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. 

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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.

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Get fired up for steelhead: “The Steel Deal — How to catch Great Lakes Steelhead in the Fall”

“The Steel Deal — How to catch Great Lakes Steelhead in the Fall” first appeared in the Oct/Nov 2018 issue of Field & Stream. It’s a great introductory primer for Great Lakes steelhead fly fishing anglers, and even veteran chrome hounds will find some valuable nuggets. Written, of course, by yours truly, with insights from legendary Great Lakes steelhead guide Matt Supinski. In case you missed it, the link to the article is up top. And here’s a bonus link to the 60-Second Redhead, one of my favorite steelhead patterns.

Subfreezing temperatures? Stinging sleet? Frozen fingers? Suck it up, baby, and go steelheading! Here’s Number Two Son Cameron and my favorite Salmon River guide Jim Kirtland enjoying a little “Salmon River sunshine.” Is it all worth it? Just look at those smiles.

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Stand by for the ASGA’s position on ASFMC Draft Addendum VI

The ASGA (American Saltwater Guides Association — the good guys who are making an impact when it comes to striped bass conservation — and if you haven’t yet, visit their website/make a donation here) will have an official position on ASMFC Draft Addendum VI this week.

What’s important about this is that we — as conservation-minded anglers who care deeply about the future of the striped bass — will benefit greatly from showing a unified front, in particular in letter or email form

As soon as I have that position, I’ll let you know. Of course, if you’re signed up for ASGA email updates, you should hear from them too. Carry on, enjoy the last full week of August, but get ready to make your voice heard!

More breeder-size stripers need to swim away to procreate another day.

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Farmington River article in the Sept/Oct issue of Eastern Fly Fishing

Hot off the presses! “West Branch Farmington River — Southern New England’s Blue Ribbon Trout Stream” by yours truly is in the current (September/October) issue of Eastern Fly Fishing. Many thanks to UpCountry Sportfishing’s Torrey Collins and CT DEEP Fisheries Biologists Neal Hagstrom and Brian Eltz for lending their comments. If you don’t subscribe, you can get a copy on newsstands or you can check here.

It’s a privilege to able to write about the places that I love to fish. How fortunate we are to have the Farmington River so close to home.

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So, what happened at the ASMFC meeting last week?

I was out of the country, so I missed the live stream of the ASMFC meeting. I did hear some secondhand comments from others who watched. Lowlights included a few commissioners congratulating themselves for being longstanding ASMFC honchos (great resume point: “In charge of saving striped bass when the stock was decimated.”); business as usual (read: foxes guarding the henhouse) from certain NJ and MD commissioners; and a commissioner from MA whose biggest concern about fishing restrictions was loss of revenue from striped bass tournaments. (Really? Gonna start a sea robin tournament when the striper stock collapses?)

Sidebar: there was a proposal in MA (not ASMFC related) to increase the quota days for commercial striper fleets since they fell far short of their quota this year. You can’t make this stuff up. It reminds me of an old Peanuts strip where Lucy says to Linus, “Your stupidity is appalling.” Linus responds, “Most stupidity is.”

So, enough editorial. The best summary I’ve read is from the American Saltwater Guides Association blog. You can read it here.

Let’s stay vigilant on this issue. I’ll do my best to relay good information as I receive it.

Many ASMFC commissioners noted a high volume of passionate public comments. Thanks to everyone who opened their big mouth!

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Is it OK to fish the Farmington in low summer flows?

I received a great question today: “How about a straight answer about fishing the river at the level it is at right now. I was told I’m crazy for staying away – my thought is it’s not good for the fish or the fisherman. Be honest please.” I’m assuming the question is about the Farmington.

Those of you who know me know I have nothing to sell you but the truth. So here we go.

The simple answer is: most of the time, yes. The Farmington is, after all, a tailwater. If you’re unsure what that means, its flow is generated by a bottom dam release, in this case Hogback Reservoir. In an average year, the reservoir will have a good amount of water in it, such that the bottom strata will be much cooler than the surface. I can tell you from experience that I’ve shivered for hours in the river on a 90 degree day in July. That water is plenty cold.

Fog is what happens when frosty water meets warm, humid air. This shot is from mid-summer.

Morning Fog

What happens in a drought year? In the most extreme years, it can get ugly. Go back to our most recent severe drought year, 2016. The water release was in the paltry double digits, and because there was so little water in the reservoir, what was coming out of the chute was in the mid 60s — not good. Take that water, bake it over several miles, and we had fish kills. The DEEP even declared thermal refuges, unprecedented for the Farmington River. I advised people to not fish.

So what about right now? The release is 118cfs, not great, but it’s coming out cold (the Still is adding 12cfs for a total of 130) as we had plenty of water this spring. Where you fish matters. The run from Hogback to Riverton right is plenty healthy for fish. Naturally, it will warm as it travels downstream. The water may be stressful to trout by the time it gets to Unionville. But every day is different — today it’s cloudy and in the upper 70s, not exactly a river-under-a-heat lamp. If it were sunny and blast-furnace hot, you’d have a different dynamic.

When you fish matters, too. From dawn through when the sun tops the trees is the coolest the river will be on any given summer day.

In conclusion: Use the stoutest tippet you can to get those fish in fast. Don’t take them out of the water. Fish when and where the water is coolest. Use common sense, and you’ll fish with a clear conscience.

 

Why the ASMFC is set up to fail — and what the American Saltwater Guides Association (and you) can do about it.

Have you ever wondered why so many species managed by the ASMFC (Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission) are in trouble? How can any commission tasked with managing fishing stocks have such an abysmal track record and still exist?

The answers are both complex and simple. On the simple side, the answers are a) because the commission does not have conservation in mind, and b) because they can (there is no accountability).

Why does the ASMFC suck at managing our striper fishery? Because they can. Compare their non-checks and balances with the Magnuson Stevens framework. Share this infographic with fellow anglers and conservationists. And be sure to read this synopsis of ASMFC vs Magnuson Stevens.

ASMFC-vs-MSA-Framework

If it all sounds pretty dire, it is. But there is hope: the American Saltwater Guides Association (ASGA).

Don’t let the name fool you: the ASGA has your (the recreational, conservation-minded striper angler) best interests in mind (as well as in deed). They’ll be going to bat for us at the ASMFC meeting next month. To quote the ASGA: “We are hereby putting the ASMFC on notice. If they choose not to follow their own rules yet again we will do everything in our power to legislate a new framework that won’t allow them to mismanage the resource.”

What can you do to help?  Here’s a short action list:

1) Educate yourself – ASGA blog is a great resource

2) Write your state ASMFC reps (you can find the list here.)

3) Find a post or infographic on ASGA that speaks to you and share it.
4) Hit the contribute button and make a donation support the efforts of ASGA (The value of this cannot be underestimated. It costs money do do all that research and travel around the country to represent your interests.)
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The entire recreational angling community has to mobilize if we are going to have any chance of recovering this precious resource. I’m asking all currentseams readers to step up and do at least two of the above. The stripers and I thank you.