Like the title says, you can find my latest piece in the March 2021 issue of The Fisherman magazine. Early Season Tactics: Hunting Transition Trout is about the rough patch of fishing we face in the next month or so. It’s loaded with useful strategies and tactics to help you catch more fish, and includes a guest appearance from UpCountry Sportfishing‘s Torrey Collins. You can read the article here.
Quality content like this usually isn’t free; The Fisherman is kind enough to allow public access to the article. Why not support them with a subscription? You can do that here. Many thanks to my editor, Toby Lapinski, for giving me the opportunity to write about fly fishing subjects that matter.
Presentation is so important — the only thing that’s more important is a sharp hook — that I thought I would share some of the critical points from last’s night’s Zoom. Thanks to everyone who attended — we had a great turnout. In no particular order:
The wrong fly presented correctly will always out fish the right fly presented incorrectly. I showed a video that demonstrated this.
When you’re deciding on which line, leader length and size, and fly pattern, ask this question: What do you want the fly to do? The best answer should reflect what the fish are eating and how they’re eating it.
Fly fishing is all about line control, and a floating line gives you, by far, the most control over your presentation in current. The importance of mending cannot be overstated. Even slight, nearly imperceptible mends that produce a more natural drift can mean the difference between fishing and catching.
A sinking line and a weighted fly are usually a poor choice for catching fish feeding near the surface. Would you toss a Tungsten cone head Woolly Bugger to trout feeding on Hendrickson emergers?
A longer leader will give you a better dry fly drift, and allow you to make more mends without disturbing the natural track of the fly.
“The difference between fishing and catching is a single split shot.” Attributed to Joe Humphries. Regardless of the originator, it’s good advice when you’re nymphing. Adjust your weight to get the most productive drift.
In case you missed it, the ASMFC’s Striped Bass Board met last week. You gotta love this group. The Commission’s inability to grasp that striper stocks are in trouble, and that they are charged with recovering that stock, is almost staggering in its perfection. That unspoiled incompetence was on full display during the proceedings. The Commission is, as Bobby Knight said, “a legless man who teaches running.” Do you know what they did for 2 1/2 hours? They performed a deep dive into the urgent matter of tube-and-worm rigs. Or, as Charles Witek of One Angler’s Voyage described it, debating “how many angels could dance on the head of a pin.” Never mind those pesky issues of collapsing bass stocks and overfishing.
Meanwhile, rogue ASMFC states like Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey maintain their laser-like focus on how they can kill more stripers. (You know, out of mercy. They don’t want any stripers to starve to death.)
What’s a concerned angler to do? First, read this excellent essay from the ASGA’s (American Saltwater Guides Association) Tony Friedrich. Next, don’t give up hope. We all know the ASMFC’s process is irreparably broken. The ASGA is our current best hope to effect change within and for the ASMFC. So, finally, support the ASGA. They’re doing good work. They have a plan. They need you to be involved.
Q: How many ASMFC Striped Bass Board members does it take to change a light bulb? A: C’mon. The ASMCF can’t change a damn thing.
Many thanks to The Fisherman magazine New England Region Editor Toby Lapinski for giving this piece a home. This was originally intended to be part of my series of “Little Things” articles in American Angler. But with that pub’s demise, I’m happy to call The Fisherman its new home. “Stacking the Deck: The Little Things” continues the theme of seemingly insignificant things that can have a huge impact on your fishing success. Stay tuned as there will be more from me in future issues of The Fisherman.
I was a little disappointed with the number of people who showed up for the most recent Tuesday night Zoom. Not from an ego standpoint. But rather from one of “we need this now more than ever.” One interpretation of the lower turnout would be that people already know C&R best practices. A casual scroll though Internet forums and social media shows this is far from the case: fish being held with dry hands. Striped bass (a stressed stock, remember?) being hefted vertically from their lips or laid onto boat decks. Wild brook trout being landed and photographed on rocks and twigs.
So please. Learn and practice safe catch and release principles: Barbless hooks. Land fish fast. Keep handling to a minimum and then only handle with wet hands. Ask yourself, “Do I really need a photo of that fish?” Keep fish totally submerged in your net, in current if possible, until you’re ready to shoot. For pics, it’s 1-2-3-lift-shoot. Then back into the net. (Ideal shot, we see water dripping from your hands and from the fish.) Consider underwater photography where the fish never leaves the water. Revive the fish if needed before release.
I know most of my readers already know this. I thank you. The fish thank you. The next angler who catches that fish thanks you. Please share this information with others as you see fit. And here’s a great catch-and-release best practices resource: keepfishwet.org.
You may think it would be easy to pick out a top ten fishing memories of the year list. But it isn’t. Sometimes it’s especially difficult to choose one event as the single best moment of the year. What made that particular fish better than another? Is size the only determining factor? What about frequency of catching? Is an epic day of constant action more worthy than a single big fish? These are the questions for which I struggle to find answers. In the end, I chose my tenth Block Island All-Nighter as the #1 Best of 2020 for several reasons. First, the company: old friend Peter Jenkins of The Saltwater Edge. It was Jenks’ first BIAN, and after a slow start he killed it. While there weren’t any slot fish or better, the action was consistently good all night (I’m told by my Island spies that this was the first really good night of the season). Finally, I hadn’t done a BIAN in five years, and it was soul-restoring to get back to this treasured tradition. Cap it off with a highly satisfying breakfast at Ernie’s, and that, and Jenks would say, “makes it a win!”
I know this was a challenging year for everyone. I hope you found some solace, if not downright joy, on the water. Here’s to the great moments of 2020, and to the hope that 2021 is even better. Thanks for reading currentseams. I value your comments, questions, and passion for this wonderful sport of ours. Cheers!
Skunk’s off. Most of the stripers we caught on BIAN X were in the 20″-24″ class, but Block Island bass are a treat on the long rodat any size .
Every year is different, and this year I just didn’t fish the Farmington River as much as I usually do. Part of it was my growing smallmouth obsession. Part of it was the unprecedented number of anglers on the river (thanks, Covid!). But I still managed to connect with some very respectable truttasauruses (truttasuari?). It was a good year for big trout on the Farmy, and there were dozens of reports on the UpCountry site of fish that cracked the 20″ mark. If you’re interested in targeting browns that can be measured in pounds rather than inches, I have two bits of advice. First, fish subsurface. Second, fish in low/no light conditions. And then, hang on.
The belly of the beast, an early April 2020 Farmington River Survivor Strain brown. Please take fish-friendly photos: keep your fish wet until you’re ready to shoot, and then only expose the fish to air a few seconds at a time. (Be sure to wet your hands before handling the fish.) I took this shot with my GoPro, which was set to auto shoot, so the trout was out of the water for less time than it takes you to read this sentence.
When I give a wet fly lesson, I always tell my clients this: “If you hit a hatch just right, you can have one of those days you’ll never forget.” And it so it was for me on a cool afternoon in April. Hendrickson season can be tough on the Farmington, especially if you’re looking for an unoccupied mark. But sometimes luck smiles upon you, and on this day it was so. The run I wanted to fish was on lockdown, but just as I arrived, an angler left, leaving a prime lie open. Armed with a three fly team of wets, I proceeded to wreak havoc upon the residents. This was one of those days where I quickly lost count of fish, but it was easily in the multiple dozens range. (Fresh fish + epic Hendrickson hatch + wet flies = stupid good.) I had doubles galore. I finally quit because it was so ridiculous for so long. Really. You can read about it here.
I had several evenings of spectacular wet fly action during the sulphur hatches of 2020, but nothing that equaled the craziness of this day of Hendrickson mania! If the water is 450cfs+, or if you want to sink your team a little more, try this tungsten bead head Dark Hendrickson soft hackle on point.
When director Matthew Vinick asked me if I’d like to appear in his upcoming film on dry fly fishing the Farmington River, I didn’t think twice. Crew and angler assembled on a gorgeous afternoon in late June for my segment. The trout were gathered too, although they were most uncooperative. Sadly, we’d caught them in between feeds, and rises were few and far between. Finally, we got the shot — and the fish — we were looking for, a healthy 17″ Survivor Strain buck, taken on a size 16 Light Cahill Catskills dry. Wouldn’t you know it? After we broke the set, the river lit up and it was trout after trout from 7:30pm till dark. We had a follow-up interview shoot in October. Now all we have to do is wait for director and editor to do their thing.
I don’t have a projected release date for the film, but when I hear more, I’ll let you know.