Tip of the Week: Prevent runaway line when you’re changing flies

If you fish a two-handed rod, or if you use a modern shooting head integrated line (like Rio Outbound or Airflo 40+) with your single hand setup, you’ve undoubtedly encountered this scenario. You want to change your fly, or check the hook point, so you tuck your rod under your armpit and gather in the line. Problem: while you’re fiddling with the fly, the current grabs the line — those shooting heads have a lot of surface area — and downstream goes your head, taking your running line along with it. Now, you’ve got to re-strip 60, 70, 80 feet of line again — time you could be fishing.

Solution: wrap a couple loops of the running line around your off-hand wrist. I like to gather in the running line till the shooting head is just outside the rod tip. The orange running line below my wrist remains inside my shooting basket. This way I’m ready to cast as soon as I change flies. That’s more time spent fishing, and that means more potential time catching.

Striper Report 11/11/20: Precious few mouths at the mouth

Another short and sweet (or bitter, depending on your POV) striper report: fished the mouth of the Housatonic today for two hours. We had a good tide, overcast skies, and a falling barometer, three elements that should have made for a terrific outing. Unfortunately, Mother Nature forgot to CC the bass on the memo. Not a touch for me, both deep and on the surface. In fact, I saw only three three teens-inch bass caught in two hours among ten or so anglers, and it was all two guys fishing one small pocket. Deciding that you cannot catch what isn’t there, and having had enough two-handed casting practice, I skedaddled just before low tide.

Not from today. In fact, it was as warm a November day as I can remember down there. The most excitement I had was when a bird went fishing for my fly. I was relieved that the pull produced no hookup.

Striper Report 11/9/20: Freakin’ Fog

I’ll make this short and sweet. I fished last night because I was foolish enough to believe that I had an accurate weather forecast. Moments before I walked out the door at 10:30pm, I re-checked the site. There it was: clear skies through dawn. About 15 minutes after I settled in, an ominous charcoal grey wall moved in from the eastern horizon. Soon, the mark was socked in. Thanks, weather.com (he said, dripping with sarcasm). When I got home, the site now warned of a “dense fog advisory.” Great.

It certainly felt fishy, and I had a waking follow before the fog settled in. But I’ve learned that fog kills the bite at this mark with a destitution of mercy. I dunno…call me crazy…but this don’t look like “Clear” conditions to me…

Monday ramblings: steelhead, 800 followers flies, another birthday…

Happy Monday to everyone. Late start for me today. No big news or hot presentation tips or must-have fly patterns, so consider this a simple hello and let’s-catch-up missive. This is fish-related: as I write this, I have two salmon filets on the smoker, a present for my parents and my aunt. They (the filets, not my relations) spent two days pickling in the fridge, and now they’re taking a gentle bath of apple wood smoke.

Normally I’m steelheading this week, but low water and spotty reports have me at home playing the waiting game. I’m going to try to amuse myself with some other species instead.

800 Followers contest winners: I have one set of flies done, and I’ve started on another. Sloth is my flaw; patience is your virtue. I’ll notify you by email when I ship your goodies.

Wow, another birthday! Thanks so much to everyone who sent birthday wishes. I had a great day with my family, outside and socially distanced, and I made merry with some wine, whisky, and an absolutely delicious Cuban Romeo y Julieta Short Churchill.

Last year at this time it was Everest Base Camp-cold on the Salmon…and with quite a bit more water.

Breaking Skein Glitter Fly steelhead fly tying video

The Breaking Skein Glitter Fly is a Crystal Meth variant created by Joe Montello. I first learned of the fly in John Nagy’s book Steelhead Guide. If you haven’t read it, Steelhead Guide is loaded with productive steelhead fly patterns. Although its focus is on Erie tribs, I can tell you that the Ontario steelhead like the Erie flies just fine.

I’ve changed a few things from the original recipe; you can see what I use in the video. Here are Joe’s original specs:

Hook: Mustad 3366 size 12

Thread: UNI peach 6/0.

Tail: 3 strands pearl Krystal Flash

Body: Fluorescent orange or pearl sparkle braid ribbed with regular white Estaz between each loop of sparkle braid

Breaking Skein Glitter Fly Rogues’ Gallery:

Salmon River November 2107

Tip of the Week: Save your welded loop with a heavy mono butt section

Many, if not most, modern fly lines come with a factory welded loop for an easy leader connection. The problem is that if you’re using a straight shot of leader material that’s under 40lb. test, the diameter of that leader can cut into the the welded loop while fighting a big fish, trying to free a snag, or inducing any other stress that puts extreme pressure on the connection.

Solution: create a short mono butt section to act as a buffer between your welded loop and leader. I’ve been using a foot-long length of 50lb. or 60 lb. mono. Just tie a perfection loop (here’s a great tutorial from Animated Knots) at both ends, and you’re good to go! I’ve been using this system with my two-handed shooting head for over a year.

The Best Colors for the Crystal Meth Fly are…

The best colors for the Crystal Meth fly are the ones the steelhead want to eat…or the ones in which you have the most confidence.

Debates on the best color for Crystal Meths, egg patterns, and beads for steelhead and trout are never-ending. Everyone has their theories. Everyone has their favorite colors. Everyone can prove you wrong. So I stand by my opening statement. In case you don’t know what a Crystal Meth is (besides one of the best fly names ever, right?) it’s a sparkled-up version of a Sucker Spawn. You can tie them with or without a bead and a Krystal Flash tail. When the steelhead are feeding below salmon redds — and even when they’re not — the Crystal Meth can be a very productive fly. And since they’re firmly in the junk/guide fly category, you don’t fret when you lose one to the bottom gods.

Our Lady of Blessed Crystal Meth — chartreuse — accounted for my only fish on this painfully slow day.

So, what are my favorite colors for the Crystal Meth? Here’s a handy-dandy photo reference chart. I use them all, but if I had to choose a top three, I’d go chartreuse, fluorescent blue, and fluorescent fire orange. YMMV.

Yes, I Guide/Teach for Striped Bass

Do I guide for striped bass? The short answer is yes. But, these sessions are non-traditional in the sense of a typical guide trip/lesson. The focus is rarely on catching stripers in the moment; rather, it is to prepare you to catch stripers in the future. Depending on time/tide/conditions/season/luck, we may indeed catch some bass. But there is also a high probability that we won’t see a fish.

There are several reason for this. For starters, I do not guide at night. No exceptions. That leaves us with daylight hours, which in the abstract usually means fewer hookups. We’re also in the midst of striper downturn — there are far less fish than there were, say, 15 years ago. I can’t take you to Block Island or Cape Cod, which typically have an in-season abundance of stripers — you’d have to pay for my time and travel, and that would be cost-prohibitive. I’m shore wading only, so we can’t quickly zip off in a boat a few miles away to find the next blitz. Finally, my lessons are usually two hour sessions. Tides and time being ever-changing, that means we may not hit a strong bite window (if we do, good on us!). So, if you’re OK with trading immediate gratification for success down the road, read on.

What do I teach? A lot of good stuff you won’t find anywhere else. Most of you know me as a guide who fishes for stripers in a traditional and (in modern popular practice) unconventional manner. I primarily use floating lines. You should have one, too. My focus is on rigging, presentation, fly selection, and more presentation. You might want to spend a couple hours with me if you’re interested in learning traditional trout and salmon presentations like the greased line swing; how to tie and fish dropper rigs; fishing with multiple flies at or near the surface; reading water; fishing with your two-hand setup (sorry, I can’t supply you with a rod); and plenty of little things that sometimes make the difference between fishing and catching stripers.

I hope this clarifies what I do. My rate will vary depending on location. If you’re interested in setting up a trip, or need more information, please call me at 860-918-0228 or email swculton@yahoo.com.

Not all Gurgler-type flies are meant to be stripped. I caught this handsome Block bass on a dead drift — the Gurgling Sand Eel was point fly on a team of three — and showing you how to do the same is just one of the things I teach.

The Countermeasure Fly Tying Video

You’re now at Countermeasure Central on currentseams! Here you can watch the tying video (below); see the original post/recipe; and read the Guide Flies feature piece from On The Water magazine. In case you’re new to this pattern, the Countermeasure is a riff on several proven streamer designs (like the Zoo Cougar and Zonker). It’s loaded with bite triggers, and it’s one of my favorite smallmouth bass bugs. Oh! Big trout love it, too.

Striper Report: First Cast Fever, or: it’s all about adjustments

I decided to fish the mouth of the Hous for a couple hours simply because I could…and because it seemed like that time of year. I had the place to myself for about 30 minutes, but no love taps were forthcoming. The terminal rig was a Soft-Hackled Flatwing in R.L.S. Easterly colors on an 8-foot leader. It didn’t compute that there were no fish around, so I decided to make an adjustment.

This is the kind of little thing — I know you’ve heard that phrase somewhere before! — that can have huge impact on your fishing. If you know or suspect the fish are there and you’re not catching, do something different. So I swapped out my leader for a 6-foot section of T-11 and a three foot leader. Still nothing. Then, I added a 3/0 shot to the leader just above the fly. Next cast, bang! Then another two casts later. This made me happy.

Sometimes it’s the little adjustments that make the biggest difference. This single shot, clamped on with pliers, resulted in an immediate hookup.

You might think that this is how the story (happily) ends. But no. After those two fish, I went a good half hour without a tap. I have to confess that this kind of fishing holds little interest for me, even less so when the bite is off. But since we’re talking about adjustments, how’s this: go from dredging the bottom to skating on top.

Many years ago old friend Ed Simpson exclaimed, as we fished a spot not too far from where I was wading, “Make ’em come up!” Off came the full sink tip and shotted fly, on went the longer leader and a Gartside Gurgler. First cast, splash, boil, whack! Then another. And another. These fish were sporting the colors of bass not fresh from the sea, but rather those of winter residency. Not very big, but I love any striper that displays that marauding spirit. Many anglers think of fishing surface bugs as an active presentation, with the fly in constant motion, but every one of my hits came on the pause (see this post for more on varying your strip cadence).

My last adjustment came as the action and tide waned. I noticed a far sexier rip, abutted by a slick, 150 feet downriver. So I waded down, made some casts, and caught some more. And that, dear reader, brings us to our happy ending.