Friday, December 3, 2010

Fly Tying Jamborees

I'll be doing a couple of fly tying jamborees at Eldredge Bros. Flyshop again this year.  I can't remember how long I've been doing them but it must be somewhere around 10 years.  I think I have more fun than the people in the class and look forward to doing them.  This year I'll be doing one Jan. 15 on striper flies as usual and Feb. 26 on pike and bass flies which will be a new one for me.  The most difficult part is picking out the flies that I want to tie so I'm open to suggestions in the weeks leading up to the class.  I like to tie some of my own creations or variations of other more common patterns but after 3-5 different flies for 10+ years I'm starting to run out of new ideas.

The tying schedule includes some new faces and a few all day classes.  Michael Decoteau will be tying traditional feather wing streamers and Dick Brown will be available during Vic Trodella's bonefish class signing copies of his new Bonefish Fly Patterns book.  Dave Skok will also be doing a couple of full day striper fly classes.

Tied 11 days in a row so far for at least one hour so I'm keeping up.  I haven't tied more than 2 hours in any one day so it's not really very impressive but I'm trying for consistency not to set any records.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Personal flytying challenge

I'm challenging myself to tying at least 1 hour every day.  I find I tie best when I do it consistently.  I have a couple days under my belt already so let's see how long I can keep it up.  The last couple of nights I've been working on guitar minnows so I'm sure Jim at the shop will be happy.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Steelhead flies

Whipped up some more steelhead flies this week...a few to be fished by me and a bunch more to find new homes.  Not sure when I'll get a chance to use them again.  Hopefully I'll get one more weekend before it gets too cold.  If not there is always spring.  The best thing about tying to me is to think about all the potential there is in flies.   To think about what far away place I might get to explore using them.  To think about the excitement of the pull.  To think about what memories someone else might create using them.

A few sculpins and flashy lead eyed leeches. 


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Back from Michigan

We got in about 6 days of dawn to dusk swinging minus a few hours of daylight driving on the trip.  Drove just under 2400 total miles and18.5 hours and through the night each way.  All that way to catch fish and it sure was worth it.  I so needed to get away and I was dying for a road trip.

Hit Cattaraugus Creek in NY at first light Monday morning on the way out.  I love the Catt to begin with and it's also about the half way point to Michigan so it made a great place to stop to break up the trip.  Water levels were a little high over the weekend so I didn't know what to expect when I got there.  Checked the water level and clarity at one of the bridges, saw it was prime, picked up a license as fast as possible and hit the river.

One thing that struck me immediately was how much the river has changed since the last time I was there a couple of years ago.  I heard there was a flood that moved things around but I had no idea it was so drastic.  What I considered to be the best 3 or 4 runs for swinging flies were either gone, filled with wood and debris, or just too shallow to be the prime lies they were before.  I wasn't exactly sure where to start and looked at it as a challenge to learn again like new water.  In past trips to the Catt when the water conditions were prime like they were now it was more like catching than fishing especially for steelhead fishing.  This time we had to work a little more for the fish.  We worked our way through what we thought were some good looking runs and in between the slower pools where the nymphers and centerpinners and such were fishing and hooked up here and there.  Enough to keep us interested anyway.  John picked up a nice buck late in the day in a pretty unlikely looking spot.

We stayed at a Red Roof that night and fired up a big pot of beans and franks with my camp stove on the sidewalk for supper.  "Franks and Beans!" became a theme for the trip. The temperature really dropped that night and we had a chilly start the next morning.  Pro tip:  Don't leave wet wading boots in the cargo box overnight when it's below freezing.  We had a little delay on the side of the river while we blasted the heat in the car to thaw out our boots.

We had a slow start to the day fishing some of the runs we had luck in the day before.  I didn't see anyone else doing much so the drop in temps might have held off the bite until later in the day.  John and I both picked up a fish just before noon then we decided it was time to head off to Michigan.

John had a piece of the drag in his Ross Momentum fail after his reel froze overnight.  So don't leave wet wading boots and wet reels in the car overnight when it is freezing.  We knew we would be passing the Great Lakes Flyfising Company on the way in Michigan so we gave them a call.  They were great in helping us out and left a replacement part for the reel we picked up after hours.  This shop gave us some great information last year on our first trip to the area.  I especially like their selection of flytying materials for tying steelhead flies.  Stuff you don't find at the average flyshop.

We arrived in Newaygo, MI on the banks of the Muskegon late Tuesday night.  The next morning we parked at the end of a dirt road in the dark close to a spot we fished last year.  We had a hard time finding the path in to the river in the dark so just took off in the woods in what we thought was the right direction.  We ended up finding the river but downstream a ways.  The river was a lot lower than last year and had a lot of weeds and leaves in the drift at this spot.  Fishing at first was a little frustrating but we kept at it.  There were a lot of salmon left in the river and a few steelhead were just behind them presumably picking up the eggs the salmon were dropping.  These fish didn't seem too interested in our streamers though.  We fished a few good runs and had a couple of tugs and brief hookups but didn't bring anything to hand until early afternoon when John finally got us on the board with a smaller but feisty steelhead. I had a good time watching the fish jump over and over while John fought with a giant birdsnest in his running line.  We walked back to the car and when we got out to the dirt road our car wasn't there.  We were both in a panic for a few minutes before realizing we weren't even on the same dirt road.  We made our way through the woods again and after a few minutes were back on the right road and at our car.

We headed to another spot to fish out the rest of the day.  I worked a big fast run and hooked up after switching to a 12.5' piece of T14 and a big sculpin.  This was the first steelhead to get me to my backing on my spey rod as it took off jumping downstream in the heavy current.

Thursday we floated the PM with Jeff Hubbard from Outfitter's North  He worked his butt off trying to put us on fish on a cold, rainy fall day.  The low, clear water really put us at a disadvantage.  We could see some steelhead in holes we fished when floating over them or looking from the bank but they just weren't interested enough to commit to our flies.  The PM is a very beautiful little river definitely worth fishing again under more favorable conditions.

Friday we fished with Kevin Feenstra on the Muskegon from his jet boat.  Last year when we fished with him the fishing was red hot to start the day including a double where I bent the hook out on a fish but tapered off as the light came up.  This year the day started off slow initially but once the sky lightened up the fishing really turned on.  The sun never stayed out for long and we had nearly ideal steelhead conditions with overcast skies and light snow on and off all day.  Almost every fish we hooked up was big and hot.  John and I were doing everything we could to stay connected to the fish and I had a little better luck doing so.  These fish were running, rolling and jumping in the big water.  I brought a couple of fish to the boat in the morning.

John lost a beast on a big sculpin that took on the end of a long swing and finally landed a small but more "manageable" fish later in the afternoon.  After losing all those fish during the day he redeemed himself on the last cast of the day landing a huge hen.

We had another awesome day fishing with Kevin and were making plans to fish with him next year on the drive back to the hotel room.  If you want to learn a little more about Kevin and fishing the Muskegon he has a new video out about swinging flies for steelhead that can be found at Swing a Big Fly

On Saturday we finished our trip up on the Muskegon but never touched a fish.  The day was much more pleasant and sunny which probably didn't help the fishing.  Around 3pm we packed up the car and drove through the night arriving back home in Maine midmorning.

Friday, October 29, 2010

A few flies for the trip

I've been at the vise over the last week filling up the boxes with steelhead flies.  I've got a few big flashy flies I've had luck with in the past like Feenstra's Halloween leeches and Aquatic Nuisances.  There are a few new flies I want to try out I found on Jeff Hubbard's site Outfitter's North like the luscious leech and trespasser.  I have confidence all this stuff will work well with higher water but if it ends up being low and clear which looks like the case this year I'll probably have to go to some smaller, less flashy stuff.  Normally my go to flies are woolly buggers in these conditions

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Preparing for Michigan Steel

Going to make the long drive out to Michigan for steelhead in November for a week.  Flew out last year for a couple of days and had a great trip so I'm heading back again this year except this time by car.  I hope to hit the Salmon or Catt in NY on the way depending on the conditions.  Would be a shame to pass those places without making a few casts if they are looking good.  Will fish the Muskegon again and spend some time on the PM too which I've never fished.

I cleaned up the bench and put away the random saltwater and bass/pike fly tying stuff that was scattered about.  I do still owe a few people some saltwater flies that I'll have to get to soon.  I did an inventory of my steelhead materials and made a list of stuff I can't live without.  Will have to make a trip to the shop to stock up.  I'm sure I have enough flies to get me through much more than a week of fishing but I can never have too many flies.  Going to give a few more traditional spey patterns a swing this year.  Last year the hot flies were variations of the aquatic nuisance.  Got to have more of them ready to go.

I need to swap over some lines and go through all the connections and make sure I have the right sink tips while trying to resist the urge to buy a new rod/reel, line, etc.  Seems like a lot to do in 2 weeks but will be just part of the fun of going on a trip.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Where did the summer go?

I slacked on updating the blog this summer.  It sure was a busy one and I ended up spending a lot of time with the family mostly camping, hiking, fishing and just playing around home.  I took a few fish pictures here and there but nothing all that exceptional.

I did more bass fishing than I have in quite a few summers.  They always seem to cooperate and come out to play when I have the time.  Went after the largemouths with deerhair poppers and chased smallmouth on the rivers.  The hot, dry summer seemed to be to their liking.  Had a close encounter with a very large smallmouth on a gurgler just five minutes from home.  In between catching little guys, a pig took the fly, dove downward taking line then came back up and exploded on the surface.  The hook pulled free once the fish splashed down.  Hard saying how big the fish was.  Just as well I didn't land it so in my mind it can be as big as I want.  I'll remember this fish as well as any this year.

The striper fishing was better than the last few years but it was hard to gauge how much better.  Fishing from shore was a struggle and after the early season just catching a couple fish seemed like a good day.  The average size of the fish was amazing although I didn't land any exceptional ones.  The lack of smaller fish was concerning.  Local anglers continue to argue about the state of the fishery but I'm betting on some dark times to come.  I kept going back to some of my favorite spots just to prove to myself that fish were still there but most of the time I was proven wrong.  I mostly attribute the better fishing this summer to the improved weather.

I didn't do much trout fishing.  The water got awfully warm and low and I wasn't able to travel to some of the areas that were less affected by the weather.  I did see someone close to home catch a legitimate 20"+ brown last night while walking along the river.  I'll be checking this spot out a little more until winter comes.

After having so much fun pike fishing this spring I wasn't sure I was going to get the chance to fish some more this year.  Lately we have been hit with the remnants of hurricanes frequently making the ocean dangerous to fish so Coops and I decided to spend a weekend chasing the pike around.  Even better I got to try out some pike flies I tied early summer that I thought would be sitting in a box unused until spring.  They fished beautifully.  We had to work for the pike but Coops ended up catching the best specimen of the season for us.
The bass fishing was pretty good too and provided some nice action both for some fattie large and smallmouths.

I'm not done for fishing for the year but have to say good bye to summer and hello to my favorite fishing season the fall.

Friday, July 16, 2010


Stripers seem to be transitioning over into their summer patterns in the area. Water temps are up and we have had a couple of weeks of hot, humid weather. I haven't made any terribly long excursions into the salt lately but have been sneaking out for a couple hours here and there. I was still catching fish every time out until last night where I pulled a skunk for the first time since the first day of the season for me. It was still a beautiful evening to be out.

I still haven't seen any great action outside around the structure but reports have been coming of people finding some fish out there and offshore too. I've mostly stuck to the beaches close to the rivers and estuaries. One night last week I saw some pretty good surface activity as it got dark. Normally I don't see much sustained surface feeding this time of year so it was encouraging. There is still lots of small bait including herring and sand eels around. A couple of times last night the terns were in a frenzy picking off the small bait trapped against a sandbar or shoreline. I didn't see a single fish though in all the activity.

Lately the most consistent fly I've been using is this size 2 guitar minnow which I have a lot of confidence in for matching the small bait we have around right now. Initially it might just look like a half & half clouser minnow but there has been a lot of fine tuning and tweaking of the pattern to improve it. I'll go to this fly over any normal 1/2 and 1/2 and sometimes those little subtle differences make all the difference.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Sunday stripers

Headed out with John at 2:30 am this morning hoping to find a bite in the dark on the last of the outgoing tide.  It was a much different night than the last time we got such an early start.  This time it mostly clear skies under a full moon so we were able to make a quick run to where we wanted to start fishing.    I love how peaceful it is fishing in the dark.  I started with a good sized blackbird and we picked up a couple of solid fish while it was still dark.  I wasn't even awake when I landed this first fish.

Blackbird in action

Once it got to be light we decided to fish some of the outer rocky structure.  We haven't found much at all yet this year outside but there should be some good fish set up by now.  We worked some of my favorite structure without seeing a single striper.

There were loads of pollack out there which is a good sign.  I have a feeling that we will have to do a lot of searching to locate fish this summer on the structure.  I don't mind as long as we are able to pick up some decent fish here and there.

I finally hooked up fishing a grocery pollack over some sand.  I missed the first hit on this cast but this fish or his buddy hit again and I got a hook into him.  There was another striper at least this big chasing this guy around during the fight.

Off to fight another day.

A couple flies that worked best today.

Another great day to be out on the water.  We had to work for the fish but can't complain about the average size of these fish.  On the way back in we saw some massive schools of small bait at the mouth of the Scarborough marsh.  Lots of bird activity but very little fish showing themselves.  It was a good ways into the incoming tide so it's possible that the fishing was hot either side of low.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


Spent a beautiful evening out fishing the flats with Yudi.  There were lots of fish around chasing scattered schools of juvenile herring on the surface.  They mostly stayed off in the deeper water and I never really felt like we were in range to make enough good casts to them.  There was hardly any wind and yet very few bugs.  We worked on some casting and waded around until after the sun set.

Friday, June 18, 2010


Lately I've been thinking about a new fly to tie up and use for fishing at night.  The fly is eel like in nature with a lot of movement and a couple of features to increase it's apparent bulk in the water and noise.  The fly has a rough deerbody hair collar to increase the bulk of the fly in the water and to create turbulence to activate the body and tail materials.  Not so much to increase its buoyancy to the point where the fly will float.  I was aiming for a fly with slightly less than neutral buoyancy. The fly is finished up with a big set of beadchain eyes which whistle on the cast and hopefully make a distinct sound in the water.  The first one I tied up is all black but I have some ideas for other color variations.  For dark nights I think black is the way to go.  I don't think the fish see much for color then anyway.  After tying it up and looking at it, the fly looks a lot like a blackbird to me so I think that's what I'll call it.

The fly proved itself the last time I got out fishing.  My time on the water has been very limited so John and I decided to get an early start and fish a few hours in the dark to give us some more time.  We splashed the boat around 2am but since it was such a dark night with overcast skies and fog it took us a while to get to where we wanted to fish.  We still had a good hour or more before there was even a hint of light.  Night fishing on a dark night without any moonlight or other ambient light is a strange experience.  Everything is done by feel.  I could barely make out the rocky shoreline and couldn't even begin to see my flyline as I was casting.  I hooked up about 4 fish in the dark.  They all were very weird strikes.  Most of the time I just felt the weight of the fish and set the hook.  The fish didn't move very much and I loaded my rod right up and the fish dogged it out.  I like a slow steady retrieve at night to allow the fish to hone in on the fly.  I think the fish just come up slowly and engulf the fly so that's why the strikes aren't very ferocious.  During the day the fish feed more by sight and can strike from a longer distance and continue on which can give a much more solid feeling of the take.

My supposedly good camera is having issues so most of the shots aren't coming out very well.  I sent it in to hopefully get it fixed under warranty.  Here's a couple of pics of a fish caught on the blackbird.

As it got light out I switched over to fishing some different deceiver like patterns and picked up a few more fish.  John and I ventured out to fish the outer islands and ledges but didn't find too much going on.

We headed back in to fish the where we caught the fish early in the day.  I switched over to a guitar minnow and got into a few more fish.  Sometimes with this pattern and the retrieve the fish can take the fly deep.

Got this solid stripe not long before I had to call it a day.

I have some time to fish this weekend and hope to get out and fling some flies around some of my favorite rocks.  Got the striper school at the flyshop with Lou Tabory on Sunday to look forward also.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Striper time

After all the good reports and having only one very slow trip so far this year I was dying to get back out in the salt to try and find a few stripers.  John splashed the boat at about 4am and we were off.  We knew there was some serious wind and rain coming later in the morning and we had some other stuff to take care of during the day so we tried to squeeze as many casts as we could into about 5 hours.  We pulled up to one of our more consistent spots and I was instantly into fish.  I put 3 solid stripers in the boat in the first 5 casts.

We caught a few more before the action slowed as the sun came up.

It didn't take long before it clouded up and the rain came.  We fished around some big schools of mackerel feeding on some small herring for a while.  For a few minutes a school of larger stripers came to the surface among the mackerel and were feeding on the small baitfish also.  We didn't manage to hook up any of these fish and as fast as they popped up they were gone again. 

We went off looking for fish again and found some close to our first spot.  The bite picked up as the rain intensified.  

Hero shot of John because he is my hero.


The guitar minnow was definitely the fly of the day and both John and I caught all of our fish on them.  We had a few hits on some bigger grocery flies and deer hair creations but never got a solid hookup on them.

Swimming off to fight another day.

Definitely one of the better mornings striper fishing for me the last couple of years. It still seems strange to me to be catching fish of this size this time of year without catch any little ones.  I hope we get a few good year classes of fish to fill in behind these guys.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Early start

Got an early start on what looked like a very promising day of striper fishing.  I've been hearing a lot of great reports lately.  It's nice that some people are off to a good start after quite a few slow seasons.  We didn't find much going on though.  John hooked up a couple fish early that he didn't get to the boat.  We saw a fish here and there on the surface but nothing sustained.  About 10 years or so ago all the spots we tried would almost definitely had some actively feeding fish.  I think the days are gone where we could go out and catch 20-30 fish on average on a morning tide.  The game has changed.  One good thing is the average size of the fish is way up.  When we were catching the large numbers of fish a 28" was exceptional but now that's about the average size.  I'm happy to work harder to catch larger fish instead of catching all the little ones but it does worry me a little.  Hopefully the population is just in some sort of cycle and will work itself out.  I have my doubts though.  We couldn't have asked for any better weather to start the season so if the fishing is going to be good it should be this year.