Friday, May 30, 2014

Run Off On the Gallatin River Montana 5.30.14

When we fish this wonderful river in the summer and fall months, it is cool and a clear pale green in color, with great hatches and plenty of trout to be had.  Seems all the snow they had is melting, and the resultant run off is making it unrecognizable.  House rock is huge, yet all that water hides most of it from view.

While the brave in Montana are rafting and kayaking the torrents, we have great conditions with good hatches of Sulphurs in the evenings.  Use one of these.....

Or one of these.....

Good luck and sharpen your hooks.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Difference a Day Makes

After having a fine day on the Beaverkill last Wednesday, Thursday started out with much promise.  The river had come down a bit and the morning sky was cloud filled but bright.  After a quick breakfast, I hit a favorite pool on the river a few miles downstream from Roscoe.  There was one angler in the tail out of the pool swinging wets through the riffle in an unhurried, leisurely manner.  There were a few Olives on the water, along with small Rusty Spinners and a smattering of light grannom caddis.  I put my waders and vest on, and then sat on the bank of the river to watch for rising trout.  Swallows and Eastern songbirds maneuvered over the glassy water and picked off newly hatched insects rising off the surface.

Fish did rise, too, which got me off my butt and wading out into the pool to cast a fly over them.  There was a problem though, each and every fish rose only once, which didn't present me with a target or instill much confidence that any casting would be worthwhile.  There just weren't enough bugs on the water to get the fish interested.  After a short while I did find one fish that decided to give me a break, rising steadily, and after getting into position I cast a light caribou caddis into his feeding lane and he took it without hesitation.  A nice brown that fought hard and even jumped once.

While I waited/waded in the shallows for other targets to show, I heard a car pull up on the nearby road, I turned and there was Vinnie.  I got out of the river, walked up the bank and over to his car, and gave him the low down - few bugs and fewer rising fish. While Vin put on his gear, we noticed cloud cover had increased and with that, more bugs began to hatch, including the big March Browns.  And more fish rose throughout the pool, although none came up steadily.  We fished anyway, figuring it should get better as the day warmed and the clouds blocked the harsh sun from the clear water.

It didn't get better.  Soon the clouds thickened, lightening flashed and thunder rocked the skies, and it poured.  We took shelter in our cars and waited it out.  An hour later, the sun shone through scattered clouds, and we fished some more.  The clouds thickened again, the skies darkened, and it poured again. This sequence of events happened until dark, and then we called it a day.  Here's shot from inside my car during one of the many rainstorms.                      

Since the fishing was so poor, when the skies cleared we spent time seining the river bottom for aquatic life.  Here's a couple of March Brown nymphs.   

Here's a Golden Stonefly nymph - is that a beautiful creature, or what?

An here's  a prehistoric looking Dragonfly nymph.  In a few weeks these nymphs will swim en mass to the river banks, crawl out and up the stalks of the thick grasses, and then hatch into beautiful, big, colorful dragonfly adults before flying off to feed midair, on the smaller flying aquatic insects also hatching from the same pool.

I can't wait to get back up there and fish the waters where American fly fishing has its origins.

Sharpen your hooks.          

Thursday, May 22, 2014

A Day On the Beaverkill

Sure, I know I have been AWOL lately, but it is not (isn't) because I have been sitting around on my arse all day.  I left my job last week after 8 years there, and I am off this week before starting the new venture, and you can't imagine all the stuff and stress that entails at my young age - I am a grandfather, afterall.  I'm not going to dwell on that though, except to say I'm excited about the new job and look forward to getting started.

In the meantime, I'm up in the Catksills for a few days to fish and clear my head, not that the latter will ever happen, but it is good to give it a shot every so often, or at least pretend to. At present, I'm sitting in a friends cabin that overlooks the famed "kill" just a few short miles down river from Roscoe.  I just tied a bunch of flies, music is on a fairly high volume, a beer at hand, and I figure now is the perfect time to write.  The lights are low except for my tying lamp, and across the room from me the phone cradle blinks a bright red 64-64-64........apparently Paul hasn't listened to his messages in a while.   I just tied a bunch of rusty spinners and march brown emergers to replace the ones the fish stole from me earlier today.....bastards.

When I got to the river today, the air was warm, the skies bright and the wind calm.  As I had expected, the river was higher than usual for this time of the year, but clear.  The rolling hills are just starting to green up; mostly that bright, lime green of freshly emerged hardwood leaves, most only a fraction of the size they will grow to in a few weeks.  Birds darted and swept down over the water to snag newly hatched insects from the air - the bugs have it tough this time of the year, if the trout don't get them, there are plenty of winged creatures to fill the void in the food chain.  It's (it is) a wonder enough survive the onslaught to mate and perpetuate the species.

About an hour after I waded out into the river, or two caught fish later, the atmosphere decided it was time for a change.  Clouds rolled in, swirling and gray, carried by gusty breezes that challenged the direction my fly line was intended to go.  And it began to rain lightly.....or is that, lightly rain?

Anyhow, the aquatic bugs love the conditions previously described, and so they had a big hatching party. There were March Browns, Hendrickson spinners, large Sulphurs, Blue-winged Olive duns and spinners, Light and Dark Grannoms (caddis), egg-laying caddis, Yellow Sallies and Brown Stoneflies.  A veritable smorgasbord of trout food.  And the trout responded as one would expect, rising steadily in the softer water just off the currents and eddies.  A well placed cast with a deer hair March Brown emerger took fish, or at least got a serious look from them, more often than not.  I even caught a nice 14" rainbow that took line and jumped a few times before coming to hand.

That lasted an hour, maybe two, before the sun had enough of that and tossed the clouds to the Northeast. It warmed up again and the fishing cooled off.  I decided to change locations, got to my car, and headed a ways down river to one of my favorite flats - this stretch of river is about 300 yards long, full of small boulders and depressions that house both insects and fish alike, and often fishes quite well this time of the year as the sun settles down below the hills.  

When I got there my excitement was quickly quelled after I walked the path from the road through the fast growing knotweed, arriving at the water's edge to find 8 anglers spread evenly through the run casting away to invisible about a traffic jam.  Bummer.  Where the hell were their cars? I watched for a few minutes; just long enough to consider my options and decide where to go next, and then turned back up the path to my car.

So I went to another spot I had passed on my way to the casting festival, and walked down to the river, sat on a rock, and watched the river go by.  As the sun fell and the light softened, bugs started to show, birds began to feed, and on cue, trout started to rise.  There were only two insects present this time - rusty spinners and caddis.  The rise forms were subtle, telling me the rusty spinners were on the menu.  I tied on a #12 rusty spinner to the 5X tippet at the end of my 14 foot leader, and waded out into position about 30 feet from a pod of rising fish. Over the next hour or so I hooked a bunch of fish, landed a half dozen, and got more refusals than takes as is often the case when the trout are examining spinners in moderately flowing water.

So here I am after a good day on the water, excited about tomorrow when I can fish again and get lost in the solitude of a clear, quiet river, surrounded by greening hills, singing birds and thoughts of the people I wish I could share the day with.  You know who you are. : )

Sharpen your hooks.                                          

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Sulphur Trailer - Eric Stroup

Here's a video trailer from our friend Eric Stroup, showing footage of what is for many Eastern anglers the highlight of the spring season - the Sulphur hatch.  Eric offers a weekly webcast for fly anglers every Wednesday with lessons and insights on all things fly fishing for trout called Face Time with Eric Stroup.  I've known Eric for many years, fished with him, and I can tell you he is a very knowledgeable guide and instructor, as well as one hell of a nice guy.  For more information and to sign up, click the link below.  

LINK: Face Time with Eric Stroup

Sharpen your hooks!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Happy Mother's Day

Especially to my mom, who raised eight children, and the newest mom in the family - my daughter Leigh.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Mind Your Mother Video

John Gierach once said, "If people don't occasionally walk away from you shaking their heads, you're doing something wrong.”  Mr. Pierce has taken this sentiment to heart.......

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Tying the Dorato Hare's Ear

I've been tying and fishing the Dorato Hare's Ear dry fly since 1976, a year after I had been given one of the flies while fishing the Musconetcong River in Hackettstown, NJ.  In my book, Fly Fishing New Jersey Trout Streams, I relate the story of my first time fishing this wonderful fly and how well it worked.  Suffice it to say, the fly works well, and I have used it successfully since on Eastern and Western Rivers, including believe it or not, the San Juan River in New Mexico, where I took a bunch of fish one evening on a size #14 while everyone around me was fishing the standard size #20 and smaller midge patterns subsurface.  The fly was intended to imitate the early season caddis known as the grannom, that skitters and bounces on the water surface after hatching.  With that in mind, if it doesn't work when fishing it dead-drift, try giving it a twitch.   

Hook: Std Dry Fly #12-18
Thread: 6/0 Olive
Wing: Woodduck flank fibers
Tail: Mixed brown and grizzly hackle fibers
Body: Hare's Ear dubbing
Hackle: One brown and one grizzly hackle.

It's cake to tie, very buggy, and can also be tied with olive or cream Hare's Ear.  In the video I tie it the way it was originally tied, however, when I tie it for my own use I touch-dub the body.  This makes for a very spiky body that floats quite well thanks to the wax.  Thanks again to Tim and Joan Flagler for another fine video production.

Sharpen your hooks!  

Monday, May 5, 2014

Tying the Walt's Worm and the Sexy Walt's

Here's another tying video spawned as a result of our time fishing and talking with Douglas.  Before I met Doug, I had fished the Walt's Worm and knew it as an effective trout fly, but only in its simplest form - lead wire, spiky-dubbed fur body over the wire, tied on a standard wet fly or nymph hook in a cigar shape. Here, Tim Flagler ties two other versions, both of them developed by the competition angling folks.  And both of these versions work very well at times, particularly in stained or turbid water.  You don't have to fish them as the comp guys do either; I often fish them singly, in the more traditional manner most folks fish nymphs, with good success.  Tie one or both versions up, and given them a shot next time you are on the water.

Sharpen your hooks.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Lots of Water, Plenty of Fish

After spending some time earlier today making another tying video with Tim Flagler, I wolfed down some lunch and then headed to PA to fish.  Doug, his friend Alex, and Alex' mom were fishing a freestone river north of the Lehigh Valley, and I intended to meet them there to fish a river I haven't fished in many years. When I was crossing the Delaware though, I got a call from Doug's mom telling me that plans had changed because the river they had been fishing was running quite high and wading was difficult.  So we met in Easton, and after some discussion, we decided to fish a Lehigh Valley limestone creek that typically fishes well even when the water levels are above normal.

It was a nice afternoon.  The bright, warm sun was often blotted out by banks of quickly moving clouds, carried by gusty winds that made casting difficult at times.  Thanks to that NW wind, it never warmed much beyond the 60 degree mark.  The creek was up and flowing well; along the banks where it was shallow, it was clear, while the deeper water was off-color, looking almost as though it was infused with light olive-gray fog.  A few small craneflies hatched here and there, but other than that there was little bug activity.  The only mayfly I saw was a single, lonely blue-winged olive that flew by me during a lull in the wind.

The boys were on the water, with Douglas fishing well before I was even rigged up, and into fish quickly. Here he is just after netting a small wild brown he took on a Walt's Worm, while Alex looks on.

I entered the stream several pools above them, and set up my leader with two flies - a Walt's Worm on the point, and a #18 black silver bead head zebra midge about 15 inches above it.  I worked the edges of a fast seam near the bank and soon was rewarded with a small wild brown that jumped over and over again before I got it to hand.  I carefully worked the pool as I slowly waded out from the bank, and I hooked and landed a bunch of fish over the next hour or so.  By then the boys had caught up to me, smiling with news of many fish caught.  Alex' mom was several pools down having been frogged-lept by the quickly moving youths.

We fished for maybe 2 hours, and all of us caught fish.  Doug, Alex and Alex' mom, Madeline, mostly caught their fish on Walt's Worms.  I caught all but one on the zebra midge, which the trout hit hard, like they hadn't had a bite to eat in days.  When we were walking back to our cars, I showed Doug the zebra midge I had been fishing and it turns out it was one he tied and had given to me last year.  No surprise there.

It was an enjoyable day on the water, especially because we didn't know what to expect after the torrential rains 5 days before, and we caught fish.  After we were off the water, I spent some time talking with Doug about tackle, flies, tactics, and the way fly fishing manufacturers and retailers market and sell the gear we use. Suffice it to say, Doug truly has immersed himself in our sport and has already developed opinions on all of the former.  Some of those beliefs will change, and some won't, just like the rest of us - it is wonderful to witness the evolution of a young fly fisherman.

Sharpen your hooks.

Afterthought - How come "it is" can be expressed as it's, but "is it" can not/can't be expressed as is't?  Do not/don't you think that is/that's funny? 

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Trout Legend Competition Video

Here's the video Tim and Joan Flagler made of the event described in my last post........

Douglas is wearing the Umpqua cap.  Near the end you will see him handing the winner, Steve Good, the Grey's Streamflex rod donated by Shannon's Fly and Tackle of Califon, NJ.

Sharpen you hooks.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Can You Believe It?

Organizing a Trout Legend fly fishing competition is one of the requirements of being on the US Youth Fly Fishing Team.  And so, several months ago Douglas contacted me to see what I thought about the idea of having a fly fishing competition on a PA limestone creek located in the heart of the Lehigh Valley.  Being the thoughtful person that he is, he asked a lot of questions and we discussed all the pros and cons of having it there and after much back and forth, it was decided it could be done as long as there were some restrictions on what sections would be included and how many anglers would participate.  So he set it up, and within minutes of the registration opening, the comp was full.  Sixteen anglers would fish 8 beats that would be spread out so that the competitors would not interfere with anyone that might be there fishing for their own enjoyment.

Over the last year or so, Douglas has been slowly indoctrinating me on the competition fly fishing side of the sport. And although I mostly have stuck to more traditional ways, there have been days when I have wielded the long rod, long leader and two fly comp rig and fished it with the effort he expects of me.  I have caught plenty of trout, too, and although it's not anything like how I have been fishing the last 40+ years, I have found it enjoyable. Truth be told, I still prefer the more deliberate pace of more traditional methods with nymphs and dry flies, but its a nice change of pace sometimes, and Doug's enthusiasm does nothing if not compel me to learn more about it.
The event was held Saturday, and I think I can safely say, it was a wonderful day all around for me and the other anglers that attended.  Douglas, his mom, and several others did a great job of putting on this event from start to finish.  I was there to help Doug out and provide support while he fished.  The day before, he asked me to bring my waders in case someone happened to be a no show.  He said all I would have to do would be to control (watch and measure fish caught) an angler during his session.  No big deal.

Here's Douglas going over the particulars with the anglers before the start of the day.  

Saturday morning everyone started showing up at the meeting place by the river at 6:45 AM.  Tim and Joan Flagler were there, too, to film the event and produce a video on a Trout Legend event. Once everyone had arrived, Doug got things started and began the draw, where the participants pick a number from a hat to determine what beats they will fish and with whom they will be fishing and controlling.  Only there was one angler didn't show up. Doug looked over at you-know-who, and said, "Pick a number, you're going to need to control someone.  YOU can fish, too!  If you want." And gave me that look.

So I picked a number and was quickly thrown into the mix.  I found the angler I would be paired with during the morning sessions, a member of the US Fly Fishing team, introduced myself, and before I knew it I had agreed not only to control, but to fish.  I went to my car thinking this was all a dream; it would be over when I woke up in the morning.  But it was morning, my car was real, the waders were mine, the rod, reel and vest were mine, and I was standing in a parking lot just after sun-up about to do something I never DREAMED I would ever do.                  
Being a traditionalist, and one cut from the Catskill cloth, if anyone had told me I would be fishing in a comp before I met Douglas, I would have told them to seek help.  I have been tying flies and fishing all these years in the manner that I learned from reading books and talking to anglers and tiers that are held in the highest esteem by all things long embraced as conventionally correct, and of course, by my own experiences.  I'm not a snob by any means, I just like the traditional aspects of fly fishing, but not to the extent that I think everyone should adhere to whatever it is the elitists in our midst think is our raison d'etre.  It's just fly fishing, we're not curing cancer.  

In the last year +, Doug and I have fished often, and over that time I've come to know much about the comp side of FF, attended a few events, and have expanded my view of all things FF thanks to him. Saturday I was scheduled to fish the first 1.5 hours, and control the second.  I fished my beat for the full session, and got the skunk.  I could tell you I was handicapped by using a leader and set up I had never used, but that would be a cop-out.  I could have easily fished two flies off a "normal" leader, or gone with a dry/dropper rig, and perhaps caught fish, but "when in Rome........

After lunch, I hit the river again with another angler who was on the US Fly Fishing team.  This time I wanted to catch fish, had to catch fish - my competitive side kicked in.  I rigged up my 9ft. 4 wt. Winston with a 13 foot George Harvey style leader, the tippet being about 3 feet of 6X tippet. To this I tied on a #16, dark caribou caddis dry, as I had been seeing lots of caddis during the morning session, and knowing this river fairly well I was certain there would be fish rising in the afternoon with all the bugs on the water.

Sure enough, when I got to the bottom of my beat, there was a nice fish rising along the opposite bank.  I got into position and after a test cast or two, dropped my fly above the rising fish, got a nice drift and the trout came up and grabbed the fly.  I struck late, and the fish turned quickly without my fly.  Not to worry, there were several other trout rising upstream so I set my sights on them and went to work.  At the end of my session, I had raised 7 fish, hooked 4 and landed three. The three I landed were all at least 14 inches, which meant added points to my score, since many of the fish being caught by others were 8-10 inches in length.

Before I conclude, I want to tell you about the angler I controlled after my afternoon session.  For the first hour or so, he fished hard and caught two fish, continually fine tuning his rig.  When he realized he had but maybe twenty minutes to go, he re-tied his set up an rigged it with two, silver bead head, black zebra midges.  Then he went to work, catching 6 trout in the last 9 minutes of his session, and taking third place overall for the day.  He had been adapting his technique and tackle until he got it right.  It was impressive, I can only imagine how well he would have done had he figured it out sooner.  That's fishing.

At the end of the day we all gathered around the meeting place and Doug held a raffle while everyone waited for the results to be tabulated.  As tired as most of us were, everyone shared stories of their day, their successes, failures and compared notes. The only time anyone was competitive was when they were fishing, and only to the extent that they wanted to do their very best and so they elevated their concentration level and covered the water more thoroughly than most of us do on a normal outing.  When the results were in, I placed 10th, Douglas placed 4th overall, but 1st in the youth division.

Without a doubt, I had a wonderful day fishing, controlling, and hanging out with a bunch of passionate folks. All fish caught were released, and the river and it's banks were left cleaner than before we started - the anglers pick up trash and debris before and after their sessions when walking along the stream.  Douglas did a great job.  And I got to experience another side of life, and I am richer from the opportunity.  Believe it.

And a special thanks to Shannon's Fly and Tackle in Califon, NJ, for donating a new 11ft 3wt Grey's Streamflex rod for the winner - Steven Good.

LINK: Shannon's Fly and Tackle

And sharpen your hooks!