Autumn On The EB

Autumn On The EB
Fly Fishing The Millers - With over 30 years of fly fishing this river I will claim more knowledge and fish caught than anyone. There are over 40 miles of river and I will take you to the best sections and if you want to sections that never see another angler. Don't be fooled by those who say the Millers is a Spring and Fall river. I'll show you how to have great Summer action. The "EB of the Westfield" - Wild and beautiful is the only way to describe this river. There's a lot of water here but I know where to go to catch trout. After a trip you will too!! Solitude and trout IS the EB. The Swift - 20 trout days are not uncommon on this river if you know what to do and use. I'll show the way and you catch the trout. RATES - Full Day (6 hours) = $150.00 for one, $225 for two (lunch included). Half Day (three hours) $90.00 for one, $155.00 for two. Beginners Class - 3 hours ffor $90.00, all use of rods lines, reels included.

Friday, December 15, 2017

The Fly Fisher In Winter - How To Maximize Success

"Sight Fishing", as it was coined, is the New Zealand art of a guide scanning the stream ahead of the client for that half hidden monster trout. The guide directs the cast and the client may never even see the fish until it rises. It is not casting for dozens of visible trout in a tail water. Just because you can see a bunch of fish doesn't mean you are sight fishing." -Me

A quick drive to the Pipe parking lot revealed one car. The Y Pool revealed "0". Why was that? Was it 3:00 am in the morning? Were we in the grip of a massive Nor'easter? The answer was NO all around. What should of been a day enjoyed by a number of anglers on the Swift turned out to be a day on an empty river and that was because of this bone numbing cold. It kept people at home OR should it have? There are ways to ways to make the most of this.

1. A few years ago someone wrote a blog piece on winter fishing. I expected a piece on flies, lines and technique. What we got was a winter clothing shopping list right down to the PFD (personal flotation device). I don't believe the author even mentioned fishing!! I know that buying things is a big part of this sport for some people but I refuse to insult the rest. You already know how to dress - light and layered. You don't need me regurgitating any manufacturers Kool-Aide over the merits of one pair of fingerless gloves over another. You know what to do.

2. Stick to Tailwaters if you can. Tail waters are actually as important in the winter as in the summer. Their water temperature will be 5 to 10 degrees warmer than your average freestone which are down to the 32 degree range by now. Freestone fish are stressed fish and many will succumb if we have a bad winter. I leave them alone until the ice is off the rivers.

3. When to fish - I used to hit the river at sun up to be greeted with single digit temperatures, iced guides and lethargic trout. Yesterday I was in the water at NOON. The air temperature rose from around 12 degrees at 8am to the mid 20's by early afternoon. It was actually pleasant as I walked to my spot.

4. Where is the best water to fish? - The best water is the warmest (relatively speaking) water. Remember, in the summer the "top" of the river is the coolest and it will begin to warm up as one goes downstream. In the winter the opposite happens. That will give you a hint about where I was on the Swift yesterday!!

5. What technique to use? - Fish low, fish slow and fish small. You have to bounce small flies right off their snouts to get any action. I imagine a grid over the river surface and my goal is to fish that entire grid before moving on. No rocket science here, just keep your line short and cover the water. I find that bouncing your offering on the bottom is more effective than suspending it in the water column at this time of year. And don't go light with the tippets either. You don't want to play these fish to exhaustion. 5X is fine right down to size 24. I know some fish hawks who use it right down to size 30!!!!!

6. How did I do? - 4 bows and two brookies in about an hour. I had dinner plans latter that evening and I really wanted to be home by 3pm but I also wanted to go fly fishing so.....


Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Thinking Spring Already - The Quill Gordon

"That is night fishing, the essence of angling, the emperor of sports. It is the gorgeous gambling game in which one stakes the certainty of long hours of faceless fumbling, nerve-racking starts, frights, falls and fishless nights against the off-chance of hooking into - not landing necessarily or even hooking into - a fish as long and as heavy as a railroad tie and as unmanageable as a runaway submarin - My favorite Sparse Grey Hackle guote repeated again. Question - Does anyone fish past dusk anymore? I know that some of the Millers Gang does because I'm one of them. The Tailwater Crowd??? Not so much - Sparse and Me
Photo By Thomas Ames, Jr.
It was late April when a client and I crossed over Church Street to fish the Ware on that cool Spring day. We met another angler who had just gotten out of the water and was complaining about the amount of ticks that he had on his waders. "Better be careful" he said. "Ticks on waders" was not what he had and I didn't have the heart to tell him. His "ticks" were Quill Gordon nymphs which will begin to move around and cling to any structure, even you, before they start to hatch.

This fly, along with the Hendricksons, are my favorite springtime flies.They both hatch at mid day and their life cycle is always spent during bankers hours. But the Quill Gordon is different. First, It's short and squat as most clinger nymphs are. The nymphs are smaller than the hendrickson species even though the adult mayflies are about the same size. (most mistake the Q.G. adult for the hendrickson. The Q.G. has 2 tails, the hendrickson has three) The BIG difference with the Gordon is that this nymph doesn't rise to the surface to shed its nymphal shell or even crawl to a rock to hatch and fly away. This guy sheds its shell ON THE STREAM BOTTOM and rises through the water column as a fully formed adult with its wings trailing behind.
The best imitation for this emerging fly is the (you guessed it) soft hackle style, brown/olive in color in a size 12. I developed my own emerger which I will work out this Spring:

Hook - size 14 to 16 wet or dry style

Body - 3 pheasant tail fibers using the tips as the tail (cut one tip off since the insect only has 2 tails).

Rib - fine cooper wire

Trailing Wing - Grey midge zelon or grey CDC.

Head/Thorax - peacock

The strike to the emerging adult is vicious since they must be rising through the water quickly.

The Ware has a great hatch as does the EB surprisingly. The Millers has hendricksons but no Quill Gordons. The Swift has both but not many.

The Quill Gordons are the official start of my dry fly season. Only 4 months to go.


Friday, December 8, 2017

New Rivers for 2018 And End Of Year Guiding

  • "Do you need a 50-fish day dredging the depths with three jig-head nymphs drifting under an indicator? Or will half a dozen trout rising to dry flies prove equally fulfilling? - John Shewey, Editor In Chief of Fly Fishing Magazine, September/October 2016 edition

I'm adding two new rivers to my list of rivers that I guide on. First is the North River on the Shelbourne/Colrain line. This is a beautiful stream flowing out of Vermont and into the Deerfield River. It is small,cold and clean with native brook trout plus enough stockers to keep it interesting. It is a series of riffles, runs and pools that will lend itself to all techniques. I'm thinking May and June evenings near it's confluence with the Deerfield        Mill River Williamsburg
for some good dry fly fishing.

The Mill river has been my April to June playground because: It's a cold stream and holds its trout well through the above months AND still has trout in August although a drought will make it too bony to fish well. (If the flow is up we will catch trout). It is seldom fished and has some deep runs and holes that keep their trout. It is a great stream to dry fly fish (think a size 14 Adams, picking the riffles and pools with a short line) and working a nymph suspended in mid current can be deadly!

The North River Shelbourne/Colrain

These are small watersheds and a 3 hour excursion should do it. You'll also know where to go when you do a solo trip. So make a note for early Spring and we will get on these great little rivers!

End of Year Trips

Hey, you still have some unused hours on that 2017 license. Lets go to the Swift where we can ply some of the lesser known and fished sections. I did well there just this week.  If the temperatures are 30 or above you will be very comfortable in water that is warmer. We can even start later in the morning on a colder day when it's more pleasant. It's all up to you!!!


Thursday, December 7, 2017

December On The EB And Calling Him Out

"No fly fisher wakes up in the early morning not knowing where they are going to fish. We know the night before or the day before or if time is at a premium the week before where the first cast will be. We fall asleep thinking of that river and on that drive in the prenatal darkness of that early morning we hope it's a section of river that we can call our own. If you don't "think that" you are not "Fly Fishing" yet." - Kenny Cahill

I had to give it one more try before Winter set in and watching Harvey land a slab bow on the EB last week sealed the deal. I made plans for the EB.

As readers of this blog know for sure the EB was a disappointment this Fall. The DFW failed to stock due to "low flow and high temperatures". My discussion with the regional manager for the area included my observations of shin to knee deep pocket water that was in the mid 50's in early October. Evidently he doesn't fly fish and doesn't recognize GOOD conditions. Anyway, I failed to convince him and he didn't have any luck with me either. The "Have a good Winter" stocking may be back next Fall.

The trout on the EB are a remnant of the May stockings of this year. They hunkered down in deep pools and near spring holes to get through the Summer. Some did and I managed one in the two hours that I was there in the cold, December drizzle. The 14 inch bright bow took my version of a Bread Crust just below the surface. Now, in 38 degree water I would be fishing slow and deep but this fish actually rose to the surface for something so I quickly changed flies and tactics. I said "bright bow" because EB rainbows just don't seem to color up in that river like in other rivers. He still had that hatchery look about him.   Bread Crust Emerger

I decided to spend some time having a stream side lunch (no P & J sandwich for me, that's for kids. Thickly sliced chicken breast over mayo, chipotle relish, tomato slices, Swiss cheese and oatmeal bread filled the bill) and just taking in this early Winter view. Soon the Gorge Road will be covered with snow and this place will be owned by snowmobilers and dogsled teams. (one actually went down the road pulling a 4 wheeler on a training run). Our time will return in late April and hopefully we will have a summer that's not too wet and not too dry.

I finished up by taking a trip to the Swift to catch the obligatory bow and brookie by the Gauge. The brookies are thinning out and the bows are calming down.

Now for the Pipe

It has come to my attention and maybe even yours that a certain user of the internet media has labeled the Pipe area of the Swift the "Toilet Bowl". This labeling is crude, course and crass , denigrates this fine river and the people who use it and is not what I and others would expect from someone who fishes that section frequently.  As readers of this blog know the massive surface activity below the pipe is the result of the nutrient load from the hatchery. This, BTW, is a LEGAL discharge and is probably monitored frequently. (It was standard procedure at the trout hatchery that I worked at 30 years ago.). It would be a wild leap of logic/science to even suggest that this discharge is a form of  pollution justifying the "Toilet Bowl" moniker.  This certain media user would probably be heartbroken to realize that there are three WWTP's just above New Hartford on his precious Farmington which, BTW, has had some serious bacterial problems. It too is not a Toilet Bowl!

One is entitled to ones opinion but you better be able to back up your name calling or you will be called out!!!!


Monday, December 4, 2017

The Parachute Fly - A Brief History

"I hate to admit this, but fishermen (yes,even fly fishermen) are basically lazy. They want huge trout and lots of them, within sight of the car. The tougher the access to a stretch of stream, the less it's fished, and the less it's fished, the better the fishing will be, all things being equal." - John Gierach

One of the most popular styles of dry flies today is the parachute style. This fly, developed in the 1930's, has been in and out of favor for decades and right now is riding a crest of popularity. Let's look at it's beginnings and why it's such a good style of fly.

Credit a young tyer from Scotland named Helen Todd who had become employed as a tyer at a commercial tackle house. In 1932 she became interested in an American theory that if hackles could be tied "spent" one would have a more effective dry fly. She accomplished this by tying in a "mast" (what we call a post) of stiff pig bristles and the style was born. Her company began selling the flies in 1933.
                                                        Photo from Ernest Schwiebert's Trout

Wait, there's more!! Enter William Brush from Detroit Michigan with his patented parachute hook in 1934. This brainchild seems straightforward enough. When forming the hook just leave some extra wire and then bend it up at a 90 degree angle to the hook shank. Now you have a stiff wire post to wrap hackles on. You also have a much heavier hook which will take the DRY out of dry fly. I actually was given some of these back in the early 1970's. I still think that hook would work with todays genetic hackles and fine wire hooks, something that was in short supply years ago.

Why It Works

Parachutes work because they suspend the body of the fly in the surface film instead of on or above the surface like a traditional dry fly. That's where the insects are, in the film!  Follow me here: You're standing in a stream during a good hendrickson, sulphur or BWO hatch, you name it.  Insects are in the air and on the water and trout are breaking the surface. Now, look hard at the rise forms. One would think that you would constantly see the adult mayflies disappearing in those swirls but you see very few. That's because the most insects that are the easiest for the trout to grab are trying to break through the surface tension of the water. Some get through, many don't and it's easy pickings for the trout. This is  the emerger or subimago stage.

A Better Parachute

Conventional Wisdom dies hard. We have been tying dry flies for close to 150 years and most of our mayfly imitations are our attempts to copy the ADULT stage of the mayfly which is not the choice stage for the trout. (Yes, I know that your traditional Adams catches trout but I bet you've witnessed some nerve wracking refusals as your traditional dry drifted over a feeding fish time and time again). It's time to change things up! If the most prevalent stage of a mayfly is the subimago stage then your fly should imitate it. If the Parachute Dry does this find the style of Parachute that does it best. Enter the Best Parachute: The Klinkhammer Style!

Why is it the best? It's as close to imitating that Mayfly stage as we are going to get. The "head" of the fly is poking through the water surface while the body is suspended below, just like the natural. That's why it's silly to tie parachutes with TAILS. You don't need or want them. Get that rear end of the fly down below the surface.

When tying Klinkhammer Parachutes don't get too dainty. Besides a post and hackle I use some buggy thorax material to give the impression of life and movement. (remember, the mayfly is busting through its nymphal shell. There's a lot of action going on there!!)

For those who don't want to tie parachutes but want the same effect I would suggest Bob Wyatts' DHE Emerger. The same principle as the Klinkhammer but deer hair is the secret sauce with this pattern. All of this is found in the Wyatt book What Trout Want, The Educated Trout and Other Myths.. Good winter reading!

P.S. Give yourself a break when tying drys by using the genetic pre-sized saddle hackles. Until they breed a rooster to grow one size of feather these saddles are your best bet.


Saturday, December 2, 2017

More Big Swift Browns, A Farmington Question, Brookies

"Finally! Amidst a crowd of 4 rainbows somehow he was the one to eat the soft hackle (P&O of course). Took a leap out of the water and started bulldogging for a log - thank God for trout hunter 4.5x 6.1 test" - Commentator Lenny on ANOTHER big Swift River Brown.

Another big Swift River brown comes to the net. There have always been the occasional monster seen and sometimes caught on the Swift BUT NOT LIKE THIS YEAR!!! Just like the brookie explosion in the earlier part of this decade the browns are expanding in range and in size. Let's examine some reasons for this:

It's a tailwater - In the long run this is the main reason for our browns and brook trout populations on the Swift. You have a steady, cool flow of water that is not ravaged by seasonal floods and droughts which can greatly impact a trouts survival.(winter kill is the major natural cause of death, outside of predators, in a freestone environment)

Brookies on the menu - When the biomass of available food increases so will the creatures who consume it.  Three years ago I saw a 4lb brown grab a 6 inch brookie and then take about two minutes to swallow it. If you've been to Cady Lane in the summer you will know what I mean - Schools of 4 to 6 inch brook trout can be seen everywhere.  The 4 to 10 pound browns see them too and that 17lb monster saw them too when it was a kid. Now it eats adult suckers and 14 inch rainbows!!!!

Catch & Release, Stupid! - Big trout have to run the gauntlet year after year to get to  the "measured in pounds" size and ending up in the freezer will not do it. Also, the browns are the premier piscatorial predators on the Swift and to maintain a health fishery WE NEED THEM! The top of the food pyramid is not as populated as the bottom. The top keeps the bottom in control. A year round C&R policy on the Swift for browns could insure this.

Mother Nature in Control - The brook trout and brown trout explosion appears to have been accomplished without the hand of man involved (yup, we created a tailwater and stocked some browns but that's it). No State agency has taken credit for this. That begs the question about the genetic work being done on the Farmington in Connecticut. The Survivor Trout Program had the mission to "create" a brown trout that could withstand the thermal challenges found in freestone environments, namely the Housatonic River among others. To accomplish this Farmington browns would be "mixed" with other wild browns (Housatonic for example) and the offspring would be a hardier fish. That is great and certainly noble but why are many of the offspring going back to the Farmington?? It's a tailwater, remember, cold water all summer long with steady flows etc, just like the Swift!! I've only been fishing the Farmy for 15 years but I've caught some BIG browns there and seen some scary monsters in that river and that was long before the the survivor program started.  Wouldn't the Housy and other freestones benefit more from the "survivors" than the Farmy????  Hmmm........

Added Note - Notice that the brown in the above photo was caught on a P&O soft hackle. I posted a photo of another monster taken on a #16 scud. I know of another 4lb brown taken on a #20 Griffins Ghat. The lesson here is that you don't have to toss mouse patterns to get these guys!!!

Swift Brookies Don't fall for the conventional wisdom that the brookies are off the Redds for the year. Not so!!! You just have to know where to look. If someone has an underwater camera you could get some great shots in that skinny water!!!


Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Perfect Fly Tying Vise And A Readers Streamer

"On the other hand, when a trout refuses to take your fly, the answer isn't always to step down from a 5X tippet to a 6X, and then from a 6 to a 7. I always try to figure out how I can make my drift better before I start to re-rig. Many times the problem turns out to be operator error rather than tippet size. In other words, it's a poor workman who blames his tools before he's eliminated all other more likely possibilities." - John Gierach

It's over 30 years ago and I'm packed into a crowded exhibition hall somewhere off of Rt 495 to attend, what once was, the premier fly fishing show in Massachusetts. Many of the displays were the same-old-same-old until I saw something catch my eye. There was this scruffy exhibitor placing saltwater hooks into this weird vise and then BENDING THEM BACKWARDS. The exhibitor was Jerry Doiran and he was the inventor of the Regal Vise.

Let's talk about the vise. It was totally unique and worked on a principle that was totally ass backwards
from all existing fly tying vises. All other vises, when they are not holding a fly, are at "rest". To make the vise "work" you adjust the tension or "grip" of the jaws to suite the hook, load the hook into the vise, probably adjust the jaws again if it's a hook size change and then start tying hoping that the hook is held firmly by the vise. With the Regal Vise the jaws are NEVER at rest. To load a hook into the vise you press a lever which opens the jaws, place your hook in the jaws and then release the lever. That hook will never move. No adjustments to the tension are needed because the jaws are SELF ADJUSTING!!!!! A metallurgist friend of mine who examined the vise said it was a pure example of Yankee Engineuity!!! Jerry was French Canadian but I don't think he would be offended!

The Regal Company has always been a Massachusetts company, starting on the Cape (that's Cape Cod for the newbies) and then moving to Orange Ma. the 1980's. Jerry was an inventor who had a couple of dozen patents to his name. He invented the child proof lighter, sold the patent and moved to Florida. I used to run into him on the Millers and he would always give me hints about what new idea was in his head. He was the first person that I saw fish a San Juan Worm! His brother "T" Doiran took over the company after Jerry flew south. "T" passed away and the company was bought by and is now in the capable hands of Don Barnes who brought the company into the 21 century with an expanded line of neat products. Regal is still in Orange Ma.

The best dry fly artisan that I know of is Dan Trela and he uses a Regal Vise.

Here's your chance to "buy local". Get a Regal Vise, the last vise you'll ever need.

P.S. - I get nothing for this endorsement.

A Good Streamer

Reader Kevin Burbick submitted this streamer fly with the accompanying story:

Caught a laker on the fly at Wachusett. Key was using intermediate line. Caught him on a white streamer of my own design sort of (based on Alaskabou steelhead flies). Tie in two white marabou feathers to make a tail on a #6 streamer hook. Just the tops, enough to make a solid tail. Then fold and palmer marabou towards the hook eye brushing towards tail with hand as you go. When you run out of marabou, throw in some strands of flashabou and repeat until you get to the hook eye. You may want a bead or cone because it is fairly buoyant. Really was a decent match for the dead smelt I saw on the beach. Basically a white leech. Not really a "guide fly" because it does take time to tie but I like the way it looks.

Way to go Kevin!!!