An in-depth, must-read synopsis of Tuesday's ASMFC striped bass meeting from one of the commissioners

Captain John McMurray (NY), to whom I gave high marks as I listened to the chaos of the webinar, has put together a wonderful synopsis of Tuesday’s meeting. John had the advantage (or as some wags might suggest, disadvantage) of being there, witnessing, and participating in the entire process. This is a must-read, folks. You can find it here.

In the meantime, if you fish for stripers in Rhode Island, please send an email to RI commissioner Jason McNamee asking to reconsider voting in favor of the 28″-35″ slot limit. Ask for your comment to be entered into the public record. They’re meeting on it this Monday! I’d like to see a roll call of everyone who sends an email in the comments section.

Three takeaways from yesterday's Winter 2020 ASMFC Meeting

It wasn’t as bad as I’d feared. It wasn’t as good as I’d hoped. Welcome to the wonderful world of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission winter meetings. Yesterday’s focus was on discussing and formalizing each state’s Conservation Equivalency proposals. Almost 24 hours later, here are three big takeaways.

Settle in for a cup of tea. This might take a while.

The ASMFC is structurally and procedurally bloated. An efficient organization this is not. The webinar was audio only, so it made a helter-skelter meeting like this one even more challenging to follow. At times it was like watching a Bergman film — you try your best to keep up but you’re never really sure what’s going on. And I’m not the only one who saw it that way — the chairman of the meeting described it, and I’ll quote, as “chaotic.” Maybe it’s just as well that the meeting wasn’t video broadcast — surely you could lump the ASMFC Winter 2020 CE decisions along with laws and sausages as things you should never see being made.

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My reaction to some states’ CE proposals can best be summed up by Otto, who so eloquently stated: “Disappointed!!!” (That includes you, Rhode Island.)

Beware of rogue states within the ASMFC. North Korea, Iran, Syria, Sudan, and…New Jersey? Let’s not forget Maryland, who along with New Jersey have some rather — ahem — creative ideas on how to best conserve and restore our rapidly dwindling stocks of striped bass. Remember in “A Fish Called Wanda,” when Wanda reminds Otto that the central message of Buddhism is not “Every man for himself?” Someone should point out to Maryland and New Jersey that the ASMFC mission is not, “Kill as many striped bass as you can under the cloak of conservation.” Nope, those emperors don’t have new clothes. They’re wearing the same crappy, poorly camouflaged outfits they’ve been sporting for years. Kudos to those who saw through their charades, like…

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Some ASMFC Commissioners get it. If a state’s CE proposal fails to achieve target results, that state should be held accountable, right? High fives to those commissioners who called out certain CE proposals, effectively telling those states to behave and eat its broccoli. Apologies in advance to those I missed, but here are a few of the people who fought the good fight yesterday: Justin Davis (CT). Capt. John McMurray (NY). Ritchie White (NH). Pat Keliher (ME). Again, these are only a few of the people I could positively identify. A very sincere thank you to all of you who are trying to save our stripers. If you’re reading this, why not take a few minutes to send them an email of thanks and support. You can find that list here.

Is anybody there? Does anybody care? Some commissioners clearly do. Especially those who understand that killing this fish now doesn’t bode well for the future.

Wet fly fishing questions answered

I had some excellent Q&A sessions about wet fly fishing at the Marlborough and Edison Fly Fishing shows (great job, people!) and I wanted to share some of what we discussed with you.

Q: What knot do you use when you build your wet fly team leader? A: I’ve been using a triple surgeon’s knot for years. It’s easy for me to tie, and it’s reliable — I don’t think I’ve ever had one fail. People also asked about the blood knot, and the answer is: use the knot you feel most confident about/is easiest for you to tie.

Q: Do you use tippet rings when you build your wet fly team leader? A: I don’t, mostly because I don’t see a need. The perceived need is that it would be easier to replace a dropper tag (rather than build a new leader) with a tippet ring and it’s hard to argue with that. This is a “what works best for you?” situation. I don’t use tippet rings because I rarely change flies on my leader system, and even when I do I’ve learned how to reattach a fly using a minimum of tag material. Speaking of attaching flies, here’s a nifty tutorial from my buddy Tim Flagler on the Davy Knot, which uses very little material.

Q: You say to pause before you set the hook. Aren’t you afraid the fish will spit the fly? A: No. I quote from The Book of Syl: “With the soft-hackled fly, the trout throws caution to the wind, because he’s not afraid to move under the water, and speeds to the fly with urgency.” The fish has made the decision to eat. He’s said “yes” to the fly. With an immediate hookset, you’re saying “no” to the fish. By pausing — asking, “Are you still there?” before you set the hook — you’re ensuring that the fish will turn away with the fly in his mouth, having neatly hooked himself.

This massive hen blasted the fly, an old English pattern called a Hackled March Brown. She hit so hard she ripped the line out of my hands. There was no need for me to set the hook.

Q: Is fishing wet flies a secondary tactic, or do you ever go to the river intending to fish wet flies? A: I frequently go to the river with the sole intent of fishing wet flies. In fact, I’d say wet flies account for the vast majority of my trout fishing — and catching — between late April and mid-summer.

Ask currentseamser Greg about how good the pre-hatch fishing can be with wet flies!

Q: You talked about using wet flies to catch trout feeding on emergers. Is there a point during the hatch, such as when you see duns on the surface, that you’ll switch to dry flies? A: What a great question! The answer is yes. If I am pounding up fish on wet flies and suddenly my hookups stop — but the river is still boiling with feeding fish — that’s my cue that they’ve either stopped eating what I’m throwing or may now be feeding on the surface. If I see the duns getting taken, and my wets aren’t catching, that is compelling evidence to switch to a dry fly. This scenario frequently plays out during the Hendrickson hatch. It’s wet fly gangbusters up until about 3pm, then suddenly the hookups slow to a crawl. Changing over to a dry usually solves the problem.

I hope that helps, and if you have questions, please don’t hesitate to ask.

Dr. Deeplove, or: How to stop worrying and learn to love the full sink line.

I was fascinated by a recent fly fishing forum thread that warned of the dire consequences of using full sink lines for streamer fishing in rivers. What perdition awaited those who had the temerity to throw the heavy, thin line?

Hard to cast.

Always getting snagged on the bottom.

It was like re-imagining the opening of “The Right Stuff” with a fly fishing bent. “There was a demon who lived in the water…” But, that’s a movie for another day.

Nonetheless, I found it disappointing on a number of levels, among them: sinking lines are only hard to cast if you do it wrong; I don’t get hung up on the bottom any more with a full sink line line than I do with a nymph rig (probably less); internet forums can be a minefield when it comes to getting good advice.

Most of all, when you’re asking the question, “What do I want the fly to do?” sometimes a full sink line is a critical part of that answer. Here are a few quick tips to help you navigate the waters with a full sink line on your next streamer outing. For our purposes, I’m using a Teeny T-Series Integrated Line, and I’m fishing in a river.

One good false cast, and boom, out she goes. As Dr. Strangelove asserted, “It would not be difficult!”

ShootingSinkingLine

Casting. The key to casting a full sink integrated line is to get the full sink part out of the water. I strip line in (whether I’m using a strip presentation or not) so the head is at the rod tip. A roll cast to get the line out, a backcast to aerialize the line, then bombs away. Maybe a couple false casts. Because of their head weight and thin diameter, I find full sink lines fairly easy to cast. You’ll want to use a shooting basket for the running line. And of course, match the grain weight of the line to your rod and casting style.

Snags (or not). Every day is different, but the last time I used my full sink line on the Farmington River I didn’t get terminally stuck on the bottom once — and I was using a weighted fly. Current speed, depth, mending, retrieve speed, sink rate of the line, fly profile and weight — all are factors. The lower and slower the water, the greater your chances are of getting stuck. So pick and choose your water and conditions. Pools and runs with submerged logs, branches, sharp-edged rocks, and boulder fields are often bad places to throw the full sink. If you do get stuck, try this trick: don’t try to horse the fly out. Come taut to the fly, then do a few roll casts. Often that’s enough to free the fly. Finally, if you’re trying to present along the bottom — as with nymphing — touching the bottom is part of the price of admission. The false positive of a snag is confirmation that you’re getting deep. And remember to check those hook points. Sticky sharp!

What do you want the fly to do? This is the million-dollar question that many anglers never consider — but should. I’ll pull out the full sink integrated line for streamer fishing when:

  • It’s summertime and the river has come up and is off color, and I want to get a neutral buoyancy effect from the heavy line (consider it split shot) and a deer hair head fly. (Leader length would probably be around 7 feet.)
  • The water is cold and I suspect the the fish are holding close to the bottom. (Shorter leader, usually no more than 3 feet.) Check out this streamer leader diagram.
  • I want to get the fly, even if it’s weighted, to sink as quickly as possible. This usually indicates a very deep hole as the target zone. Again, shorter leader.

High late summer water, full sink line (weight) + Zoo Cougar (wants to float) = neutral buoyancy. Oh. And this trophy trout, too.

DCIM100GOPROG0013068.

I hope that helps, and as always, if you have questions I’m happy to answer them.

 

 

 

The best winter nymph patterns are the ones that inspire confidence

I’ve got nymphing on my brain. I’m hoping to get out this week and scratch that itch, but right now I’m chained to the computer. So here are some of my favorite winter nymph patterns. It’s a short list — I like to keep things simple. These are all high-confidence patterns, which makes them the best nymphs for me. What nymphs do you like to fish in the winter?

You’ll find a lot of tiny bugs in the cold months, especially on a tailwater, so going small with your nymphs is usually a good idea. This late winter beauty fell for a size 18 (2x short) BHPT.

3-10-14 Brown

Frenchie Nymph Variant. A little flash, a little color, a little contrast, a little natural brown means a lot of good nymphing mojo

Squirrel and Ginger Beadhead. Sans bead, one of my favorite caddis emergers. Add a black brass bead and deepwater magic ensues.

G-R Blue Bead Midge. Love this fly in winter when the flows aren’t too high or fast. Make it your top dropper, and if the trout are on small stuff, hold on.

Rainbow Warrior. I like this fly on brighter days. (That’s a general rule of thumb for me: if a fly is based on flash and shine, it won’t do its job as well on overcast days). The Rainbow Warriors are on the cork to the left in the linked shot.

Soft Hackle Pheasant Tail. Sizes 12-14, with a bead, this is my point fly on a two-fly nymph rig. Size 16-20, no bead head, it’s a terrific top dropper. Looks like a ton of bugs in general.

Hare and Copper Variant. What’s there not to like about Pheasant Tail, Red Fox Squirrel, and Hare’s ear? Oh, and there’s a copper bead, too. Sign me up!

Congressional listening tour on stripers, Magnuson-Stevens, and ASMFC

Amidst the recent doom and gloom surrounding the fall 2019 ASMFC session, a ray of hope: Congressman Huffman, Chairman of Water, Oceans and Wildlife, is hosting a national listening tour regarding the concerns of anglers, scientists, and policy makers. Here are two short reports from people who spoke at the Baltimore meeting that you should read:

The first is from Charles Witek’s blog, One Angler’s Voyage.

The second is from Tony Friedrich, Policy Director of the ASGA.

The quote of the month comes from Tony, who wrote: “Here’s one more thing to ponder. The American Saltwater Guides Association isn’t even a year old and we had a seat at the table for an event sponsored by the Chairman of Water, Oceans, and Wildlife. Let that sink in folks. Profound change doesn’t happen overnight. You have a work and grind at it every day. That’s what we have done from the start at ASGA. We have already won and lost a few. This goes into the “W” column.”

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Two Critical Points on Comment Participation and Conservation Equivalency forAddendum VI

For those of you who don’t know Addendum VI from King George VI, my apologies. Well, maybe not. This is important. Even if striped bass aren’t your thing, what follows is a good, quick read. And we could really use the support of all conservation-minded anglers. It’s from the ASGA blog. The last paragraph is probably the most important. You can read it here.

Definitely worth a few minutes of your time.

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