Monday, December 29, 2014

Naugatuck River - Fall 2014 - Top Flies (plus a little data)

This fall's favorites, small and large: Sugerman Shrimp,
Green Machine w/White Tail (G/R butt) & German Snaelda

I suppose the most surprising turn of events for me this season was the deposition of my perennial Naugatuck favorites, the Mickey Finn and the Same Thing Murray. Both flies hooked one salmon each for me, but that was it. I'm surprised but not disappointed. They were replaced by two of my confidence flies in wild salmon fisheries, the Sugerman Shrimp and the white tail Green Machine. Rounding out the top three is the German Snaelda, which was the only top three holdover from last season.

I'm happy to see the Sugerman Shrimp tied for top honors. If I had to pick one salmon fly to fish for the rest of my life, that would be the one. I don't know why it has worked better for me abroad than at home, but maybe the trend is changing? Two sizes worked for me this season, sz. 2 and sz. 10. As you can see, small or large, it's a terrific fly. 

The Green Machine made the cut because of its performance on one day of fishing, hooking and landing three salmon (in the same pool) in a very short amount of time. For some reason, when there are salmon in this particular pool, they seem to like buck bugs. I haven't found that to be the case in other pools, at least not to the same extent. My first grilse of the season (Bonaventure) was caught on the same fly, so it must have had some good mojo attached to it. 

The German Snaelda wins the medal for top tube fly of 2014, same as last season. Like the Sugerman Shrimp, it was effective in different sizes, from the diminutive micro conehead tube to a medium sizes Snaelda, tied on a .5", thick walled, copper tube. I didn't move anything on the larger, 3/4" copper Snaelda this season. I was sort of surprised by that. I hate tying Snaeldas but I sure like fishing them. 

 A drink called "Bawls"???, thank you! 

I didn't keep track of how many trips I made to the river. I think it was a little less than last year given the late start we had this season. I hooked sixteen salmon and landed all but two. I'd venture to say almost everyone hooked far fewer salmon this fall than last fall. That was definitely the case for me.  In a typical season, I average about two (salmon) hookups per trip. Last season, I averaged about 2.5 per trip. Without exact figures, I think I averaged a little over 1 per trip this season. My landing percentage was up from last year, however (by about 8%). Some years I keep better data than others. I didn't do a very thorough job this fall; basically just salmon number, fly, size, and pool. I have very little written record of 2012, so at least I did better than that. I looked back at my 2011 record the other day and that has incredibly detailed data. It's very helpful. I am going to try to get back to that next season.

Oh yeah...I didn't lose a single pair of hemostats this season! Amazing!

The Sugerman Shrimp is a killer in virtually any size 

Anyhow, here is a list of flies that worked for me this season and their sizes:

Conventional Flies:

Sugerman Shrimp (sz. 10, 1 salmon; sz. 2, 2 salmon)
Green Machine w/white tail, green & red butt (sz. 4, 3 salmon)
M1 Killer (sz. 10)
Same Thing Murray (sz. 8)
Black Bear Red Butt (sz. 8)
Catch-A-Me Lodge (sz. 7)
Mickey Finn (sz. 6)

Tube Flies:

German Snaelda (.5" copper, thick walled, 2 salmon)
Micro Conehead German Snaelda
HKA Sunray/Bismo - Orange (1.25" aluminum)
Grape (1.5" aluminum)

I don't know whether this means anything or not, but I didn't lose any that I hooked on a tube. I lost two on conventional flies (Mickey Finn & Sugerman sz. 2). Of course, I hooked just over twice as many on conventional flies as I did on tubes, so maybe that has something to do with it.

I'm going to cut some flies out of my online fly shop and add others. I should have a supply of Sugermans and Green Machines ready to go for next season. As much as I hate tying them, I'll probably add some Snaeldas, too.

I might do a little fishing in the winter and spring, just to keep cabin fever at bay. I'll try to post some reports if I go. After a little break, I will be doing some tying for spring, most likely Sunrays, Mummichog Muddlers, Gurglers, and Samurai Dogs for sea run browns and stripers. I also plan on posting more tying videos, so check back for them.

The next couple of posts will be gear reviews. Stay tuned and happy New Year! 

Monday, December 22, 2014

Naugatuck River - Fall 2014 - Summary & Observations

The annual beach ball sighting happened late this season.
I was worried I might have missed it! 

While fall 2014 wasn't a total bust, it certainly paled in comparison to seasons of the recent past. Last fall, salmon were practically jumping into anglers' nets. Unless one lived close to the river and could fish often, the fish seemed a lot harder to come by this autumn.

The main problem was a lack of water for most of the season. The first group of salmon were stocked on September 30 which, due to poor conditions, was almost two weeks later than they were stocked last year. Losing two weeks was discouraging. In reality, however, many of us lost more than two weeks up front. After my first trip, I vowed not to return until the water came up. The river was just too low and I was fairly certain I'd kill any salmon I might hook. As such, I didn't start fishing in earnest until the second week of October. I prefer to fish secondary pools (ones which require a walk). Without rain, salmon don't move into those pools. So it became a waiting game.

It felt like we waited forever. I didn't find fish in the secondary pools until the end of October. A major problem, also caused by the lack of rain, was that the river didn't run clear at the optimum flows. We had colored water when the water was at its best level. As such, we had to wait until the river became low again and the water cleared. Usually, we have a few days of great fishing after the high water recedes. This season, the window was much narrower. If one had good timing, he or she could hit it just right.

Then November came and I got the flu. Then I gave it to the rest of my family who, unlike myself, were vaccinated. That took me out almost two weeks. Then it got cold. It felt much colder than it should have been at that time of year. The first two weeks of November are usually a salmon bonanza, but that wasn't the case this season. The end of November brought frigid temperatures and the water temperature plummeted. I recorded a water temperature of 36ºF the last day I fished in November. That's usually a mid-December temperature. The water gets cold quickly when there's not much of it in the river.

I only fished twice in December. The weather (and water) sort of bounced back for a briefly. Unfortunately, both trips were short ones. The first trip was early in the month. The air and water temperatures were warmer than they had been in late November. For a short period of time, the river was at an ideal level. If I had all day, I think it could have been one of my best days of the season. After that, the cold weather returned and then we were pounded by heavy rains. The river was very high and unfishable for over a week. The river dropped very slowly. I thought I might catch it on its way down, but more rain came. I fished in high water (850cfs.), but had nothing to show for it. With the madness of the holidays quickly approaching, I decided that the fall 2014 season was officially over for me.


Fish on! The immediate scenery reminds me a bit of the Kola.

We had very low water throughout much of last fall. There are a few pools (in the lower river) that fish well when the water is low (around 150cfs.). Once the river falls below about 130cfs., even the low water pools get tricky. I think the river was trickling along around 75cfs. on my first trip. That's really bad. I like fishing in "lowish" water, but the ultra-low water is a depressing sight. It was like fishing still water. Hopefully we won't have to worry about this next season. I don't see how it could get any lower, though I recall saying the same thing in 2013.

I really like being able to salmon fish in September, however, some fish caught last September were a little tough to revive. That was prompted me to buy a grilse-sized Brodin net. Given the extreme low water (and resulting low dissolved oxygen levels), I'm quite certain a lot of salmon weren't able to be revived early this fall. While it's nice to be able to catch them while wearing a t-shirt, I'm beginning to wonder if it's more prudent to go back to stocking them around the second week of October? 

In terms of tactics, not much changed for me this season, though I did fish with a sinking polyleader more than I did last season. The benefits of sinking a fly in low water was hammered home this season. I had luck with it in 2013 and results this year seem to reinforce the effectiveness of the technique. As far as topwater goes, I had resolved to fish the hitch more, which I did, though nothing grabbed a hitched fly. I did raise a couple of salmon with the hitch, though. I'll have to try it again next year when we (hopefully) have more moving water.

So it wasn't such a great season, at least not for many of us. I did OK considering I had a tighter work schedule and more family commitments (and illnesses) this year . I had hoped for better, but I'll take it. I fished when I was able to and, unfortunately, that meant fishing in some pretty miserable conditions. Oh well, I try to make the best of it. I'm not going to catch anything sitting on my couch. 

My 2014 data is not as comprehensive as what I recorded last year. I did keep a record of all the flies that hooked a salmon for me this season, however. I'll go over the data I have in my next post. Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Naugatuck Report - December 3, 2014 - Winding Down

Last one for 2014?

Last fall, I posted about a trip that went exactly according to how I envisioned it. I figure I get one day a year that goes exactly according to plan. It took almost all year for it to happen this year, but today was the day. Despite being far less dramatic than last year's equivalent, it was just as greatly appreciated.

This morning, I told my slightly agitated wife that this would be my last trip of the season. Did I actually mean it? Probably, though I could be convinced to go again, so long as it doesn't land me in hot water.

My first fish of the CT broodstock salmon season took a sz. 10 Sugerman Shrimp, my favorite salmon fly in my favorite size. I wanted to catch my last salmon of the season on a Sugerman, though it would have to be much larger than a sz. 10. I already had a few tied, but I didn't like the look of them. I tied another, more suitable shrimp on a sz. 2 hook.

On a whim, I cut 2.5' off of the tip of a 350 grain Rio Steelhead Scandi head while waiting for the lacquer to dry on the Sugerman. That particular Scandi head is a little heavier than I like on my Sage Z-Axis 6wt. switch rod, plus the taper never turned over heavier polyleaders very well. I knew I would have to get down to the fish a bit today and I had hoped cutting the head back would turn over a 10', extra super fast sinking polyleader a little better.

Nice to see you again, old friend

The babysitter came at 12:45pm and I was on the river a little over an hour later. I decided to fish a couple pools that are new to me. I fished them my last time out, which was in cold and high water. I got skunked. The water was lower and warmer today, 350cfs. and 42ºF. The air temperature was about 47ºF and it was overcast with light rain. Those conditions are pretty good for this time of year.

Within five minutes, I decided that the modified Steelhead Scandi worked like a charm. I've decided to do some line welding and modification for a winter project. I really should have used a micrometer and grain scale to fine tune the line, but I don't have either yet. Looks like I got lucky this time.

Within ten minutes, I had hooked and landed a salmon in the tail of the first pool and my trip had quickly fulfilled my expectations! Maybe I set the bar low today, but this season definitely hasn't been the broodstock salmon cornucopia 2013 was. I fished through once more and decided to move down to the next pool.

The second pool is much larger and required longer casts. Seeing how the sun sets at 4:25pm, fishing it thoroughly and methodically would have taken too long, so I opted for the run-and-shoot approach. I lost my original Sugerman on a rock, so I replaced it with a lesser model of the same size. It didn't matter, that fly was the right one, too. I had a subtle take, but felt it too late to get a solid hookset. I had a salmon on, but it threw my hook in its first leap. Oh well, I already had my fish for the day.

I wanted to explore some unfamiliar water I found on Google Earth, but there wasn't enough time left in the day. I headed upriver, to a pair of familiar pools, to close out the afternoon. I didn't see any salmon, but that's okay. These short trips can be a gamble and this one paid off.

I would like to get out at least a couple more times, but I don't know if it's in the cards. We'll see. I'm going to give it a couple of weeks before I post a short season summary. In the fly department, two of the perennial frontrunners have been deposed this season, replaced by two of my Canadian confidence flies. More on that later...

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Naugatuck Report - November 22, 2014 - Too Cold Too Soon

I had high hopes for this Silver Doctor today, but a
small German Snaelda ultimately got the job done. 

Low and cold...The low part is nothing new, but the river definitely seems colder than normal for this time of year. My thermometer read 40ºF. That's a very liberal 40º, as it was probably just as close to 39º. Last season, I think we were well into December before I got a reading that cold.

The water was cold in the fall of 2011, but was consistently high. Those two sets of conditions tend to go hand in hand. As such, the corresponding fishing tactics tend to be straight forward. As I've said here before, the combination of low and cold water condtions can be a very challenging scenario. Should we use low water techniques, cold water techniques, or a combination of the two? I sort of split the difference today and it worked, hooking and landing two small salmon. The set up was a floating scandi head with a fast sinking polyleader. Both salmon took the same fly, a small German Snaelda, tied on a 1/2" copper tube (thick walled). Both fish took on a slow swing. The first salmon took the fly on its first pass. The second salmon pulled once and was hooked two casts later. I fished four different pools today and those two salmon were the only ones I saw.

There were little areas of thin ice between many shoreline rocks. It was a little depressing. It looks like this fall will be as short as last fall was long. I guess it all balances out in the end, but it's still a tough pill for me to swallow. We should make the most of what little time we have left this season. If the Farmer's Almanac is correct, it's going to be another tough winter.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Naugatuck Update - Early November, 2014 - The Fish of 1,000 Casts

Not a salmon, but still a welcome catch

The Atlantic salmon has long been known as the "fish of 1,000 casts." My friend Phil says something along the lines of, "If the Atlantic salmon is the fish of 1,000 casts, I'm owed about 250 salmon." As humorous as it is, he's probably right! Allow me to present two scenarios...

My father has a luck streak when it comes to fly fishing. Even he will admit that it can't be skill, since he has only fly fished three times in his life. His first day of fly fishing ever, he landed a 5-6lb. rainbow trout, which also happened to be his first fish ever caught on a dry fly. His second time fly fishing was on the Miramichi. He landed a grilse within his first few hours of fishing. The fish of 1,000 casts? I'm quite sure he was well under 1,000 when he landed that fish. The point is, there are days when even the most elusive of gamefish can be caught by someone who knows little more about fly fishing than which end of the rod to hold (no offense, Dad!). 

Here is the other end of the coin. I've never seen so many "sharpshooters" out on the Naugatuck as I did over the past few days. You had the regulars...stalwarts who know virtually every nook and cranny of the river. Some are fly fishermen and some are spin fisherman. Others are anglers with vast amounts of experience. I've never seen so many anglers with actual Atlantic salmon fishing experience (read: wild salmon) out on the Naugy at one time as I have over the past few days. These are anglers who, despite not knowing all the nooks and crannies, know the species really well. 

How have they been doing? Overall, not very good! Collectively, I would say we've put in well over 1,000 casts per fish landed. Why such meager results? If I had to guess, I would say the number one culprit is the lack of precipitation. It's not just that the river is low, but the fish are acting like their wild brethren. They get dour. Not only would rain move them around, but some fresh water might stimulate them to take better*. I'm looking at the USGS streamflow website right now. In the past week, the closest we've gotten to the median daily flow is about half of it. 

Until this past Friday, the flu had me off the river for almost two weeks. Prior to getting sick, my last day on the river was a skunking. I was itching to get back out there and redeem myself. In terms of weather, last Friday was miserable. It was cold and very windy. I caught a beautiful rainbow trout earlier in the day. I was fishing a run not known to hold salmon, but it was on my way to the next salmon pool. At first, I was disappointed a trout took my Catch-A-Me Lodge and not a salmon. My disappointment faded when I netted the pretty rainbow pictured above. 

I worked my butt off all day. I got my salmon five hours into my fishing day and one hour before sunset. She took a Grape, a pink, purple, and black marabou fly, tied on an aluminum tube. The water was low, but I still had to sink the fly with a super fast sinking polyleader. That was the only salmon action I had that day. That was the only action any of my friends had that day. Since then, a couple of the guys have landed fish, but plenty of others are on their 4,000th cast by now. 

Marabou Tubes: Grape, Slime, Black & Blue, and the Canary

Does this mean we should stay home until it rains? No way! The clock is ticking and Old Man Winter will be here before we know it. This is what salmon fishing is. It's not easy and it's not for the impatient. We have to take the good with the bad. The more we're on the water, the more we'll learn how to deal with tough situations. That doesn't mean that we'll find the "magic bullet." I certainly haven't found it yet. 

Though I'm talking mainly about broodstock salmon fishing in Connecticut, I have seen this scenario on wild salmon rivers. I have been the guy who catches the only fish. Conversely, I have been out-fished by my father. He's the guy who looked at my wallet of tube flies and asked, "How does a salmon get hooked on one of these things? What is this, some sort of joke?" 

Get out there and make every cast count, whether it's #1 or #1,000. Keep your fly line landing straight and your fly swimming at all times. Stay on the move and vary your techniques. If you happen to hook a salmon, savor every minute of it!

*For more information, search for documents and texts which investigate the taking behavior of Atlantic salmon and its relationship to rising and falling thyroxine levels in the fish. 

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Naugatuck Report - October 24 & 25, 2014 - *CRUNCH!*

This salmon set out to murder my poor Green Machine

Saturday, October 24

I thought it would be a good day, but Saturday wasn't all that great. The river didn't rise all that much from the Nor'easter. The water level was actually good. It hovered around 250cfs rising and falling throughout the day. The day started with semi-murky water that seemed to get dirtier as the day went on. I think the heavily colored water put the fish down.

I did land one salmon within the first ten minutes of arriving, but it was the only fish I saw all day. He took a #7 Catch-A-Me Lodge. It was my first fish ever landed on that fly, so I was pretty excited. The take was a little unusual. I miscalculated and threw a bit too much line. The fly hung up on a small boulder. It freed itself after a couple of tugs. The salmon grabbed the fly moments after it fell in the water. Oh well, I'll take it!

Sunday, October 25

Today was much better overall. The water dropped to just over 200cfs. More importantly, it cleared overnight. It took a little hiking, but I found some willing fish. I hooked four and landed three. The first fish took a #6 Mickey Finn. I could it was a male by his head shakes. Eventually, he threw the hook.

I rested the pool and switched over to a #4 White Tail Green Machine. As I arrived at the middle part of the run, a salmon gave the fly a dramatic pull. We have a player! I rested him for about 30 seconds and casted again. He came back for the fly, but didn't take. I rested him for about a minute and went back at it. He didn't want the fly on a slow swing. I waited a few moments and casted again, this time stripping the fly as soon as it approached the lie. *CRUNCH* The salmon crushed the Green Machine. The fish was all over the pool. I had a few uncomfortable moments when the salmon abruptly changed directions and jumped against a belly formed in my line. That scenario always makes me uneasy. It happened three or four times in the course of this fight. After a few more leaps and a couple of strong runs, I landed and released the fish.

Again, I rested the pool for a moment before heading back to the top. The fly was intercepted on what must have been my sixth cast. Fish back...repeat for fish #4.

It was a beautiful day and the fishing was great. Some new spey casting friends also had a very good day today. Nothing wrong with more long rods on the river!


Though recent rains have definitely improved conditions, the low water of early fall still has a negative impact on us. Since the baseline flow is still low, the river rises from rain and gets dirty while at what should be a normal flow. So, we show up to the river with great water levels, but bad water. Fishing only gets better when we head back towards a low level. It's a bit annoying, but I suppose that's the hand we were dealt this season. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Naugatuck River Salmon Fishing - A Couple of Reminders

The Release

In my experience, it has been a little bit more of a free-for-all out there than usual this season. Here are a couple of reminders for those who care:


I know it's not ingrained in our local trout fishing etiquette, but please try to rotate pools and runs as much as possible. Refer to this post for more information. I've been low-holed (cut off while fishing downstream through a run or pool) a couple of times this season. It's not that unusual or surprising. It just gets a little annoying when the few people who observe the rotation get stepped on (knowingly or unknowingly). 

A couple of weeks ago, I was low-holed by an Atlantic salmon fisherman who should know better. To add insult to injury, I had just given him a tip on where to look for fish. At one time, I would have kept moving downstream until I invaded his personal fishing space. Now I just pack up and move on. Most of these type of offenses happen in a couple popular pools. The unpopular pools can be just as productive, so why stay?

Poachers and Rule Breakers

I haven't seen anyone illegally retain a salmon this season. I have seen multiple instances of anglers disregarding the rules of the seasonal atlantic salmon fishery, however. From the CT Anglers Guide 2014:

"Fishing for Atlantic salmon to use of single fly or artificial lure with a single, free-swinging hook. Additional weight may not be added to the line. Snagging is strictly prohibited."

I've seen at least three fisherman using bait so far this season. I landed one fish for an angler fishing a spinner with a treble hook (he seemed genuinely unaware of the regulations and was quite apologetic).

In my opinion, it's best not to be confrontational. I want the angler to want to change his or her behavior. I usually inform the angler of the rules and say something like, "It's not worth getting fined and losing your gear. Just letting you know so that doesn't happen to you."

Most seem to change their ways or at least leave the pool. I'd like to give most the benefit of the doubt and think that they're generally unaware and willing to change. A few others just don't care and keep doing what they're doing. Should that happen, make note of the angler's appearance and exactly where he or she is fishing. Call the DEEP T.I.P. line (Turn in Poachers) at 800.842.4357. It's up to us to protect our fishery from the few bad apples who attempt to ruin it for everyone.


My big wave of autumn work seems to be mostly over and I'll be happy to spend more time on the river in the coming weeks. November is usually a hot month. Go get some before Ol' Man Winter creams us like he did last year! 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

A Passion for Atlantic Salmon

This morning, I had the pleasure of watching a nice short film by Bill Kessler. For new or inexperienced Atlantic salmon anglers, it's a great primer. Many of the images, videos, and illustrations in Mr. Kessler's video are culled from books and DVDs that would be very helpful for the neophyte. I encourage those who would like to know more about salmon fishing to watch the video and make note of the source materials Mr. Kessler lists at the end. Enjoy!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Naugatuck Report - October 13, 2014 - Bit of a Weird Day

First customer on the Micro Snaelda. It works! 

I have to get ready for a recording session in the morning, so today's report is another quick summary...

Water = Pretty much at the "too friggin' low" level again

Fish = Showing like crazy all day, but very reluctant to take a fly

Spin Fishermen = Hammered them today

What to do? = Put a fly in their face

The Fly = Micro Conehead Snaelda, fished slowly

Only one salmon for me today, but I landed one each for a couple of spin fishermen. One was a real brute, probably 8-9lbs and in great shape. 

Bizarre Naugy Event of the Day = Two teenage girls in street clothes crossing the river, then going about their business. It was like they were crossing the street. wtf??

There's supposed to be some rain on the way, thank goodness. 

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Naugatuck Report - October 11, 2014 - The Ol' Cat and Mouse Game

I upgraded to an Islander LX 3.6 reel for the fall.
So far, I absolutely love it. 

Rain! Just what we needed, though I wouldn't refuse even more. The river was pretty low at the beginning of the day but, again, better than it was a couple of weeks ago. Every little bit of rain helps. I was excited to get a whole day of fishing in today. It has been a while for me. Even better was the fact that we wouldn't have to worry about bright sunshine today.

I was able to visit many pools throughout the day. Some are still vacant. We need a good bump of water to move the fish around and into some of the less frequently fished pools. I got a reading of 58ºF in the water today, which isn't too bad. It's a fair bit cooler than it was at this time last year. 

I had a fair bit of action today...three salmon landed, one pricked, and one broken off on the hook set. The action started within five minutes of arriving at the first pool. My first salmon took a sz. 8 Same Thing Murray and was off to the races, making my new Islander reel sing. 

My second fish landed absolutely hammered an orange HKA Sunray/Bismo. He immediately took off on a long run directly upstream. He jumped his way back towards me, then took off on another blistering run, this time downstream. He was a real slab of a fish and he made my Islander sing even more than the first one did. 

My third fish landed was caught at the pool where I started the day. I returned several hours later. It was another "first five minutes" scenario. This fish took a sz. 8 Black Bear Red Butt. The same fly was taken by another fish later, but the fish was not hooked. I think it felt a little too much of the iron to come back, unfortunately. By the end of the day, the river was noticeably higher than it was when I started. 

This fish couldn't resist a fly fished really fast

The most interesting part of the day happened in shortly after landing my first fish. I made my way back up to the top of the run, still fishing the sz. 8 Murray. I rose a nice looking salmon, but he didn't take. I rested him and resumed casting. He rose again. Very long story, made short...that salmon and I went at it for about 90 minutes. I got him to rise 10 times, but he never took any fly. It was a series of cast, rise, rest, cast, rest, fly change, cast, rise, rest, etc., that went on seemingly forever. Wet flies, a dry fly, riffling hitch and sunk name it. Here is the list of flies and presentations that piqued the salmon's interest:

Same Thing Murray sz. 8 (two rises)
Shady Lady sz. 10
Mickey Finn sz. 6 (two rises)
Split Wing Bomber (blue/brown) sz. 6
Sunray Shadow-hitched (two rises)
Haugur (micro tube)-hitched

I even tried crossing the river to change casting angle. At some point, the fish either moved on or had enough and stopped rising. I've never had a salmon rise so many times before. After a while, I threw in the towel and moved. I figured I should rest the pool. Interestingly enough, that same pool is where I caught salmon #3 of the day. It was lying a little further upstream than the "ready riser" was. Was it the same salmon? Maybe he moved upstream a few yards? I'll never know. I was just happy to play the chess match, even if the salmon check-mated me this time around. 


We're entering prime time and the fishing is heating up. The river is still low for my tastes, but the forecast calls for pretty consistent rain almost all week. I think the fishing will only get better as the conditions improve and the fish spread out. 

If you're interested in a fun and educational, guided broodstock salmon fishing trip, please contact me. Dates have already been booked, so act fast! 

Friday, October 10, 2014

Naugatuck Report - October 10, 2014 - Quick Report

Fall colors...I wish they lasted longer

At this time last season, I had already landed quite a few salmon. This season, I've had a hard time even getting out until now. I went once at the end of September when the river was down to its bones. No luck and I didn't stay long. I went again last week right after the rain and was greeted by a river full of chocolate milk. I had a couple hours to fish this morning, so I crammed in a quick trip. 

The river is still quite low. I would say it's as low now as it was as its lowest point last season. Relatively speaking, that's not such a bad level compared to what it has been up until now! We still need plenty of rain to spread the fish out, however.

M1 right in the scissors

Brief summary....

Pool #1 - Occupied, so off to next spot

Pool #2 - Landed a very acrobatic fish on a #10 Sugerman Shrimp. Nice fish, about 5-6lbs...bigger than I expected to see. He was laying right where I expected to find one in low water. Most people miss a very subtle lie that's close to shore. Every now and then, a little "blip" of water discloses a submerged rock the salmon seem to like year in and year out. 

Back to check on Pool #1...still occupied, no angler movement. Time to call an audible. 

Pool #3 - Audible pays off...Landed a smaller fish on an M1 Killer first trip through the pool (pictured above). Later, rose another four times over the course of 30-40 minutes (#6 Mickey Finn). It was time to head home, so I had to leave that salmon for next time. 


I'm going to try to post reports as often as I can this season. They might not be as frequent or as wordy as last season's reports, though. Sorry...lots of work and family obligations lately. Good luck out there! 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

This Is Fly: DIY Gaspé

Words by Alex Wilner
Photography by Hooké

There is a great article in the current issue of This is Fly called "DIY Gaspé" by Alex Wilner (photography by Hooké). Alex and I have been in touch for a couple of years now. He was kind enough to give me a lot of great information on my own DIY Gaspé trip (which I finally took this past July). I have to say, learning the ropes was a lot less daunting than I thought it would be. I wish I had taken the DIY Gaspé plunge sooner. Enjoy the article! 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Same Thing Murray: Video Step-By-Step

This is my first attempt at an instructional fly tying video, so please forgive any sloppiness in the video quality, editing and tying! I will post more videos in the future, ironing out some of the kinks in the process. Any advice on shooting fly tying video is greatly appreciated!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Why Fish for Broodstock Atlantic Salmon?

Naugatuck 2011 - Hooked up in an uncomfortably high flow of 900+cfs.
For those familiar with the pool, notice the "wrinkle" that is the big rock. 

Over the years, I've taken some criticism from some anglers when it comes to fishing for Connecticut's broodstock Atlantic salmon. Some of the complaints are, "They're beat up, dumb, don't fight hard, it's an artificial fishery, I prefer to fish for wild Atlantic salmon," and the list goes on. I've addressed some of these in the past and I'm not going to open all of these cans of worms now. I want to focus mainly on that last one, "I prefer to fish for wild Atlantic salmon."

D'uh...Who wouldn't? I didn't get my start fishing for broodstock salmon. I got my start fishing for  Miramichi River salmon in pretty miserable conditions. My second season was even tougher than the first one. I wish I had the forethought to learn the basics close to home. At the very least, it would have learned to better temper my expectations. I might have even caught more fish, too.

Hindsight is 20-20, as they say. It didn't take me long to realize the resource I had in my own backyard. The fishery was a 45 minute drive from my home and the only expense was a resident fishing license, which I already had. Learning the basics here would cost a fraction of what it would cost practicing on the river while in Canada, hoping to get lucky once in a while.

I've touched on the following example before, but I will go into greater detail here...

In spring 2011, my friend John asked if I'd like to fish Russia's Kola River with him in spring 2012. After some domestic negotiations, I was in. The Kola is known for its big, tough, early run spring salmon. It's also infamous for being a really tough river to wade, especially in high spring flows. Two handed rods and solid casting skills are necessary if one hopes to have any success at that time of year. I decided to learn the Scandinavian style of two handed casting in early summer 2011. I can't say I practiced much immediately after my lesson. However, once fall rolled around, I picked up the two hander again and brought it to the lower Naugatuck River.

Practicing in normal Naugatuck flows is one thing, but little did I know what mother nature had in store for us that fall. First, there was Hurricane Irene. That raised the water. Shortly thereafter, a freak October Nor'easter dumped a ton of snow, which seemed to melt completely within days. That really raised the water! It made the water unseasonably frigid, too. Cold, high water...just right to help me prepare for the Kola and Kitza Rivers.

At home, the power was out for days and many cell towers were down. I missed a call to work with legendary jazz guitarist Gene Bertoncini. I was frustrated and had to get out of the house. My buddy Val and I went to the Naugatuck after a few days of snowmelt. The lower Naugatuck was just under the 1000cfs mark. I don't think I fished it over 700cfs before that day. It was pretty miserable, but it was exactly what I needed. I was pinned against the trees and it was a real test of my casting. The water never really warmed up after that and it stayed relatively high for the rest of the season. I used flies and tactics I expected to use in Russia and, as a bonus, I caught fish. That high water season couldn't have come at a better time.

The somewhat ironic epilogue is that spring 2012 on the Kola Peninsula was really early. The water was seasonably low and warm (50ºF+). I didn't waste my time on the Naugatuck in the fall, though. Fishing and wading a low Kola River was still much more difficult than fishing a high Naugatuck River. Under the circumstances, I actually did okay over there. It certainly could have been a lot more frustrating had I not prepared for it at all. Practicing close to home really paid off.


There can be some unexpected complications when
fishing abroad without an outfitter.
Go prepared so you have more patience to deal with
the nuts and bolts stuff. 

Here is another example of how this fishery can benefit us. This topic jumps around a little bit, so please bear with me...

There is a common misconception that, if we want to catch wild Atlantic salmon, we need to pay an arm and a leg to do so. To some extent, we get what we pay for. You can pay $15K for a week on the Ponoi River and you'll probably catch more salmon than you can shake a stick at. Having said that, there is something out there for all of us, regardless of how much money we make or how much we are willing to spend. I'm a professional jazz musician who happens to be a hopeless salmon fishing addict. It's a pretty awful combination. When I have time, I don't have money. When I have a little money, I don't have time. The week of my first salmon fishing trip, I was called to play 11 non-conflicting gigs! I already had the trip planned, so I turned them all down. My wife was pissed. I've never been called for that many in a week since.

I figure it took me two or three Canada trips, and a lot of time spent reading and reflecting afterwards, to begin to figure out the game. It definitely helped to have a good guide. It took me a while to shake "trout brain" when I was new to salmon fishing. My guide helped snap me out of it. After my autumn Miramichi trips, I'd come home and Connecticut's salmon season would open a couple of weeks later. By then, a little time had passed and I'd think about what I might have done differently if I had another shot. It's tough to get better when you're only on a salmon river for a week or two per season. In that time, you might only see one set of conditions. Unless you get lucky, they'll probably be less than optimal. Now that our salmon season starts in mid-September, we're able to fish late summer, fall, winter and spring conditions within one season.

Because I could fish for salmon close to home, I learned how to better target salmon in low water, high water, dirty water, etc. I learned about fly selection based on conditions. I learned about how salmon react to flies in different weather and atmospheric conditions.  I honed my presentation skills. I got over "buck fever" and learned when to come tight to a fish. I worked strategies to turn "players" into taking fish (this is a big one). I read about techniques and flies from other parts of the world and incorporated them into my arsenal. My water reading skills got a whole lot better. After a while, I felt comfortable landing large fish without any assistance, often times in tricky water. One of the most liberating aspects of our fishery is the ability to experiment without the fear of wasting valuable time or money. If it doesn't work, I've only paid for gas. When it does work, I have another arrow in my quiver.

It would have taken me years, possibly decades, worth of week-long trips to get a better grasp on some of what I listed above. I didn't start salmon fishing at an optimal time in the fish's history, so who knows if I would have learned some of these lessons at all? I practiced at home and brought what I learned with me to my next destination. After shortening the learning curve a great deal, I feel like a sponge when I'm on a salmon river. I learn much more quickly than I did during those first few trips.

Now, I'm not trying to oversimplify this. There are many differences between the Connecticut fishery and wild salmon fisheries. For one, our fish move around, but they don't run the river. You'll learn how to time fishing in rising and falling water to some extent here, but not how fish move through a river system. Also, there are plenty of places I never find salmon in the Naugatuck that would expect to find a running fish every now and then. Conversely, I've caught broodstock salmon in spots I would probably pass up on a true salmon river. In all, I believe the similarities outnumber the differences. They take the same flies and the same presentations as their wild brethren. Unfortunately, they're prone to sulking and general unpredictability just like their wild brethren, too.

How does this relate to the financial stuff above? If you have the money to spend $15K per week on the Ponoi, you'll probably catch a pile of salmon. They might be on the smaller side, but you'll catch them. Want a good shot at catching bigger fish? Ok, how about a week on the Restigouche or the Grand Cascapedia? A prime week might only cost less than half as much as the Ponoi. Is $6K still too much? If you draw off-peak time on the Glen Emma beat of the Matapedia, it's only $500/day and that includes a guide and canoe, room and board not included. Still too much, huh?

Unfortunately for most of us jazz musicians, it is too much. Should that stop us from salmon fishing? Hell no! Over the years, I've made plenty of friends who catch salmon without breaking the bank. Most of them are very good fishermen. Since they are not often fishing prime pools or exclusive beats, they are forced to try hard and persevere if they want to catch anything. They fish public water year in and year out. Sometimes they knock 'em dead, sometimes they don't. But they don't let the perception of Atlantic salmon fishing being "the sport of kings" turn them away. Most are Canadians. Some are Russians. A few are Americans, but most American salmon fishermen I meet go the lodge route.

Don't get me wrong, someday I'd like to stay at a five star lodge, fish a legendary river, maybe in a canoe, and with a top-notch guide. Then I'd enjoy returning to camp to enjoy a peppercorn crusted ribeye and glass of malbec. I have absolutely nothing against people who choose to fish this way. Honestly, I would really love to try it sometime! It's just not where I'm at right now and I don't know if I'll ever get there. Like my buddies, I'm not going to let it stop me from hooking salmon. If I have to do it on my own, I will.

When I fish alone on public water, I might get some tips, but it's up to me to read the water, pick an appropriate fly, and present the fly in a way that attracts a salmon. If I do everything right, I might have to tail the fish, unhook it and release it safely, all while managing not to slip and fall into the river. After that, I might relax with a PB&J or some trail mix, then go back at it. When I travel to a new river, observe the conditions, devise a strategy, and then catch fish, I know I'm making real progress. Without spending off-seasons chasing broodstock salmon, I would be much less confident on my own.

I still make plenty of mistakes. When I identify an aspect of my angling that needs improvement, I make it a point to add it to my to-do list for the next broodstock salmon season. My motto is, "Practice here so you don't have to practice there." That goes for almost everyone, not just beginners. In America, we have no wild salmon rivers with which to hone our skills, but we have a tremendous resource at our disposal and it only costs as much as a Connecticut fishing license. Though the broodstock salmon fishery is already popular, its full potential has not yet been realized by the vast majority of local anglers.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Formula for a Simple Tapered Salmon Leader (for single handed rods)

In tea colored rivers, salmon don't mind
Maxima Chameleon's brown color

If I'm fishing dries, the hitch or not changing fly sizes often, I typically use a straight piece of monofilament for a leader. If I want to fish small flies, throw a longer, finer leader, and/or might change fly sizes often, I opt for a tapered leader. I use Maxima Chameleon for all but the clearest rivers. It is thick, strong, really stiff, and makes excellent tapered leaders.

I'm not too obsessive about making sure my butt section is 60% of the total length of the leader. When the leader is 9' long, it is pretty much 60%. As the leader gets longer, it falls below 60%, but I haven't found that the leader turns over poorly. It works well enough. 

I tend to use a longer tapered leader based on fly size. Conditions dictate fly size most of the time. It makes sense to go longer and finer (and fish a small fly) when fishing low water. In higher water, I don't think leader length makes too much of a difference. 

My tapered leaders are based on a simple formula from Col. Joseph Bates's book "Atlantic Salmon Flies and Fishing." To get a longer, finer leader, I just keep adding lighter tippet material to the end. When heavier tippet is needed, I cut the leader back and add a longer section of whatever size tippet I need. 

My 8# test leaders end up being around 9'-9.5" long. Here is a rough formula to follow:
3' of 30# test
2' of 25# test
1' of 20# test
8" of 15# test
8" of 12# test
8" of 10# test
12"-18" of 8# test

For a 6# tippet, I cut the 8# tippet back and add 18" or so of 6# Maxima. If I think it should be longer, I leave the 8# section longer than 8". If I want to use the 10# test, the leader ends up a little shorter than the 8# test leader. If I'm fishing in conditions where I think I'll need 12# or 15# test tippet (or larger), I'll usually use a straight piece of mono. 

In reality, my tapered leaders wind up being a little longer than stated above. I tend to err on the side of leaving too much material for blood knots, so the 8" sections are usually a bit longer. When I use the 9.5" leader formula above, the total leader length winds up being 10' or more just from the extra amount of material added for the knots.  A lot of the times I'm estimating the length, not using a ruler to measure. Like I said, I'm not too scientific about it and it has worked well so far. Maxima isn't fussy material. It turns a fly over really well.

I hope this helps someone. If nothing else, it will help me. I tie a bunch of leaders once a year, then I forget the formula! 

Monday, September 1, 2014

Micro Snaelda Conehead: Step-By-Step

The materials

Micro Snaelda

Tube: Small plastic tubing w/junction tubing tied directly on the tube 
Flash: 4 strands of pearl Krystal Flash 
Tail: Yellow, orange and black bucktail
Body: Large brass or tungsten cone, matte black
Hackle: Black hen saddle

Step 1: Using a sharp razor, cut a piece of small plastic tubing and attach a piece of junction tubing. In this case, I used HMH rigid plastic tubing and the thick junction tubing included in the package. 

Step 2: Affix the tying thread to the small section of junction tube that overlaps with the small plastic tubing. Other than the hackle, all tying is done on top of this junction tubing. 

Step 3: Tie in four pieces of pearl Krystal flash and cut to roughly 1" in length

Step 4: Cut, clean and stack a small bunch of yellow bucktail. Tie it in on top of the junction tube. Use your thumb and finger to distribute it about a third of the way around the tube. 

Step 5: Repeat with orange and black bucktail.

Step 6: Cut the butt ends of the bucktail so they end at the forward most edge of the junction tube. 

Step 7: Whip finish and add a light coat of Krazy Glue or head cement. 

Step 8: Slide a cone all the way back, over the butt ends of the bucktail. 

Step 9: Reattach the thread just ahead of the cone. If the cone is loose fitting, you might have to build a small layer of thread to help keep it in place. 

Step 10: Prepare a hen saddle feather by stoking the barbs downward and trimming the tip of the feather. 

Step 11: Tie the hackle in by the tip. Fold the barbs rearward while wrapping the hackle around the tube. 

Step 12: Tie off the hackle feather and trim what's left. Form a small head and whip finish.

Step 13: Remove the fly from the needle and trim the excess plastic tubing with a sharp razor. Carefully burn the end of the tube to flare the plastic. 

Step 14: Coat the head in lacquer and you're done! 

Add a small hook and it's ready to fish

Monday, August 25, 2014

Micro Conehead Tubes (Snaelda & Frances)

German Snaelda, Red Frances (var.), and Black Snaelda
All are between 1"-1.25" total length

The past few years, my last resort tactic has been ripping a Sunray Shadow through a pool or run. It doesn't work 100% of the time, but sometimes it's just the right thing to shake up a stubborn salmon. At first, I fished the Sunray on a fast swing. After an accidental epiphany with landlocked salmon, I began to strip the tube fly as fast I possibly could. Usually, that meant putting my rod under my arm and stripping with both hands. I tried that technique on the Naugatuck and it worked like a charm. It's an aggressive presentation, no doubt, and it has served me well under most conditions. 

Last fall, the river was low and fairly warm. As we got further into autumn, the river cooled, but the water level continued to drop. My Sunray tactic didn't work all that well. I was surprised. Even if the fish didn't want to take the rapidly moving tube fly, they would at least show for it. After which, they would be in the mood to take a more conventional fly and presentation. But that just wasn't the case last fall. I think the Sunray took four salmon for me last season, but three were right after a raise of water and on the same day. Overall, the technique failed me. 

Why did it stop working? If I had to guess, I would say that it spooked fish. I think the fly was too big and the presentation too belligerent for the extreme low water conditions. 

I'm glad it didn't work. It forced me to find an alternative method for hooking dour salmon. I did just the opposite. Instead of fishing a large, fast fly, I fished deeper and slower with a smaller, heavier tube. Boy, did it pay off! Small Snaeldas (2" total length), tied on copper tubes, were big producers for me last season. They were especially deadly when the fish were holding in fast, turbulent water. 

Anticipating another low water season, possibly even lower than last fall, I decided to go even smaller. Tying on metal tubes would be sort of a pain at this diminutive size. Tying on plastic tubing and using a cone for the body would be easy, however. The total length of the Snaeldas wound up being between 1"-1.25". They should sink well and their small size won't be too off-putting for the salmon. I know exactly where I'm going to try these. I can't wait!


A very simple tie

Micro Conehead Snaelda/Frances

Tube: Small plastic tubing w/junction tubing tied directly on the tube 
Flash/Feelers: 4 strands of pearl Krystal Flash (Snaelda) or 4 stripped hackle stems (Frances)
Tail: Bucktail-tied on top of and wrapped 360º around junction tube (where it covers the small plastic    
tube); color to suit pattern
Cone: Large brass or tungsten cone*
Hackle: Hen or rooster neck; color to suit pattern (Snaelda-hackle after cone; Frances-hackle before cone)

Tying notes: I tie the junction tube directly onto the plastic tubing in order to make a smaller fly. Normally, I use silicone junction tubing. In this case, I use the small size of HMH junction tubing. It's more durable and it seems to hold smaller hooks better than the silicone tubing I use. The downside is, if the junction tube is damaged, the fly will be trashed. I'm not a huge fan of the HMH junction tubing, but I find it's a better solution when it's tied into the body of the fly (as opposed to being slipped onto a completed tube fly). It has a much thicker wall than silicone tubing and should take abuse well. 

This is a really simple fly to tie. It's much easier than tying a conventional Snaelda or Frances. If there is any interest, I can post step-by-step instructions.

*I use cones from Rip Lips Fishing. They are inexpensive and the large size fits well over small sizes of plastic tubing. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Preparing For Connecticut Broodstock Salmon Season

It's about time to start sorting flies and prepping tackle

I was looking through my notes the other day and realized that the first salmon of last year were stocked in Connecticut waters on September 18. Most years, the salmon went in around the second week of October, give or take. Having an extra three weeks of fishing last season was a nice treat. I have no way of knowing if we'll be fishing around the same time this year or not, but I want to be ready to go as soon as the fish are. You can look through archived blog posts to find details about how to prepare for the upcoming season, but I'll give a few brief tips here, as well. 

My first task is to switch over my fly boxes from the flies I use in Canada during the summer to flies I use in Connecticut in autumn. In Connecticut, only flies with one hook are legal, so I have to remove all flies tied on double hooks from my box. As far as the flies themselves go, I'll probably start the season with a healthy mix of summer flies and fall flies. The biggest difference is the size of the flies. If we have September fishing again, I'll mostly use flies in the size 6-12 range, depending on conditions. As the water cools (and hopefully rises), I'll switch to larger flies, then mainly tube flies at the end of autumn. 

As far as rods and reels go, I'm pretty much ready to go. I use some of the same gear for broodstock salmon as I do for sea run brown trout and smaller Canadian Atlantic salmon. If I had to pick one rod to use all season, it would be my Sage Z-Axis 11' 6wt. switch. For single handers, I prefer my old Sage Graphite II 9' 7wt. Just for kicks, I'm going to try to catch my first salmon of the Connecticut season on my first fly rod, a fiberglass Shakespeare 8' 7/8wt. I bought that rod at Benny's when I was 13 years old. With its foam grip and plastic reel seat, it's about as cheap as a fly rod gets, but I'm really looking to catching some fish with it! 

When fishing with a single handed rod goes, I'm inclined to use a straight piece of mono instead of a tapered leader. I always have a few hand tied leaders with me, but I use them mainly when I'm likely to change fly sizes often. I am going to set up one rod just for fishing the riffling hitch and dries this season. That rig probably won't see anything other than a 7'-11' piece of 8lb. test Maxima.  

Other than that, everything else is pretty much ready to go. I posted regular fishing reports here last season. I will try to do the same this year. Here's hoping we're only a month away...or less!

The L.T. Special and Ally's Shrimp are good autumn flies

I carry a small inventory of flies I sell through my website. If you want a specific fly or size that you don't see listed, contact me and I will try to accommodate you as best I can. Every year, I catch salmon on flies I don't have listed for sale, but what's in the Fly Shop are my main confidence patterns for Connecticut. Get your orders in busiest season for work is in the fall and I can't guarantee a fast turnaround time once the inventory is depleted. 

Also, I will be giving guided salmon fishing tutorial trips on the lower Naugatuck River again this season. These trips are mainly geared towards fly fishers with little-to-no wild Atlantic salmon fishing experience. The tactics I use on Connecticut Rivers are the same thing I use when fishing abroad. The same flies and presentations work really well here. My philosophy is to practice at home so you don't practice on the river while on a salmon fishing trip. This is especially important for those of us who choose to fish without a guide for some or all of their trip abroad. It's not trout fishing and it's important to recognize and react to the often times puzzling behavior of Atlantic salmon. If you don't have an Atlantic salmon fishing trip planned and just want to become a better broodstock salmon angler, I can help with that too. 

Obviously, I can't book dates at the very beginning of the season since we don't know when exactly that will be. However, it is pretty safe to assume the salmon will be in by the second week of October, so feel free to contact me now if you'd like to book something for around that time or later. Visit the Salmon School page on my website for more details. 

For more detailed information on the fishery, tackle, tactics and flies, see these posts:

Monday, August 11, 2014


The "Pert'near," as it's known in some circles

Usually, I like to provide a little bit of history when I post fly patterns. I have nothing to say in the history department this time. I can't find any information about the origins online. The name of the fly is so generic, Google isn't even helpful. It's not in any salmon fly tying books I own. The only time I've seen it published was in an old W.W. Doak catalog. Maybe the Doaks still sell the Almost in their shop, but it's not listed in their online catalog. I have seen them for sale at Curtis Miramichi Outfitters and I'm fairly certain the fly has Miramichi roots. 

So why the name "Almost?" Is it because there's almost nothing to it? Is it because it's almost all black? Perhaps the name refers to the fact that it takes almost no time to tie? I could probably come up with plenty of guesses if none of those are correct.

In preparation for the upcoming Connecticut broodstock salmon season, I tied a few this afternoon. I have never tried fishing this fly any larger than a size 8. I carry them in sizes 8 to 12, with some tied very small on low water hooks. I've found a size 10 Almost to be the most effective, however. I fish it on a long leader and a light tippet, usually 6lb. test. I use it on both sunny and dark days. It's a very subtle, drab pattern, so it's a good choice when the fish are feeling spooky. 

Give it a shot sometime. It couldn't be much easier to tie. Its simplicity is almost an affront to a culture  accustomed to fishing overindulgent flies for fish who aren't even feeding. Regardless, it works! 



Hook: Any (pictured above: Partridge Code M sz. 10)
Tail: Golden pheasant crest
Body: Black wool
Wing: Black bear hair or squirrel tail*
Throat: Black hen 
Head: Black

*I use hair from a black-dyed fox mask for my small flies

Monday, August 4, 2014

Wedding Boutonniere Flies

A dapper angler

I was recently commissioned to tie fourteen wedding boutonniere flies for a couple who tyed the knot earlier this month. At first, I submitted a hairwing atlantic salmon fly design in the requested color scheme, pink and blue. The colors were a little off, so the groom sent me a picture of the tie that he and the other groomsmen will be wearing. It was a few different shades of blue with jumping tarpon and little pink tarpon-type flies.

It seemed silly to pair salmon flies with a tarpon tie, so I retied the prototype. The second pattern was a more pleasing design, loosely based on a Florida Keys tarpon fly template. Salmon fly boutonnieres look nice, but they can be a little two dimensional. With its palmered marabou and hackle, a tarpon fly looks more "floral" to me. 

Ready to party!

After a little more tweaking, the third time was the charm. I wish I could have tied them on conventional stainless saltwater hooks, but I could only find brooch pin hooks on modified streamer and salmon irons. Regardless, I like how they turned out.

I bought one extra brooch pin hook. I might tie fly boutonniere for myself one of these days. After wearing it, I figure I can cut it apart and retie one to match another outfit.