Fly fishing club guest speaker coordinators, have I got a presentation for you!

Please forgive the shameless immodesty — it’s all meant in good fun. I really am excited about this one, though. It’s a follow-up to The Little Things — hence the highly imaginative title, The Little Things 2.0. You can read more about it here.


Friends, Romans, Fishermen (and women) or: Upcoming stuff you might be interested in

For some reason I’ve had Julius Caesar running around in my head for the last few days, hence the bastardized title reference. I really just wanted to update you on a few things. So, with apologies to the Bard, lend me your ears. (Or eyes, as it were.)

I’m working away in my lonely writer’s garret on a new presentation, The Little Things 2.0. I’m really liking how this one is unfolding. Lots of good stuff, and it will be ready in September for the fall presentation circuit.

I’m very likely going to be tying and making a presentation at the 2016 Art of The Angler Show. Details to come.

Still trying to finalize some appearances at the 2017 Fly Fishing Show in Marlborough, MA. Ditto details.

Gadzooks! The writing pipeline appears to have gone dry. (That’s not entirely true — I should have a conservation piece in American Angler any issue now.) Not to worry. I have several pitches already accepted by editors, and just need to take fingers and brain to keyboard. Subjects will include floating lines in the salt, streamer fishing basics, and perhaps a few essay-type story pieces.

Finally, I see a lot of new names on the followers list. Why not stop in and say hi? In fact, I’d like to hear from everyone. Tell us about your fishing this summer, flies you’ve been tying, questions you may have — it’s all good.

And as always, thanks for reading and following currentseams.

Please stay out of the writing room when the red lamp in on.




Housy smallmouth: The hits just keep on coming

The Farmington continues to struggle with low flows. I spoke with an angler today who fished it recently, and he said he was so discouraged by the water levels that he left after 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in another part of the state, the upper TMA section of the Hous was flowing at just over 200cfs, and 74 degrees. Fine conditions for an evening of wading and casting for smallmouth bass. Things started off slow — I began at 6:45pm in a section I’ve hit repeatedly, but has not produced numbers or size. I’m at a loss to explain why. It’s deep, it’s got moving water, and lots of boulders. All that’s really missing is a sign that says “Get Your Smallies Here!” Nontheless, two unremarkable bumps were all I could manage.

However, Honey Hole 1 (my name for it) continues to impress. It’s a fairly nondescript run, but it has held a good number of decent sized bass every time I’ve fished it. By 8pm I was working my way downriver to Honey Hole 2 (see parens above). HH2 fished a little differently in the higher water — the fish were more widely spread out than in previous trips. Here are a few notes from last night:

Unlike trout, smallies rising to flies will crush a big streamer thrown in their general direction. I caught countless bass last night at dusk by simply aiming for rise rings.

A larger fly doesn’t necessarily cull the smaller fish. I’m still trying to understand how some of the little guys I landed got a 4x long size 2 streamer hook entirely into their mouth.

Like with trout, the action seems to taper off at dark. Hatch over, time for a feeding break? I’d like to stay well past dark one of these nights and see if the action picks up.

Housy smallies love sunken streamers as well as waking surface flies.

I’m continuing to test a prototype of a floating version of the Deep Threat. (Once semi-perfected, I’ll post it.) So far, so good. Wait. Make that very good.

“Is that the foot-long?” “And then some.” (Bonus points if you can name the cheesy 80s comedy those lines come from. Hint: it stars a future Oscar winner.) This was my best bass of the night, coming in at 13 inches, a very respectable size for this river. He threw acrobatic leaps and generally obstreperous behavior into the bargain.






Stuff I Use: the Eagle Claw 253 Hook

The Eagle Claw 253 hook is the traditional choice for tying the flatwings, bucktails, and soft hackles made popular by Ken Abrames. It is a 1x short, O’Shaughnessy style spinnerbait hook with a non-offset point.

Ken didn’t choose that hook by accident. In Striper Moon, he writes of the 254 1x short, a similar hook, “The wire is light and does not cause the hook to sink unnaturally…the shank of this hook is one size short…this does two things: first, it makes the hook lighter and second it makes the point longer in relationship to hook size. I believe this gives me a mechanical advantage when fighting  a fish.” Those same attributes apply to the 253, which is the dominant hook in his book of fly patterns, A Perfect Fish.

“To fashion a fly from tradition is an honorable practice.” — KA. I did my best to honor that practice with the Rock Island, tied here on the Eagle Claw 253, size 3/0.

Rock Island Flatwings

The Eagle Claw brand holds a special place in my heart. It was the snelled hook we used when my father taught me how to fish for trout in the early 1970s. For years now, I’ve been tying most of my striper flies on the Eagle Claw 253. I usually buy them in lots of 100, readily available at any number of online retailers. Most of those 100 are sticky sharp right out of the box; those that aren’t are easily sharpened with a few strokes of a mill file. Eagle Claw makes a version of the 253 called “Lazer Sharp.” Ironically, I’ve found many of the Lazer Sharp hooks to be pencil-eraser dull, and difficult to sharpen. Stick with the regular 253 hook.

The biggest striper (probably between 30-35 pounds) I ever caught on the fly from shore took this Razzle Dazzle flatwing, below, tied on an Eagle Claw 253. At the time of the catch, the fly was at least 3 years old, and seen multiple seasons of use. I had sharpened the hook the night of the outing, as I had done many times before with Eagle Claw 253s, making sure it had enough sticking power to hold a junior cow.


Most of the Eagle Claw 253s I use are size 1/0 and 3/0, although I will tie some of my larger flatwings on 4/0s. A word of caution: on larger stripers, I’ve had the 1/0s begin to open (I tend to put a lot of pressure on a fish when fighting it) although I have never lost a striper to an opened hook. If I suspect there are bigger fish around, I’ll go with a 3/0 and up. I have never had an issue with those sizes.

My favorite hooks for flatwings, bucktails, and soft hackles, fresh from a 100 count bag, ready for the vise.









Ray’s Fly Featherwing: A simple, sparse flatwing

Many years ago, I was having trouble with some bass that were feeding on silversides in a Rhode Island breechway. The fish were active, but I couldn’t get them to bite. Ken Abrames recommended that I try the Ray’s Fly Featherwing, a dressed-down flatwing version of Ray’s Fly. I remember him telling me that it was, at the least, another arrow  in the fly box quiver.

That was a long time ago. I remember tying some up, but I don’t know what became of them. I know I caught stripers on them. I think I lost my last one to a bluefish.

Recently, someone on one of the forums asked about a “Ray’s Fly flatwing.” I think the Ray’s Fly Featherwing is the fly he was referencing. I haven’t tied in a couple of weeks, so I went down to the bench this morning and churned out a few. So simple. And sparse. I’d be as inclined to use these for a sand eel as I would a silverside.

All saddles are tied in flat — flatwing style, as they say. Note that the olive saddle is tied in at the head. All you need to do now is add water.

Ray’s Fly Featherwing flatwing


Hook: Eagle Claw 253 1/0
Thread: White
Tail: 30 strands white bucktail under white saddle under 4 strands pearl flash under yellow saddle
Body: Pearl or silver braid
Wing: Olive saddle
Topping: Peacock herl

Farmington River thermal refuge establishment/closures

I like how the DEEP’s email was worded, so I won’t change it: “The warm summer weather and long-term lack of meaningful rainfall have produced conditions that are not favorable for trout within parts of the West Branch Farmington River.”

Below is a link to a pdf of the new regs.

2016 FarmingtonR refuge closures declaration 08-18-2016

Or, you could just do what I’m doing right now, which is: give the trout a break and seek your angling pleasures elsewhere.

We could all use a little water right about now.

A little water, please


Housy Smallmouth Report: Gluttons for punishment

It would be safe to say that smallmouth on the fly is a current addiction. Back for more last night, a shorter session at three hours (6pm-9pm), and quite different from Monday’s.

For starters, the water was up a wee bit (180 cfs and rising) and perhaps had a bit more color. While not Africa hot, the air was rain forest humid. I got soaked just walking from the truck to the river. And the overall action was off, in terms of general size and numbers. But yessiree Bob, it was still good.

How to tell it’s summertime by the river. We get these along the Farmington, too.



The surface action window was brief, about a half hour, and I didn’t even bother trying to fish with classic dry flies. I saw a few caddis and a handful of white flies (and the ever-present midges) — clearly the smallies were keyed on emerging bugs. I sat on a rock, enjoying my cigar, and as it got dark I went to work on some risers with a size 6 olive Zoo Cougar. That was fun, but for me the main event would be testing a prototype surface bug I’ve been working on, a floating/neutrally buoyant version of the Deep Threat, size 4. (More once I get it ironed out.) On it went, and….nothing. And more nothing. Finally, a respectable bass. Then another, a little bigger. I saw a splashy rise down the pool and parked the fly over it on my next cast.

KA-BLAM!!! It was one of those takes where you knew you had a good fish on from the moment the transaction went down. As soon as I came tight to the bass he went airborne. I cackled out loud, which you can do with impunity when you’re alone on a river. Thrust and parry, thrust and parry, my forearm burning with fatigue. (This is surely why God created 0x leaders.) And there he was. A smallmouth you could measure in pounds instead of inches. (Yeah, I know, low pounds, but please let me have my moment of glory unmolested.)

I’ve now landed a mid-teens Housy smallmouth and a mid-teens Farmington wild brown, and I gotta tell you, with all due respect to Salmo trutta, that it’s not even a contest when it comes to battle skills. 



So, the new fly works.

It’s probably not a wise decision to do an impromptu victory dance while you’re wading out of a river in the dark. But I couldn’t resist.


Housy Smallmouth Report: Crazy 8s

Yesterday was 8/8/16, a nice bit of numerology even if you’re not mathematically inclined. (For the record, I am not. But I do love and am attuned to numbers.) Water flow was a low 178cfs, voluminous compared to the current trickle that is the Farmington. And warm. Mid-to-upper 70s warm. (I can confirm this from personal sampling as I managed to fall into the river twice. A treacherous wade, that TMA.) There is something to be said about the cooling effects of wet wading inside your breathable Simms on a hot, sunny day.

To the fishing. I am not long on smallie experience, but I am a quick study. Here’s what I can tell you.

I fished from the general area of the West Cornwall covered bridge down to the Rt. 7 bridge. Six hours, 3pm-9pm. My M.O. was fish, drive, park, repeat. While the sun was up, the bass were, without exception, in brisk, moving water. They also tended to be on the small (5″-7″) side. I found players in every run I fished.

A smallmouth that Goldilocks would have loved. I like how the surface blends with the depths. The Hous is a weird-colored river.



Fly selection was irrelevant. Bright white and fluorescent chartreuse? Loved it. Muted earth tones? Attacked it with prejudice. Horrible, dreadful pattern (like the TeQueely)? Total annihilation. The only fly I didn’t hook up on was the Gurgler, and that’s because I fished it in daytime and the little guys couldn’t manage the wide gap size 2 hook. This is the first time I fished the Deep Threat for smallmouth, and it was met with unilateral approval.

Crayfish are an anecdotal smallmouth favorite, as are flies in browns/orange/olives/black/etc. The river is loaded with the naturals.



Once the sun dipped behind the hills and trees, the bigger fish action turned on. I lost count of the number of smallmouth I caught long before I took this shot, an attempt at an artsy silhouette portrait. 



The vaunted white fly hatch never materialized. From 8pm-8:30 there was a consistent surface bite, but I had to work for every fish, and quite frankly, what was rising wasn’t worth the effort I was putting in with my Light Cahill dries (12-16). As dusk deepened, I decided to bail on the dries and go surface streamer. First cast toward the bank with the Zoo Cougar and I was on — and I mean on fast and hard. For the next half hour, I was in smallmouth heaven. Pound-for-pound, these might be the hardest fighting fish I’ve ever experienced. Tremendous sport.

My biggest smallmouth came as night settled in over the water. Sadly, he slipped the net while I was getting my camera ready, so you’ll have to be content with this shot of his younger brother.



You know how sometimes on the drive home from the river something doesn’t sit quite right with you? Sure, you caught fish, but you may have LDRed a good one. Perhaps you lost a favorite fly on the bottom. Maybe there was that one fish you just couldn’t fool. You’re glad you got out, but there’s that little negative something inside that keeps gnawing away at you — and in a way, it wrecks the whole thing?

This trip wasn’t one of those.



The best streamers for smallmouth bass are…

If you do a search for “best” or “top ten” streamers for smallmouth bass, you are presented with an eclectic mix of patterns, typically opaque, with big googly eyes and using all kinds of new-agey materials — often accompanied by seductive promises of fish-catchess prowess. And oh, by the way, you can’t have the recipe, but here’s where you may purchase the wonder fly.


I can’t claim to be an expert on the lesser pie-holed cousins of the bucketmouth, but when I sat down at the vice this weekend to tie some smallmouth streamers I kept things pretty basic. I have a strong suspicion this selection will be met with approval by the target audience — the key word being selection. Some will ride topwater. Some will swim just below the surface. Some will plumb the depths and jig on the retrieve. They feature colors that range from earth-tones to fluorescents. You know the drill: give the fish a choice.

Now, I just gotta get them wet.

Clockwise from bottom left: Gartside Gurgler variants (size 2), three sets of Woolly Bugger variants (sizes 4-6), Deep Threat variants (sizes 4-6), and in the center, some neutral buoyancy thingy I tied on a whim.






Farmington River Report: Bad news if you like water (or if you’re a Light Cahill)

Not for the world would I aspire to be Mr. Doom and Gloom. So we’ll start with some good news. Up Riverton way the water is still plenty cold. I did a couple hours of dry fly last night, and while the action was not as strong as what I experienced last week, there were still some active feeders to cast to. Once again, small rusty and creamy spinners (size 22) attracted the most attention. At one point, two(!) cedar waxwings alighted on my rod.

The bad news was that the rises were sporadic at best — and the water is the lowest I’ve ever seen. There was a decent enough hatch of Light Cahills (sz 16) after 7:30, but they never got more that ten feet off the water. The waxwings were ruthlessly efficient in their work, and picked off every single mayfly I saw emerge.

Good luck if you’re heading out, and watch those water temps as we get into some warmer weather.

Could we get a little more water here, please?

Jack Torrance