Thursday, March 28, 2013

Ausable Wulff and Bomber: Enlarged Trout Flies for Atlantic Salmon

Ausable Wulff #4 and Ausable Bomber #6

I believe it was early July 2010 when I brought my friend and fishing partner, Mark, for his first taste of   Rhode Island trout fishing. Our destination, the Wood River, holds a special place in my fly fishing memories. I hooked my trout on a fly from the banks of the Wood when I was thirteen years old. I don't get back there often enough, but I look forward to making a few trips a year. 

Nowadays, almost all of my trips to the Wood happen during a magical time of early summer. The hot and muggy New England weather triggers the Wood's mega hatch of Hexegenia Limbata mayflies. The Hex is North America's largest species of mayfly. The hatch occurs after dark, sometimes coming and going in the blink of an eye. A good Hex hatch is about as exciting as trout fishing gets for me. I love casting big, bushy dries to the sounds of rising trout. Who needs to see rises when you can hear them so clearly?

I hate to drive all the way to the Wood for what could potentially be as little as a half hour of Hex fishing. To maximize my time and gas money, I like to spend the afternoon chasing the Wood's other attraction, the native brook trout. I love small stream trout fishing and the Wood (and its tributaries) has enough brookies to keep an angler busy until darkness falls, the Hex begins to emerge, and the stream's larger inhabitants come out of hiding.

A well-camouflaged Wood River brook trout

Mark is a brook trout junkie and my usual routine sounded good to him. I was going to share the Wood and its residents with Mark, but little did I know Mark had something to share with me. He gave me one of his favorite brook trout flies, a #12 Ausable Bomber. Created by the late Fran Betters, this Adirondack dry fly has become a staple of the small stream trout fisherman's arsenal. It did not take me long to catch several brookies on Mark's Bomber. Since that day, I never leave home without several Ausable Bombers, as well as its sister pattern, the Ausable Wulff. Both have proven equally effective for me, so I can't say I prefer one or the other.

A beautiful native New England brook trout

The Ausable Wulff is tied on the tried and true Wulff template. It's not a new fly to salmon fishermen. I recall seeing it in my all time favorite book on the subject of Atlantic salmon fishing, Fishing Atlantic Salmon: The Flies and the Patterns (Bates and Bates Richards, 1996). Though it's currently out of print and it sells for a relatively hefty sum, it's worth every penny. Anyhow, a small Ausable Wulff (tied by Betters) makes an appearance on page 182. 

A wild Connecticut tiger trout & #12 Ausable Wulff

I've never heard anyone mention that they've hooked an Atlantic salmon on an Ausable Wulff, however, it looks like it has a lot of potential for Atlantic salmon in rivers with tannin colored water. The same goes for the Ausable Bomber. I decided to tie the two in what would be considered very large sizes for these particular flies. If the planets and stars align just right for me, I really hope to try these out in Newfoundland this summer. I think they'd be a pair of killer flies for the surface oriented salmon of "The Rock."

I modified the dressings a tiny bit from the originals, but will make note of what Betters' used to tie these two flies. I'd be curious to know if anyone has had success with either of these on a salmon river, so please let me know. If you have a chance, check out my friend Mark's fantastic blog, Fishing Small Streams. While I have been up to my ears in dirty diapers lately, Mark has been knocking them dead on local streams!

Ausable Wulff (salmon)

Hook: Mustad 3399a #4-#10
Thread: Fluorescent orange 6/0
Wing: Calf Tail
Tail: Woodchuck 
Body: Hot orange seal fur (original calls for rusty orange Australian opossum)
Hackle: Brown and grizzly, mixed

Ausable Bomber (salmon)

Hook: 4XL Bomber hook #2-#10 (pictured is a #6 W.W. Doak Bomber hook)
Thread: Fluorescent orange 6/0
Split Wing: Calf Tail (original calls for a single wing)
Tail: Woodchuck
Underbody: Orange closed cell foam (for enhanced float-ability...not found in the original pattern)
Body: Hot orange seal fur (original calls for rusty orange Australian opossum)
Body Hackle: Brown and grizzly, mixed; ribbed with thread
Front Hackle: Brown and grizzly, mixed

A view from above

Monday, March 25, 2013

Butterflies - Part II

The Leaper, doing what she does best

A couple summers ago, my friend Marc and I were invited to fish a small river (unnamed) in Atlantic Canada (parts unknown). Our friend and gracious host, Bob, brought us to stretch of river a few hundred yards long. Though this was not my first time fishing a tidal pool, it was my first time fishing the mouth of a salmon river. Walking along a sandy beach on the way to fish for Atlantic salmon was a bit surreal to me. If anything, this spot evoked memories of fishing for striped bass in my hometown of Narragansett, Rhode Island.

Before fishing on our second morning, I combed through Marc's amply stocked fly chest. Marc suggested that I try a #6 Blue Butterfly he tied. Marc mentioned how salmon are particularly sensitive to the color blue the closer they are to the sea and that was the fly for me. We weren't just close to the sea, we were right at it! I had never seen a Butterfly tied in that color scheme before but, being a Butterfly fan, I had no qualms about tying it on before we walked the beach to our fishing destination.

It's easy to get distracted watching salmon roll out in the bay, but eventually I went to the end of the lineup and began fishing the Blue Butterfly through the pool. The tide was dropping and conditions were about prime for fishing wet flies. The hotspot of the pool was near a large, gnarly, barnacle-encrusted rock. I cast my fly and swung it through the streamy water of an inside bend. Next thing I knew, I was tight to a fish. It took a little while before she knew she was hooked. When she finally got pissed off enough, she took off like a bolt of lightening. This was the freshest salmon I have ever hooked, literally a stone's throw from the sea.

Please get away from those submerged rocks...

To make a long and painful story short, that salmon cleaned my clock. After a couple of powerful runs, she started jumping. We estimated her in the 12#-14# range, which was pretty good considering the large percentage of grilse around at that time of the season. She kept hovering dangerously close to that gnarly rock. I thought I could guide her downstream and take the fight into the open water of the bay. She had other ideas and ultimately finished me off by running me around the gnarly rock, tightening the fly line, jumping and breaking me off. I was wrecked...she was solidly hooked and I really thought I was going to land her. Shaking his head, Bob said, "That's the kind of fish you want your picture taken with." I have lost bigger salmon but this was and continues to be my heartbreak fish. The fight has been burned into my memory, though possibly because I didn't land her.

"Screw this, I'm going back to Greenland!"

As soon as we got back to the car, I raided Marc's chest and took two more Blue Butterflies, one for fishing and one for reference. A year or so later, I bought Art Lee's book Tying and Fishing the Riffling Hitch. Little did I know I had found the origins of my old friend, the Blue Butterfly.

I have fished that fly a couple of times since that trip, but it has always seemed out of place. I tied some last week and added a green butt (the original has no butt). Blue, Green and peacock herl seems like a winning combo to me. Until I can get back to this magical place, I'll fish the green butt variation at points inland and save the pure blue Butterfly for only the saltiest of salmon.

Everything's better with a green butt, right?

Blue Butterfly w/Green Butt

Hook: Mustad 3399a #4-#8
Wing: Light/medium blue goat or polar bear hair
Tail: Light/medium blue hackle fibers
Butt: Chartreuse Uni-Yarn (omit for original pattern)
Body: Peacock herl wound with dark blue Krystal Flash
Hackle: Light/medium blue rooster hackle

Friday, March 15, 2013

Butterflies - Part I

A variation on Ingalls' original pattern

Another Miramichi River oddity is Maurice Ingalls' Butterfly and its progeny. In the late 1950s, Ingalls designed this fly as a slow water fly for the Main Southwest Miramichi River. It has since become a common and effective pattern in the boxes of North American salmon anglers. The splayed wings are a highly unusual addition to a hairwing salmon fly, though splayed wings have been used for the better part of two centuries (on Dee flies). In addition to being a killer salmon fly, the Butterfly works well on trout.

It is said that the Butterfly's main attribute is the way the wings pulsate in the water, especially when the rod is pumped lightly. For me, it has been effective enough on a straight swing. I like to use this fly when the water is slightly stained. The fly has a bit of a wobble to it, which I think the fish can feel.

Ingalls tied his Butterfly with a stiff cock hackle, though I use hen most of the time. Sometimes I sub red Krystal Flash for the hackle fiber tail, which has proven effective at times. The original calls for goat hair wings. When available, polar bear is a common substitute. I like to tie this fly with long, widely splayed wings for maximum wobble.

A yellow-winged Butterfly is another popular variation. The possibilities are endless. I have thought about tying an Undertaker inspired Butterfly with dark wings, but have yet to try it.

Butterfly Variation #1

Hook: Mustad 3399a #4-#10
Wing: White kid goat hair, splayed
Tail: Red hackle fibers (or a few strands of red Krystal Flash)
Butt: Chartreuse and Chinese red Uni-Yarn
Body: Peacock herl
Hackle: Brown hen or cock
Head: Black

Stay tuned for another variation...

Friday, March 8, 2013

Atlantic Salmon Flies - Made to Order

Do you need flies for your next salmon fishing adventure? Be it to Canada, Russia, the UK or elsewhere, I can tie just about whatever you need to help make your trip a success. Let me know what you're looking for and I'll do my best to meet your needs. Singles, doubles, tube flies, wet flies, dry flies, etc...

Also, feel free to enquire about flies for broodstock salmon fishing. I offer an assortment from time to time, but I am out of stock at the moment. I generally don't carry an inventory, but am happy to take custom orders as they come.

Use the form on the "Contact Me" page of this blog for inquiries, questions, etc. Thanks!