Winter catch-and-release: Avoid frozen gills and eyes

With single digit temperatures again in the forecast, this seems like a good time to talk about cold weather catch-and-release best practices. When the temperature is so low that you’ve got ice forming on your waders, or your line and leader sports frozen droplets the moment they hit the air, you should be thinking about what could happen to a fish’s gills or eyes if exposed to that same frigid air.

When it’s Everest summit cold out there, try to keep fish in the water as much as possible. Absolute best practice would be to never remove the fish from the water. If you must take a picture, keep the fish in the water (in your fish-friendly landing net) until you’re ready to shoot. Then it’s 1-2-3, lift, shoot, and get that fish back in the water ASAP. Limit your number of shots. Please remember that damage time is measured in seconds.

It was in the teens when this picture was taken. We probably shouldn’t have done it. On the plus side you can see water still dripping from my hands, which indicates the shot came moments after the steelhead was lifted from the net. Photo by Peter Jenkins.
Option B is much safer for the fish. I know, it’s not the same, but Arctic air can be cruel on your favorite gamefish’s gills. How cold is it? You can see droplets and sections of ice already forming on my waders. Photo by Peter Jenkins.

New date for “Summer on the Farmington” Film: Thursday, Feb 24

I’m hoping you’ll join me for the new world premier (ok, so no searchlights, tuxes, gowns, or red carpet, but still it’s technically accurate) of Director Matthew Vinick’s film, “Summer on the Farmington.” Same place (Brewery Legitimus in New Hartford), same time (7pm), new date (Thursday, February 24)! You can only get tickets in advance online through the FRAA. Hopefully this current spike will be over and we can look forward to enjoying a tasty craft brew.

Marlborough Fly Fishing Show postponed — new dates April 22-23-24!

Here’s the official announcement/FAQ: “It wasn’t an easy decision but, after reaching out to our exhibitors, celebrities and staff, we made the conscious decision to postpone the 2022 Marlborough show for a myriad of obvious reasons. The new dates are April 22-24, 2022 We hope you can make it!

Q. What if I already bought an Advanced Show Ticket? A. Your ticket will be good whether you purchased it before or after our date change. Be sure to bring along either a physical or digital copy.

Q. What if I already signed up for a Featured Class? A. If you know you can’t make the show in April, please contact us and we will issue a refund. If you plan to attend you do not need to do anything. You will automatically be transferred unless we have to move a time or instructor. In that case we will reach out once we confirm the class schedule.

Q. How do I purchase advanced tickets for the April show? A. You can purchase advanced tickets by clicking here https://www.eventbrite.com/…/fly-fishing-show….”

I think this was a good decision, and my hope is that those of you who were on the fence about attending will be more comfortable with the new date. I don’t have my revised schedule yet, but I assume that I will still be doing a seminar, class, and tying demo. Note that the Edison Show for Jan 28-29-30 is still on! I’ll be appearing on Friday and Saturday, and I’m hoping for another great showing from my readers.

“Summer on the Farmington” film premier postponed; CFFA Show cancelled

Damn you, Omicron! Sadly, this recent COVID spike has forced the postponement of Director Matthew Vinick’s world premier of “Summer on the Farmington.” Originally slated for Wednesday January 12, no make-up date has been posted — but I’ll let you know when it comes down. Certainly it was a difficult decision, but it’s surely the right one. And we still have something cool and wonderful to look forward to! (Not to mention craft beer.)

Also noteworthy is the CFFA’s decision to cancel their Expo Saturday, February 5. That’s two years in a row with no “best little fly fishing show in New England.” But we also appreciate the CFFA’s concern for us, and we will look forward to its triumphant return in 2023.

It’d advise going fishing, but really, it looks brutal over the next few days. Me, I’m going to be working on presentations and tying and dreaming about warmer weather, hungry fish, and tight lines.

Here’s to being able to feel your fingers…and an end to this damn pandemic!

Fly Fishing Show 2022, Edison: Steve Culton seminars and classes

My schedule is up for the 2022 Fly Fishing Show in Edison, NJ, January 28-29-30. On Friday, Jan 28, 4:30pm in the Catch Room, I’ll be presenting a brand new seminar, Modern Wet Fly Strategies. This is mostly new material, and folks, I’m really excited about this one! Modern Wet Fly Strategies builds on the basics of Wet Flies 101 and expands on the tactics of Wet Flies 2.0. With new video and content, this is a more detailed program about wet flies and wet fly fishing. Topics include matching hatches, situational use of wet fly types, presentation options, gear, and the tactical use of wet flies under varying conditions and situations. A must for anyone who wants to improve his or her subsurface game! Admission is included in your ticket price.

Trout still don’t know that this soft hackle pattern is hundreds of years old. They just know that it looks like something good to eat.

Saturday, January 29, is another busy day. At 9:45 in the Strike Room, I’ll be debuting another seminar, Finding Small Stream Nirvana. Fly fishing a small stream is possibly the closest an angler can get to touching fly fishing’s soul. Small streams are everywhere, from remote woodlands to hiding in plain sight in urban areas. In addition to gear, flies, tactics and strategies, I’ll also discuss how to discover your own small stream paradise. Finding Small Stream Nirvana will be eastern brook trout-centric, but will also cover non-natives like wild browns. Lots of cool video in this one. As with all seminars, admission is included in your ticket price.

Very small stream nirvana…

At 2pm, you can take my class Tying and Fishing Wet Flies. Learn to tie and fish classic North Country spiders and other wet flies that trout can’t resist. The course also covers basics like leader construction, fly selection, where to fish wet flies, and how to fish them. Intermediate skill level. This is a paid class, and you have to sign up through the Fly Fishing Show. Here’s the sign-up link.

And of course, there’s the Marlborough Show the weekend before, January 21-22-23. I’m hoping to see lots of currentseams folks at both shows — please come say hello!

The 2021 Last Blast: Going out small

I don’t remember when I started doing it, but at some point I got into the habit of fishing a small stream on New Year’s Eve day. There’s a lot I like about it, not the least of which is tradition. But to end the fishing year on a small stream seems romantic, poetic, and just generally good for the soul. It’s arguably fly fishing at its most innocent. Not every year has worked out — youth hockey tournaments have been a primary culprit — but I’ve managed to do it quite a bit.

This year I took a fishing buddy, Toby Lapinski. We hauled out into the deep, dark woods on a day that had no right to be the last few hours of December. We did a brisk brookie business (say that three times fast!) once we figured out where they were willing to eat. Add a celebratory pre-New Year’s cigar, and we sent 2021 off in fine form. Don’t forget to get your 2022 license!

Why is Toby bottom bouncing in one of my favorite dry fly pools? Because we devised a brilliant plan to find out what the fish wanted. Toby started with a tungsten bead-head micro Squirmy Worm thingy, while I fished a bushy dry/glass bead dropper. The char voted overwhelmingly for the bottom. Toby was nearing double-digit hookups before I even got a sniff on the dry. Even my tiny midge nymph dropper went largely unscathed. I do love making them come up, but with the water on the upper side of perfect and running very cold, I switched to running deep mode. And that simple move was the difference between fishing and catching.
Me being stubborn with the dry. Alas, ’twas not to be, although I did get one to latch on in this lovely little bit of water. I made what passes for a cast, then dangled and waked the fly while making a rough figure-8 with my rod tip. There’s an awful lot of green for the day before January 1! Tightest of lines to all of you in 2022. Photo by Toby Lapinski.