Monday, February 23, 2015

Native New England Salmon Flies - Part II: Southern New England

Upper Wood River (Arcadia, RI)

When I was thirteen years old, I hooked my first trout on a fly. I was fishing western Rhode Island's Wood River. Though the Wood is still home to native brook trout, it hasn't held a wild Atlantic salmon in well over a century. I probably don't have any ancestors who lived in the United States when the Wood's last wild salmon ran the river. I would have loved to fish for salmon in the Wood, though it doesn't strike me as much of a salmon river. I now call Connecticut home. In contrast to the Wood, there are some rivers and streams here that scream "Salmon!" to me. Most are tributaries of the Connecticut River, reputed to have once been the most prolific Atlantic salmon river in all of North America.

Though southern New Englanders never had a recreational Atlantic salmon fishery to call our own, it didn't stop many of us from pursuing the "King of Sport Fish" elsewhere. When it was possible, some of us pursued salmon in Maine, though most anglers were bound for Canada. Despite a deficit of salmon locally, some heavyweight flies have sprung from the minds of tyers in southern New England.


Atlantic Salmon Flies From Southern New England 

Massachusetts: "Golden Pheasant Spey" (Bob Warren)

The "Golden Pheasant Spey" comes from the fertile mind and eminently talented hands of Bob Warren of Princeton, Massachusetts. Bob's flies can be seen in books such as Tying the Classic Salmon Fly, by Michael Radencich, Dick Stewart and Farrow Allen's Flies for Atlantic Salmon, and my personal favorite, Fishing Atlantic Salmon: The Flies and the Patterns, by Joseph Bates and Pamela Bates Richards. Created for New Brunswick's Miramichi River, the Golden Pheasant Spey is a fly designed for autumn fishing. Gary Tanner, author of the River's Course blog, is the most vocal advocate I know when it comes to the Golden Pheasant spey. Gary and the boys seem to knock them dead with it.

The Golden Pheasant Spey has a regal silhouette and natural glow. It's a fairly bright fly but not in a flashy or gaudy way. The golden pheasant might be the most versatile bird in all of salmon fly tying and its feathers are put to good use in this fly. The dressing listed below was taken from Spey Flies and How to Tie Them by Bob Veverka. 

Golden Pheasant Spey

Hook: Daiichi 2139 (sz. 2)
Tag: Oval copper tinsel*
Tail: Golden pheasant crest over orange polar bear or bucktail, tail as long as body of fly
Body: Half hot orange silk, ribbed with oval copper tinsel* and veiled with yellow rump feathers from a golden pheasant, black ostrich herl butt at middle, and half oval copper tinsel*
Hackle: Claret hackle followed by two red golden pheasant feathers

*copper tinsel subbed with gold tinsel in the fly pictured above

Connecticut: "Mitchell" (Archibald Mitchell)
Plate B from M.O. Marbury's "Favorite Flies and Their Histories" (1892)
The Mitchell is fly #21 (middle right)

In the world of Atlantic salmon flies, some real gems have come from the state of Connecticut. The first one that comes to mind is Don Leyden's "Shady Lady," a fly that evolved into one of the deadliest salmon-catchers in Canada's Maritime Provinces. A far more obscure fly is the "Mitchell," created by Archibald Mitchell. Though born in Scotland, Mitchell spent most of his adult life in Norwich, Connecticut. Like the Shady Lady, the Mitchell has also undergone some pretty dramatic changes over the years.

As mentioned in Part I of this series, only two Atlantic salmon flies in Mary Orvis Marbury's book, Favorite Flies and Their Histories, were created in America. The Notion was one of them, though it was originally intended for landlocked salmon. The other was the Mitchell, which was a dedicated Atlantic salmon fly from the beginning. Mr. Mitchell submitted the fly to Ms. Marbury and had this to say about it:

I take pleasure in sending you the Mitchell salmon fly, as requested. Its story is short and easily told. I conceived the idea that a very dark fly would be a success on the Penobscot River, for salmon, and tied a few of them for the first time during the winter of 1887-88. It is my own invention, and was not copied from any other fly. It was first tried on the Penobscot during the following spring. (Marbury, 53)

The Mitchell might not have been "copied from any other fly," but it there was nothing unusual about its construction. The Mitchell wasn't gaudy by Victorian era standards but, in terms of architecture, it used a the same basic template as most winged salmon flies of the period.

"Mitchell" as dressed by Farrow Allen (1991)

Somewhere down the line, the Mitchell was reinterpreted. That is not unusual. Fly patterns tend to change over time. Complex Atlantic salmon flies have a history of being simplified to make tying quicker, easier, more cost effective, and/or more durable. The bizarre thing about the Mitchell is that it went the other direction. It actually "evolved" into a more unusual and complex pattern the original. The newer Mitchell lost the double rib (in favor of just one type of ribbing tinsel), but added a new floss section, kingfisher cheeks, and two-tone head. I do not know when these changes occurred, nor do I know who changed the dressing. I have at least three books with dressings for the Mitchell. There are slight differences between all three, but they all resemble the fly in the picture above. The dressing I tied comes from Flies for Atlantic Salmon by Dick Stewart and Farrow Allen.


Hook: Daiichi 2139 (sz. 2)
Tag: Oval silver tinsel and yellow floss
Tail: Golden pheasant crest and kingfisher blue hackle fibers**
Butt: Black ostrich herl
Body: Yellow floss followed by a red butt (wool)
Rib: Fine oval silver tinsel over the black floss only
Throat: Sparse bunch of yellow hackle, ahead of which are three turns of black hackle 
Wing: Black crow quill feathers or a dyed substitute 
Topping: Golden pheasant crest
Cheeks: Jungle cock, veiled by kingfisher
Head: Black, with red band at rear

**Actual kingfisher is substituted for the kingfisher blue hackle fibers in the fly pictured above

Rhode Island: "Cosseboom Special" (John Cosseboom)

Though it is the last fly in this series, the "Cosseboom Special," or "Cosseboom" as it is more often called, is the most influential fly of the six featured here. Paul Marriner refers to the Cosseboom as the "third of the super-flies'" (Marriner, 40). The term "super-flies" refers to patterns that serve as templates for numerous salmon fly variations (the other two "super-flies" being the Rat and the Black Bear/Butt series of salmon flies). There are sixteen different Cosseboom variations in Chris Mann's book The Complete Illustrated Directory of Salmon & Steelhead Flies. Aside from the sixteen Cossebooms listed in Mann's book, there are a plethora of other salmon and steelhead flies tied in the style of the Cosseboom. 

The creator of the Cosseboom Special was John C. Cosseboom, a poet, newspaper writer, and insurance agent from Woonsocket, Rhode Island. Mr. Cosseboom was champion fly caster and an all-around talented fellow. His signature fly, which has more than stood the test of time, was created on a whim.

In July 1935, John Cosseboom and Ai Ballou, originator of the Ballou Special, were aboard the S.S. Fleuris making the twenty-four-hour passage from Quebec to Anticosti Island. To pass the time, fly-tying gear was brought out, and Ai's wife, Annie, challenged Cosseboom to create a fly using a spool of olive green silk floss she had selected. He met the challenge, incorporating the floss for both the body and the tail, and hooked it to Mrs. Ballou's lapel. Later, Ai Ballou attached a note to the fly, "This is the original Cosseboom dressed by John Cosseboom on the S.S. Fleuris, July, 1935, and given to Annie Ballou." The fly is still in existence and exhibits a throat hackle rather than the collar that is usual on the pattern today (Bates, 93-94). 

Aside from the switch from a throat hackle to a collar hackle, the Cosseboom underwent a couple of other changes since the original was tied in 1935. The original Cosseboom used embossed silver tinsel for both the tag and the rib. Nowadays, oval silver tinsel is most often used for both. Also, there is a great degree of variation used in the olive green floss used for the body and tail. The original Cosseboom was a fairly dark shade of olive. The fly is often seen tied in a lighter shade of olive or olive-yellow now. A dark olive Cosseboom variation, known as the "Miramichi Cosseboom," exists and is a very effective fly, though the head is black rather than the signature red of the standard Cosseboom.

The fly pictured above is a composite dressing, not culled from any particular source.


Hook: Daiichi 2441 (sz. 4)
Tag: Oval silver tinsel
Tail: Light olive floss
Rib: Oval silver tinsel
Body: Light olive floss
Wing: Grey squirrel tail
Collar Hackle: Bright yellow
Head: Red

This concludes this two-part series on native New England salmon flies. I have more New England salmon fly patterns coming in a future post. I hope you enjoyed this series!

New England Salmon Flies from all six states


Bates, Joseph D. and Bates Richards, Pamela. Fishing Atlantic Salmon: The Flies and the Patterns. Mechanicsburg: Stackpole Books, 1996. Print.

Mann, Chris. The Complete Illustrated Directory of Salmon & Steelhead Flies. Portland: Frank Amato Publications, Inc., 2008. Print.

Marriner, Paul. Modern Atlantic Salmon Flies. Mahone Bay: Gales End Press, 2011. Print. 

Orvis Marbury, Mary. Favorite Flies and Their Histories. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1892. Print.

Stewart, Dick and Allen, Farrow. Flies for Atlantic Salmon. Intervale: Northland Press, Inc., 1991. Print. 

Veverka, Bob. Spey Flies and How to Tie Them. Mechanicsburg: Stackpole Books, 2004. Print.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Native New England Salmon Flies - Part I: Northern New England

Historic Atlantic Salmon Rivers of New England
(courtesy of NOAA)

At one time, all six New England states had runs of Atlantic salmon. The northernmost U.S. salmon river is Maine's Little Madawaska River, a small tributary of the Aroostook River. The Aroostook is a tributary of the once ultra-prolific St. John River. The southernmost river with a (long extinct) salmon run is Connecticut's Housatonic River. As far as I know, a recreational Atlantic salmon fishery never existed in any New England state other than Maine. Most stocks of New England salmon were either heavily depleted or extirpated before sport fishing became a popular pastime in North America. As such, sport fishers had to travel to Maine or Canada to pursue Atlantic salmon. However, the lack of New England salmon did not stop fly tyers from experimenting with flies or developing new patterns. In this series, I will feature one Atlantic salmon fly created in each of the six New England states.

Despite a lack, or absence, of Atlantic salmon in rivers with historic runs, there are viable landlocked salmon fisheries in all but two New England states (Connecticut and Rhode Island do not have runs of landlocked salmon). While investigating native New England salmon flies and fly tyers, I noticed a common theme. Many flies were designed for trout or landlocked salmon, but have been repurposed for Atlantic salmon fishing. Ultimately, several flies became more popular with Atlantic salmon anglers than with trout or landlocked salmon anglers. Of the six flies featured in this series, two fit this description, both northern New England patterns.


Atlantic Salmon Flies From Northern New England 

Maine: "The Chief" (Chief Needabeh)

The fly we now know as "The Chief" is a reduction of a Rangley-style streamer created by Chief Roland Nelson, also known as Chief Needabeh. Chief Needabeh, a member of the Native American Penobscot Tribe, was the proprietor of Needabeh's Shack, at tackle shop at Moosehead Lake in Greenville, Maine (Bates, 372). The original fly was called the "Chief Needabeh Streamer." This streamer fly was originally intended for brook trout, landlocked salmon, smallmouth bass, and largemouth bass. Atlantic salmon anglers discovered its value when fishing for autumn salmon. It is particularly deadly on territorial male salmon, who likely consider the fly a potential intruder. Though its still effective when used for its original quarry, the fly is more commonly seen on Atlantic salmon rivers nowadays. In recent years, the fly's dressing has been simplified and its name shortened. Like many Atlantic salmon flies, the dressing constantly changes and evolves. Below is a composite dressing for "The Chief."

The Chief

Hook: Daiichi 2271 (sz. 2)
Tag: Oval silver tinsel
Rib: Oval silver tinsel
Body: Chinese Red Uni-Stretch
Wing: A pair of yellow saddle hackles inside a pair of red saddle hackles
Sides: Jungle cock (optional)
Collar Hackles: Red over yellow
Head: Black

New Hampshire: "Dragon" (Fran Stuart)

Like many other salmon flies conceived in New England, the "Dragon" was tied for the Atlantic salmon of Maine's Penobscot River. In terms of a sport fishery, the Penobscot has always been America's top Atlantic salmon river. Fran Stuart, creator of the Dragon, is from Peterborough, New Hampshire. The fly was first tied in summer of 1988 during a long, hot, dry spell on the Penobscot. Stuart first tied the fly "In a tent, by the light of a Coleman lantern." (Stewart and Allen, 42). It is a very simple, minimal fly that is most effective in low water. The Dragon is more of template than a rigid fly pattern. Though black, green and silver is the most common combination, floss and wire colors can be easily changed to suit the whim of the tyer. Unfortunately, the Penobscot is now closed to Atlantic salmon fishing. Hopefully, the Dragon will once again have the opportunity to swim in its native river. 


Hook: Sprite Low Water Double (sz. 10)
Tag: Fine silver wire
Underbody: Flat silver tinsel
Overbody: Fluorescent green floss
Rib: Black ostrich herl, counter wrapped with fine silver wire
Hackle: Webby black hen saddle

Vermont, via Massachusetts: "The Notion" (Shields & Marbury)

A very unique fly concludes Part I of this series. The "Notion" was created by John Shields of Brookline, Massachusetts. However, if not for Manchester, Vermont's Mary Orvis Marbury, the Notion would have been lost in time. Marbury's greatest contribution to fly fishing was her book Favorite Flies and Their Histories (1892). The book was written based on submissions by North American anglers of the era. Each angler submitted a list and description of his favorite flies for the fish species found in his respective region. Marbury showed no preference for flies tied for a certain species, as flies for salmonids and non-salmonids get equal representation. 

There are no formal fly recipes in Marbury's book, however there are 32 color plates which show 291 different fly patterns. There are three plates of salmon fly illustrations. All but two salmon flies shown in the plates were created in Europe. Most were the standard salmon flies of the era (i.e. Jock Scott, Silver Doctor, etc.). The Notion was one of the two American flies included in plates of salmon flies. Like the Chief, the Notion was a repurposed fly which happened to be quite versatile.

The Notion was first made and named by John Shields, the veteran fly-maker of Brookline, Mass. It was intended for land-locked salmon, but we hear of it as also successful for salmon, trout, and black bass. Dressed on a large hook it is very beautiful, the gilt and golden brown harmonizing perfectly; it can also be adapted to a small hook. It is a fly that many anglers "take a notion to," and value for the good it does as well as for its beauty. (Marbury, 63)

Technically, the Notion is a Massachusetts creation, however, I've never seen the Notion mentioned anywhere Marbury wasn't also mentioned. Since the fly has been so closely associated with Mary Orvis Marbury all these years, I've decided to use it for the Vermont fly in this piece. Marbury is the certainly the most iconic fly tyer to come from Vermont as well as one of the most iconic of all American fly tyers. The dressing below is approximate, as no complete salmon fly dressings are listed in Marbury's book.

The Notion

Hook: Mustad 3370 (sz. 2/0)
Tag: Oval gold tinsel
Tail: Golden pheasant crest (long) and blue/yellow macaw
Body: Rear half-embossed gold tinsel; Front half-fiery brown seal fur
Hackle and Throat: fiery brown
Wing: Pair of golden pheasant tippets, back to back; veiled with strips of yellow and blue swan, dark turkey, and teal
Cheeks: Kingfisher
Head: Black ostrich herl


Bates, Joseph D. and Bates Richards, Pamela. Fishing Atlantic Salmon: The Flies and the Patterns. Mechanicsburg: Stackpole Books, 1996. Print.

Orvis Marbury, Mary. Favorite Flies and Their Histories. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co. 1892. Print.

Stewart, Dick and Allen, Farrow. Flies for Atlantic Salmon. Intervale: Northland Press, Inc. 1991. Print. 

Monday, February 9, 2015

Quick Tip: Hackle Plier Tip Re-Grip

Hackle pliers w/o a rubber sleeve...they slip like crazy

Finally, I'm back to tying flies and messing up my "fishing office." I've been trying to post once a week, which is probably an unsustainable pace for me, but I want to keep the streak going for as long as possible. I have a post on some unique flies coming up, but I won't have it ready for this week. In the meantime, here's a quick fly tying tool tip. 

Pick your favorite color of silicone junction tubing

The little yellow piece of rubber grippy material fell off of my Tiemco hackle pliers long ago. I used them as-is for a while before an absurdly easy solution occurred to me. I cut a small piece of silicone junction tubing and put it where the little yellow rubber piece went. It fit perfectly and can be easily replaced when necessary. Voila! That's it...really simple, but it took a little while for the lightbulb to go on. If you don't tie tube flies, befriend someone who does. A piece of silicone tubing costs pennies and, for this purpose, will last a really long time. 

All better! 

Stay tuned for some native New England salmon flies coming soon...

Monday, February 2, 2015

The "Fishing Office"

Squeaky clean, but not for long

When my wife and I moved into our current home two and a half years ago, I was excited to have a room specifically for fly tying. I quickly claimed the bedroom with the best natural light. A few months after moving in, my brilliantly eccentric pianist friend, Craig, swung by to pick me up on the way to a gig in Springfield, MA. Craig requested a house tour, which happened to end in the fly tying room. Just before leaving, Craig was going on and on about how much he liked our new house. I remember him saying something like, "I love your new house. You've got a beautiful fishing office with a bay window and everything!" My wife and I cracked up when he referred to the room as my "fishing office" and the name has stuck ever since.

Tying desk (left) and photo desk (right)
Notice the toddler locks

The last time the fishing office was throughly clean and organized was just after moving in. I decided to bite the bullet and devote my January tying time to getting the fishing office back up to snuff. Sure, I tied a few flies here and there, but I really hunkered down the past couple of weeks and finally finished the job. I wanted to get a few pictures of the room in its current (and temporary) pristine state. 

Craig's "bay window," which is actually an arch window
More toddler locks on the closet doors

The big window lets in a lot of light. It actually lets in too much unfiltered light in the winter. It's a lot more pleasant when there are leaves on the trees. The light is awesome for the plumeria cuttings, but I worried about UV light damaging tying materials. Also, I had a couple of framed flies and a large shadow box (with pictures and contents of my great grandfather's barbershop) on the wall. I decided to replace the framed flies and shadow box with pictures of flies and fishing scenes. If the pictures fade, they can be easily replaced. The frames will go into the music teaching/rehearsal studio in the basement where they will be safe. I used to leave a lot of materials (dubbing boxes, thread, etc.) out on the desk, but have since moved them into drawers. I think the room's contents are pretty safe from direct sunlight now. 

Fishing books, The Onion anthologies, Mutiny on the Bounty,
Colonel Sanders' autobiography, etc. 

Another task I finally got around to was taking a razor to retired and/or junk flies. Having been tied in our previous home, sone of them actually predated the fishing office. In the future, I need to cut them up as soon as they get into the room instead of letting them pile up in a plastic cup for years. Another new year, another resolution...we'll see how that goes.

The reason for the toddler locks

The fishing office hasn't look this nice and orderly since we moved in. I almost don't want to tie flies in there for fear of messing it up again. I've been going in there just to hang out and relax lately.  A new order for salmon flies just came in, so looks like it's not going to stay pretty for long. I'm glad I got some pics before I trash the place!

Room for more materials!

Monday, January 26, 2015

News, Events & Music - Winter 2015

An Introduction to Tube Flies: Fishing and Tying


The first bit of news is that the Fly Shop is sold out of just about everything, save for a few odd flies. I tie up a small inventory during the summer, mainly for sale in the fall. I'm happy that sales have been good, though it's hard to predict which flies will sell the most before the season starts. There was a lot of demand Ally's Shrimp this fall. I ran out quickly and had to tie a lot during the fishing season. That's a "good problem," as far as I'm concerned! Anyhow, I took down all the PayPal "add to cart" buttons until I can restock. I plan on starting tying earlier this year to boost inventory for next fall. In the meantime, feel free to contact me if there are any flies you need for winter, spring, or summer. They can be flies listed on the Fly Shop page, or something else you might have seen here or elsewhere. Often times, I am contacted to tie flies a shortly before an angler's salmon fishing trip. If possible, a little more lead time would help since I don't tie full time. Spring/early summer and fall are usually my busiest seasons in the music business (see below). I have plenty of time for custom orders this winter, however. Give me a holler now if you need flies for the upcoming Canadian or European Atlantic salmon season, or for any other fishery. 

A new addition to my website is the Presentations page. Information and summaries of each presentation are available on this page.  My "Traditional Techniques for Broodstock Atlantic Salmon" has been well very received at local fishing and conservation club meetings. I'm happy to offer a new presentation, "An Introduction to Tube Flies: Fishing and Tying," which will be debuting next month (see below). I've notice a local reluctance to try tube flies, even when I've given them out for free. This presentation should help clear up any confusion as to how to fish and/or tie effective tube patterns for all species. 

I decided to take a break from tying anything in January and thoroughly clean my tying room (I cheated a little). It was too cluttered for too long and I was beginning to get annoyed with it. I finally took the time to razor the pile of trashed flies that had been accumulating for several years. I'm most of the way through the cleanup and reorganization job now and it's starting to look a lot better. I'll be ready to hit the ground running come February. 

I tend to ignore the gallery section of the website until I have make major changes. I added a few new fishing and tying pics. I will add more to the Fishing Gallery and Fly Gallery throughout the winter.  Check back every now and then! 


I have a couple of presentations scheduled this winter. It would be great to see some of you there! Here are the details:

“Introduction to Tube Flies - Fishing & Tying”

February 17, 2015

Port 5 Naval Veterans
69 Brewster St.
Bridgeport, CT 06605

“Traditional Techniques for Broodstock Atlantic Salmon”

March 11, 2015

Michael’s at the Grove
42 Vail Rd. 
Bethel, CT 06801


Litchfield Jazz Festival 2013
(photo by H. Judd)

By night, I am a professional jazz musician. I mention it here on occasion, but I thought I'd plug a good gig I have coming up at the end of this month. 

Ben Bilello, Laurence Hobgood & Henry Lugo
January 30, 2015
$10 cover  

56 Orange St. 
New Haven, CT 06510

The 9th Note is a great new club and you should definitely check it out. The trio with Laurence and Henry is very dynamic. I love working with both of those guys. Laurence is a fellow fly fisherman, so feel free to talk fishing with him, too. 

As a side note, I am giving a free brush playing clinic before the show. It will run from 6:00pm to 7:00pm. I'll take a short break, we'll run a brief soundcheck, then start the show at 8:00. Check or for more information. This will be a very exciting not to miss! 

Monday, January 19, 2015

Weighing Hooks and Tubes

Copper tube (thick walled) 1.5" = 2 g
Partridge Code Q Double sz. 1/0 = 1.5 g

My friend Wayne sent me a handy little Christmas gift a few weeks ago. I intend to use this scale mainly for modifying shooting heads and fly lines, but I'm not totally set up for it yet. In the meantime, I decided to weigh some tubes and hooks, just for kicks.

Left: G.P. on Partridge Q Double 1/0 = 1.8 g
Right: G.P. on copper tube and Loop double (#4) = 2.7 g

The first experiment was comparing a thick walled, HMH copper tube (1.5") to an old Partridge Code Q low water double (sz. 1/0). I wanted to tie a flies of a similar size and compare total weights. The fly of choice would be the General Practitioner. The Partridge hook is quite heavy (1.5 g), but the tube alone was 25% heavier. (2 g). When I added materials to both, then a #4 Loop double tube hook on the tube G.P., the tube fly became significantly heavier. I've tried to cast the tube version of this fly before. It's not pleasant. The flies are roughly equal in length, but the tube version weighs quite a bit more (see pic above). I should try this again with a thin walled copper tube and see what I get for results. I think it would end up about the same weight as the conventional fly based on the Sunray experiment below. 

Daiichi 2271 (#2) = .5 g
Aluminum tube (1.5") + Owner SSW (#2) = .5 g

The next experiment was less scientific. I wanted to compare a Daiichi 2271 streamer/Dee hook (sz. 2) to an aluminum tube. Then, weigh a fly tied on the 2271 and compare it to substitutes tied on an aluminum Shumakov long range tube and a conventional aluminum tube. I didn't bother doing all the permutations. I feel like I had a good idea of how everything compared. In the example above, I wanted to see how long of an aluminum tube I'd need to equal the weight of the hook. The total length of the tube and hook is a bit longer than the 2271, but the tying space on each is roughly equal since we don't typically tie on the tube hook. So, this heavy streamer hook weighed about as much as a similar sized aluminum tube and single hook.

Shumakov tube (alum.) + Owner SSW (#2) = .8 g
The Chief - Daiichi 2271 (#2) = .66 g

The example above is the least "scientific" of the group. The flies are different, but I most likely wouldn't tie a feather wing streamer on a tube. I would have no problem fishing this Shumakov-style tube fly in place of The Chief, however. I had this in mind because of what happened to this particular streamer. I was fishing for landlocked salmon at the base of a concrete dam. I thought The Chief would be a good option. All it took was one errant backcast and I knocked the point off a decent streamer fly. The fly, which didn't live long enough to catch a fish, has since been relegated to casting practice. I weighed an intact version of the same fly. It also weighed .6 g, so the missing hook point doesn't weigh enough to make a difference. 

The Shumakov tube fly is a hare longer and fuller, though I doubt the materials add much to the toal weight. Even though the tube fly weighs a bit more, I doubt it would sink faster than the streamer. The streamer is slim and cuts through the water. Maybe they would sink at the same rate? I don't really care enough to take this experiment that far. Anyhow, little was learned from this experiment other than that Shumakov bottle tubes weigh more than I thought they would (especially the brass and copper bottle tubes). I discovered that by weighing them on their own.

HKA Sunray/Bismo (1.5" alum.) + Owner SSW (#2) = .8 g

Next, I decided to weigh an HKA Sunray/Bismo tied on the aforementioned 1.5" aluminum tube. The finished fly weighed just as much as the Shumakov tube fly, also .2 g heavier than the streamer. Again, it's not The Chief, but I would have no problem fishing this Sunray variant in place of a conventional streamer fly. It's interesting to note that the HKA Sunray weighed a full .3 g more than a slightly smaller Sunray Shadow (see below). I think the UV resin head adds most of the additional weight to the HKA Sunray. Also, I tie it fuller than a normal Sunray, though I can't imagine the materials themselves weigh all that much. Maybe the UV head, the extra .25" of aluminum, and the extra material added .1 g each? Like I said, not very scientific...(stop cringing, Mark!)

The most important lesson gleaned from this has nothing to do with weights or measures. When you're fishing in front of a concrete dam, use the tube fly instead of the streamer, dummy! 

1.25" Sunray Shadows + #4 single hooks
Plastic + TMC 105 = .3 g
Aluminum + Owner SSW = .5 g
Copper (thin walled) + Owner Flyliner = 1 g

To me, the last experiment was the most interesting one. I tied three virtually identical Sunray Shadows on tubes of different materials. The metal tubes were each 1.25". The plastic tube was a little longer to make up for a lack of junction tube (which adds a little length to the overall fly body). The flies were all the same total length. I used a light wire hook with the plastic tube, a medium wire hook with the aluminum tube, and a heavy wire hook with the copper tube. You can see the results above.

I was surprised how close in weight the plastic and the aluminum tube flies were. The difference, .2 g, is hardly anything. My friend John told me he raised a salmon (twice) on an aluminum tube fly I gave him. I was surprised to hear that he fished it hitched. I had never heard of anyone hitching an aluminum tube fly before, but I guess it worked just fine! 

The copper Sunray was twice as heavy as the aluminum Sunray. It would be interesting to tie and weigh a brass and a tungsten Sunray to see where they end up on the spectrum. My guess is the brass would weight around .8 g. I have no idea what the tungsten would weigh, but I wouldn't be surprised if it weighed twice as much as the copper. I'm not sure a tungsten Sunray would be very useful. 

I need to get to Harbor Freight tools soon. I need a heat gun and some shrink tubing so I can start messing with lines and stop weighing tubes and hooks! Oh well, it's something to do in the winter. Thanks again, Wayne! 

Monday, January 12, 2015

Gear in Review 2014 - Soft Goods

Simms Coldweather Shirt and Pants


In warmer weather, I got a lot of use out of two pairs of lightweight Simms pants (not pictured). One pair was the Flyte pants and the other was the Bugstopper pants. Both were from an older line and have since been discontinued. I didn't buy the latter for its bug stopping ability so much as I liked the look of them. Both pairs were very comfortable, both in and out of waders. A big plus is that they both looked like fairly normal pants, so I was fine with wearing them around town either before or after fishing. Actually, I liked the fit enough to wear them around when I didn't plan on fishing. I'm sure new models have replaced those which are discontinued. I would buy either again (or their new equivalents). 

Simms Coldweather very well spent

In the fishing clothing department, the best purchases I made in 2014 were Simms Coldweather pants and Coldweather shirt. Along with my Islander reel, the Coldweather pants were the best purchase I made all year. Both are lined with textured fleece and are really warm. The pants are especially warm. By themselves, the Coldweather pants were warm enough for most days. I didn't bother wearing a base layer under the pants unless I knew it was going to be really cold.  Another nice feature is the velcro cuffs. Just cinch up the strap and there's no need to worry about my pants creeping up my leg inside my waders. I used to use velcro-backed neoprene straps to prevent the leg creep, but the built-in velcro straps worked well enough on their own. 

The Coldweather shirt was really nice as well, though not a total knockout like the pants. It's not like there's anything undesirable about the shirt so much as I've found the layering on top easier to do than on bottom. If anything, I think the shirt looks better on its own than the pants do, though it's nothing I'd want to wear indoors for too long. The fleece lining is quite warm. I'd buy either again, especially the pants. 

Simms Headwaters Large Sling Pack
@ Pool 74 "Dambar" - C Sector, Bonaventure


Simms Packs

I'm sort of a pack junkie. I don't really want to be. I just want to find the system that's right for me. I'm still searching for the ideal setup.

The first packs I used this season were the new Simms Headwaters sling pack (not pictured) and the Headwaters large sling pack.  I used the former mainly for trout fishing. My first impression was that, when it was worn on my back, it was much more comfortable than my old Orvis sling packs. Of course, that might be because the Simms pack came with a waist strap*. It wasn't too bulky, but it was big enough to hold all I needed for a day on a trout stream.

The Headwaters large sling pack is pretty much the same pack as the regular one, just a lot bigger. I used this pack for salmon fishing. It has an extra large compartment, but no water bottle section like the regular pack has. I don't know how I feel about the large pack. I think it was too big for me. I might want to carry a lot of stuff with me at one time, but there's no reason why I need access to all of it all the time. Sure, the pack was more comfortable than my old Orvis Magnum sling pack*, but it is less comfortable than a backpack. I think I'd rather use a smaller pack for a couple fly boxes and throw everything else in a backpack.

Here are my main gripes with both packs. I don't need so many places to store forceps or pliers. I don't really know of anything else I can keep in those black sheaths, so having three seems kind of a waste. Plus, I didn't really trust the magnet in them. I sort of expected my forceps to slip out (though they never did). What I could use is a couple d-rings or attachment points for whatever I want to attach. Even more velcro would have helped out. The packs look nice and streamlined, but I'd trade looks for added functionality in a heartbeat.

I don't like the fold-down "workstation." I didn't wind up using it as intended. It's a good idea, but a full pack sort of gets in the way, especially in the larger model. It's too much to get my arms around just to use the workstation. I'd rather have an empty compartment for fly box storage. Or line it with better velcro so I could stick things to it. I didn't want to keep my tippet spools on the outside of the pack. The velcro didn't stick well on the inside and they slid all over the place.

Despite all the features, which I'm sure a lot of thought went into, these were both just packs to me. They're just a place to store things. I didn't feel like either made my life any easier. Because of the lack of outside attachment points, I feel like they actually made my life a little trickier. I like having access to gear on the outside of the pack so I'm not constantly zipping and unzipping. I'll probably keep the small pack and use it for trout fishing next season, mainly because I already own it. I doubt I'd use the large pack again. I think I'm just not too into sling packs. All that rotating around my upper body gets annoying.

William Joseph Eddy - I'll probably save it for other uses

William Joseph Packs

I tried two small, no-frills William Joseph packs this season. The first was the William Joseph Eddy. This is no more than a water resistant shoulder bag. It's not really much more than a pouch. Like the sling packs, a couple of attachment points or velcro would have been nice, but no big deal. This pack was made to be pretty basic. The front pocket was small and hard to get my hand into. I think I used this pack once or twice. It didn't really work for me, though it might make a good pack for my night fishing gear. It was inexpensive, so I'll keep it and find a use for it. I might use it as a travel fly tying bag. 

William Joseph Rip Tide Hip Pack - Not a bad little pack
The second pack I tried was an older William Joseph hip pack. This was the first time I've used a hip pack. I liked it. In the course of a day, this pack would loosen and slide down my waist, but it has no shoulder strap to help keep it up. This particular hip pack is pretty basic. The zippered compartments on the belt were a nice touch. Overall, it was more useful than the Eddy was. It's a pretty small pack, but it worked well when used in conjunction with a backpack and/or wading jacket. I think I want a little bit more from a hip pack in the future, but this one wasn't too bad as long as I kept it light.


Rotating a sling pack got on my nerves this season, but rotating the waist pack didn't bother me as much. I'm in the market for a new hip pack for next season. I like the hip pack/backpack combo best of all so far. I have been using a Simms Dry Creek day pack, but it's sort of small. I might look into getting one of their new Dry Creek backpacks. Instead of trying to cram everything in one pack and carry it on me at all times, I'd rather carry the essentials and leave the rest on the bank.

The Simms clothing is good stuff. It's pricey, but there are always deals to be had in the off season. I might try to pick up some more Coldweather gear if it goes on sale in the spring.

*My old Orvis sling packs didn't come with waist straps, though they came with buckles for them. I contacted Orvis to get a replacement waist strap. They offered to send one at no charge. They never sent it.