Well, here we are a couple of days past Christmas. I hope everybody has had a safe, fun Christmas Holiday and that everyone received all of the fly fishing gifts from Santa they were looking for. My Christmas was great and the best "fishing" gift for me came from my son Tyler. The Fishpond Nomad net will be out to good use, trust me. Thanks buddy for a great, and needed, present. With the hustle and bustle of Christmas not what it used to be for my wife and I (our kids are 21 and 19) and being SEVERAL years away from grandchildren the holidays, for us, are a simpler time. After the big day I got to spend a little time the White Clay on Friday and Saturday. I was hopeing to take advantage of the Holiday Stocking that the White Clay Fly Fishers have been doing the past several years. Things were done a little differently this year. In the past the club would do one stocking of several hundred to sometimes over a thousand fish typically right before Christmas. This year the river will be stocked three times; once in October, December, and February. Knowing the river was full of fish had me rigged and on the water by 11:30.
I have been playing with a winter time rig that I learned from my buddy Eric Stroup www.ericstroupflyfishing.com in fact during his last Face Time Fly Fishing show he spent a little time discussing this very subject. During the winter take 3 flies (the maximum number allowed by the state DNR) and place them fairly close together. The Idea is to grab the fishes attention with a smorgasbord of food in close proximity to each other. A single Zebra Midge needs to bump them in the nose sometimes before they will eat it. Certainly they will move no more than a few inches, maybe a foot, to eat such a small meal. That is why you need to be extra diligent to be sure you have covered 100% of the hole you are fishing before moving on. On the other hand a fish is more apt to move several feet if it knows it has the opportunity to fill his gut. I usually will fish a big attractor like a Walt's Worm or a PFN and trail a small Nymph and a Midge, or 2 Midges of different color. This technique has worked quite well for me in the past, especially on stocked fish. One word of caution, be sure to cast an open loop or you will have a mess of tangled spaghetti in short order and be sure to use barbless or de-barb all of your hooks. With 3 flies no more than 18" apart the opportunity to hook the body of the fish with one of the other flies is heightened.
I hit the river solo on Friday and fished from about 11:30 till they shut off at about 4:15. Water temp was 36 degrees and at the warmest part of the day there was a pretty steady Midge hatch coming off. Steady enough for me to switch to a dry and stick a couple before the bugs shut off causing the fish to follow suit. With the water at 36 degrees I decided to fish the deeper pools and cover the water thoroughly before moving on. I pre-tied two rigs, the first had a #14 PFN on point with a #20 Black Mercury Midge and a #22 olive Al's Rat as trailers. The second rig was a #10 Walt's Worm on point with a #18 Flashback PT and a #20 Frostbite Midge as trailers. I have done well with all of these flies on the Clay in the past ant Friday waI no different as I landed fish on all 6 flies.
The highlight of the day came at around 3:30 when several fish started to rise on the far bank from where I was fishing. It stopped as fast as it started, lasting only about 20 minutes. I had just enough time to switch my leader to a dry on 6X. I chose what is quickly becoming my favorite Midge dry, the CDC Puff. This is my buddy Rick's pattern and it is as effective to fish as it is easy to tie. A hook, thread and 2 materials.
Saturday was to be much different than Friday. First off I was fishing with 2 good friends. Jim Stephens whom has been taking private tying lessons for some time now and has become a good friend and my partner in crime Ed "one boot" Hays. We met at around 11:30 and quickly realized there were MANY more people fishing today, the weather was beautiful, the temp was in the 50's and everybody had the same idea. Ed had a few new streamer patterns he wanted to fish so he decided to fish down. Jim and I were Nymphing and fished up. I had already decided to spend the bulk of the day in the area I had the most luck the day before...stake my claim if you will. I don't normally like to do that, but I knew there were fish there and if I was not fishing over them somebody or many somebody's would be. I started with the same rig I had the most success with the day before. In the beginning I actually spent more time talking as several of my old customers that were on the water. Conversations with Dennis, Ray, Bill, Rob, and Adam were a good way to rest the fish in "my" hole and it was nice to catch up with these guys. The fishing was tough and I was having no success with any of the flies that worked the day before. At one point I watched a fish move 6 inches to his left as my rig drifted past him. When the rig was safely past him he moved 6 inches to his right back to his preferred lie. I sent a text to Ed to ask how he was doing and received this picture in return.
At this point I had been fishing for 3 hours and only had one fish landed and another LDR (long distance release). I have switched flies to every combo imaginable and just couldn't get the same results as yesterday. Finally as a last ditch effort as I blankly starred in to my nymph box I decided to do something I NEVER do. I picked a single fly, one I rarely if ever fish, tied the single fly under the indicator and cast it out.
On the first cast I was tight to a good Brown. I had just enough time to fish my way up through the run one more time, which I did landing 3 more fish. Who would have thought, fishing technical all day and the Green Weenie was the top producing fly!
At the end of the day we all compared notes and it turned out to be not too bad of a day. When you are on the water with good friends is it ever a bad day? Off to tie Weenies. Till next time
It has been a couple of weeks since my last post. Both myself and my computer caught a virus and we were both down for a while. Well, we are back up and running and I thought I would share a step by step of one of my Nymph patterns, the PFN. The idea of Pheasant Tail Nymphs with a "hot" thorax is by no means a new concept. Although the color combo of this fly happens to be the same combination of my favorite hockey team, The Philadelphia Flyers (PFN = Philadelphia Flyers Nymph) the choice of colors goes much deeper than that. Everybody has their favorite color for trout. Read any Charlie Meck book and you will quickly realize Mr Meck is quite fond of blue. Well, I feel the same way about orange. Trout seem to key in on orange and that is why I chose Senyo's laser dub in orange for the thorax of this fly. The black wing case was chosen to make the wing case "pop" against the thorax and to simulate the darkening of the nymphs wing case prior to it emerging. At home on a wild river and deadly on stocked fish (especially Rainbows) this nymph is sure to become a go to.
Hook; TMC 5262 #14
Bead; 1/8 inch gold Brass or Tungsten
Thread; Brown flat waxed 140 denure
Tail; Medium Speckled Coq de Leon
Wire; Brassie Uni Wire, Hot Orange
Abdomen; Natural Pheasant Tail
Thorax; Senyo's Laser Dub, Orange
Wing Case; Black Scud Back or Thin Skin
Bead the hook and place the hook in the vise.
Tough to see here, but select a small clump of Coq de Leon fibers and tie in the tail as long as the hook shank.
Tie in a length of Uni Wire on the near side of the hook shank. The reason I tie it on the near side is when you counter wrap the wire the first wrap will be pulling up on the bottom of the hook shank. This way you can pull the wire tight and not worry about moving the tails with the tension of the wire.
Tie in a clump of natural Pheasant tail and wrap forward. be sure to cover at least 2/3 of the hook shank. Taper the abdomen small to large as you move up the hook.
Counter wrap the wire forward through the abdomen.
Tie in the Scud back for the wing case. You can substitute Thin Skin or Ploy Yarn for this step. Be sure the wing case is centered on top of the hook and is tied back far enough to create a smooth transition from the abdomen to the thorax.
Dub a "buggy" thorax with Orange Senyo's Laser Dub
Fold the wing case forward, tie off and clip the excess. See how the Black "pops" against the Orange.
This is something I have started doing recently. I dubbed a little Brown Hares Ear Plus to take up the space between the top of the thorax and the bead. I really don't think this has anything to do with how the fly fishes, I just think it looks better.
Next time you are at the bench tie a few of these up. Better yet, take your "confidence color" and incorporate it into your favorite Nymph pattern. You may just come up with the new "hot" fly!
As I sit here typing this on Sunday night I am reflecting on what a great Thanksgiving weekend I have just had. It all started on Thanksgiving morning with some much needed time off. I actually got to sleep in for once and woke up at about 8:30, had my morning coffee and headed straight to the tying bench. I had planned a big weekend of fishing and was in need of a few flies. A few hours later I had cranked out half a dozen PFN's, a few Flashback PT's, and a bunch of Al's Rat's. Figuring I was in pretty good shape fly wise I prepped my gear, loaded the truck and settled in for a nice quiet day at home and Thanksgiving dinner with my wife.
Friday morning I had decided to head to one of my favorite wild Trout rivers, Valley Creek In Valley Forge State Park. The temperatures this weekend were on the chilly side (low 30's) in the mornings so there was no sense getting up there super early in the morning. I left my house at around 9:45 and made the easy, one hour drive to the park. Who would have thought, 100% wild fish less than 30 miles from my house! When I got there it was snowing and a quick look at the weather app on my phone showed the temperature to be 31 degrees. I geared up, layered my clothes accordingly and was on the water at about 11:15.
I started with a dry and dropper rig and fished a spot that usually will give up a fish or two. I spent a few hours in that spot going through it 3 times with different rigs and finally got one to eat. The absence of Midges in the air and nothing underneath any of the rocks I turned over had me scratching my head. Finally I switched to an indicator rig and got him to eat a Walt's Worm. I continued to work my way up stream, switching flies and picking up a few fish. The highlight of the day was the hooking and almost landing of an estimated 15" fish. On some waters a 15 incher may be nothing to get excited about, on Valley, that is a real trophy. Unfortunately I did not get a pic as he never actually made it to hand. As I went to net him the hook pulled and I gawked at him as he swam back to the depths. Typically this is the point where I get really mad and say bad words, not this time. I knew this was a real trophy and more importantly I fooled him with one of my patterns, the PFN. I did some research to try and find out how old a wild fish of that size is. There are a ton of variables involved, genetics, food availability, growth season, but in talking with people that know much more than me about this stuff and doing my own readings it seems that fish is at least 3 years old. In that amount of time he has seen hundreds of flies drift past him. The fact that he ate one of mine gave me a real sense of accomplishment, picture or not. I fished till almost dark on Friday and on the ride back home I reflected on the days events and felt good about my fishing. It is a plus anytime you go to Valley and have a good day, add 36 degree water temps and you can understand why I was feeling pretty good about myself.
After my day on Friday and my newly pumped up ego I decided to head back to Valley again on Saturday. It was 32 degrees when I left my house. I figured the cold weather would keep most people off of the water so I decided to fish the water in the park. Bit of advice, If you leave your gear in the truck overnight after a day of fishing and the temps go below freezing, be sure to put your boots and waders on the passenger side floor to thaw them out. You can not put waders and boots on that are frozen solid! I decided to fish from the famous covered bridge up river to Lafayette's headquarters. This section is a great stretch to nymph as the water has a lot of character that nymph fisherman look for.
Again, no bugs in the air and nothing on the underside of the rocks I turned over so I decided to stick with the same rig that I had success with the day before, Walt's Worm on the point and a #18 Flashback PT on the dropper. I also decided unless I see something different I would stick with that rig the entire day.
I never changed the rig and had a pretty good day. They all ate the PT, every time I would think about swapping out the Walt's Worm I would say to myself "if it aint broke don't fix it". Probably good advice.
Sunday found me on the White Clay. I fished the DHALO section and I fished from the confluence of the middle branch up river to the London Tract bridge. I figured I had just spent 2 days on arguably the toughest wild Trout river in our area with moderate success, surely these stocked fish would be a piece of cake. Circle false on that one! I honestly don't think I have ever fished the Clay that hard, and it didn't give up very much. Water was 36 degrees at 11:00 am and only warmed up a degree or two the whole day. I actually did see quite a few Midges in the air, but no risers. I tied on a attractor rig with a PFN on the point and a Rainbow Warrior on the dropper. 5.5 hours and a few fish later I found myself at the bridge dreading the walk all the way back to the lower parking lot. Fortunately a nice guy named Tracy pulled up next to me on my way back. He asked how the fishing was and offered me a ride back down to my truck. Thanks Tracy, you came by at the perfect time!
I hope everybody has as good of a Thanksgiving weekend as I did. Always trying to learn more I find myself now intrigued by the aging of wild fish and the factors that go into their growth. Anyone that can shed some light on this please feel free to contact me. I have already had a few requests and I will be posting a step by step of the PFN. you can read more about it here. Until next time.