Me and Cam and a couple of brookies

Three hours in the woods is good for the soul, especially if it involves a thin blue line and fishing with one of your sons. In early spring the woods hold so much promise. The buds look ready to burst, the skunk cabbage pips are poking through the swampy sections of forest floor, and if you’re lucky you can be fishing in shirt sleeves. I prefer these tiny woodland wonders when there’s canopy, but I’m always curious about what the day will bring regardless of conditions. We both fished bushy dries, save for a few exploratory plunges with an ICU Sculpin. We didn’t find many players, but those we did attacked the fly with fervor. (All photos by Cam Culton save for the one of him fishing.)

We paid a lot of attention to the white water and its borders around the plunge pools, but what was lurking beneath didn’t feel like coming up. Areas like this one are usually money once the warmer weather arrives.
Contemplating my best approach to this logjam of a pool over an Olive Serie V Melanio.
We saw a fish rising in the tailout of pool. Turns out the brookie was holding a few feet upstream near a submerged tree limb and opportunistically falling back to feed. She took my fly on the first drift. To be able to cradle such a treasure and then release her…this just never gets old. Our outing was a mid-to-late afternoon jaunt, and while there was no significant bug activity we did witness sz 14 caddis, midges and what I can only guess were some tiny olives. We pricked about a half dozen fish; this was the only one brought to hand.
Young man at work. We found a player in a small run who slashed at the fly maybe a dozen times over the course of 15 minutes. (Part of that time was spend sitting stream side, resting the pool. Not a bad way to spend five minutes.) We switched out the big bushy dry for a smaller Yellow Humpy, but even thought the char was a decent size for this brook, we couldn’t get the hook to stick. We tried a Snipe and Purple, and finally the ICU Sculpin, then tipped our hat to the fish and began the long hike out of the woods.

I’m currently reading — and loving — “Caddisflies” by Gary LaFontaine

First of all, I can’t believe that it’s taken me this long to read this book. OK, so it’s out of print and even used copies are pricey. (This would seem like a good time to thank the currentseams follower — he knows who he is — who so generously gifted me a used copy in excellent condition. Tightest of lines to you, good sir!) But still. Next, I can’t believe I’ve never tied nor fished his sparkle pupae or sparkle emerger patterns. Methinks I have been missing out some bravura action. Like the book, I’ve known about these patterns for years, I’ve just never…egad.

So much of what I’ve read thus far resonates, particularly the bite triggers theory as it applies to fly tying caddis patterns. (Saltwater fly tyers should read those passages, and transpose them to what they’re tying. But most won’t. They like their big googly eyes and realistic flies too much.) I’m particularly interested in the upcoming how-to fishing sections. In the meantime, I have some materials to order…

Currentseams Tuesday Night Zoom 3/23/21, 8pm: “Tying Wet Flies”

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!

Busy writing yesterday and today for “Surfcasting Around The Block” followup

As many of you know, I’ve been asked to contribute a chapter to Dennis Zambotta’s followup to “Surfcasting Around The Block.” I’d started writing back in December, then got sidetracked. First draft is done. Now comes the hard part — the editing, polishing, re-writing. So for now other creative projects will have to wait. For what it’s worth, I’m excited about what I’ve written so far.

Cannot write without coffee. Must use my favorite mug.

Steelhead report: Wreck of the Old 97

Number Three Son Gordo and I fished the Salmon River for two days last week and it was a slow bite. Conditions were about a s good as you could expect for this time of year: 875cfs at the Pineville gauge and clear water. Monday was in the teens to start and it never got above freezing. Tuesday was another frosty launch, but we were in the mid thirties by noon. This was a float trip with my guide friend James Kirtland, aka Row Jimmy. We did the mid-river run (Pineville to 2A) both days. I was happy with this as every boat we spoke to coming down from Altmar described crowded shore and drift conditions with a nearly non-existent bite. So if the fishing’s going to be slow, I’d rather be mostly alone.

Monday. The plan was to cherry-picked marks that had recently produced. The first was a blank. The second provided a classic “Life isn’t fair. Neither is steelheading.” moment. I had drifted through a patch a half dozen times in the previous hour and the indicator had gone under every time due to a shallow. On the seventh time it was a fish, and I nonchalanted the hook set. Fish on, briefly, then off. Operator error.

In the afternoon, we spent some time picking pockets and seams and Gordo was rewarded with a standard-issue dark horse buck. Skunk’s off for the boat, and that always feels good. Sadly, nothing for me, although I do have to say that my precision casting game was on.
Holy chrome hen, Batman! I missed my shot as I was rigging up while the guys were covering water. Jim hooked it, Gordo landed it, and we were all blinded by light. About a half hour after this, my indicator dipped, and I set the hook. The line screamed upstream at a breakneck pace, then went limp. Clearly, that was a fouled fish. It was also our last touch of the day.

Tuesday. We expected this to be a better day, since the temperature would be rising and we now knew where there were pods of fish. As it so often happens, just when you think you’ve figured it out, nature smacks you upside the head. Nothing, nothing, nothing. Move the boat. Nothing, nothing, nothing. Finally, I hook into a good-sized dark horse buck, somewhere in between the size of the two fish pictured above. He realizes he’s hooked, runs, and leaps. I regain line. He runs again, and leaps two more times. But I can feel that that was his last big run. I’m not letting him breathe, cranking that reel handle. This will be steelhead number 98. And then, he’s gone. I look at Jim. Jim looks at me. We both opine that this was simply a case of bad luck: fast hookset, hard hookset, well-played. What else can you do? And that, ladies and gents, was our only touch of the day. It really is a cruel sport sometimes.

Where baby stoneflies come from. These early black stones, size 16-18, were all over the place. It may have been a function of lack of steelhead, but I didn’t have any takes on stonefly/natural color/soft-hackled patterns. We also saw midges (very tiny).
I got to visit an old friend on Tuesday. This little slice of heaven didn’t produce any action, and it was a hard hoof through the snow, but it was worth the few minutes we got to spend together. And so, dear reader, I remain stuck at 97 steelhead landed. Better times are surely coming. At least that’s what I keep telling myself.

Thank you, Mid-Hudson Chapter of TU!

Many thanks to the members of the Mid-Hudson Chapter of TU for being my virtual hosts last night. The topic was one of my favorites, Wet Flies 101. We followed up with an excellent post-Zoom Q&A session. I was delighted to meet everyone, and I look forward to being able to do it person in the future! Hope to see some of you tonight for my Tuesday Night Currentseams Zoom, “Almost Anything Goes: Fly Fishing Q&A.”

The Hackled March Brown from one of Nemes’ books. Responsible for one of the biggest brown trout I’ve ever landed.
You can check out the fly-tying video here.

Currentseams Tuesday Night Zoom 3/16, 8pm: “Almost Anything Goes: Fly Fishing Q&A”

We’re back! This Currentseams Tuesday Night Zoom is all about you — specifically, your questions. Trout, small streams, smallmouth, steelhead, stripers — flies, rigging, gear, tactics, presentation, how-to — ask away and I’ll do my best to answer. 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!

“Six Things Salt Water Fly Anglers Can Learn From Plug Fisherman” in Field & Stream Online

I’ve long believed that anglers using different methods can learn much from each other. That’s what Six Things Salt Water Fly Anglers Can Learn From Plug Fisherman, now available at Field & Stream Online, is all about: going to school on anglers who are fishing differently than you. I got the idea from books like Surfcasting Around The Block by Dennis Zambrotta, and Night Tides: The Striper Fishing Legend of Billy The Greek by Michael Cinquemani. Neither book is about fly fishing, but each is loaded with pearls and gems that will help make you a better fly angler.

I’d like to thank Jerry Audet from InDeepOutdoors.com, Dan Wells, and Dennis Zambrotta for sharing their experiences and expertise. I have a lot of respect for these guys and their passion for striped bass.

On this day, we both learned that the bass were scattered and small.

“Why Making a Tide Calendar for Striper Fishing Will Help You Land More Bass” in Field & Stream Online

Want to book a date with a big striped bass? Put in on the calendar! Read my most recent piece, Why Making a Tide Calendar for Striper Fishing Will Help You Land More Bass, currently in Field & Stream Online, and you’ll learn how to build a calendar that notes the best times and tides for fishing the striper marks that you love.

Put it in the books.