The Myth of the Tapered Leader (and other striped bass nonsense)

The subject of saltwater fly fishing leaders comes up all the time on internet forums. The accompanying question is usually “which leader is best?” (Answer: There ain’t no best. Only what’s right for you.) Then, human nature being what it is, people come forward with many suggestions. They describe the leader they use, sometimes in great formulaic detail.

A client from my advertising agency days used to say that the internet is a great resource, but all it does is throw information at you. It doesn’t separate the good from the bad. I know what he means, because during these leader discussions someone invariably states that you need a tapered leader to turn your fly over.

Horse hockey.

For years now I’ve been using striped bass leaders constructed of a straight shot of 20, 25, or 30 pound test mono. (The stuff is called World Wide Sportsman Camouflage, and it’s sensational.) This is also the material I use to build my three-fly striper rig. Somehow, my flies manage to turn over. Somehow, I manage to catch fish. If, as so many internet quarterbacks maintain, a single diameter construction consistently led to the leader landing in a pile, my three fly team would be in a perpetual state of tangle.

This is not to say that tapered leaders don’t help a fly turn over. But if you’ve ever executed a pile cast with a tapered leader, you know that it’s the mechanics of the cast, not the leader, that determine if the fly turns over.

I find stripers to be a fascinating fish. But I have yet to meet one that cared if my fly turned over. Maybe you know one who does.

If so, please send him my way.

My three-fly striper rig, in case you missed it. 

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The last thing I’m thinking about on a striper outing is whether or not my flies are turning over. Stripers don’t care, either.

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A few odds and ends on a rainy Monday

Happy June. Although today feels more like early April. But we desperately needed this rain. Nature finds a way.

I have the cover story in the current issue of American Angler. The article is called The Little Things, and it’s about seemingly small adjustments, strategies, and practices that can have a significant impact on your fishing. When I get my copy, I’ll post some pictures and devote a post to it.

Come say hi. “Are you Steve Culton?” This has been happening more and more when I’m fishing, and I’m glad for it. People often follow it with something about not wanting to bother me, which is very polite, but unnecessary. You’re not bothering me. If we’re sharing the same water, please say hello. It’s always a treat to put faces to names.

Help me help you. I get a lot of requests like this: “Can you give me the recipe for (fly pattern name)?” I am always happy to help, but many of the flies I mention in my posts are already archived on this site. You can find them by using the currentseams search function on the right side of the page. It looks like this:

Screen Shot 2015-06-01 at 4.28.58 PM Just type what you’re looking for in the box, then hit enter or return. If it’s on currentseams, you’ll get a list of links.

Use email or phone to contact me. Many people try to contact me through the comments section of various posts. I respond, then often never hear from them again. If you’re interested in purchasing flies or booking a guide trip, please call me or send an email. You can find that information here.

Speaking of guiding, my schedule should start to open up some in June. June and July are great times to fish the Farmington. As always, I highly recommend weekdays over weekends for a more pleasant, less crowded angling experience.

Closing in on 300 followers. That means another fly giveaway. Of course, we need to hit the magic mark first. In the meantime, this is a good time to thank you for following, thank you for reading, thank you for your positive energy, and thank you for all your kind words. I truly appreciate them.

Presentation menu for fishing clubs and events

One of the more rewarding aspects of being a part of the fishing-industrial complex is sharing experiences and information face-to-face with fellow flyfishers. Having spent years in the corporate/office gulag, I am quite familiar with the concept of “death by PowerPoint.” Rest assured, that’s not how I roll. I love speaking in front of a group, and my presentations are highly interactive. For references and testimonials, please see the comments section below. To book an appearance, email me at swculton at yahoo.com, or call 860-918-0228.

CURRENT PRESENTATIONS

NEW! TROUT FISHING FOR STRIPED BASS

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Anyone can catch aggressive, willing-to-chase striped bass. But what about the stripers that are holding on station, feeding on a specific bait? What about the larger bass — those that are measured in pounds instead of inches — that are not willing to chase a stripped fly? Many of the answers can be found within traditional trout and salmon tactics. “Trout Fishing For Striped Bass” reveals that stripers behave very much like trout. By taking a more analytic approach to striper fishing, matching flies to bait, and harnessing the power of the floating line, anglers can present flies like the naturals the stripers are feeding on — and begin to catch the striped bass that everyone can’t.

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THE LITTLE THINGS 2.0

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If you liked the original, you’re going to love the sequel. “The Little Things” (see below) is one of my most popular programs. It’s easy to understand why – we’re all looking for an edge when it comes to catching more fish. It is my firm belief that the little things are largely responsible for the fabled 10% of the anglers who catch 90% of the fish. “The Little Things 2.0” builds on the theme of seemingly insignificant things you can do make your time on the water more productive.

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Little Things

THE LITTLE THINGS

UPDATED SEPTEMBER 2017! Same basic content, but now with more video elements and animation. They say that 10% of the anglers catch 90% of the fish. If that’s true, it’s not because those 10% are supernaturally gifted angling demigods. It’s not because they are lucky. It’s because they do a lot of little things that other anglers don’t. As a guide, I have the opportunity to observe how people fish. I see their mistakes as well as their triumphs. When I’m fishing, I am constantly making adjustments and trying new approaches. That’s what The Little Things is all about – seemingly insignificant practices that can make a big difference in your fishing.

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WET FLIES 101

UPDATED DECEMBER 2017! Same basic content, but now with more video elements and animation. Wet flies have been taking trout for centuries — and the fish aren’t getting any smarter. More and more anglers are discovering that a wet fly is often the best way to match a hatch. Explore the wonders of the wet fly as we cover basics like wet fly types, leader construction, where to fish wet flies, and how to fish them.

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THE EASTERN BROOK TROUT

The only trout that is native to most of the eastern U.S., the brook trout (technically a char) has inspired generations of anglers with its stunning colors, aggressive nature, and often lovely habitat. We’ll cover the basics of small stream wild brookie fishing, from tackle to presentations to where to look for these precious jewels.

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Farmington River

WEST BRANCH OF THE FARMINGTON RIVER

Updated in Spring 2015 with new video, photos, and content. We are truly fortunate to have one of the finest trout streams in the northeast here in Connecticut. There’s something for everyone on the Farmington: classic dry fly pools. Mysterious pockets for nymphing. Spirited runs to swing wets and streamers. A classic tailwater, the Farmington fishes well year round, and offers anglers an opportunity to catch stocked as well as holdover and stream-born wild trout.

To my First Fifty: Thank You

Fifty people following currentseams? That just blows my mind. When I started this site in late January, I had no idea what to expect, let alone that dozens of people (technically, there are 53 of you) would want to regularly follow my fly fishing and fly tying chronicles. And here we  are.

So, thank you. Thank you for your interest. Your readership. Your questions. And your positive energy.

I would also like to ask you a favor.

Please tell me what you like about currentseams. My goal has always been to provide you with a source of information about fly tying and fly fishing you might not see elsewhere — not to mention writing that (hopefully) doesn’t suck. What draws you to this site? What would you like to see more of?  How can I make it better?  I’d love to hear from you. You can do it publicly in the comments section or privately via an e-mail. And you don’t have to be a follower to play. Everyone is welcome.

Thanks. I really appreciate it.

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8/2/13 Farmington River Report: The obesity crisis among rainbow trout

If you went fishing Friday on the Farmington, you won the weather lottery. Low humidity,  temps in the low 80s, plenty of sunshine, and not a lot of other anglers(!) on the water. I guided Matt from noon into the early evening. We had a mixed bag of success, with a fish on our first couple casts, then a long time with nuthin’. It wasn’t for lack of effort. We bounced around the river, and Matt fished his wets well from top to bottom. Very little bug activity, with water temps in the mid-60s. In the last run we fished, success! This chubby rainbow was the best of the bunch.

This is what a steady diet of cheeseburgers and fries will do to your figure.

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She took a Starling and Herl on the swing. What a terrific fight in the current, complete with aerials. Matt hand-stripped her in. Well done, Matt! I helped him celebrate by smoking the Punch Punch he had offered me.

After Matt left, I fished solo for a half hour. I almost bagged it, as there were precious few bugs coming off. But a pod of fish gently sipping in the twilight talked me into it. Nothing on a size 22 Sulphur spinner. Switched over to a size 20 Pale Watery wingless wet that I fish dry and got two takers, one a brown and the other this dark matter rainbow.

I think this rainbow has been in the river a while. Besides its dramatic coloring, it did not want to come to net. Strong fish. Look at those pectoral fins. Profuse black spots, and then some.

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OK, so I did have a cheeseburger on the way home. But I made up for it with oatmeal for breakfast this morning, and some interval training on the bike this afternoon.

Thanks to today’s Wet Flies 101 Class/Farmington River Report

Many thanks to John and Matt who attended today’s Wet Flies 101 class. We were blessed with outstanding weather, and the river was in terrific condition: clear, 64 degrees in the upper TMA,  and running at just under 400cfs. Although bugs were few and far between, we did find a bunch of fish that were willing to jump on. It’s exciting to witness someone landing their first trout on a wet fly. Well done, gentlemen.

A wild brookie that fell to the charms of a Light Cahill winged wet. Been catching more of these gems this year than in recent memory.

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Friday, I fished the river with friend Jon from 4pm-9pm. We found trout everywhere, first on wets, then on wets and dries. Jon took an assortment of browns and an exquisitely parr-marked wild brookie. He also put on a wet fly clinic, catching two fish in a pod of rising trout in just a few minutes. I, on the other hand, chose to be tortured by trout feeding on emerging Summer Stenos (this hatch has yet to pick up any steam where I’ve been fishing). I spent over an hour stubbornly trying to catch this one fish that was holding hard up against an obstruction — not to mention the triple black diamond current seams I had to mend across. I’d say maybe one in six presentations was good. You can probably still hear the echoes of my hoot when he finally took.

I ODed on the Farmington this week, five days on the water. What a way to go.

This may look like a big honking stonefly, but it’s actually a cleverly disguised top-secret NSA drone. (Joke courtesy of Matt.)

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Chunky Farmington browns on streamers

On Thursday night, the Farmington crested in the upper TMA at around 1,500cfs. By this afternoon, is was still pumping out 750. Winds were gusting to 30mph. What a great day for some streamers.

I felt like fishing something new, so this morning I went down to the bench and pulled out a size 6 streamer hook. Since I didn’t know how much the water had cleared, I went for high-visibility. On went a gold bead, seated with some heavy wire. Made a tail out of marabou and gold Krystal flash, a body of gold mylar braid, and a doubled white marabou collar as long as the fly. On top, some silver Krystal flash. Any self-respecting ambush predator should be able to see that.

Line choice was a bit of a puzzler. I hemmed and hawed, and finally decided to go with an integrated full-sink tip, not so much to get the fly down — that would certainly be welcomed in areas where the current slowed — but mostly for casting in the banshee wind, and to keep the line below the flotsam that was sure to be bobbing merrily on its way downriver.

Yowzah, it was cold. I immediately regretted leaving my fleece vest in the truck. The wind chill had to be in the 40s or 30s. Some pinhole leaks in my waders and 53 degree water certainly didn’t help. But at least I was no longer slinging mulch in my garden. Even if I was able to do that in the comfort of a t-shirt.

The river was off-color, more of a tea-stain than muddy. As I suspected, lots of leaves/branches/twigs combos in the water. There were bugs out, but their presence was mostly belied by the legions of swallows working overhead. And yes, there were trout.

I spent most of my two hours working the banks, casting and stripping in short bursts. In my first cycle through the run, I took four browns and dropped a couple more. The trout weren’t particularly big, but most of them were chunky holdovers that fought well in the current. (Sorry, no pictures. Left the camera at home. Too cold/lazy to get the iPhone out.) I had a few swipe, miss, and come back for seconds. That’s always good for a thrill.

Dropped a handful more on my second and third go-rounds, and that was it. Pretty soon it will be time for streamers under cover of the night. And if I’m lucky, I’ll be fishing in shirtsleeves.