What about Bill?

You’ve read of the steelhead and striper adventures of Cam. Followed the woodland wanderings of Gordon.

So how come I never write anything about Bill?

Last week, Number One Son returned to his natal shores from the far away land of Miami. He had mentioned the F-word several times during his stay. And so it was that father and son found themselves on the Farmington River last Friday evening to catch the evening rise.

Catch? Here’s one: Bill had never fly fished a big river for trout. At least, Grady Allen assured me, he would have a good instructor. I replied that maybe we should get Fred Jeans.

Bill did great. In no time at all he was mending like he’d been doing it for years. I’d like to tell you that he caught a ridiculous number of fish, but it was one of those nights where hook sets were few and far between. He had the right fly (size 20 Light Cahill Catskill dry) and the right presentation — he had one low-teens brown make a good half dozen rises — but a soup-to-nuts complete transaction was not in the cards.

I, on the other hand, had lottery luck. As we were starting, I was greasing his leader, fly dangling in the current six feet below me, when I hooked a nice brown. I handed the rod to Bill, who managed to hand strip in his first trout on a dry. Well done, son. Dad managed a few more later on the Magic Fly, size 20.

We stayed till dark, then re-rigged for night patrol with streamers. No bumps in a half hour had our stomachs arguing with the fishing center of our brains. Cheeseburgers finally won.

My cigar that night was a My Father Le Bijou 1922 Belicoso Bill had given me for for Father’s Day. I was using my father’s old cane rod.

Sometimes it is fun, being a dad.

Bill at the controls, ready to stick that brown. Note the ski goggles filling in for polarized glasses. Marines adapt, overcome, improvise.

Bill Dry


Currentseams Q&A: The Leisenring Lift

Q: Fished White Clay in Pennsylvania, after April and May. I tied some size 18, 20 wet flies using just yellow or orange floss and light Hungarian partridge or grouse. I noticed that the trout either hammer the wet fly as it swings; or, after it swings, as I pick up the line trout hit it and I didn’t know they were on it? Is this the idea of Leisenring Lift? Just finished reading your article (“Wet Fly 101”) in the Nov/Dec 2013 American Angler. Good stuff!!!

A: Thanks for your kind words, and thanks for reading. The Leisenring Lift is one of the most misunderstood of the wet fly methods. According to Dave Hughes, Leisenring would present to a fish, or to a lie that was in the two-to-four-foot depth range, in a slow-moving current. He’d make his cast 10-20 feet above the lie. He kept tight to the fly, tracking the drift with his rod, making sure that the line and the fly weren’t dragging. At the point of where he thought the take would occur, he’d stop tracking with his rod. This would cause the fly, which had been naturally sinking (Leisenring did not use weighted flies) to come off the bottom and start swimming toward the surface. So the lift comes from the physics of the fly lifting off the bottom due to drag, not from the physics of actually lifting the rod. What I think is happening in your case is a trout is following the fly subsurface — or holding at the point where your fly dangles — and as you begin to lift your rod, it sees a potential meal escaping (much like it does an emerging caddis). The trout decides, “I want that!” and you’ve got a fish on. Good for you. 🙂



Farmington River Report 7/21/14: Just the facts

Borrowed from L.A. Confidential (just finished watching it for the Xth time), whose writers borrowed it from Dragnet, so I might as well borrow it for a fishing report.

Where: Upper TMA, 476cfs, 58 degrees

When: 5:45pm-9:00pm

Hatches: Size 16 BWOs (fairly heavy). Size 14 sulphurs (a few). Size 10-12 March Browns (even fewer). Size 16 tan caddis (some). Size 18-20 summer stenos (fairly heavy).

Hello, old friend. I missed you. You’re here on July 21st right when you’re supposed to be. Summer stenos are the hatch I hate to love. I can’t think of another hatch that has caused me so much pain — and joy.

Summer Steno

Who: Ran into Steve Cook, a gentleman who took my wet fly tying course this winter. He did well, hooking trout after trout. We were also in the company of the illustrious Grady Allen, owner of UpCountry Sportfishing. Grady was there with his friend Ron. We shared the water with a half dozen other anglers, but we all had a generous amount of space to operate in, and no shortage of fish to present to.

Flies: Started with a size 16 Magic Fly, then switched to a 20. The 20 worked best. Ended the evening with the size 12 Light Cahill Catskill, until I couldn’t even see that.

Feeding: Weird. For the bulk of the evening I had no consistent risers in front of me. Most of the active fish from late afternoon to early evening were JV salmon. Most of the active fish were behind me, along a shallow bank, until dark, when the deep water switch got thrown. I took two nice browns, one a small wild fish, the other a low teens holdover, just by prospecting along the bank. All the other trout I hooked were actively feeding. The fish were mainly on emergers; I witnessed dozens of rises followed by an escaping mayfly that materialized from the disturbance. At dark it was spinner central, with dozens of backs visible as the trout porpoised.

Best fish: See below.

This is the biggest brown I’ve taken on a dry in a couple years — high teens long, thick, ham-like shoulders and a few pounds on her. She was feeding in about two feet of water ten feet off the bank. I’ve been trying to learn to play larger fish with the bamboo rod, the click-and-pawl reel, 6x tippet and small dries for years — losing plenty of bruisers in the process — and last night was the first time I felt like I wasn’t going to mess it up.

Big Brown on Magic Fly





Introducing Currentseams Q&A

I get a asked lot of questions about fly fishing: from clients on the river, people in forums, club members I speak to, followers though email, etc. I’m happy to answer them, and flattered that someone thinks I might be able to help. In the spirit of help, I’d like to introduce Currentseams Q&A. When I get a question that I think might have broad appeal, I’ll post it and my answer here.

We’ll kick things off with a striper question.

Q: I finally will be getting to fish salt a few mornings next week up in Maine.  It’s an area I’ve fished a fair bit, but most often, using fairly substantial 5-8” flies – like the Grocery Fly (a harbor Pollack imitation), bigish deceivers and clousers and my favorite, a big Ray’s Fly.  How big?  6-8” on a 2-3/0 gami hook. That said, normally I’ve gone out a few times and have some hands on “data”… this year… no luck.  So, my “research” has been scanning surf talk threads in the maine/nh forum… which results in what looks like a likely ticket right now – 3-3.5” sand eels. So, I humbly ask…  Big Eelies and variants or small bucktails/deceivers, or even small “candy” like flies? If you’re open to it, I’d love to hear your thoughts on solid flies in smallish sizes. Point blank, for some reason in the surf I have a brain block on tossing little stuff… It’s a big ocean man, how will they see it?

A: Stripers are not humans. What you or I might find hard to see can be a billboard to a striper. I couldn’t possibly count how many striped bass I’ve caught on 1-2″ long grass shrimp flies (in murky water) or sparse (30 bucktail hairs and couple strands of flash) sand eels tied on #8 hooks. Bass also eat things like crab larva and isopods that are a fraction of an inch long. They find them just like you’re able to find M&Ms. The Big Eelie is a good bet, as is anything that is sparse and thin and matches the profile. Try Eelies: two thin saddle hackles over 30 fine bucktail hairs and a braid body. 2-3″ long. Maybe a couple stands flash. Small Ray’s Flies to match the bait. Play around with colors: the stripers will always tell you what they like. Ray Bondorew has a small sand eel fly made of marabou. Simple. No eyes. And effective. I fished hard/epoxy/tube bodied sand eel flies for years. I caught fish on all of them. But they all seemed to me like they were trying too hard to be an exact replica of the bait, right down to the detailed eyes. I haven’t fished a sand eel fly with eyes in years. Impressionism is more my style and energy, and I like to fish flies that don’t give the bass credit for being anything other than the primitive animal they are. (Thanks to Bill McMillan for that last line.)Have fun, experiment, and fish with confidence.

Here’s a sparse sand eel I call the Golden Knight. Two-and-a-half inches long, 30 fine bucktail hairs, a few strands of blue flashabou and black Krystal flash. This one is tied on a hook for small streams; for stripers, I use a TMC 7999 Atlantic salmon hook. This is a very effective fly to imitate small sand eels; I like to fish it as a team of flies near the surface, suspended between a corkie and a floating fly like a Gurgler.

Sparse Golden Knight

L&L Special Big Eelies. No matter what colors I tie the Big Eelie in, stripers love it.

L&LBIg Eelie

Things you can catch on sparse sand eel flies. This girl is nearly 40 inches long. Look at that tummy spilling over my right hand! Also dig the Jimi Hendrix guitar-on-fire psychedelic halo. The bite was incendiary that night.




Farmington River Report: Wet, dry, hot, cold

On Saturday I guided Randy and John from noon to evening. We spent the bulk of our time walking a long stretch of the upper TMA swinging wets. The fishing was great — we barely saw another soul (contrast to Church Pool, populated by a good dozen-and-half anglers when we drove over the bridge). The catching, not so much. Despite the cloud cover and the threat of precipitation, the BWO hatch never really got going. We pricked a few fish, and John lost a pig in a secluded side stem, but other than that it was a lot of casting and wading. That we had such a good time anyway is a testament to my two clients: they fished hard, they fished well, and they realized that some days the bear eats you.

John exploring the nooks and crannies of one of the Farmington’s many side stems.


Randy working the seams, ready for a take that never came.


On to Plan B: catch the evening rise. We found some lovely dry fly water at 5pm that we had all to ourselves. By 7pm it looked like we had been teleported to Church Pool. Where the heck did all those people come from? Our focus was on fishing wets like dries, particularly the Magic Fly. The bugs certainly cooperated: sulphurs (size 14 and 18), March Browns, 16-18 BWOs and some size 16 tan caddis. For two-and-a-half hours, it was JV salmon city. Then the trout came out to play. When our time wound up, John and Randy graciously shared the water with your humble scribe. I was fortunate to connect with four lovely wild browns, cookie cutter in their length (10-12″) and unique in their markings: one had an odd scarcity of spots; another was rainbow-like in the density of his spotting; yet another still had faint traces of parr marks. Exquisite.


Sunday night I ventured to a different spot to check out the summer steno situation. They did their part, but sadly the trout didn’t cooperate. I had fair enough action from about 5:45pm-7pm (size 16 sulphurs hatching). Past 7pm it was total shutdown, even during the magic hour of 8-9pm. The summer stenos were out in force, but the trout weren’t interested. Massive spinner fall at dark with nothing on it. Perhaps when the water warms and drops a bit more (last night 57 degrees and 516 cfs).

An abundance of spent mayflies on the surface Sunday night, but a strange lack of sippers.


Conversations on a small stream with Gordon

Gordon: How much farther is the river?

Me: Not too far. It’s not really a river. It’s small, so we call it a stream or a brook.


Me: Stop for a minute. What do you hear?

Gordon: The brook?

Me: The brook.

Gordon: It’s coming from down there.


Gordon: The water is cold.

Me: Yes. Do you know why?

Gordon: I don’t know.

Me: Well, is the brook in the open sun?

Gordon: No, it’s in the dark woods.


Gordon: I don’t think I can jump over to that rock.

Me: I think you can. It’s OK if you get your feet a little wet.

Gordon: It was shallow. I only got a little wet.


Me: Look how flat and glassy that water is in that pool up there.

Gordon: Can we go up there?

Me: Absolutely.


Me: Do you remember what “the cafeteria line” is?

Gordon: Where that white stuff is on top of the water.

Me: The foam.


Me: Where did we hook all our fish today? In fast water or in the slow water?

Gordon: In the fast water.


Me: Are you hungry”

Gordon: Yes.

Me: I think we should get a burger at Five Guys. What do you think?

Gordon: I think that’s a good idea, daddy.


Gordon (no relation to Theodore) patiently presenting his dry fly over a pool. We didn’t bring any brookies to net today, but we pricked five. Not bad for one hour in the middle of a sunny day in July.

Gordo Small Stream




Fishing with my mind

The calendar said soccer tournament for the weekend, but I packed my gear anyway. We were staying in North Kingstown, RI. Any number of prime striper waters would be just a short drive. The only question was, would I have the energy — or the desire — to get out after a day of schlepping around soccer pitches in the hot sun?

The answer was yes. Saturday night, I headed to one of my favorite spots, My Father Le Bijou 1922 Belicoso in hand. I fished for about two-and-a-half hours. The thing was, I never wet a line.

I stood on a dock and searched for signs of life. There were horseshoe crabs, blue crabs, silversides, and jellyfish. But no stripers. I walked along a rock wall and watched the swirls and eddies formed by the last of the incoming tide. I peered over a bridge and marveled at the dessert-plate sized blue crabs swimming across the outgoing tide, faster than such seemingly un-aquadynamic creatures had a right to, as they hunted silversides.

When I returned to the dock, the stripers had moved in. I watched one fish for a half hour. He was about two feet long, and fat. He travelled in the same counter-clockwise circle, approaching from down current, sweeping along the bottom slowly and methodically, then cutting sharply to the left, accelerating, and disappearing into the void before materializing below a few minutes later. On rhythm. Perfectly.

It was magic.

A few of his friends made slashes on the surface, neither timed nor spaced.

I thought about getting out my rod. More than once. But I knew that was not the right thing on this night. I was doing what I was supposed to be doing. Just like the stripers.

The next time I go back, I’ll catch some. They will understand.




It’s sum, sum, summertime on the Farmington

Now that we’re well into July, the Farmington has settled nicely into its usual summer patterns. The fish are spread out, and we’ll start to see some of the bigger guns moving into the fast water. Terrestrials are a good bet in daylight hours, for prospecting, or during periods when there is no hatch activity. Nymphing deep pockets and fast water can be very rewarding. This is the time of year when I love to walk the river and lazily swing wet flies over fishily-looking lies, or drift them hard against the riverbank.

Current hatches include tiny BWOs, smaller sulphurs and other yellow/creamy bugs (16-20), the omnipresent tan caddis, and for those of us who enjoy fishing minuscule patterns that blend in perfectly with the river bottom, Needhami. In my experience, sparser is better with the Needhami — I use a fly that’s basically some fine thread on a 22-26 hook with a CDC puff wing. At the opposite end of the fly size spectrum, it’s a good time to crack open the hoppers box, or swing and strip big streamers after dark. (And let’s not forget the mouse patterns.) If you’re going the after dark route, be sure to stay off MDC property. They can and will ticket you.

Now, if I could only get out there.

A big ‘ole Farmington River summertime brown, taken on a March Brown hackled wet.


Block Island Mini-Report: We’re back, baby

Just returned from a week on my favorite island, and I’m pleased to report that after three sub-standard years, the Block is back! The traditional Block Island Diary will of course be written, but until then here’s a snapshot of the action:

Seven nights (even Friday as Arthur scurried away)

One skunking (thanks, Arthur!)

One broken rod tip (stupid human error)

Two one-bass nights (one of the fish a 15-20 pounder)

Two under-a-dozen-bass nights

Two off-the-charts-dozens-of-bass nights.

Sand eels were the predominant bait, about 2-3″ long, and very fragile. Biolume in the water, which was 63 degrees. New moon to Q1. Fished both incoming and outgoing tides. Fished open ocean and the pond. Fished some new secret spots. Had more water to myself than I’ve ever experienced. A most excellent week.

The Yellow Kittens, Old Glory, and a Fourth of July rainbow.

Kittens Rainbow