Autumn On The EB

Autumn On The EB

Sunday, January 31, 2016

A Really Good Winter Morning, Welcome To the Swift Below Route 9 And What's In Your Fly Box

I frankly don't make much of a living, but I make a hell of of a life" Jack Gartside

It was a great Sunday morning on the Swift. I took trout from the start, had my hat handed to me by some very crazy, timid bows in the mid hours and then got the guys to play with me by noon. It was great as the temperatures kissed 50 degrees on this last day on January.

I feel very good knowing that fly fishermen are "coming down" below Rt 9 and finding water that they had never fished. Today I met guys who decided to take the leap and go below Rt 9. In my opinion it's the BEST water on this river. I like letting people (fly fishers) know of this because every section of river needs its "fans". Two years ago some property owners down in Bondsville were scaring the hell out of people by saying that if a certain dam was to be removed the trout fishing miles above would be ruined. It was pure garbage and fly fishermen knew it. Always keep your eye open to this stuff.

My "go to" fly today was a size 20 McPhail Buzzer without the UV cure. It worked great!

I'm not one to carry a lot of things that I don't need. People that I've guided and fished with know that I don't change flies every five minutes. Changing flies often on any river shows that you have a lack of confidence in your selection of flies OR your presentation needs some work. Most nymphs that we work actually represent a number of subsurface insects. It's how we work them that counts.

I have TWO fly packs when I trout fish the Swift, the EB and the Millers. My Swift pack has three slim profile boxes that have just what I need for this river. One slim box has size 14 through 18 soft hackles and some Pheasant Tails from 16 through 22.
The other has some scuds and some larvae patterns in small sizes. Then there is the Dry Fly Box that has generics from size 16 through 30. That's it!!

On the Millers and the EB I will bring the heavy duty stuff. Woolly Buggers and other heavy duty artillery will never find their place in my box when I'm on the Swift. The Swift is special for me and I like fooling trout with something that LOOKS like an insect instead of a lure. My WB's (and other heavy stuff) that I fish subsurface on the EB and the Millers actually look like critters that live in those rivers. My fly packs for the EB and Millers have the heavy stuff AND the larger SH's and Dry flies suited for those rivers.

Two funny things happened this weekend: On Saturday I had close to a hundred robins in my back yard. Twoday I found a nightcrawler on the banks of the Swift. Climate change????


Wednesday, January 27, 2016

An Important Mayfly: The March Brown And Where To Find Info On This Blog Plus Name That Mayfly!

Creeps and idiots cannot conceal themselves for long on a fishing trip John Gierach

Behold the March Brown, the first of the LARGE mayflies that will grace many of our central and eastern Massachusetts streams. Forget the word "March" because that is the English name given to a mayfly that appears in early spring across the "pond". This handsome critter begins to show itself in May and lingers into early July in these waters. The guy in the photo posed for this photo in early June at the Rezendes Pool on the Millers. He stayed in one spot while I fumbled for my camera - a true camera hog.

It's a big mayfly that will make it's appearance in slower water than it's earlier cousins, the Quill Gordon and the Hendrickson. Look for the edges of currents and not the fastest water. Also it's a late afternoon/evening hatch and you will see trout making lazy rises to the struggling emerging insect and then the rise for the real thing - the adult insect.

I don't go after the nymph stage with this fly. There is so much in the water at this time of year that anything will work BUT I wait to see the duns on the surface because trout will ignore anything else for this morsel. This is also when I go back to tradition and work a large (size 12/14) dry in classic dress. Count the Adams into this group. Size and colors are perfect!!

My fly is this:
Hook - 12 to 14 standard dry fly
tail - brown dyed grizzly hackle barbs
body - grey or yellow/olive dubbing
wing - grey CDC (new this year. I know it's gonna work!!)
hackle - brown dyed grizzly
( the hackle is my short-cut compromise. Instead of tying in a grizzly and a brown hackle aka Adams I make due with a brown grizzly. No grizzly hackle points for wings - they suck!!)

The color tones between the natural and the imitation are pretty close.

Now, I get tons of emails from people that have questions about different flies and different rivers. In the last month I've gotten many from people looking for soft hackle info. I respond to them all BUT if you want immediate gratification just do the following:

1. Go to the upper LEFT hand corner of my blog to the search box.

2. Type in the subject (soft hackles, dry flies, Millers River ect), hit enter and get over 8 years of posts on the chosen subject.

3 I'll still answer all the emails that I get. I love it!!!

Two mayfly photos from Dennis in S. New Hampshire. Of interest is the black Mayfly. That photo was taken in early April and my wild guess is that it's a Mahogany Dun. Any opinions??



Sunday, January 24, 2016

Generic Nymphs And The Fly Show

"The great charm of fly fishing is that we are always learning." Theodore Gordon

I seldom tie to a pattern or a set of instructions or materials because I find that it is usually unnecessary and I like the idea of throwing a new set of wrinkles into the fabric of fly tying. In fact, most of the time I find myself eliminating steps/materials to see if the final product will work. It usually does.

One of the most satisfying methods of fly fishing is to fish an emerging nymph in the surface film. This bare bones fly does it all in sizes 16 through 26.

Hook - dry fly or scud in the above mentioned sizes

Tail - a short strand of olive brown floss

Body - olive brown floss or thread

Thorax - a ball of lighter olive dubbing combed out with a dubbing brush (one can use CDC here but the fuzzy dubbing ball works well when treated with powder)

This is a good BWO imitation and also seems to work for other species too.

Went to the Fly Show on Friday and felt that it should be renamed the Incredible Shrinking Fly Show. It's getting smaller every year!! Now if you're new to the sport it will still seem like Christmas morning to you but ten years ago it was packed with exhibitors especially the "destination" exhibitors. Two of my favorite booths are gone from Marlboro but still do the other locations. "Not enough people" was the reason one owner gave.

The promoter should try to study this. New England is a hotbed of fly fishing and and we certainly have the population to support an event like this.


Wednesday, January 20, 2016

May Fly Dreaming - The Hendricksons

"Really, the only thing a psychiatrist can do that a good fishing guide can't is write prescriptions" John Gierach

Photo by Thomas Ames Jr.

A.E. Hendrickson was a wealthy shipping magnate out of the greater New York City area during the first third of the 20th century. He purchased flies from Theodore Gordon until Gordon's death in 1915 and then bought flies from the only person Gordon had taught to tie flies - Roy Steenrod. Both of these men were working the Beaverkill one spring day in 1918 when a good hatch appeared. After lunch Roy tied up some imitations which proved very successful. A. E. asked what the name of the fly was and Steenrod said "it's the Hendrickson!" Thus was created the name that is forever linked to dry fly fishing in this country. It is the most sought after hatch on our eastern rivers and will make the dry fly angler go into a swoon at just the thought of that perfect day in April/May when flotillas for these dainty insects float downstream into the mouths of waiting trout. For some it's the highlight of the season!

This is a widespread insect that's found on the Millers, the Ware and the Quaboag rivers to name a few. It's found on the Swift in decent numbers but I've never really seen it on the EB to brag about. It's confused with the Quill Gordon on that river and on others. One thing that frustrates the angler is that if the water is too high you can have a zillion hendricksons on the surface but no rising trout. I've seen this on the Millers and Dan Trella has seen it on the Quaboag. But if the flow is right you could have the best days of the season.

A few days before "hatch day", when the water temperature moves into the mid fifties, the nymphs of this species begin to become active AND noticeably darken in the wing pad area. Always run a black sharpie along this area. Fish the nymph along the bottom through riffle areas where they live. The hatch usually starts around noon or so and a soft hackle of the appropriate colors will mimic this activity perfectly.

The emerging insect, like all insects in this stage, is a sitting duck for the waiting trout. Busting through the surface film and shedding it's skin takes time unlike the quick change artist, the Quill Gordon (see previous post), that was on stage a week or so before. A neat emerger pattern is found in Thomas Ames Jr's book Hatch Guide for New England Streams. and that's the Parachute Vertical Emerger. I ditched the hybrid hook and the parachute hackle and keyed into the focal point of this fly: the two toned body that's half dark exoskeleton and half lighter emerging insect. Hackles are wrapped on in a traditional style either undersized or clipped below.

Yes, you can tie the dun the way Steenrod and generations did after him in the time honored Catskill style but the comparadun works fine. Also you don't need the "pinkish, urine stained fur from the underbelly of a vixen fox" (I'm not kidding) for the body. Any dun or pinkish synthetic dubbing will do. Touch up your hair wings with a grey sharpie.

There are flies to represent both male and female of this species. Center on the female. The spinner stage is important but you have to be on the stream later in the day for that event. A darker body in a parachute style will get that job done.


Sunday, January 17, 2016

All Purpose Nymph And A Swift Update

"If fishing is like religion, then fly fishing is high church" Tom Brokaw

Sometimes the simplest things work the best. Back in the early 1970's a writer by the name of S.R. Slaymaker (he wrote for the hook and bullet press about fly fishing) wrote about a simple generic nymph that was breathtakingly simple to tie and a virtual trout magnet when fished right. The fly had no name and still doesn't as far as I know although it looks like one of Sawyers nymphs. Slaymaker used mink for the body. I once had some raw mink but it's long gone so I use Australian possum or hair mask.

Hook - Nymph or standard dry fly hook sizes 12-14

Weight - your choice wrapped around the hook shank (resist the temptation to stick a bead on it. This is fly tying, not lure making)

Tail - A few partridge fibers or a tuft of fur

Rib - ultra fine copper wire

Body - Australian possum or hare's mask dubbed loosely and then secured down with wire. Use that little carding tool that we all have but never use to pick out the dubbing.

Above is my life time supply of Australian possum dyed olive or yellow. It has that kinky texture that works great underwater. I would guess that good old American possum would work just as well. Over the years I've taken to touching up the color to suit my taste (actually the trouts taste) with Sharpies. I've tied up some nymphs with yellow fur and then hit them with a black Sharpie. Just enough yellow shows through for a nice effect.

The Swift - The stretch from the Gauge through Cady Lane has been fishing well. At 50 cfs and little snow it's been rather pleasant. The best time of the day is between 10 am and 2pm especially when the air temperatures push past 40 degrees. A drab Partridge and Olive SH ruled the day on Friday laying to rest the belief that only bright colors work in the Winter.

We turn the clocks ahead in just two months!!!!!


Thursday, January 14, 2016

An All Around Emerger And A Swift Update (1/15/16)

"In the lexicon of the fly fisherman, the words rise and hooked connote the successful and desirable climax; landing a fish is purely anticlimax" Vincent C. Marinaro, 1950

One of the first things that the budding dry fly fisher realizes is that during a mayfly hatch many of the duns (freshly hatched mayflies) go sailing by as the trout feed on something else. That "something else" is the emerger stage of the mayfly - the insect just sub-surface or stuck in the surface film trying to hatch. We really can't see these fellows unless we put our rods down and take out dip nets which we are probably not going to do. We need a pattern that works and this one does.

There is no one "look" to an emerger. That insect can be 1/3 out of the water or 3/4 out of the water or dragging it's nymph suit behind it or not. What we need is something that looks like the average emerger.

Hook - scud or curved light hook size 14 to 20 or smaller

Body - olive or brown 70 denier thread

Thorax - olive, grey or brown hare's mask

Wing - fine deer hair or snowshoe hare. CDC when you get below size 20.

Hackle - Brown or dun colored on the larger sizes and hackle-less on smaller sizes. Hackle should be one size smaller than the hook size or clipped below the hook if you like.

Bob Wyatt's book "What Trout Want" devotes much time to this insect stage and his pattern for it. It was about 20 years ago that Art Lee (I believe) wrote about this stage and his pattern in Flyfisherman Magazine (I believe). All three of us are talking about the same fly.

Change sizes and shades of color to suit the insect that's hatching.


1/15 = Here's the Swift update - For all of those you said that the lower Swift would be cleaned out in January here are the facts: From the gauge downstream is loaded with trout! Fly fishers are catching them! I saw two bait boys in the last two trips and they are catching next to nothing. For those you said that the joint would be cleaned out - go above Rt 9 where the pickings are slim!!

Monday, January 11, 2016

My Favorite Soft Hackles!

"If I fished only to capture fish, my fishing trips would of ended long ago". Zane Grey

Everyone who reads this blog knows that I love soft hackle flies. I love the way they work through the water and the way this traditional fly looks in the vise. I don't get goofy with beads and rubber legs. I want something that looks like an insect that lives in my stream. My boxes are full of them but this past year four did most of the work for me.

The Yellow and Partridge - This is my summertime fly whether I'm on the Swift, EB or Millers. Yellow thread for the body on size 16 and smaller and yellow floss on larger sizes. Some olive rabbit or Australian possum for the thorax and a SPARSE hackle collar does it. This fly gets things going during the sulphur season on the Swift especially during the late afternoon.

Forget the camera hog partridge and orange that found it's way into the picture with my Olive and Partridge flies. The Olive and Partridge never seemed to work for me on the Swift BUT it's a great pattern on the Millers and the EB. In fact, this pattern works great in larger sizes like a 10 or an 8 on fast EB water. Olive thread or floss depending on fly size, brown rabbit for the thorax and sparse partridge for the hackle. Tying this in a size 8 lets you use up some of those oversized hackles that you have hanging around.

The Pink Partridge - pink floss for the body, dark grey rabbit for the thorax and then sparse partridge. This fly got it's start when I bought some spools of floss at Mike's Deerfield Fly Shop last summer. I bought a spool of pink and began to wonder why I did that when I thought that it may look good on a SH. It did look good and it worked well on the EB and the Millers. I didn't fish it on the Swift but I will this year.

Partridge and Orange - Really dependable with that orange kevlar body in the larger sizes and still effective with orange waxed thread in the smaller sizes. You just can't beat this fly EXCEPT the Yellow and Partridge will nose it out during the summer.

Start tying!


Saturday, January 9, 2016

Important Mayflies - The Quill Gordon

"The fishing was good. It was the catching that was bad" A.K. Best

(Photo from Hatch Guide for New England Streams by Thomas Ames, Jr.)

Bill said it best yesterday on the Swift: "It's the slow time of year." It's the time of year where I start to organize, reorganize, create new flies and toss others out. It's also the time where I begin to think of Spring and the start of the REAL dry fly season. I said REAL because I'm not talking about tossing micro-flies or rubber legged space insects but fishing over that steady parade of MAYFLIES that start in April and then continue through the season. Just the hint that Hendricksons are hatching will make a dry fly man's legs go weak. Count the Sulphurs and the BWO's in that mix and you are hooked.

This year I'll highlight some of the important insects that I find on my favorite rivers with some personal notes.

Quill Gordon - It was early May last year on the EB when a fellow fly fisher looked up to the sky and said "look at all the hendricksons!!"The sky was certainly full of mayflies grouping up for their spinner stage but they were not hendricksons. They were Quill Gordons which are often mistaken for the other insect because their hatching times overlap. The QG is also a bit smaller and a bit darker than it's more famous cousin but the real way to tell them apart is the fact that the QG has only TWO TAILS while the hendrickson has three!

The Gordon also has a strange habit of NOT rising to the surface to shed it's nymph skin like most other mayflies but hatches on the bottom of the stream and swims to the surface with it's fully developed wings trailing behind them. This stage is imitated very well with soft hackles with an olive/brown body color especially if tied with gray hen hackle to match the wing color of the insect. Traditional wet flies like the lead wing coachman work too. Cast up and across the stream mending your line as it swings downstream. When the fly is below you raise the rod and then lower it quickly. That will bring the fly UP and followed by a drop to lower levels of the stream. Then it will rise again before the next cast. This is the Leisenring Lift and it mimics the hatching antics of the insect.

This bug loves riffles. Find the riffles and you will find Quill Gordons.

The newly hatched insect seems to take it's time getting off the water. This may be the result of having to dry off it's wings after it's swim to the surface or the fact that it's still early Spring and it's still fairly cool. In any event they are sitting ducks for any trout that wants them.

I use one fly to represent Gordons and hendricksons and that's a brownish olive comparadun with deer hair that colored gray. It may be sacrilege to some but I have no use for the classic Quill Gordon fly. It's pretty but....


Thursday, January 7, 2016

A Few Notes On Fly Lines

I'm not against golf, since I suspect it keeps armies of the unworthy from discovering trout" Paul O'Neil

I had to throw the above quote in here because it reminds me of someone I met 10 years or so ago who told me that he had just recently got into fly fishing because he felt that he needed a "hobby". It was going to be either golf or fly fishing. He chose fly fishing and quickly became the Anti-Christ of any recreation - THE EQUIPMENT/TECHNIQUE JUNKIE! Golf would of been perfect for him because it's all equipment/technique with no spotted, beautiful creature living in a place of beauty to have to deal with.

Lefty Kreh said the following: Use a fly line one size lighter than the rod manufacturer recommends. Jim Green, who has designed fly rods for years and is a superb angler, mentioned to me more than three decades ago that he almost always used a line ONE SIZE LIGHTER when fishing dry flies where the trout are spooky or the water is calm...If you are using a six weight rod you can drop down to a five weight line with no problem. In fact, in very delicate fishing conditions I often drop down two line sizes.

This may sound like heresy to some but it makes perfect sense. A lighter line hits the water lightly but a lighter line cast from a heavier rod hits the water even more lightly because it is traveling more slowly through the air when launched from a heavier rod (less rod loading). Some may ask "but how can I cast a two weight line from a four weight rod"? It's easy because there is little difference in weight between line weights.

Fly lines are measured in grains over the first 30 feet of line. For a reference point there are 437.5 grains in an ounce. A four weight line weighs 120 grains, a two weight line weighs 80 grains. The 40 grain difference, a whopping 9% of an ounce, is spread out over 30 feet!!!! Can you cast a two weight line on a four weight rod? Of course you can. Remember, when you are rigged with a four weight rod and four weight line and you're casting 20 feet you are casting a weight of line that is equal to about a two weight. If you're casting the same set up over 40 feet you're up into the six weight category. I bet you didn't know that you are breaking all the rules!!

I've been using one and two weight lines with three and four weight rods over spooky trout for years coupled with long leaders. My light fly lines are (beware: rare product endorsement) Wulff Triangle lines because that long fine taper lands sooo softly.

What does all of this mean? First, you don't need to own a fly rod in every weight size with a matching line. Second, a heavier rod/lighter line can improve your PRESENTATION and that's the name of the game. Third, hopefully this will simplify things and save you $$$.

For those who ask: the Millers is high and will begin to ice over soon. Not a safe place to be.


Sunday, January 3, 2016

First Trip Of 2016 - From The Gauge To The Pipe

"Fly fishing is the most fun you can have standing up" Arnold Gingrich, 1969

It was cold and dark at 6:45 am when I drove past the Y Pool lot - one vehicle! Then I pulled into the PIPE lot - 4 vehicles. No matter. I knew where everyone would be and I would take the census later. I took my time rigging up because my spot (see title of post) was empty (of course!) which gave me the time to work a "New" soft hackle fly. This is a slimmed down or "reduced" pattern with a brightly colored thorax. That hot color - hot orange, hot red and hot yellow, hot green has been ignored in the past on Soft hackles. Believe me, I've looked hard but found only a few online photos that came close to it. The vast majority of thoraxes out there are basically natural colors. Great colors for most of the year but I wanted something bright for winter fishing. The bodies are almost nonexistent, Just one layer of thread back even to the point. Some have no body short of the hook shank. This gives you the opportunity to tie a smaller fly on a larger hook which means better holding power.

I picked three bows up quickly while losing one that went airborne. I worked my way down stream taking a leftover brookie in the process. This stretch isn't loaded with fish but the satisfaction of fishing it can't be beat!!

Finally I worked my way down to the PIPE. I noticed that more people were leaving than arriving but it was still a surprise to see only two anglers there. One fly fishing and the other flinging a lure. Where are all the bait boys that we were told to expect??

I goofed around down there for a half an hour hooking three and landing one and then decided to go back upstream. Twenty minutes later I saw the last two anglers leaving. Now I could assess the bait boy damage. I tied on my version of a McPhail Buzzer as the bottom fly and all hell broke loose. I took about a dozen in less than an hour with #20 working the best tied to 5x. The trout ignored the soft hackle and only wanted that larva/pupae imitation.

I used to tie this fly exactly to McPhail's instructions and it was very effective but I've reduced this down to basic elements and it works fine plus you can tie them in a minute without breathing hard. I'll be tying some at Charlies in February!!!

I then hoofed it back to the vehicle, broke out my pocket butane stove and heated up a bowl of spiced up tomato soup to go along a giant chicken sandwich and then paid a visit to the upper Swift where I saw a few hardy souls and no trout taken in the hour that I walked around. One word of note: Bill R. mentioned that there is a movement afoot to close the upper Swift (above RT 9) at dusk which will put an end to the brave souls who night fish up there. If any of you know more than I've just said please drop me a line.

Don't listen to those who say the lower river is fished out. It isn't!!!


Friday, January 1, 2016

Resolutions And A Day At Charlies

"There he stands, draped in more equipment than a telephone lineman, trying to outwit an organism with a brain no bigger than a breadcrumb, and getting beat in the process" Paul O'Neil, 1965

Happy New Year to all!!

A few resolutions have been made on my part with some starting now and some when this winter passes.


I've spent the last day going through my fly boxes, replenishing some old trustworthy patterns and rewarding some new patterns that made the grade this past year by tying up more. Into the trash went the "what the F_ _ _ was I thinking" crowd of bad ideas. I felt like an NFL GM who looks at a high 2nd round draft choice and says "what the F_ _ _ was I thinking". So out they went which left me realizing that most of these dogs were overdressed, overbuilt, with too much material involved and the team that will be with me are really SPARSELY dressed. Those flies work the best. Christophe Perez, when writing about the Swift in Eastern Flyfishing Magazine, mentioned that my flies are uncomplicated and impressionistic: a few turns of thread or dubbing can often go a long way. This year we will really take that it the extreme. My wooly buggers were "reduced" this summer. They work fine and really look like large insects. Gone are the Spiders from Mars crap which look more extraterrestrial than terrestrial.


I'll be continuing this blog in the same form as I have for over eight years. I'll write/report on the three rivers, where I was fishing on those three rivers, what I was using on those three rivers and a general idea of how well I did. It's been well received over the years except for a few sanctimonious types who believe everything should be a secret. Prediction - I'll still have plenty of water to myself in 2016.


"Conventional Wisdom" was taken to task last July (no need for 7x on sunken flies) and some very good flyfishermen backed this up with personal experiences. As Lefty Kreh said "there's more bullshit in flyfishing than in a Texas cattle yard". This blog will continue to shine the light of day on it.

Now, set aside Sunday, February 21 from 10am to 2pm at Charlie Shaden's Evening Sun Fly Shop. I'll be there working up some Swift and Millers flies and answering questions about whatever till about noon and will then do a slide show on the Millers and the Swift if time permits. My past events there have been very well attended and it is FREE, of course! I'm looking forward to this!!