FLY OF THE WEEK
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