FLY OF THE WEEK
You may have guessed that I am a fan of using snowshoe rabbit feet hair in my fly patterns. The NDO is no exception. Guiding across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania offers abundant opportunities to test the effectiveness of new fly patterns. Olives have given me fits for many years. A particular olive subsurface fly pattern may work one day on the Little Juniata River but be a non-factor on Spring Creek the next day. After years of frustration I may have the subsurface olive fly that tricks fish on many waters. That fly is the NDO, which stands for No Days Off (explanation to follow). Olives are found in many of our Pennsylvania waters and I have fished the NDO on numerous limestone, spring and freestone creeks with good results. The true test is when my clients catch trout on the NDO. Most of my clients are less experienced in fly fishing than I and when they catch and release several trout while fishing the NDO it is a positive reinforcement that the fly has merit.
Note the photos of a dry and wet NDO. Most anglers march into a fly shop and purchase flies without knowing what they look like when wet. A subsurface fly in the dry mode might look appealing but when wet might not compliment the natural bugs. Unlike your hair-do that needs to be in place, subsurface flies need to have a buggy appearance! I suggest you ask the fly shop owner if you can wet the fly and check it out for that buggy look.
Now for a little background on the NDO. As I said above, NDO stands for no days off. This was the mantra adopted by my Grandson, Mark, while working out in order to prepare for his senior year high school football season. His coach liked the idea so it became a slogan for the team. In the past, the football booster club sponsored the production of a tee shirt with the school logo, East Pennsboro Panthers. This past year it also contained the letters NDO and became a football chant as well. Unfortunately, Mark experienced a serious knee injury in the third game of the season and was out for the year. However, he applied the NDO mind set to his physical therapy and accomplished what was to be six months of rehab in just four.
Early July and My
wife, Gayle and I were on Big Spring and to our surprise a little blue
winged olive hatch was in progress. It seems all hatches are on an unorthodox
schedule as a result of the harsh winter. The next day I was guiding
a young lady out of Washington, DC. Debra caught her first trout on
the Letort Spring Run and later on Big Spring, the small olives were
active. After numerous releases using the NDO under a parachute Adams
dry fly I felt confident that the fly was properly named.
1) Pinch the barb,
insert hook through the bead and secure hook in vise. Note that I use
a dry fly hook, but a Daiichi 1270 nymph hook can also be used.
Don Holbrook's Midges
I noted in past updates that I fish the four seasons of the year. The bulk of that fishing is done subsurface. I usually follow a simple approach to subsurface fishing. Identify the food in the stream, tie a reasonable match, locate where the fish are holding and most likely a fish(s) will be caught. Make sense? OR do like I did a few days ago and contact a fly fishing acquaintance that is knowledgeable, ties flies and knows a particular stream very well. Knowledgeable means having done years of informal stream research, amassed a library of quality books and articles on fly fishing and importantly read those items. We tend to sit in a restaurant talking about fly fishing, which can be enjoyable, but might not provide ample information for success on the stream. My acquaintance in this case was Bob Beziak, whom I met on Yellow Creek many years ago. Gradually we fished together and then shared information on what made our fishing time successful, mediocre or poor in terms of the number of fish caught and released. We both agree that being on the water is sufficient to enjoy what nature and fly fishing have to offer for the mind and the body but enhancing our ability to catch and release trout is a nice additive.
Arrangements were made to meet at a convenient spot near the Little Juniata River. A short drive put us on one of the many Little J accesses. Bob enjoys subsurface fishing using the tight line method and has modified the technique as a result of years of on water fishing experiences. The book Dynamic Nymphing by George Daniel has helped both of us improve our approach to tight line nymphing. George's book can shorten the learning curve dramatically. Interesting that Bob was using a ten foot rod and covering a greater amount of water than I was with an eight and one half foot rod. Impressive was the resulting number of hook-ups with the longer rod. I needed to employ a strike indicator to reach areas Bob was fishing with the longer rod. I prefer the tight line method over the strike indicator method because I have a higher hook-up ratio. With tight line nymphing, you know immediately when a fish grabs your offering. Strike indicators sometimes lag in the telegraphing of a take (bite) and many hook-ups are lost as a result. A ten foot rod for tight line nymphing is on my horizon. In the interim, Chet, another fishing buddy, has loaned me a ten footer to help me out prior to my purchasing a longer rod.
Now to the flies that Bob used for tight line nymphing. Bob and I both have copies of Midge Magic by Don Holbrook. Bob used Don's midge patterns for guidance in tying his flies and I have pictured two of these flies as the Fly of the Week. Bob has success with these flies on the Little J and Yellow Creek. I won't detail the tying of the flies, but encourage you to purchase Don's book which offers a nice collection of midge patterns as a result of Don's 25 years plus of streamside research.
One of my favorite sayings is if you are still breathing, then there are no excuses for not expanding your fly fishing repertoire!
TAN CADDIS EMERGER
The previous Fly of the Week was the IZM. In that update I noted that soon I would be guiding and fishing the South Holston River near Bristol, Tennessee, and would have an opportunity to further test the IZM on a tailwater loaded with black flies and midges. I expected positive results similar to what I experienced on the Yellow Breeches, Yellow Creek and Spring Creek. We fished the South Holston River and were not disappointed with the IZM. Fished timely and properly the IZM is effective. The timing from first light to early afternoon seemed to be the most consistently productive hours and the IZM fished under a New Zealand wool strike indicator did not shy pressured trout away. Give the IZM a test run on your favorite stream. Now let's move onto this week's update.
As mentioned above, several of us were fly fishing the South Holston River and the time frame was the first full week of May. Our expectations were to catch and release numerous trout during the daily sulphur appearances. The plan was to alternate mornings fishing a size 16 pheasant tail nymph one morning and the IZM the next morning. Around noon or 1:00 P.M. we expected sulphur emerger activity and then we would switch to a size 16 vertical sulphur. Later in the afternoon when the sulphur duns appeared, we would fish a sulphur comparadun fly to rising trout. We also expected good pre-dusk fishing to rising trout taking sulphur spinners. Like most plans this one unfolded with a few kinks. The trout were not overly active when the size 16 pheasant tail nymph was fished so we switched to the IZM and had much improved success. The sulphur emergers only appeared on one early afternoon that week. However, a size 16 vertical sulphur emerger (a future Fly of the Week) caught those trout that were surface active and within our casting range. The sulphur duns we expected throughout the afternoon did not appear and the resulting pre-dusk sulphur spinner reflected the lack of sulphur duns in the afternoon. Overall the lack of sulphur activity was a disappointment. The South Holston River is known for having a sulphur hatch for a seven month period but the week we were there it was minimal.
An outstanding black caddis hatch captivated the trout's attention from mid afternoon to dusk. You know the saying, when handed a lemon, make lemonade and that we did. The fly I used was the Porcupine Quill found on pages 138-139 in my book. The technique was to dust the fly with fumed silica, known commercially as Frog's Fanny, place liquid floatant on the tapered leader and tippet and skitter the fly over targeted fish. A memorable day on that trip produced 9 trout on the IZM, 26 trout on the Porcupine Quill and 6 trout on a sulphur spinner pattern. The majority of the trout were in the 15 to 17 inch range. Prior to the black caddis activity, I modified a tan caddis pupa/emerger type fly with a few selective snips and a Sharpie permanent marker. The modified caddis was fished as a tandem rig but with the split shot at the very bottom (tippet tag end) of the rig. Basically I substitute a heavy point fly with split shot to get the rig down to the bottom. A big benefit is reduction in snags and the flies are still close to the bottom were the trout usually are found. I might add that many anglers clamp split shot too tightly to prevent slippage. The result is potential weakening of the tippet material.
Since my return from the South Holston River I have tied a large number of tan caddis emergers and have fished them successfully during tan and black caddis activity. As noted in the home page photos, simply add black turkey biots to the sides of the tan caddis emerger when black caddis are present in your waters. The tan caddis emerger tied in size 20 is excellent when micro caddis are about.
1) Pinch the barb,
insert hook through glass bead and secure hook in vise.
It was the third full week in April and many fly fishers were more than eager. Positive stream reports on Hendricksons and Grannoms hatches should have been filtering in from popular waters like Spring Creek, Penns Creek, Yellow Breeches and Little Juniata River. Many blamed the severe winter weather on the delay of the early spring hatches. A week earlier Terry, a friend of mine, and I ventured on a day trip to Spring Creek to meet up with another friend that lived near Bellefonte. Dick assists with in stream habitat work and studies for the local TU Chapter and is aware of Spring Creek conditions on an almost daily basis. Dick reported the Grannoms were present but in low numbers and the trout were not interested in the fluttering critters. We went regardless! The adventure was low on the number of trout caught but high on enjoying the sight, sounds and sunshine that surrounded the environs at Spring Creek that day.
About a week later Dick called Terry and said the Grannoms were on the lower end of Spring Creek and, most importantly, on in large numbers below Milesburg on the Bald Eagle Creek. Terry could not make the trip and Dick was committed to a stream project. I needed an excuse to inspect my hunting and fishing camp near Snowshoe, which is reasonably close to Spring Creek and Bald Eagle Creek. I quickly loaded the truck with the necessary equipment and provisions for two days of fishing and was on my way.
My first stop to fish was on Spring Creek below Fisherman's Paradise. It was late morning and the Grannoms were in the air and on the surface of the water. I rigged accordingly and skittered the Grannom fly pattern that is on page 113 of my book and caught several fish. Shortly thereafter the winds increased, gusting at times to what seemed 20 miles per hour. The Grannom action subsided so I moved further downstream to a gorge area with some protection from the winds. I was hoping to see more Grannom action but the increasing wind velocity was a hindrance even in the gorge. The surface fishing with a Grannom fly was over at that time.
However, the subsurface fishing with the IZM fly was a huge success. I have had some success with a zebra midge fly tied in the various recommended patterns. I have used tungsten and other less weighted Cyclops style beads in gold, silver, black nickel, etc., and glass beads in various colors. The rib has varied in diameter and color and so has the thread for the body. BUT the most productive fly pattern, after catching and releasing trout on many other trout streams in central and south central Pennsylvania, has been the IZM. The Improved Zebra Midge fly pattern is what I dubbed as the IZM. As noted in the general tying instruction below, the improvement, in my estimation, is the use of the fine non- tarnishing copper wire/tinsel. Nothing else has significantly changed. We tend to personalize fly patterns as part of our fly fishing and fly tying experiences. Soon I will be guiding and fishing the South Holston River near Bristol, Tennessee and will have an opportunity to further test the IZM on a tailwater loaded with black flies and midges. I expect similar positive results while fishing the IZM.
I plan to continue the informative fly fishing narrative of the Spring Creek and Bald Eagle Creek trip in the next update. When one is fortunate to hit the olive hatch on Spring Creek it is a memorable experience.
1) Pinch the barb,
insert hook through bead and secure hook in vise.
It was early April and about noon when I returned to fish the Delayed Harvest Artificial Lures Only section of the Wiconisco Creek. The snow and ice were gone from the stream banks but the winter like weather held on. It was cold fishing and the stream level was up and off color from recent rains. I fished the Wiconisco Creek a month earlier and was impressed by the huge number of little and early black stoneflies on the ice and snow attached to the stream banks. However, harsh weather temperatures coupled with a mixture of rain, sleet and snow delayed my return to fish that particular stream. Not a vehicle was in the parking lot when I arrived. The special regulation section is situated mainly on lands of the Ned Smith Gallery. Ned Smith, prior to his passing, was a staff illustrator and wrote a monthly column for the Pennsylvania Game Commission. The Gallery is ideal for a family visit and some good early spring fly fishing if the weather cooperates!
After about a month
and a half of surface fishing Big Spring near Newville, PA, to rising
trout taking a size 24 midge and the often reliable noon to mid afternoon
appearance of the size 20 Little Blue Winged Olive, I was ready to fish
the first large bug appearance of the new year and returned to the Wiconisco
Creek. About 2:00 P.M., which is usually the warmest part of the day,
the fluttering stones were present, but in disappointing numbers. The
lethargic trout showed no interest so I re-rigged to a tandem of size
16 stonefly nymphs. My reasoning was simple. The water temperature was
in the high 30's and according to my Wiconisco Creek notes, the stoneflies
and the trout would not be surface active until the water temperatures
are in the mid to high 40's. Besides, I had been fishing the Yellow
Breeches catch and release section (with its warmer water) using the
tandem size 16 stonefly nymph rig and catching a reasonable number of
trout. I had confidence in the simple stonefly pattern and no doubt
would have caught more than the four brook trout that day if stream
and weather conditions had been favorable. As I noted in my fly fishing
book, Creel Zero, the freestone Wiconisco Creek has one of the best
stonefly hatches in the Harrisburg and Carlisle areas. I fished slowly
along the Wiconisco Creek and scanned the water surface for over an
hour and half and only saw one surface rise. I was disappointed in the
lack of surface activity, but buoyed by the meaningful results I had
subsurface fishing. I exited the cold water and walked back to the truck
in the parking lot, which now contained one other vehicle. I plan to
return to the Wiconisco Creek when the weather improves and will no
doubt find the trout up and taking a decent hatch of stoneflies. We
are fortunate to live in the Millersburg, Harrisburg, Carlisle and Chambersburg
area where we have so many productive trout streams with in reach. Don't
be discouraged if one stream isn't producing fish on a given day
drive a few miles and try another!
Hook: Quality nymph,
General Tying Instructions:
1) Pinch the barb,
insert hook through bead and secure hook in vise.
Flashback Bead Head Pheasant Tail
It sounded like a swarm of angry bees in the distance. The volume of the sound would increase and then it would fade. The sound was puzzling until I realized that it was NASCAR weekend in Bristol, Tennessee. Another fly fisher confirmed that the sound was emanating from Bristol Motor Speedway about eleven road miles from our fishing spot on the South Holston River. He referred to the half-mile long racing track as Thunder Valley and I could understand why. As we walked upstream into the canyon, as the locals call this section of the river, the angry bees sound diminished thanks to the increased height of the cliffs. The fishing we experienced was outstanding due to the presence of size 20 little blue winged olives.
We arrived on the South Holston River two days earlier and were thrilled to find little olives on the water in the early afternoon and fish up taking the little critters. The next day the olive appearance was skimpy and we were somewhat disappointed but still caught enough trout to keep our interest. The third day we found little olives smattering the water surface at mid morning, signaling what was to become a banner day of trout taking olives. We fished subsurface and surface flies with good results. The surface fly was a size 20 Little Blue-Winged Olive Parachute fly and the subsurface fly was a size 22 Flashback Bead Head Pheasant Tail nymph. Usually in a group of fly fishers, there are those that favor fly fishing with subsurface flies and those that prefer to use surface flies. My theory is to use whatever works! You might see me fishing flies on the surface or those flies that are fished subsurface. In order to enjoy fishing the four seasons, one must be able to embrace this mind set. This mid March fly fishing trip to the South Holston River was pleasing and rewarding to both the subsurface and surface fly fishers. Just a reminder, always be aware of water release schedules when fishing the South Holston River. The TVA water release schedule can be obtained by calling 800.238.2264. Additional information about fishing the South Holston River can be found in my recently published book entitled Creel Zero.
Since more fish were caught subsurface on the size 22 Flashback Bead Head Pheasant Tail, I would like to feature it as the Fly of the Week. There are numerous ways to tie this fly but I like to keep my fly tying as uncomplicated as possible. If the fly is fairly easy to tie, consists of readily available materials and catches fish then why hamper yourself with tying a complicated pattern? I don't know about you, but I would rather be fly fishing than tying time consuming flies!
Hook: Quality nymph,
Gayle and I were fortunate to be able to spend the month of January near Canaveral National Seashore, on Route A1A, south of New Smyrna Beach, Florida. Canaveral National Seashore has two launch ramps suitable for outboard skiffs and the southernmost ramp, at parking lot number 5, also offers wading opportunities for redfish and spotted sea trout plus other fish species.
Salt water flyfishing on the "flats" of the world-famous estuary known as Mosquito Lagoon can be a treat. Redfish and spotted sea trout are the most commonly caught species. Tidal movement and weather can impact on fishing in the lagoons and good planning is necessary for wade fishing or boat fishing. In our case, a one mile drive from our beach house put us in the Canaveral National Seashore and on fishable waters. Since we did not have a "flats" type boat, we could only fly fish by wading the flats. We did note that some anglers kayaked along the shoreline looking for tailing fish. We made a mental note to return next January and possibly February with kayaks or a flats boat.
We were told to look
for redfish and sea trout in shallow water during the winter months.
According to the local anglers, the fish like to sun themselves over
sandy open areas when it can be found in the aquatic weed bottom. When
the fish are not sunning themselves, they are feeding in the aquatic
weeds for baitfish and shrimp. We were told to cast a fly that hits
the water very softly and does not spook the shallow water feeding fish.
That fly was the Bendback streamer. This fly is easy to tie and is easy
to cast. They mimic baitfish and shrimp close enough to fool most fish
and, as we were told, the fish take them readily. Some tiers of the
Bendback prefer to leave the bent portion of the shank bare, but the
guides in this part of Florida prefer to wrap the shank with sparkle
braid or other flash material. The Bendback is drawn through the shallow
and weedy water with the hook point up, much like the Clouser fly. A
guide and fly tier told us that the most common mistakes in tying the
Bendback are to over bend the hook shank and to add excessive bucktail
hair. A slim profile when wet is the preferred appearance for this streamer.
The shank should be bent no greater than 30 degrees. Recommended tools
to make the bend are the six-inch crescent wrench or the same size needle
nose pliers. The bend starts about a quarter inch behind the hook eye.
Not all hooks can be bent without breaking. I used the suggested Mustad
stainless steel 34007 with good results. A Bendback is a combination
of bucktail hair and synthetic material. The fly fishers I talked with
in Florida swear by Hologram eyes placed on all streamers. I plan to
carry that thought to my limestone and freestone trout streams when
using streamers. Like any other fly, one should carry a good selection
of sizes and colors so use your imagination when tying the Bendback.
I plan to use the appropriate sizes and colors (after on stream testing)
on our PA trout streams.
If you have not read Recent News and Happenings, I suggest you go back to it. The piece will provide the springboard to the Fly of the Week update. Specifically how the Stripper Midge caught my attention. Since my return from the South Holston River in Tennessee I have used the stripper midge in the Run and the Yellow Breeches with good results. Can't wait to try the stripper midge on Yellow Creek!
Prior to the Florida trip, which included a stop over in Tennessee, I contacted the South Holston Fly Shop for a bug update and was told that the small nymph patterns were still the fly of choice. However, staff member Matt Guinn informed me that the stripper midge was a good fly for the trout bite. The stripped peacock quill (in this case I am referring to a single eyed peacock tail feather fiber (herl) with the flue (fuzz) stripped off.) brought back fond memories of fishing Spring Creek in central Pennsylvania so I decided to tie a dozen or so stripper midges for the December South Holston River trip. Two size 22 stripper midges fished about 15 inches below a strike indicator of New Zealand wool was an effective rig. The white wool, which did not deter trout from rising to the flies, is fast becoming my preferred strike indicator because it does not spook trout even in heavily fished waters.
Stripping peacock quill for a segmented body appearance was popular many years ago. Peacock herl was used as a key fly tying material at that time and it is still used effectively in today's fly patterns. The multi-colors of bronze, black, green and some blue under varying light conditions could have been the first of the attractor materials for fly tying. I know it caught my attention. The stripped peacock quill has the dark and light brown bands running the length of the quill. These bands provide the segmented appearance when wrapped on a hook. I use the thumb and forefinger technique to strip the short hair like fibers from the quill. The thumb and finger approach is simple. Stroke the short hair like fibers toward the base of the quill several times until bare.
One last piece of
advice when fishing stripper midges in mid winter. When you notice trout
sipping midges off the surface, don't automatically switch from the
subsurface stripper midge to a midge surface pattern. Here's why. Bruce
McFate and I were fishing the Yellow Breeches Creek several days ago
when we had the last above freezing temperatures in our area. The stripper
midges were productive but I noticed several trout up sipping midges
and I changed to a dry fly midge pattern. Numerous dry fly changes later
I was frustrated. I could not interest the trout in any of my size 24
and size 26 midge patterns that had taken trout in the fall and in the
early winter. Scanning the water surface I noticed only one size midge
bug and they were about a size 32. I could not compete with the natural's
diminitive size so I re-rigged with the tandem stripper midges and white
New Zealand wool as a strike indicator. I positioned the stripper midges
at the eight inch and fifteen inch levels below the strike indicator
and caught trout. I noted a few times in my recently published book