Saturday, February 25, 2012

Fly Tying Tip #127

Recently I spent some time with Enrico Puglisi.  I asked him to show and explain the uses of his various materials, and in what flies they were most often found.

Now, if you are a salt water angler, you probably understand the outstanding importance of these materials.  But as a Steelhead and Atlantic Salmon guy, I am going to find  some new aspects of what I was shown.

I have been incorporating Enrico's brushes with materials like Finn Raccoon and Arctic Fox and I am getting some great fat back effects.  The brilliance, body and colors are in a class of their own.....I'm looking forward to mid March on the Salmon River and close by New York creeks to confirm what I think I already know........

Thursday, February 23, 2012

FlySpoke Spring Casting Lesson Schedule

During the months of March & April, I will be offering group lessons in single and two hand casting. Please contact me by phone or email for sign up. Every class will be strictly limited to the first 6 students paid at a cost of $35 for each class, except those classes indicated differently below. These are two hour plus classes unless indicated, and you are guaranteed to leave a better caster than when you arrived. The locations are listed. It doesn't mater what level you are at now. I am making these classes long enough so that personal attention is possible for all. Beginners to advanced are welcome. All classes are mixed gender. This is an opportunity to improve your casting as well as catching. I have scheduled these classes so that anyone who takes a week one or two class will get the time to practice before returning for a later more advanced scheduled class.

March 24, 2012
Class 1 - 9am Single Hand Service Veterans(free class)any donation will be 100% given to Project Healing Waters. The only requirement is you are serving or are a veteran. This is a land class and will cover the many aspects of what it takes to make a great presentation. Massabesic Lake Park, Auburn, New Hampshire
Class 2 – 1:30pm Two Hand Steelhead Skagit & Scandi Short Head Underhand Casting, this is a water class, waders are required. Headed to Pulaski post spawn on the swing? Perfect timing. Profile Falls Recreation Area, Bristol., New Hampshire

March 31, 2012
Class 3 - 9am Single Hand Casting, this is a land class for beginner to medium skill levels. You will go as far as your ability will allow. You will leave this class with the total understanding of what and how a tight loop is made. Correcting and improving will be the focus. Massabesic Lake Park, Auburn, New Hampshire
Class 4 - 1:30pm Two Hand Casting Including Shooting Salter Style. This is a water class. Waders are required. Traditional Spey, Scandi, Skagit and Salter Overhead. The Switch Rod will be addressed. Get all the information you will need to fish in the style of your choice. Rods, lines, tips, leaders and casting style for each will be detailed. Profile Falls Recreation Area, Bristol, New Hampshire

April 7, 2012
Class 5 - 9am to 11am for 12 to 17 year old Single Hand Beginners Casting, Parents welcome to attend $20 per student, This is a land class. Massabesic Lake Park, Auburn, New Hampshire
Class 6 - 11am to 12:30 11 years old and under Beginners Class Any donations will be 100% given to Casting For Recovery. Parents asked to attend. This is a land class, Start a casting life correctly. Massabesic Lake Park, Auburn, New Hampshire
Class 7 - 1pm Single Hand Casting with the emphasis on Spey Casting style for one hand. This is a water class and waders are required. Massabesic Lake Park, Auburn, New Hampshire

April 14, 2012
Class 8 - 9am Single Hand Casting, let it all hang out and finish with the longest cast of your life. This is a land class. Geared to casters who feel they have good to excellent skills. Massabesic Lake Park, Auburn, New Hampshire
Class 9 - 1:30pm Two Hand Casting, all styles will be addressed. For the two hand caster who wants to refine their style. Personal attention will be the key to making sure that you are maximizing the potential of your style. This is an in the water class, waders required. Profile Falls Recreation Area, Bristol, New Hampshire

Please contact me at or call 603-501-9511. Private lessons can be arranged at any time. I work specificity geared toward your angling agenda. I am a Federation Of Fly Fishers Certified Casting Instructor having achieved what it takes to offer the highest of learning experience.

Detailed information will be supplied for all casters who register for a class. Soft drinks and water will be provided. No hooks or flies are needed. Your equipment as is will be fine. Should you desire purchasing equipment that is style specific I will be happy to advise what is needed. Cleaning lines is encouraged.

My Letter In Reference To Rebuilding the Dam At Scribner's Mill On The Crooked River In Maine

Dear Mr. Bullard,

I write to you in opposition of a favorable decision to obstruct the Crooked River at Scribners Mill.  

Throughout New England there is an understanding, that at one time, dams were erected for a propose.  The greater good of the people was served.  We also have an understanding that the decimation of our natural resources caused by those actions were not serving the interests of the greater good.

Today I see no positive application or effect of a greater good by allowing a single company or person to obstruct any waterway, let alone a water resource as valuable to the great State of Maine as this one with it's fate in your hands.


                                                   If you are opposed to damming the Crooked
River, then now is the time to stand up and be
counted. Please send your letters and e-mails to:
Bill Bullard
Project Manager
Division of Land Resource Regulation
Maine Department of Environmental Protection
312 Canco Road
Portland, ME 04103
If you feel that you need more information, e-mail:
Steve Heinz:  

  Here is the reply I received to my letter.

Thanks for your letter expressing concerns about the Scribner’s Mill dam and sawmill project proposed by Scribner’s Mill Preservation Inc. (SMPI)

The project has been assigned Department #L-21190-35-C-N and is being reviewed under the Maine Waterway Development and Conservation Act (MWDCA) and is also being reviewed for water quality certification under Section 401(d) of the Clean Water Act.

The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) is reviewing the project for potential impacts to existing fisheries in the Crooked River with a particular focus on the spawning habitat and fish passage provisions for landlocked salmon.

MDIFW provided initial review comments and SMPI submitted a response to these comments on September 30, 2011. MDIFW is now evaluating that response and, when complete, will then issue their final review comments on the project. Water quality impacts and the erosion control plan are being evaluated by Department staff.

When the reviews of these and other provisions of the MWDCA are completed an order approving or denying the project will be issued.

Bill Bullard, Project Manager
Division of Land Resource Regulation
Department of Environmental Protection
312 Canco Road
Portland, ME 04103

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Spring Steelhead , Swing Or Drift? The Choice Is Yours..........

Right now the door is opening wide on the available styles to fish the fly for Steelhead in New York State.  As February turns to April, there is a constant increase in the effective amount of time per day that offers a connection.  Between now and the second week of April you should plan to make the trip.

Right now we are in the pre spawn mode waiting for water temperatures to increase from the winter's lows.  The sun is getting higher and there is a relatively small amount of snow in the woods.  This is an odd year for sure.  Cold mornings will turn to increasing temperatures that can raise the water by very small increments that will give fish the trigger to get on the bite.  You are looking for days that the high temperatures will be in the low forties at best.  The reason is that when the day is bright and extra warm the river will receive melting snow and ice that will lower the temperature.  This is a key factor to putting the fish down.  A gradual melt from the hills is what will make for the best conditions.

My number one desire is to swing flies with a two hand rod.  Because I know that my options are limited during the beginning of this period,  I make sure that I am well prepared for my day on the water.  I will have time enough during March and early April to use a longer two hand rod for the pure swing. Water temperatures will raise and the fish will get far more aggressive to chase a fly. During the end of February right until the spawn I use a two hand rod that can be converted by a change of tips and leader to swing or nymph.  I refer to this as my Swimph Rod.  The soft tip is the key to handling Steelhead with light tippets.

This is the transitional time where a number of things are happening rapidly.  You are going to need to make choices between how you will spend your time as well as where. This is the time when the biggest fish of the season will be on the move, fresh from the lake and swimming with the direct purpose of nature.  This is the greatest opportunity for a trophy on the swing in the lower part of the river.  This is also the easiest way to go home for the day without a fish.  There is always the option to stay in the middle and upper river to nymph to the largest quantity of fish that the resource will receive for the year.

By the end of March it is spawning time, the air and water temperatures are moderating, fish are all there.  The entire river is full of a mixed bag of fish and depending on the water quantity and temperature some fish will start to drop back to the lake.  When this happens I go to full swing mode.

The spawn can continue depending on water temperature.  This is a time for me to swing with any number of fly styles.  There are a lot of hungry fish available in a warming flow.  I am prepared to go really big with stinger leaches, intruders and tubes.  West Coast Syd Glasso style flies as well as smaller soft hackle and collar creations will all take fish.  The lower part of the river will get my attention as the fish are starting to make their way past me to the lake to spend the summer.

This is the time to go as much as you can.  There is no other fishery on the East Coast that compares with the possible quality fish you could hook.  Don't let the talk of crowds and unruly people stop you from experiencing this fishing.  Pay attention to the weather, the river flow and making sure you are fully prepared to be out all day.  The reality of Steelhead fishing in New York is that the angling civility is increasing with the quality of the fishing.

Nymph when you must.  Swing when you can.............


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Maine Atlantic Salmon In Jeopardy

I received this letter today and asked to spread the word......
Unfortunately, the Atlantic salmon restoration program in Maine is officially on it's deathbed.   As of July 1, 2012 the program will enter into a death spiral and become a vestige of its former self.  The program is in a whole lot of trouble.

How did we get here?  

Here is a little history lesson.  If you recall, beginning with the McKernan administration when it cut the Atlantic Salmon Commission budget by 63%, the State of Maine has repeatedly failed to properly fund diadromous fish restoration.  With each successive budget since those dark days of the early 1990's , more and more (State of Maine) General Fund dollars were diverted for other uses (some obviously legitimate, others not).  Riding in on their white horses were the federal agencies waving a few dollars that the State gratefully accepted in lieu of funding programs that the State should be funding.  First, it was the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service - that lasted less than 10 years until they tired of being the State's sugar daddy.  Second, it was NOAA who established a grant program with specific deliverables essentially making the state's scientists their field technicians. 
Now, NOAA is backing out of its agreed to 5-year commitment to the State starting with year 2 of the agreement.  The State had requested $1.5M per year for the five year term of the agreement in order to perform all the deliverables that NOAA was asking of the State.  The grant is to support 14.5 Full-Time Equivalents (FTEs = staff positions).  NOAA countered with $1.2M and the State agreed and the State was poised to layoff  2.5 FTEs on July 1, 2012.  Additional positions were not to be filled at retirement (also on July 1).  So effective July 1, the program was to be pared down to 11 FTEs.  However, NOAA reconsidered and is now cutting an additional $500K from the grant.  Needless to say, this cutback will have a devastating impact on the State's ability to perform any semblance of restoration.  As it stands today, effective July 1 the State will have 5 FTEs in the entire State working on restoration.  (Incidentally, the Penobscot will be down to 1.5 FTEs or 2.5 FTEs depending on how staff are realigned).  It is a travesty in two respects: 1) NOAA has reneged on its agreement and essentially has pulled the rug out from under the State's program late in the game; 2) the State should have recognized the risks of federal handouts and the fact that the spigot could be turned off at a moments notice.  Sadly, but not surprisingly, the State has no backup plan.  What makes it even sadder is that this is occurring on the eve of the removal of two dams that has been ballyhooed as the greatest thing to happen in diadromous fish restoration.  Well, the State of Maine is certainly not prepared to move forward and the entire restoration is now threatened: no resources = no restoration.  NOAA has not so secretly desired control of the program.  Looks like the ball is now in their court.  Unfortunately, the State has abdicated its management rights and NOAA is the big bad wolf waiting for little red riding hood, ready to pounce on the carcass. Mark the date - July 1, 2012.
It would be helpful to spread the word and get some sort of groundswell of support to communicate concerns to the Congressional delegation and others who may have control of purse strings, federal or otherwise.  John Burrows at ASF has been contacted and he and Andy Goode are now aware of these dire circumstances.   We all need to let others know. 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Scuds Are Everywhere

As part of the order Amphipoda, the physical composition of scuds offer a substantial food requirement for trout and land locked salmon.

They tend to thrive in an alkaline environment and are rich in calcium.  The other great feature is that they are available all year long.  They live world wide with over 700 different varieties.

The life of these macro-invertebrates starts as an egg that hatches aquatically.  There is no metamorphosis as in the mayfly and caddis insects we might be more familiar with.   The scud grows in size over it's one year life span through a molting process as in other Crustaceans.

There are a few distinct characteristics that are most important to us as anglers.  The first is the color range.  The most abundant family of scud is in the Gammarus genus.  They range from white, tan, brown, olive and when dead will be a pale orange.  Their size range can be as large as a size 8 and as small as a 22.  You will find scuds primarily in dead water lakes and ponds and small streams.  They hide on bright days and are most active when cloudy.

Scuds should be tied on straight hooks as well as the more common curved.  This is because, when active, they dart around and extend their bodies to swim.  The features that should be included in our creations will incorporate two pair of antennae, two eyes, thirteen individual body segments from the head and eight pairs of appendages that are spread to the end of the body.  There is no tail as they are not true shrimp.

I fish Scuds as part of my regular routine.  There is nothing like a white Scud to get a big brown trouts interest.  In waters where this rich food form is present, they should be part of your daily routine.


Saturday, February 11, 2012

Fly Tying Tip #126

Many years ago, I fished Atlantic Salmon  in New Brunswick, Canada  out of Arlington Bamfords camp.  Sadly I only knew Mr. Bamford in his ending years.  He was a wise angler who lived the legends of the Marimachi and I remember one very valuable piece of information he shared with me.

One day in October he asked me, "what is the first thing you do when you get to the river?.  Looking puzzled and too young to bother with anything other than jumping in and catching a fish, he said, "ya take a big hand full of gravel and wash your hands, they can smell you"

Given the incredible sense of smell that fish possess, and the understanding that fish automatically turn off instinctively when factors are out of sync, it has led me to think about this statement in broader terms.  Not only what smells I am adding to my fly just to tie it on, but the storage containers where I keep my materials that could be adding unwanted aroma.  We might enjoy the distinctive value of a good Cuban cigar, but last I heard, fish don't smoke....

Friday, February 10, 2012

Please Welcome A New Sponsor

Mark Wilde, owner of Uncle Jammer's Vermont Guide Service, has been guiding for 14 years.  His passion for fly fishing, combined with the skills and patience developed over 30 years as a high school agriculture and natural resources teacher make him an effecive guide and instructor.  A Federation of Fly Fishers Certified Casting instructor and Instructor at the Wulff School of Fly Fishing, Mark especially loves teaching fly fishing and witnessing first time experiences of his clients.

I highly encourage you to let Mark by your guide.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Fly Tying Tip #125

A Little Sparkle Might Just Get Some Attention
There is a world of special effects to be found at your local pharmacy store.  Display after display of nail polish in every color possible and containing tiny bits of sparkle.  When Mayflies go through the transformation from nymph to dunn, they must release themselves from the bottom of the river, swim up and break through the surface film.  As you can imagine this is not an easy task were in not for the production of gas bubbles that aid in buoyancy. 
This effect can be replicated by use of flash back or dubbing with UV properties.  A way that I create this look is to use very small amounts of nail polish with holographic flecks.  I will paint bodies, wing casings or just the head.  You will find many products with flecks of all different sizes.  I even use these for the heads of Steelhead flies.  Try it, you might even paint a nail or two.....

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Swing, Swing, Swing

When I was fifteen years old, I was a musician, well more like a guitar player.  Me and the band would run through the fields in town pretending to be the Beetles.  The drummer's father, a music buff from the 1940's himself,  wanted to take us to see the great Gean Krupa in New York City, playing at the Metropole Cafe. I was very excited for this opportunity and can still see Gene up on the high stage playing his immortal Swing, Swing, Swing.

Today  getting fish on the swing, swing, swing is of great importance for me.  I am in my sixth year using a five weight switch rod and use it for all medium to large river trout situations including nymphing.  This is the third year doing the same with an eight weight Switch for Steelhead.  There are so many advantages to this style of fishing that not using these tools is down right foolish.  If you are stuck on your nine foot single hand rod, please consider a switch.  Line control is one value and by itself enough reason for me.  The one major thing to consider is that the tip be soft.  Properly named by my angling partner, Leo, a "Swimph Rod".  You need the happy medium between swinging a faster action and having a softer tip to handle the quick changing reaction when playing a big fish on light tippet when nymphing.  Especially Steelhead......

Six years ago, and for that matter one year ago, there were no lines available for what I was attempting to do.  One Rod, One reel, One line that converts to both swinging and nymphing.  Most people think of a switch rod as one that will cast single or double handed, but that is not how they got their name.  One day master rod builder Bob Meiser and West Coast friends Bob Quigley and Paul Miller were fishing together for Steelhead.   Bob had a new short rod he wanted to try out.  As the day went on the three were changing out lines and each having a go at the new short two hander and they said "Let's Switch" enough times to each other no name the new concept a Switch Rod.  

I started out taking heavier than standard requirement weight forward lines and cutting off all but fourteen feet of the head and attaching that to thin shooting lines.  This line was able to handle indicators and weights for nymphing or poly leaders for swinging without the inertia issues that occur when using standard lines..  Having a braided or mono loop at the front made the quick change possible.  Then I started to take short belly Spey lines, bought on sale, cutting back the head until I have fifteen to eighteen feet of belly and then an integrated shooting line.  People would look at me funny and just nod politely.

Today you can purchase a number of very short head lines.  The one I really like is the Royal Wulff Ambush.  These lines are the same idea as the lines I built and are now the norm for switch rods.  I still use the ones I build.  Not because they are better but because they are mine.  Maybe some time one of the rod companies would be interested in building the first Swmiph.

Yesterday, was another great winter scene in New England.  I went to the river knowing that even though the water temperature is very cold the fish were taking when the fly was moving.  I had prepared for the day by building some larger size streamers and leech flies.  It has been the olive color that has been the hot ticket.

Same rod, Same reel, Same line with an easy choice between bottom bounce nymphing and swinging with sink tips and poly leaders or just removing the indicator.  Today, the only reason to have a single had rod in your hands is when fishing the dry fly.  For that I can think of no better tool.


Friday, February 3, 2012

The 2012 Atlantic Salmon Season

Click Graph For Latest Results
Here in the North East United States, so far, we have had one of the mildest and storm free winters on record.  If you look at the graph above it holds the reasons and understanding of why this happens.  In prior posts, I have explained the North Atlantic Oscillation and it's effects on Atlantic Salmon returns in North America.

Simply, the NAO has been in a positive, northerly position,  state for this entire season starting back in October.  Also note that the red line forecasts show a possibility that we will be in a negative position very soon. If the temperature in the North East gets colder you will know why.

You may have seen on the news the extra cold temperatures that have been locked in the Arctic.  Because the boundary between high and low barometric pressure in the North Atlantic has been pushed so far north, the cold is blocked and can not move south.  Conversely, the warm is able to travel farther north carrying the storms and warmer air in the elevated jet stream across Southern Canada.  This would usually mean greater snow fall in Quebec and the Eastern Providences.

What this also means is that those storms traveling across North America are moving into the Atlantic Ocean at a higher latitude disrupting the winter feeding areas that Atlantic Salmon require to sustain numbers and size.  Food is scattered and harder to find.   It also means that these storms will travel farther north in the Atlantic and circle down into Europe causing lower than normal temperatures and substantial snowfall.  The normal path would have these storms joining with the effects of the Gulf Stream and offering Europe a typically mild winter.  Given the news reports I have seen, sadly Europe is having a less than typical and deadly winter.

As hard as it is to make any prediction,  and if I were only using the information so far, and except for one factor, the writing would be on the wall.  I would say we are going to certainly have a down turn from last year.  Not a bad season because of the fairly even line on the graph.  Years past have had the spikes be car  more dramatic in both directions.  If the graph were to turn negative and stay that way for the balane of the winter I might have a different opinion.

This year, the X factor is that there have not been so many harsh storms that have moved across Newfoundland and north to Greenland.  I have been told by a highly reliable source in Newfoundland that things are close to average with a bit more snow on the eastern part of the Provence.

This factor could negate the effects of the oscillation alone.  If the ocean is not tormented then predator will find it's prey comfortably.

So as the season progresses into summer, remember that the Oscillation is in an upward swing of it's thirty five year cycle.  Just like the banner year of 1996 during the doldrums happened, 2012 might not go down in history as very special.  But then again..........

So, now that I have said this, it is a wait and see for me.  This is year number four trying to understand Earth science from an anglers point of view.  Also it is very early in the winter season to conclude any prediction.  I plan to closely follow the NAO for the next three months as conditions could change.  I know that I  need many more years of full season information to completely understand all the effects that are possible.