Last night’s Zoom books list, fly tying, and other nuggets

A good virtual crowd last night for my Tuesday Night Zoom, “Good Reads.” In case you missed it, I shared a dozen books that have had a major influence on my fly fishing approach/philosophy/success. I had several requests for the list, so here it is: Trout Fishing by Joe Brooks. Trout by Ray Bergman. The Soft-Hackled Fly and Tiny Soft Hackles by Sylvester Nemes. Wet Flies by Dave Hughes. Two Centuries of Soft-Hackled Flies by Sylvester Nemes. Trout Lessons by Ed Engle. Striper Moon and A Perfect Fish by Ken Abrames. Steelhead Fly Fishing by Trey Combs. Steelhead Dreams by Matt Supinski. Nymph Fishing by George Daniel. Tactical Fly Fishing by Devin Olsen.

Some of the language in Trout is a little moldy, but Bergman still nails certain truths that have withstood the test of time.

It occurs to me that each of these books deserves its own review. I’ve already formally reviewed some of the newer ones on these pages, but I’ll be starting a series featuring the others very soon. Last night’s Zoom was so well received that I’m going to do another on Good Reads (Son of Good Reads? Good Reads II? Attack of the Good Reads?). The well of influential material is deep!

There’s still room in Saturday’s (January 30) class, Tying Wingless and Winged Wet Flies. We start at 1pm, and you can literally sign up for it any time before then. Here are the details.

And now, I’m off to write something for Dennis Zambrotta’s followup to Surfcasting Around The Block. Stripers on the brain…

Farmington River Report 1/8/21: Fun with long-leader jigged streamers

Every once in a while I need a new project. Since I’ve been on a streamer kick, this seemed like a capital idea: try fishing small jig streamers on a long leader. This video featuring Lance Egan had piqued my interest. The point is not to cover vast stretches of river, but rather to work in close and target likely holding areas, tempting trout with a protein payoff. I’d fished in a similar manner for smallmouth on the Hous, bouncing dumbbell eyed streamers or larger jig streamers (like Barr’s Meat Whistle) along the bottom, but I wanted to try the longer leader thing with a smaller bug.

I reached out to fly fisher extraordinaire Devin Olsen for a quick leader formula. He suggested a basic construct like the one in his book Tactical Fly Fishing: 12 feet of 15# or 20# Maxima, 3 feet of 12# Amnesia, 18″ of 0.012 sighter material, tippet ring, then 6′-10′ of 4x or 5x tippet. I kept fly selection simple with this basic black and silver jig streamer, tied on a size 8 hook. Total length is about 2″.

So I hit the water. The winter crowds continue to astonish. I saw more anglers out yesterday than I do during an entire previous typical winter. I stayed within the Permanent TMA, with was running cold and clear at 450cfs. I shared the first mark with four other anglers; I blanked, and the only trout I saw taken came on bait.

I scored a lovely mid-teens wild brown in Spot B. This fish hammered the fly on the drop. This is a video still so the shot really doesn’t do the fish justice. I thought I had a trophy brown in Spot C, but two-thirds through the fight I could tell that something wasn’t quite right. My suspicions were confirmed when I netted a large sucker, foul-hooked in a pectoral fin.

The last two marks I hit were also blanks, but I counted the day as an unequivocal success. I’ll be working on this technique some more this winter, and will also be using it at times for smallmouth. It’s certainly best for in-close work, not only in terms of presentation, but casting as well. (The rig is an absolute bitch to cast; you’re not so much casting as you are lifting, loading, and lobbing.)

Book Review: “Tactical Fly Fishing” by Devin Olsen

To fully understand the genesis of Devin Olsen’s Tactical Fly Fishing, you need to include its subtitle: Lessons Learned from Competition for All Anglers. If you’re like me — someone who views competitions as a joy-of-fishing buzzkill — letting the C-word put you off would be a mistake. If you’re interested in becoming a better, more well-rounded angler, Tactical Fly Fishing is jam-packed with information you can use to catch more trout on your next outing.

Some of the best teachers I know take an “I’m not right, and I don’t know it all — I’m just showing you how I’d do it” approach to learning. Olsen nails this throughout the book. It’s particularly evident in the chapter, “Gear and Rigging.” He gives you an honest, broad overview, and leaves it to you to make equipment decisions.

Olsen divides river sections into water types: Pocketwater, Riffles, Runs, Pools, Glides, and Bankside Lies. He devotes a chapter to each, and this is where the book shines. He includes a few case studies, complete with photos, detailing how he approaches each water and situation. It’s almost like you’re tagging along for the lesson. With Olsen’s competition experience and success, you get the sense that there’s not a lot of water he hasn’t seen. Fish with confidence!

Regular readers of currentseams know that I don’t Euro-nymph, and given its competition roots, Euro-nymphing methodology plays an extensive role in this book. That doesn’t mean the information is irrelevant to us non-Euro nymphers — you just need to work through it as it applies to how you fish. Reading water is reading water, and since that’s such a huge part of catching, we all would do well to study the water type chapters. There’s also a short chapter on proven fly patterns; as a fly junkie I wish there were more (what, no soft hackles?).

Despite the Euro-nymphing emphasis, a consistent theme emerges throughout Tactical Fly Fishing: there is no one best way — and the best anglers take a fluid approach to the situations they are faced with and the methods they choose. In some stretches the book can get a little technical, but I’d rather have more information than not enough. (I first heard of Devin when I saw a picture of him weighing nymphs on a tiny scale. I remember thinking: this is a detail-oriented angler.) Olsen’s style is nonetheless conversational and easy-to-read. Tactical Fly Fishing is one of those references that I will be going back to on a regular basis.

It may seem like an easy gig — people send you books, you read them, then write about them — but it isn’t. You should know that I take this seriously, and if I didn’t like something, I’d tell you. So I’m telling you. This is a good one. All I ask of a how-to angling book is: teach me stuff I don’t know. Remind me of stuff I’ve forgotten. Don’t write like you’re trying to impress me with your knowledge of the thesaurus. Tactical Fly Fishing delivers. Tactical Fly Fishing — Lessons Learned from Competition for All Anglers by Devin Olsen, Stackpole Books, ISBN 978-0-8117-1982-7.