A new feature in the current issue of The Flyfish Journal

The Currentseams word factory is on a bit of a roll here, with another contribution in The Flyfish Journal, Volume Six, Issue Four. It’s a concept piece called “Sorry, That Was Me…14 Writers Cop to Their Vices” (great idea, Steve Duda, and not just because you’re the editor). Bad habits, character flaws, personal issues — it’s all fair game and a fun read.

Look for it in your mailbox, and if you don’t subscribe, at a newsstand near you.

Flyfish Journal Vol. 6 Issue 4

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In addition to yours truly, contributors include Steve Duda, Loren Elliot, Dominic Garnett, Andrew C. Gottlieb, Quinn Grover, John Holt, James Joiner, Joey Mara, Jason Lee Rolfe, Cameron Scott, Mike Seplak, Franklin Tate, and Mike Tea. Some good company.

FlyFish Journal Vices

Block Island All-Nighter IX: It’s Father’s Day…and I got my cake!

We dip into the obscure 80s movie vault for that opening. But if you remember the first segment of Creepshow, you know from whence I quote. And it couldn’t have come at a better time. The first day of summer comes riding in on a white charger to banish the memories of the miserable spring that was striper fishing from the shore in Connecticut.

This was my first-ever solo BIAN (Block Island All-Nighter, for the uninitiated). A couple last-minute cancellations saw to that, and I couldn’t take Cam this year because he’s recuperating from an injury. You never know what you’re going to get on the BIAN. But there’s only one way to find out.

Getting ready. Big Eelies are a high-confidence pattern for me on the Block in June and July. The bass don’t have a color preference — it’s a profile and presentation fly — so I like to play around with different palettes. Crazy Menhaden colors on the paper, False Dawn on the cork. The entire top row left of the box is assorted other Big Eelies.

Block Island All-Nighter Flies Big Eelies

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I was sitting in my Jeep in the ferry lot. It was tropical for a June in Point Judith, so I had the door open. A squadron of passing gulls (if you’ll pardon the expression) evacuated their bowels over my position; most of it ended up on the truck, but a good tablespoonful got me square on the left leg. I took this as a sign. Yep. It was going to be a good night’s fishing.

Block Island All-Nighter bird poop

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Over the course of the night, I bounced around to several spots and found sand eels and stripers everywhere. I started fishing at 8:30; by midnight I had caught more bass than I had the entire spring in Connecticut. Plus, it was Father’s Day. That called for a celebration. A wee drap of Highland Park 12 year-old paired with a Gispert Churchill. (Sold separately.)

Block Island All-Nighter Wee Drop

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My first encounter of the night was with bluefish — it did not end favorably for my leader or my fly. After that, it was bass after bass after bass. The vast majority were scrappy pugs in the 20-24″ class, but there were a few keepers in the mix. It took me until June 22 this year (my longest stretch since I started fishing for stripers) to catch a legal fish. He she is, about to dash off to freedom. Note the curious observer to the right of her gill plate.

Block Island All-Nighter first keeper

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My best fish of the night, twenty pounds, just shy of 37″. She surprised me when I started hand stripping her in. The next thing I knew, line was hurtling through my fingertips and noisily chattering off the reel. The power of these larger bass is almost irrational, although they have a distinctive flight pattern: head for deeper water, and, failing at that, swim at attack speed in a broad half-moon arc. I’m trying to be as photo-friendly as I can with fish these days, and that translates to keeping them in the water as much as possible, even if it means not getting a classic hero shot. I encourage you to do the same.

Block Island All-Nighter 20 pounds

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Stripers often feed like like trout taking emergers or sipping spinners. I witnessed both rise forms. Here’s the back end of a spinner sip. Look in the foreground for worried water and a caddis-like leap by a sand eel. That spot erupted moments after I took this photo.

Block Island All-Nighter tailer

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The beer I had for breakfast wasn’t bad. But I did not have another for dessert. That was reserved for Ernie’s. Scrambled eggs, bacon, pancakes and toast, my first real food since those sublime fried scallops at Finn’s twelve hours earlier. 

Block Island All-Nighter Beer 

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You know the fishing is good when your fly ends up like this. In it’s heyday it was an L&L Big Eelie. Now it’s a testament to the potential of primal carnage and a top-ten-ever night of fly fishing for striped bass.

Block Island All-Nighter destroyed fly

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BIAN IX is awarded the official Currentseams seal of approval.

Block Island All-Nighter striper thumb

Farmington River Report 6/19/15: Fishing with Batman

Those of you old enough to remember the classic 1960s series on prime time — or young enough to know it through syndication —  are familiar with the show’s schlocky fight sequences, complete with comic-book graphics: BAM! POW! OOOFF! Hold that thought for a moment, please.

I got to the river at 6pm last night, and I quickly learned two things. One, one of my favorite wet fly runs that might produce one or two fish in the daytime is infested with feeding trout in the evening. And two, I can enjoy it in glorious solitude. Save for the cedar waxwings.

To the hatch: sulphurs (16-18), caddis (16-18), Isonychia (10-12), and BWOs (18). Midges, of course. Then a tremendous sulphur spinner fall at dark. Feeding came in waves; seemingly long periods of nothing followed by five minutes of boiling water. Every fish I took was an active feeder.

Back to Batman. Remember my last report of fish rising to my flies and coming away with nothing? Not last night. These were some of the most aggressive rises I’ve seen in a while. Acts of pure hostility that kept me delighted beyond measure.  Many of the trout were fat, mid-teens rainbows. One was the smallest wild brown I’ve caught on the Farmington. Another was its polar opposite. This guy absolutely murdered my size 16 Magic Fly. One tremendous leap, then the fish tore downstream like he was late for a job interview. My cane rod is outfitted with a click-and-pawl reel — there’s no rim to palm — so the only drag is my fingers on the line. I applied pressure at the end of his second run, then (to borrow from Batman) PLOINK! Popped the tippet. Now, 6x Frog Hair paired with the forgiveness of cane should be able to handle most Farmington trout. I have no doubt that the loss was a result of compromised material — or the misfortune of nylon wrapped around fin. I fantasized about re-catching him and getting my fly back, but I knew that would be an unrealized dream.

A closer look at this bruiser’s mouth reveals that this isn’t his debut with a hook.

Fat Rainbow Dry

What the Isonychia hatch lacked in numbers, it made up for with gorging trout. It was very much like a good Hendrickson hatch, with dozens of reckless fish lacerating the surface with showy takes.

Between 8pm and about quarter past, the pool was strangely quiet. I had just made the decision to move to another spot downstream when the spinner fall commenced. I moved into some water with a smoother surface, and had at a multitude  that were still taking emergers and gently sipping. I stuck my last brown at 9:15pm, when I could no longer see the fly.

All I could say was, WOW!

Excuse me sir, but is that a Pale Watery wingless wet in your mouth?

Magic Fly Rainbow

Notes: Flies I caught trout on: size 16 Pale Watery wingless wet, size 16 creamy Usual, size 12 grey Usual, size 10 Isonychia Comparadun, size 18 and size 12 Light Cahill Catskills dry.

Jefferson, a former wet fly student, made this report from the permanent C&R section: I had an excellent evening. I was fishing wet blue wing olives, size 12 and size 16. Everyone else thought the fish were hitting sulphur spinners (cus it was evening and it was sulphur season, perhaps?) One of the beauties of fishing wet right at dark is that one doesn’t have to obsessively try to see the  fly on the darkening water. All you have to do is watch the line and have a general idea of where the fly is.

“The Little Things” in the July/August 2015 of American Angler

In case you didn’t know, I have the cover story in the current issue of American Angler, now available at your favorite fly shop or news stand. The piece is called “The Little Things,” and it’s about seemingly small adjustments you can make in your fishing that can have a large impact on the outcome. I have a followup — Son of “The Little Things” if you will — and several other pieces coming up in American Angler.

Read all about it.

AALittleThings 1

Not a picture of me. But a good photo nonetheless. I love guides who can multitask and make it look easy. 

AALittleThings 2

Farmington River Report 6/14/15: Just like Summer Stenos

Mid-June on the Farmington means an annual pilgrimage to a popular dry fly pool with the Tonka Queen for the sulphur hatch. I figured the permanent TMA would be jammed — after all, it was a gorgeous weekend day, and the rains were coming — and unfortunately, I was right. The lot was mostly full when I pulled in. I almost bailed right there, but I figured it was worth a look-see. To my surprise, most of the anglers were concentrated in the middle section of the pool. Plenty of room at the head. So in I went.

I fished from 5pm until after it was too dark to see a size 12 Light Cahill Catskills dry. What a strange evening it was.

Sulphurs came off from the time I entered the water until roughly 7:30. It wasn’t a particularly strong hatch, but there were enough bugs to keep me and the trout entertained. I used both The Magic Fly (Pale Watery wingless) and the Usual, sizes 16-20, for the first three-and-a-half hours with mixed results. Oh, I induced a good dozen trout to rise and take — we’re talking some quality boils — but each time I lifted my rod, nothing.

Certainly there was a rust factor in play — first time out with the cane and a long (13 feet) leader — but this felt just like summer stenos, a hatch I love to hate. Present to feeding fish. Perfect drift. Rise. Take. Nothing.

Once dusk arrived, the mosquitoes came out in force. Absent traditional insect repellant, a Gispert Churchill filled in nicely.

Smoke and Bamboo

I did witness several refusals, and this got me thinking that it was possible the trout were feeding on something other than sulphur emergers: size 16-18 BWOs or size 16-18 black caddis. Other factors to consider: multiple rise forms (porpoising gently as for spinners), slashy/splashy rises, and open mouths with a tail kick).

Around 7:30 I finally connected with a nice wild brown on the Magic Fly. The next hour was a puzzling series of casts, mends, and even more swings and misses. As darkness fell, I switched over to the Light Cahill Catskills dry, first size 14, then size 12, and stuck a fish on each, the last when I couldn’t even see the fly.

An outing as frustrating as this one ultimately raises more questions in my mind than I care to mention, but here are a few. Are the fish simply missing the fly? Am I too slow on the hook set (and if I am, how come I hooked those bazillions of trout before tonight with the same speed hook set)? Are the fish committing to the take, then bailing at the last second? How come no one else was catching (over four hours of fishing, I saw six fish hooked, including my three)? What were the trout feeding on besides sulphurs (I suspect it was the black caddis)? How come I didn’t get a sniff on small (size 20 & 22) spinner patterns?

Folks, I guide, teach fly fishing and write articles on the subject, and I have to tell you that I don’t have all the answers. Thankfully. Because now I need to go back and do some more research.

Two shad. Not bad.

The tide had reached its highest rise

Beneath the starry late spring skies

And so the time had come to pass

To maybe catch a stripe-ed bass.

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Absent hearing a loud pop,

Into the water flies did drop

A drift, a mend, and then a tug

A shrimp fly ate by silver thug.

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A small bass was caught next to me,

“I’m the Shad King!” was my decree.

A second one on deer hair shrimp

on whose materials I did scrimp.

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On the dangle, another spot

I felt the bump, but hooked ’twas not

Then, while standing in a slog

I lost my fly rig on a log

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And so it goes, this striper funk

More trips than not I get the skunk

It makes me want to scream and shout

Instead I think I’ll fish for trout.

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I fought the log and log won. A stupidly simple grass shrimp pattern: sparse fine bucktail tail, silver body braid under criss-crossed white thread, deer hair wing, head trimmed caddis style.

Deer Hair Grass Shrimp