Striper Report 3/30/20: doubleheader skunking

Not satisfied with yesterday’s Farmington River streamer spanking, I ventured out last night with old friend Bob for some more piscatorial abuse. We fished the Hous from 9pm to nearly midnight. Our reward was…bupkiss. Well, not exactly. Bob managed one tap on his plug (spinning for Bob, fly for me). On the plus side, I reacquainted myself with my two-handed cannon — the rust factor was minimal, and it felt good to bomb out 90 foot casts with little effort. Oh! I also managed to wade through the deepest hole I’ve ever ventured into without breaching my waders. So I suppose dry and skunked beats soaked and skunked. We’ll go with that.

Not from last night. But I did fish a Rock Island flatwing (eaten below), a high confidence herring pattern I developed many years ago. You can read about the Rock Island flatwing here.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Farmington River Report 3/30/20: Bump. But no WHUMP!

I thought this would be a great day for streamers with the river up (615cfs in the permanent TMA) and the substantial cloud cover. ‘Twas not. I fished four marks from noon-2:30pm, and could manage only two bumps in one of them. At least the river was not the mob scene I expected — I had three runs all to myself. So, the whump will have to wait for another day. Hatch monitors, take note: lots and lots and lots of tiny (size 22-26) BWOs on the water. Thanks to everyone who took the time to say hello!

This was supposed to be a picture of a gator brown, but my quarry was most uncooperative. I’m still really surprised I didn’t get more action, at least from smaller trout. Today’s streamers were Coffey’s Sparkle Minnow (pictured below) and the Hi-Liter. This Sparkle Minnow is the size of a good shiner, one of my favorite baits from my spinning days.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

Small Stream Report: The natives aren’t restless

Thursday was small stream fishing day. March isn’t exactly the wheelhouse for a small stream — there’s no canopy, the water is typically up and cold, and the wild brookies haven’t moved out of their winter lies — but Cam and I went for no other reason than to enjoy the woods and pretend we were many miles from civilization.

As I suspected, the action was painfully slow. We rose and landed one char all day. Yet, what better way to feel alive than to be out on a thin blue line and be so warm you’ve got to start removing layers?

Given the conditions, we decided stealth was in order. Here’s Cam doing a little commando fishing. We started off with bushy size 14 dries; after those went unmolested, I added a tiny nymph dropper to my rig. Still no love, so tied on an ICU Sculpin for Cam to jig in some deeper plunges. That’s what he’s doing here. 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

~

We saw a decent number of bugs: omnipresent midges, and a few small (size 18) tan caddis. But the brookies remained hunkered down. Finally, as we were bushwhacking out, I invoked the “One More Cast” Rule. The slashing strike came out of nowhere. After a few more rises on a waking presentation, I decided a size 14 Stimulator was too big. On went a size 16 Humpy, and the next cast produced this fine buck.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Thanks to the Gov for opening the season early!

Leisenring’s July Dun Nymph

We wrap up the series of Leisenring’s favorite soft-hackled nymphs with the July Dun Nymph. No doubt Leisenring thought the July Dun matched the summertime bugs he encountered on his beloved Pennsylvania creeks. Certainly this fly could cover any number of small, dark nymphs that trout would think are good to eat.

I hope you enjoyed this little stroll down legacy fly pattern lane!

Leisenring’s July Dun Nymph

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

~

Hook: 15, 16
Silk: Orange waxed with colorless wax.
Hackle: One turn of very short, soft-rusty-dun cock hackle.
Tail: Three fibers of a ginger hen’s hackle tied very short.
Rib: Fine gold wire halfway up the body.
Body: Darkish-brown-olive seal fur.
Body: Medium-dun mole fur.
~
Tying notes: You don’t need to use precious tying silk on a pattern like this one (says the guy who used silk). Hen replaces cock for the hackle. Dark Olive Squirrel SLF Spikey Dubbing replaces seal fur. Leisenring uses mole in many of his patterns; a standard-issue mole skin will keep you in thoraxes till your old age. (Mike Hogue has some good skins at Badger Creek.) If you don’t have a mole skin, try rabbit.

NY steelhead report March 16 & 17: Why I don’t go to casinos

It has nothing to do with the current public health crisis. It has nothing to do with planning (I go when I’m able to). It’s simply this: the days I go will be the wrong days. Period. Bad luck? We’re talking gargantuan, steaming piles of elephant dung luck. At least that’s the way it’s been the last few trips.

For ten minutes in early November, I was warm. (Yes, it was as cold as it looks.)

Seventeendegrees

To wit: last November. Good conditions. People are catching. I arrive the moment a major cold front comes through and witness the bite stop in its tracks. The next day, blank. And miserably cold. The next day, one steelhead. Even colder. Big picture: the cold front turns into a long-lasting pattern. It not only kills the bite but the entire migration. So when I go later in the month, I feel like king of the world when I manage one steelhead over two days.

Which brings us to my trip last week with Gordo.

What a shock! We started the trip as a high pressure cold front settled in. Ice in the guides until 1pm. We floated from Altmar to Pineville and saw five fish landed all day. (We had three of them.) I suppose that’s reason to smile. My steelhead came on an old Salmon River favorite, the Copperhead Stone.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

~

Day two: crik stompin’. The fish were there. They just didn’t want to eat. Not even egg sacks. Gordo and Jim each hooked and quickly dropped a few — that’s how subtle and non-committal the takes were. I managed one lonely domestic rainbow. Did I mention that it was cold and wet and miserable? (Sigh…) Big moment: this was Gordo’s first time in waders walking a stream. He did a tremendous job.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

~

Today we are thankful for right-of-ways.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

~

We finished up at a very mysterious deep hole with only room for one. So Gordo bounced his implements of destruction along the bottom of the maelstrom. Even though he’s using a spinning rod, the technique is very tight-line nymphing. Again, there were a few takes, but sadly no firm commitments.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

So, two cold days of terrible action. Or maybe this: I got to go steelheading with my son. I wasn’t working. I had my first cigars since Christmas. I landed a steelhead. We were outside and free and fishing.

Pretty lucky, Steve.

 

 

 

Leisenring’s Pale Watery Nymph (light-colored dun version)

This is the second Pale Watery Nymph listed in Leisenring’s book. He adds the qualifier, “effective when light-colored duns are on the water.” No doubt. Buggy, simple, and highly edible.

Leisenring’s Pale Watery Nymph (light-colored duns)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

~

Hook: 15, 16
Silk: White, waxed with colorless wax
Hackle: One turn of very short honey dun cock hackle.
Tail: Three strands of very short, soft-blue-dun cock fibers.
Rib: None.
Body: Undyed seal fur or pale buff Australian opossum fur dubbed lightly at the tail and thicker at the thorax.
~
Tying notes: Absent cock hackle, I used hen. I didn’t have the right color opossum, so I used Hareline Dubbin rabbit. This is a very straightforward tie.

For your listening pleasure: “Trout Fishing For Striped Bass with Steve Culton,” a Saltwater Edge podcast

I’m pleased to share a new podcast hosted by the Saltwater Edge. Peter Jenkins, Saltwater Edge owner (and one of the tireless heroes behind the American Saltwater Guides Association) hosts and asks questions. Yours truly does most of the talking. So…what two striper flies can I not live without? Why are intermediate lines so limiting? How important is presentation? Where’s the best place to fish off a jetty? What’s all this trout fishing for striped bass nonsense about anyway? Listen in and enjoy!

Listen: Trout Fishing For Striped Bass With Steve Culton.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

W.C. Stewart’s spiders from “The Practical Angler,” in list form with photos

I recently published a short feature series on W.C. Stewart’s spiders, three ancient and traditional Scottish soft hackles. They first appeared in print in Stewart’s 1857 book “The Practical Angler or the Art of Trout Fishing, more Particularly Applied to Clear Water.” Here now is a single reference list of the trio: the Black Spider, Red Spider, and Dun Spider, a photo of each pattern, and a link to the original post with my comments and tying instructions. If you’re interested in reading an online copy of Stewart’s Book, you can find one here.

W.C. Stewart on the soft-hackled feather: “So soft are they, that when a spider is made of one of them and placed in the water, the least motion will agitate and impart a singularly life-like appearance to it.” — W.C. Stewart

W.C Stewart’s Black Spider

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

~

W.C. Stewart’s Red Spider

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

~

W.C. Stewart’s Dun Spider

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

~

Apply these to clear water near you, and let your mind wander back a few centuries. Picture Stewart on a wee Scottish burn, fishing his beloved spiders upstream…

 

Question of the Day: Greased Soft Hackles and Sinking Leaders, or: things I don’t do

Most of you know me as a teaching guide. But fishing education is not just limited to time spent on the water. I received this question via email last week, and I thought it was such good one that I decided to share it here and expand on my answer. As always, no such thing as a dumb question!

Q: Do you usually grease your soft hackles to sink or do you just use a slow sink leader? 

A: I don’t, and I do not.

Ixnay on the easegray.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Let’s start with the term “grease.” In wet fly fishing (or any fishing with mended swings) “grease” conjures up images of high-floating elements. Back in the day, a line was greased to make it float, therefore making it possible to mend. You can grease a fly, too, to help it float, and sometimes I do. Example: small stream fishing with a Stimulator. I’ll dust the hackles with silica powder, but I’ll use Gehrke’s Gink gel floatant on the elk hair wing.

But there are also gels that help stuff sink (like Gehrke’s Xink.) Here’s why I would never use something like that on a soft hackle: the last thing I want is to put any kind of coating on those precious, fine-stemmed barbules. I want them moving and quivering and creating the illusion that the fly is alive. What’s more, I mostly fish my soft hackles just beneath the surface film or perhaps a foot below; this is the place after all, where so many emergers get eaten. You do your best business on Main Street, right?

When it comes to lines, I only use floaters for wet fly fishing. My leaders (droppers) are constructed of Maxima. If I want to help sink the rig, I’ll use a brass or tungsten bead head fly on point. Mending — doable only with a floating line — helps introduce the slack required to let gravity do its thing. If I want to get the team deep for a nymph-like presentation along the bottom, I’ll attach a split shot to the leader just above the knot that forms the middle dropper. This will create a seat for the shot so it won’t slip down the leader. You can read more about the black arts of sinking your wet flies here.

Hope that helps, and thanks for the excellent question.

Sing it with me: “Get down, get down…” 

AddingWeightWetFlyTeam

 

“Little Things 3.0” March 31 at Russell Library postponed

Due to the evolving coronavirus situation, my seminar, “The Little Things 3.0,”  originally scheduled for March 31 at the Russell Library in Middletown, CT, has been postponed. The earliest possible rescheduling would be mid-April, but there is no target date. My apologies for any inconvenience.

If you’re attending my Wet Flies & Soft Hackles class this Saturday, please come healthy, and it’s BYOHS (Bring Your Own Hand Sanitizer).

You cannot get coronavirus from kissing a fish.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA