Saturday, October 26, 2013

Naugatuck Report - October 26, 2013 - A Rude Awakening

Once the first cold spell hits, thoughts of Hawaii
begin to replace thoughts of salmon fishing

There are two fishing clichés that irritate me whenever I hear them. The first one is, "That's why it's called fishing, not catching." The other is, "The worst day of fishing is better than the best day of work." In the case of the former, I think I dislike it mostly because it's overused, but it's also pretty stupid sounding. Does it really need to be stated?  The latter is complete nonsense and I cringe whenever I hear it. I'm probably one of the lucky ones in that, for the most part, I like my job. My best days ever at work top my best days of fishing if for no other reason than the "high" lasts longer at the gig than it does on the water. It's more of a sustained euphoria than fishing's manic bursts of excitement. Even if I hated my job, I'm pretty sure getting a raise would be more enjoyable than burying a hook in my own neck.

Today, I fished after work. It was a pretty simple nuts and bolts type of rehearsal, but it was more enjoyable than fishing in veritable leaf factory, complete with 20-30mph wind gusts and less water than ever. Despite the low water, I really enjoyed the warm autumn we had until last Tuesday. Shoot, even in  extremely low water, the fishing could still be pretty great. The salmon were very aggressive at times. I love fishing small salmon flies and I had ample opportunity to do so in the past five or six weeks. Last Monday, the water temperature topped out around 63ºF. Today, the highest I got was 52ºF.

I thought the change would be a bit more gradual. Oh well, time to prepare for cold water tactics, I suppose. The water is slower than ever. I tried the small stuff, but they weren't interested. I went from right #10s to tubes. They were interested in only one fly today, the Ally's Shrimp tube fly (which did a great job of fending off the leaves). First pool...nothing.  Pool #2...two pulls on the tube, but couldn't seal the deal. Pool #3...nothing. Pool #4...rolled a salmon twice. He finally took and I lost him a few minutes into the fight. Later, I rolled another twice, but no hookup. Between the wind, leaves and trickle of a river, getting a consistently good presentation was very challenging.

My hooked and lost streak is up to three in a row, which is frustrating. Oh well, I guess that's why it's called fishing and not...*barf*

Monday, October 21, 2013

Naugatuck Report - October 21, 2013 - Trying to Beat the Clock

It's about time these thing work here...

Tonight was another quick trip. We're rapidly losing daylight and it was a little too quick for my tastes, but that's the time I had. In order to fish, I had to drop junior off at mom's job in West Hartford, then drive (just ahead of rush hour traffic) all the way to the river. I figure I had about 2 hours and 15 minutes of actual fishing time before dark.

I decided to fish a pair of pool which, even in low water, are well suited for two handed casting. However, the water was so low, I wished I had brought the single hander instead. I didn't have time to swap, so I used the 11' 6wt switch rod with mostly overhead casts. It didn't take me long to notice the top guide was loosening up. I have two bent snake guides on the uppermost portion of the rod, as well. I can live with the bent guides, but the tip needs to be fixed. I said, I didn't have much time, so I fished it anyway and it worked well enough to get through the evening. I think its season is over though. If we don't get any rain, it won't really matter. I'm going back to the 9' 7wt rod until it makes sense not to. 

Pool #1...Water temp 62ºF and the water is getting uncomfortably low. One pass with a #10 Sugerman Shrimp produced nothing. Another pass with a #8 Green Machine w/white tail brought a tiny salmon to hand. I would say the fish was 16" tops. A couple more passes yielded nothing, so it was time to hurry to the next spot. 

Pool #2...The low water is a little less of an issue here. 1st pass raised a salmon on a #8 Shady Lady. Two casts (and minor presentation adjustments) later and the fish was on. It ran at me faster than I could strip and I lost contact with the fish, thereby losing it altogether. 

Next pass...While fishing the fast water, I had strong pull on a #10 Sugerman Shrimp, but no hookup. No worries, another couple of casts and it was on. The salmon bolted downstream, jumping a few times along the way. I slowly made my way after it (this pool can be a pretty tricky wade). The salmon made a left turn directly behind a large boulder. Luck was on my side the last two times this happened to me, but it wasn't with me tonight. The fish sawed off my leader at the lowest blood knot. The only other action I had was a tiny smallmouth bass on the blue Bug. 

1 for 3 in a little over two hours isn't bad but, considering the diminutive size of the salmon I landed, losing a pair of decent fish and the upcoming rod repair expense, I left feeling a little unsatisfied. I guess I'm happy that I'm finally having luck with Buck Bugs on CT salmon. I've tried them for years here with nothing to show for it until now. They've worked well for me on the Miramichi, Renous and Cains Rivers. It's about time they work here!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Ally's Shrimp Tube Fly: Dealing With the Autumn Leaves

Ally's Shrimp Tube Variation - .75" aluminum

     Albeit it short lived, the peak of autumn is the prettiest time of year in New England. A vivid mosaic of oranges, yellows, reds, purples and fading greens make a perfect backdrop for a day on the water. The resinous aroma of decaying leaves reminds us to make the most of our dwindling fishing time. It won't be long until many of us go into a sort of hibernation for the winter, diverting our attention from the river to the tying bench. As we fill our boxes with Blue Charms and Green Highlanders, for a season which seems to be an eternity away, we cling to the memory of our last autumn salmon to get us through the cold winter months.

Whoa now! In just one paragraph, I've exceeded the single post limit on flowery, self indulgent, overly romantic prose...

All joking aside, autumn might be my favorite time of year to fish, however, the beauty of the leaves soon turns to headaches and frustration once the leaves hit the water. Hooking leaf after leaf gets old pretty quickly. Unfortunately, there is no "magic bullet" to keep the leaves away and still maintain a fly's full effectiveness, at least none that I'm aware of. I have a trick I use when I can't deal with the irritation any longer. Of course, it's not 100% effective, but it does alleviate the problem a bit. 

When the leaves are at their worst, I use a shrimp or Flamethrower-type tube fly and a single hook. I rotate the hook 180º so the hook points upwards and sort of buries itself in the tail of the fly. To make the fly a bit more "weedless," I add an element of stiffness to the tail of the fly. I take a play of out of the Francis or Pot Bellied Pig playbook and use either stripped hackle stems or wild boar bristles, respectively. If I use stripped hackle stems, I use the lowermost part of the stem. You want something as stiff as possible and with a bit of an upward sweep to help push the drifting leaves away from the hook point. 

Like I said, this is not a "magic bullet," but I find it to be a great improvement over a conventional fly tied on a downward pointing hook. Fish are hooked just fine with the upward pointing hook. I haven't noticed any problems with the fly's orientation in the water. If you're really concerned about it swimming "true," add a bit of weighted tape to the underside of the front part of the tube (where legal). I don't really find this necessary, however. 

Ally's Shrimp Tube Variation w/inverted single hook

Here is the dressing for a converted Ally's Shrimp:

Ally's Shrimp Tube Variation

Tube: .5"-.75" plastic, aluminum, brass or copper
Rear Rib: Oval gold tinsel
Rear Body: Chinese red Uni-Yarn
Tail: 3 stripped hackle stems, dyed orange or grizzly/orange; pearl Krystal Flash; orange bucktail
Front Rib: Oval gold tinsel
Front Body: Black Uni-Yarn
Wing: Grey squirrel tail and golden pheasant tippet
Bottom Wing: Grey squirrel tail
Collar Hackle: Orange rooster
Head: Red

Junction Tube: Color of your choice
Hook: Owner SSW straight eye #2-#4, inverted


As a professional jazz musician, and in keeping with the tone of the introductory paragraph, I feel obliged to make some kind of corny reference to the classic song "Autumn Leaves." Of course, I might be expected to post a link the quintessential Julian "Cannonball" Adderly recording of the tune (from his 1958 album "Somethin' Else"). However, the tone of the tube fly posted suggests something more recent, so here's Orrin Evans, Eric Revis and Nasheet Waits playing it instead:

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Naugatuck Report - October 17, 2013 - The Rare Trip That Actually Follows the Script

Salmon #21 landed so far this season
Today's plan exceeded my expectations

As a jazz musician, one of the best attributes one can have is the ability to be a blank slate while playing music. Premeditation not only kills spontaneity, but often fails to live up to expectations when things inevitably don't go as planned. Often times I ask myself, "Why fishing should be any different?" It's not different, but I often find myself visualizing the ideal day of fishing before a trip. It's foolish and I know it, but it's something to look forward to. In an entire season, I would say I get one day that actually goes according to the image I conjure up in my mind. Until very recently, this fishing season has been one of horrible timing for me. I struck out mightily with searun brown trout early this year, I couldn't cement plans to go to Canada for Atlantic salmon and my landlocked salmon plans fell through. Today was different though. Today went exactly as planned. Actually, it went even better than my idealized image of it.

My mother is in town from North Carolina, mainly to spend time with her new grandson. I told her about our successful fishing trip last month and she said, "Let's take him fishing while I'm in town!" Hey, that's okay with me! She could watch him and walk him in his stroller and maybe I'd get an hour or two in, perhaps even a salmon to hand. 

I sat at the vise last night to tie a couple of flies for an order. When I finished, I decided to tie a couple small Sugerman Shrimps for fishing today. It's my all time favorite Atlantic salmon fly but, for some reason, has not done as good a job for me at home as it has done abroad. I knew I'd be fishing a slow moving pool in low water and I just knew a small Sugerman would be the way to go. I tied a #8 and a #10. 

I knew exactly where I was going to fish and I knew I'd start with the #10. While I was tying, I convinced myself that I would hook and land a salmon within my first ten minutes of fishing. It would be my 20th salmon landed on the Naugatuck season so far and I knew it would be a fighter. 

All of this happened almost exactly as I pictured it, but with a few twists. In my haste to get down to the river, I didn't set my drag tightly enough. The salmon was hooked within the first five minutes and he took off like a bat out of hell, running and jumping like a maniac. Instantly, my reel overran and I had a birds nest of fly line to deal with. Oh no! I was able to strip in enough line to stay relatively tight to the fish while I stripped off almost the entire line and freed the tangle. I scurried to reel up the slack line, meanwhile playing the fish from my stripping hand. 

Just after I managed to get all of the line reeled up, the fish bolted around a big rock. Argh! I thought my plan was going to end right there. Though it took some time and a lot of pressure on the fish, I managed to pry him out from the other side of the rock. Then he went back. Then I popped him out again. I was able to bring him close and he made a move for a nearby rock. This pool is sort of a minefield, especially in this dead low water. I managed to get him close enough to net in my new Brodin Trout Bum (San Juan model)

Boy, was I relieved! #20 landed for the season and a great first fish for a new net, about 7 pounds. The #10 Sugerman was nestled perfectly in the scissors of his jaw, so it's no wonder why he stayed on the line throughout the turmoil. I mangled my Sugerman with hemostats, but it didn't really matter as the hook was partially straightened from the fight. It was a very close call. The day could have ended there and I would have been satisfied. 

I went back up to check on grandma and junior and they were fine. They enjoyed watching the scrap with the salmon. We took a little walk and headed back to the pool about 20 minutes later. My mom said, "The baby is doing fine, go catch another!" Yeah, easy for you to say, mom...

Well, that's pretty much what happened. I started at the top of the pool and was tight to salmon #21 within a few minutes. This time, the fish took a #10 Almost, a small, virtually all black wet fly (pictured in this post). It's about as drab as Atlantic salmon flies come, but it was just the right fly at the time. This fish was smaller, but also managed to run me around a rock. Ugh, not again...fortunately, this fish was in water shallow enough for me to cross to the center of the river and chase after it. Alls well that ends well with a nice 4 pounder in the new net.

My ghillie taking a well deserved play break

I fished a little while longer while junior napped, but the pool was pretty much spent. When he woke up, I changed out of my waders and fed him a bottle. We took him to a grassy area and he had a blast playing with Elmo, a new book, grandma's cell phone and an empty plastic water bottle. The day couldn't have gone any smoother and I left very satisfied.

And two salmon landed to boot...not bad for no more than 30-40 minutes of actual fishing time!


Note: The river is still a trickle, which forces us to use low water tactics for best results. I got 63ºF when I checked it yesterday around noon, which is pretty ideal. We might not have water, but the temperature of the water that is there is pretty good.  Try relatively small (#8-#12), unweighted flies fished on a floating line. If there's not enough current to swing, retrieve the line in a slow, steady draw. Try to keep the fly moving at the same rate of speed throughout the retrieve. Most of my recent catches have been on #10 hairwing wet flies and 6lb. test Maxima Chameleon, mono leader around 11' long (I've been fishing the single handed rod almost exclusively this season). 

Monday, October 14, 2013

Naugatuck Report - October 14, 2013 - Buck Bug Fever

Some of the local scenery

I did a lot of walking today. At times, it felt like I did more walking than fishing. I'm not complaining, mind you. I like the exercise. Plus, I'm the one who stresses the importance of mobility. Sometimes all that walking brings results. Such was the case today.

I started by walking to some water I've never before fished. It was in a pretty urban setting. I'm not the least bit bothered by urban angling. One of the best days of fishing in my entire life was spent catching baby tarpon behind a police station in St. Maarten. This spot proved to be nothing more than a walk, however. The highlight was the graffiti dragon pictured above. It reminded me of my old Powell & Peralta Steve Caballero model skateboards. 

I moved to a pool that was good to me early this season. There were four other anglers in the pool. No one hooked anything while I was there and I moved on pretty quickly, walking to the next spot. 

I was alone for half of my short time at this popular pool. I hooked and landed a small salmon within a few minutes (#10 M1 Killer). I fished out the pool, changed flies and headed back to the top. I tied on a #6 Titanic and went to work on the surface. By then, another fly fisherman had shown up. We both noticed a large bulge form behind my waking dry fly. The fish was not interested in coming back up for the Titanic, so I switched to a #6 Mickey Finn. 

It only took a half dozen casts or so before I was tight to another demon. He jumped once at the beginning of the fight, but he was more of a runner than a leaper. He ran all over the pool. He ran back at me several times and I scrambled to strip line fast enough to keep tight to him. After a couple exchanges, he turned up the heat and took off. He took me into my backing. I can only recall one or two other CT salmon taking me into the backing prior to this fish. Long story short...I finally tired him out and landed him. He was in the 7-8 pound range and in good condition. Most of this years salmon are too small to tail, but this one wasn't. It felt nice to catch a fish that could easily be tailed once again! 

After moving on, I struck out at the next couple spots. At the advice of a friend, I decided to fish some water I haven't seen in a year or two. I used my 9' 7wt. Sage all day today. I have been using it most of the time in our current low water situation. I actually consider the two handed rod to be less easy to use in most of the spots I've fished lately. In higher water, the opposite is true. Even in dead low water, the next couple of pools I fished are better with a two handed rod (switch or spey), but I was too lazy to unpack it. I really should have. 

This little fella spent more time in the air than in the water

In the end, it was fine, if only a little inconvenient. I landed a small salmon on a #10 M1 Killer. At first, I thought I had hooked a really spirited holdover rainbow trout. This little one jumped at least 10 times. What he lacked in size he made up for in spirit. I did the math and figured out that was the 20th CT salmon I've hooked so far this season. 

After landing him and fishing out the pool with the M1, I went back to the top with a #6 Buck Bug, blue/brown hackle with a green & red butt and a white tail (see below). For years I have unsuccessfully fished Buck Bugs in the Naugatuck River. It has always baffled me how a fly that works so well in Canada performs so poorly here. I have a ton of them tied for Canadian salmon fishing and I always have a few on me for fishing at home. While all of this was running through my mind, suddenly a salmon grabbed the bug! He was only on for 20 seconds before he jumped and spit the fly back at me. I could almost hear him say, "No thank you, sir. We don't like Buck Bugs here!"

The Smurf-type Buck Bug that finally hooked a Naugy salmon

I had to take another pass through the pool, but this time with a fly in which I have a lot more Naugy faith, the #6 Mickey Finn. It did its job...salmon #5 of the day hooked and landed. It was small, though not as small as the first from this pool. Like the other, it fought quite hard for its size. 

Time to move again...another long walk. The next pool is one that can be a real pain to wade. I really wished I had brought the switch rod. Daylight was running out on me and I had to fish much more quickly than I would have like to. No worries, the #6 Mickey Finn worked its magic for the third time of the day, another salmon hooked and landed. I raced the clock and tried one more pool before heading home, but it was a bust. The final tally was six hooked and five landed. It was another red letter day on the Naugatuck! 

Some things to consider:

*Remember to always enter a pool ABOVE any anglers who are already fishing there! I know I repost this all the time, but please review this post regarding salmon fishing etiquette and pool rotation. 

*Another thing I've mentioned here...there's a common misconception that this fishery doesn't really heat up until winter. That is total hogwash. Yes, there are more fish in the river in December than in October, but give me an October fish any day. These fish are at their best while within their optimal water temperature range. In my opinion, you can't beat water that is between 55ºF and 65ºF. They fight harder, jump more often and are more willing to chase a fly long distances, near or even on the surface, when it's warmer.

We're still waiting for more fish (and rain), but I am confident fishing over however many there are at any given time. You don't need a river overflowing with salmon to do well. It helps, but if you know where to look and when, you'll do just fine. I'm not looking for a pile of fish, I'm looking for good taking water in whatever set of conditions I have in front of me that day. Find the right water, present the fly well and, most days, you'll find the fish. Somedays you won't, but eventually you will be able to find than a lot more often than not. 

*Please contact me if you're interested in booking a guided tutorial session on the river. I'm not looking for people who want me to do the work for them. I want to coach anglers who are hungry to learn. If you think like a trout fisherman, you might catch a few. If you learn to think like a salmon fisherman, you'll catch a whole lot more. There is a difference. Let's work together to help shorten the learning curve.

How do my expectations differ from a typical guide? I am not interested in building a clientele of repeat customers, per se. I want to show others how to be successful on their own. My hope is that these sessions help to build more of a local interest in Atlantic salmon fishing and conservation. As crazy as it sounds, I want to make the Naugatuck River a gateway to salmon rivers in Canada and beyond. Learn how to do it here before you spend your money there!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Naugatuck Report - October 11, 2013 - Yin & Yang

Not much happening today and no pics taken, so here is
a picture of my dog Otis (who is too crazy to take fishing). 

I didn't expect yesterday's lightning to strike again today, but I expected more solid fishing than what we had. I have a few spots which have been producing consistently all season, but the salmon were having none of it today. 

The only action I had happened less than one hour after arriving. I drew a blank at a normally reliable run and decided to move on. Armed with a #6 Mickey Finn, I only planned on making one quick pass through a popular pool (I had to pass it to get back to my car). I had a fair amount of line out when I saw a salmon roll not to far away from me. I figured it was the perfect time to fish a dry fly. As I retrieved my line, the Mickey Finn happened to pass in front of the salmon and he grabbed it without hesitation. It was another tough guy. For a lone angler, this pool can be tricky to land a fish, made even more difficult with a long rod and 17' leader. 

He jumped a half dozen times and I was finally able to land him in a small clearing downstream. This fish was a male very similar to my lucky #7 fish from the previous day. He was about 6lbs. and very well conditioned, which probably explains why the fight was as good as it was. His enthusiasm to grab my passing Mickey Finn ruined my dry fly plans, but oh well, I'll take it. 

And that was it for the day...I stayed almost all day and fished a bunch of places. I even hiked to some new water. The salmon I landed earlier was the only salmon I saw. I didn't see any fish jump or roll and I didn't see anyone else hook one. I guess they decided to sulk all day. Hopefully tomorrow will be better. 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Naugatuck Report - October 10, 2013 - Lucky #7

The poor man's GoPro

Today's report comes from the "every cloud has a silver lining" department...

I was supposed to be fishing for big landlocked salmon this weekend, but the run hasn't materialized yet. I'm thankful for my friend John, who kept me posted so I didn't make the long drive for meager results. Still, it's disappointing...I thought my timing was going to be right on the money. Oh well...I still had a full day of fishing today, which is rare for me now. Back to the Naugy...

Conditions were good and there was a lot of action today as a result....way too much to document here and still keep the post modestly sized. The bite was on all day long. In my experience, it turns on and off throughout the day, but rarely stays good all day. Based on accounts from the spin anglers I spoke to today, a good day was had by just about everyone. I had a fantastic day, hooking seven and landing them all. In the fly department, the "big three" did all the catching today; the Same Thing Murray (#6 & #8 -1 salmon each), Mickey Finn (#6 - 2 salmon) and the orange H.M. Sunray (3 salmon). Instead of documenting all the boring details, I'll talk about the last two fish...

The first of two on a #6 Mickey Finn

After landing my fifth fish, I decided I was going to do some dry fly fishing since I really had nothing to lose. I didn't raise anything on a Bomber or a Wulff, so I decided to try a skating dry fly I saw in one of Henrik Mortensen's Patagonia seatrout fishing videos. This unusual fly is called the Titanic. I haven't tied this fly yet (satisfactorily, at least). I purchased a couple with my last order from Waters West Fly Fishing Outfitters

Titanic #6 - from Waters West Outfitters

I made my way to a likely lie and skated it away. After a half dozen casts a salmon exploded on the fly! The commotion gave me a sudden case of "buck fever" and I pulled the fly out of its mouth. No worries...the Titanic did a good job of locating a "player." The fish wouldn't come back to a dry, so I rested the fish for a little while. Eventually, I went back with the #6 Mickey Finn and sealed the deal, bringing a 4lb. salmon to hand. When I hooked this fish, it caused another salmon to jump, thereby giving away its lie. I have also seen this happen with grilse on wild salmon rivers.

After landing fish #6 and letting the water settle down a bit, I went back for the fidgety salmon #7. I went at him with a Sunray Shadow and got a pull, but couldn't get him to return. I rested him while I changed flies. Same Thing dice...and another rest. Then I rolled him on a Sugerman Shrimp, but couldn't get a take. Then a rest...change to a Shady dice. Then another rest...then I rolled him for a third time on a #10 Almost...wouldn't come back...rested him again. Black flies were getting him riled up, so I switched to a bright fly, the #6 Mickey Finn. I decided to strip it and he clobbered it on the first pass. With all the rolling, resting and fly changes, I worked him for about 30 minutes before he finally grabbed that Mickey Finn. 

Boy, was he pissed to be on the end of my line! He was the angriest salmon I've hooked this fall. He was just plain uncooperative, especially when he saw shallow water. I walked him to my usual landing spot but he was having absolutely none of it. He bolted back to the middle of the river, directly at the only other angler in the pool. I thought he was going to swim right through the angler's legs! Fortunately for me, this good samaritan was able to net my fish just about where he stood. He was as big and well conditioned a salmon as I have caught in the Naugy so far this season...I'm guessing the upper end of 6lbs and not a fin out of place. 

I've caught what I believe to be "dominant male" salmon from this exact lie in the past. I have a feeling that guy was the class bully. I've had a few decent scraps this year, but only two that have made me get serious really quickly. This was one of them. 

Lucky #7...not a bad way to end a pretty good day! 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Red Butt

Simple but effective

The Red Butt...aka Black Bear Red Butt...aka Red Butt Bear...aka Bear Hair Red Butt...whatever the name is, it's as good a fly as any other. Of course, the same can be said for it's more famous sibling, the Black Bear Green Butt, but I prefer the red butt in the fall. I tie mine in a predominantly North American fashion, but with a little European touch for the tail.

Red Butt

Hook: Any single or double salmon iron
Tip: Oval silver tinsel
Butt: Red floss, yarn or stretch nylon (Gordon Griffiths red floss shown above)
Tail: Red Fluoro Fiber
Rib: Oval Silver tinsel
Body: Black floss, yarn or stretch nylon (black Uni-Yarn shown above)
Throat Hackle: Black hen
Wing: Black bear
Head: Black

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

M1 Killer

M1 Killer - tied by Dave Goulet

My first trip to the Miramichi River was during an autumn plagued by low water. I was fortunate enough to hook a dark, multi sea winter salmon on my first evening of fishing. Long story short...I blew it and lost the fish. I sweated out the next five days without a pull. Fortunately, hurricane Kyle was just about to blow into town and a good shot of rain got the fish moving. I hooked three grilse (one landed) the next morning, which was a relief, but I was disappointed that my two sea winter salmon had escaped.

In terms of weather, the next year was even worse. It was a very dry summer. I remember it was an easy summer for mowing the lawn. I barely had to do it past June. My friend and salmon fishing and fly tying mentor Dave Goulet, former owner of New Hartford, Connecticut's Classic and Custom Fly Shop, saw the writing on the wall and warned me that we both would be facing difficult conditions that fall (he arrived at his camp near the end of my week). Earlier that year, Dave gave me a list of eight fly patterns he recommended for autumn fishing on the Main Southwest Miramichi. Around the beginning of September, he amended the list with three additional flies, all specifically for challenging low water conditions.

The one he had the most faith in was a fly known as the M1 Killer. According to Dave, the M1 was created in the early 1990s by his friend Steve Messier. It was loosely based on the Supervisor, a classic Maine streamer pattern. Originally, the M1 Killer had a green throat, but they ultimately found a light blue throat to be more successful.

Dave instructed me to tie some M1s on size 8 and 10 double hooks. I did as I was told and had a couple of each in my fly box when I arrived at camp. The water was much lower than the previous year and we were not optimistic. I remember asking our guide if he knew of any golf course ponds we might be able to fish instead.

On the second day of the trip, just before it was time to come in for lunch, I decided to give the M1 its first swim on the end of my line. I was fishing a gravel bar on the near side of the river under a bright midday sun. I reached the end of the run and said to myself, "Ah, just one more cast." That was the one! A shadowy fish plucked my #10 M1 Killer from just under the surface and we were off to the races. I hollered for our guide to bring the net. The salmon was neither huge nor was it fresh, but I knew it wasn't a grilse and I didn't want to lose him. The Miramichi hookbill was safely landed, photographed and released. I was both excited and relieved.

My first msw Atlantic salmon - M1 Killer #10 double

Little did we know it was the only action anyone in camp would see for the entire seven days. It was a tough week for fishing. Even heavy midweek rain didn't raise the river enough to bring fish in. We really should have found those golf course ponds! It didn't matter to me though. I might have only caught one salmon that week, but I was still sitting pretty, especially given the state of affairs at that time. Since then, I'm never without a few small M1 Killers, just in case.


M1 Killer (as tied by Dave Goulet)

Hook: Single or double salmon iron
Tip: Oval silver tinsel
Tail: Golden pheasant crest
Rib: Oval silver tinsel
Body: Flat silver tinsel
Throat: Light blue
Underwing: Pearl Krystal Flash
Wing: Black squirrel tail or black bear
Head: Black


My version of the M1 Killer - Tied on a #10 Partridge Code M

I tie mine a with a couple of material substitutions. The body of mine is flashier, but is offset by having less flash in the wing. To help reinforce the body, I often take more than the traditional five turns of ribbing when tying over tinsel (à la Belarmino Martinez) or braided body materials. I have found the flat braid body to be very durable.

M1 Killer (variation; as tied by me)

Hook: Single, low water or double salmon (typically sizes #8-#12)
Tail: Golden pheasant crest
Rib: Silver wire
Body: Silver Lagartun Mini Flat Braid
Throat: Light Blue
Underwing: Pearl Krystal Flash (midge size); two or three strands
Wing: Fur from a fox mask, dyed black (sub black squirrel tail or stoat tail)
Head: Black