The best winter nymph patterns are the ones that inspire confidence

I’ve got nymphing on my brain. I’m hoping to get out this week and scratch that itch, but right now I’m chained to the computer. So here are some of my favorite winter nymph patterns. It’s a short list — I like to keep things simple. These are all high-confidence patterns, which makes them the best nymphs for me. What nymphs do you like to fish in the winter?

You’ll find a lot of tiny bugs in the cold months, especially on a tailwater, so going small with your nymphs is usually a good idea. This late winter beauty fell for a size 18 (2x short) BHPT.

3-10-14 Brown

Frenchie Nymph Variant. A little flash, a little color, a little contrast, a little natural brown means a lot of good nymphing mojo

Squirrel and Ginger Beadhead. Sans bead, one of my favorite caddis emergers. Add a black brass bead and deepwater magic ensues.

G-R Blue Bead Midge. Love this fly in winter when the flows aren’t too high or fast. Make it your top dropper, and if the trout are on small stuff, hold on.

Rainbow Warrior. I like this fly on brighter days. (That’s a general rule of thumb for me: if a fly is based on flash and shine, it won’t do its job as well on overcast days). The Rainbow Warriors are on the cork to the left in the linked shot.

Soft Hackle Pheasant Tail. Sizes 12-14, with a bead, this is my point fly on a two-fly nymph rig. Size 16-20, no bead head, it’s a terrific top dropper. Looks like a ton of bugs in general.

Hare and Copper Variant. What’s there not to like about Pheasant Tail, Red Fox Squirrel, and Hare’s ear? Oh, and there’s a copper bead, too. Sign me up!

“Tying and Fishing Wet Flies with Steve Culton” class added to Marlborough Fly Fishing Show

I’m excited to announce that I’ll be part of the “Classes with the Experts” series at the 2020 Marlborough Fly Fishing Show, Saturday, January 18, 2pm-4:30pm. Here’s the course description: “Learn to tie and fish classic North Country spiders and other wet flies that trout can’t resist. The course also covers basics like leader construction, fly selection, where to fish wet flies, and how to fish them. Intermediate.”

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To attend you must register, and you cannot do that through me. You need to go to the Fly Fishing Show website. Here’s some more info:

Note: Most tying classes require some experience and others may require more. Ask us when you call. Beginners are welcome, but be prepared for more than basics. All students must bring their own tying vise, tools, lamp if needed, and a sampling of materials. Most classes will provide adequate materials for the patterns being taught.  If a class is cancelled, you will be notified 5 days prior to the show and permitted to switch or receive a refund. Bring your own lamp, vise, tools & a basic selection of materials.

To insure quality instruction class size is limited. Call us for more class descriptions or availability. Classes will fill and close, so register early. The tuition charge of $85 includes admission to the show for that day. There are no refunds unless the class is cancelled. You MUST register in advance. For more information call 814-443-3638.

Farmington River Report 12/6/19: Dedicated to the (futile) streamer cause

I fished the permanent TMA today from noon to 2:15pm. Air temp was 37, water about the same, clouds and snow showers. The water was flowing at 340cfs. As the title says, I went all in on streamers, but never drew the protein payoff card. I hit three marks, and enjoyed the water (and my cigar, a San Lotano Pyramid) all to myself. There were bugs about (tiny BWOs, midges) and I even saw a few sporadic rises, but that dull thud on the swing and strip was sadly absent. Not much angler activity — one guy 250 yards below me at the second mark, a few hardy souls here and there, but today you pretty much had your pick of water. Fished a Coffey Sparkle Minnow, Hi-Liter, and Deep Threat, all on the full sink tip integrated line. We’ll get ’em next time.

Shooting the streamer line. I had forgotten how a few hours in the cold saps me. I’m wiped out, but looking forward to pizza night.

shooting

 

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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Salmon River Report 11/25-26: None. One. Are we still having fun?

For a guy who never plays at casinos, I manage to do an awful lot of gambling. Like planning my Salmon River, Pulaski, steelhead trips months in advance. As with Vegas, the odds always favor the house. Sometimes you win. More often, you lose — and lose big. My trip earlier in November brought me the double whammy of a sub-par steelhead run and an Arctic cold front. I felt lucky to escape with my dignity and fingertips intact, and the two steelhead I landed were a trip-saving bonus.

Two weeks later, here I was again. (See “Go, Weather or Not” in my Great Lakes Steelhead piece for Field & Stream.) Make that we, as this was the annual father-son November steelhead trip — facing moderate flows (350cfs, 500cfs at Pineville) but the same paucity of fish. (2019 was, according to my records, tied for the second worst year in the last ten in numbers of fish landed.)

There’s not much to tell you about Monday. We floated the middle river, as always with steelhead guide extraordinaire Row Jimmy, aka James Kirtland, but the vast majority of steelhead that had been there the previous few days had skedaddled. Not a single touch for me in over eight hours of carpet bombing the river bottom. Cam managed one brown, and Jimmy rolled a steelhead that was quickly off. Here, Cam reflects upon the errors or our ways while considering the merit of Stefano’s garlic knots. 

CamMenu

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The command decision was made to float the upper river on Tuesday. We enjoyed a gentlemen’s start at the civilized hour of 7:15am. Here’s Cam wrangling the Pavati at the Altmar boat launch. The anglers we spoke to at the bottom of the LFZ reported a slow beginning to the day.

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So, let’s change that up. Since we needed to let some boats ahead of us fish through, we parked the boat and Jim (did I mention he’s a guide extraordinaire?) pointed to some likely holding water. A bit of a treacherous wade, but manageable, and it wasn’t too long before I was rewarded with a dipping indicator and a thrumming sensation at the end of my line. The fishing quote of the year goes to Cam, who said, “Well, Dad, now you won’t be grouchy for the rest of the day!”

DaySaver

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I’d like to tell you that my fish was the start of something big, but ’twas not to be. We endured hours of the same non-existent action. So when Cam scored this handsome steelhead around noon, we decided that on this day (50 degrees and partly sunny to boot!) we’d beaten the house.

CamSteel2019

 

 

It’s Show Time! Steve Culton’s Fly Fishing Show Marlborough Schedule

Greetings, fellow currentseamsers. I hope everyone had an enjoyable Thanksgiving holiday — and for those of you in the northeast, I hope you’ve successfully navigated this wretched early winter storm. On to the fun stuff!

Once again, I will be giving multiple talks at the Fly Fishing Show in Marlborough, MA, January 17, 18 &19, 2020:

Friday, January 17: Tactical Advantage: Angler vs. Trout, 12pm. Destination Theater, Room A. The best trout anglers enjoy a tactical advantage by constantly making adjustments, trying different approaches, following tried-and-true best practices, and fine-tuning their presentations. Here are 15 specific, proven tactics that will give you a decisive edge on your next trout expedition. This is a new presentation, and you can be there for its debut performance.

Friday, January 17, Seminar: Wet Flies 101, 3pm, Release Room. For those of you who have been asking, “When are you going to be presenting ‘Wet Flies 101’ again?,” here’s your answer! This presentation was recently updated, and provides a basic introduction to this ancient and traditional — and did I mention, “highly effective”? — subsurface method.

Saturday, January 18: Lost Secrets of Legendary Anglers, 10am. Destination Theater, Room C. Have you ever wondered which rod Lee Wulff would use in this situation? What does Ken Abrames do before every cast? Where does Joe Humphries think the most productive spot is on any river? These questions and many more will be answered in LSOLA. Culled from literature and personal interviews, this presentation covers 15 proven tactics and strategies used by master anglers, past and present, to catch more fish.

Sunday, January 19: Tactical Advantage: Angler vs. Trout, 10am. Destination Theater, Room B.

Naturally, I expect (and appreciate) a big turnout from you, the loyal currentseams reader. Please come say hello before or after the presentation. And stay tuned for my Edison, NJ appearance schedule.

Show time again. Speaking and teaching and meeting and greeting is one of my favorite parts of this job.

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