Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Diamond Library At The University of New Hampshire

My first impression was of warmth.  I was greeted by William Ross, a fly fishing enthusiast and Head of The Douglas and Helena Milne Special Collections & Archives at the University of New Hampshire. I am in a large room filled with master angling works that represent the true history of our passion.

Dick Surette's Desk sits boldly next to the windows, resting in a very fitting environment.

I was able to research the library resource at http://www.library.unh.edu/.  Knowing what you want is important as this library's books are kept locked away.  I handed my list to William.   

My first choice was Gary Borger's 'Presentation'.  then Jason Borger's, 'The Nature of Fly Casting'.  Both substantial works that will need far greater study than one visit to the library.  I decided to make an on line purchase of Presentation right then. 

I am now seated at my table and waiting with anticipation. William brings me my selections.  I start to delve into Gary's words. Did you know that trout don't mind bright light in their eyes?  What they sense from bright light is fear of being seen.  As light becomes greater during the day a fishes eye adjusts by sending pigment closer to the eye's surface.  Internal changes sending pigment to the surface of the eye starts when the day first changes from  night.  Then changes again as darkness falls.  We also can assume that a fishes eye sight is not very good.  Even up close shapes, colors and movements are all that is required to get that trout to bite.  The more our fly acts as nature the better or catch will be.  A poorly crafted fly in the the correct color and silhouette that is drifting perfectly will get more attention than one tied perfectly that travels with drag.  

Water absorbs light and therefore color as seeing color is the property of light reflecting off an object.  This is why UV, iridescence and fluorescence are used is popular flies.  They are simply easy to see.  Certain colors can also play a big role in what a fishes eye can see.  With the ability to see 26 distinct shades of color, what contrast we choose becomes important.   If we use a green fly in waters that are filled with green algae becomes hard to see as the contrast is lost.  Below six feet in a moderately lit pool we add flash movement can be detected.

There is so much to learn.  If you have the time, a visit to this library is highly recommended.   I became a better angler today after making one brief visit.  Next time at the river the color of my fly will be made after looking at the background be it bottom, water or sky.

The Diamond Library is a gem and needs to be visited.  I plan to do so twice a week for the next two months as I prepare for my Masters.  For more information call 603-862-1919 for hours and days open.  I highly recommend you do.   Who knows, you might even learn how to make a Fly First Cast as I did today.


Monday, July 18, 2016

Dry Flies That Float

Here's a little tip I have been using for a few years now.  Doesn't last forever but will keep your fly floating much longer.

Start by stringing a group of flies on light wire and then soaking in Loon Hydroseal for a half hour. Let the excess drip back into the container and hang for a few days to dry out.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Proper Two Hand Rod Balance

I have experienced many different rods and lines due to teaching two hand casting.   At the very beginning of a lesson, I ask the student if I can cast their rod.  This gives me a subtle way to determine the level of ease that my student will have in their angling day.   A line must match the rod and the rod must be balanced in order to cast easily.

Imagine a seesaw where the balance is not even.  Both sides will have advantage as well as disadvantage when we relate this to two hand casting when starting and stopping movement.

Because there is a learning curve to two hand equipment the set up is not always correct.  The first thing to consider is what line is desired.  The line is the product of the fly choice that must be fished in a way that is best performed to trigger a take from our target fish, with the location and conditions taken into account.

Each of the possibilities will have a different balance point on the same rod.

The reason we balance a two hand rod is based on starting and stopping forward and backward strokes.  The seesaw effect.   If we optimize the ease of movement then the rod will be perfectly balanced when swinging after the cast is made.   We will not have to hold the angle up or down but horizontal.

There is a key phrase in casting that starts the beginning of the balancing process.  It states "Short Line = Short Stroke, Long Line = Long Stroke"

A short head Skagit can be less than 20 feet long.  A Traditional Spey Line can be as long as 95 feet. Since the shorter head will require a shorter stroke the key factor to stroke length will be that the distance between reel and dominant top hand will be narrower.  Of course we are not going to desire a 16 foot rod for the Short Skagit as rod length is determined by line head and belly length.  This evolution of lines in relation to rod length I will hold for another post. For now we need to understand that shortened rod lengths has also shortened fore grip size.  The fore grip fulcrum point is the determining factor no matter what the line choice.  It will be in a different location according to casting style required for your line style choice.  Scandi's to Short Head Traditional's to Skagits or Overhead Shooting there is going to be a balance point that will offer a weight free start and stopping point like that seesaw that is on the center pinion with people of exacting weights at both ends.

First determine the proper line required and put only the line on the reel and put the reel on the rod.  String the rod and have the typical amount of line that there will be out the tip of the rod at the moment of your forward casting stroke stop.  For the short head Skagit it is going to be about 20 to 24 feet.  For a Scandi it will be in the 28 foot range and for a traditional line about 40 to 50 feet.  Have a kitchen food scale ready to go.  Place a pivot point in the exact location that you will have your dominant hand on the fore grip.  At this time the rod will tell you what is needed.  If the butt is heavy you need a lighter reel.  If the top is pointing down we need to add backing.  Take a paper cup and start to fill with weights, pebbles or sand and place on top of the rod over the reel.  When your rod is balanced on the pivot you now have an exacting total weight requirement for the reel, remaining line and backing.    Now, remove the reel and remove the line from the reel.  Weigh the contents of the cup and the reel and write it down.  Now you can start to put on your backing.  When the weight of the reel plus the backing equals the reel and the contents of the cup you are ready to install the line.  If the reel is too small the line will not fit and the process will be repeated with a larger reel.  If the reel is too large there will be too much space and make for a reel that spins too fast and coils our line too tight.

Most of us will opt for the trial and error method and not use a scale.  It doesn't really matter so long as the end result is the same.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Big Dry Fly (Rodan)

I was out fishing one of my local rivers last week.  While presenting every style of dry fly I owned to some very reluctant fish a large spent Dobsonfly fell from an overhanging tree.  I know the river to be filled with hellgrammites and understanding this life cycle became an important task.  The huge floating bug didn't last five feet before it was consumed by a good sized rainbow.

In the river bed we will find the larva stage of this big bug.  Clinging to the underside of rocks and feeding on other smaller larva of caddis, mayfly and midges, for up to five years.  They can go through a molting of exoskeleton up to twelve times as they outgrow their skin.

Reaching a pupal stage is the time they crawl from the river and can walk up to 50 feet from the bank.  They will find a moist location under rocks for another week or two.  Metamorphosis takes place and the courtship begins.  Males fight for the rights to females.  

Another two weeks and the females will lay eggs clinging to leaves above the river or on rocks along the bank where the hatching larva falls into the water in search of it's residence.  They like the faster oxygenated riffles that will provide a food supply.

A key factor to their entire life cycle is the darkness of night.  During the summer when their time to leave the stream starts the thunderstorms vibrations trigger their walking journey.

So, now that I learned a bit about these large four wing adults the tying began.   First was on a #8 4x long streamer hook and was too small.  Next a #4 5x and that seemed to be the right size.  Off to the river I went with three hours to learn what I could.

I tied on the 5x and made my first cast to a visible bow.  The fly landed three feet above in a slow current and the fish took the fly.  No hook up.  Ten more times I had fish take the fly with the same result.  No hook up.  The only fish that fit the entire bug in it's mouth all at once was a three pound smallmouth bass.

What I realized was the trout were grabbing the fly by the wings and needed to chomp in order to take it in their mouth completely.  One bite and they knew it was a fake and spit it out.   The other problem was keeping the fly floating.   Back to the bench.

Softer foam wings, foam under body and a smaller hook placed up at the head with a hollow tube as the body extension.  I sealed the back of the tube with UV epoxy.

Again, I went back to the river.  Crazy how many fish continued to be attracted to the fly.  The floating issue is totally solved.  Fish were making takes and still not getting hooked.  Then it hit me.  The leader was slightly dragging the fly so it was pointing toward me.  So, I changed my position to only be casting down and across stream giving me the ability to control the fly pointing up stream and still be dead drifting.  When the 18" Rainbow took the fly and then turned the hook was in position.  Next ties will have a slightly larger hook.
Now that I know I have a real working fly it is time to give it a name.  It will be called

Monday, June 20, 2016


Built this 6'6" 3 weight as an addition to the collection of rods I offer. The blank is available in three lengths and weights. I decided to give it a test drive this week end. Because of not being familiar with short fiberglass rods it took me a bit of time to get the feel. As the day went on I found that this soft action stick was a powerhouse when needed. Slow and easy was the way to go. I made curves and aerial mends with ease. Spey style casting was great fun. I must say that I have been adverse to shorter sticks, but now I see the light. Can't wait to get out again and find some larger fish for the final test.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Glass Is Back

Here is my new PLUNGE Series of Linear Glass Fly Rods.  Comes is 6'  2wt., 6'6"  3wt. and 7'  4wt.  Each rod is appointed with agate stripper guide, epoxy burl cork accents and is wrapped in my quality sock and aluminum tube.  No need to dive in the deep end with a rod at such a shallow cost.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Weekend Rainbows On The Run

The bows are moving nicely right now.  I am amazed at the range of flies that these lake run fish will take.  This one hit a hot pink San Juan Micro worm.  Never my go to fly but one that was shared on the river.  We were also successful with Orange Eggs, Caddis Pupa, Hendrickson, Olive Leech and Pheasant Tails. 

Saturday started out very cold with the guides freezing until 1pm.  I was never able to get warm until hitting D&D's for a hot chocolate on the ride home.  All toll for a group of eight, between Saturday & Sunday, about a dozen and a half fish were landed with the smallest at 16 inches.  The largest was 20+ inches that hit a Caddis.

The key to this style of fishing is, with out a doubt, a slow and natural flow presentation.  None of my fish hit a swinging fly even though I was fishing a streamer or leech as my top fly.  What this tells me is that the water is still cold and the metabolism of the trout low.  Always be aware of the distance between your indicator and the first weight.  Many anglers are using a weighted fly as the way to get down.  As no two pools are the same depth and speed you must always adjust.

Very soon the water will warm and it will be the suckers turn to spawn.  This time becomes the high point of the spring season for me when the Landlocked Salmon move in to feed on Sucker spawn.  As long as the water holds the Smelt will arrive and we should have good salmon fishing for the month of April and a decent chunk of May.


Friday, January 8, 2016

The Modern Switch Rod Advantage

The most important aspect of my rod crafting is the Switch Rod.  They just have so many applications and today many to choose from.I do my best to match up the anglers need with the correct blank.  It doesn't matter if the blank is expensive ore not, the build gets the same high quality.  Switch rods are being used for everything from trout to striped bass and on the swing to nymphing.  If you have any questions or want to start a discussion toward the perfect build please contact me at William@FlySpoke.com.  If the blank is available I can make the build

Thursday, December 31, 2015


 This is my 11 foot 3 weight FullFlex Trout Stick.  It has so many advantages over a traditional fast action 9 foot rod it is a wonder why any trout angler who angles dry fly, soft hackles and nymphs would not have one in their collection.  The concept is actually very unique.  A tool that will cast using water and air loads, mends at long distance and plays the largest trout on the lightest tippet.  Sound like a plan?  www.TheFlySpokeShop.com 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Spey Fly

FlySpoke At Grantown on Spey Beat
Many anglers of silver and chrome are traveling back in time by deploying beautifully crafted old world offerings to entice their quarry.  Flicked through the air with the legendary artistry of the single and double Spey, or the newer movements that make up Snake Roll, Snap T, Circles, Wombats and more.

But what is at the end of the line, no matter what casting style or river are ancient as well as modern Spey Flies.  By historic definition, we need to understand that flies with long flowing hackles have been passed down through a large enough number of us, so that the term Spey Fly has become generic.  There are also Dee Flies, Tay Flies and flies from every river in Scotland that had individual characteristics to point to their geographic origin.  From hook to cheek and feathers there are substantial enough differences to keep an ardent cynosure guessing.  Personally, I get a lot of joy tying and adapting them to fit my style and fishing situations.

The evolution of these flies, that has taken solidly here in the United States, are the hackle tip creations of Syd Glasso, Dick Wentworth and Walt Johnson.  I look at the work of Bob Veverka and hope that I can come close to such proficiency.  Many use the same construction techniques as the old flies with just as many variations to be considered new developments.  The main factor of the classics was determined by the available materials that could be obtained locally in the late 1800's.  So even back in the 19th century special Spey Roosters were being genetically developed for their hackles to wind on long bodies, giving the style it's unique character.  Today with the restrictions of materials we must adapt in kind.

I offer this step by step construction of a true classic on a modern platform.  Please understand, there is enough information on this subject to write a complete book.  I am offering but a minor sample of the possibilities.

The Lady Caroline
Old to New
First we need to pick a good platform.  A Daiichi  Alex Jackson Black Size 3 #2059
I like this hook because it is very close to the original hook curve.
The Tail
Most Spey Flies had no tail.  Going back to information about patterns and tying there are only but a few available. The lady Caroline gets a Golden Pheasant Red Breast Feather for the tail.  This is a very somber shade of red but has a beautiful appearance when matched with the Gold Rib.Note that the tail is not very long and will determine the length of the hackle I use later.  Also pick barbules from the same side of the stem that will curve slightly up and not the feathers tip.  Our thread is used unwound and as flat as possible in a minimalist application.
The Ribs
This fly has three ribs.  Wide Gold, narrow gold twist and narrow silver twist.  There are a number of ways that this style of ribbing can be applied.  Three parallel, two parallel and one counter crossed, or two counter and one regular crossed.  The most important technique for your ribs is to make sure that your are tying them to the hook in different and orderly places.  They must not overlap and need to be able to flow evenly in perfect angles from the first wrap.
The Body
The Lady Caroline uses Berlin Wool that is blended with one part olive and two parts brown.  The research I have done has this step in a bit of flux.  Some instruction will tell you to take the individual strands of the woven wool and twist them together before tying in to the hook.  To me a blend means to take the wool in the appropriate quantities and pull it apart to create a dubbing.  I truly don't know if this is what was done at Castle Grant, so long ago, but it is my conclusion.  I make sure that the dubbing is very tight and wound forward to just before where the head of the fly will be.
The Hackle
What was available for the construction of this fly was Heron.  If you are lucky to see a true Heron feather you will understand the magic of movement it makes in the water.  Heron is illegal in the United States, but can be purchased and used in other countries.  My feather of substitution is the natural gray Blue Eared Pheasant.  This feather is beautiful so long as the quality is in order.  You must look at the tips and the suppleness of the stem.  First decide how full you want the hackle to be.  Use both sides of the stem, by folding them back, for full profiles or strip the right side barbules for a lighter wispy look.   Tie in by the stem at the head of the fly judging your turns so that as much of the tip is used.  Make sure that you are back from the eye as you do not want a heavy build up at the head.  Wind the flat gold and silver ribs to the front and tie off.  Wind your hackle back to the gold rib tie in and secure the hackle with each turn of rib moving forward.  Trim the hackle.
The Throat
Again we will use a Golden Pheasant Red Breast Feather.  For this fly tie it in as a collar, pull down and secure.  If any of the barbules are a problem sticking up then just carefully trim from the top.  Stroke them down to create a beard.
The Wing

There are a few different ways to tie in a Spey Fly Wing.  As well there are a number of different materials that can be used.  The look of a Spey wing when compared to the look of a Dee wing is a key factor in this construction.  Besides the total somber color scheme of Spey flies, the shell back application is key.
Pick two matching Bronze Mallard feathers and remove the short sides.  Find the sweet spot and separate with a bodkin six barbules from each that will be the apposing wings.  The barbucells will hold these barbules together as you  handle them.  Work slowly and carefully.  You can apply together or one at a time.  If you do one at a time then make sure that the far side is placed first and then the one closest to you.  The method of wrapping is a two loose wrap and then tighten by pulling the thread straight down.  Make sure that the wing is not wrapped and pulled away from you as you tighten.   I also make sure that I am applying these wings on a slight build up at the front of the hook.  Any bump behind your thread point will make the wing flare up and out.  You want these wings to lie as flat as possible on the top of the body.  If the hackles are in the way then pull them down or carefully remove.
The Head
You want to make sure that the head of the fly is as small as possible.  If you wrap forward and then back with as few turns overlapping as possible you will be able to tie off at the bottom back of the head.  Four coats of clear head cement and you are ready to cast in the old Scottish Tradition.
The New
Now use your imagination.  Here is the same construction using different materials.  The pattern was tied in the style of Syd Glasso but has all the same elements of how old flies were tied.   

For Reference
Spey Flies - How to Tie Them by Bob Veverka
Spey Flies & Dee Flies by John Shewey
Classic Salmon Flies by Mikael Frodin

Friday, October 16, 2015


We are going to be fast approaching some late winter fishing in New York.  Before you know it March and April will seem close at hand and you might want to be ready.  Here are a few items to think about.

#10-When nymphing leave your fast action rod in the car, the softer more shock resistant the better, those fish are crazy
#9- Get to the river well before dawn, you will be lucky to be first
#8-3X Fluorocarbon works fine using a FlySpoke Knot at the fly and a Double Surgeon leader to tippet, lighter will get you a few more hook ups but you won't stand much of a chance
#7-Change flies every 15 casts
#6-Have enough flies with you to give patterns that work to others, you will receive in kind
#5-Visit all the local fly shops, spend money at each, and ask the same questions looking for consistency
#4-Constantly check your leader for damage
#3-If you are swinging flies always choose the harder to access less frequented side of the river
#2-Let your fly dangle in the current at the end of each swing
And the #1 thing to remember while fishing Steelhead on the Salmon River in New York

 You are but a humble participant in a game that will require all the skill you can surmount when a big November Steelhead decides it is the boss..........