I’ll be presenting one of my most popular fly fishing programs, “The Little Things,” at the Russell Library in Middletown, CT, Wednesday May 1 from 6pm-8pm. I’ll kick things off with a short fly tying demo, then we’ll go straight into the program, and finish with Q&A. This presentation is all about seemingly insignificant things that can make a huge difference in your fishing success. Everyone is welcome — hope to see you there! Here’s a link to the Russell Library website.
Want to catch more fish? Want to catch bigger fish? This is a good place to start.
It’s the modern paradigm in the northeast: water flows are seemingly either off-the-charts high or bone-dry low. Normally, at this time of year I’d be writing to you about the tremendous wet fly bite on the Hendrickson hatch. The Hendricksons may indeed by hatching on the lower Farmington River, but you’d be hard-pressed to find any near-surface action in these flows. 800cfs is about the tipping point for surface action on the lower river — it’s been over 1K for the entire time you’d expect to start seeing Hendrickson action, and yesterday’s deluge will keep us out of wet fly range into May.
George Harrison was right.
It’s not much better in the Permanent TMA, which is flowing at almost 2K this morning. Sure, the Still will fall, but it’s been a challenging spring for anglers. And you can forget the Hous for now. That river has been a high water nightmare since last summer.
Don’t get me wrong: I prefer too high over too low, and you can catch fish in higher flows if you know where and how. All I’m asking of Mother Nature is a little moderation. Please?
Oh yeah, we’ve got some serious striper thumb going. (Bonus points if you knew the Zappa reference in the title.) The Bass-O-Matic is on. No real size to them — my larger ones were in the 20-22 inch class — but they’re eager and spirited and you’ll feel like an instant expert. The new two-hander continues to be a learning experience. I’m not close to being dialed in (the right line will help significantly with that) but it felt good to be casting a 100 foot line and seeing the backing through the remaining line on the reel. Fished a Soft-Hackled Flatwing, a Crazy Menhaden hybrid, and then for giggles a deer hair-headed beast so I could watch the hysterical antics of bass chasing on the surface. You know, I almost forgot that it was pouring.
Get in line and catch a few.
Yeah. Hard times for fly casters yesterday with a sustained 15 knot southwest blow in our faces (and an especially unfavorable quarter for lefties) with some stronger gusts mixed in. I debuted my new custom two-hander, but I don’t have the right lines for it yet and it wasn’t the synergy I know I’ll eventually enjoy. Still, some small bass were brought to hand, and they felt like giants in a ripping moon tide.
A Soft Hackled Flatwing in RLS Easterly colors (grey dun and fluorescent yellow) caught the eyes of several feisty schoolies. The colors really popped in yesterday’s conditions.
So simple, so elegant, so effective. The Soft-Hackled Flatwing borrows from many sources, all of them wonderful and good. I love this fly for early season school bass, and it makes a fine generic baitfish year-round. Just tailor the color and length to the bait you’re matching et voila! And remember: eyes on flies catch anglers. Not stripers.
Impressionism rules the day. If you’re interested in learning more about soft hackles for stripers, read “Soft Hackles for Striped Bass” from the Nov/Dec 2015 issue of American Angler.
Here’s the basic template:
Hook: Eagle Claw 253 1/0
Platform: 30 bucktail hairs
Tail: Flatwing saddle to match platform color, under 2-4 strands flashabou
Wing: 30-45 bucktail hairs, under 10-20 hairs contrasting color, under 2-4 strands Krystal Flash or flashabou
Collar: Blood quill marabou, tied in at tip, 3-4 turns; 1 turn mallard flank (optional)
Congratulations to Ron, Toby, and Michael, our three winners in the Currentseams.com 700 followers contest! Each will be receiving a selection of a dozen wet flies, including classic North Country spiders, Leisenring’s favorites, traditional American wet patterns, and a couple Culton originals. Some of the flies are the actual ones featured in the photos for this winter’s wet fly series.
I had hoped to get these out today, but it will have to wait for the weekend or Monday. I’ll let the winners know when I ship.
A heartfelt thank you to everyone for reading and following currentseams. Without you, I wouldn’t be able to do this. Tight lines to all, and on to 800!
Gentlemen, start your drooling. From left to right, Ron’s, Toby’s, and Michael’s dozen. Get these wet and do us proud, gentlemen — and of course, we want to see photos.
What a deep, dark, buggy design. No wonder Leisenring loved this fly. Although only two medium hook sizes are specified, I can see this translating to a 2x short scud hook in a 16 or 18, and strategically placed as the top dropper in your nymph rig. Not what the creator had in mind, but surely the trout would support the decision. The real beauty of this bug may be in that it does not look like anything in particular, but a lot of things in general. Bravo, Big Jim!
This concludes the series of James Leisenring’s favorite twelve wet fly patterns. I hope you’ve enjoyed it. Stay tuned for more good wet fly stuff on currentseams.
Iron Blue Nymph
Silk: Crimson or claret
Hackle: Two turns of a very short cock jackdaw throat hackle
Tail: Two or three soft white fibers tied very short
Body: Dark mole fur spun on crimson or claret tying silk with two or three turns of the silk exposed at tail.
As with the Tup’s Nymph, I would suggest a 2x strong hook. I only had jackdaw wings, so I used a short covert for the hackle; you can also substitute California quail throat for the jackdaw, or use a dark charcoal grey hen hackle. White hen for tail. You can find a general North Country spider video tutorial here.
Here we have Leisenring’s take on the English classic Tups Indispensable. (Bonus points if you know the meaning of “Tups,” and its relevance to the pattern. Hint: it has to do with sheep mating. Really.) The original across-the-pond pattern was intended as an olive spinner imitation. But when I see this fly, I think Yellow Sallies, Suplhurs, and Light Cahills. Or we could just go with “Pale Wateries” and be done with it. Once again, best to leave it to the trout to decide what it is. Leisenring specified a heavy wire hook to help sink the fly: “I have no use for a weighted nymph because they do not swim naturally.” (Take that, future Euro-nymphers!) The Tup’s Nymph was another high confidence pattern for Big Jim, as evidenced by this statement: “This is the best all-around nymph I have found.” Try it on point on your three-fly team, or as the top dropper on your nymph rig.
Silk: Primrose yellow
Hackle: Very small light-blue hen hackle or medium-dark honey dun hen hackle
Body: Halved: rear half of primrose-yellow buttonhole twist; thorax or shoulder of yellow and claret seal fur mixed dubbing spun on primrose-yellow silk.
Tail: Two honey dun hackle points (Leisenring omits the tail in his listing of twelve favorites; the photo in the book shows a tail. Do as you please.)
I would suggest a 2x strong hook. The dark honey dun hackle might be more suggestive of an olive. We’re back to the DMC embroidery floss (#744) as our buttonhole twist substitute. Although Leisenring says the body is halved, his step-by-step illustrations in the book (and the pattern photo) show more of a 2/3 abdomen to 1/3 thorax ratio. Substitute Angora goat for seal fur. You can find a general North Country spider video tutorial here.
We see the North Country influence again in Leisenring’s Pale Watery Dun Wingless. Leisenring chose the noun dun wisely, as this is clearly more adult than emerger — heck, you could even go spinner. It’s a far different pattern than the Pale Watery Wingless (AKA The Magic Fly) I tie; my version is more Usual than Poult Bloa, and I use it almost exclusively for the emerger stage. For Farmington River anglers, the Pale Watery Dun Wingless has Light Cahills written all over it, and I know of a certain pod of trout on a certain stretch of river that will be driven absolutely out of their minds by this fly on an early June evening.
Pale Watery Dun Wingless
Hook: Dry or wet fly, 12-14
Silk: Primrose yellow
Hackle: Pale honey dun
Tail: Two or three pale honey dun cock fibers
Body: Natural raffia grass, lacquer optional
A light ginger hen neck makes a lovely pale honey dun. Use it for the hackle and the tailing material. I went all in on authenticity and bought a bundle of raffia grass online; you’ll need to strip or cut a strand so it’s about 1/16th of an inch wide. Treat it like tinsel: attach behind the hackle, wind to the tail, then back, making a nice segmented body. I can’t imagine this fly would last without some kind of lacquer, so I used Sally Hansen’s HAN. If you don’t want to bother with raffia grass, the fish will not object to straw colored silk or thread or even Swiss straw. You can find a general North Country spider video tutorial here.
Here we have Big Jim’s take on the legendary GRHE. (Sounds like a British title: Sir James Leisenring, GRHE.) Buggy, spikey, flashy, and who doesn’t love a pattern made with wood duck — or “mandarin” as they called it back in the day. I have to confess that I’d just as soon dispense with the wings, but Leisenring thought differently. He wrote, “I use an English woodcock feather for winging this fly because it has a bar lacking in our American woodcock. By taking one of these sepia-colored secondary feathers with the buff bar, I dress my Hare’s Ear with a buff tip to their wings and find it very effective.”
Hook: Wet fly, 13-14 (I used a 1xl)
Silk: Primrose yellow
Hackle: None: a few fibers of dubbing picked out for legs
Tail: Two or three fibers of the fine mottled feather of a wood duck or mandarin duck
Rib: Very narrow flat gold tinsel
Body: Fur from the lobe or base of a hare’s ear spun on primrose-yellow silk
Wings: English woodcock secondaries with buff tips
Tying Notes: The tail on this fly is why you save those precious leftover wood duck scraps from winging Dark Hendricksons and Light Cahills. It’s easy enough to dip into your Hareline Dubbin bag o’ hare’s ear, but go out and buy the actual mask for a more authentic tying experience. (Not to mention you can pick and choose the color and texture of the fur.) I used a tool to pick out fur along the length of the body. Buggy is good!