Book review: 25 Best National Parks To Fish

25 Best National Parks To Fish by Terry and Wendy Gunn, Stonefly Press, ISBN:978-1-63496-904-8, $32.95.

Stonefly Press continues their “Best” (Tailwaters to Fish, etc.) series with this new offering from Terry and Wendy Gunn. Best, of course, is always relative, but you need to make a stand somewhere, right? The authors do a fine job of choosing 25 national parks to fly fish, from the warm salt of the Florida Keys to the bracing salmon runs of Alaska, and from down east Maine to California dreamin’.

Since the authors can’t possibly have an intimate working knowledge of all these wondrous places, they don’t pretend to. Instead, they rely on the first-hand experience of local guides and outfitters. It’s a good strategy, and it lends an agreeable credibility to each chapter.

You will like this book if you are planning on making a pilgrimage to fly fish a national park — or you like to dream about doing so, and maybe this will be the impetus you need to set the wheels in motion. For example, my wife and I have been talking about making a family trip to Grand Canyon. Well, lookee here. Chapter 12, Grand Canyon National Park.

I get an overview map with trail access; general information on the location; specifics about the Colorado River and its tributaries; notes on fisheries management; notable nearby water; and a general list of tackle, gear, and flies to bring. Each chapter includes a detailed short-list sidebar with essentials like logistics information, local fly shops, guides/outfitters, places to stay, where to eat, and even if you’ll find bars on your cell phone. Of course, there are the obligatory scenic view photos and local specimen fish porn. Each chapter is unique in its informational offerings. For example, you might also find details on hatches; resident animal life; and seasonal conditions.

Maybe I’ll start up in Maine with those Acadia salters. Ay-uh.

Have Santa put 25 Best National Parks To Fly Fish on your list.

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Stripers en Espanol

Last week I had the pleasure of guiding Asier and Moncho. They wanted to learn more about linea engrasada (greased line) fishing for striped bass. What was remarkable about the session was that they came all the way from Spain to do it. I’d like to tell you we slayed legions of bass, but we saw only one fish caught in the two hours we were on the water.

But if there ever was an outing where catching was truly secondary, this was it. Moncho speaks limited English (and I know even less Spanish), so Asier served as an able translator. We talked fishing, greased line, Ken Abrames, asked and answered questions, drew diagrams in the sand, exchanged flies and hooks and cigars, laughed at our communication gaps — what an appropriate way to spend the the day after Thanksgiving.

Asier recently posted this in the comments section of my guide service link. I am both honored and humbled by his words. “We come from Spain to learn with Steve, we only spend two hours with him… much more than enough to convince me he is the kind of guide always wanted, the knowledge, the philosophy, attitude, positivism, and of course the way he teach… How much he teach us in two hours in the sea, I can´t imagine how much he can teach in the river…. I really would like to come back and…. let’s try… more!!!!! Thanks Steve, people like you make sense to fishing.”

Three amigos. Moncho is on the left, Asier on the right.

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Farmington River Report 11/30/16: What’s all that wet stuff?

Not since the heady days of July have we seen this much water in the Farmington. 240 cfs! I fished in and out of the permanent TMA for 3 1/2 hours today. The water was somewhat stained — the closer to the Still, the greater the color — and 40 degrees. I saw midges and some really small BWOs, and even a few risers in some of the classic dry fly water. Streamers were the plan today, and things began well with several bumps and one mid-teens wild brown to hand. Then it got slow. Real slow. The last three places I fished were all blanks. I must confess to being a little surprised, given the warmth of the day, the height and color of the water, and the deep overcast. But such is life on the streamer edge.

For those who care about these things, I celebrated blowing off responsibility with an El Rey Del Mundo Flor de Llaneza. Like the fishing, it did not suck.

More rain is on the way, so whatever rain dances you’ve been doing, please carry on. I had most of the water to myself, but I would think that will change this weekend.

Excuse me, do I have something on my lip? The Deep Threat in olive/grey comes through again. The trout hit the fly three times over the course of two casts before delivering the kill shot.

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Big room news: “Wet Flies 101” at the Fly Fishing Show in Marlborough, MA

Once again, I will be presenting “Wet Flies 101” at the the Fly Fishing Show in Marlborough, MA. Only this time, on a bigger stage.

I’ve been elevated to Seminar status for Friday, 1pm, January 20th, as I present “Wet Flies 101” in the Catch Room. On Saturday the 21st, I’ll be making the same presentation at 10am in Room A of the Destination Theater.

And so, dear reader, I’d like to ask you a favor: if you’re planning on going to the show, please try to come to the Friday the 21st show in the big room. I’d to have as full a house as possible. If you can make it, good fishing karma and positive tight line energy shall be bestowed upon you. And of course, if you’re there, please come say hi.

For more information, visit the Fly Fishing Show’s Marlborough website.

Here’s your chance to visit Yorkshire without ever leaving New England.

Soft-hackles

I went to Pulaski and all I got was this lousy snow storm

The trip started poorly. Whiteout conditions in the Berkshires followed by heavy lake-effect snow near Syracuse turned a five hour drive into six and a half. They had been forecasting 3-8″ of snow showers and 20 mph winds — not exactly the model of fishing-friendly weather — but we had reservations and deposits and the will to see things through. By the time we (this was my annual late November trip with #2 son) woke up Monday morning, we realized this was going to be far worse than your standard-issue Salmon River Sunshine. Winds of 20-30mph with gusts up to 50. Snow that covered the rear bumper of the Jeep (the Syracuse area received up to 30″). No shovel or plow in our near future. We  stomped on the snow to flatten it, and we made it to the Byrne Dairy OK, but when our guide’s truck and trailer had to be towed out of a drift, the bummer decision was made: no fishing today.

And that’s how Cam and I spent most of last Monday afternoon watching the Science Channel in the Pulaski Super 8.

You often hear exaggerated  claims of precipitation falling sideways. But we can attest that it does really happen. This was one badass storm.

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We made a brilliant plan to fish the creeks on Tuesday. So brilliant that I was already counting our fish on the drive north. Water levels had been up for two days, and those two days were dark and perfect for legions of steelhead to have safely made their way upstream. I’ll cut to the chase and tell you we blanked. We fished long, hard, and thoroughly at multiple fishy spots, but as far as any of us could tell, the closest steelhead were still somewhere in Lake Ontario. The only angler we could find who had any fish to hand was AJ Berry, who took several domestic rainbows on egg sacks. (I mention AJ’s name because he was incredibly generous in sharing water with us.)

I realize that steelheading is not fair. But I would be lying to you if I said this trip didn’t sting more than a little.

The salve for that sting is that we went winter steelheading. We had an adventure. There is honor in attempting something difficult — and whether we succeeded or failed is really a matter of your point-of-view.

The day after the big one. If it looks nippy, it was. Iced guides were a constant hassle, and residual winds made casting an adventure. Highest marks to Cam, who didn’t complain once during two days of truly challenging circumstances. Asked to sum up the trip, Cam said: “It was cold. It snowed. We tried to fish. The fish didn’t help.”

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Further implements of steelhead destruction

Or, an angler can hope. Either way, fly boxes must be replenished, here with an eclectic selection of attractors, eggy fare, classic soft hackles and gaudy streamers. A few hungry customers is all I ask.

The best flies for Great Lakes steelhead are the ones that get eaten. Surely a delectable morsel lies within this diverse menu.

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Pennsylvania, meet Pulaski (by way of Yorkshire)

It’s cold in Pulaski, but even on the most miserable days there seems to be a midge hatch. I’ve decided that small flies in natural colors are underutilized on the Salmon River. And so, buoyed by last week’s success with the Snipe and Purple, I took to the tying bench.

Here are four classic soft hackles adapted for steelhead: Pheasant Tail, Leisenring’s Black Gnat, Starling and Herl, and a midge-like rendering of Leisenring’s Iron Blue Nymph. Three of them use the Orvis 1641, a 1x short, 2x strong wet fly hook. They’re a size 12, so they’ll effectively fish as a 14. The other hook is a size 12 Daiichi 1120, likewise 1x short/2x strong. Some of the original patterns called for tinsel; I substituted small diameter wire.

Now all we need is a hatch and some feeders.

Steelhead soft hackles, clockwise from upper left: Pheasant Tail, Black Gnat, Starling and Herl, Iron Blue Midge. 

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Pheasant Tail
Hook: Daiichi 1120 size 12
Thread: Brown 8/0
Tail/Abdomen: Pheasant tail fibers
Rib: Small copper wire
Thorax: Peacock herl
Hackle: Brown hen
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Black Gnat
Hook: Orvis 1641 size 12
Thread: Pearsall’s Gossamer Silk, claret
Body: 3 fibers from a jackdaw secondary wing
Rib: Small red wire
Hackle: Iridescent purple from a starling shoulder
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Starling and Herl
Hook: Orvis 1641 size 12
Thread: Pearsall’s Gossamer Silk, claret
Body: Peacock herl
Rib: Small gold wire
Hackle: Starling
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Iron Blue Midge
Hook: Orvis 1641 size 12
Thread: Pearsall’s Gossamer Silk, claret
Body: Mole fur spun on silk
Rib: Small silver wire
Hackle: Light blue dun hen