Autumn On The EB

Autumn On The EB

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Happy New Year, Snowshoe Flies And Mono Rigs

"It wouldn't matter what fly you used as long as it presented the right attitude, especially that half sunk posture in the surface film. The situation required a highly visible fly of roughly the right size and distinct body profile, fished half submerged in the surface film like an emerging mayfly." Bob Wyatt in What The Trout Said"

First off, HAPPY NEW YEAR to all of you. Overall, it was a pretty good year without Springtime floods and Summertime droughts. It would be nice to finish 2017 with some milder weather but I will not complain. I'd like to thank everyone who availed themselves to my guide services this year AND to thank everyone who bothered to post comments throughout the year. This blog is the best source for information on fly fishing
for trout in Massachusetts!!!

Maybe it's these single digit days but I can't get rising trout off my brain. That means that it's time to tie some dry flies and not tiny flies either. I'm thinking of May and June evenings with hatching mayflies and caddis getting the trout active. And I'm also not thinking of placid glides but choppy riffles with trout poking their noses through the surface. It is my favorite dry fly water but it takes a fly that can stay visible through that rough ride. That's why I'm a convert to snowshoe hare wings. Above you see a size 14 emerger with parachute hackle. This critter is big and gives the impression of life (read trigger). Built on a curved hook it will require no tail but will float down riffles with it's ass-end sunk below the surface just like the real thing.

I've told the old story about how I was on the Deerfield around Pelham Brook when I encountered this guy wading downstream with a lightweight spinning rod and a bobber. I asked him how he was doing and what was he using. He said he caught and released two trout and was using a big, gnarly MONTANA NYMPH. "It's the only way I know how to fly fish" he said. I wished him luck and thought Buddy, you're not fly fishing. That was 1988.

It is amazing how this sport has changed over the years. What we would never consider "fly fishing" is now accepted as such. "Bounce Nymphing " became a west coast rage 10 or so years ago. It's formula is two or more flies tied to mono a few inches above a split shot. The rig is bounced along the bottom. Articles on this rig state that one can use a fly rod or, even better, a spinning rod and reel!!!! Again, I repeat,Buddy, you're not flyfishing.

People who toss 30 feet of mono with heavy nymph rigs are doing the same thing as my friend did on the Deerfield 30 years ago. You may call it fly fishing but it can only be considered a crude form of the sport. Yes, you can catch trout but you can do that with power bait too. BTW, there are "fly fishers" who argue for and use, scented flies!!!! Again,Buddy, you're not fly fishing!


Wednesday, December 27, 2017

A Product Endorsement

Above all, observe the fish. Better yet, observe the trout  as if you were a predator that needs to catch it, not just a participant in a game. Edited-for-action fly fishing videos, especially ones with hard-rock soundtracks and rambunctious high fives, won't really prepare you for approaching big, spooky trout.  Watching your pet cat will give you a better idea of how a predator moves when stalking it prey" - Bob Wyatt, What Trout Want: The Educated Trout And Other Myths


I don't like to do product endorsements because it fuels the "buying instinct" of a lot of anglers which is "the more that I own the better I will become". An $800 fly rod will not make you a better caster than a $300 fly rod but a $300 fly rod with two hours of casting lessons with an instructor will!
Having every tool imaginable dangling from your neck may be impressive in the parking lot but how often do you REALLY use or need them? There are things that we really need and when purchasing we should always go for VALUE and not marketing hype. That is why I give a "hats off" award to Fly Shack and their line of Saber barbless hooks!

Most of the trout flies that I tie are on these hooks. They have that dark, no glare finish, are super sharp and extremely strong. Currently they seem to stop at size 20 but that still covers 90%b of my fly fishing. (their barbed hooks are available down to 26). Now, here's the kicker- THEY COST $6.99 p/hundred!!!! How does that compare with, let's say, the company that offers $80 leader clippers and $250 fly fishing pliers? Their barbless hooks sell at $8.95 p/25!!!! That's 35 cents per hook vs 7 cents per hook and you cannot tell them apart. These guys will be at the Marlborough in January. Check them out and check out the hooks!

As usual, I get NO discounts, merchandise or favors for passing this info on to you.

It's ZERO as I write this. Winter sucks!!


Saturday, December 23, 2017

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to all of you!!!


Wednesday, December 20, 2017

The All Around Rod And Your Comments

It still amazes me that some "experts" make blanket statements regarding trout behavior. This is, well, kind of dumb! Trout in tailwaters behave differently than freestone trout. They don't have to deal with the environmental stresses of high water, low water, COLD water or warm water. Life is stable for them. A stable environment allows a stable food supply to exist. The biggest bonehead truism that I hear is that trout like to put on the feed bag in the Fall to prepare for Winter. The trouts' need to eat is controlled by the water temperature, period. Trout will feed more at 48 degrees than at 38 degrees. In the low 30's they are shutting down and you have bounce the fly off their noses. Did You Know: Trout consume more calories in May and June than in the Fall and that's not because there's more food then. Kenny Cahill

What Rod?
I get asked this question all of the time. "What's the best all around fly rod"? The answer is simple - it's the one that feels the best during most fishing conditions. Now, that answer is not a cop out but the truth. One rod may feel like a dream under one condition and totally suck under another. You want a rod that feels good and fishes well under as many different conditions as possible. You don't want to be like the newbies in this sport who seem hell bent on turning fly fishing into golf with a bag full of rods for EVERY Condition. Here's what I look for in a rod for trout fishing:

First, We will leave material out of this and focus on the most popular rod building material: graphite. I love bamboo because it is beautiful and if well made fishes well too. Some of the old "factory rods" were best used as tomato stacks. Fiberglass has it's following and I would never give up my old Fenwick which was as good as fiberglass got 40 years ago (a great dry fly rod) but I have my doubts about the newer fiberglass rods which seem too "progressive" (read "slow"). They don't have the zip of my Fenwick.

One does not need a dry fly rod, a nymph rod, a streamer rod and so on. Just a rod that does most things well.

A Small Stream Rod - 7.5 feet to 9 feet in a 3wt. The Swift, the Mill and the North are small stream and you can cover all sections of these river with those lengths. Mine is an 8.5 foot 3 wt., of a moderately fast action, matched to a 3 wt double tapered line. I can nymph with this (don't need a nymph rod) and then use this crisp rod to launch dries. Now, I seldom use weight on the on these rivers under normal conditions. A weighted fly cast with this setup leaves something to be desired. (Double tapered lines don't throw weight very well). If the flow is high and I have to use weight I'll bring along a 3wt WF line to solve the problem.

Big River Rod - When I know that I'll be fishing larger water like the Millers, Ware and the EB I'm bringing my 9ft 5wt  with a weight forward line to the show. It is a moderately fast rod that handles heavy stuff really well yet can blast a size 16 BWO out there quickly and into the wind to boot. (big rivers are windy). I can fish EVERYTHING with this rod, period!!!!

A few notes:
1.You don't have to go ultra light with a dry fly rod. I had a client catch a brown on a size 30 fly using his 6wt!!!

2. As I said before, I guide hundreds of fly fishers and very few show up with a nymph rod or even own one. These rods are not, generally speaking, good casting tools. I own one, given to me as a present, and it is the worst dry fly rod I've ever cast.

Your Comments

As I've said many times, the Comments section of this blog is a blog-within-a-blog and no other New Englad fly fishing blog shows this king of engagement by its readers. Case in point: my last 10 blog posts before this one had 132 comments. All blog formats cannot distinguish between a readers comment and the authors comment. Comments by me totaled 45 or 34% of the total. Your comments totaled 87 or 66% of the total. Some blogs have author comment totals that are 50% of the total or even more!!! You have given us reader engagement and that's what I want. There are no drive bye page views here. You guys are readers!!!


P.S. The Swift is still producing as client Ray shows us above.  First trout on a Partridge and Orange and not at the Pipe or the Y Pool!

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!!!


Monday, November 27, 2017

A New Feature, big browns And Great Flies

"I guess I love the Adams for the same reasons everyone does: it's a proven fish catcher and an item of tradition, two things that are hard to ignore. In fact, there are places where, if you don't have at least a few of these flies in your box, fishermen will frown and ask you where the hell you're from and game wardens will call in your fishing license to see if there are any warrants out on you" - John Gierach

Ok, I've been getting a lot of photos from readers concerning some good fish that they are catching and some pretty good flies that are coming from their vises. So, going forward I'll publish your accomplishments on this blog. Just send a good photo and a short paragraph about the fish or the fly and it's done. We don't have to have monster fish. Just a good fish that meant something to you would be good.

First off there's this Brown (above) taken from the Swift late last week by commentator Bob O. It taped out at 28 inches and the weight was guessed at 7lb. This is just another monster brown that this river has surrendered. Good work Bob!!!!

The Bread Crust

Commentator Bob T and I got into an online discussion about a grand old fly that people have just forgotten about. The fly is the Breadcrust and it's at least 70 years old. One of the reasons for it's falling out is that it is a devil to tie. The key is in the body and that body is the stem of a grouse tail feather in the "red stage". If you can find the stuff the work has just begun. You must clip the feathers down to stubs and then split the stem with a razor and scrape out the pith. Then you can start winding the quill onto the hook.

Bob did a great job on that fly getting the crusty look of those feather stubs perfectly. I was looking for a short cut. Instead of using grouse I took a B grade dry fly hackle, cut the hackle fibers to about 1/32 of an inch, and then wrapped the hackle forward. It's very quick and has the same effect! The hackle by the head is soft hen hackle but you could use anything. I've tied up some and can't wait to hit the Ware with them in May!!!!!

Now for an observation - I've guided hundreds of fly fishers, many of them possessing great skill and knowledge dealing with fly fishing and not one of them ever showed up with a nymph rod!! Two admit to owning one but they don't use them. Hmmm.......I own one and I hate it.

Stream Update

Contrary to some reports the brook trout are still on the beds on the Swift. You just have to know where to look for them and and when you find them you'll see many. I left them alone today focusing on the bows which took the partridge and orange in a size 14 over an RS2 sparkle. We still have some good weather in the mix for the next week so let's go fishing!!!!


Thursday, November 23, 2017

A Commentators Fly And December Trips

One can buy an $800 Gucci-like fly rod hoping that they will become a great caster.  Someone else will buy a $200 no nonsense rod and cast the doors off of the other guy and catch more fish too. It's the problem with the fly fishing industry; tons of hyperbole, mountains of overblown claims, a zillion new products and techniques that amount to nothing more than solutions in search of problems.        Remember, it's not the arrow. It's the archer!!!!!!   - Me

Frequent commentator Bob Twombly, AKA BT, knows what he's doing and has shared his knowledge about our sport on this blog for years. He tossed a fly to me a few days ago that he calls the "Little Gray Fly. It has taken trout all over this country and everyone who tries one wants more. A true go to fly.

Now, I've lost the recipe but it's fairly simple to tie and it has that retro look which I like.

Hook - sizes 12 - 18 wet or dry or nymph

Thread - Red, 6/0 should do

Tail - a few gray hen hackle fibers

Body - Red thread over the shank with gray muskrat lightly dubbed over the body so the thread shows through

Hackle - Gray hen hackle (this fly works well with brown hen hackle and Bob ties in a rib although he says it's not necessary)

Bob, If I missed anything just let me know.

I can daydream about drifting this fly on the Ware in early May!!!!!

December Trips

We are still fishing all over on the Swift and doing very well. It's been double digit days for my clients with some really outsized rainbows coming to the net. And the weather forecast through next week is DRY and COOL but not COLD. Let's squeeze out the last few hours of that 2017 license and catch some trout. Just contact me!!!!

Happy Thanksgiving

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Dropping A Dime, Another Winter Fly And Happy Thanksgiving

"Creeps and idiots cannot conceal themselves for long on a trout stream" - John Gierach

I week ago I reported that I found a small treble hook on the Swift. I wrote about it on this blog and reported it to the Environmental Police. Now I've been told that another has been found.

Treble hooks, even ones with power bait festooned to them, are snagging tools and HAVE TO BE REPORTED. Take the phone number that's on the top of this page and stick it in your phone. The "game wardens" have been very responsive and I've heard that they've nabbed some creeps these past two weeks. If you see a violation do one thing: report it. That gets the police down there.

Do not confront the creeps or try to reason with them. Some "good guys" have the force of presence to make someone back down and leave but most don't so drop a dime on them. It's the best way. That means not just talking about it but doing it!!!

My Swift River Serendipity is always with me from November through March. This small (sizes 18 through 24) fly just seems to wake them up on the coldest of days. I eliminated the deer hair wing on the standard dressing and replaced it with white turkey flat to sink it quickly. There is no bead or weight of any kind built into the fly, just the optional tiny split shot. Some say that it represents an aquatic worm with the red color but I believe that's wishful thinking. It's as close as I get to an attractor pattern and in the Spring it's tied in olive and becomes a real insect!

A word on split shot - I seldom use weight but when I do it's not incorporated into the fly any longer but in the form of tiny shot anywhere between a foot to 20 inches above the fly. There are some reasons for this. First, weighted flies do not have the action of unweighted flies dancing below a split shot. Second, I lose more weighted flies than unweighted flies. If anything, I snag the shot but since the shot is tied onto a tag it easily slips off with a few tugs.

Have a safe and Happy Thanksgiving!!!!


Thursday, November 16, 2017

Why I Like Soft Hackles And December Guiding

Note 1 - originally posted on Sunday 11/19

Note 2
Read commentator Gary Cranston's comment on 11/14/17 about fishing the EB this past week WITHOUT WADERS. It's not too late!!!

"There's always a hot new fly. Precious few of these patterns are genuine breakthroughs destined to last for a hundred years, but more often they're idle comments on existing traditions, explorations of half-baked theories, attempts to use new and interesting materials to impress other tiers or excuses to rename old patterns. The results are often pointless fads like the craze in some pretentious restaurants of plopping fried quail eggs on everything and calling sandwiches panninis." - John Gierach

Ok, I'm known as the Soft Hackle guy and for good reason. Under every condition other than flooded rivers the Soft Hackle Fly, in all of it's sizes, is the deadliest  fly that you can attach to your leader BECAUSE it represents the living insect better than any other fly. Now, I'm not talking about plutonium glow, super root beer estaz glitz that doesn't even make an attempt to look like you are TRYING to imitate anything that lives in that stream you're fishing. You are not imitating anything BECAUSE all trout food in a stream relies on some for of camouflage to survive. You have entered the murky world of attractor fishing that brings up the question of why a trout would bite that thing. Even Thomas Ames couldn't solve the question of why a trout would hit a bead head nymph. Was it the body material or the bead? Two years ago I answered the question by gluing a bead to a hook, no material added, and caught some stream wise Swift River browns with it. I haven't been able to hook a trout on a bare hook yet but will keep trying.

What makes soft hackles work. It's the movement of the flimsy hackles that we use AND the profile of the body that we tie. It looks and acts like a living insect and that is the key. The colors are muted and found in the aquatic insect world. And wrapping a soft hackle around the thorax of some space age concoction doesn't make it a soft hackle, sorry.

The more natural the better and that means natural materials. Try working more with natural materials such as body furs and natural fibers such as silk and cotton.

Every aquatic insect in the size 8 to size 18 range can be imitated with a SH and that's all of the mayflies, caddis, stoneflies and such and that includes ALL of their life stages. I will add that a soft hackle, swung in the current initiates a heavy strike, much heavier than the take of a weighted nymph. That's what I look forward to!!

Dress them sparsely by not overdoing the hackles and body. Keep them THIN! The last 30 trout taken by my clients have been on sparse partridge and olives in sizes 16 and 18 including a brute 20 inch bow this week. So, ditch the glitter, present the fly correctly and go catch some trout!!!

December is a lot warmer than January and some days in the past have been fairly balmy. The fishing has been great so book me!!!!


Rating The Rivers 2017

"There are no dams on it, and it runs clear, cold, and clean for most of the year. This attribute attracts trout from the main stem and other branches when the water levels there are high and roiled in the spring and again in the summer when the other waters can warm to dangerous levels". - Tom Fuller on the West Branch of the Westfield in Trout Streams of Southern New England

Rating The Rivers, a yearly feature of this blog, is now going into its 7th season. Things change on a river from year to year and one can see it in how it fishes. This feature is basically a review and a casual ranking of the rivers that I fish and guide on. Much of the ranking is based in comparison to the ranking of previous years. Here we go!


I should have a category for seasonal streams and if I did the MB would win it every time. First, It is beautiful. Second, it runs clear and cold and third it is fun to fish. It's one drawback is that it does get bony by late June during a dry spell and that is the time that one just drops down to where it empties into Littleville Reservoir especially on June evenings. Put the MB on your April, May list.

5th Place - The EB

Ok, it's beautiful, wild and scenic and six miles of catch and release BUT it seems like it's been treated like a redheaded stepson the last year. First, It's not stocked from the Gorge downstream until the 3rd week in May and when it is the fish are dumped in two or three spots which will give a lucky angler a 50 fish day. Second, it got left off the Fall stocking list this year because the DFW said it was "too low and warm". It wasn't and I told them that. How to improve things: First, kill off that 3rd week of May TU stocking and stock this river in late April at the FIRST TURNOFF below the Gorge in high water. The trout, mostly bows, will drift down through the entire C&R instead of ganging up at stocking points which is what happens now. The fishing experience will improve.

Was it all bad this year? No, actually late August and early September were very good with a flow around 60 cfs (too low according the the experts) and water temperatures between 55 and 65 degrees (too warm according to the experts). We had good evening fishing and the early morning outings were fabulous but what few fish we had were concentrated in summer holding areas. A Fall stocking would have given a fishing opportunity for many before the season winds down.

4th Place The West Branch Of The Westfield

First time on the list for this gorgeous river!! The WB reminds me of the "New Girl in School", the head turner that makes everyone else become an afterthought! Tom Fuller's quote at the top of this blog talks about the physical qualities of this river. I'm astounded by the beauty of it and began to ignore some other streams last Spring just to spend time here. I did some scouting, was given the chef's tour by Gary and ended up catching fish up and down the river. It is an average size river with all the trappings that we look for: deep pools, riffles and runs. It is a CADDIS river for sure. Fish it in 2018!

3rd Place - The Ware River

Best Hatches of 2017 (Quill Gordons and Hendricksons)
Best flows of Spring 2017
A Spring stocking of browns that were still around being caught in October.
A river that is much cooler than one thinks it is. (temperatures are online)

While the Millers was running high during May the Ware stayed in its banks and provided GREAT fishing. This fertile stream is a mayfly heaven and it produced the best looking, dark browns to be caught during October (the DFW didn't stock browns in the Fall, just bows). One of it's charms is that it will probably never be overfished because that other river is just over the hill and grabs all the attention. Good for us!!!

2nd Place - The Swift

Sorry, but tailwaters are held to a higher standard. While freestones are in flood a tailwater has a fishable flow (mostly). When freestones are running warm a tailwater is in the high 50's and it's trout are dancing in the open current while freestone trout seek springs and undercut banks (another reason to like freestones). What's not to like about tailwaters? Nothing mostly, but since I brought it up:
1. Crowd control is an issue. Why do people flock to the same spots on this river?? TRY ANOTHER SPOT!! You might surprise yourself. 2. Stocking of trout - Stable flows and stable temperatures don't give trout much incentive to move around and we see this year after year. A little effort at stocking the 2nd turnoff on River Rd and FINALLY stocking at the gauge would buy some goodwill.

How was the fishing? The June 30 stocking below RT 9 WAS BELOW the numbers of fish stocked in previous years. (This was stated in an email exchange between one of my readers and the DFW) Word has it that 2016 and 2015 had surpluses of fish stocked. 2017 didn't. People were used to the higher numbers, complained and began to stay away. IT WAS WONDERFUL!! That pesky problem of crowd waters was diminished a bit. It was weird to show up during a Summer evening at the Tree Pool and find NOBODY there. The Brook Trout - they keep adding to their numbers and also getting bigger all of the time. There will be a tipping point in the future and that may be due to the expanding BROWN TROUT population. A 17lb brown was recorded by the DFW and numerous 5 to 10lb monsters are seen frequently. The brook trout provide forage which will also help their population too.

The Swift is a gem without a trout management program as advertised in Connecticut and that's very cool!

1ST Place - The Millers!

Most of May was a washout but then this river whipped into shape and gave us a June and July that was memorable. Evening fishing held up all Summer and the browns that were stocked in early May were still there at Labor Day. October had the best mid day, dry fly fishing that I've ever experienced on this river in over 30 years of fishing it and that lasted until Mother Nature shut it down. Still, it was the best and made the best memories. That's what it's all about, right??


Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Big Brookies, A Change In Spawning Habitat, And Treble Hooks

"We do have to think seriously about conservation now, although it is chilling to realize there are catch-and-release fishermen alive today who don't know how to clean and cook a fish" - John Gierach

The brook trout are bigger this year on the Swift and there are more of them. Client Ray took two that were over a foot long yesterday on a size 16 partridge and orange swung along the bottom in six inches of water. The P&O did a great job and the bows and brookies accounting for all 18 fish (6 bows, 12 brookies). We covered water from the Tree Pool all the way up to the Bubbler Run and took fish everywhere. It was a good day.

Now for some disturbing observations. First, one of the PRIME spawning runs of the last few years seems to be out of commission and that is the riffle and gravel runs below the Duck Pond. Last year at this time it provided the best fishing, especially for bows who followed the brookies upstream to the vast gravel/spawning beds in the area. That has changed this year. I was there scouting in early October and noticed the gravel was mostly buried in weeds that were not there last year. There were no brookies either. Forward cast into mid November and the place is barren with nothing but weed growth over what was once clean gravel.

What causes this? Rapid weed growth is usually the result of an increased nutrient load in the river. Looks like a bit of study by the DFW and TU is in order. It is also a reality check for the hand wringers who don't like people fishing over brookies in the Fall. The LOSS OF HABITAT is ALWAYS the culprit!

NOTICE : I found an interesting rig at the Pipe lot Monday morning. It was a tiny treble hook embedded in a hunk of power bait!!!  The leader was still attached and it was light, maybe around 4x, and could of been used with a fly rod.

KEEP YOUR EYES OPEN!!! This is OUR river at least till January 1st when we are forced to share it. Until then, turn them in!!!!!!  800-632-8075 is the number!

Saturday, November 11, 2017

A Western NY Trip

"I love hearing theories about flies. True or not, they always sound so good" - John Gierach

What does a guide do when he has a day off? He drives 5 1/2 hours to western New York to fish a private section of an excellent "lake run" stream for outsized browns and rainbows. He's also greeted by some mid November western NY "ambiance" in the form of 2 inches of frozen slush, gale force winds, highs in the teens and a wind chill around zero. I loved every minute of it!!!!

My client Matt arranged the trip and set us up with Guide Jason Franz. Jason really knows his stuff from the river, to the flies and to the fish. And unlike some other guides who treat every trip like it's the Invasion of Normandy, Jason has a sense of calm while always pointing us in the right direction. He's a very friendly guy!

The 24 hour shift to subarctic conditions killed the bite. Matt had and lost a bow about 20 inches. He was the only angler that I saw that had a hit that day - except me! Came close to landing a 5lb bow but landed it's twin a short time later. The prize of the trip and the reason for the trip was the 6 to 7lb male brown that dug deep and made a slug fest out of it.

First time with a switch rod. It could get habit forming!!!

If you're interested in a future trip just contact: or look him up at or call at 585-615-6504. THE STEELHEAD WILL BE THERE IN THE SPRING.

As you know, I get no discounts for this endorsement.


The "Lost" Post About Swift Browns

One shouldn't get too cute on the keyboard when one is on zero sleep. I ended up deleting the Post on the Swift River browns and the 13 reader comments that went with it.

I can re-post the photos but not the comments.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

November On The Fly - From Soft Hackles To Dries!

" The style of nymph fishing in which a small nymph is tied on eighteen or twenty inches below a split shot and fished on a short line is often called the South Platte method and stories about it on the river date back at least to the 1930's, when a member of the Wigman Club was asked to stop fishing that way or be ejected from the club for catching too many trout. To be fair, though, the method is so obvious and so much like bait fishing that it was probably independently invented at one time or another on every river in America, although it wasn't until the 1970's that it began to be seen as anything more than cheating." - John Gierach (His view on the origins of tight-line nymphing??)

Some days just seem to work out nicely and yesterday was one of them. I met my client at 7:45 at a crowded Swift River(Pipe) parking lot. The neat thing was instead of making a beeline to the pipe etc we worked our own stretch of water that is overlooked by most and then spent the next 3 hours covering about 200 yards of gorgeous water pursuing spawning bows (well, trying to spawn) while meeting only one angler.

The bows were ganging up on the gravel and my "sure bet" egg fly struck out. So on went a size 16 P&O SH and all hell broke loose. So did the 6 big bows that grabbed that fly! I think that they have the advantage when fighting in shallow water. No undone knots and nothing foul hooked. Just hook pull outs.

We then worked our way downstream to meet our first angler of the morning who claimed that he couldn't get the pod of brookies he was fishing over to take anything. My client went to work and and immediately landed brookies including one around 12 inches and and another about the same size that got away!

Now for the Pipe. Remember that I said that the parking lot was full in the early morning? Well, by 10 am I saw a significant thinning of the ranks as evidenced by the steady stream of waders heading back to the parking lot. By 11 am we we stepped into the river at the tail of the pipe run and with only two other anglers within sight, one at the pipe and one at the end of the Tree Pool.

Trout were smacking the P&O but there was a significant hatch going on that looked like winter caddis. Off went the SH and on went the #22 caddis dry. It was exactly the correct offering as brookies and bows both rose to this fly.

All told we got into the double digits before we broke for lunch and then took a trip to the Y Pool which my client had never seen before. There were only two other anglers there which seemed odd.

This season isn't over by a long shot. The average daily high temperature for November is comparable to that of April and if you want we can start later in the day when it's warmer. So, if you want to wring out the last of the hours left in your fishing license just contact me!!

Thursday, November 2, 2017

The Swift And The Dark Season

"Watching was my Harvard and my Yale" - Novelist Craig Nova on his education as a fisherman

Note: landing net found on the Stillwater.  See Comments to get it back - Ken
Note: (11/2) The brookies on the Swift are lining up on the spawning gravel and the bows are behind them.  Don't know about above RT 9 because fishing is so great below. Again, SR2 Sparkle in sizes 18 through 24 WORK for brookies and bows.  Size 12 to 14 eggs with some flash nail the bows. The bows are between 16 and 20 inches. I've also seen a 24+ inch brown down there. I will not tell you where but it's not in the usual places!!

The Dark Season

Well, it's that dreaded time of year again. Sunday we turn the clocks back and our evenings on the river well come to an end. I have always hated this day because the last 2 hours of daylight are always special and after the "turn back" they will be gone until mid March where we still may have a foot of snow to deal with. For years I could leave work at 4pm and catch an hour on the water. Then the clocks changed and it would be dark at 4:30pm. I did catch a reprieve by retiring this Summer so I can fish during bankers hours all week long. In fact. I've had a lot of interest by those who like to play hooky on occasion (we play hooky and never ask for a "hall pass"!) to spend some mid day hours on the river. We can make our own hours like noon to 3pm or a 10 to 4 outing. Whatever you want! Just contact me. We have plenty of comfortable days left in November and early December.

The Swift This Week

Bows and brookies and then some more!!! The brook trout have not yet covered the traditional spawning sites but they are starting to make a presence. Both bows and brook trout are falling for RS Sparkle-2's in sizes 18 through 24 and egg patterns, the flashier the better. BTW, some of my clients have been realizing that you don't need 7,8,or 9X to fish sizes 18-24 on the Swift. 5X and the occasional 6x works fine with tiny sunken flies and BIG fish. And it's easier on the trout because the battles are shorter and that's a good thing! 

The Millers

2800 cfs and over 2000 for a week = See you in May

The EB
550 and dropping. I may take a trip to Les's to see if some spring holdovers still want to play but that will be after we get down to the sub 250 cfs range. I'll see you there Gary!

The Ware
470 cfs and slowly dropping. Don't give up on this sleeper because it's been good this year. When the flow drops below 300 hit it!