Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Thinking Big

Relatively clean desk- a photo was a must!
So after taking some time to clean up my fly tying desk (something much needed) I started cranking out some bigger flies. I have been thinking alot about muskies on the fly. I have been targeting these apex predators with the long rod for about 15 years now. I am always tinkering with flies to make them bigger and castable at the same time. It hasn't always been an easy combination to pull off. Recently a lot of great artificial materials have come on the market which allow for this combo.Combine that with some ideas given to me by everyone's favorite pike fishing redneck Ken Capsey I decided to tie up some of the biggest flies I have twisted up.
Musky sized flies indeed!

All of these flies are tied with two hooks. Many years ago I was getting more than a few takes from muskies without getting a hookup. The flies were long and I thought that part of it was that I was getting short strikes. I got to the vice and came up with a good tandem hook system. It worked pretty well too! My buddies Marty and Tim have also been using a similar system for muskies with similar success.  It seems to be a 50/50 split between the front and back hooks. Seems like the tandem hook worked out nicely!
Perch style
 The other style that I worked into these dual hook flies deserved a nod to Ken's Money in the Bank fly. This is a great way to add length to a fly by using a trailing hook on a loop of wire attached to the front hook. It also provides a nice amount of movement when it is in the water. Pike and muskies do like a lot of motion in their flies.

The thing that really blows right now is that today is the last day of the musky season in New York. I won't be fishing musky for quite some time now... real bummer. So for a while I will just keep cranking out some big flies, dreaming of those hot summer days slinging big flies with a 10 weight out of my canoe, waiting for that flash of bronze and gold.....
These flies work great on suckers too!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Pike Double Bunny Fly Tying Video

Beth and I put together a video on how to tie a pike double bunny fly last night. It is up on YouTube right now. Not too bad for our first attempt at making a fly tying video. We are going to work on the lighting and volume a bit. Let me know what you think! Oh yeah, my website isn't up quite yet, but it will be soon. I will keep you posted about that too!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Vermont Master Angler Program

I have mentioned the Vermont Master Angler Program in a few previous posts and I thought I might explain it a little bit. If an angler in Vermont catches any of 33 different species and meet the minimum length requirement of that species they can submit a photo to the program. Once a biologist has looked over the photo and has accepted it the angler gets a certificate stating that they have caught a Master Class fish.  If an angler catches 5 different species in the program in the same year they are awarded a pin and the title of Master Angler for that year. Pretty cool stuff.
Master Class white sucker- a blast on the fly!
The program was begun earlier this year with several goals in mind. Primarily it is a way to showcase anglers that have caught exceptional fish in Vermont. The program also takes over from the old trophy fish records program which had become obsolete. It helps biologists understand where larger specimens of many of these species are located and also gives them a better idea of the sizes of larger individuals in the population.  The diversity of fishes and fishing in Vermont are better showcased in this program. Hopefully more anglers will see the value in less frequently targeted species thanks to this program.
Shawn Good with a nice fly rod caught MC bowfin
 I do have to give a big thanks to Shawn Good the fisheries biologist who really got this program jump started. Shawn saw the need in Vermont for this kind of program and did a lot of the footwork to get it going. Not only has he done a great job with this program he is also the biologist who is in charge of the state's Esocid program. Pike and musky have a great champion in this biologist. Shawn is also a great angler in his own right. I have been pretty fortunate to have spent a couple of days on the water with him and look forward to many more in the future.
46" Longnose Gar- crushed the 36" minimum for Master Class
 Where do I fit into the program? Well, as soon as I heard about it I became a bit obcessed. Honestly, completely obcessed. I started going through photos from earlier in the year to see if I already had some Master Class fish. Then I started targeting fish that I knew I could meet the minimum length of. It didn't take long before I had the 5 I needed for the Master Angler pin. After submitting my longnose gar I had it all wrapped up and qualified for the first pin ever awarded. To say that I was pleased about that is an understatement!
Master Class brown trout: check out this pic in the Fish and Wildlife reg book
At this point I have now submitted 32 entries in 11 different species- all on a fly. I have already set up a tentative game plan to get the remainder. I would like to get all 33 if I can and I intend on doing as many as I can on the fly. And check out the Vermont Hunting and Fishing Regs book this year- I am in there with a real nice brown for the Master Angler Program.  Shawn Good got the second pin awarded. So far this year there are only a total of 4 people who have earned the pin. 
Kevin with his Master Class lake trout
I can't wait to get my 2010 pin! They won't be made until the end of the program year (Jan 10) and only enough will be made for the folks who have earned them. Good stuff!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Epoxy Madness

I have been tying a bunch of flies for catching some nice big schooling white perch on Lake Champlain this coming weekend. I started out with the usual fare- woolly buggers, Clouser Minnows, bunny strip flies- and as usual on many of them a put on a nice epoxy head. A quick Google search entitled "flies for white perch" got me thinking about epoxy minnows.  A couple of hours later I had a bunch of flies that looked like this:

How the epoxy madness started.....
That was the beginning... I started thinking about what else I could do with it... Thinking about how cool it would have been to have a floating fly with a wiggling marabou tail to fish on a full sink line for those lakers I have been chasing.....
Not perfected yet- I played with it a bit during dry time...
Then I thought about what else I could do with this new madness that had struck me... how about a fly with a rattle, ala crankbait style....
Makes a lot of noise
And what about a floating frog style fly to entice post spawn pike?  
A weedguard and some rubber legs will improve this puppy, but not bad for a first draft
The natural progression led me to think about muskies... big brutes that like to eat frogs.... big jointed frogs....
Both sections float, wiggle wiggle little froggy....
My newfound dementia had taken over and I liked it! Look at the size of this last one!
Musky meal? You bet your ass...
I am looking forward to further exploring this new phase of fly tying insanity! Me thinks it will bring about many good things.... and some bloody big fish! 

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Good Day on the Water

The first thing that many anglers would say makes a good day on the water is a lot of good fish or even a couple of really memorable ones. I have had those days and they definitely stick in the memory but it isn't always fish that make a good day. Sometimes it is the company that you keep. 
Terrorist style Limb
  Yesterday Limb (aka Ken Capsey) and I took a jaunt out on Lake Champlain hoping to find some lake trout. We found them, but not in the numbers that were around last weekend. And it was a hell of a lot colder yesterday than it had been last weekend. We were contending with frozen guides and numb fingers. Of course I had to deal with Limb's casting, or actually more to the point his rod placement. He always seemed to have his rod at an angle so that my backcast got caught on it. Bloody redneck!
Ken with a lovely tangle
the result of Limb's less than spectacular rod placement

We didn't find the lakers to be overly willing yesterday. We both had a few follows, perhaps a take or two. We did catch a lot of zebra mussels- easy enough to do if you are keeping your fly on the bottom. We did go to a shallow weedy cove and caught a few perch. It wasn't fast and furious perch fishing, but we both got a few. Limb beat me numbers wise by vertically jigging a chartreuse Clouser but I got the biggest on a bugger. 

We didn't set the world on fire with numbers of fish, or even a single specimen of the fish we were after. We had a good time trying to figure out what the fish wanted, talked boats and tackle, made plans for next year (and later this year hopefully). The wind wasn't bad, it warmed up and it ended up being an enjoyable day on the water.

Ronnie James Limb
Sometimes a good day is just getting out with a buddy who needs some time on the water. 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Kudos to Vermont Game Wardens

I really have to give props to the Vermont State Game Wardens. I know a lot of folks that have told me that they have never had their fishing license checked while fishing in Vermont. Just this past weekend I was checked for the sixth time this year and last year I was checked 5 times. Some folks might complain about this, but I think it is a great thing. I have been checked on trout streams, backwaters on Lake Champlain and at ponds in the mountains. 
Glad to have you guys around!
These guys are doing a great job. I have found every warden that I have spoken with to be friendly and genuinely interested in what was going on out on the water. I am always pretty psyched to see the green uniform out there. It tells me that they are looking out for the natural resources that the Green Mountain State has to offer.

Thanks guys for being out there! I definitely appreciate the job you are doing.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Namaycush Bachelors

Beautiful sight in the early morning
This past weekend I was fortunate enough to get out twice with my good friend Kevin to chase some big lake trout in Lake Champlain. I got the inside skinny on where a whole lot of them were hanging out (lets just say that the population estimate in the area is in the neighborhood of 30-40,000 fish). These fish are there to spawn, which takes place primarily at night, so during the day they school up and swim in big circles near their spawning site. No, I won't tell you where this is. 

A great start!
We got out there Saturday morning and near this drop off in about 10 feet of water we started to see fish. The day was calm, the light was perfect and Champlain was pretty clear. It was not too long before I got into a nice fish- 27" and it put up one hell of a fight. For years people had told me that catching lakers was like pulling in a boot. I suspect that is true when you are using a pool cue trolling rod on a downrigger at 100 feet with 200 feet of line out during the summer. Well, lakers on a fly rod in 46 degree water is a blast! If these guys are boots, then sign me up for a few pairs of size 10's!

My second fish came pretty soon after the first.
These guys were a lot of fun on my Hydros 8 wt. Put a good bend in the rod for sure. It was a whole lot of casting practice too. Very different ballgame than is typically played in the 802 with a long rod. I don't want to give away too many details since I plan on dialing this in nicely to offer something different for clients.

It was a while before Kevin got into his first fish. But in the mean time we were definitely getting a lot of bachelors. I can now hear a lot of "huh?" from the readers. These fish were following but not committing- hence lifelong bachelors. Pretty good name for them I think.  Kevin's first fish wasn't big, but his second....  take a look and tell me. Definitely Master Class material. The Master Class program is new to VT. I will tell you all about it in a future blog entry, but for now just know that a MC laker has to be at least 30". Kevin's was 31 and a few pennies. Right on Bullpout Moosecrack! (inside joke)

Me doing my impression of the Bonefish Whisperer
I could not let Kevin get the only fish over 30, so toward the end of the day, after many more bachelors, I got a spawned out fish. Not as fat as Kevin's- you could see more ribs on this fish than you see during a catwalk fashion show- but at 30 1/4" I was pretty pleased. It was on a new style fly that I was pretty unsure of but I have since tied up a few more of that fly and I plan on a lot more in the future. Stay tuned for more on that later.
Just an awesome day on the water! Both of us would have loved to have caught more fish, but they really seemed to be in the bachelor mood. I don't know if there was much we could do about that. We tried different style flies, different retrieves, different colors. Seems like typical salmonid spawn behavior to me. It was crazy to see a huge fish just chase the fly right near the boat then swing and miss.  

I hope to get back before these fish are gone, but I don't know if it will happen. Really weather dependent being on the broad lake in a canoe. We were blown off the lake on Sunday. Champlain is a touchy lady at times. We did get into a couple of fish before that though! And slaying perch over decaying weeds is a fun time too....
This sums up my feelings about the weekend's fishing!

Thursday, November 11, 2010


I love hooks. Such a variety out there to work with. I will go so far as to say that they are a critical element in the success of a day on the water. From that initial take, to the fight then on to landing the fish, the hook is an invaluable tool to any angler. This makes hook choice vital to a fly tyer or even to an angler choosing what flies to purchase. 

I used to use almost any ol' hook. It didn't matter to me what it was as long as I could wrap thread and materials onto it I used it. I remember well my first lesson on the importance of a good sharp hook. It was fall of 1995 and I was fishing for landlocked salmon on the Saranac River in Plattsburgh, NY. This was the ol' salad days of salmon fishing on Lake Champlain. Lots of fish in the river and lots of big fish too (the initial sea lamprey control program had really been working well). I was getting takes on my fly patterns- which were really simple rabbit patterns- but not many fish on for long, and even fewer landed. It made me wonder what the deal was. Then I figured it out. The ol' Mustad 36890 salmon iron was my hook of choice. They were not sharp hooks. I started sharpening them before I tied on them and voila! my hook up to landed ratio went through the roof.

I still sharpen some hooks when I tie on them (I will save my pointers on properly sharpening hooks for another entry) but now I much prefer to tie with chemically sharpened hooks. All major brands of fly tying hooks now offer super sharp hooks. I have tied with Mustad Signature, Daiichi, Gamacatsu, Tiemco, and Dai-Riki many times and I love twisting my creations on all of them. I am also experiementing with some other brands like Matzuo, VMC and others. There are so many options available.

I will admit that these hooks tend to be more expensive than those that are not chemically sharpened. Personally, I am willing to spend the money on better hooks if that means that my clients, friends or I will have a greater chance of hooking and landing that bruiser we are after. And if you shop around you can usually get a good deal on the hooks you are after.

The end result of using a good sharp hook!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


I thought it best to introduce myself in my first blog post, so here goes:

a more recent selection of flies I tied up
I got my first fly rod as a graduation present from college and shortly thereafter I purchased my first fly tying kit. Being a December graduate I really did not have too many opportunities to fish over the winter so tying was really my first introduction to the sport. To me fly tying and fly fishing go hand in hand. 

Not my first smallie ever but a nice one on a spey rod
The first fish that I caught was a large male smallmouth bass out of the Saranac River in Plattsburgh, New York the following spring. I was fishing with my brother Pete and using a fly I had designed and tied myself. Pretty cool. Definitely had me hooked after that.

A recent pike
I targeted trout and bass for much of that first year, but I soon started thinking about other fish on the fly. I quickly started chasing northern pike with the long rod both on shore and with a float tube. The explosive strike really got my attention. I moved on to muskies shortly thereafter. 

a good Lake Champlain carp from this past summer
Over the years I fished a lot of different things from trout to salmon to panfish and bass. It was always the oddballs like bowfin, drum, gar and carp that really attracted my attention. I really started pursuing these fish more and more after my move to Vermont in 1998.  

Hen brown at Oak Orchard '07
Also at this time I started an annual tradition of visiting Oak Orchard Creek in Western New York for king salmon, steelhead and really big brown trout. I still head out there in October/November every year and then again in March for steelhead (with a mix of browns and the occasional pike in there too).

In 2008 I decided to start guiding with a local company. I brought my own unique take on the local warm water fisheries with me. This attracted a lot of attention from local media and anglers looking for something different to target with flies. Along with guiding for the fish I enjoy more, I also guided a lot of trout anglers. I did enjoy this, but I quickly realized that guiding trout was not my favorite thing to do. I definitely enjoy fishing them by myself much more.

For this last reason and having the desire to work for myself, I left that guide service in the fall of 2010 to do my own thing: guiding for warm water species in Vermont, tying flies commercially, instructing casting, fly fishing, and fly tying, writing about fly fishing, and speaking to angling groups about the fishing I do. This is the latest and greatest endeavor I have undertaken and I am looking forward to seeing what it brings about! I will keep you posted about how it is developing and keep your eyes peeled for a new website up and running before too long....

Looking to a garrreat future!