It’s getting to be that time of year when we can think about not dredging the bottom and start fishing in the upper reaches of the water column. We’re talking wet flies for this Currentseams Tuesday Night Zoom, and I’ll be telling you about the materials and hooks I use to tie these simple, traditional, and devastatingly effective flies. Bonus: I’ll throw in a tying demo. If you haven’t been getting the Zoom links — I send them out Tuesday late afternoon — please check your spam box. If you’re sending a request to get on the list, please don’t wait until 7:45 p.m. Tuesday night…I won’t be checking my email that late. Thanks!
Sal, the owner of Legends on the Farmington, has authorized me to make the following special offer to currentseams readers: you can now attend my Wet Flies & Soft Hackles class for one day only, Saturday, March 14, dinner included, for just $99!
If you want to catch more fish, you should be tying and fishing wet flies like the Squirrel and Ginger.
What: “Wet Flies and Soft Hackles” is a tying and how-to fishing class. We’ll do plenty of tying (bring your vise, tools, and threads and I’ll supply the rest of the soft-hackled magic) and we’ll have a little classroom presentation/discussion here and there.
When: Saturday, March 14. Starts around 9am. Goes all day, then we enjoy a delicious dinner prepared by Sal.
Where: Legends on the Farmington, a gorgeous lodge on the banks of the river.
How: You cannot sign up/resgister through me or my website. Please contact Sal at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit their site at legendsbnb.com.
This class will sell out, so make haste. See you there!
Happy Sunday. Hope everyone is enjoying the warmer weather. I am not, as I am STILL under the weather. I’ve got the cold that my doctor tells me is “lasting for up to month.” I’m now on week 3. Happy-happy-fun-joy, and I haven’t been fishing since early January. Bleah.
Capt. Hank Hewitt of Block Island Fishworks says, “Steve’s cold sucks THIS much!”
So, here’s a good, short read from our good friends at the American Saltwater Guides Association. This group continues to fight the good fight, and is being relentless even in the face of disappointing news. Please consider showing your support for their efforts with a donation. You can effort that on their website.
Many of you noticed my recent post on Stewart’s Black Spider. I’m hoping to cover his Red and Dun spiders next. Then, some more of Leisenring’s flies. Last winter I did a highly popular series of posts on Leisenring’s Favorite Dozen wet flies. Now I want to take a closer look at patterns he describes as nymphs.
Baron von Black Gnatgenstein.
Speaking of wet flies, stay tuned this week for special offer/event on a wet fly tying and fishing class I’ll be leading in March! In the meantime, I hope somebody’s fishing…
There’s still space available in my class at the Marlborough Fly Fishing Show, Tying and Fishing Wet Flies, Saturday January 18, 2pm-4:30pm. This is a great opportunity learn how to tie different wet fly styles, plus learn how to fish them. You too can become a one-angler trout wrecking crew! To sign up, click here.
To the rest of the Fly Fishing Show Marlborough Jan 17-18-19. Three Destination Theater presentations and one Seminar: Friday, January 17: Tactical Advantage: Angler vs. Trout, 12pm. Destination Theater, Room A
Friday, January 17, Seminar: Wet Flies 101, 3pm, Release Room
Saturday, January 18: Lost Secrets of Legendary Anglers, 10am. Destination Theater, Room C
Sunday, January 19: Tactical Advantage: Angler vs. Trout, 10am. Destination Theater, Room B. You can read more about those talks here.
I’m hoping for a strong turnout from currentseams followers, and as always, please come say hello!
A 20-something inch Housy brown that was seduced by the charms of a simple soft-hackle.
“Do you ever add weight to your wet fly rig? If so, where do you place the weight on the leader?” “Do you ever use weighted wet flies?” I get these questions a lot. Here are the answers.
This is how we do it. Two options for adding weight or a weighted fly to a wet fly team. There’s a downloadable pdf link below. FYI, the Maxima I use most often is 4# Ultragreen.
Let’s start with the last one. I hardly ever use weighted flies, and when I do, it’s with a specific purpose. Syl Nemes was of the opinion that if you were using beadheads or weighted flies, you weren’t wet fly fishing. I have a lot of respect for Syl — he is, after all, a giant in the pantheon of American wet fly fishers — but I find the weighted wet fly a practical arrow to have in one’s quiver.
So, I’ll add a tungsten beadhead wet on point when the water is generally higher than I’d like (500-800cfs on the Farmington); if I’m fishing a deep pool where there are some trout rising, but I suspect the bulk of the emerger action is well beneath the surface; or if I want to sink the flies quickly and then create a more precipitous rise as the line comes tight. If my drift is of any significant length, or the pool is particularly deep, I’ll be throwing mends and keeping slack in the line to help sink the rig. In some cases I may throw a shorter line and “nymph” without touching the bottom — almost like a deep water Leisenring Lift.
Adding weight to the leader is almost always a strategic decision I make based on river structure. Okay — that, and also because I’m lazy. Let’s say I’m wading along, fishing a stretch of riffles and pockets and runs with a water depth of 1-3 feet. Suddenly, I’m faced with a riffle that dumps into a stretch of deep water — or a deep, long pocket. Nothing is rising, and a few swings through prove fruitless. Still, it’s a fishy looking hole, and I’m certain there are trout holding on the bottom. This is where the lazy kicks in. Rather than swap out the wet fly rig, I’ll create a quasi wet fly/nymph rig by adding a removable BB shot just above the knot that forms the middle dropper.
Keep the line plumb when you’re presenting deep. Feel that shot ticking along the bottom. If you detect a strike or if the line moves off vertical, set the hook hard downstream.
Now I’ve got a three fly team that, when presented correctly, covers two crucial areas of water. If I present like I’m short line/tight line nymphing, the middle dropper fly will be right at the bottom; the point fly, just above the bottom; and the top dropper about 16-24″ off the bottom. I’ll either feel the take, or, as I’m tracking the drift and keeping the line plumb, see the line begin to angle behind the drift; in either case, a hard set downstream is in order.
There is no magic depth for making the decision to present near the bottom. Channel your inner Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, and you’ll know it when you see it.
My client Paul was swinging a team of wets through a run that I knew held fish. We had no takers, so we dipped into the shot-on-the-leader till for some tight line bottom presentations. Ding-ding-ding! Paul scored this gorgeous high teens Survivor Strain truttasaurus.
I can’t make up my mind whether this is a beetle or an attractor. Leisenring must have had some trouble deciding on the pattern as well. Brown hackle? Or red hackle? Ah, what the heck. While we’re pondering these delicious mysteries, let’s go with this: the Brown or Red Hackle looks like something that’s alive and good to eat.
Brown or Red Hackle
All good things to those who wait (and my apologies for the delay). The 500 followers contest winners are getting their flies shipped today. Coming to a mailbox soon near you:
Drew gets this section of early season bugs. Clockwise from 7 o’clock: SHBHPT, Hare and Copper variant, Frenchie variant, Squirrel and Ginger, Dark Hendrickson winged wet, Hendrickson spider.
Pete wins the classic North Country spiders, tied on light wire hooks with Pearsall’s Gossamer silks. Left cork: Winter Brown, Black Magic. Right cork, clockwise from 3 o’clock: Orange Partridge, Snipe and Purple, Grey Partridge, Poult Bloa.
Greg gets this selection wet flies for the Farmington and Housasontic. Clockwise from noon: Pale Watery wingless (Magic Fly), Drowned Ant, Squirrel and Ginger, BWO spider, SHBHPT, Partridge and Light Cahill.
Tight lines, gentlemen. And thanks to everyone for reading and following currentseams. Another 60 or so followers and we’ll do it again!
If you want to learn how to tie and fish wet flies, soft hackles, and fuzzy nymphs for trout, you can start by reading The Soft-Hackled Fly and Tiny Soft Hackles by Sylvester Nemes and Wet Flies: Tying and Fishing Soft-Hackles, Winged and Wingless Wets, and Fuzzy Nymphs by Dave Hughes. That’s what I did a long time ago, and I’m a better angler for it.
Too many fly fishing how-to books read like the dictionary — or worse, a quantum physics monograph. Not the case here. Both Hughes and Nemes write with a conversational style, perfectly weaving anecdotes with critical know-how.
The Soft-Hackled Fly and Tiny Soft Hackles is a combination of two of Nemes’ earlier works. It’s a pattern book for sure, but there’s also plenty of relevant storytelling. It’s loaded with peals of wisdom (“If you have never tied flies before, I urge you to start immediately. The practice is exhilarating.”) and hidden gems like using North Country spiders for steelhead. The purchase price alone is worth being able to tell someone that you’re catching all those trout on a size 20 Smut No. 1.
Hughes’ Wet Flies is likewise a pattern book, with multiple step-by-step photos and clear instructions. But it also covers history, wet fly types, and how to fish them. It’s a user-friendly read that exudes confidence in the patterns and the methods. My only complaint is that it’s a more western US-centric view of the subject. But wherever you live, you’ll find Wet Flies relevant (“Trout aren’t interested in neatness”). Note that there is now a second edition of Wet Flies, with new photos and patterns. I haven’t read it; I trust that it’s pretty darned good, too.