores the flows, you can then recall what you see now and fish accordingly, knowing what lies below the surface.  It should help you.

All that said, I do look forward to when our rivers fill their banks and the depths are again a mystery to the naked eye.  For me, reading water is one of the facets of fly fishing that I most enjoy.

Have you ever seen the rain?

Flatbrook/Ken Lockwood Gorge Action Alert

In a final push for comments, we were asked to post the following: 

There are proposed changes to the NJ 2014-2015 Fish Code - The Council proposes to regulate a 4.2 mile section of the Big Flat Brook, from Route 206 bridge downstream to the Roy Bridge, and the South Branch of the Raritan River, Ken Lockwood Gorge section, as catch and release only, artificial lures and flies only.  The proposed Fish Code would change both of these stretches of water to Catch and Release for trout and allow artificial lures only.

NJ fly anglers please act! Also, to the anglers of our neighboring States, please remember that anglers of NJ have always been there to support and improve your fly fishing resources, so please help us out!

The public has a 60 day comment period that ends November 15th, 2013. Please contact the NJ DEP and state your support for the proposed Fish Code changes and its positive impact on both the Flatbrook River and the Ken Lockwood Gorge section of the South Branch of the Raritan River.
Submit your comments in support of these changes HERE.
Copy and paste the following to the Comments section of the form:
I support the proposed Catch and Release regulations "RELEASE ONLY, ARTIFICIAL LURES AND FLIES ONLY on a 4.2 mile section of the Big Flat Brook River as well as the continuing trout protection within the Ken Lockwood Gorge Trout Conservation Area section of the South Branch of the Raritan River by making this CATCH AND RELEASE ONLY.
The trout thank you for your support.

Monday, November 11, 2013

In Honor of Veterans Day

In honor of Veterans Day, PBS stations around the country are broadcasting “Not Yet Begun to Fight,” a documentary about how fly fishing can help heal, or at least ameliorate, some of the physical and emotional pain that combat veterans deal with on a daily basis.
“Not Yet Begun to Fight” focuses on five warriors who join retired Marine Col. Eric Hastings for a week of fly-fishing in Montana through the Warriors and Quiet Waters Foundation. Hastings, who flew missions “high above the death and destruction” in Vietnam, returned home to Montana in 1969 battling dark dreams. His solace was fly fishing.
Click here for more: Orvis News 

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Casting a Lifeline to Disabled Veterans

                                           Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times
For Mr. Ford and other fishermen casting off in Breezy Point on a recent Saturday — some in waterproof waders, others in bluejeans and work boots — Jamaica Bay offered a chance to practice the skills they had been learning for months.

It also is helping them recover from the trauma of war. Mr. Ford and the other men and women casting lines into the frigid waters are all veterans, many of whom have been scarred by the violence and bloodshed of conflicts abroad. They are members of a program called Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing, a nonprofit that uses fly-fishing as rehabilitative therapy for veterans.

Read the full story about this wonderful program in this NY Times City Room Blog post by Helen Coster HERE.

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Dawn of Night

Sunset on the Henry's Fork.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Split-thread vs.Touch Dubbing

I am often asked by other fly tyers why I prefer touch-dubbing with wax over other methods of applying dubbing when tying flies that call for a buggy appearance on some part the fly. Primarily, I use this technique on the thorax of many of my dry caddis flies. I also employ the method on many of my soft hackles, and on some nymphs. The question I get is, “Why not use the split-thread method to get a buggy fly when that technique is so much easier?”

First off, I’m not sure the split thread method is any easier or harder to do than touch dubbing. Like all tying techniques, the more you use one, the easier it becomes.  And, depending on the particular tyer, some techniques suit their style better than others.  In the end, do what works for you as that's the only thing that matters.  
The split-thread method is fairly straightforward. First, you flatten a section of the thread between the hook shank and the bobbin by untwisting the thread and then running your thumb nail down the thread.  Next split the thread in half with a bodkin or dubbing needle, and while holding the separated/split thread open you insert carded (aligned) dubbing in the opening and then release the thread so it closes on the dubbing before twisting the thread and dubbing into a buggy chenille. The key producing a good dubbing “brush” is to use a very sparse amount of dubbing in the split thread. This dubbing “brush” is then wrapped around the hook shank to form the body, or more often, the thorax of a fly.

The touch-dubbing method of creating a buggy body or thorax on a fly is also fairly straightforward, too. First, you apply a thin coating of very tacky wax to 2-3 inches of your tying thread between the hook shank and the bobbin. Then you take very small portions of carded dubbing and gently press them transversely onto the waxed thread - the fibers stick to the tacky wax coating. Again, the key is to use only a very sparse amount of carded dubbing – it should be transparent along the thread. Once you have the dubbing applied to the thread, you then wrap the dubbed thread around the shank and the thread traps the dubbing fibers against the shank creating a very buggy body or thorax.
Of course, you can also get a buggy appearance using other methods, but here we are taking about techniques that minimize bulk and create flies that will consistently float.  In fact, the split-thread method is often done with CDC, which produces a high floating dry fly.     
Okay, now that we have gone over the techniques, I'll explain why touch-dubbing is my preferred method.  First off, for me, it is easier than splitting the thread, holding it open and then inserting dubbing in the gap.  All I do is apply some tacky wax to my thread, apply (touch) the appropriate dubbing on the wax, and then wrap the mess where I want it on the hook.  Secondly, the end result creates what to my eye is the perfect buggy appearance - for dries I will use hare's mask as it has lots of guard hairs in it that act to provide surface tension and the appearance of legs.  Finally, touch-dubbing with wax creates a semi-waterproof thorax or body, and because the wax repels water, small air bubbles form within the touch-dubbed area when it is submerged.  These air bubbles provide buoyancy and also diffuse light, which I think gives the fly "life".

Give it try, it may work for you, too.  Here's a video which shows clearly how to touch-dub a thorax on a caddis dry - at the 3:10 mark.  If you have any questions, email me and I will be happy to try and help you out. Above all, have fun.

Sharpen your hooks.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

A Fly Fishing Weekend

We had a great weekend fishing and attending the New Jersey Trout Unlimited One Fly Contest and Banquet Saturday night.  The weather both days was exactly what one might expect in early November here in the Northeast; Saturday was partly cloudy and warm, and then Sunday was chilly and breezy with bright sunshine. Leaves of all sizes and colors fell from the trees and river bank shrubs.  Some of the leaves, from high up in the Sycamores, were the size of dinner plates.  Flocks of geese flew overhead in "V" formation calling loudly to no one in particular, but for all to hear.  And Kingfishers flew like fighter planes up and down the water corridor cackling loudly, as though making fun of the two-legged creatures standing knee deep in the cool clear water waving a stick. 

Saturday the One Fly Contest was held at the Raritan Inn water on the South Branch of the Raritan River. The water was low and clear, and the trout nervous from a lack of protection and the steady procession of anglers vying for the title of "Angler of the Year".  This is a Trout Unlimited event to bring together members from all of the TU chapters throughout the state.  One representative from each chapter fishes in the day long event, with the rest of the attendees standing on the bank watching, heckling and generally having a great time.   This year's winner of the One Fly was the Ridge Valley Chapter President - Fredy Deleon. 

Here is our friend Rick Axt receiving a distinguished service award for his 6 years - 2006-2012 - as the State Chair of NJ Trout Unlimited, from Rich Thomas the current State Chair.  

Not that those events weren't important, but after all, this is a fly fishing blog, so here we go with the fishing stuff.  The couple of hours before the banquet, we fished the Musconetcong River, which has plenty of water thanks to the draw down of its major source, Lake Hopatcong.  The water level was slightly above normal, cool and crystal clear.  The fishing was tough, but we did manage to catch a few nice fish on black woolley buggers, including a good size brookie.  Doug, Alex and Bryson also caught fish on nymphs, covering far more water than this old man did. 
Here I am showing the hoodlums boys the average size trout that Douglas catches.   
On Sunday, we headed out to a PA Lehigh Valley limestone creek.  The wind was brisk as was the air.  The creek was gin clear with waves of small blue-winged olives coming off all afternoon.  And the trout responded to the insects as they hatched and got blown on to the water surface, becoming easy prey for the hungry trout.    
We caught a good number of fish, all of them on dries - blue-winged olive soft hackle emergers and snowshoe rabbit emergers, size #18 and 20 respectively. Doug and his friend Bryson fished comp nymph rigs and did well, as they practiced for this weekend's competition on Yellow Breeches Creek.
Sharpen your hooks.  An do something, anything, even if it hurts, that will bring us some much needed rains.  Your trout will thank you.