Autumn On The EB

Autumn On The EB

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

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

Gartside Soft Hackle Nymph                                                                           
There are three fly tyers that make it into my Hall of Fame and not in this order - Polly Rosborough, the author of Tying and Fishing the Fuzzy Nymphs ,  John Betts, a pioneer in the use of synthetic materials and Massachusetts son Jack Gartside.

I was having lunch with friend Brad when I asked how his morning went on the Swift.  " Took six bows on a Gartside Soft Hackle Streamer".  Whenever I hear the name Jack Gartside I get triggered to spend the next day at the vise working up, or attempting to work up, some of his creations.   It was about 30 years ago that I tied a few of his marabou streamers for Merrimack stripers. "These powder puffs will never work" I thought. After a few hours I had the triple crown, a striper (many), a bluefish (many) and a shad (only one).  Today 90% of my streamers are marabou!!

My favorite is the Gartside Soft Hackle Nymph because it just looks so buggy, uses natural materials and is easy to tie.

Hook - size 8 to 12 nymph hook

Weight - non lead wire

Thread - 6/0 and the color of your choice

Tail - a tuft of brown marabou

Body - tan rabbit dubbing  with a flashabou rib

Hackle - oversized partridge hackle

Head - brown ostrich

It's a stonefly, it's a leach, It's a crayfish, it's a damsel fly.  It's everything.  Years ago I used to fish Wachusett Reservoir with a sinking line and this fly and always catch smallies.

River Update (8:00am 7/8/20) And an open note to the DFW

Millers - 125 cfs( fishable in the evening)

EB - 64 cfs (pray for rain)

Swift -  112 cfs yesterday it went from 45 to 144 in the morning and now it's dropping again.  They electroshocked on Monday and I heard they plan to do it again this week.(Note:they did on 7/8)  That begs the question WHY?????  You know the fish are there and you're not doing them, or anglers, any favor.. In one week this river has had its flow increased twice, decreased twice and now electroshocked (twice).  If this is worthwhile then tell us why and tell us the results of last years science experiments!


Monday, July 6, 2020

Big Browns And Ways To Catch Them

Thank you for the multitude of comments over the last few months. This blog has been averaging close to a 100 comments for every 10 posts AND the vast majority have been from readers (not from me) AND they are REAL comments about technique, flies, places to fish and not sugar coated "what a pretty fish"  or sounds like a great day" filler. THANK YOU!!! - Ken

Salmo Trutta

The brown trout is my favorite trout for a few good reasons.  1. It is able to survive those hot and dry summers on our freestones such as the Millers and if left alone with good water quality and an ample supply of groceries will grow to the gargantuan sizes that you see in the Swift and on this blog.  The Swift is a great example of what this fish can do  without any genetic manipulations that you hear about elsewhere.  These fish are FAT and not skinny like eels by virtue of the fact that they are the unchallenged apex predator on the Swift.  I almost feel bad for the brookies that feed these beasts!!

How to fish for them

First, they are everywhere.  Browns in the 20+ inch range are all over the river.  A 6 lb brown was caught just above the route 9 bridge about 2 weeks ago.  I caught one about 22 inches and fished over one that was closing in on 30 inches.

The fantasy is to hit the swift at night with mouse patterns. That's not necessary. Pick a very early morning or a cloudy day or a half hour after sunset and fish something BIG and subsurface such as an outsized wooley bugger or a deceiver that you would use for good sized schoolies.

Mouse patterns can be problematic.  You had better be a very good caster and that means being able to get this big fly airborne without having it hitting the water on multiple falsecasts.  One "splat" is ok but more than one will spook an old brown trout.

Another fly that could very well work would be  the old standard bass bug either made of deer hair or balsa.  I remember a few decades or so ago that  fly fishers were catching monster bows in one Alaska /river with balsa poppers.  If it worked on bows it will work on browns!!

The Rivers

The  Millers and the EB are ok now and will continue that way as long as we get weekly rain.  Remember, very early mornings or sundown and after.

The Swift

The fish are stocked but they seem to have developed lock jaw.  Fear not, they will get hungry!!

Book A Trip

Want to know more about the Swift??  How about an evening on the Millers (I've had over 35 years of them).  Just email me and set up a time!!


Thursday, July 2, 2020

News Flash - Fish In The Swift

"Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish that they are after - Henry David Thoreau

The Swift has been stocked for the summer C&R season.  I saw the truck at 8:45 this morning and the gentleman told me that they were stocking 2000 trout from the Y Pool to the Industrial Park.

So the deed has been done and we have no excuses not to catch trout.  They are spreading these fish out so there is no reason to hit the traditional log jams like the Y Pool or the Pipe.  Have some fun and SPREAD OUT!!!  Practice  Social Distancing on the Swift for better fishing.  Take the path less traveled and see where it takes you.  Before the stocking trucks began to roll I took a dozen 8 to 10 inch brook trout with a Grouse and Flash and my 4wt 7 foot bamboo.  It was a blast and I was the only one there and I believe that my clients and I will continue to fish away from the crowd.

The Future

Look at the photo to the right. It is a photo of about a dozen fingerling brookies out of a school of about 50 just a foot or so downstream from where I was casting.  That's why the browns grow so big.  That's why the Swift is so special and will continue to be.

Have a great July 4th, spread out and play it safe!!


Wednesday, July 1, 2020

A Dry June Is In The Books And I Welcome July

"In gathering samples of sulphurs I've found an unusually high incidence of crippled duns with bedraggled wings. To this do I attribute the fact that my most consistent producers during the Sulphur hatch have been emerger patterns fished with a  downstream, and slightly across, presentation".  -Thomas Ames Jr.

It has been a crazy two months.  First, my guiding has been "through the roof" as well as my fly tying business.  Secondly the drought really forced us to switch gears and pick our spots.  This is part of the yearly cycle of the freestone angler - fish and fish hard before the rivers go into a mid season swoon and then rely on the tailwaters to pull us through.  If you only fish tailwaters you are missing the point.

Crowds - they are been nonexistent on the Swift where I fish it.  I may see 2 or 3 people each session that I'm there and that is by design.  Last year we had great sulphur action in July that is described perfectly by the Thomas Ames quote at the top of the post and the fly to the left is the emerger that worked.

Body - yellow tying thread
Thorax - orange rabbit dubbing
Hackle - gray partridge
Hook - standard dry size 16 through 20

The Drought

It rained and then rained some more.  The drought has been broken (maybe) with the Millers running at 223(very good) as I write and the EB cruising along at 144 (very good too). Remember, the strategy is to get to the river VERY early or stay past dusk.  The second option is usually the best because you will have diminishing crowds as sunset approaches instead of the growing hordes as the sun rises in the sky. Plus the hatches, except for the morning trico hatch which is over a full month away, are better in the evening.

It's Still There!!
Book Me

Now is the season for the "Evening Rise".  Book a 5 to 8pm trip on the Millers or the Swift or the EB and have some summer fun. 

One More Point

Is it my imagination or is there less chatter about using stomach pumps on trout to find out what they are feeding on?  I hope so.  We really do know what they are feeding on.  We did just catch one, right???  Ditto for fly fishing competitions.  You want to keep score?  Play golf!!!!

Have a happy July Fourth!!


Sunday, June 28, 2020

Summer Favorites For The Tailwaters

"Cedar Waxwings were flying in mass picking off the hatching sulphurs. (thank you Chuck for the bird identification) One came so close to my face I could feel the wing beat. The morning sun had that mid summer glow to it, much like a Monet painting and I didn't come within 200 yards of another fly fisher. I was really in my element and enjoying it all". - Me 

"Sulphur" Emergers
I love this time of year because of the insects that I find on the Swift and the Farmy.

The Ephemerella Dorothea is really the main species that can claim the name "sulphur" although there are others.  Check out the swift around 10am for the swooping cedar waxwings (read quote above) followed by surface activity.  I LOVE swinging a wet soft hackle in front of a bulging trout and many times I fish the entire rise with that fly.

Hook - 16 or 18

Body - olive thread from hook bend to eye

Thorax - bright yellow rabbit fur

Hackle - light ginger colored hen hackle
(Note: Authors Thomas Ames Jr. and Ed Engle have mentioned a bit of orange colored hackle for this fly.  I've used some orange rabbit in the thorax and it does the trick.  Do trout really care about color?  Well, they were not turned off by either color!)

The photo on the right has the bright yellow thorax and some orange thorax.  Take your pick.

The Needhami

This is the go-to summer fly on the Farmy in the opinion of many. Starting in July this diminutive fly (sizes 20 to 26) will hatch all day right into early September.

It's known as the little Hendrickson due to its colors.  Two years ago I spent three days on that river and had tied up two dozen of these fliesto fish the Farmy and then promptly left them at home.  That required a trip to UpCountry to get replacements which was the first time in 30 years that I bought a freshwater fly.  That's how important this fly is.

Note: This fly has found a home on the Farmy.  Word has it that's not  found on the Catskill Rivers or in northern New England.  Some anglers in those regions have never heard of it or seen it.  If you know otherwise please let me know.

Hook - size 20 to 26

Tail - one strand of midge flash'

Body - chestnut brown thread

Thorax - synthetic brown dubbing

Wing - ultra fine post yarn material in a slate blue color.

I don't fish the Farmington often enough to claim any unique knowledge of the river which is why I check out the UpCountry website to know what's going on. They will tell you everything - what flies are producing and what spots are HOT.  That last attribute is a welcome relief from the  "I will tell you about the fish that I catch but  never where I caught them" crowd!!!!!  Those are the guys that really don't want you fishing or catching trout where they fish.


As I write the weather boys are talking about some big T Storms.  We will see..


Friday, June 26, 2020

Special Edition - Another Swift Brown!!!!

"Fly fishing does have its social aspects - on some of our crowded trout streams it can get too social - but essentially it's a solitary, contemplative sport. People are left alone with themselves in beautiful surroundings to try to accomplish something that seems to have genuine value." John Gierach 

Ok folks, another ringer by frequent commentator and Fish Hawk Hunter B.  Yes, it's a Swift Brown which will dwarf most Farmy Browns and that's for sure.  No mention of what was used but that the brownie was caught, it appears, in broad daylight within the last 48 hours.  And it was released. I've seen the video.

It's great to know that these fish exist in our home waters.  And that's not the only one.  There are many good browns all over the Swift.

Nice going Hunter.

Have a nice weekend everyone!


Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Older Dries,The Rivers And Your Comments

"I wish you could see them! I never saw so many rotten flies in my life. I was literally astounded. You know the stuff - Mills' Best and a bunch of English flies. Of all the miserable soft hackle, lathered on in bunches! It is no wonder that he became such a magnificent caster. If he hadn't learned to put those flies down so carefully they would not have floated". A fellow angler critiquing the dry fly selection of the GREAT dry fly fisherman George LaBranche from Catskill Rivers by Austin M. Francis

It seems that I've been seeing,in print,and hearing the proclamation that a dry fly that has hackles wound around the front of the hook shank is a CATSKILL style dry fly. The great Catskill tiers, Gordon, Christian, Steenrod, Cross, Jennings, the Darbees' and the Dettes would have all objected to such a simple minded statement. They developed and refined the Catskill style but were not the first to tie a dry fly that way. Here's the story:

Theodore Gordon communicated via letter to the great English fly tiers of the day, Fredric Halford in particular, (early 20th century) and was able to secure instructions AND materials to tie English dry flies. Their dries, created decades before American dries, had hackles would around very close to the eye of the hook and Gordon copied that but objected to the poor quality English hackles and the fact that these flies copied English insects. The other great tiers mentioned above changed everything. First, they insisted on the stiffest hackles. Second, they moved everything BACK from the eye of the hook and Third, they tied a slim, sparse dry fly much different from the English style. That is the Catskill style as seen in the photo above of a Dark Cahill which, as the story goes, was first tied by Dan Cahill, a brakeman with the Erie Railroad. Cahill has another claim and that is that he was the brakeman on a train that had a load of rainbow trout from California. The train broke down and he convinced the crew to save the trout by dumping them into Callicoon Creek, a Catskill stream, where they established themselves. The rest is history.

God only knows how many trout have been taken with this style. We do know one thing and that is that this imitation of an adult mayfly is not as popular as it was decades ago. That's probably because we know now that the rises that we see are rises for the emerging insect and not the adult. Also, this fly will get beat up after a fish or two. I switched over to the comparadun over 30 years ago because it represents the adult and, with it's body stuck in the surface film, the emerging insect too. It will float forever! It also survives riffles and fast water very nicely, a fact that is still not accepted in dry fly circles.

I fish comparaduns and other hackleless creations but love the look of a traditional Catskill Dry!!!

Your Comments

This blog has a lot of readers and it is safe to say that it has more readers than any other owner operated fly fishing blog in the northeast.  But what really sets it apart are your comments.  The last 10 posts have had well over a 100 comments.  Blog hosting platforms cannot distinguish between the owner comments and the readers comments. The comments on this blog are approximately 70% readers and 30% me chiming in.  Most blogs, if they get any comments, are a 50-50 mix of owner and readers and that's because some owners feel compelled to answer EVERY reader comment with a thank you (which also drives their comment numbers up making them seem more popular than they are).

As it turns out some blogs are morphing into semi private chat rooms where the same old readers comment all of the time and end up in a silly back-and-forth with the blog owner which does nothing but artificially pull up their comment numbers. Not on this blog!!!!  Many of you REALLY know your stuff.  Keep it up!!

The Rivers

Does anyone know how to do a rain dance??  Maybe I should plan a family cookout or hand wash and wax my Jeep or start painting the house or how about renting a cottage on the beach for a week???  All those activities usually result in a flood.  All we can do is smile and fish where we can.

The Swift is chugging along at 125 cfs and it will stay that way until we get rain.  The other rivers.....?