Sunday, November 2, 2014

Light Tippets, Light Weight Full Flex Rods & Big Big Fish

Over the past two and half months I have been playing with some truly unique Landlocked Salmon.  Some of the largest available in North America.  These are lake inhabitants for most of the year and find their way up rivers on their fall spawning run.  They are in every way genetically correct to Salmo Salar that roam the North Atlantic yet never have tasted salt water.  

My normal start to this short, and sometimes very short, season is swinging streamers and leaches with my eleven foot four weight.  I run a Skagit integrated short with tips and leaders that are correct for the situation of the moment.  But this year was very different.  The run started so early that  my favorite style of angling, the pure swing, was null and void.  The fish were not lake dwellers any more and the taste of river life was in their brain. 

For the swing I have no problem using a 2x tippet at eleven pound test. The 4 weight performs perfectly on fish up to ten pounds and my confidence in handling the screamers is very high.
Then there is the darker side of my angling.  My conviction is simple.  "Swing when I can and nymph when I must".  I have no problem hooking up a strike indicator and using weight to correctly fish with nympths and eggs and micro worms and what ever is needed to get the take.  Then I use another four weight in my collection.  A ten foot four inch two hand switch that has medium flex that will let me drop down the tippet size to as low as 5x if needed.  What I loose in tippet strength I gain in the flexibility of the rod and the fast bending forgiveness that sudden rapid movement requires..

For many years now, the fly rod industry has been following the line makers.  That's just the reality of the industry.  The weight of the first thirty feet of a standard single hand fly line determines what designation the line will get.  Juice the weight of the line a bit or lengthen the head and it will seem to cast easier.  That little bit of extra weight that will bend the rod more and let's us slow down or stroke.  So the rod makers working on their marketing make the blanks a bit faster. And faster, and faster and faster.   That is what makes the recovery from bent to straight happens quicker.  Denser cloth that is rolled on mandrels and baked that makes a faster action rod.  

What does that do?

These faster rods are a casters dream.  They fly straight, recover quickly, bend less and get the same transfer of energy and handle those slightly heavier lines very well.  Today we are seeing lines that more resemble a Scandi or Skagit than a double taper.

But there is something missing in this equation.  It is the fact that when we have a fish take our fly that wonderful casting tool must change it's persona and become a tool that plays the fish.  

You know what happens when a crazy ten pound Landlocked Salmon or Steelhead is played on an ultra fast action rod with 5x tippet?  Yep, that's right, you say goodbye very quickly with a snapping high pitched sound of fine quality fluorocarbon.  In addition I ask anglers who fish the steelhead run in New York what weight fast action rod they are using.  The most common answer is a seven weight.  A seven weight fast action rod and 4X to 5X tippets.  Then the next statement is, "I don't understand why I am not landing any fish". 

My position is that a fly rod needs to serve as a fishing rod and if that means it will not cast an ultra tight loop yet cast well and land the fish, then that is the correct tool for the job.

After you have had the great fortune to hook and play a number of such fish you will know the range of your equipment's ability.  The only way we are going to see fly rods that are fish playing friendly is because we demand them from the rod makers.  

In order to have such a rod I must build them myself.  I call them SWIMPH rods.  SWIng when you can and nyMPH when you must.    A simple conversion at the loop connection at the end of the line changes the rod system from a nymphing leader rig to poly and versi leader swing.  Ten and a half feet is the longest I will use as casting single hand is also desired without shoulder injury.  Here is a photo of a beautiful twenty four inch Landlocked Salmon and one of my custom rods.  I have 10' 6" four piece 5 wt's as well as some 10' 4" 4 weights with removable bottom grip available now.  Please let me know if you have any interest.  My price with rod, sock and tube starts at $375.00.  A great choice in a medium action ultra forgiving rod that handles the new Switch and Chucker style lines for a true switch in function.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Swinging The Salmon River

There is a place on the Salmon River in New York that is a fly swinging paradise. It's location is accessed by a very long walk to the lower portion of the Douglaston Salmon Run property. The pool  is called The Meadow Run.  From top to bottom and through a narrow yet deep gut between two islands, it offers the best and most aesthetically pleasing swing you will find on that river.  There are many places on this former Atlantic salmon River that offer a good swing and if you love to cast with two hands a trip to Pulaski will not disappoint.  Just don't let yourself get hung up on the negatives.  

The top of The Meadow is created where a strong rapid quickly becomes a steady flow through the center.   This water is not the best for nymphing or floating.   From that point you can find fish for the entire three hundred yards down river.  Broad and constant flow makes it best suited to the swing.  There are far better locations like upper and lower Clay hole right next door that will give indicator and float what they came for.  The tail flattens and widens to form three separate channels around islands.  The center cut is deep and the lane of choice for most of the migration.  During low water conditions this area below the main pool will receive most of the attention.

The problem with this pool, and all others on the river, is that there is no rotation.  Sometimes it can be down right uncivilized because of all the different methods of legal fishing that are allowed.  The high stick nymphers take the least room, we Spey Boys need more and the Center Pin and Spin rods would float their egg sacks all the way to the lake if they could.  The time when the crowding is most prevalent is first thing in the morning.  Only the least caring are still in bed as the sun comes up.  I get to my designation at least an hour before sun rise and there still can be five anglers standing in the run.  Sad to say, but as true as can be, this is not a gentlemen's sporting river.  By mid day the crowds seem to disperse through the area and opens the door to getting in some quality swinging action.
This past Saturday I was able the hook up two fish on the swing in the lower part of the pool.  Because the location is close to the lake the possibility of a real bright and very large fish becomes clear.   You need to stay with the rhythmic cadence of the swing and make as many quality passes as possible.

Another fine choice would be to find locations in the two fly zones that offer water that is less frequented because of proximity to access points.  You will not find any center pin or spinning rods here.  Most anglers are using indicators and nymphs and there are an increasing number of two hand casters.  In low water these places will be available by crossing and walking.  In higher flows you will need to use one of the bridge crossings and walk.  In some cases you will be the only rod on your side and looking at six to ten on the easy side.

For this river I use marabou collar flies, bunny leach flies with eztaz heads, cut shanks and West Coast style Spey flies.  More traditional West Coast Steelhead and European Temple Dog style flies can be used with a good deal of success.  The water temperature is the key to how well you will do.  The colder the water gets the slower and deeper you will need to run your fly.  Most situations during late October through the first week of December can be handled with Scandi lines and poly leaders.  As the river cools down you will want to switch to a Skagit and might need to go as heavy as t14  at times.  I greatly prefer to use non weighted flies as the action is far better.  It is also much easier to control depth and speed by having the ability to control my line and not have the fly drag on the bottom.  This river loves to eat flies and using weight can take it's toll.

Right now, the crowds have started to thin and the river is loaded with fish.  In normal years the ground would be snow covered and walking made more difficult.  This year, for the two hand fly swinger,  the window of opportunity is still open.  The key to right now is that you can not get hung up on what you think should work.  If big leech and marabou flies are not producing then move smaller down to sparsely hackle more insect looking.  Change flies not only by color but size as well.  Make sure you are running the lightest tippet that you dare.

Many of the Lake Ontario and Lake Eire tribs are producing well right now.  The Salmon River is but one that gets a great deal of attention.  We need to swing more and hope that in the future some of the pools will start to rotate.  I expect the next few weeks will see a lot of action for the few who will make the effort.


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Donation For Project Healing Waters & Hope On The Rise

I have something special to share with you.  I have been entrusted with two matching numbered sets of Pierre Lutz prints from the Grande Cascapedia Series.  Pierre was a five time artist of the year recipient from the Atlantic Salmon Federation.  His work is well known on covers and maps of the great rivers.   Each set of four(4) numbered 66/200 and 67/200 were printed in memory of Pierre as he pass away shortly after their completion.  They are not signed.  The stipulation for me is that they be sold and 100% of the proceeds be donated to charities of my choice.  The beneficiary of set 66 will be Project Healing Waters.  They gave to me and I can give something small back.  The beneficiary of set 67 will be Hope on the Rise.  ( I have met Susan and Mary and what they are doing is special and deserves support.  If you would like to own these beautiful 9 1/4" x 6 1/4" prints ready to be framed please send to your offer and set number desired.  Bidding on these SILENT auctions will close on November 1, 2014 at 10pm Eastern Time.  Winners will then be notified.  Own these depictions of "The Forks", "Bend At Parsons", "Charley Valley Rock" and "Pool Eighty"  Opening bid for each set is $150.00.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Strong Fulcrum Two Hand Casting

Many two hand casters are afflicted with a serious disease that limits their ability to cast tight loops that finish with the leader having enough transferred energy to completely unfurl and pop forward.  The root cause can come from a pre existing condition that is not covered by their health insurance plans.  It is based on many years of single hand fly casting.

Singlehandcastitis can now be controlled and used only when wanted.   It will take a bit of work, but in the end will get you to kick the single hand casting memory habits of push and squeeze.

Let’s for a moment talk about how we have been taught to make tight loops with a single hand rod.  The principles of constant acceleration with a straight tip path to an abrupt stop are the corner stones of using the forced turn over style that is most prevalent in our teaching.  We place a very strong emphasis especially on the word “STOP”. 

At the time of that abrupt and squeezing hard stop what can you imagine happens?  The rod is in full bend and because there can be no such thing as an exacting stop, we do our best to anticipate the almost stop.  Techniques like squeezing and pushing with the thumb are explored.  All to get the line moving over the tip to launch the loop.  Joan Wulff says that we should release hand pressure immediately after, what she calls, the power snap stop.

So, at that very moment after we have used a forced turnover stop technique, when the rod achieves being perfectly straight as it moves forward, what then happens?  It moves in the opposite direction and counter flexes.  The amount of counter flex is determined by a few factors.  The weight and length of line out the tip, the recovery rate or action of the rod, the amount of push performed just prior to the stop and the grip firmness of that stop all play their parts.  Fast recovery rods will counter flex less but the other factors are all causes of greater counter flex.  What then happens to the shape of the loop at the moment of launch?  Launch being the moment of loop formation that has sufficient energy to pass the line over the tip top and move forward.  What is the result of counter flex?

If we were to make a video of a caster from the side we could see the effects in slow motion when making different casts under the situations listed above.  The experiment of what will cause the rod to have the greatest counter flex could be achieved.  This is a worth while study at your next get together or clinic.

There is another factor that can sap the energy of our line.  In addition to the natural atmospheric condition at the moment the hard stop will cause our rod, lever acting as a spring, to vibrate back and forward.  The tighter we hold the grip the greater the effect of vibration.  The quickest way to damp the rod is to let it go.  The way to create the greatest vibration is to hold tight.  Each time the rod vibrates backward it pulls the line backward.  This creates shock waves and is a loss of energy .

Let’s assume that we are making a longer cast using a medium action single hand rod  and utilizing a hard stop and a hard thumb push with just the amount of translation, forward movement, rod arc, casting stroke and rotation that will keep the line from making tailing loops.  This will be a cast using forced turnover that is of good quality and as tight as possible for that technique.  When the rod goes into counter flex what then becomes the tip path?  In our slow motion video you will see that it becomes substantially convex.  Convex to the point of forcing the line leg to move down causing a serious dip in the line.  The harder the stop and squeeze the greater the downward tip path.  This shape is called a shock dimple.  The reason it works is because the downward movement of the tip clears the path for the loop to form and pass over the tip top.  Controlling that shape, as well as it’s size,  is possible by slowing down, tip manipulation and changing the abruptness of the stop to as light as possible for the amount of energy needed to launch the line.  In single hand casting there is but a short distance between thumb and pinky placed on the grip.  Try making short casts with body translation, moving back and forth,  and then only rotate the rod at the end of the stroke by using a pinky pull.  Yes that’s right, it can be done with a grater amount of line that you might think.  Pinky pull with no thumb and index finger pressure needed.  You will also want to make a slight downward movement of the rod grip at the same time to allow the line to move over the tip.  I now also move slightly to the opposite side.  Watch the loop shape.  If you are like most of us you will now see the tightest wedge shape loop you have ever cast.  You have now positioned the fulcrum for your lever at a point on the rod grip and not at your wrist.  Is this a practical way to cast a single hand rod?  Possibly not for all of us.  But what about if you could expand the limits of a single hand rod and achieve this when using two hands.

I learned Pull Rod Straight from Al Buhr.  He noticed that I was using excessive and premature rotation of my top hand and gave me the information needed to help me.
Let’s start from a perfect key position for this discussion.  Key position being the place where top and bottom hands are perfectly ready to start our forward translation of forward stroke movement.  At this point our top hand will be to the side of the top hand ear and the bottom grip will be in front of the top of the middle upper part of your abdomen.  Bottom hand will be forward. Remember we are in key position having circled up our D loop and under continuous tension and rod bend and moving without pause into the forward stroke.  Now, move both hands forward together at the same speed.  What should be happening is that the rod is achieving a butt style full length bend through the grip. 

Why is this important?

Fly rods are designed to taper from a thick butt section to a thin tip.  The more mass an object has the greater the amount of energy that can be transferred to an object.  Hence to butt bend the rod is to use the portion of the rod that has the ability to then transfer greater energy through the length of a tapered rod to the tapered line.  Does the energy pass from the butt to the tip?  Sure it does.  But the efficiency of a greater mass receiving and then transferring energy to a lesser mass is greater than the amount of energy that can be accepted in the lesser mass and then transferred to the line mass.   Tip casting is fine and I do it all the time.  Forced turnover is fine and I use it all the time as well.   Using the “flip the tip” exercise is a great way to have our students move line over the tip.  The key factor is to choose the way we move line and do it that way when we want to.  The greater the amount of line out the tip the more reason to make a strong, not tight, fulcrum at our top hand.  The greater the amount of line out the tip the less amount of top hand push and hard stop should be used.  

This butt bending movement should be performed with limited to no rotation between bottom and top hands.  Scissoring top and bottom hands is not desired.  I practice pantomime from the key position to presentation over and over again to get the movement fluid. 

There is another key position to talk about.

This position is the one that comes at the moment the forward stroke has completed forward movement of both hands.  It requires us understanding what a strong fulcrum is and why a strong fulcrum is necessary.  As our bodies have certain muscular structure so do all the muscles in our bodies have certain positions where, when flexed, those muscles will be at their pinnacle strength.  For the upper arm during a casting stroke that will be when the elbow is at a 90 degree angle and the elbow itself is close to our core. 

A Strong Fulcrum

If I were to place the butt of my rod in the palm of my up facing off hand and move only the top dominant hand forward and back where would the fulcrum be?  In the palm of my bottom hand.  Yes?  Look at the shape of the tip path and the shape of the loops that this creates.  Like a rainbow and severely convex and surly not tight.  Then let’s make the top and bottom hands scissor equally forward and back.   The 50/50 standard of top and bottom hand power.  Look at the shape of the line.  Still very convex with large loops.   Now keep the top hand as still as possible and only move the bottom  hand as power placing the fulcrum solidly in the top hand and using the bottom as all the energy.  Yes? 

Try this experiment. 

Stand in a doorway and straddle left and right of the floor door jam.  Now place your dominant hand at eye level in front of your face.  Push on the door jam.  Then move your feet to a position side to side and forward and back and find where you can exert the greatest amount of force from hand to jam.  The conclusion you will come to is that it will be straight from your shoulder, your elbow pointing down with the angle at 90 degrees.  It will also be the same position if you get someone to push on the back of your hand as well.  Exactly where you what the fulcrum to be when two hand casting.  Exactly the height and distance from your body that is the set up for the bottom hand pull.  The top hand is now a strong pivot point fulcrum.  The D loop is the resistance and the pull can be performed.

Now we are making that strong rod butt bend and moving forward with top and bottom to this exact point and we cease forward movement.  Not with an extra push or flick or tight extra squeeze but with a shoulder and elbow and wrist that is in their strongest of strong positions.  We then notice that the pressure point of the rod in our top hand is not in our fingers but solidly into the heel of the hand.  This is the pivot point.  This is the creation of the strong fulcrum with a pivot point for maximum strength.

Note that the butt of the rod is still in front.

The next thing that happens is making a seamless, without pause, bottom hand pull.  This pull is not to add excessive power.  If you pull too hard you will make tailing loops and cause line crash.   It is not meant to further bend and therefore possibly collapse the tip of the rod and it is not to be very long and abrupt.  This pull, heading in the direction of your off hand side hip can be as short as two inches.  It could be a bit longer when greater line lengths are out the tip.  This pull will have your core and shoulders and arm flexing tight.  What is intended by the pull is to pull the rod into a straight position that will have the effect of limited counter flex and vibration.  It will have a natural downward movement allowing the line to move over the tip.  You will notice issues in your loops that are the same as when top hand uses forced turnover if you are pulling too abruptly and too much.

The “Pull Rod Straight” movement has become another part of my cast scripting.  It now falls in between forward stroke and presentation.  I can alter the way my leader straightens with ease now and full well use this style as often as possible.  It has taken a long time and many pantomime and practice sessions but my muscle manipulation is now becoming more important than memory.  

Am I completely cured?  Like any recurring problem, Singlehandcastitis can rear it’s ugly head, but I now have an understanding for why it does and I can stop it from happening on the very next cast.


Monday, September 1, 2014

A Perfect Storm

This has been one of the worst North American salmon seasons in history.  Facts are facts and can not be sugar coated or embellished or made favorable by desire.  This has been one of the worst.

For the longest time, many hard working enthusiasts and conservationists have bridged the gap to keep the runs alive.  Always hoping that some day the magic bullet would be found that could open the door to dramatically larger sustainable returns.  To think that a natural resource as the Atlantic Salmon was being harmed by certain singular events was too simple an approach.  Today we know that conservation and seeding of rivers was but a small finger in the dike that has greater influence.

The Greenland buy out is one such finger, or even a few fingers worth.  When runs started to increase, during some of the last ten years, the buy out became the reason why.  When we think of the reasons that have be associated with poor salmon years it is always the same.  First Nation Netting, Seals, Clear Cutting, Dams and Pollution.  Certainly these factors have an effect on the numbers of returns.  Yet in general they have very little to do with the number of smolt that go to sea.

A set environment, in this case a certain river, has and exacting number of young that can be supported.  This number changes from year to year based on weather patterns over the course of the young fishes in river life.  But in most years these numbers are constant.  For example a river with a usual return of 5000 fish creates an exacting number of eggs that then hatch and over the next two years creates smolt in numbers that the river supports.  That same river in a poor year might only have 3000 fish return and the number of smolt ready for ocean travel will be exactly in the same relative numbers as the good year.  Biologists call this the escapement level as it pertains to returns.


Producing numbers of eggs greater than the number of smolt going to sea is an every year cycle event.  There are many natural predation and environmental factors for this yet it happens.  Why then would it matter?

During times gone by there were bad years.  Not just over the past fifty years but bad years that occurred before Greenland buy outs, before netting, before seals were so prevalent and way before the dams and pollution were in effect. Rivers all over Canada that have never had these factors and still experienced light returns.  Naturally bad years.


This year the low returns are not river specific.  The numbers reflect the entire North American profile and that can only place the cause in one place.  The winter feeding grounds.  If you have followed my writing over the last number of years you know that The North Atlantic Oscillation has had a prominent place in my thinking.  I have now had more than a few years experience watching the winter charts and predicting the following spring and summer returns.  The situation shifted this year and what we have experienced is the lowest returns of adults in recent history.  


Returns of Grilse in the two pound range and thin fish that are larger have been seen.  What can be concluded is that the food supply was disrupted and made scarce.  The NAO chart for the winter of 2013-2014 explains this in simplistic detail.  The oscillation was in a positive position for the entire period.  In a typical year there will be fluctuation.  Some storms travel east below the feeding grounds and some directly through.  But this past year it was almost a continual battering in the North Atlantic.  Salmon winter in an average of fourteen feet from the surface.  When seas are high and rolling the bait is scattered and the salmon go hungry. Naturally there is die off and experience lighter weights.


With all the factors of man in full effect this became the year when all parties wanted their share.  The Greenland buy out is no more.  Many fish were harvested.  First Nation rightfully took theirs.  Fish farms in estuaries produced sea lice, and The North Atlantic Oscillation could not have been of much greater detrimental effect.  All the other ocean issues of seals and pollution have not stopped.

Sad to say that we, as anglers, then continued to harvest and live release.  Harmful to the totals and all contributing factors.  The Perfect Storm was in full effect this year and we can see what happens when all the factors of man and nature take hold.  


As I said in the start of this posting, the number of smolt that will go to sea from this years November spawn should be the same as last years and the same as if the river were chocked full of adults.  A river can only support so many and nature has that survival covered.  What we as anglers and conservationists can continue to effect is of the greatest importance.  We, with our efforts and money have sustained the survival and in some cases replenishment to many rivers.  Yes, some are lost forever as the gene pool is gone.  But what happens this winter is still unknown.  Perhaps the powers that be will come up with a solution to the netting.  And an even greater possibility will be that the NAO will be negative all winter long and Salmo Salar can be fed without working too hard.    

This has been one of the worst salmon seasons in history.  Yet if nature has it's way the North Atlantic Oscillation will move winter storms south and intelligent heads will prevail and the buy out will be re-established and a dramatic change could happen.  I am still hopeful.

Friday, August 22, 2014

This Is A Fish To Remember

A late start had me jumping up to get the coffee brewing.  Emily forgot to set the alarm and in a daze I was moving faster than I should.  After coffee delivery to help get her day started, my next duty was to get the dog out so all could be complete before we were to leave for her half hour commute.  Her to work and me to deal with a car situation needed for the weekends Spey classes and fishing.

My phone rang.

Still half asleep, I was being asked by Leo to make a drive north.  Snap, Crackle, Pop and my mind was issued that little spark of adrenaline needed to say let's go. Leo and I have fished together many days.  Not many of us can fish shoulder to shoulder and cover the same water together like we can.  Crossing lines, perfectly timed synchronization in casts and drifts and a whole lot of fish.  The kind of team work that some would not be able to mentally accept.  Kenny knows exactly what I am talking about as he has the same ability and tempo of calm character.  We fished away the day.  Leo took a nice salmon early and all was well.

There are certain fish that we remember and most that we forget.  They have the ability to live with us for a long time and today I would add another to the mix.  This sole fish I landed today was not the largest Landlocked Salmon in the pool but one to ponder.

I had been alternating all day between swinging with streamers or cut shanks and nymphing.  So far the only action, for me, was to the nymphs and it was three fish on and three fish gone.  All dropped hooks as runs and jumps made for some long line releases to safety.  Then about four o'clock the indicator went down hard and I could immediately tell a decent fish had taken my #12 Red Head Prince as I raised my rod quickly. The first move was to sulk but only for a moment.  Then the search for escape sent my line humming up river and through the rapid that enters the pool.  A continual thrashing back and forth with one big jump and burst of speed brought the fish back to center stage.  Then the long run all the way to the farthest reaches of the back eddy under some hanging willows.  What I fear most with these crazy fish started to happen.  They are notorious for exiting down river and not stopping.  Using the strong current below the pool wanting to go back to the lake and fining their nose at you as they do.

As the down stream movement started to take solid hold I said over and over "no, not down, please, no, not down'"  and I simply didn't wait for the fish to get below me.  I ran along the open area of the bank till I was locked up against a big rock that blocked my movement.  The fish was still moving down.  Immediately, and I mean instantaneously, I threw line off my reel letting the swift current of the tail out set a bag of tension as if the danger was now coming from down stream.  The salmon was so close to spilling over and out of the pool and thankfully responded to the tension and began swimming back up river.  I have used technique many times on big fish.  Never has the hook dislodged as if slack were being introduced into the system.  A few more runs away from Leo holding the net and heads up it was over.

I just love fall salmon fishing.  Everything is changing yet there is this constant beat of the river.  I don't remember many fish but this one gave me something to cherish.  Hard to explain what, I just accept it as truth of feeling alive today sharing a day with a dear friend and I remember those days that have a complete story to tell.


Friday, August 15, 2014

A Match Made In Heaven-Choosing The Fly First Will Help It Happen

One of the hardest things to have dialed in is that perfect matched system.  Where fly, tippet, leader, line and rod are all perfectly coordinated to our personal ability for one exacting set of circumstances and conditions.

Today in order to try a line we must buy one.  Put it on the rod we think is right and will more than likely be wrong.  I am having to deal with this dilemma all the time.  Let's try to get a bit more familiar with how we can make some better choices.

The Fly
Most of us will go to the store and buy our first fly rod prior to knowing and understanding what it will be used for.  I see it all the time.  "I have a", seems to be the constant first three words out of everyone's mouth.  A fly rod is a lever that we then manipulate to act as a spring by moving the lever in a way that transfers energy from our body to the rod.  Not just any energy as if I took the rod and shook it vigorously back and forth.  No, not any transfer but a controlled transfer of energy in a way that will most effectively continue that transfer of energy to a fly line.  Then in turn continue a smooth transfer to the leader and tippet and then that precious of precious lures at the end of the system.  The Fly.

So, it is that projectile that dictates the requirement of necessary transferred energy to present it in a way that is most pleasing to the target.  If the target were two pound bass yet the required stimuli was a deer hair mouse, would the size of the fish determine the correct lever as spring and be the appropriate delivery tool, or would it be that big, heavy and wind resistant fly?  Does the fish require an ulta light tippet?

This is why the fly comes first in our equipment choice as matching and correctly using the fly is the key factor in making the catch.

The Knot
When this topic comes up there is always one angler in the crowd who says, "I have been using a clinch knot my entire life and it has always worked just fine, I have no reason to change knots".  And I then say, "the reason you think it has be just fine is because you don't know better".  And then I catch myself and realize that that angler had no reason to change.  His choice met the requirements for all his needs.   But that said, given the choice would you use a knot that had 70% strength or one that worked in the same way at 100%?  One that lets you fly pull straight on the swing or cantor?  One that offers movement or restricts movement.

Learning many knots is a critical part of how we fish.  We must ask the question of how do we need our fly to swim in order to get that strike.  Fish have impulse triggers and knowing how and what they are including how they eat will be helpful.

The Tippet
Now we start to have some additional choice.  If we think the fly is right, for a certain target and condition, and we know the knot that will offer the best presentation, then the tippet is of great importance as to how that perfect morsel will be presented.

Most of us think it is all about the X factor.  Well, that might be a good part of the story but the Y factor is far more important.    Lets take a size 32 CDC midge dry.  The river is crystal clear and has moderate flow.  You can see the trout and if not careful the trout can see, feel, hear and smell you.  Now let's imagine the trout is in the five pound category.  A size 32 is going to require an 8x tippet or a 7x depending on what brand you choose.  The difference in tippet strength between these two choices is a very big percentage.  First, you need to do your homework and research tippet material. They are not all made the same and I use certain brands down to certain rivers.  Mono-filament, Fluorocarbon, co-polymer, coated, abrasion resistant, limp, firm, floating, sinking, clear and opaque. Knowing the Y factor as to "why" and when you would choose a certain tippet will be determined by the target, fly and condition.

Leader and Line
For me, the leader will be a seamless connection to my fly line.  What leader I choose is directly associated to how and why I have chosen my fly and tippet.  I use the word seamless because I try my best to deal with the transfer of energy from line through leader as science.  Having a butt section that is too large or too small has consequences.

Today we have so many options to make for this important connection.  Many lines come with fused loop to loop ability so Poly and Versi leaders can be used. Dry fly angling with a 2wt will require a different approach.

Matching the diameter of the butt section of the required leader will offer some reasoning for your line choice.  I ask the basic question as to what is needed to fuel the front end to determine my line choice. Then only then can I decide on the style of line.  From Double Taper through Skagit there are more decisions to make than most of us can imagine.  Think how enormous the range of capabilities can be. Mountain streams to steel-head in the Pacific North West to Sailfish in blue water.  Endless, isn't it?

The Rod  
Now it becomes final decision time.  My question is always going to be "What rod will cast the system with ease, efficiency and accuracy and at the same time effectively handle the target".  Fast, medium, slow, tip flex, through the grip flex, single, switch or two hand as well as length and weight are all determined by the fly, target and condition.  What would over or underlining do in a small river setting? At this moment we realize that the starting point in your next rod purchase needs to have greater thought.  It is an exacting science that starts at the beginning. A fly rod is not singularly a casting tool or a fish playing tool.  It is more than that as it is a fishing rod that can complete the task start to finish efficiently .

I realize that I have not given any conclusions as to choice.  I didn't teach you how to tie one knot.  My goal is to put it out there that we have choices that can be made with learning.

I am not standing in your river or ocean and looking at the conditions.  I have no idea what you require. But I can tell you that the more you learn about all the possibilities and have the knowledge to make these choices, your casting will improve and your catch will increase.  Anglers study their environment and locations intently so when fishing the only thing necessary is exercising our instinct, acquired skill and prowess to make the catch.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Dream Is Over

For a period of six years, I made the Merrimack River the challenge of my angling life.  My reasoning was, sooner or later the Atlantic Salmon restoration program would be successful. The Merrimack and Pemigewasset Rivers, with their substantial volume of quality tributaries, would become my home waters.

Each of the years starting in 1984 the numbers of returns was looking promising.  I was certain that the thrill experienced in Maine and Canada would be mine a bit closer to home.  This was Atlantic Salmon fishing, after all, and each and every reasons for not making the catch was in play.  The water too high, too low, nope they are not here yet or the proverbial, "you should have been here yesterday".

So for six years I traveled to down town Lawrence, Massachusetts in the shadow of the Essex Dam.  The very thoughtless obstruction that killed the run in the first place.  Many hours were spent hanging around and looking.  Park the car near the tracks and walk the train trestle in order to get a glimpse.  A window and a little sun.  You know how that works.  Yes?

I would stand looking and my mind would wander to what that first spring must have looked like as I peered down from the bridge facing the dam wall.   I just can not imagine the sight of all those different species trapped below the dam.  I'm sure that some who saw and smelled the remains were saddened.  But as more dams were built on other rivers, they were erected with the same lack of regard.   Blocked, and begging to continue, the migration was halted.  There must have been millions of fish.

By far, Lawrence is the strangest environment I have ever pursued the King of Fishes.  Paper mills, fabric mills and shoe manufacturing companies lined both banks from the dam down river for a full half mile.  The canals on both sides of the river, receiving their flow from the dams impoundment, forced the water through the sluice ways running under each building and turning the turbines to drive leather belts and fly wheels that the young grease monkeys would keep well oiled.

And so it was just another one of the many days on the Merrimack.  I arrived at the river early in the morning of June 6.  The flow was moving in a very moderate way for early June.  I made the decision to concentrate on river left about fifty yards down from the base of the dam.  The flow sweeps under the route 28 bridge then under the train trestle and straight down river past the boat ramp.  I have seen fish tight to the steep bank before as they moved up the edge.

As I jockeyed about from pocket to pocket, a very strange thing happened.  The water coming through the dam slowed down substantially.  I was fishing a brown bomber dry fly, and casting up stream when all of a sudden a bright flash swirled under the big high floater.  "That was no shad",  I screamed it in my head a second time.  Immediately, I decided that I would change to a wet fly. I moved away from the river out of sight or vibration. Marking the location on the bank and moved quickly to get ahead of the fish. I call this the bait and switch.  I learned this trick years before on the Miramichi River while following anglers fishing the dry fly in our down river rotation.  It was like they were my spoters and would get fish to show that I could target as we made our steps.  

This day I moved up river and started with a shorter line and would work slowly down to the position where I saw the fish.  This way if the fish was higher up and followed the dry fly you would be covering the water of an up river lie properly without lining the fish.

On the fifth cast a fine Atlantic took my size 8 Coburn Special.  I always thought this to be a green river.  What a total delight as the fish jumped repeatedly and took me down river below the boat ramp.  Brought to hand, the hook removed with ease, and then a moment of reality.  At least twenty five people of all walks of life had gathered and witnessed the catch.  Not many Merrimack Atlantic Salmon had been angled that I knew about but for a few that fell to Shad darts.

Then I heard someone say, "do you want your picture taken"  I said yes and am very happy to have the photo in this story.

It's now twenty four years since that season.  I never fished another minute for returning salmon on the Merrimack  It seemed that two was too many and six years was enough.

Fast forward to today and we know the program has not worked and is scheduled to end.  I have heard talk of private money.    Who knows?  The original genetics were lost.  I believe this factor has proven the bitter pill.  The effort that all involved made has been gallant.  Each and every person who made that effort has my deepest admiration and appreciation.  I wish the excitement of a few years ago would have lasted.

But nature will always rule.  No mater how modern we think we are, the cycle of life is not a malleable environment.  Perhaps the genetic engineers of present and future, will create the Souhegan River strain as well as a few other tributaries.

I still have an emotional connection to our great river.  I love every time I see it.  I teach some casting classes on the the rivers.  Places where students and instructor will sometimes gaze over the pool and hope to see one boil.   Hope that one day we might feel the pull of a big Pemi Salmon on it's way to the head waters. You just stop, stare and dream and the words "imagine what it must have been like?" will trickle past your lips as you shake your head slowly side to side.

Sadly, for me right now, the dream is over.


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Never Tell A Lie

For a number of years I have been using The Measure Net system.  Why, you might ask?  Well the quality and function of the item is exactly what you would expect.  In my opinion far better than the price paid.  What is most important is the fact that I know exactly the size of my fish without removal from the water and with the shortest amount of time.  I just received my third and will put it in action first thing in the morning.  It's Landlocked Salmon time here in New England.

Here is the link to a wonderful product.   The Measure Net 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The FlySpoke Super Bug

3/0 Black Heron Natural Amherst Embellished

I'm a great lover of the Syd Glasso tying style.  It keeps in place all the wonder of flow and composition of those old Spey classics yet offers just a creative rendering that makes them fresh.  This variant, tied on an Alec Jackson 3/0, of Syd's Black Heron is a beautiful as I can offer to do justice to his craft.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Two Hand Casting "The Lift"

The start of any, from the dangle, two hand cast is to make sure that all slack is out of the system. Slack that must be eliminated by using part of the lift is a delayed transfer of energy from body to rod to line. Slack in the lift can even become slack at the beginning of the sweep. The first upward movement, or lift, is used to clear line from the surface tension to make our next move easier and afford the ability to make a well placed and properly shaped anchor set.  A rule of thumb in tip height to a lift would be to clear half the line from the water.  A proper lift will find the entire rod moving upward and not just the tip.  A hinge lift is ineffective and will cause added slack.

The shotgun lift is that basic move to get things fluid. Other lifts like crescent, cut and spiral are more dynamic and can be effective in situations that need a bit more energy or a change of position of the line. The shotgun lift is made with a slow, S-L-O-W, short, perpendicular rod movement up with an appropriate slow tempo.  Speed is not necessary.  There needs to be variation in the power, tempo and height of the lift determined by river condition. A flat mid section of a pool might require less power on the lift that say the faster moving tail out.  A key factor about any lift is that there is no abrupt movement.  Between lift and sweep there is no pause.  We call them using two words but they are one movement.  The concept of power on and power off with tempo is always in effect.

The key to any well executed lift is the judgement of power required to make the line free to move upward and transition to the sweep without a stop. This is where power to tempo transforms to the dramatic power at the start of your sweep. Use your lift wisely and concentrate on the ability to get your casting to feel continuous from it's very first movement till you follow through and make the presentation back to the water.