Monday, January 26, 2015

News, Events & Music - Winter 2015

An Introduction to Tube Flies: Fishing and Tying


The first bit of news is that the Fly Shop is sold out of just about everything, save for a few odd flies. I tie up a small inventory during the summer, mainly for sale in the fall. I'm happy that sales have been good, though it's hard to predict which flies will sell the most before the season starts. There was a lot of demand Ally's Shrimp this fall. I ran out quickly and had to tie a lot during the fishing season. That's a "good problem," as far as I'm concerned! Anyhow, I took down all the PayPal "add to cart" buttons until I can restock. I plan on starting tying earlier this year to boost inventory for next fall. In the meantime, feel free to contact me if there are any flies you need for winter, spring, or summer. They can be flies listed on the Fly Shop page, or something else you might have seen here or elsewhere. Often times, I am contacted to tie flies a shortly before an angler's salmon fishing trip. If possible, a little more lead time would help since I don't tie full time. Spring/early summer and fall are usually my busiest seasons in the music business (see below). I have plenty of time for custom orders this winter, however. Give me a holler now if you need flies for the upcoming Canadian or European Atlantic salmon season, or for any other fishery. 

A new addition to my website is the Presentations page. Information and summaries of each presentation are available on this page.  My "Traditional Techniques for Broodstock Atlantic Salmon" has been well very received at local fishing and conservation club meetings. I'm happy to offer a new presentation, "An Introduction to Tube Flies: Fishing and Tying," which will be debuting next month (see below). I've notice a local reluctance to try tube flies, even when I've given them out for free. This presentation should help clear up any confusion as to how to fish and/or tie effective tube patterns for all species. 

I decided to take a break from tying anything in January and thoroughly clean my tying room (I cheated a little). It was too cluttered for too long and I was beginning to get annoyed with it. I finally took the time to razor the pile of trashed flies that had been accumulating for several years. I'm most of the way through the cleanup and reorganization job now and it's starting to look a lot better. I'll be ready to hit the ground running come February. 

I tend to ignore the gallery section of the website until I have make major changes. I added a few new fishing and tying pics. I will add more to the Fishing Gallery and Fly Gallery throughout the winter.  Check back every now and then! 


I have a couple of presentations scheduled this winter. It would be great to see some of you there! Here are the details:

“Introduction to Tube Flies - Fishing & Tying”

February 17, 2015

Port 5 Naval Veterans
69 Brewster St.
Bridgeport, CT 06605

“Traditional Techniques for Broodstock Atlantic Salmon”

March 11, 2015

Michael’s at the Grove
42 Vail Rd. 
Bethel, CT 06801


Litchfield Jazz Festival 2013
(photo by H. Judd)

By night, I am a professional jazz musician. I mention it here on occasion, but I thought I'd plug a good gig I have coming up at the end of this month. 

Ben Bilello, Laurence Hobgood & Henry Lugo
January 30, 2015
$10 cover  

56 Orange St. 
New Haven, CT 06510

The 9th Note is a great new club and you should definitely check it out. The trio with Laurence and Henry is very dynamic. I love working with both of those guys. Laurence is a fellow fly fisherman, so feel free to talk fishing with him, too. 

As a side note, I am giving a free brush playing clinic before the show. It will run from 6:00pm to 7:00pm. I'll take a short break, we'll run a brief soundcheck, then start the show at 8:00. Check or for more information. This will be a very exciting not to miss! 

Monday, January 19, 2015

Weighing Hooks and Tubes

Copper tube (thick walled) 1.5" = 2 g
Partridge Code Q Double sz. 1/0 = 1.5 g

My friend Wayne sent me a handy little Christmas gift a few weeks ago. I intend to use this scale mainly for modifying shooting heads and fly lines, but I'm not totally set up for it yet. In the meantime, I decided to weigh some tubes and hooks, just for kicks.

Left: G.P. on Partridge Q Double 1/0 = 1.8 g
Right: G.P. on copper tube and Loop double (#4) = 2.7 g

The first experiment was comparing a thick walled, HMH copper tube (1.5") to an old Partridge Code Q low water double (sz. 1/0). I wanted to tie a flies of a similar size and compare total weights. The fly of choice would be the General Practitioner. The Partridge hook is quite heavy (1.5 g), but the tube alone was 25% heavier. (2 g). When I added materials to both, then a #4 Loop double tube hook on the tube G.P., the tube fly became significantly heavier. I've tried to cast the tube version of this fly before. It's not pleasant. The flies are roughly equal in length, but the tube version weighs quite a bit more (see pic above). I should try this again with a thin walled copper tube and see what I get for results. I think it would end up about the same weight as the conventional fly based on the Sunray experiment below. 

Daiichi 2271 (#2) = .5 g
Aluminum tube (1.5") + Owner SSW (#2) = .5 g

The next experiment was less scientific. I wanted to compare a Daiichi 2271 streamer/Dee hook (sz. 2) to an aluminum tube. Then, weigh a fly tied on the 2271 and compare it to substitutes tied on an aluminum Shumakov long range tube and a conventional aluminum tube. I didn't bother doing all the permutations. I feel like I had a good idea of how everything compared. In the example above, I wanted to see how long of an aluminum tube I'd need to equal the weight of the hook. The total length of the tube and hook is a bit longer than the 2271, but the tying space on each is roughly equal since we don't typically tie on the tube hook. So, this heavy streamer hook weighed about as much as a similar sized aluminum tube and single hook.

Shumakov tube (alum.) + Owner SSW (#2) = .8 g
The Chief - Daiichi 2271 (#2) = .66 g

The example above is the least "scientific" of the group. The flies are different, but I most likely wouldn't tie a feather wing streamer on a tube. I would have no problem fishing this Shumakov-style tube fly in place of The Chief, however. I had this in mind because of what happened to this particular streamer. I was fishing for landlocked salmon at the base of a concrete dam. I thought The Chief would be a good option. All it took was one errant backcast and I knocked the point off a decent streamer fly. The fly, which didn't live long enough to catch a fish, has since been relegated to casting practice. I weighed an intact version of the same fly. It also weighed .6 g, so the missing hook point doesn't weigh enough to make a difference. 

The Shumakov tube fly is a hare longer and fuller, though I doubt the materials add much to the toal weight. Even though the tube fly weighs a bit more, I doubt it would sink faster than the streamer. The streamer is slim and cuts through the water. Maybe they would sink at the same rate? I don't really care enough to take this experiment that far. Anyhow, little was learned from this experiment other than that Shumakov bottle tubes weigh more than I thought they would (especially the brass and copper bottle tubes). I discovered that by weighing them on their own.

HKA Sunray/Bismo (1.5" alum.) + Owner SSW (#2) = .8 g

Next, I decided to weigh an HKA Sunray/Bismo tied on the aforementioned 1.5" aluminum tube. The finished fly weighed just as much as the Shumakov tube fly, also .2 g heavier than the streamer. Again, it's not The Chief, but I would have no problem fishing this Sunray variant in place of a conventional streamer fly. It's interesting to note that the HKA Sunray weighed a full .3 g more than a slightly smaller Sunray Shadow (see below). I think the UV resin head adds most of the additional weight to the HKA Sunray. Also, I tie it fuller than a normal Sunray, though I can't imagine the materials themselves weigh all that much. Maybe the UV head, the extra .25" of aluminum, and the extra material added .1 g each? Like I said, not very scientific...(stop cringing, Mark!)

The most important lesson gleaned from this has nothing to do with weights or measures. When you're fishing in front of a concrete dam, use the tube fly instead of the streamer, dummy! 

1.25" Sunray Shadows + #4 single hooks
Plastic + TMC 105 = .3 g
Aluminum + Owner SSW = .5 g
Copper (thin walled) + Owner Flyliner = 1 g

To me, the last experiment was the most interesting one. I tied three virtually identical Sunray Shadows on tubes of different materials. The metal tubes were each 1.25". The plastic tube was a little longer to make up for a lack of junction tube (which adds a little length to the overall fly body). The flies were all the same total length. I used a light wire hook with the plastic tube, a medium wire hook with the aluminum tube, and a heavy wire hook with the copper tube. You can see the results above.

I was surprised how close in weight the plastic and the aluminum tube flies were. The difference, .2 g, is hardly anything. My friend John told me he raised a salmon (twice) on an aluminum tube fly I gave him. I was surprised to hear that he fished it hitched. I had never heard of anyone hitching an aluminum tube fly before, but I guess it worked just fine! 

The copper Sunray was twice as heavy as the aluminum Sunray. It would be interesting to tie and weigh a brass and a tungsten Sunray to see where they end up on the spectrum. My guess is the brass would weight around .8 g. I have no idea what the tungsten would weigh, but I wouldn't be surprised if it weighed twice as much as the copper. I'm not sure a tungsten Sunray would be very useful. 

I need to get to Harbor Freight tools soon. I need a heat gun and some shrink tubing so I can start messing with lines and stop weighing tubes and hooks! Oh well, it's something to do in the winter. Thanks again, Wayne! 

Monday, January 12, 2015

Gear in Review 2014 - Soft Goods

Simms Coldweather Shirt and Pants


In warmer weather, I got a lot of use out of two pairs of lightweight Simms pants (not pictured). One pair was the Flyte pants and the other was the Bugstopper pants. Both were from an older line and have since been discontinued. I didn't buy the latter for its bug stopping ability so much as I liked the look of them. Both pairs were very comfortable, both in and out of waders. A big plus is that they both looked like fairly normal pants, so I was fine with wearing them around town either before or after fishing. Actually, I liked the fit enough to wear them around when I didn't plan on fishing. I'm sure new models have replaced those which are discontinued. I would buy either again (or their new equivalents). 

Simms Coldweather very well spent

In the fishing clothing department, the best purchases I made in 2014 were Simms Coldweather pants and Coldweather shirt. Along with my Islander reel, the Coldweather pants were the best purchase I made all year. Both are lined with textured fleece and are really warm. The pants are especially warm. By themselves, the Coldweather pants were warm enough for most days. I didn't bother wearing a base layer under the pants unless I knew it was going to be really cold.  Another nice feature is the velcro cuffs. Just cinch up the strap and there's no need to worry about my pants creeping up my leg inside my waders. I used to use velcro-backed neoprene straps to prevent the leg creep, but the built-in velcro straps worked well enough on their own. 

The Coldweather shirt was really nice as well, though not a total knockout like the pants. It's not like there's anything undesirable about the shirt so much as I've found the layering on top easier to do than on bottom. If anything, I think the shirt looks better on its own than the pants do, though it's nothing I'd want to wear indoors for too long. The fleece lining is quite warm. I'd buy either again, especially the pants. 

Simms Headwaters Large Sling Pack
@ Pool 74 "Dambar" - C Sector, Bonaventure


Simms Packs

I'm sort of a pack junkie. I don't really want to be. I just want to find the system that's right for me. I'm still searching for the ideal setup.

The first packs I used this season were the new Simms Headwaters sling pack (not pictured) and the Headwaters large sling pack.  I used the former mainly for trout fishing. My first impression was that, when it was worn on my back, it was much more comfortable than my old Orvis sling packs. Of course, that might be because the Simms pack came with a waist strap*. It wasn't too bulky, but it was big enough to hold all I needed for a day on a trout stream.

The Headwaters large sling pack is pretty much the same pack as the regular one, just a lot bigger. I used this pack for salmon fishing. It has an extra large compartment, but no water bottle section like the regular pack has. I don't know how I feel about the large pack. I think it was too big for me. I might want to carry a lot of stuff with me at one time, but there's no reason why I need access to all of it all the time. Sure, the pack was more comfortable than my old Orvis Magnum sling pack*, but it is less comfortable than a backpack. I think I'd rather use a smaller pack for a couple fly boxes and throw everything else in a backpack.

Here are my main gripes with both packs. I don't need so many places to store forceps or pliers. I don't really know of anything else I can keep in those black sheaths, so having three seems kind of a waste. Plus, I didn't really trust the magnet in them. I sort of expected my forceps to slip out (though they never did). What I could use is a couple d-rings or attachment points for whatever I want to attach. Even more velcro would have helped out. The packs look nice and streamlined, but I'd trade looks for added functionality in a heartbeat.

I don't like the fold-down "workstation." I didn't wind up using it as intended. It's a good idea, but a full pack sort of gets in the way, especially in the larger model. It's too much to get my arms around just to use the workstation. I'd rather have an empty compartment for fly box storage. Or line it with better velcro so I could stick things to it. I didn't want to keep my tippet spools on the outside of the pack. The velcro didn't stick well on the inside and they slid all over the place.

Despite all the features, which I'm sure a lot of thought went into, these were both just packs to me. They're just a place to store things. I didn't feel like either made my life any easier. Because of the lack of outside attachment points, I feel like they actually made my life a little trickier. I like having access to gear on the outside of the pack so I'm not constantly zipping and unzipping. I'll probably keep the small pack and use it for trout fishing next season, mainly because I already own it. I doubt I'd use the large pack again. I think I'm just not too into sling packs. All that rotating around my upper body gets annoying.

William Joseph Eddy - I'll probably save it for other uses

William Joseph Packs

I tried two small, no-frills William Joseph packs this season. The first was the William Joseph Eddy. This is no more than a water resistant shoulder bag. It's not really much more than a pouch. Like the sling packs, a couple of attachment points or velcro would have been nice, but no big deal. This pack was made to be pretty basic. The front pocket was small and hard to get my hand into. I think I used this pack once or twice. It didn't really work for me, though it might make a good pack for my night fishing gear. It was inexpensive, so I'll keep it and find a use for it. I might use it as a travel fly tying bag. 

William Joseph Rip Tide Hip Pack - Not a bad little pack
The second pack I tried was an older William Joseph hip pack. This was the first time I've used a hip pack. I liked it. In the course of a day, this pack would loosen and slide down my waist, but it has no shoulder strap to help keep it up. This particular hip pack is pretty basic. The zippered compartments on the belt were a nice touch. Overall, it was more useful than the Eddy was. It's a pretty small pack, but it worked well when used in conjunction with a backpack and/or wading jacket. I think I want a little bit more from a hip pack in the future, but this one wasn't too bad as long as I kept it light.


Rotating a sling pack got on my nerves this season, but rotating the waist pack didn't bother me as much. I'm in the market for a new hip pack for next season. I like the hip pack/backpack combo best of all so far. I have been using a Simms Dry Creek day pack, but it's sort of small. I might look into getting one of their new Dry Creek backpacks. Instead of trying to cram everything in one pack and carry it on me at all times, I'd rather carry the essentials and leave the rest on the bank.

The Simms clothing is good stuff. It's pricey, but there are always deals to be had in the off season. I might try to pick up some more Coldweather gear if it goes on sale in the spring.

*My old Orvis sling packs didn't come with waist straps, though they came with buckles for them. I contacted Orvis to get a replacement waist strap. They offered to send one at no charge. They never sent it. 

Monday, January 5, 2015

Gear in Review 2014 - Hardware

Danielsson L5W 8twelve and the Banana tube fly

These reviews aren't going to be anything earth shattering. Most of these products have been around for a while, but are new to me. Some were purchased as used items. Regardless, it might help someone make a decision, so here goes...

Rods & Reels

My first new acquisitions happened just after returning from Quebec. I found a good deal on a barely used Sage TCX 7126, more commonly known as the "Death Star." I pared it with a new Danielsson L5W 8twelve reel, a couple Beulah Elixir V2 Scandi heads, and a Rio GripShooter running line (more on the lines below). It would be unfair of me to review the rod and the reel at this time. Aside from a little casting practice, I've barely used either. I'll wait, catch some fish on it next spring and summer, then write a more thorough review next year. I wish I had thought to buy it before the Quebec trip. I'll have to take it up with me in June 2015.  

My next purchase was a new (used) reel for my Sage Graphite II 9' 7wt. I got a great deal on an Islander LX 3.6. One of the first salmon I ever hooked was on my guide's G. Loomis/Islander combo. I remember liking the reel, but it was a while ago and I don't remember much more than a general impression of its performance. This deal was too good to pass up, so I decided to roll the dice. I'm glad I did. I LOVE this reel! It's a little heavy, but not heavy enough to be a burden. My old Sage rod is heavier than a new rod, so it balances ok. The Islander's Teflon and graphite-impregnated cork drag is buttery smooth and has a huge range of adjustment. I really like the feel of the handle. This reel is a real pleasure to fish with. I have my eyes peeled for another, larger, Islander LX (whether I need it or not). 

Islander LX 3.6 (used on Sage Graphite II 9' 7wt.)
 Danielsson LW 6nine (used on Sage Z-Axis 11' 6wt. switch rod)

I purchased another previously owned reel shortly after buying the Islander. Though my new Danielsson hasn't seen any action yet, I am already a big fan. A new friend gave me a good deal on his old, Loop-era, Danielsson LW 6nine. I figure it's about ten years old, but works like it was brand new. This reel went on my trusty Sage 6110 switch rod. It's a little light for that rod, but wasn't too bad. It got less action than the Islander and didn't fight as hot of fish, but I was still very impressed. The drag is just as smooth as the Islander, though not quite as "buttery" feeling. I can't explain it just have to trust my choice of words on it! What the Danielsson reel loses in feel, it more than makes up for in dependability. The sealed drag seems impervious to dunking, cold temperatures, etc. I definitely have more faith in the Danielsson late in the season than the Islander. I own both, so I guess I don't have to decide between the two if I don't want to! 

I really do like both reels. I'm constantly scouring the internet for good deals. Plenty of used Islanders come up on eBay. However, when I found out Danielsson is only selling direct to consumers now, and also having a holiday sale, I pulled the trigger on a new L5W 6nine. The new one is a little different from the older one I bought used. It's the little brother to the reel I am using on the Death Star. The new reel is a little heavier than the old reel and holds more backing. Also, I think the drag on the new reel has a wider range than does the old one. I am going to use the new Danielsson on the aforementioned Sage switch rod and move the older one over to my main salmon single hander, a Vision GT Four 9' 8wt. 

Clockwise, L to R: Berkley Big Game 30# mono, Beulah Elixir V2
Scandal Head, Omnispool Switchbox & Rio GripShooter

Running Lines and Shooting Heads

When I first starting using a trout-sized switch rod a couple of years ago, I made the decision to use a monofilament running line (Rio SlickShooter). I liked the performance of the mono more than I thought I would. This season, I decided to switch all my running lines over to mono. The first running line I tried was Berkley Big Game in 30# test. At first, I bought the wrong color. I bought Green, which became virtually invisible in the water. I bought another spool, this time in Solar Collector (a fluorescent/hi-vis green). I can't really find much bad to say about the stuff. It shoots like crazy, has minimal memory once stretched and fished, and it's cheap. Like, really cheap. It's nice to avoid paying the "fly fishing tax" every now and then. I saw this post about using rubber tape to reduce mono slippage. The Temflex 2155 rubber splicing tape works like a charm! 

Rio decided to go a different route when it came to getting a good grip on slippery monofilament running lines. The Rio GripShooter has a coated front section that feels like fly line. It is a pleasure to use, though much more expensive than Berkley Big Game. I've only tried it a few times, but so far I really like the GripShooter. I figure I'll use it for a while and see how it holds up. If the coated section is durable enough, I'd consider purchasing it for other setups. 

Not being one who can pass up a good deal, I bought several Beulah Elixir V2 heads at reduced Sierra Trading Post prices. I think the heads have some sort of cosmetic imperfection, but I have yet to find any. I bought heads for two different switch rods and two heads for the Death Star. I liked the original Elixir. The fine front taper makes it a great head for surface presentations. I prefer other heads when using sinking polyleaders, however. The Elixir V2 seems to turn over better for me than the original. The taper is still pretty fine, so I continue to use it mainly for intermediate-to-floating polyleader applications. I especially like the Elixirs made for switch rods. No complaints so far! 


I have only one item to review in this category, but it's an item I really enjoy using. The Omnispool Switchbox is one of those little inventions that just makes our lives that much easier. I never really minded moving fly lines between spools and reels, but the Switchbox kit makes it so much easier. It really doesn't get much easier. In fact, I'm starting to wonder how I lived without this before. It couldn't be any easier to switch a line alone and virtually home, on the riverbank, in a boat, etc. It's a piece of cake. It's so much easier, it's almost a pleasant task. The kit costs between $20-$25, which seems sort of pricey for plastic parts, but it's worth every penny. I'm actually less inclined to buy spare spools for my reels now that I can switch lines with so little hassle. I'm not going to explain how it works. Go to their site and watch a video. 'Nuff said! 

Next week, I'll be reviewing some packs and clothing. Check back!