Best of 2019: a fun little fly fishing recap

With today’s guide trip cancelled, I turn my attention to reflecting upon the fishing year that was 2019. Here we go, in chronological order:

Fly Fishing Shows in Marlborough and Edison. The Marlborough Show was particularly memorable for the weekend ice storm that paralyzed the region. Let’s just say that — ahem — attendance was light on Sunday. Nonetheless, I had three(!) intrepid anglers at my presentation, “Lost Secrets of Legendary Anglers.” I spent the rest of the morning chortling that I had the day’s biggest crowd, which was accurate until Ed Engle beat me by two. “Lost Secrets of Legendary Anglers” will return in 2020 at 10am, Saturday January 20 in the DT Room C, along with other Seminars and classes. What makes these shows memorable — and appreciated — is the chance to see old friends, connect with peers, and meet you, my valued reader. Please come say hello at the shows in January!

Old friend Tim Flagler is one of the nicest people you’re going to meet at the Fly Fishing Show.

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Speaking of Speaking: every fly fishing/tying club gig I did. This may sound like a shameless attempt to curry favor, but I assure you it’s on the level. Teaching and talking about fly fishing is by far my favorite part of this job, and it would not be possible without your support and enthusiasm. So, thank you CFFA Expo, Cape Cod Flyrodders, Legends on the Farmington (I’m doing another class in February 2020 so stay tuned), Russell Library, Hammonasset TU, Thames Valley TU, Capital District Fly Fishers, Farmington Valley TU, and Nutmeg TU for your patronage.

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Housy and Farmington River features in Eastern Fly Fishing magazine. Wow. I actually get paid to write about two of my favorite rivers? What a country! And thanks to editor John Shewey for thinking of me.

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My new two-handed cannon. Once I figured out the right head configuration, I became a dangerous casting machine. Many thanks to old mate Mike Oliver for his wonderful design and exacting craftsmanship. I now sneer at the wind at the mouth of the Hous. And the west side of Block. So there.

In addition to being a fine rod builder, Mike also brews a delicious cuppa on the beach. Milk is included. Very civilized.

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Trophy Smallmouth on the Little Salmon River. We got kicked in the nuts by Mother Nature for spring steelhead, so a-smallmouthing we did go. They sure grow ’em big up north.

Gordo and Row Jimmy with a bronze slob. 

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Epic June wet fly bites. My goodness, how I love the Farmington River’s Light Cahill/Sulphur/Caddis/Iso bite window of late spring/early summer. Both clients and I enjoyed the thrill of double-digit days.

Figure 1 (of many). Greg’s rod might have permanent bend.

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A hot Housy White Fly bite. If you go enough, sooner of later you’re going to hit the summer blizzard just right. I think I missed it last year; this year on more than one occasion I was snow-blinded in August.  There’s a certain rush you get from drifting a size 10 White Wulff that you can no longer see, then feeling a sudden crushing blow that resonates down to your fingertips. Wow, wow, wow.

Be sure to keep your mouth shut. White flies do not taste good.

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Catching a Scottish trout on a traditional Scottish wet fly. The conditions were disgusting — driving rain and windy — but Cam and I soldiered on and were rewarded with several hefty trout to net. The highlight for me was catching one on a Kate McLaren I’d tied several years before, never dreaming that I would one day be fishing it bob-style on a loch.

Cam with his first fish and guide Graeme Ferguson (wonderful to make a new friend); a kiss for a fellow lover of Kate McLaren.

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Fun at the Striper Moon film premier. It was in many ways a Who’s Who of southern New England striper fly fishing. What a treat to watch Lori Shankar’s film with Ken in the audience.

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(Finally) establishing a presence on Instagram. If you’re not already following me, please do. I post content on stevecultonflyfishing that you won’t find here.

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Big Fall Housy Browns. After last fall and this year’s winter high water, the resident browns had ample opportunity to feed and grow with very little angling pressure. A lot of the Housy faithful I spoke to declared this the best fall fishing in years. Can’t argue with them!

Over 20″ of holdover butter.

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A silver lining to a poor Salmon River steelhead run cloud. I only need one steelhead to make me happy, so landing this big buck on a morning where the temperature never got out of the teens had me in a grinning mood.

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So, you’ve made it this far. Please tell us about your 2019 highlights.

 

Torrey Collins’ Magical Mystical Secret Dubbing Sauce

Ooh. Aah. Ohh. It’s spikey. It’s buggy. It’s sparkly. It’s Torrey Collins’ (manager of UpCountry Sportfishing in New Hartford) proprietary hare’s mask dubbing blend. I was able to score a wee bag of the goods from Torrey — that sounds so scandalous — and I’m looking forward to making some deliciously horrible bugs with it.

What’s in it? I’ll let Torrey tell you: “I shave a hare’s mask mask, then add in gray squirrel (SLF Squirrel Spikey Dubbing) to darken it and make it spikier; Antron Sparkle Dubbing to make it easier to dub; and assorted color pinches of UV Ice Dub & Prism Dub for some subtle flash and UV. Lethal combination.”

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Long time no post: steelhead recovery and “Wet Flies 101” next week

Forgive me, faithful readers, but I’ve been away fishing for steelhead. Maybe that should be “survival fishing for steelhead.” Very early rising (I’m used to getting home then, not waking up) and bitter cold took it out of me. So, I ask for your indulgence while I recover, and we’ll have a fun to read (I hope) report next week.

Speaking of next week, I’m going to be presenting Wet Flies 101, Tuesday, November 19, Nutmeg TU, 7pm, Port 5, Bridgeport, CT. If you’re interested in this highly effective and underutilized subsurface method, Wet Flies 101 provides an overview and gateway into this ancient and traditional art. Hope to see you there!  You can find the Nutmeg TU Facebook page here and their website here.

That’s my breath, not cigar smoke. 17 degrees on your Fahrenheit dial.

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My tying bench is a mess (oh, like yours is all neat and clean?)

There comes a time every year when I declare my tying bench a disaster area. I’ve been busy churning out flies for clients and myself all summer, and there’s never any time to put things back where they belong — let alone sweep up that mountain of shaved deer hair. OK, if you’re one of those few who keeps things neat and tidy, I humbly bow before your uncluttered presence. For me, a clean tying area is going to have to be a winter project.

Live and in the studio. No edits!

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Oscar Madison bench, Felix Unger results. Some bugs for the Farmington this week.

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Three major takeaways from yesterday’s ASMFC vote

I wanted to take a 24-hour grace period before I responded to yesterday’s disappointing session. It’s dicey trying to predict outcomes when nature is one of the variables, so I’ll just stick to what I know to be true.

  1. The ASMFC manages stripers as individual state playthings rather than a shared coastal resource. This is, after all, a migratory species. If you watched the live feed or heard some of the commissioners speak, you know that this group is infected by special interests. It’s discouraging to see that some states, like Maryland and New Jersey, believe their agenda is more important than that of other states — or the fishery as a whole — and maddening that other states don’t call them on it. States’ agendas rule rather than the good of the fishery. Unacceptable.
  2. When it comes to conservation, the ASMFC is incapable of forward thinking. John Adams once said, “Facts are stubborn things,” and the fact is that the ASMFC has an abysmal track record when it comes to managing fishing stocks. In their decades of existence, they have never rebuilt and successfully maintained a single stock. Of the 26 stocks they currently manage, 17 are overfished, depleted, or “condition unknown.” That doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. What’s more, it points to incompetence. So yesterday’s choice of Sub-Option 2-A2, 1 fish 28-35″ slot, is compelling evidence that they are managing not for the future but for right now.  Want further proof? A moratorium was never even on the table. The closest choice to a hedged bet was the 1@35″ slot, similar to the most recent rebuilding tool of 1@36″, which was successfully implemented last time we did this. But the ASMFC would rather go to the casino and roll the dice than invest in a conservative, fundamentally sound plan with a proven track record of good returns.
  3. The vote of the active, conservation-minded majority doesn’t matter to the ASMFC. The ASMFC constructed a Potemkin’s Village of inclusion with public hearings in its member states, and continued the sham by inviting public email comments. While the response level was disappointing — about 1,000 people — the result was nothing short of a mandate: Sub-Option 2-A1, 1@35″. Incredibly, this vast majority directive was wantonly ignored. So, we get it, ASMFC. You really don’t give a shit what we think.

Search the parks in all the cities, you’ll find no statues of committees.

The fighting is rounds. This is round one.

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Steve Culton is now (finally) on Instagram

My goodness, sometimes I move at a glacial pace. (Remember glaciers? We used to have them everywhere it was cold…) But never mind. You can now find me on Instagram at stevecultonflyfishing. This location will be more quick hit copy and visual reference than the detailed articles you find on currentseams. And on the flip side, more situational shots from fishing trips or events in near real time.

While I’m hoping to cultivate new audiences, I encourage all my loyal readers to follow me on Instagram. There will certainly be material there that doesn’t make it to currentseams. Thanks, and I’ll see you on the river or at an event soon.

Yeah. That’s me.

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