Why New Jersey is called "The Garden State" (Warning: contains adult language to describe NJ’s striper management meeting procedures).

It’s easy to see why New Jersey is nicknamed “the Garden State:” It’s from all the bullshit.

The manure was flying even before Thursday night’s “public” comment (say the P-word with your tongue planted firmly in cheek) session for the New Jersey Marine Fisheries Council.

Tony Friedrich of the American Saltwater Guides Association wrote a scathing summary that outlines the (Corrupt? Rigged? Incompetent? All of the above?) outrageous behavior of the Council. You can read it here.

Fish are considered stupid because they have small brains. However, all stupidity is not limited to small-brained creatures.

Stewart’s Black Spider

W.C. Stewart was a Scottish lawyer and soft hackle aficionado. In 1857 he published the highly popular fly fishing book The Practical Angler. Though long out of print, you can easily find an archival copy online, or even a dog-eared used volume.

Today, Stewart is most remembered for his three spiders. These sparse, impressionistic soft-hackles wouldn’t get a second look in the modern fly shop’s bins. That these patterns would wantonly be ignored is, of course, a huge mistake. Let’s see if we can remedy that.

In a recent column, George Will referenced a line from an Alan Bennett play: “Standards are always out of date — that’s why we call them standards.” Don’t be dismayed by the absence of tungsten beads or UV mega-super-duper-sparkle flash. This pattern has been fooling trout for centuries. And the fish aren’t getting any smarter. Three cheers for James Baillie!

W.C. Stewart’s Black Spider

Hook: 14-15 (from Leisenring). I used a Partridge SUD2 #14.
Silk: Brown
Hackle: Cock starling
Body: Working silk
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Tying Notes: This pattern is widely interpreted, as evidenced by an image search. The good news is that the design is so simple, it’s probably hard to tie one “wrong.” Let’s start here: I’ve always found it curious that a pattern titled “Black Spider” doesn’t contain anything purely black; I suppose “Dark Spider” doesn’t have the same swagger. The silk body should cover only the front half of the shank. Select a purplish-black hackle from a starling skin, fibers about as long as the shank. To make a more durable fly, Stewart suggested twisting the hackle around a silk tag before winding. Here’s how I did that: Start the silk at the head, winding rearward. Leave a 3″ tag about 3/4 of the way down the body. Continue winding the working silk. At the halfway point of the shank, proceed back toward the head. When you get to the silk tag, tie in the feather at its tip, and continue winding your working silk toward the head. Now, twist the feather around the silk tag, taking care not to break the spine (starling is fragile!). Wrap the feather toward the head, 3-4 turns, preening the fibers so they don’t get covered (a bodkin or needle may help). Tie down the feather and whip finish.
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James Leisenring was a big fan of the style, writing, “I have found W.C.Stewart’s spiders to be a deadly combination on every stream I have ever fished.” Many iterations have the hackle wound along the length of the shaft, producing a hyper-sparse look, but as you can see from this drawing from The Practical Angler, the hackle is condensed and confined to the front half of the fly.
 
 
 

New Presentation Added: Wet Flies 2.0

Now available to your club or group! The long-awaited follow-up to Wet Flies 101, Wet Flies 2.0 takes a deeper dive into wet flies and wet fly fishing. Starting with the essential wet fly tackle and toolbox, Wet Flies 2.0 explores topics like matching hatches with wet flies (from caddis to mayflies to midges to stoneflies to terrestrials); searching tactics with wet flies; presentation and rigging options to match conditions and situations; fishing wet flies as nymphs or dry flies; wet flies on small streams; and much more. You can find my full presentation menu here.

By learning the mystical arts of the wet fly, you may, as Leisenring said, “soon acquire the reputation of a fish hog!”

But…Aren't those the ASMFC's most important jobs? — a brilliant essay by Charles Witek

If you don’t know who Charles Witek is, don’t feel bad. (I didn’t know who he was before last year.) So. Charles Witek is a very good friend of striped bass. He’s articulate, knowledgeable, and — well, heck, you can find all that out for yourself when you read his excellent essay, “But…Aren’t Those The ASMFC’s Most Important Jobs?”

It it, Witek takes a quick look at a recent survey of ASMFC commissioners. As Charles says, it turns out that the commissioners, “think that the Commission is least successful in managing rebuilt stocks, ending overfishing, and having commissioners cooperate with one another to manage fisheries. But aren’t those three things the whole point?”

Who knew?


An in-depth, must-read synopsis of Tuesday's ASMFC striped bass meeting from one of the commissioners

Captain John McMurray (NY), to whom I gave high marks as I listened to the chaos of the webinar, has put together a wonderful synopsis of Tuesday’s meeting. John had the advantage (or as some wags might suggest, disadvantage) of being there, witnessing, and participating in the entire process. This is a must-read, folks. You can find it here.

In the meantime, if you fish for stripers in Rhode Island, please send an email to RI commissioner Jason McNamee asking to reconsider voting in favor of the 28″-35″ slot limit. Ask for your comment to be entered into the public record. They’re meeting on it this Monday! I’d like to see a roll call of everyone who sends an email in the comments section.

Three takeaways from yesterday's Winter 2020 ASMFC Meeting

It wasn’t as bad as I’d feared. It wasn’t as good as I’d hoped. Welcome to the wonderful world of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission winter meetings. Yesterday’s focus was on discussing and formalizing each state’s Conservation Equivalency proposals. Almost 24 hours later, here are three big takeaways.

Settle in for a cup of tea. This might take a while.

The ASMFC is structurally and procedurally bloated. An efficient organization this is not. The webinar was audio only, so it made a helter-skelter meeting like this one even more challenging to follow. At times it was like watching a Bergman film — you try your best to keep up but you’re never really sure what’s going on. And I’m not the only one who saw it that way — the chairman of the meeting described it, and I’ll quote, as “chaotic.” Maybe it’s just as well that the meeting wasn’t video broadcast — surely you could lump the ASMFC Winter 2020 CE decisions along with laws and sausages as things you should never see being made.

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My reaction to some states’ CE proposals can best be summed up by Otto, who so eloquently stated: “Disappointed!!!” (That includes you, Rhode Island.)

Beware of rogue states within the ASMFC. North Korea, Iran, Syria, Sudan, and…New Jersey? Let’s not forget Maryland, who along with New Jersey have some rather — ahem — creative ideas on how to best conserve and restore our rapidly dwindling stocks of striped bass. Remember in “A Fish Called Wanda,” when Wanda reminds Otto that the central message of Buddhism is not “Every man for himself?” Someone should point out to Maryland and New Jersey that the ASMFC mission is not, “Kill as many striped bass as you can under the cloak of conservation.” Nope, those emperors don’t have new clothes. They’re wearing the same crappy, poorly camouflaged outfits they’ve been sporting for years. Kudos to those who saw through their charades, like…

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Some ASMFC Commissioners get it. If a state’s CE proposal fails to achieve target results, that state should be held accountable, right? High fives to those commissioners who called out certain CE proposals, effectively telling those states to behave and eat its broccoli. Apologies in advance to those I missed, but here are a few of the people who fought the good fight yesterday: Justin Davis (CT). Capt. John McMurray (NY). Ritchie White (NH). Pat Keliher (ME). Again, these are only a few of the people I could positively identify. A very sincere thank you to all of you who are trying to save our stripers. If you’re reading this, why not take a few minutes to send them an email of thanks and support. You can find that list here.

Is anybody there? Does anybody care? Some commissioners clearly do. Especially those who understand that killing this fish now doesn’t bode well for the future.

Thank you CFFA and show attendees!

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I pulled into Maneeley’s parking lot at 11:30am. A full house, with overflow parking! Saturday’s CFFA Expo was very well-attended — I think I heard close to 300 people –well done, everyone!

Great to see old friend Andy Manchester holding court at his booth near the main entrance. In case you don’t know, Andy is the man to see for used/reconditioned/rebuilt/custom cane and glass fly rods. I have several examples of his work, and I love every one of those sticks.

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Old reel swag at Andy’s table. There’s something about a decades-old reel, burnished by time and wear, that romances a cane rod and conjures up grainy images of Lee Wulff and Curt Gowdy.

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This look like something a rooting striper might take? I sure thought so. Many thanks to Captain Mark Dysinger of Flyosophy Charters who gifted me this fly. What a buggy crabby shrimpy morsel. I got a couple flats in mind for this one…

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Last but not least, thank you to everyone who came to see my 1pm presentation, Lost Secrets of Legendary Anglers. A strong turnout (including several currentseamsers — thanks for the support!) and another excellent post-talk Q&A.