Autumn On The EB

Autumn On The EB

Sunday, January 29, 2017

A Day On The Swift And Another Word On Emergers

"The term _Blue-Winged Olive" includes the Autumn emerger formerly called Pseudocloeon as well as Baetis, Diphetor, Acentrella, acerpenna, Procloeon, Centroptilum and others... What the winged stages have in common are their small size, a graceful taper, their apparent lack of a hind wing, and twin tails that they wag from side to side like a happy dog." Thomas Ames Jr. Hatch Guide For New England Streams

Size 20 BWO Emerger

First the Emergers - Bob Wyatt's DHE Emerger may be all that you need to represent that insect that is struggling to leave it's watery world and become airborne. But one thing that he does do is neglect the use of CDC which which is a MUST for the imitations size 18 and smaller. The little olives that play with us on the Millers every Fall are best imitated with a low lying, in the film pattern. Remember, trout will rise and break the surface for that emerger that is just under the surface and ignore the adult fly in the process. Emergers are easier to get to!!

The flies above are two styles of emergers. The tail end sinks below the surface but the thorax of loose dubbing and CDC floats the front end which gives this message to the trout: insect trapped in the film, free lunch!!!!

You can basically represent any mayfly species with this style of emerger. Along with Comparaduns I will not leave home without them.

Size 18 Crippled Dun

Now for the Swift - Last Friday was one of those days where it was warmer at 8 am than at Noon. The wind picked up and really made for some tough going for the few brave souls fishing below the gauge. How was the fishing? It was good! I picked up two bows up by the gauge run and then another in the flats below. I finally joined the crew down at the Pipe where caught one and dropped two. By Noon everyone had left.

Some observations - The fishing this Winter on the Swift has been very good. It is nothing like two years ago when snow, ice and brutal cold made the trout disappear. In fact, they seem to be spread out all along the river. There are also tales of some over sized browns being taken within the last two weeks. All you have to do is dress warm and pick a day that isn't windy.

Swift regular "Bill" told me of getting tangled in a long length of leader material that had 4 flies tied to it!!!. Needless to say that ultra Czech rig is totally illegal in this state. Two flies are the limit! We've never had to worry about fly fishers breaking the law. Let's keep it that way!!!


Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Mid Winter Musings - A Freestone Spring And Freestone Flies

The simple matter of drawing a fish up from the depths to the top for any surface fly is more of a thrill than having the same fish take the fly well under and getting first indication of his presence by a pull on the tackle rather than by sight.  In the words of Jack Young, a guide on the Serpentine River, "I don't believe there's a more beautiful thing in the world than to see a trout rise to a dry fly."  Lee Wulff

We are one month past the shortest day of the year  and in less than a month the sap lines and buckets will be working in the sugar bush. And every year it happens: I start thinking of Freestones. After the dry-as-a-bone 2016 I especially need to fish the Millers, EB and the Ware during the Spring and the Summer.  Now, our tailwaters saved the day and I'll be guiding this weekend on the Swift BUT I really want that big river fix and need to fish some big (compared to tailwaters) flies. Here's what I'm working on.


This great old fly has stayed true to pattern for a 100 years but now I'm changing the wing to CDC BECAUSE this insect sheds it's nymphal case on the bottom of the stream and swims to the top with its wings trailing behind it. Ditch the wood duck and go with CDC. (I also ditched the quill body)

MOBY DICK WET - Last Summer I wanted to show a friend my example of a Moby Dick Wet but realized that I didn't have any in my tackle bag. It's really a Millers River fly and kind of useless on the Swift. It's a great fly to have in late May and June while fishing the late afternoon and evening rise on the Millers. That rise will probably mean caddis are coming up and this fly, swung through the riffles, will get the job done. It's a busy fly to tie but it's a good change of pace from tailwater tiny!


The bushes along the Ware and the Millers will have millions of these caddis by the 2nd week of May. I've never liked the standard elk hair imitations because the seemed to have more of a May fly imitation than a caddis. It was about 5 years ago that I posted on this fly with it's wings reinforced with SCOTT TAPE. You get a REAL tent wing profile and the tape holds up really well.

Keep tying, Fish the Swift and Farmie, maybe hit the "thin blue lines" in a month if we're lucky and pray for an early Spring.

BTW, The Farmington is still very low for this time of year. Maybe they're trying to fill the resevoirs by holding water back OR maybe they have little water to hold back. It will be an interesting Spring.


Saturday, January 21, 2017

Fly Fishing Show vs. Go Fishing = Go Fishing

"All of my floating lines are double taper for two principle reasons. The first is that I have adopted Yankee habits of thrift and if the tapered section gets damaged I can just reverse the line. The second is that I never seem to have enough room for a proper backcast." Thomas Ames Jr., Hatch Guide for New England Streams

I know that you recognize the above photo. The Bubbler Arm can be Nirvana or a barren desert and it all depends on the whims of the rainbows. Sometimes the place is loaded with trout and other times it's empty and I haven't really found the key to this mystery. I have the feeling that trout from the Y Pool move upstream for a time and then head back to the pool. This past week it's been packed with fish!!

I didn't need much to do well, just an eight footer loaded with a triangle taper 2wt and some scuds and WD40's. Over the years this place has been the domain of the tiny fly as in size 24 and smaller but I've been successful with 16's in the above patterns this year. The strategy is simple: cast upstream without an indicator and high stick as the fly swings past and then let it straighten out below you.

I caught trout in all of the above positions especially as the fly straightened out below me. Yesterday I took 5 bows and 3 brookies which matched the catch from a trip earlier in the week. I also had the place to myself in the short time I was there.

I like the area around the Y Pool in the Winter. It's open and sunny and you have the chance for surface action if the trout gods smile on us. By April I'm downstream!

I'll pass on the Fly Fishing Show for this year. Today may hit 50 degrees which may bring out those Winter Caddis. Dry Flies in January!!!


Thursday, January 19, 2017

A Different Winter Caddis And The Swift

"It swims to the surface and then runs, still in it's pupal skin, to the streamside to crawl out onto the rocks" Thomas Ames Jr. describing the Winter Caddis

Backcast a few days ago to the Swift above Rt 9 and to the Y Pool in particular. I had an ok/slow hour or so in the bubbler arm and then worked my way down under the footbridge and down to the pool. I had only one other angler there and he didn't last that long so I had the rare opportunity to fish the Y by myself.

That's when I saw it. That little insect skating frantically around on the surface to find something to crawl up on. A minute later I saw another doing the same thing but this time a rainbow ended that trip. I had just stumbled upon a sparse but interesting Winter Caddis hatch. This is what brings me to the Y Pool every winter!! It's the Winter Caddis.

This caddis is different. Instead of crawling to the shore to hatch or rising through the water column and then flying away this caddis makes it's way to the surface and then runs along the surface trying to find the shore or some object to crawl onto. Fishing this dry on a dead drift is not as effective as making this dry fly move. That means that you have to create an imitation that can withstand some wiggling and tugging and still come up floating. The famous Foam Caddis is the traditional imitation but it never worked that well for me when I imparted movement. I needed a dry fly with the same profile but something that floated longer. I settled for the CDC Winter Caddis.

Hook - size 20 to 22 scud hook

Thread - 12/0 black

Shellback Wing - grey or brown CDC

Hackle - dry fly quality size 20 or 22 in grey or brown

head - Black dubbing

I use a thread body where I tie in a CDC feather with the tip facing backwards.

I then tie in a standard dry fly hackle (dark gray or brown) with enough to fold over the top of the fly.

Next comes a size 20 dry hackle that will be palmered over the hook but clipped short.

Next I fold over the CDC feather forward and tie off.

Next I add a head of black dubbing and that is it.

This fly skates when it's moved due to the stiff hackle stubs. The CDC keeps it on the surface as it's moved by me.

It works because I caught one bow and missed another while field testing.

I can hardly wait to see if I run into another MONSTER hatch at Cady Lane like I did last early Spring. The naturals were everywhere, the trout were rising and I had ONE hit with the foam version.
                                                                           Thomas Ames Photo
The Foam Caddis, a good fly but.......

This January has been kind. I've been working above Rt 9 as I do most Winters and the trout are there and willing. Think small, thing slow, think scuds and pheasant tails. Look for Winter Caddis!!!


Sunday, January 15, 2017

Vise Time, Winter/Spring Guiding And A Swift Update

"The bulging rise is characteristic of midwater feeding. When emergers or pupae are ascending without urgency, fish will take them several inches beneath the surface without actually breaking through it, but causing the water to swell. such rises can be deceiving, as they reach the surface well downstream of the fish especially in more rapid currents". Thomas Ames, Jr. Hatch Guide for New England Streams

One thing that I've told basically everyone that I've guided is that if I couldn't fly fish any longer I would still tie flies. There is a great sense of accomplishment when one ties a fly correctly from a pattern or creates an offering using the correct techniques and avoids the usual pitfalls found at the bench. Those common pitfalls are hook eyes that are overcrowded, body material errors (too much dubbing or quill bodies wrapped unevenly) and way too much hackle. Those mistakes are the fly tiers version of baiting a hook! The less material the better. The accompanying size 20 emerger photo shows what I mean. Less is best!!!! 140 denier for the body, 3 turns of fine copper wire, 1 turn of peacock, 2 tags of flashabou and enough space to tie off without crowding the eye with tying material.

A word on hooks - the above fly was tied on a size 20 scud hook. The wide gap has better hooking qualities than your standard hook. My best source of these hooks is from FLYSHACK in Gloversville NY and their house brand is the SABER line of hooks. I have their scud hooks from size 8 through 24 and they are strong, sharp and are well formed but the best thing is they are incredibly inexpensive! To get the same size scud hook in a "name" brand (Tiemco, etc) you will pay about $8 for 25 hooks. How about $7 for 100 saber hooks. Welcome to no-brainer land!!!!! Saber hooks are the only hooks I've used for the last 8 years and I believe that all of their standard hooks are in the $7 for a 100 range. Check them out at the Incredible Shrinking Fly Show. They will be at the booth(s) with the most people.

BTW, I get no discounts, merchandise or commissions for this or any endorsement. If you see me mention something it's because I believe that it's a good value for YOU! In the words of Neil Young: "Ain't singing for Pepsi, ain't singing for Coke, don't sing for nobody, makes me look like a joke".

Same Fly, two styles:

To the right is a sample of a size 14 soft hackle (a "made up" pattern) and then it's version on a size 6 salmon hook. Soft hackles translate to salmon style easily and are fun to tie and would work for steelies as they do for Atlantic Salmon.

Swift Update/ Guiding Season: Well, here we are in mid January and fly fishers are still having double digit days by the Pipe and the Tree Pool. The throngs of bait tossers just never showed up or they just couldn't clean the place out. There are plenty of fish in that well worn section and there is fishing to be had at the Gauge and at the Bubbler Arm.

My guide calendar is picking up with Spring trips in the books and a record number of January/February trips booked too. Don't get left out. I'll be expanding guiding on the Ware River and the MB of the Westfield - two great rivers.

Book a trip and remember that I don't require a deposit!!!


Thursday, January 12, 2017

Out Of The Way Places And Charlies Sale

"Nicknames unfortunately are not standardized. When your friend on the next pool tells you that he's just seen a few "Sulphurs' hatching he is really just suggesting a fly pattern, because the name might mean anything from a size 24 Baetid to a size 10 Anthopotamus Distinctus, two insects with very different behavior." Thomas Ames, Jr.

Anyone who has my Millers Guide knows of the Upper Trestle Pool on the Lower Millers River. This Pool has captured my attention for over 30 years and it's a spot that I want clients to become familiar with. As I tell people it's a spot that fits two anglers nicely but three is a crowd. I'll tell them if they see two anglers working the pool then just go upstream.

"Upstream" means right around the left hand bend in the river above the pool. The first thing you will notice is that the path disappears in about a few hundred feet. It's impossible to travel upstream on the shore so one must walk in the shoreline shallows to get anywhere. The next thing you will see are two beautiful pools/runs that beg to have a fly cast across them. The one thing you will not see is another angler! If fly fishing is a social event for you where you can hold court by doing equipment reviews and dispensing your "knowledge" to anyone unfortunate enough to have to listen then you will hate this place and may be a little scared of it too. (One angler was!!)

This section actually starts at the end of the long Orcutt Pool and two drift boat brothers (Harrisons) always would fish that tailout. Don Barnes from Regal told me years ago that nightfall at the start of the fast water is where you want to be for the browns. I caught my first BIG Millers brown about a 100 yards down into the fast water on my Millers Bivisible years ago.

It's about 600 yards from the end of Orcutt to the top of the Upper Trestle Pool. One can follow the railroad tracks but getting down to the river from the tracks is a real chore. It's best to travel in the river from either end but remember that this is a real boulder field.  Watch your step!

Those two pools that I mentioned are perfect for swinging sunken flies but not the best venue for the nymph fisher because of the collection of rocks and logs. Try to keep your fly UP.

Charlie at the Evening Sun Fly Shop has a fly tying sale going on in January that REALLY deserves attention:

Spend $50 on fly tying stuff and get $12.50 worth of fly tying stuff FREE!

Spend $100 on the above and get $25.00 worth free

Spend $150 on the above and get $37.50 worth free

Spend $200 on the above and get $50.00 worth free.

This really makes sense because you are supporting an "owner/operator" and not a big box fly mart. Charlie has a well stocked shop right down to the size 30 hooks and it's fairly priced. No canned shop talk here but REAL information on whats happening on our rivers. Charlie and I talk frequently so he knows whats happening in "Trout Land".

We are in the fly tying season so take advantage of this great January sale at Evening Sun!!


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Lower Bears Den Of The Millers Revisited

"Predatory stoneflies are territorial and therefor migratory, distributing their populations well throughout the stream. Creepers are most active in the Spring, just prior to hatching, and again in the Fall but because there is always a maturing brood, the nymph patterns are effective all year long." - Thomas Ames, Jr. Hatch Guide for New England Streams

The old black and white photos had that "look" to them. Men with fedoras and flannel shirts, each holding a bamboo rod in one hand and a stringer of Millers River browns in the other. The photos were taken during the 1940's and early 50's before the Millers became too polluted to fish. The late Bob Roleau, who owned the photos, explained one thing to me: the photos were all taken on ONE STRETCH of the Millers. "The best stretch", as Bob explained. Say hello to the UTD Dam and the lower (end) of the Bears Den.

This is the lower end of the Bears Den catch & release section. The C&R officially ends at the UTD dam (UTD stands for Union Twist Drill, a once large employer in Athol that gave up in 1984)which can be seen from downtown Athol. The pond behind the dam is of little fly fishing value except to provide wintering quarters to some of the trout. What is of REAL VALUE is the stretch above the pond. It is 200 yards of the best dry fly water on the Millers - period!!! This stretch, with it's even, bank-to-bank flow and moderate depth, is fed by miles of riffles and a few springs along the way. The stretch is loaded with insects with two being very important. The first is the large Golden Stonefly. I've been on this stretch on early June mornings and have seen the tall grass at bank side loaded with hundreds of the adults of this species. The second is the hellgrammite. There are tales of well lit windows of bank side dwellings being covered with these critters on summer nights.

I have had unbelievable evenings on this stretch of the Millers and I have NEVER seen another fly fisher. The place could easily accommodate more anglers, there's plenty of water here!! The place could also accommodate a few more browns if the local TU Chapter can get them in there. Hint: Ask permission to open the access gate to the dam area and just throw the browns in.

To get there just google up Chestnut Hill Avenue in Athol. Take the first right off the lower end of this road and park by the side of the yellow gate. For more information on the Millers just order "The Guide" from this blog.

The photo on the left shows some of the miles of riffles that feed the stretch. The photo on the right shows the upper part of the ponded area and "the stretch" as it disappears upstream on the left of the photo.

Just a few more months to go.....!


Friday, January 6, 2017

Remembering Winters Past - 2011- 2112 SALMON And An Update

" I think of fly rods the same way Bill Belichick thinks of position players. Can you play guard AND center? Can you play tight end AND be a long snapper or whatever. Versatility!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I've got a closet full of rods but I haven't bought a graphite rod since 2008 because everything that I have works plus I spend too much $$ on bamboo which is great to own and just admire. It's fun to fish with it too!" - From This Blog

Backcast to late August of 2011. Hurricane Irene ran through the area and dumped over 12 inches of rain on a Quabbin Reservoir that was close to capacity. Within a month the "pond" began to overflow and that overflow lasted for six months with a flow of 500 cfs+. The timing was PERFECT because the landlocked salmon were moving out of their summer depths and were looking for moving water to spawn in.

 HUNDREDS of salmon and lake trout went over the spillway and into the Swift, most noticed where the hundreds that went into the Y Pool. That started the BEST Winter season that this river has had in recent memory.

It's New years Day on 2012. I'm there at 7:30 am and I'm not the first but I'm at the end of the Y Pool at waist depth casting a tiny smelt pattern 3/4 quarters downstream and mending the line to swim this pattern. I know what Landlocked Salmon do.  They're like their ATLANTIC cousins (genetically the same fish) and they will rise through the water column if it's what they want. This salmon rose to that tiny streamer when it was only 6 inches below the surface. It measured 26 inches!!! Salmon will do that and it reminded me of New Brunswick Atlantic Salmon fishing. Even more so when I began to get them with soft hackles with the same approach. (Note to Lenny: My 12 and 10 soft hackles worked here. Your bigger soft hackles will work for Steelies)

It was a wild Winter. I saw one angler who had never been to the Swift before mumbling that he he had caught a 24 inch salmon on a # 14 soft hackle. He didn't know about the overflow and thought he was only fishing for trout. We calmed him down and said there's more like that so keep fishing.

My soft hackles and inch long streamers took salmon and so did a 30 inch monster that grabbed a #30 larva pattern (yes - I saw it.!!!). Some scraped the bottom and others fished like me.  We all caught salmon. One kid was screaming that he caught a 2 foot long brown.  I said "that's a salmon" and I think he felt better.  I guided a guy who landed the fish pictured above using the streamer swing. Way to go.

Within 6 months these fish were gone.

High flows will not guarantee salmon. If that were the case the Summer of 1999 would have done it with it's 500+ flows. But it was Summer and the salmon will not be moving out of there cool comfort zone.  Maybe we will see it another year.

Update - Still catching trout on the Swift.  Dress warm and fish tiny flies. The more fish you catch the warmer you will feel.!!!


Monday, January 2, 2017

Stone Flies On The Millers

"Fish sense, applied in the field, is what the old Zen masters would call Enlightenment: simply the ability to see what's right in front of you without having to sift through a lot of thoughts and theories and, yes, expensive fishing tackle."John Gierach

The Millers River is loaded with Stoneflies. When I first started fishing this river back over 30 years ago I was absolutely astonished by the sheer number of stonefly casings found on the rocks along and in the river. Not to be confused with the damsel fly (that's another story) the Stone becomes the main insect for trout hunters from late May through June on the lower Millers from Wendell Depot downstream. It's never been the star of the show upstream in Royalston (Bears Den) like it is miles below.
(photo by Thomas Ames, Jr.)

The Stonefly nymph is more valuable to the fly fisher than the Dry version. Any stimulator/small muddler type will get the job done imitating the egg laying adult. The nymph is one of those aquatic insects that hatches not by rising through the water column but by climbing rocks that protrude above the waters surface or rocks along the shoreline just like damsel flies, many caddis and Isonychia nymphs. This environment is characterized by riffles. Fish the riffles and pocket water in late May and June by dead drifting this fly on a short leash!!

I've featured some stones in the past but my favorites always fall back on a larger nymph that has a yellow/brown cast to it. No need to go nuts with hackle and other things when building stones and I've found that good old ostrich works well imitating gills and legs.

Hook - size 10 nymph hook with some weight added.

Tail - some partridge fibers

Body - I use a synthetic yellow dubbing with some sparkle built into the fibers. Synthetic holds up well to rocks and trout

Gills - light brown ostrich palmered around the full body or by the thorax. I prefer the thorax style.

Wing Pad - I've used everything from duck quill, turkey quill, bunches of pheasant tail fibers and so on. The one above has a pad of Thin Skin which also works (golden oak is the color of the thin skin)

Added Feature - Run a brown sharpee down the back of this fly and you'll have created much of the color scheme of this insect.

For those without access to a tailwater Winter becomes the fly tying season so build an inventory of stones for this Spring.