Book Review: “The Hunt for Giant Trout” by Landon Mayer

Well now — who doesn’t want to catch a giant trout? My first encounter with such a creature came in the early 1970s on CT’s Salmon River: twenty-three and one-half inches of malevolent brown beast. Its perfectly formed paddle fins and striking colors indicated that this was a holdover of at least several seasons. I just happened to be the kid who stuck it.

Yes, I’m addicted. Not quite as big as that Salmon River fish, but within trophy range. Farmington River, September 2018.

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Catching a giant trout changes you, and once you decide to pursue them you realize that big fish really are different — one of the many instructive points author Landon Mayer makes in his new book, The Hunt For Giant Trout — 25 Best Places in the United States to Catch a Trophy.

The Hunt For Giant Trout is divided into two sections: Strategies & Techniques, and The Fisheries. Strategies & Techniques is loaded with information on giant trout behavior and how-to (from reading water to fighting tactics). As a seasoned angler, I often judge fly fishing books from the perspective of: tell me stuff I don’t already know. There’s plenty of that in the first section, and I’m always delighted to discover how much I still have to learn.

The Fisheries takes you on a tour of 25 locations where you can fulfill your quest. I like that Mayer involves locals (some big names in there!) in each writeup; who knows the water better than someone who fishes it a hundred days a year? Included are favorite patterns and recipes, from bulky articulated streamers to midge nymphs. (As a fly tying nerd I’m always curious about what other people are tying and throwing.)

Mayer’s style is conversational and easy to read. Everyone learns differently, and there’s a ton of visual reference, from photos to diagrams. Even if there weren’t pictures of Landon holding giant trout, you’d still come away with the notion that this guy knows what he’s talking about. Minor quibbles? Only three of the twenty-five fisheries are within driving distance of New England; the list skews heavily western U.S. Still, there’s more than enough quality information here for me heartily recommend The Hunt For Giant Trout. Now I’ve got to go back and read it again. Summer’s coming, and that two-footer is lurking under a logjam, waiting for the opportunity to strike.

One of the coolest parts of doing presentations at places like the Fly Fishing Show is that you get to meet people who have caught way more big trout than you. Like Landon. He’s also one of the nice guys in our sport. So get this book and read it. The Hunt for Giant Trout by Landon Mayer, Stackpole Books, ISBN 978-0-8117-3719-7.

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Best of North Country Spiders: Smoke Fly

You’ll often hear me say that there ain’t no best — only what’s best for you, or the situation. For this “Best of North Country Spiders” series, I’ve been choosing the flies based on what I like to fish here in the northeastern U.S. Or, in the case of the Smoke Fly, flies that I can’t believe I never fished, but should have. Beetle, anyone? How about a midge in size 18-20 (like a subsurface Griffith’s Gnat)? Even a steelhead fly in 2x short, 2x stout size 12. My mind is whirring…

Smoke Fly

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Hook: Dry or wet fly, 14-20
Silk: Purple
Body: Peacock herl
Hackle: Snipe undercovert or light blue-grey hen
Head: Peacock herl
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Tying Notes: To tie a more durable body, use two strands of herl spun on a length of thread or silk; you can see the technique in my Drowned Ant video here. I used hen hackle for this tie. The head is three wraps of a single strand of herl. You can find a general North Country spider video tutorial here.

Best of North Country Spiders: Yorkshire Greenwell

Sticklers may argue that this is a really winged wet. Yet there are multiple references dating back a long ways about the Yorkshire take on the legacy pattern Greenwell’s Glory. Tell you what: I’m including it here because it’s a storied fly — and most of all because I like it. Oh. Trout like it, too. Caddis, olives…it’s all glorious with Greenwell.

Yorkshire Greenwell

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Hook: Dry or wet fly, 12-16
Body: Yellow silk waxed to an olive shade
Rib: Fine gold wire
Hackle: Furnace hen
Wing: Woodcock or starling
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Tying Notes: Cobbler’s wax does a fine job of coloring up Pearsall’s Primrose Yellow. As for the wing/hackle order, I’ve seen this fly tied two ways: wing first and hackle first. The version pictured is hackle first, followed by starling for the wing. To tie in a quill wing with a minimum of grief, grip it between your thumb and middle finger (don’t ask why, just do it) position it, and bind down with three tight wraps. You can find a general North Country spider video tutorial here.

What’s new and news with Currentseams

Happy Saturday, everyone. Just some quick notes from your humble host. First, I hope everyone’s making through winter OK. Courage! Spring will be here soon. Thanks for your readership.

~ Speaking of reading, I’ve been writing. Just finished up a piece for Eastern Fly Fishing on the Farmington River. Many thanks to everyone who helped out, including but not limited to Torrey Collins, Don Butler, Steve Hogan, Neal Hagstrom, Brian Eltz, and of course my editor extraordinaire, AKA Mrs. Culton. It should be out later this year. And my Housy piece in the same mag should drop any day now.

~ I see Currentseams is very close to 700 followers. Once we reach and stabilize that number, we will have another subscriber appreciation drawing. Get six of your friends to follow!

~ My tying weekend at Legends is sold out. If you’re one of the people who signed up, many thanks for your support.

~ I hope you’re enjoying my “Best of North Country Spiders” series. We still have a few more to go.

~ Finally, my guiding rate card has changed (you can see it here). This reflects the ever-growing cost of doing business, what the local market is currently bearing, and brings me into line with my peers. Or, as Aunt Eller sang in Oklahoma!:

“I don’t say I’m no better than anybody else, but I’ll be danged if I ain’t just as good!”

Aunt Eller

Tight lines to all.

 

 

 

 

Best of North Country Spiders: Poult Bloa

Pale Wateries, indeed. The Poult Bloa has Light Cahills and Sulphurs written all over it. When it comes to matching those hatches with North Country style spiders, I have been using my home-brew Partridge and Light Cahill and one of Leisenring’s favorites, the Light Snipe and Yellow. Clearly, the Poult Bloa needs to move into the rotation. This fly would work both as part of a swung team, or as a dropper off a dry.

Poult Bloa North Country Spider

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Hook: Dry or wet fly, 14-18
Body: Straw silk
Hackle: Feather from the inside of a grouse wing
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Tying Notes: No straw-colored silk? Not to worry. UNI makes a very nice Light Cahill thread. Absent an English grouse wing, you could use any number of lighter colored hen hackles. You can find a general North Country spider video tutorial here.

 

 

Space Still Available for Legends Fly Tying Weekends

Sal at Legends on the Farmington is not only a good guy, but also a small engine whisperer. Yesterday my snow blower wouldn’t start, and I happened to be on the phone with Sal as I was driving to get a new spark plug. Sal opined that stale gas was the culprit. Bingo! Some fresh petrol in the chamber and she started right up.

Speaking of Sal, he tells me that Legends on the Farmington has a few openings left for their Fly Tying Weekends with Steve Culton (that’s me) March 22&23 (1 opening and room for a guest) and Bruce Marino February 22&23 (2 openings and room for a guest)  These are all inclusive $295.00 two night stays, breakfast Saturday and Sunday, Saturday Fly Tying and how to fish the Farmington, dinner Saturday night, BYOB.  Bring a participating guest to share your room for $159.00 or a nonparticipating guest for $89. Meals included for all guests. Contact Legends directly at 203-650-8767 or email legendsbnb@hotmail.com.

We’ll be tying buggy soft-hackled goodness like this.

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Best of North Country Spiders: Partridge and Orange

He probably had no idea, but the first angler who took a feather from the game he’d shot and attached it to a hook with some thread borrowed from his wife’s sewing kit was creating a classic. Today, there’s something poetic about catching a trout on a pattern that is hundreds of years old. From Olde England’s North Country to New England, nothing is lost in translation. I like the Partridge and Orange as a caddis imitation. It also makes a fine spinner.

Partridge and Orange

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Hook: Dry or wet fly, 12-16
Body: Orange silk
Hackle: Grey speckled partridge
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Tying Notes: If you’re new to soft hackles and North Country Spiders, this a great place to start. By varying the color of the thread and the size of the hook (and even the color of the partridge — the back is covered with brown speckled feathers) you can match just about any hatch. You can find a general North Country spider video tutorial here.