Monday, January 31, 2011


Cast straight Marty!

From time to time on here I have talked about a good friend of mine- Marty. Marty and I met a little over 10 years ago. I was working at a small public aquarium and we were in the process of designing a new one. I had met two of the three partners in the architecture firm and each time I met them to talk about what I would like to see in the new building, the topic of muskies came up. Both of them had the same response "You have to meet Marty". They were right. We met, talked muskies and it all fell into place. If I remember correctly, we met in the fall and exchanged fishing stories quite a bit. Marty had fly fished, but not a lot, and mostly for trout. That would soon change.

First day- first time seeing that grin, but not the last!
The following spring we headed out for some smallmouth in a place I love. I had a couple of rods, a spare pair of breathable waders and some flies. It was raining, the fish were on, and we only had one pair of polarized glasses... our adventures together had begun.  After a few fish we took a lunch break, ran into a drug store to get Marty some sunglasses and headed back. I remember well, we were crossing the river and talking. Next thing I know, Marty is not responding. I look back and Marty is floundering in the water. We both had a good laugh and kept fishing and caught a bunch of nice fish. 

Later that summer I introduced Marty to fly rod muskies. As to be expected, it took a while for him to get a good handle on casting (good thing he had an awesome teacher right?). We had a great time catching fish on conventional gear and on flies. It took a couple of years, but I haven't seen the baitcaster in a while. I do miss Froggy though. Froggy is a massive topwater lure that splats into the water and makes this great wake and splash as it chops its way back to the rod. We always got a great laugh about the way it landed and it was incredible to watch a musky smash it. It is just as fun to watch them hit Dahlberg Divers though!
Not that first steelie, but a similar snowpack
I also got Marty into steelheading. Our first trip out to Western NY was one of the craziest trips I have ever been on. We left late in the afternoon to shoot out to Oak Orchard Creek. Did we think about making a call or two to find out the conditions? Why would we do that?  We got there around midnight, slept in the truck near a creek I had done well on. I don't think either of us slept well in the truck and the morning revealed blown rivers. I mean chocolate milk blown. We tried the Oak and needless to say, we did not do well. Back in the truck, headed along the lakeshore road looking for fishable water. It was pretty much a no go until we got all the way up to the Salmon River. The river was high, but clear. We fished it, but got nothing. A night in a motel helped to warm us up and dry us off. We figured we had a good chance at a fish the next day. 

Overnight the river came up because it was pretty warm and the snowpack was melting. The Salmon came up quite a bit. We weren't able to cross a bigger side channel we had the day before. We clamored through snow and finally found a nice small side channel. As we walked slowly up that channel we spotted a nice fish. Marty tossed an egg fly at her and got a take. Beautiful fat steelie in hand for photos and then released. Time to walk back down the main stem and find more fish. None were found both dreaded the dredge back to where we could cross then dredge back through the snow to the car. As we looked at where we could cross a helpful drift boat guide offered us a ride down to a small island that would let us access the far shore. We took him up on that. Big mistake!

I was familiar with the island and the side channel next to it. I had fished it many times. I figured we could get through that channel without any problems. When we got on the island,I realized just how wrong I was and that without knowing it, the helpful guy screwed us. Marty and I pondered what to do. Water was cranking through the channel. I made a few attempts but it was just too fast and too high. At the end of one of the pools two saplings had fallen into the river and had become entangled in one another. I said that is our only chance. Marty was pretty skeptical. So was I, I must admit. I gave him my rod and started across. I made it. Not sure how, but I did. Marty passed the rods over and then crossed safely. We both agreed that it was one of the scariest moments of our lives.

There are plenty of stories left to tell... more in a day or two...

Friday, January 28, 2011

Life List

Tony over at iRiverRat, emailed me and asked me if I had a life list of fishes I have caught. Well, here it is. I suspect there might be a few minnows I missed, but I will be taking photos of all minnows from here out for better identification. This list should expand this year by a few species if all goes as planned…

Brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis)
Brown trout (Salmo trutta)
Landlocked Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar)
Rainbow trout/steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss)
Lake trout (Salvelinus namaycush)
Coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch)
Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha)
Smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomieu)
Largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides)
Rock bass (Ambloplites rubestris)
Pumpkinseed sunfish (Lepomis gibbosus)
Bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus)
Pumpkinseed/bluegill hybrid
Green sunfish (Lepomis cyanellus)
Redbreast sunfish (Lepomis auritis)
Green/redbreast hybrid
Pumpkinseed/green hybrid
Black crappie (Pomoxis negromaculatus)
White sucker (Catastomus commersoni)
Silver redhorse (Moxostma anisurum)
Greater redhorse (Moxostoma valenciennesi)
Shortnose redhorse (Moxostoma macrolepidotum)
Northern hogsucker (Hypentelium nigricans)
Northern pike (Esox lucius)
Muskellunge (Esox masquinongy)
Tiger muskellunge (I am 90% certain it was a tiger- both pike and musky occur in this water and it had markings like a tiger)
Chain pickerel (Esox niger)
Bowfin (Amia calva)
Longnose gar (Lepisosteus osseus)
Common carp (Cyprinus carpio)
Fallfish (Semotilus corporalis)
Creek chub (Semotilus atromaculatus)
Common Shiner (Notropis cornutus)
Golden Shiner (Notemigonus crysoleucas)
Redfin Shiner (Notropis umbratilus)
Logperch (Percina caprodes)
Yellow Perch (Perca flavescens)
Walleye (Sander vitreus)
Freshwater Drum (Aplodinotus grunniens)
White Perch (Morone americanus)
Striped Bass (Morone saxatilis)
American Shad (Alosa sapidissima)
Alewife (Alosa pseudoharengus)
Black Bullhead (Ameiurus melas)
Atlantic Tarpon (Megalops atlanticus)
Ladyfish (Elops saurus)
Snook (Centropomus undecimalis)
Redfish (Sciaenops ocellatus)
Jack Crevalle (Caranx hippos)
Umbriferum cichlid  (Cichlasoma umbriferus)
Sea lamprey (on Chinook, Atlantic salmon, and steelhead) (Pteromyzon marinus)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Take Me to Your Leader (part2)

Sinking leader slipped a Mickey to this Oak Orchard brown in March

There are other methods of getting your flies deep besides using heavy flies, long skinny leaders and weight on the leader. There are times that using an unweighted fly with a sinking leader or a sink tip might be just as effective, or even more so. I used to spend a lot of time swinging streamers this way during the winter when I lived in Northern NY.

My buddy Charlie and I used to fish a lot together on the river that ran next to campus. Like I said in my previous post I used to use a lot of nymphs with great effect in the winter. However in early winter, just post spawn streamers were killer. There are special regs on this river that do not allow the use of weighted flies until January 1 so heavy streamers were out. We used to use a lot of sink tips to get the fly down to where we wanted them to be. My first bunch of sink tips were a shooting head that I had which I cut into lengths appropriate for the depth we were fishing. That was my introduction to sink tips and I learned a great deal from it. I caught a ton of fish too.

I use a loop to loop system to connect my sink tips to the end of my line. I use a variety of commercially available sink tips and ones that I have made myself. I hate the Chinese finger trap loops that are out there. I have had them slip off my lines before and eventually they start breaking down creating a weak link in the line. I simply fold over the line and use mono to put a nail knot to hold the two halves together. On heavier lines I will put two or three nail knots like this on the end to make sure it is secure. After that I will coat the knots with something like UV Knot Sense or another glue for added confidence and to let it slip through the guides easier. I find it also helps prevent gunk from getting caught on the connection when I fish in weedy waters.

Having a variety of weights and lengths of sink tips will allow you to adjust to the water depths that you are fishing. I do like making my own out of different materials like Cortland’s LLC-13 or Rio’s T series of sinking line. I can really toy with the different lengths that way. You can also easily cut up old sinking lines or shooting heads to make sink tips as well. One material that I will caution you away from though is lead core trolling line. I have attempted to make sink tips and shooting heads out of it. Once it kinks up it is pretty much useless. If you have some I suggest taking off the braided exterior and using the lead inside to weight your flies instead.

Sinking leader... nice musky... 'nuf said...
A few years ago several companies started producing sinking leaders. They are available in a few different lengths, sink rates and breaking strengths. I love these things! They are perfect for fishing small and mid-sized rivers to get your streamer down a bit deeper. The other situation I use them for a lot is for fishing pike and musky. In both of these cases I add about a couple of feet of mono to the end of the leader then I attach a swivel. For streamers I just run fluoro to the fly and with pike/musky I go right to wire bite tippet to the fly. This works like a charm and keeps the fly in the strike zone longer. I strongly recommend having a few in your leader wallet.

I have used a few sink tip lines in my day and I am planning on getting a few more for use this year. They definitely help eliminate hinging that you can sometimes get from add on sink tips. The big downside is that you need to have a spare reel or spool to keep the line on. One of the biggest advantages of a sink tip of either kind is that the floating line allows you to mend pretty easily.

who needs mending with that on the line?
Mending is pretty much out of the question when using a full sink line. I dare you to try. It just don’t work! (yea, intentionally bad grammar there) Full sink lines definitely have their place though. They are great on stillwaters when the fish are deep. Another line that is great for lakes is the shooting head system. Shooting heads take a while to get used to but when you do expect to send out a rocket cast. I was blasting out 100 foot casts this past fall with minimal effort using a shooting head system and I was dragging bottom in no time. I have a couple of other situations that I want to use the shooting head system for this coming season but I will let you know how that goes after some field testing gets done. Oh, the horrors of testing out new fishing systems… don’t you feel terrible for me?

Well there are my methods of getting down! For fishing at least… I can get down pretty well with some good tunes too, but like the average white guy that I am, I can only do the hippy groove dance. Even then I look like an idiot, but what else is new?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Take Me to Your Leader (Get Down Pt 3)

Long leader with weight& swivel got the fly down
So have given out a lot of ideas on how to weight your fly to get it down to the level you want it at. Now how about a look at leaders and their function in sinking flies? Leaders are critical to getting your fly down and I think they are pretty misunderstood by most anglers. I know I used to do a lot of things that just didn’t work. I did a lot of reading, a lot of experimenting and a lot of time on the water (that was the most difficult and horrible part, deepest sarcasm intended) before I got it dialed in.

I used to spend a lot of time on a river in Northern New York that had great fishing in the winter. Yes, it was legal to fish there in the winter and had good numbers of landlocks, browns and the occasional steelhead. One of the critical things when fishing this river was to make sure the fly got down to where the fish were feeding. A properly presented nymph would get crushed by fish and it wasn’t unusual to catch several good fish a day. My personal best day was 13 (on my birthday no less). I was using bead head or weighted nymphs and some weight on the leader  but the critical element was the leader.

Long skinny leader with a streamer in February

If you want your flies to get deep the best leader is a long skinny one preferably with fluorocarbon. I typically use a 10-12 foot leader when I am fishing deep with nymphs tapered to 6lb test (I rarely use the X system, it is way all over the place now with breaking strength and diameter). I will go up a bit in tippet size with streamers. Think about this: a long skinny leader has much less resistance to the water than a thicker one. Less resistance will allow it to get deeper faster and will be less likely to come back up. Fluorocarbon really helps out too. Fluoro has a density similar to water which lets it sink quickly where monofilament has a more buoyant density. When you add the disappearing trick (again with the density) and abrasion resistance fluoro makes a great nymphing tippet. The downside? It is a bit more expensive than mono. Do you need an entirely fluoro leader? Not really. It works pretty well to just put a piece of fluoro on your regular leader.

What about weight on the leader?  Absolutely!  I have a couple of tricks up my sleeve here. Well they are in my vest. I tried keeping weight up my sleeve and it was a pain in the ass to get to. Yea, bad attempt at humor, back to the regularly scheduled blog post. I usually put my weight at the knot closest to the fly. I generally like to have it between 12 and 18 inches over my fly. A blood knot connecting the leader and tippet makes a great stopper for the weight. I know there are people groaning about the blood knot, but a surgeon’s knot will work the same, although I think the blood knot is superior myself. Another trick I have used, especially when fishing Western New York, is to put in a little barrel swivel. That makes a great stop for the weight and helps prevent line twist. It also makes it quicker to tie on new tippet. Try it, you might like it. Of course you can always put the weight right at the nose of the fly too. That works best with streamers- and can give them a great jigging action too.

There are a number of options for weight. There are good old fashioned lead sinkers (if they are legal where you fish). I have to say that I miss using lead sinkers. They sink really fast, were inexpensive, and stayed on the leader. I understand the reasoning behind lead bans, but in fast moving rivers where we would be fishing deep there is little danger of ducks and loons eating them. Tin shot is widely available and used now. Not bad stuff, but it doesn’t like staying on the leader well. Keep a pair of pliers around to close them tight or bite down on them (dentists love that!). I like to use tungsten putty a lot now. I mostly use it during the summer when it is more pliable. Wintertime cold makes it tough stuff to use. You break off a piece in the weight you want, mold it onto your leader and away you go. Works great and if you make a snake around your blood knot it doesn’t hang up as easily.

I was going to get into sinking leaders in this post but that will have to wait ‘til next time on the Price is Right (about fly fishing!)….

Monday, January 24, 2011

Get Down, pt 2

My personal collection of authentic Clouser Minnows
Bob Clouser is a household name for most fly fishers. His namesake Clouser Deep Minnow was created by him in the 1980’s when Wapsi sent him some of their new lead dumbbell eyes. The rest is fly fishing history. The Clouser Minnow is now one of the most popular flies in the world and Lefty Kreh has caught well over 80 species of fish on it. Absolutely deadly fly. The key element is those dumbbell, or hourglass eyes. They give the fly a jigging motion that predators love. I use a lot of this style eye in my flies. It lets them sink fast and gives that dying baitfish sudden drop at the end of a strip.

Lead and brass hourglass and dumbbell eyes
You can get hourglass and dumbbell eyes in brass, aluminum, tungsten and the original lead. I have used the brass and lead eyes extensively but I have yet to try out the tungsten. I am sure I will, I just haven’t wanted to drop the dough on them yet. I have found a few places to get 100 lots of lead eyes and brass eyes and that is how I buy them. I have to admit that I prefer the lead eyes because they are much heavier than the brass eyes. I really like to have a fly that gets down deep fast and the lead does that much more effectively. One downside to the lead over brass is that if you hit a rock or the side of your boat (I swear I have never done that…. yet this year…) the lead eye sometimes snaps in half leaving you with a fly that has half the sink rate that it used to. I will take that chance. One of the downsides to the brass eyes, especially with larger heavily dressed flies, is that they often will not properly turn over the fly and it runs upside down. It sucks when you have spent half an hour on a big musky fly and it won’t do what you want it to. That is one of the reasons lead is my preference for bigger flies.

Them is big eyes right there!
I didn’t mention the aluminum eyes, but I should. Spirit River does some nice big aluminum dumbbell eyes that are recessed to put in stick on eyes. These things are great! I really like them for bigger flies because of that, but, again, they don’t provide a lot of weight to turn the fly over. You definitely need to use another method of weight to keep the fly riding hook point up if you use them on bigger patterns.

This is as close to Guido as I get!
Bead chain eyes are awesome too, but don’t expect them to get your fly to the bottom fast. I do love using them though. They are great for carp patterns and I use them on my Toad Puppy fly. Bead chain is available in a lot of different sizes and usually easily found in silver and gold. I love finding old bead chain that has tarnished. Usually you get it for free too. Free fly tying materials are awesome! One trick that I use with bead chain if I want a different color is to spray paint it. Doesn’t always last that long, but usually long enough to do the trick. I know craft stores sell different colors of bead chain, but apparently craft stores in Vermont don’t.

Lead tape is great stuff too. Most commonly used for the zonker style flies it can help shape a body underneath Mylar tubing. I have used it like that but you can also use it to shape nymph bodies if you attach it perpendicular to the hook plane as well. I have also used thin strips of it to wrap along the hook shank. I don’t see it too frequently in fly shops these days, but you should be able to find it in a well stocked hardware store.

I have tried out the new Fish Skull heads for flies and I like them. I haven’t experimented with them that much yet, but I have found them to be really easy to work with and they sink like a rock. Watch your casting though- one of these puppies could slice through a rod tip like a hot knife through butter!

Another item I am dying to try is the new channel lead that is out there. This is a U shaped piece of lead that you secure to the hook shank. It would be the perfect addition to a Spirit River aluminum eye fly to keep it hook point up.  I like the idea of this a lot too. I am sure I could come up with a lot of flies using this stuff. It is definitely high up on my list of stuff to try out. Someone could always send me some samples to try out if they really wanted to!

In order to get flies down deep fast I am not averse to using several materials to do that. It is the norm for me to put a few wraps of lead behind a bead head or cone head not only for added weight but to keep the bead or cone in place and to give a bit of extra bulk at the head of the fly. That added bulk helps make the fly a bit more realistic- ever notice most bugs or baitfish are thicker toward the head? Sometimes I will even make extra wraps of thicker lead if I want a fly deeper still and I put a bit of different colored dubbing on the tail or use a different color thread so I know it is heavier. Helps out when you are deciding what you need to use.

So that is how to get flies deep with weight on the fly… coming up next, my thoughts on getting flies deep with your leader!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Get Down!

My old nymph box

I use a lot of weighted flies. I want to make sure that the flies I use get down to where the fish are and stay there. So, in order to keep my imitations in the strike zone I weight them. I will use a lot of weight and different types of weight on my flies. I also have a lot of different ways of getting my flies down toward the bottom. Putting weight on flies is not just important when fishing for trout but also for many other species of fish, notably, pretty much all of the species I target locally.

The old classic method of getting a fly to the bottom is to use lead wire. You can’t mess with a classic like that!  It works. I use a lot of lead wire on my nymphs, streamers, and other patterns. I use it behind a lot of the beads and cones I use too. Lead wire is great stuff. I have used the non-toxic wire too, but I am not much of a fan. In order to get the same weight on the fly you need to use non-toxic wire of much larger diameter. That doesn’t work well with a lot of smaller patterns and it can really bulk up other patterns quickly. Not what you want in a lot of situations. I have been finding lead wire to be more difficult to find lately. Fortunately a friend gave me two spools of lead core fishing line. 200 yards of .020 lead wire that I just need to remove from the 
outer sheath of nylon.

Sometime in the 1990’s Americans caught on to the brass bead which had been introduced and used by Europeans sometime earlier. The brass bead adds weight and flash (although you can get some dull or tarnished beads now). Like everyone else I caught on to using beads right off the bat and now a very high percentage of my nymphs are beaded. They are available in just about any color you want in a huge range of sizes. The biggest downside to beads is making sure that you are using them on a hook that can accept them. Some hook bends just don’t work out well, most notably Limerick bends.
Shortly after the brass beads made their impression the brass cone showed up. Awesome for streamers! Just an awesome thing to put on the front of your bugger, muddler, sculpin, egg sucking leach, pike fly, well almost any streamer.  They provided more weight and look great on streamers. They don’t look too bad on nymphs either, but I have to admit that I prefer them on streamers.

Orvis’s Tom Rosenbauer wanted to get his flies deeper when using beads and he came up with a great idea- make the beads out of tungsten. Tungsten is more environmentally friendly than lead and even brass. It is denser than both of them which gives it a much faster sink rate. If you have ever used the stuff you know that already. It sinks like a cannonball! Well, faster than that since cannonballs are generally lead… The biggest downside to tungsten is the cost. Tungsten beads and cones are a lot more expensive. Usually at least two times more expensive, sometimes more than that. Why? The beads and cones have to be cast instead of machined. Machining beads is fast and cheap. Casting them is much more labor intensive and mold marks need to be removed. If you want your fly on the bottom fast though, you want to use tungsten.

More thoughts on weight coming in the next installment...

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Wire Redux

I got some great comments on my previous post about using wire. One thing that did come up is the suggestion that using wire for pike will keep bass off your fly. I have to say that I have not noticed that. As a matter of fact I have found that some of my biggest smallmouth have come to hand while I was targetting muskies.   I thought I would post a few pics of smallies that my buddies and I have caught with wire bite tippet.The 4 shots in the middle were all the same day...  Maybe we would have caught more without the wire, but I am not complaining......

Can you believe this monster took a fly with wire?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


Gotta love them tooths....
I like to fish for fish that have serious teeth. Predators with bite as it were.  To be able to successfully fish for these fish you need to do something to protect your tippet from their teeth. There are several options:

1-    Use wire bite tippet.
2-    Use hard nylon bite tippet
3-    Use fluorocarbon bite tippet
4-    Don’t do anything and hope for the best.
See the wire?  Use the wire.... jackass...
Now, unless you are a complete moron, you will opt for 1-3. I know of one jackass who almost always opts for number 4. He lands about 50% of the pike he hooks which means that he potentially kills 50% of the pike he puts a fly into. Yea, the fish might be able to get the hook out or it could rot away, but why take the risk? No question it is unavoidable to leave flies in fish from time to time. They fight hard and will occasionally break off. It happens. But to start off with no protection from bite offs when intentionally targeting toothy fish like pike is just not good practice or ethics. The best part about this guy?  He guides. Tells you all you need to know about him doesn’t it?

Well, what do I use to prevent bite offs? I have used wire for years and it works. I have tried hard nylon and had some success, but I will take wire over it. I have heard a lot of good things about fluoro and I intend on trying it this year. I guess it is the price that has kept me from trying it out until now. I have used a variety of wire over the years, from single strand to plastic coated and the new multi-strand knotable wire. I definitely have my preferences! I liked the single strand stuff in it’s simplicity but it kinks pretty easily and the large loops that it need to be stored in makes it less practical for a wading or canoe bound angler. And it isn’t as easily available. I have used mostly the latter two for the past few years.
"I thought it was a frog.... seriously..."

Most brands of both the coated wire and multi-strand are fairly similar to one another. I really like the new low diameter knotable wire. Great stuff to work with. I just wish it wasn’t so expensive. $1 foot is a bit steep. I love to use it for topwater flies though. I like the reduced weight in those situations. What is on my leader most of the time now is Climax wire. I have used this stuff a great deal over the past 15 years and it has not let me down. It is inexpensive, widely available and easy to use. If I have to clip off the wire I have on because of kinks or twists I don’t feel like it has cost me a ton of money by the end of the day. And I am more likely to change the wire when it needs to be changed.

Another material I found last year that I really like is called Beadalon. I found it in a craft store. Yea, I am one of those guys that frequent craft stores for tying materials. It paid off. For about $7 I can get 80 feet of 20lb wire. It accepts knots well and I haven’t had any break offs with it yet either. Good stuff. Works great for other applications too- like fly tying...
Ken Capsey- the other reason to use wire....

The system I use most is pretty simple. I tie my leader directly to a small swivel, then the wire and either directly to the fly or to a duo-lock snap. The knot I use for both ends of the system is the non-slip mono loop knot. It is not difficult to tie and it holds well in the wire. The leader system is nothing too special. I suspect that a few people might ask why I use the barrel swivel. Well, two reasons for this. First noticed a lot of line twist when fishing bigger flies and the swivel helps out with it. Second, it is a lot easier to tie onto the swivel instead of tying the Albright knot. Nothing against the Albright- it is a great knot that I use frequently in some situations- but it is nice to tie a simple knot quickly sometimes.

I won't be surprised to get a bunch of feedback from folks about what they use and that hard nylon/mono is much much better than wire for this and that reason. I know that folks say that pike can be leader shy. Well, I have not found that to be the case around here. I think that if a pike or musky wants to smash something they are far more focused on their victim than the bit of line in front of it. Here is my biggest dislike of hard mono, especially larger diameter (80-100 lb). It floats. Plain and simple, it is buoyant. I use a lot of sinking flies and leaders. Why the hell would I put something buoyant on a sinking fly?  That just does not make sense to me. With a fly you want close to the surface, sure... 

The final reason to use wire is that it helps you get your flies out of trees. Take this last photo of Marty... without wire on the leader he never would have been able to climb up into this tree to get his fly back.....
Yes, he is in there and yes he did get it back...

Monday, January 17, 2011

Summer Dreams

On the coldest day of the year (so far) I am dreaming of some summer fishing... so I will toss up a few warm weather fishing photos to help warm folks up!
Gar like it hot!

Real hot day for carp

Nice warm day for musky

Marty- Mr Bowfun himself!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

New Palmer Hackle Flies

I stopped by Classic Outfitters in South Burlington yesterday to get a white bucktail. Along with some great conversations with the guys there I also found a new Wapsi product that I will be using a whole lot- their new palmer hackle.  Good stuff!  I whipped up a few flies after getting home from doing my seminar at the Yankee Sportsman's Classic.  Here are the results on some pictures from my childhood angling bible called Fish and Fishing (a Better Homes and Gardens Book):
This should be fun on the outside of lily pads...
This baby will get a pike's attention!
This should be great near dams

A simple baitfish pattern
Even this lady should get a few trout with this fly!
These flies and others will be available for sale soon on my website!  I am starting to take orders. I can tie just about anything you want, just let me know what you need...

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Yankee Sportsmans Classic

Hey everyone, 

Just a reminder- if you are in Vermont today and looking for something to do head to the Champlain Valley Fairgrounds in Essex to the Yankee Sportsman's Classic show. I am presenting with Shawn Good of VT Fish and Wildlife at 3pm about the Master Angler Program. I will be talking about fishing for oddball fish that most people don't wet a line for!  Good stuff- hope to see you there!


Thursday, January 13, 2011


After reading a recent post by the Rusty Spinner I got to thinking.  There is a big difference between the West Coast and the East Coast not just in how we fish but in what makes up the fish populations. I am not going to get into the classic Left Coast/Right Coast steelhead fisticuffs kind of nonsense that goes on all the time. I will sum up my feelings on that quickly- native on the west coast, generally much bigger there too but the Great Lakes probably has better numbers. 

Charlie with a nice bull during early steelheading
Steelhead are only one species that occurs in the PNW, but are a great example of the diversity out there. It is primarily salmonid based. A much greater natural diversity of salmon and trout along the West Coast. From the 5 Pacific salmon on this side of the ocean, to the cutthroats, rainbow/steelhead clan, throw in a couple of char (Dolly Varden and bull trout), and a number of whitefish. Looking at this list of Freshwater Fishes of Washington State I came up with a number of 52 naturally occurring species. I lumped subspecies together so maybe you could change that number to 55 or 56. Mostly salmonids and sculpins (which I have to admit are really awesome fish!). Look at the habitat you have out there. The Rocky Mountains are a relatively new mountain range geologically speaking. They are still growing ever so slightly. The habitat is new, mostly big water, fast moving, high gradient. Perfect habitat for those critters.

Home sweet home- for me and 74 native fishes!
Now lets take a look at the Champlain Valley. Huge diversity of habitats. It has been around in this form for quite a while now. Well, at least the Lake Champlain landform. Lake Champlain is technically a pretty young body of water at about 10,000 years old. In a lot of ways it is a baby. But that baby hold some fish!  We have about 74 species of native fishes swimming in the basin. Everything from salmon and trout to bowfin and gar. A lot of different species in a much smaller area that the entire state of Washington.The Champlain Watershed is 8234 square miles compared to 71303 square miles for Washington. That is a much greater species richness in a smaller area. 

I have to say that for me personally, this is truly awesome!  I can have the best of everything I love to fish for. I can have great stream trout fishing if I want it (and I occasionally do) but I can also chase pike, salmon, bowfin, gar, musky, pickerel, perch, sunfish, bass, suckers, and freshwater drum all in their natural habitat without having to drive more than 60 miles. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy fishing trout and salmon, but if that was the primary game in town I would get bored. I like big predatory fish. Yes, there are some pike and tiger muskies in Washington, but they are introductions. And I bet they don't get as big as they do around here. 

In my mind there is no comparison between the two locations. I would never be able to live on the West Coast because of the fish. I will definitely visit sometime to do some fishing and visit some very good friends that live there. I am sure I will have fun, but like the old saying goes- great place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Way Back When.....

Yesterday I went for a walk near my house and it took me through a nearby gravel pit. Looking at the strata that were prominently displayed along the clean cut edges of that pit got me thinking quite a bit about the geologic history of Vermont and in particular the Champlain Sea. It was very interesting seeing the different layers that were exposed in this area. The house where I live in Vermont (West Berlin) is at about 636 ft (194 m for you metric oriented folks) above sea level. It was probably above the level of the Champlain Sea but not by too much.

A lot of you are probably wondering just what the Champlain Sea is or, more properly, was. The Champlain Sea existed from about 13,000 to about 10,000 years ago just prior to the last glaciation event that North America went through. More will be coming, you just wait! You might wait a really long time, but take my word, it will happen. Being in the midst of winter in Vermont it is not hard to believe. Anyway the weight of the glaciers actually caused the land mass to depress which allowed salt water to enter the region. Lake Champlain at that point was an arm of the Atlantic Ocean. It was quite a bit deeper too. 

There is quite a bit of fossil evidence to prove the existence of the Champlain Sea. The Vermont State Fossil is the Charlotte Whale. This is the skeleton of a beluga whale found in Charlotte, VT in 1849 while making a railroad cut.  Where it was found it about 10 or so miles inland from Lake Champlain. Barring the unsupported existence of Champ (the Lake Champlain monster which some speculate is a zueglodon- a primitive whale) no whales are currently found in Lake Champlain.  Although, on an interesting side note, a seal was actually found on the ice in Burlington Harbor in the late 1800's. The residents of the city quickly clubbed it to death and took bits of its body as souveniers. Not quite the hippy ending to that one huh?

The Charlotte Whale and a number of other skeletal finds (including a musk ox and seal found by Dave Franzi one of my college professors) show that this area was indeed glaciated and had a salt water intrusion. Very cool stuff. 

Used to be here way back when and still here now!
Since this is a blog about fly fishing and fish, what does this all this Champlain Sea stuff have to do with fish or fishing?  Well while I walked I was thinking about what it must have been like in the area I lived back then. I know that in my area there are freshwater deposits which may indicate a lake could have been there. I started thinking about what kind of fish might have been found.  I did a bit of research and found that a few extant species would have been here. The lake trout, rainbow smelt, cisco, longnose sucker, three-spine stickleback and a couple of sculpins have been found in the fossil record from this time. Very cool. I would speculate, but obviously with no evidence to back it up, that there might have also been northern pike, Atlantic salmon and brook trout. These fishes all are found together as you head further north on this continent.

In Vermont? Not now... but 10K ago, perhaps!
Other fish that have been found in association with the Champlain Sea which are no longer here are arctic char and the Atlantic cod.  I don't find it all that unusual that the char was here considering that there are a few remnant populations of blueback char in Maine (the Sunnappe char was also a blueback but was extirpated from New Hampshire well over a century ago). What I do think is really cool is that these fish would have been the large sea run Arctic char that so many anglers dream of catching- myself included.How awesome would that be to catch a 20 lb sea run Arctic char in what is now the Dog River back about 10000 years ago? It doesn't get too much better... if only we had a time machine.... 

It is always fun to think about what kind of changes the Earth has gone through. I think it is a great thing for anglers to be aware of the alterations that the landscape has undergone. Glaciation has had a profound impact on the nature of the Champlain Valley and the Champlain Sea undoubtedly allowed some of the species that we are now familiar with to become established.  Do some digging into the geologic past of the region that you live in. You might just find out some reasons for the fish that you have there today. You might find out that you once had a shallow warm tropical sea with some of the first coral reefs ever found... oh wait... that is the Champlain Valley again....