We’re back with another Tuesday Night Zoom, baby! Proper catch-and-release principles and technique is a subject we should all be taking seriously. Yes, fishing is ultimately a blood sport, but there are ways to hook, land, photograph, and release fish before they know what hit them. Join me tomorrow night and we’ll talk about it. If you’re not already on my Currentseams Zoom email list, send me a request at firstname.lastname@example.org. Link goes out Tuesday late afternoon. Check your spam box if you don’t get it.
Many thanks to those who attended yesterday’s class, Tying The The Soft-Hackled Fly. Good group, good questions, and we made it through a few minor technical glitches in fine form. I was very pleased with the new camera for the closeup tying action — it was exponentially better than the stock cam on my Mac laptop. There will be another class, very likely on Saturday January 30th, 1pm, Tying Wingless & Winged Wet Flies. I’ll formally announce that class in a couple days. There will also be a Tuesday Night Zoom this week — check out the site tomorrow for the topic. Enjoy your Sunday — you deserve it!
Yesterday’s question of the day was, “What soft hackle can I tie that I can fish right now?” My answer was this, the last fly we tied, the Starling and Herl. Perfect for the top dropper on your nymph rig. This is a size 14; I’d go with a 16-18, and especially a size 18 2x short scud hook. It’s a great match for all the tiny bugs that are prevalent on our cold northeast rivers right now. Make your body more durable by making a herl rope; you can see that technique in my video for the Drowned Ant Soft Hackle.
Thanks to everyone who signed up for Tying The soft-Hackled Fly! If you want to join us at 1pm, there’s still time to sign up. If you’re already paid, you should have received an email from me with the Zoom link last night. If you didn’t get it, please send me an email ASAP and I’ll get the information to you. See you at 1pm.
Yesterday I fished with Toby Lapinski, a long overdue payback for all the striper outings he treated me to this fall. We decided to go for big instead of numbers, so streamers it was. We started in the Permanent TMA, although we first bounced around looking for a mark that didn’t have the equivalent angler population of Manhattan. (Hint: stay away from the big name pools.) Conditions were perfect for winter streamers: 325cfs, clear, no slush ice, 40 degree air temp and overcast with occasional mists and drizzle.
Rule one of winter streamer fishing: find the fish that want to eat. We decided to mix it up at the first mark. I was long-leader-tight line small black jig streamer in faster water; Toby was traditional fly line with a white jig streamer in slower, deeper stuff. I blanked, but Toby scored a big, bad brown. You can’t see it in the photo, but that’s just over 20″ of trutta buttah. Awesome trout. Observed: a modest midge hatch and trout rising to them in the frog water. We started with the place all to ourselves; by the time we left, there were five other anglers.
Although anglers were seemingly everywhere, we had the second mark all to ourselves. Oh. This guy was there, too. He was hanging out in some faster water and hit on the drop as the streamer was jigged downstream. I missed him on that first take, but fortunately I didn’t deviate from the presentation, and he came right back and struck on the drop again. Here’s to second chances! Great photo by Toby. I had one more hit on the jig, then I switched over to a traditional streamer winter streamer setup: full sink tip line and short leader with a weighted fly (Coffey Sparkle Minnow).
Winter fishing requires attention to detail. If you’re not ready, you might miss it. Here’s a hawk-eyed Toby focusing on his sighter. I had one little bump on the Sparkle Minnow, then we moved to the third mark. Only one angler there, but he left after 5 minutes and again we had a long section of river all to ourselves. I managed a fine 13″ wild brown and then we called it a (victorious) day. We fished from 11:30am-4:00pm, and I was grateful for the time spent on the water, the action, and the good company.
Another fun Tuesday Night Currentseams Zoom last night! In case you missed it, we talked about winter fly fishing, from gearing up to dressing to when, where, and how. There will be more of these public Zooms throughout the winter. Thanks to the 50+ attendees for hanging out with me for an hour.
I’ve also seen a spike in Currentseams subscribers since the holidays and I’d like to say welcome. I appreciate your readership, and going forward I’ll try to provide you with far better fly fishing content than today’s material. But this is a writing day, and so I must take fingers to keyboard lest my editor jump ugly upon my personage. And with that, off I go.
Warning: Fly Fishing Writer At Work.
Some of you didn’t get last Tuesday’s Zoom link email — that is, the mass email I send out to my Zoom contact list, not the new post alerts that you get from this site. Actually, you did get it. It just went to your spam folder. So please make sure your Tuesday Zoom link email is going to your inbox. (I’ll be sending tonight’s out around 5pm.) Also, if you’re on the Zoom email list, you’re on the Zoom email list. You don’t need to ask every week to be placed on it. I hope all this helps, and I’m looking forward to a good crowd tonight (Winter Fly Fishing).
Due to popular demand I will be doing a second wet fly tying Zoom class. This one will focus on wingless and winged wet flies. I haven’t decided on a date, but it will likely be Saturday the 23rd or Saturday the 30th. Same great value price ($10). Please stay tuned!
You too can learn to tie old school wet flies that trout cannot resist.
I’m pleased to declare war on cabin fever with another free Currentseams Tuesday Night Zoom, tomorrow, January 12 at 8pm. The subject will be winter fly fishing, and you can read all about it on the poster below. Hope to see you there!
Plus, if you haven’t done so already, there’s still time to sign up for my first winter fly tying Zoom class, Tying the Soft-Hackled Fly, this Saturday January 16th. This class is a pay-to-play event, and the cost is a very reasonable $10.
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.)
“Smuts — I welcome smutting trout.” So writes J.C. Mottram in his book Thoughts on Angling. I don’t have the book, but I do have Syl Nemes’ second edition of The Soft Hackled Fly and Tiny Soft Hackles. In that book, Nemes devotes a chapter to Mottram and his collection of soft-hackled smuts. (“Smut” is a colloquial British term for a very tiny fly, such as a midge, and trout that are “smutting” are delicately feeding on those miniature bugs.)
There are six Smuts listed by Nemes. I’ve only tied one, the Number 1 (shame on me for not exploring further). I revisit it today because I happened to have Nemes’ book out, and this is a great time of year to fish midges. (Midges are a major, consistently available food source for trout in the winter.) I’ve mostly fished Smut Number 1 as a dry fly, but I’ve also used it subsurface. The wise winter nymph angler will no doubt want to include this tiny soft hackle as the top dropper in their nymph rig.
Nemes includes a photo of the Smut Number 1, and it bears only a faint resemblance to what I tie. His looks like the body is entirely constructed of working thread; mine uses the specified wool. (UNI makes a nice wool yarn thread on a spool.) His hackle is wound wingless wet style, covering the front third of the body; mine is wound at the head. I suspect the wingless wet style would be very appealing to trout. Worth the price of admission alone is the blank stare you’ll get from the angler who will inquire, as you hook trout after trout, what fly are you using? “Smut Number 1,” is your response. Soak in that moment. And here it is, J.C. Mottram’s Smut Number 1.
Hook: TMC 100 18-22
Thread: UNI Black 8/0
Abdomen: Black wool
Thorax: Black wool
Hackle: Long white
Thanks to everyone who joined me for last night’s Currentseams Tuesday Night Zoom. We had nearly 60 people, which doesn’t suck, and a splendid time was had by all. I’m sorry about the muting issues — I will have it figured out for next time. Speaking of next time, we’ll do it again next Tuesday, January 12. I’ll be talking about winter fly fishing, and winter fly tying — so be there or be square! I’ll post a reminder early next week.
As John Cleese would say, “And now for something completely different.” I’m going to do my first winter fly tying pay-per-Zoom event on Saturday, January 16 at 1pm. This will be about 90 minutes of fly tying/tie-along instruction. The cost is $10. To “register,” you send 10 bucks to me at PayPal (ID is email@example.com) and I’ll send you the link to the meeting. Our first session will be Tying the Soft-Hackled Fly. This will cover some basic, useful patterns, and will include the North Country Spider template. It would be ideal if everyone had every kind of hackle, but I know that’s not possible, nor is it necessary. But you should have some basics, like different color threads, different hooks, tools, etc. You should have a partridge skin or at least partridge feathers. Starling would be good to have. If you have any kind of hen cape soft hackle, have that handy. The point is, if you don’t have a specific kind of hackle, you can find it later. This is all about tying basics and templates. Oh! I’d like to show you the Squirrel and Ginger, so please find ginger Angora goat, green Krystal flash, Squirrel fur, and high-tack wax. If you don’t have the goat, you can use another kind of dubbing. Wire can be substituted for Krystal Flash. Questions? You know where to find me.
By popular demand, fly tying classes by Zoom! The first will be two Saturdays from now, January 16th, 1pm, and the subject will be Tying The Soft-Hackled Fly. See above for materials list.