This weekend, I received a question about tying Leisenring’s March Brown Nymph. The reader wanted to know if I thought three pheasant tail fibers for the body was enough. As you can see from my original writeup, I had a few initial questions (or opinions) about the recipe as well. Here’s a little more about my M.O. when I’m tying a pattern for the first time.
I always like to honor the original recipe — at least in the beginning. I want to see what the the tier had in mind, what his or her vision of the pattern was, and perhaps try to figure out what they were trying to accomplish in terms of materials and look. In the case of Leisenring, a giant in the pantheon of American wet fly fishing, respect to the original was surely due. If Big Jim liked the pattern enough to include it in his book, that carried a significant weight. But, even if the pattern creator isn’t on the fly fishing Mount Rushmore, I still like to stick to the original design.
Now, there’s nothing that says you can’t improvise. Indeed, countless patterns have been improved upon because other tyers asked, “what if I?…” So, for example, if there’s a stone fly pattern I’m tying and I think — do I really need that wing case? — I might leave it out after a few iterations. If you’re really curious about discovering the necessity of certain elements or materials, use droppers. Tie one fly according to the original, and then tie one fly your way. Place them on droppers, change the positions frequently to keep it a fair fight, and see if the fish have any preference. Droppers are always the fastest way to find out what the fish want.
Many thanks to my old friends at the Narragansett TU Chapter for hosting me last night. It’s so wonderful to see everyone again, and I thank TU225 for their continued support. The topic was fishing the Farmington River’s West Branch (the official title is: The West Branch — Southern New England’s Blue Ribbon Trout Stream). It’s an overview of the river that covers everything from popular pools to hatches to gear to when and how. If you’re looking to fill a presentation slot for your club this spring, I still have open dates. Here’s a link to my current presentation menu.
Speaking of the Farmington River, here’s an info sheet — one page, one side — that gives you some good, basic information on the Goodwin (AKA Hogback Dam) and Colebrook Dams. It doesn’t explain the dispute between the MDC and the ACE — or why the MDC is holding the river hostage — but at least you can understand why the water releases have been the way they have been. (What a shock! It’s all about money.) Many thanks to Farmington River Watershed Association for sharing!
In case you don’t know, here’s a micro-brief recap: since last summer, the MDC has, for whatever reason, been releasing only the minimum amount of cfs required by law from the Hogback dam. This has resulted in, at times, unnecessary ultra-low flows, transforming the Farmington River from a lush aquatic playground into a pathetic rock garden, and certainly damaging fish and wildlife populations. To my knowledge, no one knows what the MDC’s end game is.
Right now, a group of state senators is crafting legislation that seeks greater transparency from the MDC, albeit in the form of such things as an ethics code and approval on water rates. This doesn’t really help anglers; however, the Connecticut League of Conservation Voters and the Rivers Alliance of Connecticut are also involved. I plan to reach out to those groups and to the biartisan state senator group to voice my concerns. I’ll let you know what, if anything, I find out.
I do know there is going to be a specific forum in the future for concerned parties to express their concerns about the unconscionable way the MDC is treating the river. When I get data’s on that public comment event, you can be sure I’ll post more about it here.
I know from procrastination. I’m a professional writer. I’ve been procrastinating since my days at Roosevelt Junior High. I advanced my grasp of the art form in college. And perfected it as an adult.
But I’ve got nothing on the ASMFC’s Striped Bass Management Board.
My best attempt at situation distillation is this: the Board was meeting on the issue of allowing the transfer of commercial quotas between states. They put the issue out for public comment last year. Of the thousands of conscientious stakeholders who responded, a whopping 98% voted in favor of NOT allowing transfers. So the board decided to…(Don’t bother with a drum roll. You probably know where this is going.) …kick the can down the road. Do further studies on the impact of commercial transfers, then come back to the issue in May. Not necessarily awful. But they didn’t even mention the option that the vast majority of stakeholders favored. It’s as if we didn’t exist. Tone deaf, bad form, and so characteristic of a badly broken committtee.
At this point it would be easy for all of us to throw up our hands in frustration and quit. I exhort you to not do it. In fact, this should only steel our resolve. Some day, and that day is coming, we are going to win. And so will the stripers.
Surfcasting Around The Block II — Forty Years of Striped Bass Surfcasting Stories, Articles and Legends from the Islands of Block and Aquidneck is on the shelves! Dennis Zambrotta’s much-anticipated follow-up to his out-of-print classic Surfcasting Around The Block is actually a group effort with multiple contributing authors — many of them Block Island surfcasting legends. Although the focus is on fishing the island with spinning gear, the astute fly caster will be able to glean a treasure trove of information on fishing the island.
And yes, there are two chapters devoted to fly fishing Block Island authored by yours truly. The first part is a story about a particularly memorable Block Island All-Nighter. The second covers gearing up for fly fishing on Block Island. Where can you get Surfcasting Around The Block II (ISBN979-8-218-07120-2)? The Saltwater Edge. The Island Bound Bookstore. And The Surfcaster. Happy reading!
I’m delighted to have piece in the diamond issue of Surfcaster’s Journal. Meditations on the Sand Eel and a Floating Line is exactly what it sounds like: my thoughts on fishing this important bait using traditional patterns and salmonid tactics — and catching more striped bass. Most anglers I see targeting stripers feeding on sand eels use intermediate lines and weighted flies. They’re missing out, and typically only catching the stripers that are willing to chase. Some of the answers to the mysteries of “How come I can’t catch those bass?” when they’re feeding on sand eels are unveiled within.
Surfcaster’s Journal is an online e-zine. If you’re not reading it, you should be. Although the focus is primarily on using spinning gear, there is some in-depth fly casting content (like this piece) — and there is plenty of invaluable information that may be gleaned from the traditional surfcasting articles. It’s only 20 bucks for a year. You can subscribe here.
Mini-striper report 10/16/22: I fished for several hours last night with surfcaster extraordinaire Toby Lapinski. He was plugging and I was on the 2H fly rod. Conditions appeared to be perfect, but the neither the bass not the bait got the memo. Toby managed two school bass and yours truly took the skunk. Toby had a trenchant analysis of the evening, which, as you have not yet heard it, I will now precede to relate: “Bleaaahhhh.” That’s a direct quote.
Scuds are everywhere. In case you don’t know what they are, scuds are freshwater invertebrates. They look a lot like tiny shrimp. You find them on the bottoms of rivers, and where they’re prevalent, they’re an important food source. Scuds are common in many tailwater systems, and I’ve recently come to the realization that I haven’t ever fished them much. That’s been a mistake.
For example, the Housatonic River is loaded with scuds. That I haven’t ever fished a scud fly there seems foolhardy at best. I can imagine the same for the Farmington River. Although the Farmington isn’t known for scuds, a good scud fly will look alive and like something good to eat — so why wouldn’t a trout partake?
To get you started, here’s a great little scud fly from renowned Colorodo guide and new friend Pat Dorsey. It’s called the UV Scud, and you can find the recipe in this tying video. Fish on!
I don’t typically do a lot of flats or sight fishing on the beach for stripers in the summer. But on those rare occasions when I do, I have a small box ready to go. This is a small Orvis Day’s Worth Box (sadly no longer available). I also like this box a lot. The dimensions are roughly 4 1/4″ x 3″ x 1 1/4″. It’s not waterproof, but its clamshell snaps shut tight thanks to some strong magnets. Smooth foam on one side, and scalloped foam on the other.
Organizing and replenishing my summer striper box is an annual ritual. I thought you might like to see how I do it. The left side of my box is the busiest, in terms of number of flies and how often I’m dipping into it. This is the left side, the sand eel side, and I’m covered for both matchstick sand eels and larger ones up to about 5″. Let’s start with the box: it’s a C&F Design Permit Box, completely waterproof, four rows of slit foam, 7 3/4″ x 4 1/2″ x 1 2/3″. I’ve had this box for years, and I love it.