Words flowing through the article pipeline

It seems like I am always writing. Some of it ends up here. Some of it never goes anywhere (sloth, concept that never gelled, editor indifference). And some of it makes its way into glorious print. Here’s what’s coming soon to a news stand or mailbox near you.

A feature article on wet flies in Field & Stream. Sometime this summer.

The Little Things V2.0. This summer in American Angler. More seemingly insignificant things you can do to help you catch more fish.

An shorter conservation piece on the failed Atlantic Salmon restoration project (Connecticut River strain-specific). American Angler, this summer (I think).

A primer on Block Island stripers on the fly from the shore. This fall in the Mid Atlantic Fly Fishing Guide.

Thanks for your continued readership and support. Speaking of support, I see we are tantalizingly close to 400 followers. Once we crack — and hold — that barrier, we’ll do a fly giveaway.

Working the night shift with a Rock Island flatwing.








An hour on a small stream

April is always a good time to visit a small stream. You can see how Mother Nature wrecked certain pools and improved others over the winter. And of course, you knock on some doors to see if anyone’s home.

Water was on the low side of medium, cool, and distilled spirits clear. Hatches: big Blue Quills, some smaller BWOs, and a few stray caddis and midges. I saw three fish rising to feed, which is rare for these conditions (mid-day, low water). I didn’t even try to catch them.

I have decided that one hour in the woods on a sunny spring day is an absolute good for the soul.

I cannot think of a jauntier, I-don’t-give-a-damn plant name than skunk cabbage. 



Pricked four, landed one. Two were small, and one got off when the leader tangled on a submerged branch. This handsome specimen sat still long enough for a portrait.




Farmington River Report: Let’s swing

Avram wanted to learn the black arts of wet fly fishing, so our session was dedicated to the three fly wet team. Okay, there were some issues with wind and tangles. But — and it’s a good but — there were lots of hookups (at least a dozen). There were fish caught on all three flies (Squirrel and Ginger, Dark Hendrickson, BHSHPT, all Avram’s ties — how cool is that?). And there was the satisfaction of learning something new (and doing well at it). Like Tuesday, the hatches were meh, but we basked in our glorious solitude, and were thankful for all the fish that decided to jump on.

I haven’t hooked a tiger trout in some time. But Avram has.



He got into some bigger fish too, like this snub-nosed rainbow.



There he goes again. Avram took them on the mended swing, the dangle, and short-line deep.



Some lovely spring color against drab earth tones.


Read “The Little Things” on the American Angler site

I wrote “The Little Things” a couple years ago in support of a new presentation I was creating. Since then, it’s become one of my most popular talks. The concept behind “The Little Things” is as simple as it is effective: sweat the small stuff, and you’ll become a better angler. You can read the original piece by clicking here.

AALittleThings 2

Look for “The Little Things 2.0” this summer in American Angler.

Farmington River Report 4/19/16: “I suck at nymphing.”

That’s how my client David summed up his subsurface skills on the phone.

It may have been true a few days ago. But not today. No sir.  Today, friends, David was a steely-eyed nymphing missile man. He put a hurting on the trout with a yarn indicator, a single BB shot, some Pheasant Tails, and a fierce resolve to overcome that northern banshee we call wind. I don’t usually count fish, but we surpassed the dozen mark today. Way to go, David!

It must be the height of Hendrickson madness if the UpCountry lot is full at 8:45am on a Tuesday. We fished two spots outside the permanent TMA, and did well in both locations. (You know it’s going to be a good day when you hook a fish on your first demo cast.)  We fished a drop-shot rig under one of my home-brew yarn indicators; the top dropper was a size 16 soft-hackled Pheasant Tail, and our point fly was a size 12 BHSHPT or an Eagan’s Frenchie (thanks, Pete!) We took fish on all three flies.

Wind was a constant challenge, but I think we’ll take unfavorable conditions if a good bite is part of the package. Hatches were meh. There was a micro burst of Hendricksons shortly before 3pm, but it was over in a matter of minutes. David capped off his day by swinging a team of wets and hooking his first trout on that setup.

Yup. Today did not suck.

A portrait of a dangerous nymphing machine.




Farmington River Report 4/18/16: that was fun

Spent three hours below the permanent TMA, from noon to 3pm. Some caddis and a few stray Hendricksons in the air. Water cool, clear, and about 300cfs. Walked a snotty run and swung a team of three wets (from top to bottom: Squirrel and Ginger, Dark Hendrickson, BHSHPT). One recent ward of the state liked the point fly on the dangle. Ended up at the pool the run dumps into and that’s when things got fun. Landed a dozen fish — including a double — that were a mix of stocked browns and rainbows, all on the S&G and the PT. Two of the fish were active risers that I targeted; the rest were holding in likely places. Took them on the dead drift, the swing, and the dangle. Some friends fishing nearby had great success nymphing during this same period.

I thought we might be in the midst of a day to remember, but sometime around 1:30 someone hit the off switch. An hour later, some more Hendricksons came off, and a few fish began slashing at the emergers. But whatever mojo I had earlier in the day disappeared, and I could only manage one more trout.

Poor me (he said, tongue planted firmly in cheek).

What are they doing in the Hendrickson House? I’d give today’s hatch a four out of ten.




First steelhead of 2016 — and Gordon’s first ever

Why wait till November when you can have steelhead April? And so it was that Gordon and I found ourselves drifting under the Altmar bridge at 7:15am Thursday morning under the skilled oarsmanship of my favorite SR guide, James Kirtland, AKA Row Jimmy.

So. If you remember, the fall 2015 steelhead run was — ahem — disappointing. This spring’s run has been its reflection. Still, one can’t complain with full sun, temperatures rising into the high 50s, a couple cigars, your youngest son’s steelhead baptism, and no clients calling or chores to be done. I’d never been steelheading in the spring. (It’s quite civilized compared to the fall.) Now, all we needed was the banishment of the dreaded skunk.

Dad kicks things off with a still winter-dark buck. Got him in some fast water on a horrible double egg pattern I tied up. If you look closely, you’ll see why I nicknamed him “Uncle Milty.”


I took his little brother about 50 yards down river. Shortly after that I dropped a good fish moments after hook set. I don’t know what happened there, as I was quick on the draw and had a sticky sharp hook. Such is the game. Next, it was Gordon’s turn.

Gordo’s a true DIYer. He cast, managed the drift, set the hook, and fought the steelhead all by himself. We’ll call this the action shot.



Jim is an exceptional guide. Tremendous knowledge of the river, always with the positive waves, and some serious netting skills. And let’s not forget he’s a good teacher, seen here congratulating his star pupil moments after the battle won.



Proud papa. You think?



I had one more fish on between Pineville and 2A, but I forgot I had ratcheted my drag down to an unforgiving level to free a snag. Rats! The fish ran, and  let’s just say there was not a favorable result for me when the line came tight. Little things, Steven. Little things.

The day in numbers: 750cfs above Pineville, 1,200 below (and with some color). Water temp 42. Final boat tally, 3-for-5 (I’d sign for that any day). Gordo 1-for-1. i

Taken as a whole? Most definitely a 10.









First stripers. First EnCon encounter.

Yesterday evening was raw and windy and and at times rainy, but there were a few stripers out and about. It always feels good to break the seal. I even played around with surface flies (deer hair head and the good old Gurlger) after I witnessed a wake behind my fly on one retrieve. There’s nothing like the hysterical leap of a striper as it flails at a topwater presentation. Fishing partner Bob Griswold had an equally splendid time.

Speaking of firsts, EnCon was out checking licenses at dusk. I’ve never had that happen to me in nearly 50 years of fishing. Here’s a reminder to make sure your license is current, and that you’re carrying it on your person.

My apologies for no outing photos. Here’s one from the archives.

Little guy big mouth


Steve Culton featured speaker at Fly Fishers Club of Harrisburg 69th Annual Dinner

Indeed I was this past Friday night. (You must forgive me, dear reader, for the unabashed title. I’m just engaging in a little SEO gamesmanship.)

The Fly Fishers Club of Harrisburg is unlike any other organization I’ve presented to. They don’t have any dues. There is no formal membership. They meet only once a year at their banquet. The Club is regarded as the second oldest fly fishing club in the US, and was founded by people with names like Charlie Fox and Vince Marinaro.  The nearly 200 attendees — the largest group I’ve ever presented to — ranged in age from 11 to what I’m guessing were octogenarians. So I was quite honored that they deemed me worthy of being their featured speaker.

I got to sit at the cool table. Red dot means beef is what’s for dinner.



No black tie this year, but as you can see the banquet has always been a rather civilized affair.  Seems I’ve heard of that guest speaker somewhere…



The Club has some cool traditions, such as the Traveling Rod. Every year a name is drawn, and the winner gets to take the rod wherever and report back on its adventures. Part of the deal is a fishing log book; the winner writes a one-page year-in-review. Recognize that first recipient?



What would a fly fishing club meeting be without a raffle? This young man was the winner of the dozen wet flies I tied, James Leisenring’s “favorite twelve.” It’s a decent enough mounting job, but I hope these soft hackles spend some time in the water — and tucked into the corner of a trout’s mouth.



How fitting that they put a winged wet on my name badge. In the interest of full disclosure, I failed to return the plastic holder as instructed. My bad. If they want it back, I guess they’ll just have to invite me to speak again.



My presentation was “The Little Things.”  It’s a thought-proving 45 minutes that usually generates plenty of good questions. The audience did not let me down.



Last but not least, I’d like to offer up two of the most important words in our language: thank you. Thank you Fly Fishers Club of Harrisburg. For being so kind and welcoming. For the delicious dinner and libations (a fed presenter is a happy presenter). And for giving me the opportunity to present to you.

Let’s do this again, shall we?