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.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

“The Little Things” from July/August 2015 American Angler

We’re going back a few years for this one! “The Little Things” is the first in a series of articles — and presentations — on seemingly insignificant things that can have a huge impact on your fly fishing success. This piece first appeared in the July/August 2015 issue of American Angler. Noteworthy: not everything in this article is in my original “Little Things” presentation. To read it, there’s a link to a pdf below. Enjoy!

TheLittleThings

LittleThingsSpread

 

ASMFC Votes tomorrow on Addendum VI — and how WE all voted, or: too much waste!

The ASMFC will decide on the Striped Bass Addendum VI options tomorrow, Wednesday October 30 beginning at 2:45pm. The meeting will be broadcast online. To register to listen in, click here.

Now, to our voices. The ASMFC received 5,500 public responses. 4,500 of those were form letters. Absolutely useless! What a waste. Could we not have taken 15 more minutes to compose an original thought to try to save our stripers? Nearly 900 people attended hearings in ASMFC states. (Thanks to all who came out!)

The most telling stat is that of nearly 1,000 individual comments, too many people did not take a specific stand on the primary or sub options. Very disappointing. Apathetic or positionless responses do us little good. But, I try to be optimistic: of the individual responses and public hearing comments, the vast majority — decisively — voted for Primary Option 2, equal % reductions. The vast majority — decisively — voted for 2A1, 1@35″. The vast majority — decisively — voted for 2B-1, 1@18″ Chesapeake.

So now it’s in the hands of the ASMFC. Will they take a leadership position? Or will it be business as usual? We’ll know tomorrow.

For those keeping score:

ASMFCLetters

 

 

Tip of the Week: The wrong fly presented correctly is better than the right fly presented incorrectly

I know, it’s a bit of a mouthful. But it’s so true. And it’s played out multiple times in my last two trout outings. “The Wrong Fly Presented Correctly…” strategy is part of my new presentation, The Little Things 3.0, and I wanted to share it with you so you can catch more fish on your next trip.

Situation A: I’m fishing a snotty dump-in at the head of long pool with several feet of depth. I see small (size 16) caddis and tiny BWOs and what looks like a smaller (size 16) sulphur in the air, and a few swirls of rising trout. Problem: I’ve only got my streamer pack with me; the only wet flies I have are big size 10 white fly soft hackles from a summer smallie trip — not even close to what’s hatching. Nonetheless, I rigged up a makeshift wet fly team of two on 8-lb fluoro. Not ideal on a number of fronts — the fly is way too big, it’s the wrong color, the leader system is clunky at best. And yet, I was making it easy for the buyer to buy — and sometimes that’s all you need to do to make a sale.

This handsome brown proves that it’s rarely a bad idea to feed the fish something that looks alive and good to eat (even if it’s the wrong size and color and species) — as long as you feed it to them the same way they’re taking their food. 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

~

Situation B: Long, languid water, hardly classic wet fly structure or speed. You’d think dry fly all the way on this mark. The trout are smutting on tiny BWOs, producing gentle rise rings, the kind you see with midges or Tricos or — tiny BWOs. I’ve been fishing streamers, so I’ve got an 8-weight WF line — a really bad choice for this kind of water. I do have some smaller BWO wet fly patterns this time, and so two of them go on the team of three. But I like to give the fish a choice, just in case. So I tied on a size 12 Squirrel and Ginger top dropper. This fly is 10 sizes larger than what the trout are feeding on. But I’m fishing in the film, using a mended swing and dead drift to bring the team of flies to hungry mouths, just like the naturals. You can see where this is going…

Bingo! Wrong fly, right presentation, big brown. Go forth and do likewise. Oh, yes — the same rule holds true for stripers.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA