Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Fly is the Key - Guideline/Mikael Frödin

If you haven't seen them already, Swedish tackle manufacturer Guideline and innovative fly tyer Mikael Frödin regularly publish helpful salmon fishing tutorials on their YouTube channel. Being a fly tying junkie, the most recent video, "The Fly is the Key," is my favorite so far. Frödin discusses which attributes help make a salmon fly successful in different conditions and types of water.

Turbo Bombers...I can't wait to tie and fish these

I love the cutting edge fly designs of the current crop of progressive Scandinavian tyers. Their flies are so much different from what we typically use in North America, but I think there is a lot of potential for cross-pollination. Speaking of North American/Scandinavian cross-pollination, the fly that really caught my eye was the Turbo!! As a big Gartside Gurgler fan, the Turbo Bomber is right up my alley. Time to order some turbo discs...

Friday, May 16, 2014

A Good Way to Kill Some Time

It's finally my turn to catch with the Samurai Dog

Spring took an awfully long time to get here. So did the fish. Some still aren't here. For instance, the small, early run of sea run brown trout is nowhere to be found. I caught my first two years, one month and a day ago. The key part of the last sentence is "one month ago." Granted, spring of 2012 was as early as spring of 2014 is late, but I'm getting impatient!

While I wait for the browns to move up from Long Island Sound, I've decided to forgo fishing for resident trout in favor of swinging flies for striped bass. This is the first season I've fished for stripers with a two handed rod. I went out twice this week and finally had the opportunity to fish the Samurai Dog tube fly. My customer hasn't taken his Samurai Dog off in three weeks of fishing, landing trout in the Farmington and Westfield Rivers and striped bass and smallmouth bass in the Connecticut River. I just delivered another order to him last night, one which wiped me out of small turbo cones (more on order from the Canadian Tube Fly Company). 

Both trips this week were more brief than I would have liked, but this is a crazy month for both work and family obligations. Still, I caught fish on both occasions. 

Who doesn't like the Sunray Shadow? 

Tuesday evening, I landed my first striper of the year on a small Sunray Shadow tied on an aluminum tube. It was also my first striper on a two handed rod. The fly was a small one, around 2.5" in total length. It's diminutive size didn't stop the "barely legal" striper from hammering it nonetheless. It was a healthy, thick fish, which measured exactly 28" (legal size for retention). I planned on keeping it but, after verifying the fish's length and removing the badly mangled treble hook from its lips, I reconsidered. The possible after-effects of a late night and an early morning were too much for me. You win this time, buddy...and the fish swam free. A little later that evening, I caught a small schoolie striper on the Samurai Dog. It was fun and productive couple of hours on the water. 

One benefit of tube flies...even though the hook
was badly mangled, the fly was totally unharmed. 

Last night, I had more time, but there was less action overall. For a short period of time, the stripers were active just under the surface. I could see their backs break the surface of the water. I nailed another schoolie on the Samurai Dog, but the bite shut off pretty quickly after that. Oh well, it beats getting skunked. 

Fortunately, I was able to get the obligatory "fly-in-mouth" pic. I've been told that no one believes a new fly actually works without plenty of in-action closeups (*eye roll*). Fortunately, my customer had the courage to be the "guinea pig" and it really seems to have paid off for him. 

I'm nervously waiting. The aforementioned trout should appear any day now. However, if the weather forecast is accurate, heavy rainfall might mess things up. "Rain...bad for the fishermen, good for the fish," as they say. Hopefully I'll be able to fish for them. It's the most finicky game in town, but I'll trade the abundance of springtime hatches and resident trout for it any day. I'm perfectly content killing time with stripers, though. 

Friday, May 9, 2014

Samurai Dog

I need to fish this fly soon

"I haven't tried tube flies yet," a fellow angler remarked while we overlooked one of my favorite springtime fishing holes. I gave him a medium sized Sunray Shadow and an Owner hook to get him started. He asked to see some of my other tubes, so I let him rifle through my Finsport fly wallet. Two long, predominantly white tube flies caught his eye.

"Oh, that one," I remarked. "I haven't fished it yet. I cooked it up over the winter as a sort of small-to-medium alewife impression. I figured it might work well at this spot."

After he finished browsing through the pages of my fly wallet, he asked, "Will you sell me some of your tubes?"


"Ok, I'll take those two white ones. Can you part with them? How about you pick out some other favorites?"

"That all sounds good to me."


The fly which initially caught his eye is a sort of cross between Mikael Frödin's Samurai and Hakan Norling's classic Temple Dog. It's mostly the former, however, the Samurai Dog wing is tied thicker and in the Temple Dog style. I wanted a broader profile than the Samurai, which normally has a slender wing. See the video below for instructions on how to tie Frödin's Samurai:


Fast forward to a little over a week later. I got a call from the angler I met the previous weekend.

"You know those white tube flies of yours?" he asked.

"Yeah. Did you use them?"

"Did I use them? Woooo! Now that's a hot fly! First, I nailed a bunch of schoolie stripers on it, then I went to the Farmington and caught a bunch of trout. A few days later, I couldn't keep the smallmouth bass off it. I haven't taken the fly off since first using it!"

"Oh man, that's great! I'm glad it works!"

"I'll take a half dozen more, plus a few in XL size."

"No problem. I'll get to work as soon as possible."

"And you still haven't fished that fly yet, have you?"

"No. Don't rub it in!"

Samurai x Temple Dog hybrid

Samurai Dog (white)

Thread: White
Tube: 1"-1.25" Scandinavian tubing (large); Scandinavian tubing (small) nested inside
Rear Body: Pearl flat braid
Weight (optional): Lead tape
Front Body: UV Pearl Ice Dub (heavy & loose) over lead tape, picked out
Wing 1: White skunk fur (or arctic fox) and pearl Krinkle Mirror Flash
Wing 2: White skunk fur (or arctic fox) and Polar Ice Angel Hair
Wing 3: White temple dog fur (or cashmere goat) and Micro Mirage Lateral Scale
Topping: Several strands of peacock herl
Sides: Jungle cock
Head: Large ball of Pearl UV Ice Dub, tied loosely over wing butts and picked out
Collar Hackle: White schlappen
Cone: Silver turbo or monster cone

Tying notes: 

*I tie the wing almost exactly like Hakan Norling ties the wing in his Original Temple Dog video. Instead of wrapping hackle after the wing components, I tie over the butts so I have a huge base on which to create the oversized dubbed head. It's a bulkier fly than the original Samurai, but it's meant suggest the stockier profile of an alewife. 

*On smaller flies (the ones pictured here), I used a combination of skunk fur and temple dog for the wing. I tied a few XL sized flies which used ProTube marble fox in place of the skunk fur and cashmere goat in place of the temple dog. 

*I tied a few black Samurai Dogs, as well. Just substitute Black UV Ice Dub, black winging hair and a black turbo cone. 

Here's a picture of a Samurai...note the slender wing.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Yellow Ally's Shrimp

If Hawaii had good atlantic salmon fishing,
I'd work even less than I do already.

If not for my career as a jazz musician, I would have moved to Hawaii years ago. Though I'm a native New Englander, I've never had much of a tolerance for snow, freezing temperatures, and everything else winter brings. My hometown, Narragansett, Rhode Island, is a beach community. Most of Hawaii is a big beach community. We're a good match. Especially Kauai.

My last trip to Hawaii was a few months prior to my first Atlantic salmon fishing trip (that was a good year!). As it turned out, salmon fishing was another reason for me to stay close to the Atlantic Ocean. That and marrying my wife, of course. 

I brought back plumeria cuttings after a trip to Oahu in 2001. The only time they ever bloomed was a couple years later. I had an apartment with a large, sunny window. When we moved into our current home almost two years ago, I claimed a room with big windows and lots of light for my fly tying space. Ample sunlight and a little fertilizer was all it took to get one of the plumerias to flower again. My tying room smells like a lei. It's certainly not paradise, but life could be a lot worse. 

I don't know what any of this has to do with the Yellow Ally's Shrimp other than the fly shares a similar color scheme with this particular plumeria flower. I tied a few Yellow Ally's Shrimps in 2011. I put a couple in my fly box and a couple in my father's fly box. I have no idea what happened to mine. I know I didn't catch anything on one. I'm not sure I ever used them. For all I know, I probably dropped them in the river. Maybe the plumeria triggered a latent desire to give this fly another shot?  

I know some folks who claim a small Yellow Ally's is a good fly for summer salmon. I took last summer off, so I'm eager to try it out this summer. This time, I tied enough so that I can afford to accidentally drop a couple in the river and still have a couple to drop in later.

I digress...

Below is the dressing, with the usual liberties taken:

Tied on a Loop double (sz. 12)

Yellow Ally's Shrimp

Hook: Any small single or double salmon iron
Tail: Yellow bucktail and pearl Midge Flash
Rib: Gold oval tinsel
Body: Rear half: silver Lagartun Mini Flat Braid; Front half: black floss
Underwing: Grey squirrel tail
Wing: Grey squirrel tail topped with golden pheasant tippets
Collar Hackle: Yellow rooster
Head: Black

Thursday, May 1, 2014

William Rufus

I don't know who William Rufus was, but he was the
inspiration for a very handsome salmon fly. 

I first came across the William Rufus on Colin Innes's Feathers, Flies and Phantoms site. It is a whole feather wing salmon fly originated by Dr. T.E. Pryce-Tannatt. This fly immediately stood out to me, most likely because it has a similar color scheme to Ally's Shrimp, one of my all time favorite flies.

Presumably, the William Rufus was  created after Dr. Pryce-Tannatt published his classic book "How to Dress Salmon Flies" in 1914, as the fly is not found within its pages. Perhaps there is mention of it in Dr. Pryce-Tannatt's only other book, "Meditations of a Middle-Aged Angler" (1933)? I have never been able to track down a copy of the latter, so I have no idea. I have seen a few pictures of original William Rufuses, however. Like many of Dr. Pryce-Tannatt's flies, there are certain degrees of variability between flies of the same name. 

Some original Pryce-Tannatt flies (William Rufuses on the right)

I have seen a dressing listed for this fly online, but it doesn't resemble the originals I have seen in pictures. I have seen originals with golden pheasant tippets in the tail, but another with indian crow subbed for the tippets. I have seen the fly tied in a completely different color scheme, only resembling what I know as the William Rufus in general shape. In the dressing I found online, the wing said to be first comprised of hackle feathers, but only in yellow. Most of the flies I've seen in pictures looked like they had red hackles over yellow, or maybe just plain orange hackles. Again, one should expect a certain degree of variability in Pryce-Tannatt's flies (even his original patterns). 

The most confusing (potential) substitution I've seen is the hackle collar. I've seen it mentioned as being the red breast feather from a golden pheasant. In some pictures, that does seem to be the feather used. In others, I'm not so sure. I've tied plenty of Irish shrimp-style patterns and, unless Dr. Pryce-Tannatt had access to some remarkably straight and fine fibered golden pheasant breast feathers, they're not the same from fly to fly. I think he might have tied some with a rooster hackle dyed red. If I'm mistaken and they're actually extra special golden pheasant breast feathers, then I'll eat crow. Regardless, I've tied the fly both ways and I prefer the rooster hackle. Pryce-Tannatt flies...if you're going to use substitute materials, go ahead and do it liberally because he sure did. 

Here is a possible dressing for the fly. It might not be 100% accurate, but I think it's close enough based on the originals I've seen. To me, it looks like it would be a good fly for both early and late in the season. 

William Rufus

Hook: Daiichi 2131 (the fly pictured above is a sz. 2)
Tag: Flat gold tinsel (also used as an underbody)
Tail: Topping and golden pheasant tippets 
Rib: Oval gold tinsel
Body: Seal fur in orange, black and red
Body Hackle: Orange
Wing: Pair of yellow hackle feathers (inside) and a pair of red hackle feathers (outside), both tied upright; Golden pheasant tippets over hackle feathers; topping over all
Horns: Scarlet macaw
Collar Hackle: Red golden pheasant breast feather or cock hackle dyed red 
Head: Black