Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Winter Grey

Winter Grey

The break in the waters natural rhythm caught my eye as I watched my line drift below and begin it’s swing, pulling along with it my egg-and-nymph tandem.  Not certain I was getting deep enough for the heart of the pool, I stripped in line, thumbed the ice from my guides and added another split-shot to the rig.  The grey day was consuming in a heavy sort of way that only deep winter can bring with it. Yet somehow, with the press of water against my waders the world seemed just a tad bit less heavy, bringing a calming to my bones and a breathe of anticipation to my soul. I eyed my target, flipped my line forward and then roll-cast my rig back out to the point across the stream from my position, instantly putting two good mends into my line in an attempt to get as deep a possible in my drift. My eyes followed the small bit of yarn and I caught myself holding my breathe just a bit as my flies passed through the lie I just knew held fish. Nothing…..but there it was again, in the run just upstream. That break in the flow. Was it a rise? Or was it a periodic anomaly or burble in the current causing me to think it was a rising fish? I stood staring at the location for a good three minutes or more, expecting to see it happen again. No luck. Must not be a fish.

I had worked the hole with several dozen drifts with nothing to show for my efforts, yet confidence remained high as I switched the egg to a Skittle and added more weight. Patience is a virtue in cold weather nymphing, and I was sure with each change I would bring a fish to hand. I ignored my brain as it started nudging me about not being able to feel my fingertips. “Not important” I reminded myself. Warmth and comfortable digits is not a luxury afforded the winter fisherman. And there it was again.  But this time, before I turned away it happened once more and I saw it. It was indeed a fish, and a sizeable one at that. The blood seemed to instantly return to my fingers.

Now comes the hard part. Convincing oneself to “de-rig” while cold, for the off-chance that a January fish will rise for your offering. The odds are not on my side as proven by experience. Yet the increased heart rate is undeniable and it is something I find myself unable to turn away from.  The nipper bites through the fluorocarbon and out comes the midge box. I’m hedging my bets against a dry, thinking a film offering may be the way to bring that big charcoal nose to the surface again. The choice is a #18 Little Olive Wet, and the tippet is 6X. Fingers are gone now, as I blow on them and watch again for another rise. Moments later it arrives on queue. I strip line measuring my distance as the energy of the glass rod greets my hand in the cork. There is no other sense in the moment but that of casting a fly as my tippet touches the current a few feet above the position of the rise. I cannot see my fly, following only my line and the knowledge of where my fly “should” be. When it happens. That same subtle burble I had seen several times before. The lift of the rod is met by a half second pause. Most likely a moment of disbelief on the part of the fish. Then violent head shakes as the true weight of the fish is realized. Each run my heart is in desperation for the 6X tippet. Each headshake is wrought with fear for the #18 barbless hook. Yet I’m alone on the water and talking out loud to a fish that shouldn’t still be attached to my line. Unable to turn the head in any way I watch as all 20 plus inches of it streaks past me toward the bottom of the pool and into the current below,  I’ve lost the battle. And almost in tandem with the thought, it’s gone. In a breath,  the adrenaline that is coursing through my veins catches up to me....I am cold. My hands tremble as I bring my fly to the keeper, the warmth in my fingers gone with that amazing fish. With the rod under my arm my hands find warm pockets and I stand in the water looking out over pool.  The heaviness of the winter grey is gone, replaced by the crimson flanks and dance of a fish that for a brief moment was part of me. That in itself, is enough.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The CarpetBagger Nymph

The Carpet Bagger

I became aware of the Carpetbagger nymph through Neil Selbicky of Rogue Guiding. 
Rogue Guiding

After countless photo and videos of steelhead taken I knew I had to try it.  Well....Neil wasn't lying.  The CB Nymph is he real deal. The version I tie is a slight variation on the Midnight Fire Carpetbagger. It is by far my favorite version and has proven its worth on both trout and smallmouth for me here in the Northeast.


CarpetBagger Recipe
Hook:  #10 Mustad 9672
Bead: Gold Tungsten
Weight: .015 Lead Wire
Thread: Black
Abdomen:  Orvis Black Wooly Bugger Chenille
Legs/Tail:  Cabelas Blue-Black Sili-Legs

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

CGR GLASS : A Year in Review

Cabelas CGR Glass Rods

A year+ on the water review

It's no secret that I am a fan of the Cabelas CGR Glass rod series. Since picking up the 7' 4/5wt model in 2015, it didn't take me long to add two more of the line to the stable as well.  Last winter it was the 7'6" 5/6wt and this past summer came the 7' 6" 7/8wt model to round out what I wanted. As for the rest of the line? They all look very enticing, but I have personal glass already filling those slots, so despite my affinity for the line, they would seldom see water. 

Since first purchasing the rods, I have settled on a few things to complete the rigs as I would fish them. A personal favorite reel of mine is the Martin MG7, which I found to originally match the 5/6wt rod perfectly. So much so, that I began the hunt for 2 more near mint MG7's to complete the set. These rods just seem to balance perfectly with them, and with the sale prices of both the rods and used martin reels, a pretty nice rig is afforded a patient buyer for well under $100. 

SO.....with 2 seasons carrying the 4/5wt and a full season of intended application for the big brothers of the did they fare on the water?

CGR 7'  4/5wt

The 4/5wt was the selling point for me on the CGR line, and I am still very much a fan.  It is equally at home from light warm-water to trout streams, and proved itself very capable early on. This rod came to it's final rigging for me with an Orvis DT5F line.  While it will cast a 4wt line just fine, I feel that it is at heart a 5wt. I find the rod to do extremely will with dries and light single nymph rigs.  It begins to drop off picking up line once you add much weight to it, regardless of line used however.  It will fish heavier rigs mind you, but not with ease, and I found myself pushing the rod more than fishing it comfortably by days end. 

On design and fit, I have found no fault in any aspect of the rod. I know many are not a fan of the cork-and-ring reel seat, but I personally love it. My reels hold well, with no slippage or loosening over 2 years. The spigot ferrules are remaining tight and the cork is without issue. I tend to fish this model the least, but only because it is fighting for time with several other rods and I feel it is limited a bit for the rigs it will throw.

CGR 7'6"  5/6wt

The 7'6" model is my personal favorite of the line. This rod will bend in half on a 24" Rainbow or a 3lb Largemouth and never blink. I find this rod to be a true 6wt, and with an aggressive taper line will throw anything you tie on short of large bass or saltwater rigs. This rod loved the Orvis Warmwater WF6F line from day one and I use it on both warm-water and cold-water applications. 

I am a huge fan of the light fighting-butt and both fit and finish are perfect. this rod will throw as much line as you need effortlessly, and has the backbone for indicator/splitshot/tandem nymph rigs. After a hard year of use, the cork is flawless though soiled, and the reel seat and ferrules remain as tight as new.  It remains my go-to nymph/light warm-water rig. 

CGR 7'6"  7/8wt

The 7/8wt CGR is flat out a workhorse of  a rod. However, opposite of the light 2 rods preceding it, I find it to be a true 7wt rod and likewise its carries an Orvis WF7F Warm-water taper line. This rod has been put through the trials in a single busy season. Dragged through cedar swamps, lily pads, pond-edge brush and coastal marsh this rod has held up perfectly. It is built for popping light to medium hair bugs accurately and quickly becomes an extension of your arm. I carry an 8wt line spooled and ready for really larger bass flies, but only fished it a few times. For me, it struggles with picking up a heavily loaded 8wt line and becomes no fun to cast through the day. It will do it if called upon, but with a 7wt line I find myself unable to leave this rod at home. 

Fit and finish held up on this rod flawlessly. I had my doubts since I am hard on my warm-water gear. But the cork, reel seat and ferrules have held up just fine. And at a sale price of $59, I find it hard to beat for a sub-8' glass bass rod. 


The Cabelas CGR glass line not only feels great initially, but fishes well and holds up very nicely.  They have all found a permanent place in my stable, and have left much more expensive rods sitting idle for most of the past 2 years. I would not feel worried or hesitate in relying on any of the 3 models I own regardless of the trip.  They have held up MUCH better than I initially expected and for the money they are unbeatable in my opinion. 

See you on the water!

Monday, January 2, 2017

2016 In Reflection

2016 In Reflection

Each year, time on the water, friends and events paint a fresco on my mind. 2016 like every year before it followed suite as well. As I look up in my mind it's filled with my family, great fish and friends.  A one-of-a-kind masterpiece that is not only painted forever in my memory, but also carries me through into 2017. 

A great fish landed with the help of good friends. A perfect start. 

Another opening day on Fishing Creek with my youngest. A great time for both, but so much more for Dad.

This year we broke out the tubes

My oldest daughter began fly fishing as well and I was able to be there for her first fly rod fish.

I became an official member of the Windknots and Tangled Lines Prostaff member.  

Thank you Howard!

I not only made a good friend in Chris but I was fortunate enough to witness this smile in person.  

Once again had a chance to share water with old friends.

Another Bow festival with my Son

And hunting partner

Grand Daughters 1st Birthday!

And for the first time in many years all were present and accounted for. 

I was truly blessed.

Add a few fish into the mix and I couldn't ask for more.

And after 20 years since the last, I was able to make what will most likely be my last freefall jump (#128) 

For those who have visited the blog through it all...THANK YOU!

Looking forward to 2017!

Friday, December 30, 2016

A Re-Spin on Streamers

A Re-Spin on Streamers
(Adapted from Fly Tyer Magazine Spring 2011 & “Tomorrow’s Fish”)

Like most of us, I came to trout fishing as a spin fisherman.  I don’t hang my head to that fact & am proud of my youthful years hunting trout.  I learned to trout fish in ultra-lite fashion, where 5x mainline & 7x tippet bearing a #16 hook was the norm.  I learned to read water as a spin fisherman. I learned the feeding habits of trout and how to identify feeding lies and lanes as a spin fisherman.  They were good years, and provided a strong foundation to build on as a fly fisherman.  During those years my fly fishing was mainly panfish and small bass with store-bought Gaines & Betts poppers.  Little did I realize then, that it would end up being one of my passions through most of my adult life.
One of the other things that spin fishing taught me was a very effective and minimalist approach to spinners. Early on, my father gave me some very usable advice while I was admiring the spinner wall in a local sporting goods shop.  He informed me that there were really only 3 requirements for spinners when fishing for trout. They were in order:
  1. A basic Silver spinner
  2. A basic Gold spinner
  3. A Hammered Copper Spinner
These requirements usually took the form of a CP or Swiss Swing, or the classic Colorado spinner. And the copper was filled with a Rooster Tail or a Mepps.  But a good spin fisherman with ½ dozen of each of the 3 groups could expect to limit out in any water and under most any conditions. And to his credit, I found his advice to be correct over the years.
Fast forward 35 years.  I am looking at my boxes for the season, and come to my streamer box. As a young fly fisherman coming to speed in the fly fishing world of the Pacific Northwest, I was drawn to chasing the runs of steelhead, salmon, and my favorite of all the Coastal Cutthroat trout. I like the Cutts most of all because they are aggressive feeders and make no bones about what they intended to eat once their mind was made up. A fish created perfectly for fishing streamers.  Streamers then meant anything that would work. From Muddlers to Leeches, and classics like the Black-Nosed Dace & Wooly-bugger, my boxes were filled with them.  But as often is the case with fly tyers there is always a search for the “better fly”, or the perfect pattern so-to-speak.  So I was always trying to tweak patterns, or mimic the fry or smolt that I found in the local waters.  Sometimes they would out fish the classics, and other times they would go by the wayside. Now 20 years after 1st chasing Coastal Cutthroat I was looking at my fly box, and realized once again, that my father was right. It was staring me right in the face as perfectly as my classic-styled bucktail streamers were aligned in my box.  Oddly enough, there were only 3 that I still tied regularly and fished each season.  They were in Order:
  1. The Northwest Jack
  2. The FC Minnow
  3. The Tioga Shiner
Well, it is now 41 years later,  and while my thoughts on this topic remain unchanged, my choice of patterns have changed slightly. For the past 15 years of fishing primarily Pennsylvania and New Jersey waters, here are the 3 patterns that now fill my box.

1- The Northwest Jack
2- The Firehole
3- The Lost Penny

I like to fish streamers for trout in down-and-across fashion, methodically working my way downstream. I prefer a 5-6 weight glass rod. Gone are the sink tips, replaced by an aggressive taper WF floating line. Leader configuration is a 5’ Furled mono leader with a mini-barrel swivel and 4 feet of 5X  Fluorocarbon.
The years of tying and fishing streamers had by complete chance brought together a trio of bucktails that not only were tied years apart, but were tied to target 3 completely different waters.  Yet in the end, they combine for an unbeatable trio of trout streamers for most any water or water condition. Now, years later, those patterns are adjusted a bit, but the important aspects remain the same. Folks often repeat the phrase “All I really needed to know about life I learned in Kindergarten”.  Well, I guess I can say that “All I really needed to know about Streamers, I learned at the age of 10 in a bait shop”.  Funny how things work out, and how slow we are at times to grasp early advice.

Northwest Jack
Hook: 7x Daiichi #2370 Streamer Hook #4-8
Thread: Black 6/0 Uni-Thread
Tail: Moose Body Hair
Rib: Medium Gold Ultra-Wire
Body: Silver Mylar
Throat: Red-dyed Tippet
Wing: Black Bucktail over Blue Super Hair

Hook: 7x Daiichi #2370 Streamer Hook #4-8
Thread: Black 6/0 Uni-Thread
Tail: Moose Body Hair
Rib: Medium Gold Ultra-Wire
Body: Gold Mylar
Wing: Olive  Bucktail over Red Bucktail

Lost  Penny
Hook: 7x Daiichi #2370 Streamer Hook #4-8
Thread: Black 6/0 Uni-Thread
Tail: Moose Body Hair
Rib: Medium Copper Ultra-Wire
Body: Copper Mylar
Wing: Brown  Bucktail over Peach Super Hair (Barred with a Black Copic Pen)