Sunday, February 28, 2016

Sparse Grey Matter Fly Fest

The fifth annual Sparse Grey Matter Fly Tying gathering was another hit today.  It was held at the Califon, New Jersey firehouse, and the hall was filled with plenty of fly tyers and lots of folks that came to see watch and chat about all things fly tying and fly fishing.  Thanks to the sponsors, Dette Flies of Roscoe, NY, and Shannon's Fly Shop of Califon, NJ.  And a special shout out to the firemen that hosted the event and provided food and drinks.  It was great to see everyone and catch up with some folks we only see during the season on the rivers.

After show Vinnie, Brian and I headed to the South Branch of the Raritan River to do some seining to check out the aquatic insect population in the river.  The river was still somewhat high and a little turbid, but not so much so that we couldn't get some good samples.  First we had to find a spot where we wouldn't interfere with all the anglers enjoying the nice weather.  It was like opening day on the river!

I didn't have my waders, so I got to play Marlin Perkins on the river bank, while Vinnie and Brian did the seining.

If you don't know what to fish when you are on a NJ river or stream, fish a scud.  Yes, the net teamed with these little, translucent pale grey/tan crustaceans.   Here's a few in my hand that I picked out of the first net full.  They ranged in size from as large as a #12, and as small as a #18.

Here's a crane fly larva.  There were quite a few of them, so be sure to carry and fish Walt's Worms in various sizes.

We also caught a bunch of crayfish.  These guys are very abundant on this river and you can bet the trout see plenty of them.  I know a few guys that fish crayfish patterns regularly and they catch some impressive trout on them. 

We also netted Hendrickson nymphs, March Brown nymphs, Isonychia nymphs, caddis larva, Cress bugs,  and fresh water clams.

Sharpen your hooks.  

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

John Atherton - The Fly and the Fish

If you haven't read it already, John Atherton's, The Fly and the Fish, has been republished.  This time with a forward by our friend and fellow fly fishing author, Mike Valla.  This book was first published in 1951, and many of Atherton's ideas and approaches to fly fishing were ahead of their time.  He was an original "outside of the box" thinker; an artist by trade and a tinkerer by nature. 

So put down your laptop, ipad or other electronic leash, and sit down and read this wonderful book.  I guarantee you will learn something, and it will change the way you think the next time you wet a line. 

Sharpen your hooks!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Tying the Turbo Midge

Here's a neat little competition midge pattern tied by our young friend Doug Freemann, that is used widely among the US Youth Fly Fishing Team members, that he tied in front of Tim Flagler's cameras.  Its a fairly simple pattern that lacks a tail or any real legs or other parts that stick out, that might slow its descent to the bottom where the fish typically are found in the winter months.  If you aren't into comp nymphing, its still a worthwhile pattern fished as you would any other nymph.

Nice job, Doug!

Sharpen your hooks.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Tying the Ginger Quill - A Classic Catskill Dry

Of all the trout flies I have tied over the last 45 years, traditional Catskill style dry flies are my favorite.  The whole process of tying this style of fly is enjoyable to me. Of course, the other wonderful thing about these patterns is that they have an elegance like no other trout fly, and they catch fish!

Sharpen your hooks.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

An Open Letter to Fly Anglers: Lose the Lead & Bubble Indicators

Image result for strike indicators
We saw this editorial posted on the Chi Wulff blog the other day, and it's important enough to us that we're posting it here.  Please take the time to read it, and pass it on.
"You wouldn’t put kids in a room with lead paint, why would you put lead in a stream they swim in?" 

It’s time for some hard truth, flyrodders – bait fishermen aren’t the only ones trashing rivers. In my work for Snake River Waterkeeper, I spend a lot of time removing streamside garbage each spring. Like you, I grumble at all the line, worm containers, and hooks left behind by gear fisherman – I even occasionally consider the possibility of a genetic correlation between an inability to pack out trash and tastebuds that prefer Twisted Tea and Hard Lemonade. But lately, I’ve been troubled by the logical disconnect of conservation-minded fly anglers using lead weight and bubble indicators. As flyfishers, we tout a long tradition of river stewardship, yet our standard deep nymph rigs obviously contribute to river trash and habitat degradation – and they are wholly unnecessary because great alternatives are readily available.

Everyone knows lead is toxic – it leaches into water, accumulates in animal tissue, and causes poisonous effects at any exposure level. Anglers doubling as duck hunters are also aware of federal law prohibiting the use of lead shot on waterfowl based on a concern that the pellets – which are exactly like split shot – might land in streambed gravel where loons could ingest them. Yet anglers routinely put lead split shot directly into the streambed where fish and aquatic life are exposed to them…

We also know that balloons choke wildlife, don’t biodegrade, and become eyesores in wild places. As a result, I’ve winced at recent guide tips and blog posts heralding them as cheap alternatives. The same folks insist you have to go deep to catch fish and admit that breakoffs are inevitable, so we know where it ends up. We need more common sense in conservation: if beer cans and Styrofoam on the bank bother you, how can you feel good about leaving balloons floating in the river and lead under the rocks?

The standard for weighting nymph rigs and streamers needs to change. As it turns out, anglers have no valid excuse for failing to ditch lead and bubbles some time ago. We don’t need a law prohibiting lead weight, plastic indicators, and balloons to do the right thing. The alternatives are just as effective, and you need not have won Powerball to make the transition – there are cheaper alternative than tungsten.

With winter’s grip holding firm, now’s a good time to plan for spring. So when you clean out your pack, throw out that wheel of lead split shot. Recycle plastic indicators and toss spools of lead wire. Tell your fishing partner you need a few dollars to do the right thing and go buy tin split shot, non-toxic wire, and cork indicators from a local fly shop – you need fresh tippet and a 2016 license anyway.

Buck Ryan is Director of Snake River Waterkeeper and Owner of Flies for Rivers

Find out where all the plastic goes at

For more on effects of lead in waterways, see

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Transition - Autumn Fly Fishing Video

Here's a short video Doug's friend Rob Funk made of the guys fishing a bunch of streams and a pond last fall - in Rob's words, "A glimpse of autumn fishing in Pennsylvania".

Sharpen your hooks.

Monday, February 1, 2016

The Fly Fishing Show - The Highlight

We had a great time this weekend at the the Fly Fishing Show in Somerset, NJ this past weekend.  Lots of folks visited us at the tying table, and my seminars were well attended all three days.  The highlight of the weekend was spending time in the Author's Booth with Joe Humphreys.  After the initial run of folks stopping by to have their books signed, we sat and chatted about the Living the Stream film project (see my post on 1/22/16) about Joe's life and times fly fishing and all things connected to it.  He also managed to slip in a couple short stories about life events that shaped him over the years.  These brief moments with people like Joe are the ones that are the most fulfilling as they give us with a unique perspective that only those with a life full of experiences and passionate pursuit can provide.

If you ever get an opportunity to spend even a few minutes with an "old-timer" like Joe, take it and open both your ears and hold your tongue.   I'm still smiling when I think about the conversation with Joe.

Sharpen your hooks.