Joe Humphreys' Cressbug (Variation)

A Simple but deadly variation of Hump’s Fur Cressbug

A Simple but deadly variation of Hump’s Fur Cressbug

Hump’s Fur Body Cressbug

 

 

My mentor, Joe Humphreys has been an influence in my life for over 23 years, where he has acted as a friend and teacher. He’s done so much for me (more than I could ever repay) and I’m eternally grateful. Last night I took my two children to watch “Live the Stream-The Story of Joe Humphrey,” where they got to see the many facets of my 90-year-old mentor: husband, father, friend, conservationist, mentor, coach, teacher, athlete, competitor, and mentor. I wanted them to observe what a purposeful life looks like, and this film hits the message out of the park. Throughout his 90 years, Joe will say “life has given me so many wonderful opportunities,” but he also symbolizes the definition of reciprocity-given back to the world, and so many people (including myself) continue to be on the receiving end. This documentary will demonstrate the many positives of what fly fishing can do for the mind, body and soul. Don’t take my word for it, please see the film yourself, and you’ll feel what it means to “LIVE THE STREAM.” For more information on where to watch this film, or information on how to bring this film to your area, please go to: http://www.livethestreamfilm.com 

One of the ways I try to keep Joe’s many lessons active in my mind, is to fish Joe’s cressbug pattern, which developed during his teenage years. The version I tie is a variation, but when it’s all said and done-it’s Joe’s Fur Cressbug. Every time I open my box and see this simple but deadly pattern, I’m reminded of all the wonderful lessons Joe has shared with me over the years. Thank you Joe!

 

 

Hump’s Fur Body Cressbug

Hook: TMC 3769 #14

Thread: 6/0 Lt Olive Uni Thread

Wire: .020 

Back: UV Loon Resin-Thin

Body: Joe Ackourey’s Natural Fur Blend: Hare’s Ear   (Joeack12@hotmail.com)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Tweaked Out BWO SHOP VAC

 

The Shop Vac (BWO Variation)

As Blue Winged Olives continue to emerge on our local waters, I wanted to share another favorite “light weight” BWO emerger pattern, which I purposely fish higher in the water column-The Shop Vac.  This modified Shop Vac imitates (as least attempts to) an emerging BWO emerger, and has proven useful over the last few days. I feel the budding wingcase does a nice job to create the illusion of a budding mayfly wing. This pattern can be modified to imitate any mayfly, but I wanted to share this variation as olives are currently available this time of year. While this pattern can be fished anywhere in the water column, I prefer to position it in the upper layer (tied 12-16” off a dry fly with a dry dropper approach or placed on the top dropper with a tight line rig) to imitate a BWO emerger. In short, the Shop Vac is a simple, quick to tie, and a proven track record.  After all, there’s a reason it’s called the SHOP VAC.

 

Please remember that you can substitute any of the materials mentioned below. Fly fishers develop greater confidence in patterns they “tweak”, and confidence is a huge part of angling sucess. Good Fishing! 

 

Hook: TMC 2457#16-20 (or any scud hook)

Bead: 3/32 Black Tungsten or Brass Bead

Thread: 8/0 Olive Dun Uni Thread

Rib: Extra Small Gold Wire

Body: Pheasant Tail

Wing: Ice Dub UV Gray

Dubbing Collar: Jan Siman Black Peacock Dubbing

 

 

 

There’s a reason why the Shop Vac continues to be a top seller for fly shops-it catches fish.

There’s a reason why the Shop Vac continues to be a top seller for fly shops-it catches fish.

Lighten Up

“Lighten Up” Your Nymphs: One reason for brass bead head nymphs

 

I have a confession to make- I use this blog to self medicate. I share all the mistakes and troubles I have on the water, to provide countless examples of what I hope is our collective suffering.  One recent dilemma provided me with the harsh reality that my nymph boxes lacked lighter weighted nymphs (in this case sunken sulphur patterns). What is one to do when trout are feeding higher in the water column, and one has only tungsten-beaded nymphs? Like I said before…suffer. 

Contrary to popular belief, you CAN fish nymphs too deep, and today, with the European nymphing phenomenon, I see few brass or non-beaded patterns (looking squarely at myself here) in fly boxes. While most of my nymph patterns are tied with tungsten bead heads, there are times when I need to “LIGHTEN UP.”

 

So, last May on Spring Creek, sulphur spinners were present on the water, and trout fed on partially sunken spinners several inches below the water-not near stream bottom.  A traditional spinner pattern (fished in the surface film) is a good approach when spinners are on the water, but often the natural spinners (after mating) float through riffles, where the choppy currents pull and keep them below the surface, and these partially sunk patterns create an easy meal opportunity for trout. On this night, the trout were positioned to feed 2-3 inches below the water, and they were locked into this higher level to feed on the sunken spinners, and they were not about to move downwards to eat. I needed to present my nymph where the fish were. I could have simply taken a traditional spinner pattern, placed a tiny #8 split shot near the hook eye, and I would have presented the spinner at the correct level, but I forgot to bring my dry box that night. All I had was my tungsten bead nymph box (no brass beads to be found), and every pattern was too heavy to fish just below the surface film. I did manage to catch a few fish with tungsten bead patterns, but I know I would have had greater success with lighter weight patterns (brass bead or non-bead), fished higher in the water column. And the results for the next 4 nights of spinner falls, proved me right. Lighter nymphs meant a LOT more fish. 

 

While the timeline of this article is based on a sulphur spinner fall (not exactly a winter occurrence), this concept of lighter weight nymphs apply to all season scenarios. As my friend John Stoyanoff once told me, “George, you cannot tell trout where to find your flies!” When fish feed high in the column, I have to meet them where they are. This is especially true on insect dense streams like Spring Creek, where food is plentiful, and trout don’t need to move from the buffet line to pick a scrap of bread off the floor. They know if they stay in the buffet line (i.e. at the depth where the current transports the food), food will come to them. You don’t need to outsmart a fish with a nymph, but you do need to keep your pattern in the buffet line. When trout feed high in the column- “LIGHTEN UP” your nymph rig and good things will happen, which is why I suggest you carry several brass and non-beaded patterns, something I didn’t do that night. The next night? Different story.

Below is a simple sunken spinner pattern I’ve used for several seasons. It’s a cross between a Higa’s SOS nymph and the late George Harvey’s Krystal Flash Spinner. You can tie this pattern with a brass bead or without a bead, and allow just the weight of the heavy wire and thin thread body to sink the fly.  

 

Sunken Sulphur Spinner

Hook: TMC 2457 or any heavy wire hook

Bead: 3/32 Copper (brass weight)

Tail: Wood Duck

Body/Thread: UTC 70 Rusty Brown

Rib: Small Copper Wire

Wing: Pearl Flashabou

Coating: Loon Flow UV Resin

My favorite rig is to attach this light weight sunken spinner 12-16” below a high-vis sulphur dry fly.  If you want to take your fly fishing to a higher level-sometimes you need to fish higher in the column!

Note: A small dab of colored nail polish is placed on my brass bead head nymphs, to distinguish brass from tungsten.

Brass Bead Head Sunken Sulphur Spinners

Brass Bead Head Sunken Sulphur Spinners

The 80/20 Principal to Fly Box Organization

The Pareto Principal and Your Fly Boxes

According to Investopedia, The Pareto Principle, named after economist Vilfredo Pareto, specifies that 80 percent of consequences come from 20 percent of the causes, or an unequal relationship between inputs and outputs. This principle serves as a general reminder that the relationship between inputs and outputs is not balanced. The Pareto Principle is also known as the Pareto Rule or the 80/20 Rule, and if you pay attention throughout your life (on and off the water)-this principal is pretty spot on. 

As it relates to fly fishing (in this case-nymph patterns) this ratio continues to play out, as 80% of fish are caught with only a handful of patterns, despite the fact that I will carry hundreds (sometimes over a thousand) patterns. Every angler has their favorite 20% of fly patterns that catch 80% of their fish, which are also known as “confidence patterns.” Over the last five seasons, Spencer Higa’s SOS pattern has embodied The Pareto Principal-accounting for a countless fish for both my personal and guided days on the water and has become a current “confidence” pattern.  Although I knew about this patterns years before it became a mainstay in my box, I never used it until a client (thanks Josh Stewart) re-introduced this pattern to me five years ago, and it’s become one of my favorite nymph patterns since -no matter the conditions or time of year. I tie the SOS is a variety of color schemes and sizes, but the original black and modified dark olive (both shown in photo) are two of my favorites.

Confidence patterns are a personal choice-based on your previous experiences, and influenced by the waters your fish. This means everyone’s list will be different, but regardless of your selection-it may be wise to stock up heavily on the patterns that represent your 80/20 ratio. Reevaluating your 80/20 pattern ratio may also cause you to get rid of patterns you’ve never had success with or rarely put on the end of the line.  It’s good to have a few wildcard patterns in the mix, but my suggestion is to organize your box on the Pareto Principal-determine which patterns accounted for 80% last season’s success, and spend the time to tie or the money to purchase those patterns. And if I may make a suggestion, try Higa’s SOS (if you haven’t done so already) and you find yourself adding another confidence pattern to your quiver. Good fishing!

Confidence patterns are a personal choice. Higa’s SOS has become one of my core patterns, so my nymph box is heavily stocked with the SOS (along with color and size variations).

Confidence patterns are a personal choice. Higa’s SOS has become one of my core patterns, so my nymph box is heavily stocked with the SOS (along with color and size variations).

Two of my favorite SOS color schemes: original black (on left) and a dark olive (on right).

Two of my favorite SOS color schemes: original black (on left) and a dark olive (on right).

Slap That Cougar-Fishing Streamers In Dirty Water

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Slap That Cougar

 

The rules of “gentle” trout presentations go out the door, when streamer fishing in high and off color water. Trout, like other fish, possess a repertoire of senses for feeding. In clear water, trout may use sight (just one option) as a means to locate food. However, when their ability to see food is no longer an option, there are other means, taste smell, hearing and feeling, to locate food.  Live bait anglers or conventional anglers who use scent on lures, have an advantage over the fly angler in muddy water-trout can smell and locate their bait/lures. The best “attention-grabbing” tool a fly angler has in those conditions is often, but not always, SOUND! Sometimes, “slapping the fly” on the surface will be the only thing that will alert the fish of an offering. There may be some scenarios in which a hard slap on the water will spook fish, but if we spook them, at least we know that we have been “heard.”

 

It’s no secret that in high and muddy water, trout will often hold tight to the bank-for both protection from the current and feeding purposes, and it may seem counterintuitive to slap a fly down in slack or soft water. But…SLAP you should and you should do it HARD.  As a general rule, the muddier the water-the harder you need to slap the streamer. I don’t think you can be too aggressive with your streamer presentation in these conditions. Here are two suggestions increase your SLAP effect.  

 

 

First use greater force to present the fly. I know, common sense, right? No, I’m surprised how delicately anglers present their streamers in dirty water. You can create greater force in one of two ways: with a more aggressive stroke or with the aid of an aggressive haul during the cast, or a combination of the two. Either way, use more force to present your streamer on the water. 

 

Some streamer profiles are designed to create a greater SLAP. Any streamer with a wide profile head will create a heavier impact on the water. My favorite streamer for fishing the shallow banks near my central PA waters is Kelly Galloup’s Zoo Cougar. I fish it on a floating line with a small split shot on the nose to create neutral buoyancy. And when I tie my cougars, I go for a wide deer hair head profile. Why? 


Think about hitting the water with your hand in two positions. The first position would be  karate chop style where the hand smacks the water and creates little disturbance when the narrow profile comes in contact with  the water. The next position is “palm down.” Here, the flat profile will create a loud sound and disturbance. BAM…you just laid the streamer smack down on the trout.  Have you ever been in a large and loud public area, and suddenly hear a loud slap (usually administered by an angry partner or spouse), over all the other noises? I’m not sure I have, but you get the point. You wouldn’t be able to hear someone apply a karate chop, though it might hurt more, in the same scenario. This is the power of the slap in dirty water, and this is why I strive to fish a streamer with a flat profile, when I want the wider surface area to create the type of impact that I am sure trout will register. The BAM there will be less painful and more productive. A win-win. 

Let ‘em know you’re there and hang on!  

Aim High: Keep Your Sighter in Sight

 Sighters are the strike detectors of tightline nymphing. Because they are constructed of bright, colored monofilament, and because they are part of the line, they allow anglers to stay in direct contact with the nymphs and know when fish have taken the fly. But…they are only really useful for a short distance presentation, because the farther away one fishes, the less the angler has the arm length to keep the sighter off of the water (where you want it!) 

 

Don’t get me wrong, there’s times when we will have to place the sighter on the water, but when we do that, we are really indicator nymphing. When contact nymphing principles are at play, we need to stay in “contact” throughout the drift. In fact, our drift doesn’t begin until the sighter is visible-above water, under tension, and under control.  If the sighter is laid on the water, the angler needs to lift it off the water to regain control, which takes precious seconds away from your drift. It is essential, then, to become the ultimate micro-manager with your drift time. Strive to have the sighter off the water, and under tension, the MOMENT your flies enter the water. 

 

Here’s how to do it:

 

Look ABOVE your target-not down AT your target. By fixing your eyes high, you can train yourself to stop the rod tip high after your forward cast. Think about it – if both rod and sighter need to be high the moment the nymphs touch water, why should you even have to lift the rod up to position the sighter? It should be in position from the start, and the only way that can happen is if the rod tip stops high. Right? The idea is NOT new – Joe Humphries, my mentor, called it the Tuck Cast (and Joe was NOT an Indicator guy!) You should never have to play “catch-up” with your presentation. Look high, aim high, and hold the rod tip high after the cast and BOOM-sighter is off water, under tension, and ready to be led throughout the drift. These little things make a big difference in your tight line game. Aim High!

 

Video Discussion of my preferred "Mono Nymph Rig" and The Denver Fly Fishing Show

I feel the reduction in mass , within a mono rig, creates greater connection and sensitivity to the fly.

I feel the reduction in mass , within a mono rig, creates greater connection and sensitivity to the fly.

New Blog:

 

This Vlog was inspired by a central Oregon high school fly fishing club, where they asked for my preferred mono rig. This is part 1, where I discuss my go to basic mono rig setup, and provide some insights as to why it works for me. First, let me point out that www.troutbitten.comhas written a lot of great information concerning the mono rigs, so my focus here is to discuss my “CONFIDENCE RIG” with you, and a few thoughts as to why mono works well with nymphs, especially light rigs. The second part will include basic rigging (spacing of flies, adding droppers, etc.) with mono rigs.  Thanks for taking the time to read and watch. 

News: Upcoming Denver Fly Fishing Show

 The first Fly Fishing Show is almost upon us, and first up is Denver, where I have two classes available: 1) Beginner’s Casting Class and 2) Situational Nymphing Scenarios class). Please click on this link to check out the Denver Fly Fishing Show. https://flyfishingshow.com/denver-co/

 

I’ll also be in the seminar rooms to present several programs, along with a few demos in the casting pool. Plus, you’ll find me hanging out in the Orvis booth throughout the entireshow, so please make sure to stop over and say “HI.”  Hope to see some of you there. 

 

Seminar Room Talks

Troubleshooting Trout Difficult Trout Scenarios

Nymphing: New Angles and Tactics

Streamer Tactics 2.0

 

Casting Pool Demo

Casting Made Easy-A Beginner’s Guide to Casting

Dynamic Fly Casting-Fishing Casts for All Scenarios

George Daniel explains his confidence MONO RIG for nymphing, while discussing several advantages of mono over traditional fly lines for nymphing light rigs.

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Avoid The Bump: Tight Line Tactics

A leader connection that functions as a “smooth operator,” creates less snags and hangups, which creates better connection during a tight line presentation.

A leader connection that functions as a “smooth operator,” creates less snags and hangups, which creates better connection during a tight line presentation.

Avoid the Bump: Reduce Slack When Tight Lining

 

 

Tight line nymphing requires a “tight connection” between rod tip and nymph, and any amount of slack will delay strike detection. The “BUMP” occurs when you strip in the leader, and a knot hangs on a guide, which creates immediate slack in the system. Your goal is for a smooth retrieve, one that doesn’t create any hang-up. It only takes a short hang-up, and you’ve lost control, likely for the entire drift-GAME OVER! Tight line drifts are short, and you need to maximize every foot of drift, to “avoid the bump” and to lengthen the time you are in control of the drift. Any time a knotted connection “bumps” against a guide-you’ve lost a portion of your drift to slack, so let’s fix the problem.

 

Try to keep the line and leader connection away from the tip guide. One option is to shorten the leader length (determined by how far away you fish the rig) in order to keep the line outside the rod tip. Or use a long (and I mean LONG) leader so nothing but leader material is within the guides. The Mono-Rig. This means the use of a knotless leader section, so nothing but smooth nylon passes through the guides. If you decide to use a leader with knotted sections, at least use a UV Resin to smooth out those sections. Of course, you can only smooth out those sections at home (can’t remember the last time I had Resin and Light with me when I was standing in a river), so maybe it’s best to build your leaders before you are standing in a river?  If you do that, you can control the “bump” dilemma.  Either way, maximize your drift, avoid the “BUMP,” and regain control from start to finish. 

 

A “rough” leader to euro line knot connection, which will bump in the guides, and create a moment of disconnect.

A “rough” leader to euro line knot connection, which will bump in the guides, and create a moment of disconnect.

The same knot, but coated with Loon’s UV Resin to smooth the connection, which will slide smoothly through the guides.

The same knot, but coated with Loon’s UV Resin to smooth the connection, which will slide smoothly through the guides.

Casting Angles for Nymphs and Streamers

Chase Howard with downstream presentation-parallel to the current. With cold snaps, it often pays to keep the streamer “in the zone” for an extended time period.

Chase Howard with downstream presentation-parallel to the current. With cold snaps, it often pays to keep the streamer “in the zone” for an extended time period.

Stay Within The Lines: Casting Angles for Nymphs and Streamer

 

Winter is upon us, which means I’m fully engaged in streamer tactics. It’s not because streamer tactics are the best approach this time of year -- if you want to catch fish, nymphing will likely yield better results -- it’s more because I love to work streamers, hungry for that elusive tug, even if it means going all day without a strike. I welcome that challenge! In late February/early March, when the first olive hatch occurs, I enter into a different mode, but the tug is hard-wired; I go back to it at every opportunity.

  One cold April morning, trout still positioned deep in the water column and stubborn to any offering, my friend and Master nymph fisherman, John Stoyanoff said:  “You can’t dictate to the trout; you take what they give you.” John noticed that I was casting my nymphs more over and across than up. The result was that drag was setting in early and my nymphs were lifting off the streambed. My presentation was too fast for the lazy trout. John’s upstream casts were more in line with the current, and his nymphs reached (and stayed) deeper in the water column. Eventually, grannom pupa began to emerge, and the trout, now active, would consider my over and across, tension cast.

 The correct angle of cast made the difference. A big difference. Casting in line with the current slows down and deepens the drift. The over and across cast creates almost immediate drag and speeds up the offering. This makes for a long day of presentations to finicky trout. Tensioned casts have their uses, but they are useless to trout holding in cold, deep water. They aren’t looking up until an emergence, some activity, occurs.  

 These rules apply, especially in cold, winter months, to streamer tactics too. Yes, trout will run down a streamer during a polar vortex, but cold water temps often result in less active trout.  So when water temps decrease, so does the speed I work streamers. This means casting more “in-line” with the current. The goal is to reduce drag and keep your patterns in likely “lanes,” where trout will position. The choice of a correctly weighted streamer, or the right sink rate for fly line are important choices, but the angle of the cast greatly influences how slow and how long a pattern remains in a trout’s ambush zone. Remember, let the trout tell you how how active you can fish your streamers. As a general rule for winter streamer tactics, slow your presentation.  I tell my 8 year-old, in his frenzied, crayon sessions, to “STAY WITHIN THE LINES.” Like most parents, though,  I am an infrequent listener to my own advice!

Kris Bretz showing off a health brown, he caught by “staying within the lines.”

Kris Bretz showing off a health brown, he caught by “staying within the lines.”

Bunker Buster: Video On How To Tie This Simple Streamer

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Sometimes I feel that I’m at war with both the fish, and the shelter that provides them with cover. In extreme conditions, like high water, fish will bury themselves deep in the protective depths. The depths are their bunkers, their places of refuge. Conventional streamers (i.e. traditional coneheads and weighted flies) lack the density to penetrate these bunkers. I think of these fish, positioned in the comforts of their sheltering lie, smug and smiling as they look up to the angler trying to reach them with traditional tools. Extreme conditions call for extreme measures. This is when we need to employ the “Bunker Buster.”

 

The video link shows a simple but effective jig pattern, for when you need fast penetration when streamer fishing. Simple steps. Simple recipe. Enjoy.

 

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LQ8KePFyNLE&t=7s

 

Create Separation: Let the Line Fish the Fly

Tommy Lynch’s Drunken Disorderly has crazy movement. This movement occurs when the angler lets the LINE FISH THE FLY

Tommy Lynch’s Drunken Disorderly has crazy movement. This movement occurs when the angler lets the LINE FISH THE FLY

Create Separation: Let The Line Fish the Fly

 

 

Kelly Galloup’s Zoo Cougar and Tommy Lynch’s Drunken Disorderly are two examples of buoyant streamers. And they are both awesome patterns. The Zoo Cougar’s rounded head bobs up and down. The wedge head on the Drunken Disorderly cuts fast and deep into the depths. Two great flies with two totally different actions. Without a sinking line, these streamer patterns would remain floating on the surface. But with a sinking line, the movement of a wounded baitfish is created. The streamer comes to life. We need to let the line fish the fly. In other words, the line need to positioned below the fly before the retrieve. In other words, LET THE LINE FISH THE FLY.

 

This wounded minnow appearance occurs when line (sinking line, remember) pulls the buoyant streamer downward, and, during the pause, the fly is forced upward. In other words, the fly “pops” to the surface. This Yin and Yan relationship between the fly and fly line is what creates the magic in the presentation. You know the presentation is correct, when it’s fun to watch the streamer move in the water. Up and Down. Side to Side. Zig and Zag. Yeah!

 

To some extent, LINE, not anglers, fishes the buoyant streamer. Streamer fishing, though, enforces the rule in a way that no other method will. When the line is positioned below the fly, BEFORE the retrieve, separation between line and fly occurs. The fly will start to ride upward on any pause. The retrieve will pull it back downward. You want the streamer to life and drop in the water column. Wounded baitfish don’t, last time I checked, sit stationary in the water column. They can’t hold for long though. The pause represents a kind of “last gasp.” It is a crucial moment, so don’t rush the retrieve. After the cast is made: pause, give the line slack, let the line sink, and then make the first retrieve. This allows the line to form a belly under the buoyant streamer, which pulls the fly downward on the retrieve. Then the process repeats itself. The retrieve creates tension, pulls the line upwards towards the fly, and creates a level plane between fly and line. Now we need to repeat: Pause, allow slack to occur, let the belly form, then retrieve. The pause is essential after every cast and retrieve.  Create separation. Create Magic!

 

 

 

Jordan Klemish, (Guide at Gate Lodge, MI) holds a trophy brown trout taken on a small stream. The result of “letting the line fish the fly.”

Jordan Klemish, (Guide at Gate Lodge, MI) holds a trophy brown trout taken on a small stream. The result of “letting the line fish the fly.”

Streamer Tip: Avoid "Target Fixation" For The Bank

Angler Fred Moy caught this fish  mid stream  on a large tailwater. Remember to scan the water before making the cast. No need to rush your cast.

Angler Fred Moy caught this fish mid stream on a large tailwater. Remember to scan the water before making the cast. No need to rush your cast.

Streamer season has been upon for some time, and I was recently reminded of a favorite streamer tip. I heard  this tip over 8 years ago-during my time as Captain for Fly Fishing Team USA. I’ve had the privilege to work/fish with excellent anglers, and Scott Hunter is another impressive angler I was fortunate enough to spend time with. Scott is a former member of Fly Fishing Team USA and the NC FF Team. Scott is a predator, both as a hunter and fisher, and is likely one of the most well rounder outdoorsman I know. He’s damn good. 

 

Scott is also a former bass competitor, and competed with legendary angler, Kevin VanDam. One of Scott’s most memorable tips he gleaned from Kevin was, “90% of angler’s fish the bank, which only hold 10% of the fish.” While the original discussion may have been centered on lakes for bass, this is also true for river streamer tactics, especially on float trips.  While banks will provide excellent targets to the streamer angler, don’t develop “target fixation” on only the banks. In other words, scan the water, look for better options before casting to the bank.  You have options-use them!

 

Just to be clear, there’s situations where’s banks are the only option. When fishing extreme high water, you may need to focus on the bank. Banks may provide the only resting spot for fish, so focus your fly placement where you’re likely to find more trout. On the flip side, when normal flows exist, greater success may occur when fly placement is focused on prime lies (i.e. areas that offer trout food, protection, and shelter). This often means to make a cast anywhere but to the bank. While some bank locations may offer prime lies, many are only feeding lies. Feeding lies are excellent targets for the streamer angler during off color water, low light, or if you’re the first angler/boat to fish these areas. However, after several anglers have fished a feeding lie-those fish feel the pressure and they often run back to areas that offer protection. 

 

The best streamer anglers I know don’t rush the cast. They survey the field and locate the best target. They wait until to make the cast until they wade into the best position, or the boat moves into the right position. They make less casts, but their streamers spend more time in productive waters. As my friend, Lance Wilt will tell his clients, “cast with a purpose.” Meaning, find a reason to make the cast. It’s not always about fishing harder- it’s about fishing smarter. Pick your target, and attack!   

 

The Five Minute Purge: Two Simple Steps Towards An Organized Fly Box

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The 5 Minute Purge: 2 Simple Steps to Maintaining Order in Your Fly Box

 

If you’re anything like me, you’ll change flies and/or rigs regularly on the stream. In the heat of the moment, I’ll toss the old fly back into the fly box (and I’ll do it pretty darn quickly!), then quickly tie on the new fly.  Do this several times an hour, all day long, and soon your once- organized box resembles a junk pile, controlled, but barely, chaos.

 

Some anglers, with vague powers of recollection, can control chaos and manage to get through the day. However, I become frustrated when I start the next day (or month or year) with a messy fly box. This is why I spend 5 minutes, after every day’s trip, to “purge” my box. 

 

Step 1: Toss out any worn out patterns. This includes patterns with rusty hooks, bent hook points, or unravelling thread. If I can salvage hooks or beads, I’ll throw them into a recyclable box. If they can’t be saved, I throw them away. I cannot tell you how many boxes I see full of flies, that will never see water again. If you don’t plan to use them, lose them. Now, if you keep “seasonal” flies in separate boxes, that’s one thing, but if you haven’t used a fly in a year, chances are you won’t use it again. Ever. Toss it. 

 

 

Step 2: Dry out wet flies. I take wet flies from my box and stick them on a dry patch, a small rectangular section of a black Yoga mat (thanks Jac Ford for the recommendation), attached with Velcro tape to my truck’s dashboard. Wet patterns stuck on the dashboard, a perfect place to heat and dry them, will be restored in 15-20 minutes. Once I get home, I detach the dry patch from my dashboard, take inside to my office and place the dry patterns back into my working box.  BOOM! Organization (the opposite of chaos), and freedom to search the water, not my fly box.  

 

My kinda of “organized” small stream fly box.

My kinda of “organized” small stream fly box.

Fishing The Front Side: The Secret Pocket

X marks the spot. Even submerged boulders will have a soft upstream pocket.

X marks the spot. Even submerged boulders will have a soft upstream pocket.

Rocks and boulders create hydraulic cushions within the stream. They are essentially resting/feeding spots for the trout. Think of rocks and boulders as a trout’s streamside Lazy Boy recliner. The most obvious location to target fish is immediately below (downstream) of a boulder, where it’s easy to see a soft water “pocket” form below the obstruction. These downstream pockets are easy for the angler to locate and target for their presentations. However, what if I were to tell you that there’s a better and more productive pocket? And it holds some of the best trout! 

 

The pocket is, of course, on the front side of the boulder. The experienced angler knows this “secret pocket,” but many beginners fail to notice it. The front side “cushion” creates a primary feeding line, a place that offers protection, rest, and feeding opportunities. Think about it: the fish on the front side will have first dibs on available food, and the larger, more dominant fish know that (probably why they are bigger!) Smaller fish generally hold on the downstream side, feeding on whatever the big ones (the ones we want) pass up. 

 

I’m not recommending that anglers disregard the downstream pocket – it can and sometimes does hold larger fish -- but the front side is worth at least a few passes. It is a primary feeding lie. It should be explored. Sometimes “the grass is greener” in spots we don’t think to fish. Fish it!

 

Choose wisely. Amidea Daniel’s decision to fish the front side resulted in the fish of the day. Often (not always) the best fish will hold on the front side of a boulder.

Choose wisely. Amidea Daniel’s decision to fish the front side resulted in the fish of the day. Often (not always) the best fish will hold on the front side of a boulder.

Circus Peanut: A Favorite Color Scheme

Peanut:Peanut Envy.jpg

The Yellow and Gold Circus Peanut/Peanut Envy: A Proven Color Scheme For Higher Water

 

Although I spent part of my earlier angling days with a streamer attached to the line, it was more of a backup plan, when all other tactics, dry fly, nymph, wet fly, failed. I would clip off the smaller dry fly or nymph, cut back into the leader’s thicker section, attach an “old school” Mickey Finn streamer, start stripping like hell, and hope for the best.  Sometimes it worked, but most of the time it didn’t. And why should such a last ditch effort work? After all, it was, like many of my earlier streamer fishing ventures, a half ass plan.

 

Then, in 2003, I travelled to fish with Russ Madden on his Michigan home waters, and he changed my attitude towards streamers. He showed me a game plan that would work as a primary (not last ditch) approach. I’ll be writing about those lessons in future blog posts. Until then, I wanted to share a color variation of his Circus Peanut, a highly effective streamer for the high, dirty water that defined this 2018 Pennsylvania trout season.  Actually, now when I look at it- the pattern is a mix of Russ’ Circus Peanut and Kelly Galloup’s Peanut Envy. Either way, I wanted to share this color scheme. It has been great (personally and with customers) during the last five months.  Happy Stripping!

 

 

Rear Hook:

Hook: Gama B10S (or similar) #4

Thread: 6/0 Light Olive Uni

Tail: Yellow Olive Marabou

Body: Yellow Polar Reflector Flash

Collar: Yellow Schlappen

Legs: Sili Legs Chrome/Pumpkin

 

Connector:

20LB Maxima with Single Glass Bead

 

Front Hook

Hook: Gama B10S (or similar) #4

Cone: Medium Copper Tungsten Cone with 6-8 wraps of .025 lead wire (snugged inside cone to prevent cone from sliding and to add additional weight).

Thread: 6/0 Light Olive Uni

Overwing (i.e tail section hanging over the articulated section): Yellow Olive Marabou

Body: Yellow Polar Reflector Flash

Collar: Yellow Schlappen

Legs: Sili Legs Chrome/Pumpkin

 

 

October Caddis Soft Hackle

October Caddis Soft Hackle Hare’s Ear

October Caddis Soft Hackle.jpg

 

October Caddis are in full swing and nymphing has been good with the above average flows back home.  I wanted to share a simple yet effective nymph pattern that’s accounted for several good fish within the last week while targeting waters harboring October Caddis. Note: This is not an original pattern. This pattern is my variation of the original Hare’s Ear Soft Hackle-created to mimic the October Caddis. Good Fishing

 

Hook: Hanak 450BL #12

Bead: Black 3.5mm Slotted

Thread: Doesn’t Matter

Tail: Wood Duck Fibers

Body: Hare’s Ear

Rib: Small Hot Orange Ultra Wire

Hackle: Orange Partridge

Collar: Peacock Eye Siman Dubbing

Remembering What I Forgot: Using a Haul for Nymphing Success

It seems when you’re in your teens you can recall just about anything. You haven’t lived long enough to fill your memory bank. You can remember what movie you watched with your girlfriend last weekend or what your mom made for dinner three nights ago. Then your mental hard drive begins filling up by you 30’s and soon your forget your wedding anniversary, can’t remember if you fed the dog, and then you forget the year your son was born when filing out doctor’s form. You get the point. Your memory bank can hold only so many moments/lessons and soon some of your earlier (often more important) memories are no longer in the storage drive between your ears. I’m now seeing this with my limited fishing knowledge.

Zach St. Amand controls his drift after a perfect nymph cast utilizing a haul.

Zach St. Amand controls his drift after a perfect nymph cast utilizing a haul.

I was recently reminded of this important nymphing tip I let slip away while fishing with a friend, Zach St. Amand on the Farmington River a week ago. The original lesson occurred over 20 years ago while fishing with my mentor, Joe Humphreys. Joe was showing me the importance of punching the nymphs into a pocket by using a short but powerful casting stroke and haul.  I can remember watching Joe perform his famous short casting stroke as he shot his nymphs into a run. The nymphs entered the water as if he was shooting them out of a high powered air rifle. This resulted in his nymphs quickly gaining bottom and a tight connection from the start of presentation. 

 

One of the biggest issues I’ve encounter nymphing fast water is getting the flies to anchor quickly. Obviously adding weight is one course of action to achieve quicker depth with immediate control. However, Joe always reminded me another option was to equal the force of the cast relative to the force of the water you fish. In other words, use less force in slow water but hammer home the nymphs when dealing with faster water.  This is where the haul comes into play.

 

A Farmington River rainbow taking by Joe-one of Zach’s students I met while fishing the river. Joe was also using the nymphing haul as a result of spending time wit Zach.

A Farmington River rainbow taking by Joe-one of Zach’s students I met while fishing the river. Joe was also using the nymphing haul as a result of spending time wit Zach.

A short but powerful haul in combination with a standard nymph cast can help you achieve depth and control with less weight. The advantage of a light rig is once the nymphs achieve depth, the rig is light enough to drift the flies naturally. Too often we rely on using more weight to counter faster water, which I feel results in having to drag your patterns during the presentation to avoid hanging up. The lesson of increasing the force of the cast was a lesson I used for years, but sometime with the last 5 years I had gotten away from using the haul. Then Zach St. Amand invited me to show me around and help me better understand the Farmington River before doing a video shoot with Orvis Fly Fishing. He not only only provided me with the info to help make for a good video shoot, but he also reminded me of the importance of using the haul to sink your nymphs. 

 Zach and another good friend of mine, Antoine Bissieux are the two busiest guides on the River, and they are both excellent nymph fishers.  Watching Zach use a violent but smooth haul on his cast to gain immediate depth of the Farmington’s pools reminded me of my lessons with Joe in my earlier days. I observed Zach pick up several good fish with his impressive nymphing cast, and left me yearning to begin using the haul again.  Thanks Joe for the original lesson and thanks to Zach for the reminder!

Don't Be a Jane Kangaroo Nymph Fisher

Torrey Collins will exhaust all nymphing possibility before moving to another location. His patience on the water and willingness to change his tactical approach is one reason he’s so successful.

Torrey Collins will exhaust all nymphing possibility before moving to another location. His patience on the water and willingness to change his tactical approach is one reason he’s so successful.

While watching Horton Hears a Who with my kid, I was reminded of the difference in tactical approach between a nympher blindly fishing a run versus a dry fly angler targeting a rising fish.  The latter situation the angler can see a target but the former is simply anticipating a fish is there. I feel this difference of actually seeing a trout rising versus hoping a fish is near may determine how much effort an angler puts in their presentation. 

 There’s a great quote from the movie that mirrors my attitude when blindly nymphing a run. The quote is from Jane Kangaroo exchanging words with Horton, who thinks he hears a who but Jane can’t see or hear what Horton is speaking of. The quote goes something like “If you can't see, hear or feel something, it doesn't exist.”  This made me think about the difference in tempo in which some anglers blindly nymph a run versus targeting a rising fish with dry fly. 

 There’s some sort of focus button that turns on when an angler sees a rising trout, especially one that consistently rises. When an angler fails to fool a consistent riser, they’ll switch patterns or tactics due to constant refusals. They know the fish is there but understand they need to change tactics as the result of the trout refusing their offering. I know I’ve spent over an hour targeting a specific rising trout but will move within five minutes if I fail to nymph up a fish in a good run.

 But there are few nymph anglers who exhaust the same effort (i.e. staying in one play exhausting all presentation possibilities) when nymphing a run. So often I hear myself or clients saying while unsuccessfully catching a fish in a good looking run, “HUH, I can’t believe there’s not a fish there.” Meaning, we assume we’re doing everything correct so we need to move to another location to find a fish. We need to change the wording we tell ourselves.

 This is why I’ve been changing my nymphing psychology over the years. I can’t assume I’m doing everything correct when failing to catch a fish in a spot I know holds fish. Instead, I need to assume there’s a fish feeding on the bottom (just as the same fish would be fishing on the surface) and need to make a change. I can add weight, decrease weight, change the angle I cast my nymph, change patterns, or maybe change my position. Approach high probability areas the same as you would if you see a steady surface feeder-assume you’re getting a subsurface refusal and begin to change tactics as you would to a rising fish. Again, this applies to spots you know hold fish all day and year round. 

 And maybe one’s nymphing success would increase if the sub surface angler developed the same patience of a typical dry fly angler targeting a riser? Just remember not to loose confidence in a high probability area when blindly fishing a spot. You know there’s a feeding fish there, so assume something is wrong with your current approach and make the change. In short, don’t be a Jane Kangaroo. 

 

Good Fishing!

 

Changing casting angles pays off for Torrey Collins.

Changing casting angles pays off for Torrey Collins.