Saturday, December 14, 2013

Two Hand Casting "The Stop", Or Not To Stop. There Isn't A Question.......

In our two hand casting quest for that perfect loop, or "true loop" as described by Way Yin, there is one aspect that controls the front shape of the loop that is without question. It is called "The Stop". I now call it the "The Almost Stop" and mostly use a much more modern version called "Pull Rod Straight".. Given are the elements of straight tip path and smooth continuous acceleration and we come to the end of each forward stroke with either an abrupt stop or just a stopping of the forward translation  movement of the top hand  . Inertia of the rod and line weight will not allow us to stop like hitting a wall. But there are things we can do to make the almost stop as close to dead stop as possible.  There is also a way to use the none abrupt stop to make tight loops.  Yes, even tighter loops than abrupt stopping.  I know we have all been trained in the formation of making loops with abrupt stops.  For now, let's consider that there is more than one way to form loops..

First let's understand the physics and nature of the hard stop made by the muscles in our upper arm. There is such a thing as the most effective and strongest position of each muscle in our body. For the upper arm it comes with a bend at the elbow and residing close in to our upper body. What does this tell us about the use of our upper grip and the stop? It tells us that if we extend our elbow far forward and open we are increasingly at a disadvantage in the strength required to make the abrupt stop.

In my teaching a constant fault I see is the extension of the upper grip arm too far forward. No matter abrupt or non stop methods will have the upper arm in a bent position.  We blame this over extension on Singlehandcastitis and the muscle memory of many casting years.  This is one way to make a cast but not the only way.  Take Lefty Kreh for an example in relation to a single hand casting stroke. His forward stroke starts well back and then slightly rotates to a stop with the elbow very close to the body. He uses body rotation and forward movement as part of the driving power source.  He likes to keep this tight to the core position as it will help the arm muscles to stay flexed and not extended. He also believes that this strong tight position will keep us casting longer and free of injury. We know that the extension of these muscles is the weakest position they can be placed.

You need only watch Goran Andersson cast to understand this high stop with flexed arm. The entire purpose of Scandinavian style casting is distance with the least amount of effort. Scandi casting has some of the principles of the non stop casting technique.  I can well understand the thinking that extending the length of a stroke by the extension of our upper arm seems logical. But if the almost abrupt stop causing a tight efficient front shape of a loop is the goal then a stop that takes longer than an almost stop is not the answer.

The difference between the stop and forced over the tip style and the "pull rod straight" style is most manifested in the shape of the loop created.  When we abruptly stop a fully loaded rod it will cause the line to move over the tip.  The tip will move forward and then bend down toward the horizon.  Depending on the flex and action of the rod it can bend quite a bit.  This is called counter flex.  Counter flex is necessary. When the rod is stopped in this way and counter flex happens it drives the rod leg of the loop down and causes a shock dimple shape to the loop.  Not the worst thing to happen and is a natural effect of counter flex.

"Pull Rod Straight" is an Al Buhr creation that in my practice has been changing the shape of my loops.  Al told me about this as a means to help reduce early and excessive rotation between top and bottom hands. This is the cause of bulbous or even tailing loops by causing the rod line leg to dip below a straight tip path.

Here are the steps for using the Pull Rod Straight technique.  Imagine that you are in a perfect rounded up to key position  with both hand about to make the forward stroke.  Abrupt stop has us using some sort of ratio of power between top and bottom hands that is usually applied in the last part of the forward stroke.  We have all seen this as a 50/50 or 40/60.    Depends on style but the concept is the same.  The factor in abrupt stop is that the top and bottom hands are making the transition from the rod facing backward and bent to facing forward and un bending making the transition at the same time.  In "Pull Rod Straight", both top and bottom hands move forward together during the stroke.  The rod is being heavily butt loaded as both the butt of the rod is pushed forward in unison with the top hand grip.  When the forward movement is far enough to make that strong fulcrum position the top hand stops moving forward.  A firm hold is not necessary on the rod.  In fact, no grip is necessary but having the top grip laying in the heel of the hand is all that is needed.  We have also seen this as making a circle with thumb and index finger.  The circle keeps the rod in position but is is still the heel that receives the fulcrum pressure point.  No forced push and squeezing.  The top grip is rocking on the heel of the hand.  The next movement is made without pause and the bottom hand, that can be as short as two inches is made pulling the rod toward the non dominant hip pocket. Core strength of abdominal, chest and arm muscles are in play and the top hand acts only as a fulcrum.  A fulcrum that is firm but not pushed for power.  A fulcrum that is now directed by the bottom hand pull and moves forward and down clearing the tip and allows the line to pass over during the "Pull Rod Straight".  Tight and abrupt causes counter flex and rod vibration.   "Pull Rod Straight" allows the tip of the rod to naturally bend downward without excessive counter flex.

 I found the easiest way to feel the difference in these two casting styles was through pantomime.  Slowing down the movements with full control and doing them over and over again.  I offer the above as options of choice.  There are no bad loops.  Gordy Hill uses a tailing loop while Snook fishing to get his fly under the mangroves.  My point is that our ability to choose is what counts.


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Modern Fly Lines by Bruce Richards

I just finished reading this great book cover to cover.  This is a must read that will take the mystery out of your next line choice. Learning why is the key......

Starting with the composition of lines to their final destination in casting can be a tricky part of fly fishing.  Having the knowledge to know what style of line is going to offer the greatest control in a certain angling situation is paramount.  It all starts with the understanding of how energy is transmitted from the tip of your rod to the last point of dissipation.

Bruce Richards offers you this knowledge in a well written and illustrated gem.  A wonderful read for anglers of all abilities.

A must read if you want to understand how to crack that whip!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Berry Brook Berry Brook Berry Brook Berry Brook Berry Brook Berry Brook Berry Brook Berry Brook Berry Brook

That's right, Berry @#$#@#$#@ Brook. How many times have you been asked about Berry Brook? Do those monster brown trout really exist or are they just a figment of the State of New Hampshire's warped mind.

I'm happy to say that they do exist.

In the past twelve years. of going to Berry Brook many, many times, I have seen a total of five fish. And I'm not talking about the little stockers. I have hooked two of the five and landed none of the two.

Next time you are looking for a bit of humility give this a try. Stand on the bridge all ready to cast but don't. Think of yourself as a deer hunter. Quite, not moving and waiting to see your quarry. You wouldn't randomly be shooting arrows. Four hours will not fly by as quickly as when we are casting. These fish are so spooky that the mere action of waving a fly rod will keep them far away. If you are very lucky you might see a boil in the tail out just above the bridge, maybe sitting on the ocean side in the current on the out going tide or a boil down below the bridge in the calm brackish water.

The one other option is accessed by walking river right(the left side looking up stream when the tide is going out) all the way up to the big rock in the woods. This is the legal limit for fishing and also the head of tide. Sitting and waiting through high tide and hoping for some movement is the key.

If you are lucky to see one, don't panic, you will get a cast or two at most. So pick your spot to stand with stealth and stay far from the water's edge. Try a black or olive leach or woolly bugger with a long leader.

Berry Brook Indeed.

If you would like to know more about Berry Brook, please e-mail me at

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Perfect Fish, A Story With Three Parts

I spend many days in search of perfect fish, on a perfect day and with a perfect plan.  The fish that are healthy and strong and have the most brilliant colors possible.  New England with all it's wonderful charm played out in a thought process that puts me in the right place at the right time with the right angling choices.  To that end most people would say I carry the game too far..  

This spring I have had a substantial number of these days with large and beautiful fish as an added bonus.  Mostly Rainbows with some spectacular Landlocked Salmon.  We fish hard, barb free and work to do our best to analyze what is happening at every moment.  This Saturday was one of those days to remember for a long, long time.

Archie says this one is perfect
I started out the morning at three dark o'clock and hit the road for the one hour drive to my first location.  I would be meeting Leo for a few hours of landlocked Salmon angling before heading to a favorite Trout and Salmon hole.  The fishing was not easy and we each managed a few fish with only one that Leo had on that could be called perfect.  The fish managed to snap him off and was not brought to hand. I was just down river at the time and when I saw the fish jump it was truly impressive.  To see a big silver fish fly three feet out of the water is the magic of Salar.  For that brief moment the snow stopped and the wind was not howling any more.  For being the end of April the weather was normal in the North Country.  Normally unpredictable.

Upon arrival at stop number two,  the first connection for both of us came within ten minutes.  Leo took the  big fish of the day at  twenty one and a half inches.  I then had a bright and perfect nineteen inch beauty that fits the heart and the inspiration of this story.  Then everything just stopped.  As we continued to fish there was no movement, no takes and no insect activity.  The wind was still blowing hard and the temperature only ticked up a bit.  My guides were freezing and hours were going by without a sign of possibility.  This is the time when every fly in your box will be tried.  Leaders will be lengthened and shortened.  Weight will be added and removed.  Tippet size will be dropped at the risk of breaking off the big one.  Nothing works because nothing works.  Nothing works.

As the day continued, Leo and I stayed with the plan.  We were there until dark no matter what and would make sure that everything possible was considered.

1:30 Nothing

2:30 Nothing

3:30 Nothing and we moved up river to give the pool a rest.

4:30 Nothing

5:30 Nothing and we headed back to the pool.

"Hey, I just saw a fish swim right past me," I said.  "Maybe they are moving up to the rapid to feed", said Leo.  Then in a matter of moments, Leo had a fish take up in the head of the pool, I had one in the middle, Leo had another in the head, we switched and I had two in the head and then another toward the middle.  It went on for about one hour and was done.

There was one theme to this explosion and that was all the fish were taken on an Early Black Stonefly nymph.  This has been the go to fly for some time and was tried all day long without results.  As the feast was happening we bantered about Little Stony this and Little Stony that.  In a very clean environment where the water stays cold the Early Black Stone will be seen.  This little stonefly is effective in sizes 16 and 14 and is a true emerging insect. The activity will last as long as the water stays cold.

All I can say about this day is that it was perfect.  The fish, the river, the fly, and most of all the company and friendship.  Perfect.........


Friday, October 4, 2013

North Atlantic Oscillation, Woods Hole, NOAA, And What It Means

For a long time we anglers of Salmo Salar have been coming up with every reason possible for reduced returns. Clearly, the Atlantic Salmon rivers of the North Atlantic have been in decline.  My observation is that the further south the river mouth, the greater the decline.  In the United States the greatness of a revolution for wealth was a dagger in the heart of many fish species populations.  Now global warming, if natural or for man made reasons, continues the negative effect on southern waters.

In Canada, where there are many rivers without the blockage of dams, we have seen major disruptions in populations due to other reasons.  Netting, clear cutting, heavy metals mine spills, acid rain and greater angling pressure have all taken a toll.   In Europe the south was hit hard in the same way as the US.   Further north to a lesser degree, but over all declines have been evident.

My simple point is that you can look region by region and river by river and find a great number of reasons for decline.  I am now under the belief that there is one major factor that transcends all others.  One so clear in science it is hard to deny.   It's called The North Atlantic Oscillation(NAO).

Studies by The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute as well as The National Oceanic & Atmospheric Association(NOAA)  have both been done on this subject.  My writing is but an attempt to understand the information gathered.

Most anglers I talk with about the NAO have no idea what it is.  When I mention El Nino everybody then has a reference.  Although they are not the same, the concept of this Earth phenomenon of open ocean effect on migrating species and weather patterns is understood and more important believed.

Wickapedia defines the NAO as follows:  "The North Atlantic oscillation (NAO) is a climatic phenomenon in the North Atlantic Ocean of fluctuations in the difference of atmospheric pressure at sea level between the Icelandic low and the Azores high. Through east-west oscillation motions of the Icelandic low and the Azores high, it controls the strength and direction of westerly winds and storm tracks across the North Atlantic. It is highly correlated with the Arctic oscillation, as it is a part of it".
During the 1960's and early 70's Atlantic Salmon fishing was having some of the finest years possible.  This continued into mid decade of the 70"s but the decline was noticeable and having a sharp impact.  By the early 1980's things were very different and many fishing regulations and daily limits were changed.  We still had all the river specific effects of man's doing but an overall world wide decline was taking hold.  At this same exact time there was something else that had happened.  The North Atlantic Oscillation moved from a narrow or negative difference in barometric pressure to a wide or positive difference. 

Over the past number of years information has been gathered.  Part of this puzzle has been the need to understand the numbers of smolt going to sea.  Counting wheels and down stream shock counts have proven that the numbers remain strong.  The conclusion has been to look to the ocean for the issue.  Again, lets for a moment agree that man made problems like fish farms and sea lice, acid rain and natural issues as predation have effect, but don't allow us to look at the big picture.  This big picture is in the ocean and what is happening to the Salmon while at sea and the availability of food to eat.  Food availability is the key ingredient to a healthy Salmon population.  This will be especially noticed in the numbers of multi winter, multi spawning very large fish.

If we examine the current NAO history we will find that a positive or large gradient difference has been the pattern for the last thirty five years.   This effect brings strong westerly winds, warmer Southern North Atlantic Ocean temperature and colder Northern North Atlantic Ocean temperature.  When the NAO is in a negative pattern the winds are held to the south of the salmon feeding grounds off Greenland. 

Positive equals a decreased area of feeding or a band of ocean that is battered by high winds and rough seas further north and into the winter feeding areas.  A negative pattern creates a larger feeding ground or wider band of northern ocean that is calmer.  Salmon survive in an average of fourteen feet below the surface while at sea.  A harsh and rough environment means the disruption of the food source.  Can it be that the major populations of salmon thought to winter off Greenland and the Farrows Islands can be directly impacted by the weather conditions of those locations?  Is it also possible that certain river populations do their winter feeding in different locations that are effected more or less?  Are the salmon of the Kola feeding in the same winter areas of those from Scotland?  Do the Inner Bay of Fundy salmon that have been the hardest hit feed in a location not conducive to survival?   Can it be that the salmon of a single river will disperse to different feeding areas for the survival of the species?  

Nature will feed the strong to survive only to the degree of ability.  Should the ability be decreased by food deprivation, the weakest will continue to die until a level of survivability is met.   This is called the Balance of Nature.  Should critical mass be eroded to a tipping point the result will be catastrophic. 

Over the last five years it has been possible for me to predict the size and quantity of the salmon returning to North America.  Food and the availability of food in the ocean alone is the key factor. What man has done to harm the fish has been somewhat countered by all the good that has been done over the last thirty years.  We are now in the up cycle of this science and the next ten years should prove to be a very positive time for an angler of Salar.

So I don't leave this only to the Atlantic, you steelhead fans on the West Coast need only follow the Pacific Decadal Oscillation for your answers. 


Thursday, September 26, 2013

Why Didn't I Realize It A Long Time Ago

My first venture to Gaspe was in 1980.  Maine, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick were my destinations the years prior.  I really don't know why, but I decided to take a just purchased brand new 911 Super Coupe as transportation.  Must of been how the low profile Perrelli's would hold on dirt and gravel roads. Yea, that was it.....

Taking this trip was as much about the car as it was about the fishing.  I guess my love of angling had merged with the love of driving fast and both fanatic compulsions needed to be satisfied at the same time.  Talk about over stimulation.  So I pointed the silver bullet north and found the way to Matapedia.

Knowing nothing about this place turned each moment into a constant learning curve. I found myself looking at low water and fairly slow fishing conditions.  I visited as many pools as possible to get a look see and fished a few that were easily accessible.  Couldn't scratch the car or leave it out of sight. The car was a constant problem.  You know that saying, if you have to worry about something then you can't afford it.  Well there I was with a car that should not be racing around route 132, let alone parked on Route 132.

After a day or so I decided the car needed to be moving again so I made the drive to Matane.  Joseph Bates was a bad influence on me back then.  I had this great need to see all the places he talked about in his now famous book..  I was obsessed with seeing pool 45.  But as luck would be on this trip pool 45 was up river in the Provincial Park where the logging roads were too dusty for the Porsche.  I never saw pool 45.

Years went by and I continued to travel to Matapedia, Restigouche and then Grande and Petite Cascapedia's, York, Dartumoth and Bonaventure.  Year after year and time after time I fished with varying success,  The Gaspe had me and my thoughts of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick and those dreams past were now in the far distance.  It became totally about big fish in the clear waters that make the Gaspe famous.

As I have gotten older it seems that my mind is still very young when it comes to the excitement of planning the next adventure.  The anticipation is defining.  Even now as I write this I am thinking of Saturday and big Landlocked Salmon I hope to hook.  But something has changed.

There came a time on this years trip to Matane that what I saw looked different.  I feel like I am seeing the land and sky for the first time.  A feeling of guilt for advantage of just how incredibly beautiful these places are redirected my focus.  I have had the privilege to travel through this place without noticing all there is to see.  I regret not noticing and want to offer a simple bit of advise.  Don't waste your life in mere fishing and the need of the catch. Surround your life in the pursuit of life and if a few big fish are angled along the way so be it.


Friday, September 13, 2013

Fall Or Spring So Long As Their Big

There is one thing that Spring and Fall have in common and that is using big flies can prove very productive.
I have been working on this fly system pictured with this Renous Special where the tube and junction mare one one the same.  By taking a large rigid tube as the outside and a small rigid tube as the inner I can make it happen.  The inner tube is the stop for the hook.  Also check out the plastic cone.  This one comes from Pro Tubes and has very little weight.  If you make sure to leave just enough of the inner tube out the front you can snap on the plastic cone.  I'm really happy with this and plan a bunch more patterns.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Gray Ghost by Carrie Stevens

During the early 1900's Carrie Stevens tied flies for catching the big Brook Trout of Maine.  Mrs. Stevens became world famous and is credited with the creation of the modern streamer fly.  The Gray Ghost and many others used at Upper Dam are revered and endeared by every Maine fly fisher.

Tying Video Step By Step

If you would like more information about this post please Email me at

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Double Spey Case

Just finished this double rod/reel case to fit up to 13 foot four pies rods.  It's a real winner....

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Large Trout & Landlocked Salmon In New England

It might come as a surprise to some that there are many locations in New England where you can find a Trout as large as the ones photoed.  Twenty or more inches represents a large trout in my book and they can be found from the southern part of New York to the Canadian border in most states.  It takes some looking and a lot of time on the water but they are there all year long.

Fish of five pounds are actually fairly common.  You need to know where to go and be there at the right time using the correct tackle because they are not commonly caught.  They didn't get to be five pounds by chance.

There is a rhythmic cycle to all fish.  There is an inherent nature to certain species dependent on the origin of their gene pool.  Let's discuss this as if your desire is to be on the water with the possibility for big fish.

 Learning the life cycle of trout and landlocked salmon is a key factor in your ability to find that trophy.  You must study and prove your study correct.  This is done through understanding the movement and feeding habits of each location.  Entomology and prey species are of great importance.  You will then have a need to experiment on these factors to prove your hypothesis.  When do Rainbow Trout spawn?  Browns?  Salmon? Smelt?

Have you ever gone to a new location and have no information what so ever about the basics.  I have done this many times and find it very difficult to be learning while guessing.  If I only had turned left over the bridge instead of right things might have been different.  I did not do the research and will pay the price or hope to get lucky.  Employing the services of a guide is always a good idea.

There is no reason to go for the big one without doing some work ahead of time.  Here is a checklist for you to fill out.  If you have all this information about a new destination or old haunt your chances of the big one will improve.

What is the open season and legal time period per day?
Who owns the local fly shop?
What is the target fish?
What is the optimal flow rate?
What are the insects that will be active at the time you are there and the daily hatch timing?
What is the prey and it's nature?
What is the weather forecast?
What is the temperature of the water?
What is the environment of the location?
What will the correct equipment set up be for the location?
What are the top 10 flies and in what sizes are they needed?
What is the gene specific nature of the target?  (Migration, e-migration, spawning time location specific, daily feeding habit) 

I know a high quality guide that works in New Hampshire .  One of his favorite flies is carried in three colors.  The same exact tie with the body color different.  He says that if Brown Trout, Brook Trout and Landlocked Salmon are all in the pool he can target each by color.  This is a learned experience of his working the same water over many years.

If you use the information above and make the

calls, Google the location and read as much as possible you will shorten the learning curve.   Although there are opportunities all winter long the heart of spring is beating with increasing motion.  Now is the time to understand the places you will visit.  Now is the time to study a new destination.  The insects are hatching to larva and are being bounced in the flow, the spawning of predictor and prey will start in due time and the sun is starting to feel good.  It is happening as you read these words. 

Carpe Deim 


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Big Fish And The Few Who Catch Them

Some anglers just have all the luck.  Well, I don't believe that for one moment.  What some anglers have is the ability to do what is needed without even a second thought.  They go through their fishing day doing the things that have been learned from experience that creates the end result.

Take my dear friend Leo.  He has convinced me that concentrating on the speed and path of my fly is what will make the magic happen.  He can tell what the correct speed needs to be.  Have you ever made a cast that in your mind is perfect.  You even, almost out loud, say something like, "If that doesn't hook a fish then nothi............" bang it happens.  Well that is what it takes to catch quantity as well as quality.  That is what Leo can do more than most anglers.  Knowing what is happening and knowing it is right is not something that comes easy.  It comes as a recorded memory through many casts and many takes.   This is the key that will open the door to catching the prize.  You must pay attention and know what is happening when it happens.  Leo knows..........

Monday, June 10, 2013

Fly Tying Tip #132

I had a great idea passed on to me today. A comment was posted to my YouTube channel about using silver tinsel under floss bodies to make them glow.  Just a great sounding idea.  I will usually tie floss bodies and tags with a light color thread of white,  chartreuse or yellow so that when wet the under color is lighter than the floss.  You can see that on the Governor to the left that I work the bodies, tie off, and then go to the black as that is the finish color for the head.  I am definitely going to give the tinsel a try.   Maybe even holographic.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Steelhead Bottle Tubes

Waiting for the forth coat of head polish to dry on this just finished order of some Steelhead Bottle Tubes in #4's and #6's.  Some vibrant color using Finn Raccoon, Arctic Fox and Krinkle Flash.

Monday, June 3, 2013

"That In Your Grandfather's Day There Ran Salmon You Could Walk On Their Backs"

In the stellar Scottish folk song , "Neptune", written by Jim Malcolm and performed by The Poozies, the lyric states that man is what our oceans fear most.  "Neptune, I think I'm In Love With The Sea"  What we are willing to do now will have a profound influence on the world we leave our children and children's children.

"How do I woo you and make you love me"

As anglers of fresh and salt, we see many of the effects of a polluted and changing environment.  We work hard to be as clean as possible, yet the problem can not be helped by anglers alone.  Here, where I live, in New Hampshire the Androscoggin River in Gorham, one of our premier trout and salmon waters, is listed catch and release because of residual pollution from one hundred years ago.  You can't eat the fish.

"Don't oil my beaches, don't slaughter my whales"

What is happening in Russia, China, India and still to a degree here at home, is the most destructive environmental decline known to mankind.  The creation of dirty power and metals exploration is being done in ways that are not environmentally safe.  Their logic to America is, " You polluted without the slightest regard to what was happening to the planet, you were made rich by your exploitation and now it is our turn".   As an American, I must agree with the view that the world should share a turn to be wealthy and have it's people be rewarded.

But what I ask is simple.

"Don't cross me with diesel, cross me with sail"

Learn from what we did and learn that what the United States did during our Industrial Revolution was wrong.    It doesn't take me long, when I cross over many of our New England rivers, to make a comment something like, imagine what it must of been like that fateful spring when all the migrating fish were trapped below that first dam. The result might make the wealthy have more money but the people will pay the price.

"Give me some time to heal up my wounds"

Today in the USA environmentalists are pushing hard to reclaim our rivers.  Dams and pollution sources are being removed from the landscape.  Steady improvements are being made to water quality.  All over the world in the large three countries mentioned to some very small, there are highly motivated people who want security for their families.  That security will only be available if the planet that is inherited will be free of the illnesses that are inevitable if the path to riches without regard is followed.

Push The Issue

It is very easy to just move forward and rely on others to take care of this matter.  I recently made a small step and joined Trout Unlimited.  I think that small steps by many needs to be the course to follow.

"Give me more poison and I will die soon"

In the spirit of my belief, I have started the FlySpoke 'For The Earth' banner.  This is a list of organizations and charities that are making a difference that you will find in the left hand column on the front page of this blog.  Please look them over and help if possible.

I realize how small I am in the scope of this issue.  But I feel compelled to be that small part.  Angling is a big part of my life but angling in pure water and breathing clean air is far more important.

"Neptune, I think I'm in Love with the sea"

Please email to me any organizations you would like to have listed.


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

International Federation Of Fly Fishers Certified Two Hand Casting Instructor

For the past three years I have been working toward being certified by The International Federation Of Fly Fishers to become a two hand casting instructor.  Many, many hours of learning and practice with the goal of this achievement have been spent.  Now that I have passed this test, I am left with the feeling that I want more.  Let me explain.

I feel as though I have the responsibility to live up to standards that are still above me.  I was tested by Al Buhr.  How will I ever achieve that standard?  Even though I am now in a group of only thirty others in the United States with this status I am still humbled by the meaning.

While I was on my way to North Carolina, for examination, I received an email from Gordy Hill that Bob Runpf had passed.  I was just with Bob a month ago at the Catskill Fly Fishing Muesum working with Wild Trout Flyrodders.  Bob was casting and I was watching and noticing how fluid and clean he was with the fly rod.  Sadly, I missed his presentation as I was being pre tested for THCI by Jim Valle.  The reason I mention this is because it put reality and the importance of our lives in perspective.  Not only was Bob a great caster but he was a great person with many people who are touched by the loss.

So, for me, I acknowledge that I am on a new path.  Not the end, as I once thought. I am now placed in the position of responsibility to be what I am titled as being.  I promised Al I would live up to the standards required and intend to do just that.


Joining the International Federation Of Fly Fishers will offer you a group of anglers who have the passion and desire to learn, teach and share all they know.  I am proud to be a member, Single and two hand instructor and will be so until I make my last cast.

Friday, May 17, 2013

The Saco River And The Dry Fly

The weather can be a mixed bag of what you can always count on in the Saco Valley flowing through North
Conway for Mid June.  The river, with head waters at the foot of Mount Washington has a rugged start and flows through New Hampshire, pushing east in Maine and enters the Atlantic at it's namesake on the coast.  Showers, sun, wind, cold and warm are a possible part of any day.  Each year at this time I make sure that the gin clear waters are in my schedule.  I fish a number of single days and could easily make it a week long destination.

This river has all the ingredients necessary to make it one of the finest quality trout streams in the world except one.  It does not have enough low temperature input to sustain  a large population of trout through the warming summer.  But don't let that stop you from enjoying the magic of the Saco's season.  Just looking at this fly chart supplied by North Country Angler will assure you that the river is a very futile environment.  This well stocked shop has a high level of knowledge and can arrange top notch licensed guide service as well.

I show  up in the morning with the intention to refine a bit of my dry fly skill.  For me, this is the part of the game that holds the most satisfaction as well as necessary ability.  Even though the trout are hatchery raised they will get acclimated and turn fussy quickly.  This is not a river that I have the ability to walk in and hit the correct fly immediately.  This is a river where you make your approach in the Gary LaFontaine way where you sit and observe first.  You must always be watching for change and rest assured that change can happen quickly.

Last year on a Friday morning I started with a fine Brown Trout of seventeen inches or more.  I make it a habit to look into the river to see what is happening.  What I saw were the dead mayflies floating down with clear wings.  You may not make the correct choice every time but at least you have the possibilities.   I learned later that the spinner fall was amazing the evening before. The morning fish can also be fooled with size 16 Adams, Red Quills and Yellow Sally's.  One thing needs to be made clear, this is a tough river at times and what worked yesterday, let alone last year might not today.

On Saturday morning I started where I left off the evening before.  What I had learned condensed my fly choices and proved far more successful.  Working small and making frequent changes was the order of the day.   Blue Wing Olive, Adams, Red Quill, Yellow Sally, Rusty Spinner and Black Woolly Buggers accounted for most of the connections.  The comparadun style worked particularly well followed by parachutes.

As the head lamps came on I hooked my last fish of the day.  I had worked this fish a number of times and interest with rejection was the pattern.  This was a real nice size Brown that was as large as the stocking truck had delivered.  I picked out the smallest Parachute Adams with an orange post that was in my box.  The fish rose and sipped the fly and was solidly hooked.   The charge was instantaneous and quick, directly across the pool  making my reel scream with delight.  And then nothing.

Now, I really don't like leaving hooks in fish.  I am always using larger tippet sizes than many anglers and only when I can not get the tippet into the eye of what is needed will I go smaller.  I find that I am still able to take as many fish as anyone else but I land a far greater percentage.  For whatever reason, my tippet did not hold and ,being content with a long day on the river, I called it an evening.

The Saco is as close to perfect as you can get here in the east.  Some say the kayaks and canoe hatch is a problem but I watch the boats go by and the trout start feeding before the wake has left the water.  They don't schedule drop offs very early or late and leave the best of the day's events from disturbance.  The people do apologize way too much.

Give yourself one full day if you can.  This is a river in the most pleasing of surroundings that should not be missed.

Monday, May 13, 2013

The Balance Of Power Or The Power Of Balance

So I have been practicing about three to four hours a day right now. Today I did a five and a half hour session with a 15 foot 9 Weight Robert Meiser Highlander S. Crazy rod with some of the finest craftsmanship I have ever had the privilege to cast. I lined it with a 9/10 65 foot head Carron Jetstream. The reel is an original Loop Evotec made by Danialson. If you are familiar with those reels you know they were known for how lite they are. Really not a very good Spey reel.

Anyway, I have been working on the physics between balance and power or a class one lever. Kind of like if you had a sea saw out of balance it would take extra power to move the longer side. Less weight having to move a heavier and longer shaft. Each and every two hand rod we own has a different balance point given the weight of reel and line. Take any of your rods, strip off the amount of line that you most often use with that rod and then find the balance point. It might surprise you that it will not be even on the top grip. In my case it was three inches over the top grip today. I thought about how I could balance the rod for my practice and the electrical tape I used to secure the furls came in handy.

Balance each reel with lead core, if you must, to force the fulcrum point to exactly where you want it to be. It should be at the fulcrum or your top hand placement on the rod. Then give the rod a go and you will not believe the power you will generate with such little force.


Saturday, May 11, 2013

Catch & Release Is A Learned Art

This Photo has not been altered.  It was taken after dark on
the Matapedia River in Quebec.  There is a 25lb. salmon being
released and never touched.

What started as catch and release is ever evolving. Today we are saying live release. Tomorrow who knows what the correct saying will be. This is a controversy that I will leave for another day.
But what about those seconds or minutes between the catch and the live release that we can learn to control. I find myself standing and watching anglers with good intentions struggle to remove hooks with barbs, hold fish too tightly and have a three minute photo session. Take two please.
I know that there were times when I have been guilty of not being competent or caring enough to dispatch my fish without harm. I have killed one large salmon on purpose and will continue to take a grilse or trout from time to time. There is nothing like a shore lunch with the fish you captured a half hour ago. Say three Our Fathers and three Hail Mary's. Done.
In order to do our best, limit guilt and increase survival, we need to learn the release part of angling because timing means everything to the life of our fish.
Make sure to use a live release net on fish of size. Fish have a protective slime coat that if removed will cause infections. Always wet your hands if you must use them. On smaller fish do not touch the fish at all. This is possible by using barb free hooks. Knowing that my hooks do not have barbs allows me to remove the hook without fear. Hold your fish out of the water for as short a time as possible because the change in weight differential can be very harmful. Do not put a fish down on snow or ice as their skin will freeze. The photo session is the most damaging and critical part of your live release. For a while now I have not been worrying about photos of my fish captured. If I do, I try to make them all part of the process to let the fish go. If the hook is removed and the fish is ready to be released, keep it in the water. Ready, set, lift low, snap, down and gone. You can make this prized photo with one second out of water so long as you and your partner understand the process. Let your photographer use his camera that he knows well and you will get the best results.
The last note is on revival. The old adage of holding a fish by the tail and moving back and forth needs to be put to rest. I still see people do this today. The only revival method you should use is to hold your fish still and straight into the current while supporting their weight. In still water the only movement must be forward holding very lightly. The fish will tell you when it is time to go.
Part of the reason for our live release practice can be summed up best by Lee Wulff. "A fish is too valuable to only be caught once" I agree.


Thursday, May 9, 2013

Please Welcome A New Sponsor R.B. Meiser Fly Rods

If you ever have the opportunity to cast the Two Hand and Switch rods made by Robert Meiser you will understand how fine a fishing tool should be.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

New Hampshire Brood Stock Atlantic Salmon

I have been angling, in New Hampshire, for Brood Stock Atlantic Salmon for many years.  During these seasons I have seen some great days hooking fish, landing a few and have learned a number of successful ways to get them to take a fly. These tactics have changed a great deal from the early days. 

The stocking of these fish, about 750 ranging from 3 to 14 pounds for spring 2013, is part of the Atlantic salmon restoration program for the Merrimack River system.  Before the many dams were built, fueling the American industrial revolution during the late 1700's through 1800's, the salmon and shad ascended together all the way to the confluence of the Pemigewasset and Winnipesaukee Rivers in Franklin.  All the shad went up the Winni and all the salmon continued as far north as Franconia Notch on the Pemi.  A very few of us have been lucky enough to angle a real sea going Atlantic on the Merrimack.  Although many years ago that day remains stuck in my mind.

The easiest way catch brood stock, if it were legal, would be to use a weighted leader indicator nymphing style and fly patterns like pheasant tail, soft hackle emergers and caddis patterns on size 10 or 12 hooks.  As no added weight is allowed by law,  in order to utilize a nymphing style we must think old school.   I use a 10' 4" 8 weight switch rod with floating line and a very short appropriate to the water depth sink tip with a three foot fluorocarbon leader.  The flies are larger size nymph and bugger patterns that have a bit of flash. Also no weight may be added to the fly so bead heads or lead wrapping under the bodies are illegal.  In this method the fly is made to dead drift in the exact way you would fish for trout.

A second, and far more enjoyable way to me, is to swing traditional salmon, Spey, muddler, leech and bugger style flies on a longer two hand rod.   By using the same technique of dangling, pull and drop styling, as is very successful with steelhead, I am able to get takes.  You will also need to find a correct tempo for striping back.  Sometimes it needs to be very fast.  The best setup for me is a 13 foot two hand rod with floating Skagit line and sinking poly leader followed by a short fluorocarbon leader.  The reason for the fluorocarbon is because it sinks better than copolymer or monofilament.  Although mostly a sub surface game, I am told that there are times when big dry flies will work.  I have not had that experience but do carry a few larger style Atlantic salmon dry flies just in case.

Another valuable way to get savage takes is to cast up in front of the fish with big rubber legs buggers and strip quickly past them.  I have had fish chase thirty and forty feet down river to catch the fly as it gets pulled by the current.  The visual is outstanding.  For this method you must not use a line that is fast sinking and be very careful not to be casting over their backs and foul hooking the fish.  You must see what you are doing.  It is better to let casts that are not accurate dead drift away without harm.

Most anglers you will see have traditional 9 foot rods and sinking lines.  Your Striped Bass set up will work well.   I have noticed that flies with a bit of red seem to work the best.  On any given day any style with any fly will work. That is the beauty of this fishery and a fishery that should be given a try.  The information about locations can be found on the New Hampshire Fish and Game website.  Some get very crowded and some I fish never see another angler.  In addition to your New Hampshire fishing permit you will also be required to purchase a brood stock salmon permit.  All are available on line.

Some days I have been there and all alone.  I think about what it may have been when the salmon came in strong runs from the sea reaching far into the woods of New Hampshire.  This is a truly beautiful wilderness area and as wild and raw as the fish of a thousand casts.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The North Atlantic Oscillation 2012-2013

I love this chart because of my understanding as to what it means to an Atlantic Salmon angler.  If you study it, all the information you need to predict what the coming season will bring is right in front of you.

We don't need more time than the first day of spring each year to grasp reality.  First let's take a brief moment to understand what this chart about the North Atlantic Oscillation represents.

Six years ago I started to study this climate phenomenon.  The direct relationship between low pressure and high pressure zones over the North Atlantic that dictate the available food supply for salmon during their winter months.  I have written in detail on this topic and you can review some of my findings on this link.   NAO Link

For the purpose of this post I would like to talk about the comparison of resent history and what has happened as far as quantity and size of returning fish over the last ten years.

If we call the red parts of the chart positive and the blue negative we have the basis of what the oscillation is to nature.  Positive is when the meeting place of the low to the north and the high to the south is north of the exact mid point between south and north of the Northern Hemisphere.  This map shows the results of positive and negative effect.
What you will notice is the arrow that is created by each of the two patterns.  In positive there are more storms traveling closer and through the areas where salmon winter.  In negative there is less activity and calmer conditions in those critical areas.

It becomes a simple process of understanding that when a species that lives close to the surface and relies of a concentrated food source to survive, any disruption in that relationship will cause added demise and weight of the predictor   The more climate activity over the winter that is created the greater the fall off.

Now let's go back to the first graph and analyze a few recent years.  The easiest being 2011.  Remember you are looking at the winter months and must take into consideration the end of 2010 and the beginning of 2011.  Is there any correlation that the deepest negative in the Oscillation occurred in the previous winter of one of the best salmon seasons in memory.  Look at the period between 1982 and 1994.  Certainly these were the dark days when we looked to find fault with everything from sea lice to seals as the reason for our salmons decline.  During the years between 2002 and 2008 there was as varied a range of success as the varied years in the chart.  Is it possible that natural climate changes that have happened since the dawn of time are to blame for good and bad alike?  I think so.  Here is another bit of the puzzle.  Why did the Stripped Bass populations grow so large during the 1980's through the early 1990's and coincidentally is the same period the salmon were in decline.  I suspect for the same reason only in reverse is true and I also think that dance is in the cards for the future.

So now we come to this winter and what we think is going to happen.  What do you think?  Looking at the chart for this winter it would seem to be somewhat even between positive and negative   The only other factor is if the beginning of a winter season is less important that how the winter finishes. Clearly the last two months have had greater negative position and this becomes a critical factor.

My feeling is that we are going to experience a very healthy early season this year and given some sense of relative weather patterns that are stable the overall picture is looking up.

Two things that I would have you do for your own conclusions would be first to consult any logs and history that you personally have gathered as well as go back and read the reports in the summer issues of the Atlantic Salmon Journals.  Perhaps you can be as convinced as I am as to where all the salmon have gone.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Evolution Of Lee Wulff's Surface Stone Fly

Can you imagine any fly commanding a price of $3.00 in 1975?  The late and great Lee Wulff is remembered for many things relating to our wonderful sport of the angle.  He is the creator of the fishing vest, salmon tailer, the Wulff series of dry flies and the one item that is in every serious salmon anglers box, a modern version of the Surface Stonefly.
Tiger Stone Ghost Gremlin
The original, that you could purchase from Lee, was a hook with a molded plastic body that incorporated the parachute post.  The wing and spun hackle was all put together with glue.  No thread was used.  This made the fly light enough to be fished as a dry fly when cast up stream and then as a wet fly as it moved down stream.  The same concept as the Hornberg.  Over the past thirty years the evolution of the fly started in the valley of the Grande Cascapedia.  There it resided as a major part of the years catch in two distinctive versions.  The Black Stone and the Green Stone.  If you look at these photos you can see that the main theme is in tact as a few recent upstarts have taken center stage.  Each has the same formula but only the materials are different.  If you are headed to Quebec then a few versions of this fly are a must.  Stone Ghost Video

    Black Stone                    Stone Ghost                  Stone Ghost Gremlin

Friday, March 15, 2013

Is Your Fly Fishing As Much As It Can?????

I am a firm believer in the law of averages.  An average number of casts will produce an average number of fish.  I am also a believer that I can increase my personal average by the level of efficiency of my casting.  I watch other anglers all the time.  I am always interested in learning and for me the way to learn is to watch and then discuss what is happening.  I am very fortunate to have a circle of friends that are very proficient and willing to share.  Some I have known a long time and some I have just met last week.

The anglers that I especilly enjoy are the ones with the beautiful false casting ability.  Back and forth with no tailing or open loops extending line far to the other shore.  Or the anglers who are using indicators and weights with line choices that force them to make two and three rolling casts to get everything out there.

These situations are such a waist of precious time in a fast moving and limited day.  In my opinion the best casters are the ones that can get their fly from the end of a fish taking drift to the start of the next fish taking drift in the least amount of time.  I'm not saying that having a beautiful casting stroke is not a good thing or using a poor line choice will not catch fish.  What I am saying is that I am always making my equipment set up in a design to make as many drifts in a day as possible.

Al Buhr once asked me, "what is the best cast to use"?  He said, "the one that gets his fly from when it isn't fishing any more to where it is fishing again in the least amount of time".

The next time you are out fishing give this some thought.  It just might be the difference between a good day and a great day.  Keep your fly in the water and your casts per day above average.


Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Dee Flies Are Not Spey Flies

There is something very special about Dee Flies.  They represent patterns that seem to have moved on from the somber creations of the river Spey but did not go so far as the gaudy flies that came over the water from Ireland.  Each river had it's own distinctive brand of flies and materials.  I think the word Spey is over used and limits the course of history.

These are fishing worthy patterns today because the wings vary in color and the dubbing represent a similar look to our modern green but styles.

One of the best resource books for these flies is from Bob Ververka and called Spey Flies and How To Tie Them.  If you can find a copy for a reasonable price you will be very lucky.  Having a well rounded collection in your library is needed to have the full history of patterns and materials.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Modern Fly Crossovers In The Information Age

It seems to me that the differences between flies that can be used for Atlantic Salmon and Steelhead are melding.

Is an Intruder really anything more than a really big shrimp pattern?  Is the Syd Glasso style a River Spey fly with a different wing?  Bunny leaches designed to wiggle in front of North Western chrome are being found on the crystal clear waters of the Gaspe.

Years ago I would have never dreamed of using eztaz or a looped dubbing ball on my salmon flies but today in order to get a wide and full tail and wing it is the norm.

In days gone by rivers had individual style to their flies.  Dee Flies and Spey Flies are very different in materials and construction right down to the style of hook.  The headwaters of these two rivers are so close together that you would think there would have been more commonality.  Take New Brunswick and Quebec as a model.  The rivers are very different and so were the flies but if you were to check the fly boxes on the Gaspe you might just find a few Green machines in the mix.  You will also find creations that were designed for the Gaula as well.  Soft hair tied in a reverse full bodied style is all the rage in spring and fall no matter where you are.

My feeling is that the number one reason for such a crossover of materials and styles is the internet.  Every ghille in Scotland has a website and YouTube is loaded with great fly tiers willing to show their talent.

This is the age of experimentation and what will come out of it just might be an entirely new concept.  Materials and techniques are advancing rapidly.  Something is going to come of it, and when it does, it will be as fresh as the day the first Lady Caroline was fished.

The classics will never go away.  There is nothing more rewarding for me than taking a fish on a well tied creation that has been proven by time.  But who knows that magic elixir might just be one more tie away......

Friday, February 22, 2013

Do Predator & Prey Look Into Each Others Eyes?

There is a subject that needs to be thought about when it comes to building wet flies and streamers. Heads or Tails? Do you know what triggers an instinctual feeding response from the fish you are targeting? Do you know the inherent fight or flight mechanism of the prey you are imitating? Are the fish you're after chasers or slashers?

These basic questions need more study to offer us a better chance for angling success. Everyone has heard the expression "Short take". I have watched Landlocked salmon nipping at the tail of my fly over and over without the slightest feeling that it is happening. If my hook were positioned at the tip of the tail I might have felt a different story.

How about the possibility that the use of very small eyes in your fly might trigger a flight response from certain target fish. Some fish may need the sight of big wide open eyes to make them chase. For others just the opposite might be true. Lure makers have thought about this for years.

One day, in June, I was fishing on the Matapedia River in Quebec. We were in a twenty six foot Gaspe canoe moving slowly up river. In the clear water our guide noticed four salmon sitting together close to the left bank. My partner started with medium size flies like Lee Wulff's stone fly, and Black Bear Green Butts.

When it was my turn, I waded further up stream and choose to use a 5/0, very large, big eyed fly to swing right in front of them. All hell broke loose. The water raised four inches, one fish, about fifteen pounds, wet ballistic and shot three feet in the air and all four fish scattered as quickly as possible.

Certainly my three inch long fly was not large enough to bother a three foot salmon. Today I believe they looked into the eyes of death and instinctively ran away as fast as possible. I no longer use eyes that are large and might be mistaken for a seal, shark, or Swordfish when casting to Atlantic Salmon. My opinion is that the learned instinct of an animal species can make a big difference in angling. In turn, by removing the fear factor we offer ourselves a better chance.

Conversely, I have also read from the California School of Fly Fishing, that there is no eye contact between fish at all. Do bluefish slash through pods of bait fish and not look at the eyes of their meal? Do some salt water species have millions of years in developing a black spot on their tails for no reason.

Here is my conclusion.

I am now making sure that for Steelhead my flies will have no eyes and the hook is in the tip of the tail. For trout I have medium eyes and the hook is in the tail as I believe they are spotters and chasers. For Landlocked Salmon the hook is in the very end of the tail as they are nippers. For Bluefish and Striped Bass I use big eyes and have the hook right up close to the gills.  Atlantic Salmon flies will have small eyes.

My observations are just that and come only from experience. I would love to hear from anyone who has clear scientific studies that support or refute this theory.

You Call It! Heads or Tails.