Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Well-Chewed Flies

We've managed to get out on the local streams fairly often in the last couple of weeks, and the fishing has been great some days, and not so great on others.  Plenty of insects have been hatching, yet the dry fly action has been as variable as the weather.   One day its hot and the next wet and cold.  All of the rain is keeping the rivers up, so there are no complaints here.  And when the fish are not looking up, I've had great success with one pattern, the Iris Caddis fished dead-drift.   I've always had good success with this pattern fishing it as an emerger in the film during a caddis emergence, but after my friend Chris told me a few years back it also works fished wet, I've found it to be one of my go-to patterns in the spring and summer months when caddis area present but nothing is rising.  This past Saturday I fished with Vinnie on the South Branch, and between the two of us, we caught more fish than we could count.  I got most of my fish on the Iris Caddis you see here.  

(A well-chewed, size #15, Iris Caddis)

Yes, its a size #15.  The hook is a Tiemco 102Y, which is sized using odd numbers, and is the hook the fly is traditionally tied on.  It is a down eye, 1X fine, wide gape, forged hook that is black anodized.  Lacking a source for this hook, a size # 14 or 16 dry fly hook will work just fine.  I use them when I can't find the 102Y.

There have been plenty of bugs hatching, and when the fish are looking up, the dry fly fishing has been very good.  Locally, North Jersey, we have had sulphurs, lemon cahills, light cahills, little blue-winged olives, large blue-winged olives, and the slate drakes have started.  Then there are the various caddis that are hatching and/or egg-laying, including cinnamon or ginger caddis, dancing caddis, little dark granmoms, and a few lesser known species.

(Blue-winged olive - size #14 - Ephemerella cornuta)

(Dancing caddis - Mystacides sp. - size #18)

The dancing caddis shown above has been present every day I've been on the river.  They are often mistaken for the chimarra sp. caddis, as they are small, and jet black in color.  The difference is that the dancing caddis has horns, long speckled antennae, and a unique folded wing shape that is twice as long as the body.  You may have seen then dancing (fluttering) low over the surface of the water in small clouds.  They are only important to the angler when they fall spent on the water after egg-laying.  Otherwise, they hatch along the stream edge on rocks and other partially submerged limbs or logs. 

Here's my go-to sulphur pattern - the sulphur usual.  Tie them up in sizes #14-20 for all the light yellow mayflies that hatch for the next couple of weeks.  Also, tie a few with cream bodies in size #14 to imitate the light cahills.  It's a simple fly that takes fish consistently.

Sharpen your hooks!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Tying the SBR Sulphur Nymph

It's one of the best times of the trout fishing season right now with the weather and many hatches being at their peak on most streams here in the East.  One of those hatches is the sulphur, and over the last couple of months Tim has been telling me he has seen lots of sulphur nymphs in his stream samples, as have I.  It's a great hatch, starts with nymphing throughout the day, until the evening when the little, pale blue-winged, yellow bodied mayflies begin to hatch making it time to switch to a dry.  The nymphs are very active in the water column before the hatch, making them very vulnerable to the trout.  Here's is Tim's version of the nymph, which he based on the naturals he sees in his home waters, the South Branch of the Raritan River.  I suspect it will work anywhere in the East sulphurs are found.    

I would suggest tying some of these without the bead, too, for the late day, pre-hatch times when the naturals are ascending to the surface to hatch.

Sharpen your hooks!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

We Had a Visitor Today

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

An Unseasonable Season So Far

It's been a weird spring season so far, with plenty of rain and air temperatures that go from hot to cold overnight, along with more than our fair share of windy days.  Last weekend we fished up in the Catskills.  When we arrived Friday at dusk, it was hot and humid, windless, and much like an early July evening. Saturday morning when we first got up, it was cool and calm, but in the short time in between grabbing breakfast and getting on the Beaverkill River, the wind kicked up and made casting very tough, and often impossible during the high gusts.  The air was filled with caddis flying upstream with the wind, and the water surface had huge mats of floating caddis shucks that except for a sheen, looked much like oil slicks.   Fish rose sporadically, and at the end of the day we did catch a few fish.

This past weekend we fished Sunday on our local water, the South Branch of the Raritan River, and again the weather was very un-springlike.  I headed down to the river mid-afternoon.  The air was 48 degrees F, and as luck would have it, it started to rain just as I put on my waders.  Not one to let a little precip stop me from fishing, I geared up and walked to the river.  The water was clear, and the level perfect.  Not a soul was in sight, which is unusual this time of the year, and likely was weather related.

Over the next few hours the rain stopped and started several times, and as is often the case when it's raw, cloudy and rainy, little blue-winged olives hatched.  These little mayflies, size #22 or so, drifted unmolested by the trout on the brisk current, lifting off into the air casually - do you think the insects know when the trout are not interested?  I saw one rise.

I drifted a small soft hackle pheasant tail across and downstream, picking up a couple of stocked rainbows.  It may have been cold and raw, but it was pleasant being on the river with only the birds and the sounds of raindrops accompanying me.  Its fascinating how the swallows and purple martens fly over the water, drop down, and without slowing down pick off the little mayflies with just a quick tip of the head.

Sharpen your hooks.