Tie Food

‘Tis the season to be busy at the vise. I’ve also been sequestered in my lonely writer’s garret, churning out new material for your favorite publications, and buffing up some old presentations — not to mention outlining some new ones for 2017.

So, no fishing for me for two weeks now. (I know. That’s just plain wrong.)

A couple reminders:

I will be tying at the CFFA Fly Fishing Expo & Banquet, Saturday, February 4, Maneely’s, South Windsor, CT. Come see why the Expo is the best little fly fishing show going. I’ll be there from the morning thru early afternoon. If you’re there, be sure to say hello. For more information, click here.

There’s still space in my “Farmington River Favorites” Tying Class, Sunday, February 5, 9am-1pm at UpCountry Sportfishing.  There will be a little bit of everything: wets, dries, nymphs, and streamers, from traditional classics to new designs. These are all high-confidence, proven patterns, and I’ll also discuss how and when I like to fish them. If you’ve taken my wets and fuzzy nymphs class before, most of these patterns will be new. Sign up through UpCountry Sportfishing.

We’re getting close to the magic number of 500 followers. Of course, we’ll have a giveaway to celebrate.

Last week’s worth. Some of these are for customers, some for future guide trips, and some for me. 

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Come to where the fly fishing flavor is

Come to Marlborough country.

The 2017 Marlborough edition of The Fly Fishing Show has come and gone. I attended and presented two of the three days. Here’s my take on the action.

Friday was seminar day. I checked in around 11am and walked the show floor for an hour. I had two goals: reconnect with some old acquaintances (Joe Cordiero, Shawn Britton, Ray Stachelek, Armand Courchaine, Bob Popovics, Roger Plourde) and score some feathers. I found two flatwing-worthy saddles and a reddish-brown hen cape for wets. Off to the big room.

I also wanted to meet a few people I didn’t really know. One of them was Jason Randall. It seems like every time I have a piece in American Angler, Jason has one, too. I like his writing and his scientific approach (check out his pocket water piece in the current issue). I caught the tail end of his “Where Trout Are” seminar, introduced myself, and we got in some quality hobnobbing over the next day. I encourage everyone to do likewise. There’s a tremendous amount of knowledge and experience at these shows. Don’t let the fact that someone is well-known intimidate you — people are here to meet, talk, and share information. It’s a real positive energy.

On the board. I got the chance to meet and talk with Ed Engle on Saturday. He’s quiet, thoughtful, and knows much about fly fishing for trout. I wish we’d had more time to chat.

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If you’re a seminar presenter, you get a badge that says “Celebrity” under your name. While I appreciated the title, I was mindful that I’m still just a guy who loves fly fishing. Good crowd — I was a little nervous that there was only one person in the room 15 minutes before show time, but we ended up with a very strong turnout. If you were among them, thanks for coming to see Wet Flies 101!

Saturday I was first up in Room A of the Destination Theater. Another impressive crowd, and we had to take our Q&A out into the hallway (you have a 45-minute hard stop in the DT). Again, thanks for coming, and thanks for laughing at all my jokes.

Tim Flagler from Tightline Productions (really high-end fly tying videos — I covet his editing equipment and skills) was another person I wanted to meet. I’d only spoken with Tim on the phone, so I caught most of his presentation (excellent!), then bent his ear on cameras and shooting out in the hallway. Tim’s a class act.

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I zipped over to Jason Randall’s “Advanced Nymph Fishing” seminar. More good stuff. Jason’s a knowledgeable presenter with a very friendly style. Like Tim, he has some seriously good footage to draw from. Both Tim and Jason made me want to get out on a river post haste. One final lap around the main show floor, and I headed back to Connecticut.

Last but not least, I’d like to thank Chuck and Ben Furimsky for inviting me to play.

Flatwing saddle swag. I’ve got some plans and schemes for these babies (hint: trout).

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~

I ran into Charles McCaughtry at one of the feather booths. Charles is a Connecticut artist and a currentseams follower. He gifted me two sets of notecards featuring his work. What a thoughtful gesture. Love his impressionistic style.

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Thanks TVTU and on to Marlborough

The threat of freezing rain couldn’t dampen the spirits of the members of the Thames Valley Chapter of TU. We had a great crowd for “The Little Things,” and some intriguing post-presentation discussions. This is a group that is passionate about fly fishing. A thousand apologies for forgetting your name, but I’ll balance that with a thousand thank yous to the gentleman who gave me the Nat Sherman Metropolitan Selection Explorer. I’ll be enjoying that on a future Farmington River outing.

On to Marlborough! Hard to believe that The Fly Fishing Show is already here.

“Wet Flies 101,” at the Fly Fishing Show, Marlborough, MA, Friday, January 20, 1pm, Catch Room. We’re in the big room for this one, so come out and support your friendly local fly fishing writer guy! For more information, visit the Fly Fishing Show website.

“Wet Flies 101,” at the Fly Fishing Show, Marlborough, MA, Saturday, January 21, 10am, Destination Theater, Room A. Smaller room, same energy and information. I may be tying after the presentation and will let you know if that’s the case. For more information, visit the Fly Fishing Show website.

Wet Flies 101

“Farmington River Favorites” fly tying class at UpCountry Sunday, Feb 5

I’ll be leading a fly tying class at UpCountry Sportfishing in New Hartford on Sunday, February 5. Here’s the class description from the UpCountry site:

Join outdoor writer and Farmington River guide Steve Culton as he explores some of his favorite patterns for the Farmington River. There will be a little bit of everything: wets, dries, nymphs, and streamers, from traditional classics to new designs. These are all high-confidence, proven patterns, and Steve will also discuss how and when he likes to fish them. Participants will need a vise, thread and tools. All other materials will be provided, including a pattern recipe list. The class starts at 9am and will run about four hours, giving you plenty of time to get home for the big game. Space is limited to six people. Tuition is $75, paid in advance and non-refundable.

Please do not contact me to register. You must sign up through the shop, and you can find them here.

From a class a few years ago, very serious-like. But we like to have fun, too.

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Farmington River Report 1/12/17: Of flows and floes

I expected to blank yesterday. Rain, snowmelt, and ice would surely make for some challenging conditions, 56 degree air temps be damned. I fished two spots within the permanent TMA, and the first was that dreaded blank. The second, much to my surprise and delight, produced three trout (three more than the guys fishing corn, he said smugly). Over the course of the day, I left my rod on top of my Jeep and drove a quarter mile before I realized my idiocy. Then I rescued someone’s landing net as it floated by. So much excitement! Here are some details.

The river was running at 300cfs, a (finally) proper level. But the water was staggeringly cold — my analog thermometer only managed 32 degrees at 1pm. Water was off-color at the first spot, and less stained at the second. What really surprised me was the amount of ice still on the surface. A day later I’m sure some of it has flushed, but many of the hero dry fly pools were better suited for skating than fishing. Ice floes were also a problem as the day progressed. It’s unnerving to feel that dull thud against your leg while you’re focusing on your drift.

Lots of this going on. Be wary of shelf ice — plant an imaginary “Keep Off!” sign and do so.  January is a bad time to go swimming on the Farmington.

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I did a little short-line nymphing, but with the water back at a near-normal level, I returned to the indicator for most of the day. I prefer indicator nymphing in conditions like these because I can cover a lot more water. I also like the indicator for the more subtle takes you sometimes get with winter fishing. (However, that wasn’t the case today. All three fish struck hard.) Two came on a Frenchie variant (black bead, UV Red Ice Dub), size 12 scud hook. I also went with 2 BB shot to slow my drift. It made for an abundance of false positives, but I think slower was the way to go.

Pure parr pulchritude. Alliteration aside (alas), this is one gorgeous creature. Check out the halos along the lateral line, and the old mouth wounds. He fought like a tiger, and I had a hard time getting him to sit still for a portrait. I will never tire of catching wild Farmington browns. 

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I find the concept of dark flies on dark days agreeable, so I made my top dropper a Starling and Herl, standard hook size 16. I love fishing soft-hackled flies like nymphs or deep emergers.

This was my biggest fish of the day. Starling and Herl.

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Thank you, CVTU (and a couple more small items)

Many thanks to the Candlewood Valley Trout Unlimited chapter for being most excellent hosts last night. The presentation was “The Little Things,” and I couldn’t have asked for a better audience (especially the gentleman in the front row who laughed at all my jokes). Thanks also for the pizza — a fed presenter is a happy presenter — and I’m looking forward to “The Little Things 2.0” with you all in the future.

I have a really fun job. Much better than desk work.

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Next up: “The Little Things,” Tuesday, January 17, 7pm, at Thames Valley TU, Bozrah, CT. Like above, this is the original Little Things. From the TVTU website: Fly tying starts at 6:00 p.m. and the meeting begins at 7:00 p.m. Meetings are open to the public and there is no charge so come and join us. For directions and stuff, visit thamesvalleytu.org.

And I see currentseams.com is edging its way toward 500 followers. We will, of course, be giving away some goodies to celebrate!

Ten Things You Should Know About Nighttime Fly Fishing For Big Trout

“Ten Things You Should Know About Nighttime Fly Fishing For Big Trout” first appeared in the August/September 2016 issue of Mid Atlantic Fly Fishing Guide. It’s part how-to, part humor, and I think you’ll like it. Even though they are no more, many thanks to MAFFG for allowing me to share it on currentseams.

The time between dusk and dawn has always inspired musicians. George Benson stated his affinity for it. Ray Charles declared its righteousness. Beyond poetic musings, nighttime also happens to be an excellent time to go trout fishing. So if, like Bob Seger, the night moves you, here are ten things to consider before you head out into the darkness.

Nighttime is prime time. Anglers who are serious about catching trophy trout know that nighttime is when the big boys and girls come out to play. Archetypical nocturnal creatures, lunker browns go on the prowl once the last light fades. They’ll venture into shallows where you’d never find them at high noon. Their targets include late-falling spinners, rodents going for an unexpected dip, and smaller fish foolish enough to swim in harm’s way. Bonus point: 95% of all other anglers are home in bed.

Someone’s been eating well. This chubby hen clobbered a mouse fly as it swung across the current. Every year, my biggest trout come subsurface – or at night.

Big wild brown hen 8-2015

Know the rules and regulations. Not all states or fishing areas allow night fishing. Be sure to check the regs before you head out.

Safety first! Never, ever fish previously unexplored water at night. I cannot emphasize this point enough. Many locations are a challenging wade in daylight. They’re going to be exponentially harder at night. Avoid them, and stick to areas with moderate-to-easy bottom structure and currents that you know well. Wear a personal floatation device. Tell someone where you’re going to be and when you plan to return. Wear safety glasses. Carry a wading staff, and use it. A smart phone with a compass app is always a good idea. If you’re fishing a tailwater, know the water release schedules and weather reports. And above all, use common sense.

Scout the area you’re going to fish in daylight. Make note of submerged logs, overhanging branches, tall grasses – anything that will eat your fly on your back cast, forward cast, or retrieve. Getting your fly out of a tree in daylight is difficult. At night, it’s nearly impossible. Wade the path you’ll likely be taking and make note of any rocks or structure that could possibly trip you up – as well as ledges that drop off into deep holes.

Nighttime is also the right time for articulated streamers, waking deer hair-head patterns such as Galloup’s Zoo Cougar, or impressionistic creations like this Deep Threat. While black is the most popular color at night, I have had success on olive, white, yellow, and many other colors and combinations.

Deep Threat

Learn how to cast at night. One of the most intimidating aspects of getting into the night fly game is that you generally can’t see what your line is doing. But I believe that casting should be mostly done by feel. So, practice your casting on dry land with your eyes shut or while wearing a blindfold. Feel how – and when – the rod loads. Before long, you’ll develop what athletic trainers call muscle memory. And when you hit the water, you won’t give your casting a second thought.

Night fishing can be unnerving. There’s a reason some people are terrified by dark rooms. Robbed of sight, our other senses – especially touch and hearing – go on high alert. Every noise is amplified. Our audio-fueled imaginations can’t help but generate worst-case scenarios. I still laugh at the time I thought I heard a noise in the woods behind me and turned around to see the glow of another angler’s headlamp. “Wow,” I said. “I didn’t even see you standing there.” It was then that I realized I was talking to a very large firefly hovering in the darkness. After a time, though, you get used to – and even relish – being alone in the dark. You hear nature’s night symphony in magnificent high fidelity. And on cloudless nights on the dark of the moon, the shooting stars are an ethereal treat. One night on a wooded river in eastern Connecticut, I had the strange sensation that I was not alone. I turned upstream. There, just 30 feet away from me, a doe and her three fawns were drinking from the cool, clear waters under the light of the waxing moon.

Beavers are not your friends. If you fish at night as often as I do, you will come to fear and loathe beavers. These highly territorial creatures inform you in no uncertain terms that you are not welcome. Their intimidation game begins with a mighty smack of tail on water. Next comes a warning swim around – or straight at you. Sometimes they submerge mid-swim, initiating a test of wills where you die a thousand deaths while trying to guess their present course. Healthy beavers are merely bullies; generally, if you don’t confront them, they won’t attack. But rabid ones are known to, and if you’ve ever seen what a beaver’s teeth can do to a tree trunk, you know an encounter with a rabid beaver must be avoided at all costs. Give all beavers a wide berth.

Get a headlamp with a red light. Bright white lights with hundreds of candlepower have little place in night fishing. The time it takes for the human eye to adjust from white light to complete darkness is much longer than the period going from red to dark. Then there’s the spook factor. If you were a fish feeding at night, wouldn’t sudden, bright beams of light be cause for alarm? Stay under cover of the night with a red beam.

Find a good mouse pattern and learn how to fish it. Originally popular on bass ponds and western rivers, the mouse fly has now become a staple of night fishing for trout from coast to coast. You don’t need an ultra-realistic pattern with ears and eyes and cute little whiskers – those accoutrements are solely for the benefit of humans. All you need is a pattern that rides on the surface and provides an attractive silhouette to predators. My current favorite mouse fly is Joe Cermele’s Master Splinter. It’s simple to tie (you can find the recipe through an internet search), it floats like a cork, and best of all, trout love it. Trout will take mice on the dead drift, the swing, the dangle, and the strip. Try all of them until you find some customers.

The pitted, scarred foam back of a Master Splinter mouse fly offers mute testimony to the savage nature of large browns.

Chewed Mouse

Know how big trout like to feed. The alpha fish of the pool, large brown trout will often stun their prey before administering the coup de grace. So when you feel that first whack, don’t set the hook. Because it’s counterintuitive, it’s a difficult concept to master. But it’s critical if you want that precious hookup. I’ve had big browns bump the fly a half-dozen times before finally striking with intent to eat. Don’t say no to a trout that has already said yes to your fly. The time to set the hook is when you feel the full weight of the fish on the end of your line. If you’re getting multiple taps and no hookups, it’s probably a more modestly sized trout. Big fish simply don’t miss.