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)

Friday, December 23, 2016



If you can forward me your mailing address Sir, I will get this out to you ASAP.  

Congratulations and Happy Holidays all!


Monday, December 19, 2016


Many wishes for a safe and enjoyable holiday to all!

Staying within holiday traditions and as a special thanks to all who frequent the blog, I am offering a signed sketch to the winner of the 1st Annual Ralph's Fly Box Christmas drawing. 

Simply post to this blog entry today through 12 noon on Friday the 23rd. We will draw from all the posts Friday evening & post the winner. 

The drawing will be for a matted & signed print.

"Chains on Top"

Thank you!


Sunday, December 18, 2016

Tying the No Name Midge

No Name Midge

This midge pattern has been in my box for a good 6-8yrs now, and for good works.  Its a very easy pattern to tie with only 3 materials. Aside from your hook, bead & thread, a pinch of dubbing and a single Furnace hackle will tie a dozen or more.  The NNM is a comfort fly for me in the winter. Suspended only 18" below a big dry or indicator when winter fish are midging but won't take, is it's niche for me. Yet fished as a trail fly with weight and dead drifted is productive as well. It fishes year-round very effectively.....but for me, it's a winter pattern.

No Name Midge Recipe

Hook:  #16 Orvis Tactical Wide-Gape
Bead:  Gold Tungsten
Thread:  8/0 Olive Dun Uni 
Tail:  Furnace Hen Hackle fibers
Thorax:  Olive Ice-dub

Thursday, December 8, 2016

The Boy on the Bank

The Boy on the Bank

The boy sat intently observing from his perch on the stream bank above, like a miniature gargoyle watching all that was upon the stream. The object of his attention was an elderly fisherman with what appeared in the mind’s-eye of the boy to be a magic wand, as he laid out long graceful loops with a cast that looked nearly impossible. The pale blue line made no sound, except for the occasional “clicking” as the man would appear to pull more line off of his reel, extending his casting loop even further.  He watched on as the line would lay itself out effortlessly and the man would then stand motionless as only his head and rod tip would follow the line on the water. The process would be repeated several times, and then the man would step upstream with the aid of a wading staff and repeat the process. Occasionally he would hook and land a fish, only to bring it to hand for a second and then allow it to slip from his fingers, back into the stream. The boy was mesmerized as the man slowly worked his way upstream towards where he sat. And as the man got closer, the boy worked his way down nearer to the waterline across the stream to watch first hand what the elderly gentleman was doing exactly.  His own spinning rod lay in the grass above him as he stared on. The man went on to catch three more fish as he watched…..the way he set the hook, played the fish and handled them before releasing them all being cataloged in the boy's mind.  The last fish was a fat and brightly colored brown and he couldn’t help but yell across “nice fish!”. The fisherman looked up from beneath the brim of his cap and smiled at the young boy.  “It sure is” he replied. Then let the fish slip from his hands back into the stream. He was done fishing at that point, as he waded with a bit of trouble out onto the far bank, turned and waved to the boy, then walked downstream. The boy, watching all along until the fisherman rounded the bend below and walked out of sight.

A short while later his father and uncle made their way from the pool above and asked how he had done. The boy showed them the 3 fish in his creel and his dad smiled large in approval, congratulating him. He then explained to them how he could have caught a few more, but he was enjoying watching a man with a fly rod work the the pool, and he had lost track of what he was doing while observing. His dad agreed that it did look like fun, but that he had never owned a fly rod, so he never really had ever tried it. The boy however could not help but talk about what he had seen that morning. A fact that seemed to remain a common theme throughout the rest of that autumn and into the winter months.  Eventually however, the stories and remarks got shorter, and the thoughts faded.

No thoughts were on the boy's mind as he settled in, taking a seat on the living room carpet between his brother and sister in front of the Christmas tree.  Until he spied the tall wrapped item leaning in the corner behind the tree.  “Could it be?” he thought. His hands shaking as he held the wrapped package. Indeed inside he found a 7 foot tan Daiwa  fly rod, and in a box next to it was a clay-red South Bend fly reel exactly like the man he watched fish had been using. Later that day, he would cast in the snow covered driveway until his fingers were numb and his mom instructed him to come back inside before he caught his death of cold. It would be a long winter.

Standing motionless in the stream on opening day,  watching the line drift along with the current, the line tip darted forward a short inch and the rod came up crisp but controlled. The weight of the fish on the rod, an amazing feeling. Rolling the fish left and right to wear it out as he had watched, the little brown trout came to hand with ease. A quick slip of the hook and a moment to admire, then off it slid back into the dark green waters of the pool before me. Though the little Daiwa rod was long gone over the years, for a moment I was that little boy again.  Holding my present rod under my left arm, I reach for my wading staff and made my way back to the bank behind me, pausing to look out over the pool for a short moment longer and seeing myself sitting quietly on the far bank so many years ago. Turning, I made my way downstream to the parking area where I had been able to wade across and reflecting I realized, the gracefulness of the casting loop still held it’s magic.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Tying the Coyote Ugly

Coyote Ugly

The Coyote Ugly is a solid performer when drifted under an indicator for trout, bottom bounced for smallmouth or stripped retrieved as a streamer. An all-around heavy search nymph that has a permanent space in my box. 

Coyote Ugly Recipe

Hook:  #6-8 Gamakatsu Perfect Gape 
Bead:  Copper Tungsten
Thread:  Black
Tail:  Pheasant tail fibers
Abdomen: Natural Coyote dubbing
Rib:  Small Copper Wire
Throat:  Black Ostrich
Thorax:  Peacock Ice-dub
Legs:  Pheasant tail

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Beyond the Falls

Beyond the Falls

(An Excerpt from "Tomorrows Fish")

                I’ve always been drawn to fish places I have never fished before. That mindset has also been the driving force for me when arriving on local waters as well, where I tend to avoid the beaten path. Like many others, I search out destinations, which tend to be identified known landmarks on or near the intended fishing location. It could be a bridge, or a nearby farm or intersection. But nonetheless, there is always a reference point, and it tends to be the closest point to the most popular hole. And while these reference points are much appreciated when seeking out new waters, they are usually the last place I will actually cast a fly. For me, they are a “stepping off” point. 
            Pulling into a location on the East Fork of the Lewis River, the forests around Mt St Helens remains majestic to say the least. I was seeking a bridge where the river switched back across the road.  It was noted on the USGS map as well as having been referenced by the local sporting goods shop.   Fishermen it seems are for the most part creatures-of-habit.  They will find their comfort zone, and remain in it, oftentimes dependant on the type of fly fishing they enjoy most.  This fact was not lost on me as I stood looking over the water from the bridge. Upstream there was a deep pull that emptied into a long run crossing under the bridge and tailing out downstream of the parking area. If I were a nymph fisherman, the head of that hole, where a large rock and fallen tree choked the river down would be my focus. The water dropped over a small shelf at that point, and certainly a weighted nymph tight-lined through that section would dredge up some fish. That would allow me to work downstream along the channel under the bridge and probably do well. If I was swinging streamers or wets, the run below the hole that emptied into the large flat tail-out would be my target. The current and depth would be perfect.  Yet if I was a dry fly fisherman, my eyes were instantly drawn to the short run above the pool, and then back down to the pocket water that meandered through a smallish boulder field below the tail-out.  Granted, this was all on my first glimpse of new water and could prove far from correct. But the first impression could not be avoided, and like noted was at least for me predicated by the type of fly I would be casting first-and-foremost.
            But for me that first hole, while seductive in its own rights, loses me. Mainly because I know that every other visiting fisherman sees pretty much the same. And most will settle in right there, giving the location quite a bit of regular pressure. I had already noted on the map that about 1/4mile downstream the river began a few tight S-curves, which I knew would form excellent water. And upstream about 1/2mile was a set of falls that were said to be about 15ft high. Both stretches also noted a forest service trail along the entire stream and continuing on. My focus was upstream towards the falls.
            In short order I was rigged and walking the trail upstream.  A short walk began to show a flat strewn with boulders, and the falls could be heard in the distance. It was almost by template, and rather predictable for the area with the gradient you could expect to find following a set of falls. I stepped into the pocket water and quickly drummed up several fat 10” cutthroat. For me the day was now a success regardless of what happened going forward. The falls were growing louder now and my patience got the best of me, so I left some promising looking water to go check them out. A short walk later and after dodging some mountain bikers that gave last minute warnings, I was staring at a picturesque view of the Mt St Helens rainforest. It was a gorgeous set of falls, and the blue-green pool below fed out to a real nice table rock shelf. I stood staring at it for some time, took a few pictures, and then catalogued it for a possible visit on the way back downstream. For me, the target was above the falls.
            On the map, it showed the hike/bike trail departing the stream by a hundred yards or so heading upstream. This I knew would thwart a huge percentage of fishermen from hitting it. It also looked to be even smaller water above the falls.  Another fact that I was sure would make it much more to my liking. So, I climbed up the grade along the trail, and looked for an opening in the timber of substantial size.  I was quickly able to find an elk trail and off I went back in towards the water. Upstream about 100yds past the falls the water did get smaller, and it wasn’t long before I was into fish.  At the 2nd hole I was checking out the gravel along the edges and realized that there were no footprints save for elk and deer anywhere to be seen.  And while checking further, much to my delight I spotted a 3 point Blacktail deer antler sticking up out of the St Helens ash. It was stained and uniquely bleached in some areas, which meant it would soon find a place on my tying bench. I took off my vest and sat on a nearby rock to stow the antler in the back pouch, when I looked down to see an odd formed rock.  Picking it up it was the exact color of the ash, but instead was a 5” piece of petrified wood.  Smiling at my luck, I stowed that as well. The day just kept getting better. All told, I caught a solid dozen fish on that upper stretch, all on dry flies. And not once did I see a single human footprint.

            At the hint of dusk I began my trek back downstream toward the falls, stopping to take it all in one more time. But I quickly decided that today was not the day to visit there.  The falls, and downstream of the bridge would have to be for another trip. This day had been meant for another stretch of river and the things that can most often only be found…beyond the falls.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Village Idiot

It's Official.....I am the Village Idiot

I reckon it's that time of year again.  :)

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Cane and Silk Fiberglass Fly Rod Review

The Arrival!

Cane and Silk

7'6" 4/5wt Fiberglass

It was after reading a post from a fellow blogger and fiberglass aficionado "Small Stream Reflections", that my interest was drawn to Mike Kattner's "Cane and Silk" fly rods.  A quick look on the site and I knew that I was going to have to give his rods a try, and a short time later I was on the phone talking over details. 
Mike was great to work with, very knowledgeable of the materials he builds with and very willing to accommodate exactly what it is you are looking for. I was looking for a glass rod that would be my nymph/streamer rod, and it appeared that his dark honey blank in 7' 6" and 4/5wt may prove to be just the ticket.   The Fastglass rod with brown wraps Orange tipping an amber agate stripping guide and walnut reel seat was the final verdict. Soon began the long wait.....of a short 3 weeks.

The rod arrived in a simple brown flannel bag (of my choosing).

The rod was extremely well built. The Aluminum fixtures and walnut seat are very nice, the cork is excellent grade and nicely done and the wraps are done beautifully.

The cork was very clean with a perfect taper down to the winding check and the spigot ferrules and alignment dots are exceptional. 

This rod would never be identified as a $150 rod. Mike builds a great rod with obvious love for what he does, A craftsman with an eye for how a rod should look and feel. My hat is off to him for building me exactly what I was looking for.

First things first......I paired it with an Orvis Battenkill III, and a Martin MG-7. Both of which balanced well, and were spooled with an Orvis DT5F and an Orvis WF5F line.

Adding to both lines, I used a 5/6wt 5-5" furled uni-thread leader with tippet ring from Furl Girl, and 5X fluorocarbon tippet and a #10 Ugly Hare.

The rod went together tight. I really like the spigots and the alignment dots work as designed.

The rod is light in hand, but this is no noodle. The Fastglass name is very aptly applied in this case. Throwing the DT5F line cleanly, the rod really found itself with the weight-forward line. A breezy day today, the rod threw tight loops in to the wind cleanly. I believe a WF5F "Power Taper" will be a natural fit to the rod, and will prove to be exactly what I was looking for......the perfect glass nymph/streamer rod.

Many thanks to Mike!

If you are in the hunt for an exceptionally built glass fly rod, at a reasonable price, look no further.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Tying the Blue Rooster Wet

The Blue Rooster Wet

The Blue Rooster wet fly is a great all-purpose search pattern on most any water. It fishes very effectively both drifted with split-shot, with greased tippet to keep it in the film and on a standard wet fly swing.

Blue Rooster recipe

Hook:  #14 Orvis Tactical Wide-Gape
Thread:  6/0 Black Uni-thread
Abdomen:  Moose Body Hair / Bug Bond
Wing:  Ringneck Rump Feather Tip
Hackle:  Silver Badger Brahma

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

November Trout

November Trout

The Far-and-Fine was ready to go despite the rain. 

The fly to start with would be the TC2.

The first fish of the day

A little experimentation with the waterproof camera.

Another heavy Rainbow

The last fish of the day.

This fish took the #14 TC2 on a dropper beneath a #10 Green Skittle with Orvis 6X MaxKnot fluorocarbon.  A tribute to the action of the Far-and-Fine.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Ruby Meadowhawks

Ruby Meadowhawks

So, with calm winds and a mid-day sun on the rise, in hopes of getting on some warm-water fish one more time this fall, I head to a local water to wade some lilies. 

Only to get skunked. 

And just as I am getting ready to leave the water, what do I find on my left shirt sleeve? A mating pair of Ruby me natures version of a rude sendoff. 

Till next year!

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Tying the TC2


"The Tactical Caddis Revised"

When a pattern tells you what it needs, you listen. The tactical caddis simply outperformed itself with the addition of biots. 

TC2 Recipe

Hook:  #14 Orvis Wide gape Tactical
Thread:  8/0 Black
Bead: Gold Tungsten
Weight:  .015 Lead wire
Rib:  Tan Micro-tubing
Abdomen: #11 Olive Hareline
Wingcase:  Fire-Brown Goose Biots
Thorax:  Peacock / Black Ice-Dub
Hackle:  Furnace Hen hackle

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Fall water with Fading Angler

Fading Angler on Pennsylvania Water

This past Saturday I had the privilege of both meeting and sharing water with Chris of "The Fading Angler" Blog. It was a day that proved enjoyable both in discussion as well as bring some really great trout to hand.

Fishing Creek near Benton Pennsylvania

Enter the Fading Angler

It didn't take Chris long at all to adjust to Pennsylvania water, with the first hook-up of the day.

From this point forward there was no way this day could not have ended up as a great memory.

Not long after Chris's Rainbow the stream granted me a beautiful fall brown. was going to be a great day indeed.

Moving upstream to skinnier water Chris again was on fish with no problem.

And another fine rainbow was brought to hand. The pic does no justice to the colors of this fish. 

Later in the day we moved back down to our starting point and were treated to a mix of a BWO's and Caddis. The fish were willing to cooperate as well.

At the end of the day the exclamation point to an already unbelievable day was my best trout on a fly rod. A fish that put on a display fitting for the day we had just experienced. 

I could not have asked for a better person to share the experience with.

Flies that caught fish:

#14 Tactical Caddis
#14 C2C Nymph
#10 Green Skittle
#16 Squirmy Wormy San Juan

After quite some time sharing stories, trials of life and a love for fly fishing, it was great to meet the man behind the blog. An event that seldom ever happens within our cyber communities. It was my pleasure, and I hope the smiles meant that it was as memorable a day for both of us.
Thanks Chris!

Friday, October 28, 2016

Fall Skittles

No fall box is complete without Green Skittles

My fall box is never without a batch of Skittles. They're named for the color wire used to twist the body. Tied in Green, Orange & Pink it is a very productive pattern on its own when nymphing deep, and a primary food group when used along with an egg dropper as a "Steak & Eggs" tandem.

Tying the Skittle