A record-setting wet fly class

Many thanks to the six soon-to-be-dangerous-wet-fly-machines who took yesterday’s Wet Flies and Fuzzy Nymphs for the Farmington River tying class — and thanks to UpCountry Sportfishing for hosting.

Leading a tying class is fun because your pupils are usually eager and engaged. Leading a wet fly tying class even more so because if the fly comes out a little messed up — and the first attempt at a pattern often does — the trout are probably still going to love it.

We covered eight patterns and a bunch of new techniques yesterday. The eight flies is the most I’ve ever covered in a four-hour class. The credit goes to the tiers, who did a tremendous job at their vises. Well done, all!

The aftermath of the tying storm.

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Farmington River Report 1/26/16: Avoiding crowds — and fish

Where there’s one trout, there’s probably a bunch more. That’s a fair statement for winter fishing on the Farmington, and one that Torrey Collins reiterated to me as I walked out the door of UpCountry. But you could also say the same for winter trout fishers. And today I wanted to avoid crowds. If there were any fish in that bargain, I would embrace it as a bonus.

I’ve been fairly stubborn about Spot A this winter. I know there’s a healthy population of trout, but I’ve only hit them in the mood to eat once. I spent ninety obstinate minutes bouncing nymphs along the bottom (I had too many false positives to count) and swinging/stripping streamers before I decided enough.

Spot B was a what-the-heck roll of the dice. I don’t like it in lower water (230 cfs, 35 degrees in the permanent TMA) but you don’t know if you don’t go. Ten minutes was all I gave it. Blanked.

The run in Spot C is deep and moving at a good walking pace. The yarn went under with the speed and depth that indicates a substantial fish has committed to your fly. Or you’ve found a fly-eating rock. Bottom 1, Steve 0, and I set about re-tying my rig. Thirty minutes later, another blank.

And that’s when you realize that solitude is nice, but you should probably just deal with whoever’s there and go fishing where the willing-to-eat fish are. Third cast, the indicator goes under and the bottom fights back.

Clearly, this calls for a second cigar.

Down periscope. A nice kype beginning to form on this some-teen inch brown that took a size 12 (2x short) SHBHPT, the day’s clear favorite (they showed no interest in eggs or SH Zebra Midges).

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The Marlborough Man

I hadn’t been to the Fly Fishing Show in years. It wasn’t due to indifference — mostly it was scheduling, and that I had made up my mind that my next visit would be in a professional capacity. This year the stars aligned (thanks for squeezing me in, Ben) and I did two days as a Destination Theater presenter in Marlborough, MA. (Cue up the “Theme from The Magnificent Seven”.)

My first gig was Friday at 2pm, and I got there early enough to be able to take a quick walk around the show floor, say hi to some old friends, and make some introductions to new ones. I also wanted to support my fellow local presenters, so I caught most of Rich Strolis’ Tying Flies for the Toughest Fish, and Strategies for Fishing Them. Rich likes to fish a basic emerger template for rising trout; he simply varies the size and color of the pattern to match the hatch. As a wet fly (and snowshoe rabbit fur) aficionado, I liked that.

Having no idea what to expect, I was pleasantly surprised by the crowd that gathered to see and hear Wet Flies 101. I counted close to forty people. If you were in attendance, thanks so much for coming out, and especially for laughing at all my jokes.

On the A Team. Good room, and an even better audience.

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Saturday was a little dicey because of the impending doom generated by the approaching storm. However, fortune smiled upon me as the drive up and back were relatively snow-free. As I set up in an empty room at 9:45am, I realized that I might be presenting to just a few hardy souls. Not a chance. What started as a flurry turned into a measurable accumulation by showtime, and I want to thank everyone again for taking the time to come out. I stuck around to see some of Marla Blair’s The Hatch & Body Language of Trout for Choosing the Right Patterns. Marla’s explanation of how the rise forms translate into the feeding attitude of trout is something I have long embraced (and I think we both love stupid fish).

Can’t say you properly attended a show without buying something, so at 1pm I was walking back to my truck with a gorgeous red flatwing saddle I found buried in the piles at the Keough booth.

See you next year.

Upcoming events:

Still a couple slots open for next Saturday’s (January 30) tying class at UpCountry, “Wet Flies and Fuzzy Nymphs for the Farmington.” Call the store to register at 860-379-1952.

I’ll be on Fly Tyers’ Row at the CFFA Show on Saturday, February 6, Maneely’s Banquet Facility, 65 Rye St., South Windsor, CT. I’ll be there from show open until early afternoon. This is one of the best local shows anywhere. For more information and directions, visit http://www.ctflyfish.org.

 

 

 

 

Still room in the 1/30 Wet Fly tying class at UpCountry

UpCountry called today and said they still have some slots open for next Saturday’s (January 30) tying class, “Wet Flies and Fuzzy Nymphs for the Farmington.” Call the store to register at 860-379-1952.

Had a tremendous turnout at Marlborough today for “Wet Flies 101” — thanks to everyone who attended. More on the show later.

Space still available. Jump on it like this hefty Farmington rainbow did with a Squirrel and Ginger nymph.

Big Rainbow 9-14

Coastal Flyrodders awarded the Order of the Burrito with Negra Modelo clusters

Many thanks to the Coastal Flyrodders of Wyckoff, New Jersey for their hospitality last night. The pre-game Mexican dinner was terrific, as were the libations. I presented  The Little Things, and I’m pretty sure we all had a swell time. Not only do the Coastal Flyrodders understand that a fed presenter is a happy presenter — they have also set the questions bar at a new height. I don’t remember ever getting so many good questions, or having such engaging post-presentation discussions. Well done, all!

A beer for breakfast after a night of striper fishing doesn’t suck. But it doesn’t beat a beer with dinner.

Block Island All-Nighter Beer

Later this week: The Fly Fishing Show in Marlborough, MA. I will be appearing at the Destination Theater on Friday, January 22 and Saturday, January 23 and presenting “Wet Flies 101.” This is one of my more popular presentations, and as the title suggests, it serves as a wet fly primer. Presentation times are as follows: Friday, January 22, 2:00pm, Destination Theater Room A. Saturday, January 23, 10:00am, Destination Theater Room A. The show takes place at the Royal Plaza Trade Center in Marlborough. For more information, visit http://flyfishingshow.com/marlborough-ma/

Date change: my tying demo at The Compleat Angler in Darien has been moved from March 5 to February 27. It will focus on flatwings, bucktails, and soft hackles for striped bass.

How To Tie And Fish Dropper Rigs For Stripers

“How to Tie and Fish Dropper Rigs for Stripers” first appeared in a 2010 issue of Mid Atlantic Fly Fishing Guide

Not every day is April on the lower Housatonic when the stripers are ready to pounce on your fly with reckless abandon. No, this was an August evening in Rhode Island, and while the bass were open for business, hookups were few and far between.

I was fishing a spot where a rocky bar merged with a shallow sand flat before dropping off into a deep channel. Pop! Tock! Every few minutes, I could hear the distinctive tells of feeding fish, all within casting range. The water was loaded with dense schools of silversides. Peanut bunker were in the mix, and I had even seen clamworms earlier in the week. But what were the stripers feeding on tonight? Within a few minutes, I would have my answer. I cast my dropper rig into a surface seam, and started mending for a greased line swing.

As the flies swam across the current, the water exploded. I set the hook, and soon a fine striped bass was in my hands. With the dropper rig, he had three fly choices: a clamworm, a small bucktail menhaden, and a Ray’s Fly. He chose the menhaden. A few casts later, bap! Another striper on the menhaden. Satisfied, I clipped the other flies off the leader. Once again, droppers had proven to be the fastest way to find out what the fish wanted.

Dropper rigs take a little more effort than store-bought tapered leaders, but they’re easy to tie and the rewards can be great. A dropper rig is a terrific searching tool, giving the bass multiple targets, and letting you present at different depths on a single drift. I’ve always been the curious sort, and I like the surprise a dropper rig provides when I discover which fly fooled the fish. And, as an angler who embraces traditional methods, the dropper rig has proven itself — you’ve heard of a brace of wet flies — over the course of hundreds of years.

The original article had an illustration of a three fly team by Ken Abrames;  I’m replacing it with a detailed rigging diagram. It’s a simple leader — you’re basically making a triple surgeon’s loop and then tying two triple surgeon’s knots.

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Here’s a pdf: Striper Dropper Rig

A basic dropper rig is about seven to eight feet long, with two dropper flies and one fly on point. The flies are spaced 18 to 24 inches apart, and the dropper flies are tied on tags that extend a few inches out from the leader. I use 20, 25, or 30 pound mono to build my dropper rigs. Start with a length of mono a little over four feet long. Tie a loop about the circumference of a baseball at one end; this will be the butt of the leader. I use a triple surgeon’s knot, but you can use the knot of your choice. Always wet the mono before you tighten your knots, and remember the wisdom that no knot is worthy of your trust. I test every knot I make before I fish any leader system.

Next, take a three-foot section of mono and attach it to the butt section with a triple surgeon’s or double uni-knot. The tag of the butt section will form the first dropper, so be sure to leave plenty of material (about 8”) for it. Snug that knot up good and tight, then repeat the process to form the second dropper. You should now have a length of mono with two tags, spaced about two feet apart, extending toward the point fly end of the leader. All you need to do now is tie on some flies. I like them between four and six inches away from the leader.

What flies? Think different: Different sizes. Different colors. Different species. Give the fish a choice. They will tell you when you’ve made the right one. In my experience, this rig fishes and casts best with the largest fly in the point position. Don’t be afraid of fouling or tangles. You can cut down on their incidence by slowing down your casting stroke, and making sure the line straightens out on your back cast before making the forward stroke.

Here are a few simple guidelines to help you decide if a dropper rig is a good idea. Use one when:
• You’re searching for fish.
• There are multiple baits in the water and you’re not sure what the stripers are feeding on.
• There is an abundance of small bait in the water, i.e. anchovies, grass shrimp, clam worms, sand eels.

A dropper rig might not be the best choice if:
• There are bigger fish about (landing multiple large fish on a single leader can be a dicey proposition).
• You’re having difficulty casting into a strong wind (use a shorter leader and a single fly).
• You start consistently hooking doubles or triples.

Droppers aren’t a magic bullet solution. But if you want to catch more fish, they are an excellent arrow to have in your quiver.

Fear and loathing in fly fishing

Legendary ad man Bill Bernbach once handed each of his employees a card printed with the words Maybe he is right. The idea was to encourage his staff to give new or foreign ideas a fair shake.

I think fly fishing needs an equivalent. Especially striper fly fishing.

The populist culture is that of the nine-weight rod, the intermediate line, the rapidly sinking single fly, and the cast-and-strip presentation.  Deviate from those paths, and you are greeted with alarm by the collective. Conformity is encouraged. It is your safety net. Without it, you’ll be sorry. You’ll see.

This pack mentality is frequently observed on internet forums. Mention fishing for stripers with more than one fly, and you can almost see the eyes glazing over and the heads spinning. Tangles! Hard to cast! Is that even fly fishing?

Thankfully, striped bass don’t read internet forums. Unlike people, they are immune to fear (it won’t work) and loathing (I’ll look stupid).

There are so few absolutes in fishing. There are, on the other hand, many, many ways. So if you don’t aspire to fish like everyone else, open doors. Ask questions. Find out. Try new things. How does that guy fish? Does he catch a lot? Does it look like fun?

Maybe he is right.

No wrong answers. Only the right ones for you. On this night, the striped bass repeatedly picked out the middle dropper, a chartreuse and olive Eelie between 2″-3″.

Block Island Bass