Sunday, July 21, 2013

Some things never change


It has been 37 years since I first started to use a fly rod, that was at age 12 in 1976. Prior to that I use either a spinning or spincasting  rod with a clear bubble and fly to catch trout. Most of the early years of my fly fishing were spent on small streams with a Diawa – Dianna fiber glass rod 8’ 6wt with a Pflueger 1494 1/2 reel on it. I fished mostly wets and streamers with the occasional dry fly for the elusive top feeders. Well 37 years later I have a closet full of equipment, including a couple of outfits worth more than my first car, a used Volkswagen rabbit. My fly choices have become more sophisticated and I do tend to catch far more fish but I can tell you I enjoyed it just as much then as I do now. Lately I have been noticing how much things have changed in fly fishing but how much they stay the same. A couple of things that have spurred this on were a couple of fishing buddies passing along reading material to me . One in the form of 12 PDF digital books that date as far back as 1854 and the other some old Fly Fisherman Magazines from 1977-79. These old magazines really drove the point home as to how commercialized the sport of fly fishing had become. This is not nearly a bad thing, as I believe that we have far better equipment –rod, reels, lines along with a better understanding of trout and their food.  Also far more species are being caught with fly rods in both salt and fresh water. One of the funniest things that has not changed, E.M Tod writes about it in his book wet fly fishing published in Scotland in 1884, is the debate over dry fly fishing as being more sporting / more “fly fishing” than fishing with a sunk fly. That same sentiment is echoed in another old book I recently read by Charles Z Southard published in 1914 the debate by this time had made it to the shores of the United States. Both men adopted pretty much the same attitude towards fly fishing as I have, remain flexible and let the Trout tell you what fly to fish don't try to " force feed them a pattern you want to fish". One last piece about this Mr. Tod writes something very funny in one chapter about using both a dry fly and wet fly at the same time, with the wet being a dropper off of the dry fly. I thought that was something new guess not. He follows that up in the same chapter and I will paraphrase” tis better to go the river with both wet and dry flies then decide to which to fish than to preclude one for not being actual “ fly fishing” .  A man of the latter thought mine as well fish after being poked in the eye with a sharp stick”as he will be just as effective. That made laugh out loud when I read it.

                It amazes me all of the equipment changes that have taken place in a just 37 years seeing that bamboo and green heart were used pretty much exclusively for well over a hundred years each then to see one material come into favor fall out and then begin a revival in just those 37 years is amazing. Fiberglass rods ruled the day from the mid 60's until about 1980-81 when companies started to build much better graphite models. Now they have started to make a comeback with many custom and a bunch of production models on the market today. One surprising thing I read about is that the whole Boron/graphite mix is not new .A couple of rod copanies were doing that in 1979 but it was not very successful so they abandoned the idea until a few years ago when Winston and Orvis brought out models with mixes. Speaking of Orvis & Winston they are a couple of the big names along with Scientific Anglers, Hardy, Thomas & Thomas and Cortland that have lasted. With new comers Powell and Scott Power ply just coming on the scene.  Most of the ads in those pages were for companies that are either gone or no longer make fly fishing equipment,.Berkley not only had several fly lines but a line of fly rod and reels under the specialist label. Lew Childre one of the big bass rod companies had a line of “ speed stick” fly rods. H.L. Leonard was still producing Bamboo rods out of their Central Valley, NY location and had just become a member of the S.E. Johnson (wax) company. Having worked in fly and tackle shops for almost 20 years  on an off it is kind of sweet to see some shops that have survived far longer than most. Dan Baileys, Bud Lilly’s, Kaufmann’s  fly shops out west. Housatonic Meadows and Sportsmen’s Den here at home. There were more fly shops listed for Connecticut and New York than for either Montana or Colorado in an add for Cortland fly lines.

                Catch and release was a hot topic ,with some modern devotees who were outspoken against it, "as wasting a precious resource by tossing half dead trout back into the river". Water clean ups were just getting started, dam removal was an unheard of thing and conservationists were just then pushing for fish ladders on dams. I guess fly fishing has gotten much better due in large part the early conservationist movement started in the 70’s has lead to most of our trout water being much cleaner. Unlike today where talk of less stocking with better management of habitat for wild fish they spoke of increased stocking to further opportunities for all anglers. One kind of disturbing thing that I picked up was a bit of high minded elitism that many of the writers of the day had. One article I read made a point of that if you were fishing either up or down stream if a spin fisherman is encountered they should always yield to you as you were the more sporting gentlemen. I guess some things take longer to change than others as this attitude persists to a small point today. I feel, to each his own! Another thing that reading this older material has done is renew my love affair with wet fly fishing. After reading a couple of old books on it and reading an article by Lee Wulf about it back in April I spent a day swinging a Quill Gordon wet and just banging the crap out of the trout over a three day stretch. So I guess the more fly fishing changes it comes back around again.

Friday, March 22, 2013

As time goes by

Monday night JT, Stan, Lou and I all headed up to the Ludlow Elks for the 3rd year in a row to set up a display for the shop at the Western Mass fly fishermen’s club expo. It is a great club that main purpose is to give back and get Kids and adults into fly fishing and tying. I was at their January meeting, going over what program I was going to put on at the expo, they announced they had about 56 people in the fly tying class they were putting on. That is incredible to say the least. The club dues are all put back into materials and items for the tying classes. They are a great bunch!

            I did my talk on two of my favorite things; I did a short presentation on “locating and best tactics for small stream fishing” and a much broader presentation on   “nymph fishing”. Any of you who have fished with me know that I LIKE nymph fishing. Some people look down on it and I feel sorry for them. It is not the only way to fish by no means but it beats waiting for a hatch. Over the last 35+ years of fly fishing I have one philosophy when it comes to both guiding and my personal fishing “ be flexible” I will almost never go to the river planning on fishing just this way or that. I will always sit and watch the fish for a time and let them tell me how to fish. It has made me successful over the years so I try to help others see it works. I have been reading digital copy of C.M Todd’s “ fishing the wet fly” this book was published back in 1903 and even though it is about wet fly fishing he makes the comment that and fly fishermen to be a success has to be able to fish both on top and under the surface.  Well I guess there really is not all that much new in this sport. I had thought that a dry and dropper was a relatively new thing, nope he talks about fishing a dry and a wet fly in slightly faster water. I am starting to believe that truly only thing that has changed is what the equipment is made out of.

                Think I have reached the stage were just getting out and getting of decent fish is more important that counting. I have kept a fishing journal since 1983 and use them to look back at weather, water and fish patterns. I have noticed that from about 1990 until about 4 years ago I kept very detailed counts of the species with species, length, pattern and location for all of my fishing trips. These last 4 years I find I listed only that I caught a few in the spot or that spot with the occasional note on a larger fish with location and pattern. It could be maturity or just laziness I am not sure. I still keep details of the weather, water and how I fished but not the numbers. I have also noticed I have started to fish slower in the last couple of years and that is a good thing. I think sometimes I would move thru a pool or run way too fast and actually miss some fish. As time goes by we all mature and age some like a fine wine others mellow like a good single malt in the end we all enjoy this great sport our own way.



Monday, March 11, 2013

signs of life

Put the oldest daughter on the bus this morning and realized that it was actually light at 6:00 this has to mean that spring is not too far off. This is the time of the year for anticipation of the upcoming season and planning trips for the early spring. For me it means cranking up the vice and tying lots of flies. Most years I will have dozens and dozens of flies to tie to fill boxes for guiding. I like to do as much of it preseason as possible so then I only have to tie newer patterns during the season. What really helps with this is keeping a detailed journal of all my trips both personal and guide trips. I have kept one since 1982 when I needed a subject for a college creative writing class. Over the years it has been one of my best tools to make me a better fly fisherman. I can look back at weather patterns, water flows or even lack of rain back to 82 and see what worked and did not.

          This year I actually started way back in December tying just in case we had a winter like last year so I could get out without feeling guilty. I spend a lot of time tying for the shop in March and early April but that always ends up being between 10pm-2am most nights. Well the winter shaped up to be pretty normal so looks like fishing will be another few weeks off. I know some people are getting out, my buddy Steve e-mailed me this morning saying he got out yesterday and got a couple that made 7 so far this year. I am really jealous of him. Not only that he got to fish at all but that he is new at fly fishing and has that need to get out. I think that is why this part of the year is special to me because I get that feeling after a couple of month of not being on the water I really need to get out and renew that love of fly fishing.

          Working and hanging out at fly and tackle shops over the past 20 years I it funny how some fly fishermen think that having the best of everything will make it better or easier, while it may make it better it is not easy at first. I always make a point in my beginners class that, if coming from spin fishing, they have to be willing to catch less trout for a season or two but once it clicks there is usually not turning back. Speaking of stuff I just picked up a new rod that I have wanted for a couple of years. I finally got my Hardy Zenith 9’ 4 weight rod and cannot wait to fish it. It was a deal I could not pass up so I jumped. I have wanted one since I first cast the proto type with the sales rep 3 years ago. I t has a very progressive action which makes close in casting, say 10-15 feet, easy but it has a power to boom out an 80’ cast if needed. Two springs ago at the shops spring fling I had a customer, who had only tried casting once before, throwing decent loops and 30’ of line in no time with that rod. Unlike the many faster rods these are much easier to cast you do not need perfect timing. One thing I have been impressed with all of their products is, unlike some US companies who build great casting rods but they seem to be poor tools to fight fish, the Hardy rod do both well.  

          Just an FYI over the next month there are a few things going on that I would like to let you know about. This Saturday March 16, 2013 we are doing open tying at the shop. Monday March 18th I will be at the Western Mass Fly fishermen’s expo doing a program on small stream & nymph fishing. Saturday April 13th will be the shops (JTs fly shop) annual spring fling weekend. Many reps and local clubs will be there along with a fishermen’s flea market. Stop in to one of these and say hey.



Sunday, February 10, 2013

It is hard to believe that it is 2013 already. Life has been one crazy mess since my last post. The fishing season came and went problem is life always seems to get in the way. I had some great guide trips this past year and want to thank all those great people who enjoyed one or more day with me. I really enjoy the time I spend guiding as I get to see people them learn new things or discover new places. Due to a crazy injury exploring a way off the beaten path spot, I tore up my left knee early in 2012. It had been already damaged from years of abuse by July it was to the point that everyday things were growing increasingly difficult so I went to the surgeon and had surgery schedule for Mid-September. I want to thank Dr. Murray for an excellent job, maybe too good as I have seemed to overdo it often. I did manage to make our annual Steelhead trip to the Salmon River but it was cut short due to the knee not holding up as well as hoped. I did get a couple steelhead, a Coho and a beautiful Atlantic salmon in the 3 days I was there. I got to fish with some old friends and some new ones. Actually bumped into a guy I have known from a fishing club for years and we got to fish a bit the final afternoon I was there.

                The knee is pretty much healed up and I am about 85-90 percent mobile again and it is getting better by the day. I am really looking forward to the upcoming season. With the big snow storm we just got we will have some much needed run off this spring. While we most likely will not be dry fly fishing to rinsing trout like last March we will have better flows.  Last Saturday Jt and I were at the Connecticut Fly fishermen’s Association expo at Maneeleys in South Windsor. To say it was a great show would be an understatement, there had to have been 300+ people come thru in the time it was open. While I was a bit under the weather it was still great to see so many old friends and clients. We also got to meet some new and hopefully becoming old friends. It was really nice to see so many young people there seeing what was new. One very encouraging thing was the number of people who were taking the club tying class. It is a great way to get into the next part of the sport. I have always been a believer that tying your own flies makes you a better fly fisher. You tend to be less weary of where you put the fly because you can always go home a tie more inexpensively thus you’re a bit more aggressive with your casting to the places trout like to hide. Speaking of tying I have been basically chained to the vice tying up orders for the last month and a half. Everything from steelhead streamers to size 26 midges and a lot of stuff in-between. I have been trying for local shops now since 1995, in that time I have come up a with a few patterns of my own design. We sell most all of them thru JTs fly shop but at the encouragement of one of our sales reps I have submitted about 13 patterns to one of the large wholesale companies for consideration in being added to their 2014 catalog.

                There are a few upcoming events that I want to mention. One is the Western Mass Fly fishers Expo on March 18th from 6-9 at the Ludlow Elks club. Yours truly will be doing  a presentation on small stream fishing and also an in-depth talk on different types of nymph fishing.  Sometime in the next few weeks we will “begin tying and lying” at Jts fly shop, for those who don’t know what that is, it is a were a bunch of us experienced and new tiers get together over coffee and snacks , we ties up flies as well as tell fishing stories. It is a great way to learn new techniques or relearn something you had forgot. I will not promise to write more this year because promises are meant to be kept. So I will do my best to update this blog as much as possible in 2013 and beyond.