Sunday, December 30, 2012

Statistics and Blog Cross-Pollination

Check it out!

I'm fascinated by the statistics of this blog. It's very helpful for me to see what people search for and how they arrive here. Based on the number of page views, here are the top five individual* flies posted to this blog thus far:

1. Ghost Stonefly
2. Ally's Shrimp
3. H.M.'s Sunray Variant
4. Sugerman Shrimp
5. Ransome's Elver

*certain fly collections have more views

Of these five flies, #2-#4 have been very productive for me and have earned a permanent spot in my fly box. I first fished the Ghost Stone this season, but have yet to move a salmon with it. I have never fished Ransome's Elver and the one pictured is the only one I have ever tied. I probably would give it a shot if feathers from the Vulturine Guineafowl were more readily available.

While checking the stats this morning, I came across a site called, based in Lithuania. I noticed this blog is linked in one of their blog posts, so I clicked the link to check it out. Their post "The Heroes of Timan" (translated with help from Google) tells the story of their experience with the Sugerman Shrimp. It was a very good read! It seems like they had good luck with my favorite salmon fly. Besides that post, their whole website is a real treat. The photography is absolutely stunning and the flies are masterfully tied. I highly recommend visiting!

As always, please feel free to make requests directly to me. If possible, I'll try to help however I can. I've noticed some searches for Buck Bug how-to's, so I might try a step-by-step post or instructional video sometime in the future. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Temple Dogs and the Evolution of the Classic Atlantic Salmon Fly

The evolution of the classic salmon fly

Why I like fishing Temple Dog-style flies:

I.  The wings are incredibly soft and mobile. I tend to tie mine on the sparse side with relatively little flash. I think I get a lot more action out of the fly that way. Also, there is not a lot of material to get waterlogged and heavy (like bunny strips).

II.  These flies are hypnotic in the water. I am often transfixed by how they seem to flutter, dart and shimmer when swimming. I frequently find myself holding the fly in the current and watching how it moves.  How could a fish not be attracted to this?

III.  Big fly, small hook...sure beats using a fly tied on a size 2/0+ double.

Why I like tying Temple Dog-style flies:

     There is no better example of the classic Atlantic salmon fly's evolution than the Temple Dog style of tube flies. All the components of the classic salmon fly are present, only modernized in terms of both materials and construction.

     Instead of flat tinsels, we have braids. Instead of golden pheasant crest tails, we have Fluoro Fiber. Instead of seals fur or pigs wool, we have Ice Dub. The body construction is very similar to that of a classic salmon fly, however.

    The same goes for the wing. In my opinion, these flies are modern versions of the classic "built/mixed wing" salmon fly. Flash is tied within layers of a soft fur wing, then brushed to mix together. Material such as temple dog, finn raccoon and/or arctic fox have replaced stiff, lifeless (and expensive) feathers such as bustard and swan.

     There's a great trio album by jazz pianist Marcus Roberts called "Time and Circumstance." The track "Exploration" features drummer Jason Marsalis, one of my all time favorite soloists. In this particular solo, Marsalis plays a couple of classic New Orleans rhythms, then proceeds to rhythmically tweak them in a way that would make a traditional jazz musician's head spin. He has one foot in the past and one foot in the future. That's a combo which can't be beat. That's the Temple foot in the past and one foot in the future.

Friday, November 23, 2012

CT Salmon Fishing News - Late November

Yet another victim of the infamous HM Sunray Variant 

Warm, cold, warm, cold...I think we've about seen the last of the warm weather until April or so. Fishing, however, has been red hot. My last day out saw four hooked and all four landed, the smallest being around 7# and the largest a hefty male in the 16-18# class. Three of the fights were nothing to write home about, but the big boy fought well, jumping over 10 times. I saw four other fish hooked that day, three of them landed.

Fly wise, it was a day of stark contrast. My first fish was caught on a small #10 wet fly called the M1 Killer. I was fishing a very shallow riffle, so I decided to go small and subtle. The next three fish came from a deeper run with a much heavier current. The two middle fish (including the big guy) were taken on a Gold Bodied Willy Gunn tied on a brass tube. The total length of the fly was about 3.5"-4". The fourth fish took the orange HM Sunray Variant, a tube pattern which has been one of my top two salmon flies this fall (as well as being one of my top trout flies this past spring).

The other fly which has produced quite well for me is the venerable Ally's Shrimp. Still nothing on the Sugerman Shrimp since Russia, but I haven't been fishing it much this season for some reason. When I've needed a dark fly, I've been fishing the Same Thing Murray. Flies with orange in them have been producing so well, it's hard for me to fish with anything else.

Between playing gigs, teaching and fishing, I've been burning the candle at both ends lately. In between the insanity, I've been busy at the vise, tying flies for custom orders. As it gets colder, the less I fish with conventional flies and the more I fish with various tube flies. As far as single hooks go, I've been really happy with the Owner SSW straight eye hooks and I have been including them on all my tube fly orders lately.

Get out there and make sure you try some orange flies/tubes!

Expanded Naugatuck River Fly Assortment

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Brûlé McSprat

Both classic and modern

The Brûle McSprat is a spey fly conceived by my good friend, fishing partner and sometimes bandmate, Doug Schlink. This fly has proven itself very valuable on Quebec's Petit Cascapedia River. The full story of this fly can be found on the Angler Adventures Blog.

Brûlé McSprat

Tip: gold oval tinsel
Rear Body: bright green floss (Gordon Griffiths, if available)
Body Veil: bright green floss
Hackle: blue eared pheasant
Front Body: peacock herl
Throat: teal
Wing: bronze mallard
Head: black

Framed and on display at Camp Brûlé, Quebec

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Salmon Fishing in a Rotation

Fishing in the rotation at Gray Rapids, Miramichi River

Fishing in a rotation is not something most American fly fishers are accustomed to doing. When we show up to a trout stream, many of us park ourselves in front of a reliable lie and fish it until we find the right fly and presentation with which to fool trout. When fishing for a non-feeding fish such as an Atlantic salmon, unless there is a big run of fish moving at the moment, it doesn't pay to stay in one place for too long.

Completely covering a pool or run provides the angler a chance to present his or her fly to every fish within casting range. Instead of searching for the right fly for one specific  fish, we're searching for the right who either feels aggressive enough to take a fly at that particular time, or one who shows enough interest to warrant "working" it. That fish might not be in our favorite lie. It might not even be a fish who showed itself a short distance from us before we began casting. If we keep show our fly to as many fish as possible, however, we stand a better chance of finding one who is interested.

Here's where angling etiquette intersects with angling strategy...

There are very few things more annoying than fishing wet flies downstream only to have an angler enter the run downstream from you. Equally annoying is having someone impede your forward progress by parking themselves in one spot of the pool. A lesser evil (though still annoying) is the angler who does not move downstream quickly enough, thereby holding up one or more anglers fishing upstream from him.

All of this can be solved by fishing in rotation. In a rotation, everyone gets an equal shot at fishing a pool or run. An angler enters a run at its uppermost point, then begins casting. When his preferred maximum casting distance is reached, he takes a step downstream after every one or two casts. When he is far enough downstream, the next angler steps into the pool and repeats the process...and so on and so on...

Just because an angler is the first person to cover a good lie doesn't mean that he or she will hook a fish. I was fourth or fifth in line in the picture above. None of us hooked anything. An angler two places behind me caught a grilse on the same fly most of us were using at the time. We all covered the same water, but he was the one who caught a fish. I've been that guy as well. We all have (or will) at some point. Unless you're fishing behind a real hotshot angler, there's no reason to fret about being the next in line, and even then anything can happen.

Here are a couple of sites I came across with clear guidelines for pool rotation:

Atlantic Salmon FAQ - Ethics and Etiquette

(some of the above only applies fishing in Nova Scotia, but the "Pool Rotation" and "Other Issues" sections are applicable everywhere)

Steve Dobson's Fisherman's Blog - Rotating a Salmon Pool 

Please give these pages a read. Try to remember their lessons the next time you're on a river and you see another angler working downstream through a fishy-looking piece of water. Many of us fish to enjoy a brief respite from the craziness of modern civilization. The last thing we need is to feel like we were followed to the river by the clown who cut the line at the deli counter!

Monday, October 29, 2012

CT Salmon Fishing News - Late October 2012

Waiting for the take

Well, until Hurricane Sandy made her appearance known, fishing had been quite good on the Naugatuck River. In fact, multiple hookup days were quite normal for many of the regulars. I don't know which flies have been producing consistently for other anglers, but the usual suspects have been working for me. LT Specials and Mickey Finns in sizes #4-#8 and the Same Thing Murray in sizes #6-#8 have all worked well for me this week. A #8 Murray was my top producer, hooking four fish for me this week. I use the LTs and the Mickey Finns when it's sunny and the Murray when it's cloudy.

When all else fails or when the pool has been pounded, I go to a Sunray Shadow. Sometimes I cast it directly across stream and let it swing and other times I strip it as fast as I can. I landed a belter of a 10lb. salmon on an orange Mortensen Sunray early last week. Surprisingly, it was a bright chrome fish, something that is not seen too often around here. He fought like a bright fish, too!

The next day, I lost one about the same size which fought even harder. He was fairly close by, maybe about 40' away. He rose twice, very subtlety, for a #6 Mickey Finn. I tried a #10 Murray, but no dice. I put on a #8 Mickey Finn and he grabbed it with enthusiasm. He made several head-high jumps, cartwheeled through the pool and went absolutely crazy. I realized I needed to chase him down to the tail of the pool when I was about a turn or two from my backing. He weaved in and out of a minefield of large rocks and there were some very close calls. He was a good ways downstream from me when I felt my line catch on something. I couldn't get it unstuck and I still felt the salmon on the end of the line. Eventually, I was able to free the line, but the hook pulled out shortly thereafter. It was good while it lasted! I've caught wild Atlantic salmon which didn't fight half as hard as that fish. If they were all like that I'd call in sick to work an awful lot.

The snag that cost me that hot fish

Yesterday, fishing was very sluggish. I hooked nothing, but was able to help my friend's son catch his first Atlantic salmon. He is a very quick study. He hooked this fish on our first pass through the pool. I have a feeling it won't be long before he hounds his father to take him Canada! (then maybe Iceland, Norway, Scotland, Russia...)

First Atlantic salmon!

I haven't fished the Shetucket River this year, but I hear it has been fishing well. Several salmon were caught on dry flies early in the month. I always get funny looks when I fish dries around here but, when the conditions are right, these fish will rise for dry flies. That said, the window for fishing dries is extremely limited at this time of year. Some years it's not a very good option at all. The beginning of this season, before the brief cold snap, was the right time for it. I rolled one fish on a Bomber my first day out, but couldn't get him to come back. Maybe next year...

We'll see what happens after this hurricane passes. I'm afraid it might be a while before the rivers come down enough to fish again. If they do come up a significant amount, I'll be praying that they fall fast so we can get out there as much as possible before it's time to bundle up.

I'm out of salmon fly assortments at the moment, but just holler if you want flies. I can do custom orders. As the water cools off, I'll be fishing with tube flies more and more. Tubes are available upon request. I can recommend patterns which have produced well for me in the past. 

 Make sure you stop by the Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum's Arts of the Angler Show. It's at the Ethan Allen Inn in Danbury, CT on 11/10 and 11/11. I'll be tying there along with plenty of friends. Come by and say hello!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Landlocked Salmon Fishing - October 2012

John with fish on
There is a river I had been meaning to fish for a few years now and I finally pulled the trigger a couple of weekends ago. Spurred on by my friend John, we met at the river on a cold Friday morning. The landlocked Atlantic salmon run in the fall and John mentioned this was a good time to hook into a larger fish.

John was a great host and guide and gave me the lay of the land. He really knows the river inside and out and put me on some good water. Eventually, John had to meet his family for lunch, so I was on my own. Shortly thereafter it started snowing! 

These fish were spirited fighters

I fished a highly-trafficed spot which looked like classic salmon water. I wasn't confident about my choice in flies, so I reeled it up. I saw a salmon chase down my fly but she didn't take.  I thought, "What do I do now?" I put on an orange Mortensen Sunray Variant, put the rod under my arm, and stripped the fly in as fast as I could with both hands. That did the trick...the salmon absolutely NAILED the fly and was off to the races. John and I met up again that evening and he landed a nice salmon in some under-fished water. 

Did I mention it was cold? We were up at the crack of dawn Saturday morning. It was a frigid 28ºF. It took a little while for things to heat up, but we were into a couple of fish before we knew it. I got a nice 7 lb. hookbill on a #2 Ally's shrimp. Unfortunately, he was not very photogenic! John got a nice bright fish later that morning. It was fresh out of the lake and very silvery. 

Fresh from the lake! 

It was so cold, my car battery died that night and I had to have AAA come bring me a new one. It was just a minor inconvenience, I suppose. At least it happened after the fishing day was over, so I didn't miss anything. 

I was on my own Sunday morning. I went to a "sure bet" spot, but didn't hook a salmon. However, I did catch one of the lake's scarce run of small steelhead. This little guy was a spirited fighter, but was no match for my Sage Z-Axis 6wt. switch rod. 

Micro steelhead

I make a quick decision to head to another popular pool, hopefully before the crowds arrived. I got a nice salmon in the tail of the pool. I decided to head for home early. I've been burning the candle at both ends lately...working late and fishing early, trying to make the most of the fall. This was a great way to kick off fall salmon fishing for me. Thanks, John!!

Ally's Shrimp does it again

Monday, October 1, 2012

Rosy Dawn - An Evolution

I. Classic
Rosy Dawn

II. Modern
Rosy Dawn - Temple Dog
1.25" plastic tube

III. Postmodern
Rosy's Spawn
Dual Yorkshire Flybody Hooks #10

Friday, September 14, 2012

L.T. Special

A salmon fly in autumn attire

The L.T. Special is a terrific fly for fall/backend salmon fishing. It is well used when camouflaged against the colors of the autumn leaves. The L.T. Special gets its name from its creator, Larry Tracy of New Brunswick, Canada (click link to read about Mr. Tracy and his famous fly).

Nature in autumn attire (note the resemblance)

I tie the L.T. Special with a couple of minor changes:

Hook: Daiichi 2441
Thread: Danville 6/0, fluorescent orange
Tip: Copper wire
Butt: Uni-Yarn, fluorescent orange
Rib: Copper wire
Body: Copper Bill's Bodi-Braid
Wing: Kelly green bucktail on top of orange buck tail; copper Krystal Flash
Collar Hackles: Yellow followed by red

The L.T. Special in action

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A Bowl of Yummy Salmon Dry Flies

Salmon Cereal

My wife would probably shoot my a sideways look if she knew I used this Tiffany's crystal bowl to shoot a salmon fly picture. It was a wedding present so, the way I see it, it's half mine! Besides, she'd probably be more upset if I ate Cap'n Crunch from it, so at least it's getting some (clean and nutritious) use.

I decided to retie all my Bombers in a wider variety of sizes. I never tried using two hackles on a Bomber until now. I'm not sure if I like the doubled up hackle when using saddle (too heavy), but those tied with two long neck hackles seem okay. Also in the soup are some Carter's Bugs, Wulffs, a few Gaspé style dries and a few "secret weapons," courtesy of my friend Bob.

With the low water and long summer we've had, I hope to put some of these to good use on the Naugatuck this season. The rest will have to wait until I get onto some good dry fly water/conditions on a wild salmon river, which is a scenario I rarely find myself in. I'm almost always too early or too late. My dad is itching to make a trip to Newfoundland sometime in the future. That might be the ticket. Fingers crossed...

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

News, events and updates - late summer/autumn 2012

"The Pearl" (Kelson), tied for Mike Radencich's new book

There has been a lot going on lately, though very little of it fishing related, unfortunately. My wife and I sold our home and moved into a new one. With all the hassle of moving, I've only tied a couple of flies in the past month or two. Our new house has a pretty sweet tying room though, so I hope to be back in action as soon as the last of the major projects have been completed.

In between moves, I had high hopes of making a quick salmon fishing trip to Quebec, but low water, high temperatures and a general lack of time made it impossible for me. It turns out I didn't miss much during the time I had hoped to go, so I don't feel so badly. If conditions look good, I really want to make a quick trip to either the Cains River or the Margaree or River Phillip over Columbus Day weekend. My wife is not sold on the idea, to say the least! After a big move, and with our first child expected in January, another salmon trip is a tough sell. If any of you "old pros" have any tips (short of expensive pieces of jewelry), please let me know! 

I recently updated the news and events page of my website. I am pleased to be back at the Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum's "Arts of the Angler" show this fall. The show is November 10 and 11 and is at the Ethan Allen Inn in Danbury, CT. Also, I have a couple of presentations scheduled on fishing for broodstock Atlantic salmon in Connecticut. Despite the crazy weather and high water last fall, I had a great season on the Naugatuck River. I was able to experiment with some different flies and techniques and it really paid off. I'm planning on passing on some of this info at the presentations in October and November. 

Last year, I tied up some fly assortments for the Connecticut broodstock salmon season. It was a few of my favorite and most productive flies. I think most intermediate tyers could replicate the flies in the assortment at least well enough to catch fish. With that in mind, I'm considering offering a tube fly assortment this year instead. I know many local anglers aren't set up for tubes and, at least for me, there was a lot of costly trial and error that went into learning which materials to use, where to get them at a good price, non-North American tying techniques, etc. I can't imagine many local anglers want to spend their time and money learning how to tie tube flies like Temple Dogs and Shumakov-style tubes so, if there's enough interest, I might make up an assortment of a half dozen of my favorite tube flies. Please let me know if a tube fly assortment is something you might be interested in and I will get to work. 

If there is interest in learning how to get started tying various tube flies, please let me know and maybe we can schedule lessons or classes this fall/winter. 

Looking forward to cooler temps and fall fishing! 

Friday, July 27, 2012

Wings for an Angler - Lee Wulff

This video is incredible. Imagine learning how to fly and land a seaplane in under three weeks, then flying up to remote areas of Newfoundland for some dry fly salmon and sea trout fishing...


I get the impression that Lee Wulff was one of those rare talents who had the ability to be really good at whatever he decided to do.

My all-time favorite movie is Bruce Brown's classic surf film "The Endless Summer." To me, "Wings for an Angler" has that same sense of adventure. It really struck a chord with me when I watched last night. These guys had no fear of the unknown. They just went for it. I'm sure they struck out now and then but they certainly hit quite a few grand slams as well.

This is well worth twenty minutes of your time

Monday, July 23, 2012

Product Review: Cabela's Utility Binder

Not fancy looking, but it works

Though my fly tying materials would say otherwise, I really do try to stay as organized as possible. In an effort to efficiently store spare shooting heads, running lines, tippet spools and other miscellany, I came across this review for the Simms Headwaters Tackle Wallet. Now, I think very highly of Simms' products. I usually look to them first when it comes to waders, clothing and accessories. However, I just don't feel like paying Simms prices for everything, especially when there are reasonable (and less expensive) alternatives.

Enter Cabela's Utility $19.99, the large size is half the price of the equivalent Simms product. They do the same thing. The only difference I can see is that the Simms wallet uses velcro to hold the pages, while Cabela's binder uses two binder-type rings. Since I live relatively near a Cabela's retail store, I figured I'd go check it out.

It just works...'nuff said

I don't recall how many pages came with the binder. I think it was 10-12. However many it came with, it was more than enough for my use. The whole package was very sturdy and seems to do its job well enough. At half the price of the equivalent Simms product, the Cabela's was a no-brainer. 

I brought it to held plenty of heads, tippet spools, spare cleats, spare running line, etc. I probably overstuffed it, but the zipper held just fine. I don't need to carry as much stuff with me when fishing in the U.S. or Canada, so it's definitely big enough. I probably could get by with the medium, but it's only a few dollars less, so I'll opt for the expandability of the large. It's probably a pretty tough item to screw up, but I was happy to save a few bucks considering I was originally going to buy the Simms. 

I probably could written this review in four or five sentences and still conveyed my message well enough, but it has been a good way to delay some necessary housework. In summary, if you're looking to get a little more organized and save a little bit of money in the process, I highly recommend the Cabela's Utility Binder. 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Kola Salmon Video #2

Here's another video of my Kola trip, this one shorter, less dramatic, lower resolution (iPhone 4) and a smaller fish, but I'm not complaining.

This was around 1:30am. This was as dark as it ever got at night. This fish was the first caught of a good run of fish which came through that day. I think there were about six anglers fishing this pool and everyone hooked fish, though it seemed like there was just one sweet spot. This was a killer pool above a HUGE set of rapids. In warmer weather, the bottom end of this pool would make for excellent dry fly fishing. 

My friend hooked three and landed one in a matter of a few hours. I landed this one and lost one about 18lbs later that day. This fish never ran up or downstream. It made several blistering runs straight across stream, directly into the heavy flow. It was bizarre. I've never had one do that before. 

It was a relatively cold night. The air temperature was about 44ºF and the water temperature 54ºF. This was the only fish I hooked on something other than a Sugerman Shrimp and floating line/leader combo. It took a small German Snaelda, tied on a 1/2" brass tube, fished on a floating Airflo Compact Scandi head with a 5.6ips Rio Versileader.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Kola Salmon Video

I would have been happy with pics, but a video is even better! The "film crew" arrived about halfway into the fight. The fish had already made two good runs, despite 25# test Maxima and a drag cranked to about 85-90%. There were a couple of tense moments, especially when he got too close to the rock. The tippet was totally chewed up when I checked it afterwards. I thought the locals were using unnecessarily heavy gear, but now I understand the need for it. I was proud that my little 13', $20 spey rod held its own!

Watch it on YouTube in HiDef...

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Next stop, home! Moscow's Sheremetyevo International Airport. It was a fun trip, but I am ready to head home.

This trip to the Kola River was a case of "be careful what you wish for." For the ease of wading and casting, I was hoping for low water. Well, we got low water alright...too low! It was a mild winter and early spring in Murmansk. The vast majority of the big brutes ran at the very beginning of their season. I didn't realize that low water meant no big salmon! The temps were good, very pleasant for fishing, but a more traditional spring would have been better fishing.

We caught the tail end of a run when we first arrived, then it was almost a week of no fish and low water. The water came up a bit and we got another brief spurt of fish. On my last day, I actually saw grilse, which is totally unexpected this early on.

My final tally was 5 hooked and 3 landed...about 10, 15 and 20lbs. The large fish was the most powerful fight I have gotten from a salmon. The smallest was the weakest fight I've ever had from a searun fish! I've had a couple 'Naugy salmon who fought harder, believe it or not. I also dropped one that went about 18-20lbs. I could stop it from shaking its head and that was the end of that.

Curiously, all my fish but one took a #2 Sugerman Shrimp (double) fished on a floating line/leader. I tried plenty of other flies, but they seemed to like that one the most. I gave one to my friend Sergey who hooked five fish on it in one afternoon! The 15lb. fish took a small German Snaelda, fished on a floating line and a 5.6ips Versileader. I took that fish around 1am. He had some bistering runs, but never ran upstream or down, just perpendicular to the current several times. I've never had that happen before.

In summary, we didn't get what I think of as "Russian numbers," but it was a good trip anyhow. I fished with several terrific Russian anglers, swapped flies and made some great new friends. Also, I Ianded my largest salmon to date, despite almost losing him "Nova Scotia Style" (wink wink, Marc) and then having him almost leave the pool. All's well that ends well, however. I have some pics and videos I'll post once I do some editing and get some sleep.

I'm not looking forward to a 10 hour flight and a 3+ hour drive, but I a looking forward to being home!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Международное ш.,,Russia

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Next stop, Russia...

We're waiting to board our flight to Moscow. The plane leaves in about an hour. Hopefully there will be a lot of big salmon pics to share in my next post!

Good luck to all my friends headed to Quebec for early June fishing!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Kennedy International Airport

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Product Review: Orvis Safe Passage Magnum Sling Pack

Magnum Sling Pack

It has taken a few years for me to finally settle on a tackle-management system. I really don't like the vest, especially when using a two-handed fly rod. I tried older Orvis chest packs and a Simms waist pack, but I didn't feel like I found the right pack until I tried the Orvis Safe Passage Sling Pack. It's a great pack, but I always thought it would be nicer if it was a little roomier.

Fighting a salmon-original Safe Passage Sling Pack

Enter the new Orvis Safe Passage Magnum Sling Pack...

I had considered buying the highly water resistant Orvis Gale Force Sling Pack instead, but decided against it (more on that later). Here is the volume breakdown of all three packs:

Safe Passage Sling Pack: 472 cu. in.
Safe Passage Magnum Sling Pack: 840 cu. in.
Gale Force Sling Pack: 1,008 cu. in.

As you can see, the Gale Force pack wins in the capacity department. I decided against it mainly due to the fact that it is one large compartment. I wanted the separation that the Magnum pack offers. Sure, it would have been nice to have the water resistance, but very little of my stuff is loose, so I think what is inside will stay relatively dry.

The Magnum is almost double the capacity of the original and the difference is definitely noticeable. I don't feel like I have to cram anything in there. Most of the time, while salmon fishing, the original Sling Pack is sufficient. For my Russia trip, I felt I needed greater capacity as most of my flies/tubes are substantially larger than the flies I use in North America. Plus, I felt I could use the extra room for storing extra shooting heads, polyleaders, snacks, etc.

Aside from the overall shape, both Safe Passage sling packs have virtually identical features. The original pack does not have a zippered inside compartment, however. I find that inclusion to be quite useful on the Magnum pack. Like the original, the Magnum comes with a velcro-backed fly patch. I don't store flies on the patch as much as I use it to dry flies on, or at least store them after being fished. There's probably enough room in this pack to fit two velcro fly patches if one was inclined to do so.

Fly patch & internal pockets (elasticized & zippered)

I use the main compartment to store my Finsport Fly Wallet (for tube flies) and a large fly box. There is easily enough room for another good-sized box or two smaller boxes, snacks, empty collapsable water bottle, etc.  Sure, you might have to stack things up inside, but I just put the lesser accessed stuff on the bottom and it seems to work just fine. 

Main compartment

My only real gripe is with the nylon waist strap. I can't stand using it as a waist strap. It does, however, come with a buckle that can be (theoretically) used to secure the waist strap around the opposite shoulder/armpit area. I think having another strap would help reduce back strain which can occur from a long day on the water. Unfortunately, the strap cannot be adjusted small enough for me to use in this fashion. It's about twice as long as I need it to be. I'm sure Orvis could have found a way to make the strap adjust to a smaller size. I guess I'm going to cut mine in half and affix an extra plastic buckle. Whatever works, I guess...

In conclusion, I rate the Orvis Safe Passage Magnum Sling Pack 4 out of 5 stars. If I had some options with the waist strap, I might have given it all 5 stars. This is a great pack, especially for those of us who fish with two-handed rods. If there was a way Orvis could fuse the Magnum pack with the Gale Force pack, I'd probably give it 6 stars! Of course, I would be happy to field test any future prototypes, so please put me on the list...

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Same Thing Murray

A great fly, despite the weird name

Historically, there are some salmon flies with some pretty strange names. My favorite has to be "Moonlight on Mrs. Higginbotham" (???). The Same Thing Murray has a pretty weird name, albeit not as weird as Mrs. H's fly. I would venture to guess the Murray has caught a lot more salmon in its relatively short life than the old, obscure Mrs. H fly.

When looking at the stats of this blog, I've noticed the Same Thing Murray is often searched for. I am going to try to keep my eye on the stats and post flies which seem to be frequently "requested." Feel free to make a formal request if there's a fly you'd like to see highlighted. I can't promise anything, but I'll do my best to post it.

This one is a notch or two tougher to tie than a standard hairwing such as a Blue Charm, Cosseboom, etc. Make sure you leave plenty of room for the double head. I leave the butt ends of the moose hair wing long to make a nice platform for the head components to sit on. This can be a bit of a tricky tie at first, but don't get discouraged. It just takes a little practice and some planning to nail this one.

Here's the recipe I use to tie Doug Hasting's "Same Thing Murray," which is slightly different from the original dressing:

Hook: Tiemco TMC 700 or Daiichi 2441
Tip: Oval silver tinsel
Tail: Orange hackle fibers
Body: rear 1/2-fluorescent green Gordon Griffiths floss (or chartreuse Uni Stretch); front 1/2-peacock herl
Underwing: a few strands of lime green or peacock Krystal Flash
Wing: Moose body hair
Collar Hackle: Black hen
Head: Chinese red Uni Stretch, followed by black ostrich herl

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Lady Amherst 5/0

Lady A, with mallard strategically hiding lacquer stains

Despite being tied in the classic Ranger style, the Lady Amherst is not what the purists consider a "true classic" salmon fly. Having been invented  in post-Victorian era Canada (c. 1925) by George B. Bonbright (Fishing Atlantic Salmon; Bates, 348), the Lady Amherst is most closely associated with the large salmon of Québec's Grand Cascapedia. The Lady Amherst is an early season fly, most commonly tied on large irons. To me, she's every bit as "classic" as any of them.

The Lady Amherst was the first fully dressed pattern I tied, probably four years ago or so. While more iconic flies such as the Jock Scott and the Popham seem to garner the most attention, the Lady Amherst was the fly that really drew me in. I have a real affinity for the contrast of white/dark feathers, especially from the Amherst Pheasant and the Silver Pheasant. I think I still have a couple of crude, early ties of this fly, which will definitely see some time in the water next month.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Fly Box-Doubles for the Kola River

A big box o' doubles

Though I mainly plan on fishing various tube flies while in Russia, I couldn't help but tie a box of doubles for myself. I guess I just love the way a fly looks on a double hook. These are large flies, in sizes 2/0 and #1-#4. I think some of the 2/0 flies might weigh at least as much as some of my flies tied on copper tubes.

Most of these doubles I tied are established Canadian fly patterns, though there are some European patterns represented as well. The flies can be divided into three categories:

1. Large to jumbo-sized versions of flies I have found to be particularly successful, such as: Sugerman Shrimp, Ally's Shrimp, Same Thing Murray, Red/Green Butt Butterfly, Black Bear Green Butt and the Green Machine.

2. Proven flies I have fished, but have not yet had success with, such as: General Practitioner, Rusty Rat and Silver Rat.

3. Flies which are totally new to me, such as: Ghost Stone Fly, Picasse, Sunburst Flamethrower, Green Highlander Longtail, Blue Charm w/Green Butt and the Pompier.

I tied the large Green Machine with chenille, but I think I'm going to tie a couple with deer hair (as well as a couple of large Shady Ladies). I don't think the buoyancy of the deer hair will offset the weight of the double hook very much, especially considering I tend to pack the deer hair on my bugs rather loosely. This was my first chenille Buck Bug-style fly. The deer hair versions look more durable to me.

Anyhow, we'll see what happens!

Monday, April 30, 2012

Ask About Fly Fishing Podcast-Tying the Classic Salmon Fly with Michael Radencich

Airing this Wednesday night at 9pm EST (5/2/12)

Ask About Fly Internet Radio

This week's topic is "Tying the Classic Salmon Fly" with author, photographer and expert salmon fly tyer Michael Radencich. Presumably, Mike will be talking about his forthcoming book, "Classic Salmon Fly Patterns." With 1,738 flies pictured, this book will be the largest illustrated compendium of classic salmon fly patterns ever published. 86 salmon fly tyers from around the word contributed to this landmark project. I am excited and humbled to be one of them! 

According to Amazon, the book is slated for release on August 1st of this year. It can be preordered from Amazon. Click here for more info.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

HKA Sunray/Bismo/H.M.'s Sunray Variant***

My interpretation of Mortensen's pattern 

It has been a little while since my last post, but I have been working a lot lately (which, for me, is a good thing). I have been tying, but I've just been lazy about photographing flies and posting. Excellent trout fishing during an unusually early New England spring has been quite a "distraction" as well!

This fly is my interpretation of a pattern shown in Henrik Mortensen's fifth DVD, "The Scandinavian Spey Cast II." Mortensen shows a handful of these flies, but does not go into detail about the dressing. Though I do not know the exact dressing, I'm confident that my interpretation comes close enough to the original and it should work fine for early/late season salmon. Actually, I've caught quite a few trout on the orange one so far this season, so I might have to tie extras for my streamer box.

HM Sunray in green

Here is my dressing for the HKA Sunray/Bismo (Mortensen's Sunray Variation):

Tube: Aluminum, 1.25"
Rib: Silver wire
Body: Flat pearl body braid
Underwing: Polar bear hair or bucktail, white or color to match wing1 and hackle
Wing1: arctic fox, finn raccoon or temple dog (orange, green, blue, yellow, etc.), topped with two strands of pearl Flashabou
Wing2: Sparse bunch of arctic fox, finn raccoon or temple dog dyed black, topped with sparse bunch of chasm ere goat dyed black
Overwing: two strands each of pearl Flashabou and Krystal Flash
Sides: Grizzy hackle, dyed to match Wing1
Eyes: Holographic eyes
Head: Black with multiple coats of Sally's Hansen's (now using UV-cured finish and one coat of Sally Hansen's)

As a side note, this was a little bit of a crude, DIY, cost-saving project. The aluminum tubes are from a local hobby shop/art supply store, though they are lined with HMH liner tube. I believe I paid under $2 for 3' of aluminum tubing, which is substantially less than what anyone in "the industry" charges for a pack of aluminum tubes. They can be easily cut by rolling a straight edge razor perpendicular to the tube, then breaking it in two. The ends are filed smooth and then the tube can be lined.

The grizzly hackle is from a Whiting Bugger Pack. I don't need a ton of it dyed in different colors, so I used Aaron Ostoj's Kool-Aid dying instructions and got pretty good results. Instructions can be found on Ronn Lucas's website (under "Articles, Documents, Ephemera"). It's really easy, inexpensive and the colors can be quite vibrant. I have even tried mixing colors with some great results.

Happy tying and fishing...I'm very excited that salmon season is almost here! As always, feel free to contact me with any questions.

***UPDATE (07.19.14): It looks like there is a bit of intrigue pertaining to the origins of this deadly fly. A friend filled me in on the backstory last night. See the article linked below for details.

Global Fly Fisher - HKA Sunray/Bismo 


Here is a trailer from Mortensen's "The Scandinavian Speycast II"

Thursday, March 8, 2012

General Practitioner

General Practitioner on a 1/0 low water double

The General Practitioner, known nowadays as the G.P., was created by Col. Esmund Drury in the early 1950s. A shrimp imitation, Drury created the G.P. when live prawns were banned on the River Test. There have been many variations on Drury's original pattern, though the above were tied true to his instructions, which can be found in Col. Joseph Bates's classic "Atlantic Salmon Flies and Fishing" (except for the addition of a little Krystal Flash on my part).

These two G.P.s, both the original orange and the black variation, were tied on a vintage Partridge low water double. I'm not sure what size it is, but I would estimate it's about 1/0. The hook runs about 4" in total length and will fished with a sunk line in high, cold water.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Fly Shop - Grand Opening

A small sample of what is available

I have sold several classic/artistic flies, framed pieces and destination fly boxes through my website, but I have redesigned the "Fly Shop"  and have added more merchandise. I plan on keeping the Fly Shop well stocked and frequently updated from this point forward.   At the moment, only flies are available for purchase, however, I might expand to tying materials and used gear sometime in the future. 

Don't be afraid to ask for something you don't see listed, be it a display fly or flies for fishing. I take commissions for classic salmon flies, original display flies and flies for specific fishing destinations. I'm not set up (nor do I have the time) for mass commercial tying orders, but destination fly box orders are generally not a problem. I don't carry a large inventory of fishing patterns, so flies can be tied specifically to your specifications. 

PayPal, Visa, Mastercard, Amex, Discover and money orders are accepted . Also, I'm willing to consider a fly, display or artwork  trade for fishing gear or a fishing trip. 

Stop by the new Fly Shop and have a look around!

Product Review: Finsport Fly Wallet 6"x3" (tube fly storage)

Finsport Fly Wallet-6x3

I had a Cabela's gift card so, with tube fly storage in mind, I decided to try out a Finsport Fly Wallet (size 6x3). The 6"x3" refers to the size of the ziploc-style pages inside the wallet. The outer dimensions are approximately 7.5"x5.5", which was the right size to fit in the outer pocket of my Orvis Safe Passage Sling Pack (reviewed here).

Complete wallet w/bound pages
This size wallet has 12 pages, split between two removable, velcro-bound inserts. Individual pages cannot be removed from the velcro binding, but each 6 page insert can be removed from the wallet itself. One insert has 6 full-sized pages and the other has two full sized pages and eight half pages (for storing small flies, tubes, accessories, etc.).

Pages removed from wallet

I will probably fill the entire wallet with tube flies, but I could see one storing relatively flat items in it, such as tippet spools, polyleaders, junction tube, etc. There is definitely more than enough space for all my tube flies (and tubes yet to be tied). The plastic does squash the hackle a bit, but it does so evenly on all sides. I'm sure the tubes will "spring back to life" as soon as they hit the water.

Orvis No Rust compartment box (small)
Because the wallet pages are flat, it would be difficult (not to mention destructive and potentially hazardous) to store double or treble hooks inside the wallet itself, however, single hooks will lay flat and would probably do well in one of the half pages. Since I carry singles, doubles and trebles, I have chosen to keep all my hooks together in a small Orvis No Rust compartment fly box.

The Finsport Fly Wallet has a mesh outside pocket. I'll probably use it to store my wet tube flies within, as they will be able to dry out a bit and they won't magically disappear on me, which seems to be a problem from time to time.

Tube & hook storage combo
The true test of this product will happen during the upcoming fishing season. I have high hope for this wallet, especially given its modest price of $16-$17. I can fit many more tubes in it than in my old compartment-style box and it takes up less space overall. 

Do you have any suggestions for tube fly storage solutions? If so, please feel free to share down below! 

UPDATE-March 2013

I've used this for a little more than one season now and I like it just as much as when I first bought it. When I finish using a tube fly, I remove the hook and place the tube in the outside pocket. They dry off just fine. I still use the small Orvis box to store the bulk of my hooks, but I stick as many as I think I'll need for a day of fishing right into the foam inside covers of the wallet. The little yellow hook box stays in my pack for backup. Really, I don't need to use the Orvis box at as long as I'm not going to use any treble hooks. Also, I stick tubes (attached to hooks) into the foam if I think I'll use them sometime that day. It makes them easier to retrieve than if I had to dig through the plastic pouches. I'm planning on carrying fewer flies with me this season and I am only using the page with the small and large pouches. We'll see how that works out.

I still think this is a tremendous product for the price.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Russia Bound!

Destination: Kola River

Well, today I booked my flight to Moscow for my first European salmon fishing trip! I'm going with my buddy John, who travels to the Kola peninsula every other year. We'll be fishing the Kola river, primarily. We're headed there the very beginning of June, which I hear is prime time for very large salmon. Even though the trip is just a few short months away, the reality has yet to sink in for me (despite tying tons of flies for the trip during the past week or two). I'm sure time will tick faster once spring is officially here. I'm in no hurry, however. I still have plenty more flies to tie and I need to spend plenty of time on the water, practice casting sinking Scandi heads and large tube flies on a 15' rod. Considering the preparation I'll need in order to fish close to my "top form," this might be a short trout fishing season for me, at least in the beginning. I'm looking forward to a future blog post loaded with torpedoes!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Ted Williams and the Atlantic Salmon

Ted Williams and the Atlantic Salmon from Martin Pitts on Vimeo.

Ally's Shrimps

Ally's Shrimps on copper/aluminum tubes and doubles

In my experience, Ally's Shrimp is a great fly early and late in the season. My first salmon of last season was caught on a #1 Ally's Shrimp, tied on a single hook. This is my first attempt at tying it on a tube. I subbed natural Finn Raccoon tail for the normally prescribed grey squirrel tail on the tube versions. I've also had great success swinging this fly for trout all season long, particularly rainbow trout. I tie it on a stonefly hook in sizes #10-#12. 

Ally's Shrimp for trout

Friday, February 10, 2012

More Cascades

A Cascade Parade

This should be enough...on to Snaeldas and Willie Gunns...

Friday, February 3, 2012

Cascade Tubes

These two will turn my luck around!

The Cascade is one of Ally Gowans' most famous and effective patterns. Tied in all sizes, and on both hooks and tubes, it is considered a modern classic. It's probably the most effective pattern with which I have yet to move a fish. I keep fishing it because I know thousands of angler and fish can't be wrong. As a devoted streamer fisherman for trout, the same is true of John Barr's Slumpbuster which, ironically for me, only seems to further any slump I happen to find myself in. I don't know about the Slumpbuster, but these Cascades are finally going to work for me this season. Tied at a total length of about 2.75", they should be just right for June on the Kola River. If they don't work there, I'm going to take the whole lot of them and throw them into the river, where they will all promptly hook salmon, I'm sure...

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Champion 5/0

The Champion-a formidable opponent

To the fly tyer not yet initiated and/or experienced in tying classic Atlantic salmon flies, Kelson's Champion probably doesn't look all that much different from the myriad of similar classic patterns. In fact, flashier flies like the Popham or the Jock Scott probably look more difficult to dress than the Champion. Don't let its relatively simple body construction fool you, however. The Champion has one of the toughest winging arrangements in all of classic salmon fly tying. In fact, I consider this one of the most difficult flies to dress of any, regardless of style or intended species (of known/established patterns). 

The difficulties really begin with the wood duck underwing. Because of its stem structure, wood duck is extremely difficult to set directly atop and parallel to the hook shank (when tied in by the stems, not by compressing the barbs of the feather). To practice the technique, the day before, I tied the Tomah-Jo, a Mary Orvis Marbury lake/bass fly. 

Tomah-Jo 3/0, as interpreted by Rossman/Boyer

The Tomah-Jo was my first attempt at tying full wood duck wings. I had no guide to go by, which was probably turned out to be a good thing in this case. As such, I kind of stumbled on a method of mounting the wood duck feathers which, as far as I know, is at least partially unique. I might document the method in a later blog post if I can get a good photo set up at my tying desk. Anyhow, successfully tying Tomah-Jo gave me the confidence to move on to the Champion.

Adding to the Champion's ornery nature is the individual application of later wing components. The married strips are added in small sets instead of all at once. One regret I have is that I did not marry the teal into the wing. My teal was too short for a fly this size. 

This was my first stab at the Champion. I tied it mostly from memory of Kelson's plate in "Land and Water". I do not own the book, so some things wound up being a little different than the original. If there is a next time around, I am going to tie this fly smaller and follow the "Land and Water" instructions as closely as possible. 

In all, I am very happy with the results, especially considering how large it is. I am no longer intimidated by stem-mounted wood duck wings. In fact, I'm looking forward to the next one. It was a pretty good way to spend a snowy weekend. 

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Ghost Stone Fly #2 Double

The Ghost Stone Fly...what a weird pattern!

In the world full of oddball patterns that is Atlantic salmon fly tying, this one is in the running for the strangest of all time. It is a variation of Lee Wulff's "Surface Stonefly," which is quite possibly an even stranger pattern. The history of these flies can be found on this great blog post from the FlySpoke Blog (which is one of my favorite blogs). 

This pattern first came to my attention a few years back during a phone call with Bryant Freeman of Eskape Anglers. I was up fishing the Miramichi and he was headed off to fish the Kedgewick. He mentioned that he and his friend had just caught some very large salmon on a variation of the Surface Stonefly and they were headed back for more. Last summer, I noticed my good friend Marc had some Wulff Stonefly variations in his fly box. He let me take one home to copy. Here is the Ghost Stone variation I tied:

Thread: Chartreuse 6/0
Hook: Sprite Double Salmon #2
Parachute Post: Straight pin with a clear glass bead
Tip: Oval silver tinsel
Body: Chartreuse Gordon Griffiths floss (coated with super glue for durability)
Wing: Black squirrel tail, under a few strands of holographic Flashabou, under white marabou
Hackle: Grizzly, wound parachute style on the straight pin (under the glass bead)

Top view

The business end