Wednesday, December 28, 2011


Black and white, white with black stripes...

Further experiments with no body/wire ribbing and butts...the wire can be unforgiving at times.

This one has relatively few components; Alec Jackson 3/0 silver hook, black wire, silver wire, black floss, silver badger hackle and feathers from the silver pheasant, argus pheasant and jungle cock.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Kropiwnicki's No. E for the River Branford (aka An Infamous Filthy Water Fly)

"Filthy is the way I likes it"
     This is an infamous flithy water fly for all salmon (and striper) rivers, particularly near Paul and Co. Hair Color and Design, and is not unlike the once celebrated "Hurricane Irene Fly". The favourite killer in all rivers of the Reverend St. Raphael's; there is no salmon (or striper) can resist its attractions in rapid pools in rivers near the sea. The preceding fly, No. D, will be found to kill better a few miles higher up from the sea (near Dynamic Racing Transmissions), as all plain flies do. If the No. D is winged with decomposing blue jay or seagull tail feather, it will be found just the thing.

     The wings are made of neck feathers from the krystal pigeon, in black and smolt blue, with broad strips of amherst pheasant on each side, and a strip each of scarlet and blue/yellow macaw tail feather, the former to be a little fuller than the latter, a Chinese red Uni-Yarn head (procured from Gourmet Wok) with a bunch of randomly coloured hackles round the shoulder, topped with two amherst pheasant crests dyed chartreuse.

     The body is made thus: - a tip of gold twist, a yellow Uni-Yarn tag, a topping of both golden and amherst pheasant with two small jay tips, the body is of sequentially alternating bands of the most offensive hues of Uni-Yarn, augmented with bands of gold twist and equally offensive hackle butts. No. 3/0 Alec Jackson hook in a most sterling silver, procured from the shop of the village metallurgist.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

No Body 3/0...a test fly

A little experiment

I was just testing out a couple of design things with this one, so it's not as polished as what I'd usually tie/post. Maybe I'll fish this one...

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Hammer

The Hammer - sz. 5/0

As of a couple of weeks ago, the 2011 fishing season ended for me. It was a good season, but I'm ready to switch gears and move back to the tying bench for the winter. A lot of people enjoy fishing throughout the year, but I need time to cleanse the palette. I enjoy tying relatively involved flies and learning new techniques, most of which I'd never take the time to do while the fishing is hot. After a month or so, I'll have cabin fever, but I have a lot of good memories to reflect on this season past, as well as some adventures to look forward to (and tie for) in 2012.

Also, I absolutely detest the cold and snow. I wasn't made for this climate. If not for a career in music, I'd be living in Hawaii now! I guess that's why I'm not a steelheader.

Anyhow, aside from some classics for fishing, the "The Hammer" is kicking off the "fancy fly" tying season for me. Stay tuned for more to come...

The Hammer
-original design-

Hook: Mustad 3899 5/0
Tip: oval silver tinsel
Tag: red floss followed by green embossed tinsel
Tail: topping
Butts: light blue hackle, followed by red hackle, followed by ostrich herl
Body (1): red floss, ribbed with green embossed tinsel
Body (2): jungle cock nails, tied chatterer-style 
Body (3): "red feathers", tied chatterer-style, with one small jungle cock nail on each side
Bottom Wing/Throat: pair of jungle cock nails; kingfisher cheeks; two toppings below all
Wing: jungle cock nails with pair of dark green hackles slightly shorter than the j.c.; broad strips of amherst pheasant above; four toppings above all
Head: ostrich herl

Thursday, December 1, 2011

A Pair of True Classics

The Major and the Jock Scott, tied to throw

The Major and the Jock Scott are two of the most iconic flies in the history of fly fishing. Nowadays, they are most often seen tied in very large sizes for framing. I have tied and framed both of these patterns, but now I tie them for the river. As such, plenty of liberties have been taken with material selection. Hopefully, those snooty salmon won't object.

Jock Scott 5/0, tied for the wall 

The Major 4/0

A 2/0 J.S., about to embark on its maiden voyage

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Orange Parson, Revisited

Orange Parson, after

The first classic salmon fly I posted on this blog, Dr. T.E. Pryce-Tannat's Orange Parson, is my favorite classic salmon fly pattern. It is not my favorite for its fish-catching abilities (though I hear it's one of the better ones) as much as for aesthetic reasons. Having never hooked a salmon on a classic before, I never had much confidence in them.

My luck finally changed yesterday morning. A salmon followed my Green Highlander tube and rose for it as I stripped up the running line to prepare for my next cast. It would not come back for the Highlander, so I tried the trusty Sugerman Shrimp. The fish wanted nothing to do with that fly. I rested the salmon for a few minutes while I changed flies and talked to an angler who was watching from the river bank. I figured now was as good a time as any to try a classic. The salmon took the Orange Parson in the early part of the fly's first swing. After releasing the salmon, I was relieved that my first fish on a classic salmon fly was on the Orange Parson which, for the time being, has reestablished its place as my favorite, though no longer just for its good looks.

Orange Parson, during

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Green Highlander Tube Fly

A modern take on an old classic

Green Highlander Tube Fly

Tube: Plastic Scandinavian Style tube 1"-1.5" (total length)
Tag: Silver flat braid
Tail: Yellow Fluoro Fiber
Rib: Silver oval tinsel
Body: 1/3 yellow Uni-Stretch, 2/3 highlander green S.L.F. or green Ice Dub
Body Hackle: Yellow
Throat Hackle: Highlander green
Wing: Yellow arctic fox, silver Angel Hair, orange arctic fox, pearl Krinkle Flash, highlander green arctic fox (wing tied Temple Dog Style); peacock herl
Cheeks: Jungle cock
Head: Silver turbo cone

Hook: I prefer Loop/Guideline Tube Doubles or Owner SSW Straight Eye singles

Monday, November 14, 2011

Flamethrower Tubes (Green & Red Butt)

Green & Red Butt Flamethrower Tubes

Here are a couple of flamethrower tube fly variants tied at the CFFC&M Arts of the Angler show yesterday. They're tied on aluminum tubes which are a little over 1/2" long. Since the standard red and green butt flies are so effective, I figured they should work well in Flamethrower form. This fly has an amazing action in the water. The true test will be next June on Russia's Kola River.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Upcoming Events and Fly Assortment Sale

Six CT Broodstock Salmon Fly Assortments

Here are some upcoming events you might want to check out:

“Traditional Methods for Broodstock Atlantic Salmon” 
Veterans Memorial Clubhouse
100 Sunset Ridge
   East Hartford, CT 06118
November 9, 2011

Demo Fly Tyer

Arts of the Angler Show
Ethan Allen Inn
21 Lake Avenue Extension
Danbury, CT 06811

November 12, 2011
November 13, 2011

On sale for a limited time:

CT Broodstock Salmon Fly Assortment

Each hand-tied assortment contains seven of my most productive flies for Connecticut broodstock Atlantic salmon. One of the six will be raffled off at the CT Fly Fisherman's Association meeting on November 9th. The remaining five will be on sale through PayPal (shipped via USPS) or directly through me at the CFFC&M show in Danbury or at the salmon fishing presentation. The cost is $28.00 plus shipping and handling (if ordered with PayPal). The assortment includes one of each of the following flies:

Sunray Shadow (1" plastic tube, approx. 4"-5" total length)
Ally's Shrimp (#2) 
Mickey Finn (#6)
Claret Shrimp (#6)
Butterfly w/green and red butt (#4)
Sugerman Shrimp (#2)
Same Thing Murray (#6)

The Lucky Seven
These flies are fish catchers! Get them while they last. Contact me for more info. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Diary of a Dirty-Water Salmon Fisherman

A hefty male salmon, caught today on a #4 Mickey Finn

The Connecticut broodstock Atlantic salmon fishery certainly has its share of detractors. Yes, I would much rather be chasing salar in Canada, Russia, Iceland, etc. Sadly, time, money and matrimonial duties will not allow unlimited jaunts abroad. I recently purchased Atlantic Salmon Magic by Topher Browne. Near the end of the book, Browne gives a brief summary of many of the world's most important salmon (fishing) rivers. I was struck by his introduction to Russia's Ponoi River:

"The prolific Ponoi River enjoys a sterling reputation as an exceptionally productive fishery. Few (if any) rivers match its exciting ratio of salmon to angler. If you are new to the sport of salmon fishing, there is simply no better place. It is difficult, after all, to cut your teeth in the sport when you receive two or three pulls per season on rivers closer to home. If you are an old hand, the sheer numbers of fish allow you to experiment with flies and techniques that might not see the light of day when the fish are hard to come by."

-Topher Browne (Atlantic Salmon Magic, p. 411)

The sentiments expressed in the third and fourth sentences are my main motivation to fish for these broodstock salmon. Since the Ponoi is not a viable option at the moment, I will both cut my teeth and experiment close to home, where the fishing is free and the salmon are willing to take a fly swung just below the surface. 

Grilse; #4 L.T. Special

After a (very) high water skunking last week, the past two days on the Naugatuck River have been exceptional. Yesterday, I hooked and landed three salmon and one grilse-sized fish. Today, I hooked/landed one, but it was quite large for the river. So far this season, here are the flies which have caught fish:

Butterfly (w/green & red butt) #4
L.T. Special #4
Same Thing Murray #6
Claret Shrimp #6
Mickey Finn (variation) #4

Four of these five flies are mentioned here

First of the season; #4 Butterfly

Stay tuned...

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Ransomes Elver (experimental post from new iPhone 4S)

Ransome's Elver #2, iPhone 4S photo (size reduced)

Here's a pic of an unusual streamer-type pattern tied for U.K. salmon and sea trout fishing. It is supposed to represent an elver (juvenile eel), which the salmon and trout eat while at sea. I've never heard mention of it being a particularly productive pattern, but that might have something to do with the scarcity of the materials needed to tie it. Not every tyer has easy access to jungle cock, let alone vulturine guinea fowl (used for the wing and hackle).

Once this post has been published I'll check it out on the computer. If it looks okay, I'll try more mobile posting, perhaps even stream-side. I'll try to post at least once from the upcoming CFFC&M Arts of the Angler show next month in Danbury, CT.

edits: Apostrophes don't work in the titles?? The Blogger app is definitely kind of quirky. If I use it for mobile posting, it's going to be quick and dirty. The camera on this phone is pretty impressive, though it is hard to hold still when taking a pic.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Bo Peep

Bo Peep, dressed on a #4 hook

Kelson's Bo Peep is a sort of derivative of Major John Popkin Traherne's Blue Boyne. A bright fly, the Bo Peep was meant to be fished on sunny days. In its time, the Bo Peep was considered a low water fly and was tied on hooks size 7 and smaller (!). I don't see why it wouldn't work in higher water and have tied it on a size 4 hook.

Bo Peep 
Tag: Silver twist (plenty)
Tail: Toucan* (three) and two small Chatterer* (back to back)
Butt: Black herl
Body: In three equal sections of silver tinsel (oval, the finest): No. 1, butted with Toucan* above and below, followed by black herl. No. 2, butted with Indian Crow* above and below, followed by black herl
Throat: (or No. 3 section)-Double Chatterer* feathers (back to back) on off and on near side
Wings: Ibis* and red Macaw in fibres, and three toppings. 

Horns: Amherst Pheasant
Head: Black herl

*subs used

Friday, October 7, 2011

Fly Box, new

A Chinese-made C&F knockoff, not yet overflowing with flies

Well, here she is in all her glory. Even though it's a phony C&F waterproof box, the insert is the genuine article! Actually, the stupid name brand  insert costs more than the box itself. The box was a $13 eBay special. The swing leaf insert was a little over $20. I think I paid roughly $35 for the used Wheatley swing leaf box. We'll see how this one fares. I am optimistic. There is still room for more flies! Let the tying of obscure patterns (that won't catch fish) resume...

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Fly Box, old

A classic Wheatley fly box, overflowing with flies

This Richard Wheatley box has served me well over the past two seasons. It has always felt a little crammed, however. It isn't a particularly good box for storing Butterflies. I am going to try out a C&F knockoff-style box and see how that fares. It's bulkier than the Wheatley, but the wings on the Butterflies won't get crushed and it should do a better job of holding large streamers/bucktails, as well as larger shrimp patterns. Of course, the new setup is much less elegant than the old one, so it won't be photographed surrounded by rare and expensive feathers. Seeing as how it's not even a genuine C&F box, maybe a pic on a dirty sidewalk, surrounded by pigeon feathers would be more appropriate?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


A handful of Wulffs; Grey, White and Royal

It seems as if there are more varieties of Wulffs than a fly fisherman could shake a stick at, however, it all started with the Grey Wulff. Tied to imitate the Isonychia mayfly, fly fishing and tying legend Lee Wulff realized how valuable this fly could be for Atlantic salmon fishing. The Grey, White and Royal Wulffs are the grandparents of the Wulff family of flies. Of all of the Wulffs in use for salmon fishing, it seems as if the White Wulff has best stood the test of time. Believe it or not, Lee Wulff used a 1/0 White Wulff that he nicknamed "the seagull". I have no idea where one would find hackle large enough to tie such a fly!

Below are the instructions for tying the Wulff series of flies, given by the man himself. The instructions were originally published in the United Fly Tyers of Boston, MA Bulletin (issue #68). Give it a try sometime. It is a bit different than the modern method and is quite a challenge!

The original Wulff series, tied by Lee Wulff

“In tying a Wulff dry fly I still prefer to use bucktail, the original material, although calfʼs tail is somewhat easier to use since it doesnʼt take the extra time to match up the hair ends and and is just about as effective. Tying them in my fingers, my first step is to pick up the hook and start the dinging [attaching thread to hook] with a piece of thread long enough to tie the fly. For these flies the thread should be fairly strong as it takes a firm pressure and a small wall of thread around the base of the wings to hold them in position.

I hold the eye of the hook between the nails of thumb and first finger of the left hand, doing the winding of the thread with my right. When the shank is wound I can either hold the thread in place by pressure between thumb and finger below the eye of the fly, or take a couple of half-hitches to hold the thread in place.

Next I cover the wrapped shank with lacquer. I like to feel that the flies I tie will stay together for catching a lot of fish and so want the solid body permanence lacquer gives as well as the security against twisting. I use unwaxed thread as waxing prevents the lacquer from penetrating into the thread. The tail is cut to length and wrapped to the shank. I like a good thick tail to hold up the heavy end of the hook and having the bucktail run the length of the shank [1X long hooks preferred] starts building up the body as well as making the tail more secure.

Again the thread is clamped between the left thumb and finger, or the head of the fly may be put between my lips to keep the thread from unwinding while I pick up the Angora wool, or roll rabbitʼs fur around the thread to make the body. Normally, I use wool as itʼs easier to handle and, seemingly, just as acceptable to the fish. I wind the body from head to tail and back again, shaping it into a natural insect form, and winding over it with thread near the head.

The fly at this stage is either held between the lips or the thread is given two half-hitches to hold it while I cut the bucktail for the wings. I cut it long and then pull out the longer hairs and reset them until all
the natural ends are approximately even and the hair is matched up. Then itʼs cut to length which is about 1/8 inch longer than the wings should normally be.

The hair is placed, facing forward, at the right place at the head of the body. It is wrapped tightly with several turns of the thread about 1/8 of an inch or less behind the winding. Then the hairs are lifted and thread is wound in front of the vertical hair until it stands upright and can be split by winding around the shank and a figure eight or two. The butt ends of the hair, protruding behind the first windings, tend to give a natural humpbacked look when the fly is finished.

Next, two saddle hackles are set in with two winds of thread. They face forward, on top of the hook, their bare butts fitting in between the rising wings. The fly, in all this tying, is still held between the nails of the left thumb and forefinger. A big drop or two of lacquer is then put on the base of the wings to penetrate well and set everything up when it dries. While it is still wet the two hackles are wound. The first wind is through the top between the wings, then two or three winds behind the wings and a wind back through between the wings. The tip is gripped between finger and thumb to hold it until ready to tie off. The second hackle is wound entirely in front of the wings and its tip secured along with that of the first hackle. Now the final wind or two at the head, three half-hitches to secure things, and a drop of lacquer goes at the head and the place where the tail joins the body to make everything secure.” 

-Lee Wulff

Tidal Pool grilse taken on a #6 White Wulff

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Blue Flies

Top to bottom: Blue Bomber; Big Intervale Blue; Smurf Variation

Recently, I read an online article by the late Len Rich. The article was about how and why he created the Big Intervale Blue. While autumn may be the prettiest time of year on the eastern seaboard, the October angler must deal with the annoyance of fallen leaves. At least consciously, it never occurred to me to try a cool colored fly to stand out against all the warm colors floating downriver. A couple of Octobers ago, I hooked a salmon on the Priest, an all white fly. Maybe that fly was extra visible at that time of year? This season, I will try blue and white, as the colors will contrast with the leaves, as well as with each other. I've had luck with high contrast flies just before dark, so I hope these flies can serve dual purposes.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Excitement on the Cains River

Hooper Pool-Cains River, NB

I usually fish Canada in the fall, but I decided to go up in July this season. I have a few stories to tell, but the final day of this trip was a unique one for me. The Cains is best known as a supreme river for autumn salmon. My friend Marc had some intel that a fresh run of fish was entering the river. Folks at the fly shop told us, "I dunno, it's a little early for the Cains..." We might have been foolish to continue with our plan, what with fish being caught all over the Miramichi system. Something drew us to the Cains and thank goodness it did! 

We hit the the meat of the summer grilse run in the Cains. I think we missed a lot of fish because they seemed to be tearing right through the pool, radars set to upstream. Despite all the hit and runs, I still managed to hook three fish, while rolling at least a dozen others. The water was rising, which is not good for the take, but there were so many fish coming through, we still managed to get pulls each time through the pool. There were three other anglers there and everyone caught fish that day. 

I experienced a first which, at least to me, seems like a total oddity...

I had just hooked and lost a grilse above the hot spot of the pool. The fish took a #6 Shady Lady, but spit it out while airborne. As I reached the hot spot, another grilse rose for my Shady Lady. I let the swing terminate and cast it again, throwing an upstream mend in the line to slow down the drift. This time, TWO grilse rolled on the fly! I have learned to stay calm while working a potential taker, but I could feel my heart beat a little faster when that second fish rolled. 

I let the swing finish and I rested the two grilse while I tied on my #10 Sugerman Shrimp. I cast and let the fly swing briskly through the pod of grilse. No dice...I threw it again, this time slowing down the swing. Almost immediately, a grilse leaped out of the water when the fly passed over him. A couple seconds later, a second fish rolled for the passing fly. A second after after that, a THIRD grilse rolled and then grabbed the fly! All three fish rose in different directions. My heart was really beating now! I had a fresh fish on, but seeing three fish rise in one swing almost unnerved me. Around the time the fish was hooked, it began to pour...

Fish on!

After a spirited fight, I landed the grilse and Marc snapped a picture. The fish was squirming and I wanted one more pic, just in case. Unfortunately for me, after removing the fly from his mouth, the grilse wiggled from my grasp and fell back into the river. He quickly sped off, but swam the wrong a giant crescent-shaped arc, then beached himself! A self-beaching, unhooked salmon was another first for me. We got a better pic and quickly released him. He splashed water into my face as he made his second getaway, this time successfully. 

Grilse #3 on swing-Photo shoot, take 2

From the rise of the first grilse, to the second release of the grilse that was finally hooked, I will never forget that series of events. Part of the reason I love Atlantic salmon fishing is the utter unpredictability of it. Of course, most of the time is spent NOT hooking fish. That much is very predictable, especially in North America. When one finally decides to take, damn near anything can happen. I think the mystery is what attracts me the most. 

This trip to the Cains has been on my mind lately, as I just finished tying a box of flies for a customer's upcoming first Atlantic salmon trip. He will be fishing the Cains in early October. If he experiences even a fraction of the memorable events I witnessed that day in July, I'm sure he'll be hooked for life, too. 

Cains River Fly Box - Autumn 2011

Friday, September 16, 2011

Favorite Flies for the Naugatuck River

Clockwise from top left: Same Thing Murray,
Sugerman Shrimp, Mickey Finn, Claret Shrimp

That's right, it's almost time to fish for those dirty water brutes again. These are my four favorite flies for Naugatuck River broodstock Atlantic salmon fishing. The Mickey Finn (#4-#6) works well for me while there are still leaves on the trees. Once the leaves fall, I see more action on the Same Thing Murray(#4-#8) or the Sugerman Shrimp (#1/0-#6). I find the Claret Shrimp (#2-#6) works well in the last hour of daylight. Maybe it's the high contrast between the front hackle and the dark body?

Honorable mention goes to Ally's Shrimp. The trout like them, too. I didn't hook a Naugy salmon on one last season, but I caught a good sized holdover brown with a big kype.

Honorable, honorable mention goes to the Sunray Shadow, which seems to be a good fish locator, and the Butterfly with a red butt (which I caught a Naugy salmon on my first day of fishing with a two-handed rod).

UPDATE - 9/4/2013: Since originally posting this, my tastes have changed a bit. The Mickey Finn and the Same Thing Murray are still at the top of the heap, no doubt. For some reason, I do less and less with the Sugerman Shrimp every season (for CT broodstock's still my favorite fly for wild salmon). The Claret Shrimp has moved down to honorable mention. Moving up the list are the Sunray Shadow and the L.T.Special. Ally's Shrimp is a solid fly and I always have some with me. Some fles are hotter than others certain years, but the Mickey, Murray and Sunray have become my mainstays.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Orange Parson

Orange Parson 1/0

The Orange Parson is a fly from Dr. T.E. Pryce-Tannat's 1914 classic "How to Dress Salmon Flies." It's a variation on the old Irish Parson series of flies. I'm a sucker for the color orange and, aesthetically, this is my all-time favorite classic salmon fly. The orange feathers in the wing and throat are from the rare Cock-of-the-Rock. I used subs for this fly. I have some of the real thing, but you'd have to be crazy to use those feathers on a fly which will be (hopefully) covered in salmon spit! I have yet to hook a salmon on an Orange Parson, but I hope to very soon. It looks like it would make a great fly for high and/or dirty water.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Sugerman Shrimp

Sugerman Shrimp #2 Double

     To open this blog, I'd like to post my all-time favorite salmon fly, the Sugerman Shrimp. This fly was created by Stan Sugerman for fishing in New Brunswick, Canada. My buddy Doug showed me how to tie it before my first salmon fishing trip. It's a deadly fly in all sizes. My favorite is a #10, tied on a double hook. My first salmon hooked took this fly, my first salmon landed took this fly, my largest salmon took this fly and the last salmon I hooked took this fly, as well as some others in between!

Sugerman on a #8 Daiichi single

Sugerman Shrimp

Tip: Oval silver tinsel or wire
Tail: Golden pheasant breast feather
Rear Body: Fluorescent green floss, ribbed with oval silver tinsel or wire
Mid-Body Hackle: Fluorescent green hen
Front Body: Black floss, ribbed with oval silver tinsel or wire
Front Hackle: Black hen
Head: Black